[Update 4:25 p.m.: Joe Huberman posted a schedule for the City Council meetings tomorrow on the Occupy Raleigh legal forum. Note that meetings are at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.:
Here is the latest as I understand it on tomorrow's City Council Meeting 11/1/11
1:00 P.M. Session
Mayor Meeker will request a report on the Police action and our 1st amendment rights at the 1:00 session of the meeting. It is very unlikely that we will be able to speak, but we are welcome to be in the audience and we can wear our identifying thing.
7:00 P.M. Session
Mayor Meeker will request that we be added to the agenda at the meeting so we can petition the City Council for our request to occupy Upchurch Park at the 7:00pm meeting.
At this time we will be able to speak to the City Council. We should keep our remarks short, to the point, and not repeat what others have said.
The tentative plan is that:
Joseph Huberman will present our request to the council and then introduce
Margaret Schucker who will speak next (The evening GA reached consensus for this on 10/30/11)
Others will then be asked if they have anything to add, and usually you move to the front row to show that you want to speak. You will be asked to state your name and address when you begin speaking.
At some point people in the audience who support our request will be asked to stand. It will be very useful to have as many people in the audience as possible at that time.
After we have spoken the City Council may approve our request, deny it, or refer it to a committee for further study.
The original post follows:
Gov. Bev Perdue's spokesman said, following the arrests on Thursday at the Capitol, that Perdue wasn't trying to squash Occupy Raleigh, only clear the sidewalk for the children and passers-by who were, well, not obstructed at all by the Occupiers prior to the arrests. If that was the Governor's objective, she'll doubtless be pleased to learn that Occupy Raleigh continues undaunted.
On Friday, the weather turned cold and rainy. It was one crappy day, but apparently 30-40 still showed up for Occupy Raleigh's daily General Assembly at 6:30 p.m., and a small group remained overnight. Saturday and Sunday, the Occupation enjoyed better weather and the absence of Capitol cops. When I went by on Sunday evening at 6, a pair of Raleigh police officers were standing a benign guard across the street, but no Capitol cops were in evidence. About 30 men, women and a couple of children were on hand, with more expected by 6:30. I needed to leave before then, however.
I can report that the Perdue Doctrine — peaceably assembling is allowed, but chairs aren't, even if you have a disability and need a chair — was being followed. Margaret Schucker, who caused the Capitol police such agitation Thursday, was back and sitting this time, not on her chair but on one of the permanent benches set by the monuments on the Capitol grounds adjacent to the sidewalk.
Why didn't she sit there before? Because of the barricades keeping the Occupiers on the sidewalk and off the grounds. The barricades were key to the previous Perdue Doctrine, i.e., peaceably assembling is allowed, but not on the Capitol grounds, only on the sidewalk, chairs optional. On Thursday, the barricades went away.
On the subject of whether the Morgan Street sidewalk was obstructed prior to the arrests, Joe Huberman says it wasn't (me, too), and he supplies this picture to prove it. He snapped it moments before the arrests.
Further, Schucker said she had a disability and needed her little chair, and therefore she should be an exception to Hunter's rule. I'd have let her keep it. Guess that's why I'm not a cop. By the time Huberman took this picture, Katina Gad had put a second chair down next to Margaret's — in solidarity. Before long, a half-dozen others seated themselves in front of those two as Hunter's guys moved in.
So now I hear that Occupy Raleigh may relocate off the Capitol grounds for awhile if, that is, they can work out an arrangement with the Raleigh City Council for "occupational" use of the space in front of City Hall and on the Dawson Street side (what's called The Pit, in front, plus green space on the west which apparently is named Avery Upchurch Park — after the late former mayor).
Occupy Raleigh folks are planning to be at the City Council meeting Tuesday at 1 p.m., and Mayor Charles Meeker has announced that he'll bring up the subject of their treatment by the police, including the Raleigh police. Meeker is questioning why the Raleigh cops got involved in Thursday's arrests after he'd been assured that they wouldn't. The answer may be that the Capitol cops have no ability to transport "prisoners" to the jail unless the Raleigh P.D. shows up with a transport vehicle — which it did.
Raleigh cops ringed the scene Thursday, in what seemed an unnecessary precaution against others from the Occupation force interfering with the arrests. The Raleigh cops took no direct role in making the arrests, however.
Meeker sent a memo to his fellow Council members Friday — read it here:
On the subject of whether the Morgan Street sidewalk was obstructed prior to the arrests, Joe Huberman says it wasn't (me, too), and he supplies this picture to prove it.
If the Raleigh Council allows, even welcomes an occupation of city property, get ready for howls of disgust from right-wing Republicans ... and of delight from those of us who count ourselves part of the 99%.
[Update3, Friday, 1:30 p.m. In response to the question I raised in the piece below, i.e., whether the Capitol Police acted at Gov. Perdue's instigation and, if so, why? ...
Here's the response I received from Mark Johnson, Gov. Perdue's spokesman:
It goes without saying that Gov. Perdue supports citizens' rights to express their First Amendment freedoms. Gov. Perdue also believes that all North Carolinians must have the right to enjoy the historic State Capitol. In order to ensure that all citizens can enjoy the Capitol grounds — including the schoolchildren who visit regularly — the sidewalks in front of the Capitol must remain open. The Department of Administration (DOA) is the agency responsible for maintaining and caring for public property, including the historic State Capitol. The Governor trusts Sec. Carey and his team to handle those responsibilities appropriately.
DOA did advise the Governor's office yesterday that it intended to ensure that the state's policy of keeping the sidewalks in front of the State Capitol free and open was carried out. DOA made clear, however, that those citizens gathered on the sidewalk would not be required to leave.
[Update2: 10:45 p.m. A long night. There was no General Assembly. About 30-40 people were at the Capitol, but maybe 50 more went to the Wake jail to show solidarity with the arrested 8. Processing and releasing the 8 took awhile. Four of them, I understand, were charged with simple trespass and released without bail — including Margaret and Kat. Four, apparently the ones who sat in front of them, were charged with resisting arrest as well as trespass, and they were required to post $500 bail, which took awhile to raise. Resisting? I was there. Give that one a #bogus. Anyway, a small group at the Capitol was planning to stay on the sidewalk overnight, despite lack of bedding, chairs, supplies. As I was leaving, someone drove up with doughnuts. Good call.]
Update: 5:15 p.m. I'm back from the Capitol. After the order went out from State Capitol Police Chief Scott Hunter for OccupyRaleigh folks to get their stuff off the sidewalk, most of them did — but Margaret Schucker didn't. By stuff, the police meant all the supplies (food, water, medical) and all the chairs, sleeping bags and blankets the group has assembled (a lot of it donated) over the 12-day period. Also, the signs they'd stuck on the barricades supplied by the Raleigh Police Department.
So here was the problem. Schucker has a very bad back and a disability tag to prove it. She needs her chair. She wasn't blocking the sidewalk, Hunter's stated purpose for having chairs etcetera removed. (And in fact Hunter insisted he didn't want to arrest anybody, and everyone was free to remain on the sidewalk, but for some reason their $10 chairs had to go.)
So Schucker stayed put. The Raleigh police arrived with a trailer and took the barricades away, leaving all the signs in a heap. By then, the Occupy force had swelled to about 60 and they were chanting things like, "This is what democracy looks like, this is what a police state looks like," but as Hunter said, compliance with his order was excellent — except for Schucker.
And then a woman named Katina Gad sat in a chair next to Schucker, and they waited. And the Occupy group gathered around them, and by then about two dozen cops — half Capitol police, half RPD — were on the scene, waiting.
Finally, as Hunter's cops moved in, a half-dozen folks in the the Occupy group sat down in front of Schucker and Gad, and let themselves be arrested. Then Gad was arrested; and Schucker, helped out of her chair by a pair of Capitol police officers, was arrested. The charge was trespass on state property.
Hunter earlier told reporters he was acting on orders from "the property owner," which he identified as the N.C. Department of Administration. A DOA official, Tony Jordan, was on the scene. But Jordan reports to DOA Secretary Moses Carey, and Carey reports to Gov. Bev Perdue. And early on, Perdue made it clear — repeatedly — that she hates surprises and doesn't like to hear afterwards about controversial decisions her administration has made.
Thus, it would seem that Perdue gave the order — or approved it, anyway — for the Capitol police to move on the OccupyRaleigh group. We'll see.
What this means for the OccupyRaleigh effort is uncertain. In truth, the group was having trouble sustaining overnight occupations, though the evening General Assemblies were drawing a steady 40-60 people. Now, without supplies or anything to sleep in, it seems like overnight stays are impossible. But General Assemblies aren't, and per Hunter's statements, nothing stands in the way of folks coming periodically to "occupy," if not the Capitol grounds, at least the sidewalk.
But no people with disabilities?
As I was leaving, Stacie Borrello, one of the original organizers, was arriving with her little boy in her arms. She said there will be a General Assembly in the usual place — on the Morgan Street sidewalk — at 6:30. A contingent, about 25 folks, were there already. Another, about as big, had walked to the Wake County Jail to await the release of Schucker, Gad & the others.
Here's the original blog post from earlier this afternoon:
Just got a call, and a string of tweets: The Occupy Raleigh folks, assembled peaceably on the sidewalk south of the State Capitol for 12 days, were told a half hour ago to get out by the Capitol cops. (Not the Raleigh P.D., that's a different organization.) Tweeters are asking for sympathizers to show up and be counted. I'm headed that way in a few.
Just when we were so pleased about Raleigh not being like Oakland.
By the way, Jeremy Gilchrist of Carrboro and OccupyRaleigh, respectively, has written an anthem for the movement. He's sharing it — you can hear it — here. "There's a Rising on Wall Street." Sounds good. "The right side of love and history."
Came home today to not one but two messages from Civitas Action on my voicemail. They were identical. "Carol" was calling to tell me that "liberal Kevin Hill" did a very bad vote at the Wake school board meeting last week and I should call him and tell him so.
A phone number for Hill was supplied and repeated. "Carol" didn't tell me not to vote for Hill in the District 3 school board runoff election, nor did she say to vote for his opponent, the Civitas Action-favored Republican Heather Losurdo.
It was strongly implied, however.
Now, first off, I don't even live in District 3, so why Civitas Action was calling my household is a mystery. Two calls in the space of an hour is a double mystery.
It's no mystery what Civitas Action is up to, though. It's part of the Art Pope Empire, and the Empire is all in for Losurdo in the runoff.
Civitas Action is not a political organization, though. (Irony alert.)
Rather, it's one of the the Empire's several non-profit parts — a 501(c)4 for tax purposes, according to its website (note the link to the Pope-funded John W. Pope Civitas Institute — and as such it doesn't have to disclose where its money comes from.
501(c)4 nonprofits are limited, though, in how much direct electioneering they're permitted to do.
Hence, Art — er, "Carol" — didn't use such forbidden words as "vote for" or "let's defeat" that would constitute direct electioneering under the tortured logic of U.S. Supreme Court decisions about campaign spending. Rather, "Carol" gave me "information" about Kevin Hill, unflattering information that, per mom's advice that if can't say something nice ..., well, I just won't repeat it.
(Ah, but it turns out that our friend Rob Schofield at NC Policy Watch was told no such thing by his mom, or else he's just not listening to her. Rob recorded "Carol" and put it on the Progressive Pulse blog, should you insist on hearing her scurrilous and inaccurate "information" — Rob's take.)
As Civitas Action was not engaged in electioneering — lol — it was within its court-sanctioned rights as a nonprofit engaged in public education. Which is what it does, and you can see examples of it right here at CivitasAction.org.
No electioneering in that "Tell Heather Losurdo how swell she is ..." mailer from Civitas Action? Or the one about how swell Ron Margiotta is? (Or was, until the voters in District 8 decided to boot him off the school board in the October 11 election.)
By the way, Civitas Action isn't filing donor reports with the State Board of Elections, but it is required to file campaign spending reports. The latest one is signed by officers of the J. W. Pope Civitas Institute, which gets the bulk of its money from the John William Pope Foundation — other wings of Art Pope's Empire. Here 'tis:
At the General Assembly tonight — the people's assembly, not the Republicans' — we heard that plans are afoot to visit a very high-level state official's mansion for Halloween. In costume, naturally. The Direct Action working group is, uh, working on this. By the way, OccupyRaleigh now has a wiki in addition to its website and Facebook page.
OccupyRaleigh does not have a permit to be on the State Capitol grounds, but the Capitol police force, decimated by state budget cuts, is nowhere to be seen. Meanwhile, Raleigh police are taking the position that the sidewalk on Morgan Street is state property and their jurisdiction is limited to protecting the occupiers, not arresting (or hassling) them. Further, the RPD conveyed word from the Capitol police that it's OK if, during the daily General Assemblies, people go beyond the barricades and onto the Capitol grass. Only caveats: No signs on the grass, and nobody up there who was arrested for refusing to leave on October 15.
Many nice words were spoken, tonight and for the last week, about the behavior and helpfulness of the RPD. They were called on again tonight to assist a homeless woman who sat down with the occupiers and then keeled over, due apparently to her diabetes and the fact that she's pregnant. An ambulance was called and the police helped her into it.
About 40 people attended the evening General Assembly, which begins at 6:30. There was much discussion tonight about applying again — and how to apply — for another permit to use the Capitol grounds, whether for a few hours here and there, or a few hours every day, or all day every day (with serial daily applications), or perhaps just for weekend rallies. No decision was reached, but the legal committee, in the person of Boylan Heights' own Joe Huberman, went away with some guidance to mull the problem.
Meanwhile, the state ACLU chapter wrote to the N.C. Department of Administration today encouraging them to look with favor of groups like OccupyRaleigh that seek to use the historic Capitol as a place to exercise their First Amendment rights of assembly and free speech. The department controls the grounds. The ACLU's letter is posted below.
The Indy on Wednesday will have lots more coverage of #OccupyRaleigh, #OccupyWallStreet and the whole Occupy movement.
[UPDATE, Friday, 10/21: Protest on the Capitol grounds? A day later, the N.C. Department of Administration says no — because regardless what the #OccupyRaleigh people may think the First Amendment means when it says "the right of the people peaceably to assemble (and) petition the Government for a redress of grievances" cannot be abridged, it doesn't mean peaceably assemble on your Capitol grounds. Why? Well, uh, because we say so. For more, there's a good writeup on the DOA's unresponsive response at N.C. Policy Watch's Progressive Pulse blog.
[Below yesterday's post, I've added more about some of the folks I met at the Capitol and what they said that #OccupyRaleigh is about. Wait, lest they be arrested for peaceably assembling in the wrong place, I should be clear I chatted with them on the sidewalk next to the Capitol.]
This is the original post from Thursday, 10/20:
. Occupy Raleigh forces fired on the Capitol today — fired off a letter, that is. Using the strongest weapons at their disposal, including a knowledge of history and some lawyers, they delivered their volley in the form of a request that they be allowed to stand on the Capitol grounds for nine days beginning at 8 a.m. Saturday, October 22 and ending at 8 p.m. Sunday, October 30.
Since Saturday night, they've been pushed back to the sidewalk below the Capitol. Still, they keep coming. Reinforcements are showing up daily. (Hint: This is how it works — you show up for an hour, a few hours, whatever you've got. Meanwhile, the main rebel force at #OccupyWallStreet keeps the bankers pinned down.)
In their letter, lawyers for Occupy Raleigh cite the Bonus March of 1932, a veterans movement, and the Poor People's Campaign of 1968 as precedents for social protest occupations in Washington, DC. In Raleigh, hunger strikers from the NC Dream Team were permitted to occupy state property last summer.
The Occupy Raleigh request is not to occupy all of the Capitol grounds, merely a sliver at the southwest corner (Salisbury and Morgan streets). Nor is it for an encampment. The OR troops, who were about 20 strong at mid-day today, aren't threatening to put up tents. They do want to put up a canopy cover to keep their stuff out of the weather. Their letter is here and worth a read:
The letter was signed by some veteran freedom fighters, which seemed to send of shiver of fear up the spine of Republican gubernatorial aspirant Pat McCrory. McCrory raised the spectre of a government overthrow in Raleigh perhaps leading to the fall of — OMG — Charlotte.
There was no sign of panic from inside the Capitol, though word on the street — well, actually, it was in the mainstream media — was that Gov. Bev Perdue has fled to China for what is officially termed "a trade mission."
Oh, sure. That's why she retreated in face of the #OccupyRaleigh brigades.
I tried to get an official response to the permit application from the state Department of Administration, which handles such things. No answer yet. War counsels are underway there, apparently.
Meanwhile, an extremely dangerous figure arrived to reinforce the OccupyRaleigh troops today. World War II veteran Harris Skinner, a grizzled fighter who battled in North Africa and lived to tell the tale, arrived from Pinehurst armed with a sign ("WWII Vets for Integrity"), his cane, and wearing a "Reagan" cap and a sweater bearing the official US Open golf tournament insignia. He came with a grandson, whom Skinner described darkly as "an activist." (Also, "a geneticist.")
Skinner's potentially lethal combination of combat experience, Republican sympathies and harsh demand that the richest 1% shape up and start acting with integrity toward the other 99% of us may well explain why McCrory was so rattled.
More on who the invaders are tomorrow.
So, picking up from there, who else did I meet on the sidewalk yesterday?
Austin Moss, a Raleigh barrista with a calm, collected presence, joined the protest for the first time late Wednesday, when it was pouring rain. No problem, he said. There were lots of tarps on hand and everybody coped.
"This is something I want to be part of," Moss said. "We're the 99% who don't have 42% of the wealth in this country."
So what are his demands? Only that government "be a joint thing." The people need to inform the government, and the government needs to act in the best interests of the people. Simple. "And that's the prevailing opinion I'm hearing here," Moss said.
So the point isn't to lay out an agenda. Rather, it's to reclaim the peoples' voice in their own futures and get to talking with each other again — without the 1% dominating or preventing the discourse. "We're trying to start and establish a culture of awareness and openness to being willing to discuss things again," Moss said.
I also met Sean Garvey, Harris Skinner's grandson. He is indeed a Ph.D geneticist with some post-doctoral university work under his belt and a four-month stint recently working as a hired hand at an "excellent" organic farm in the Northern Kingdom of Vermont. Garvey is a completely upbeat personality. He's into health, food issues and the movement toward locally grown, sustainable crops. But he also "appreciates" that industrial food production is necessary to feed the planet, and for that reason industrial food corporations must change and reform.
"I absolutely support local food," Garvey said. "But we can't become isolationist and pull away from our neighboring states or neighboring countries. So, it's a very complicated subject (how to feed the world), and it's going to demand solutions and inputs from so many parts of society."
Which is where the OccupyWallStreet movement comes in, Garvey says. Corporations have been getting away with a "beautiful head fake," he says. They do things that are wrong, but they fake people into being angry, not at them, but at government. So it's great that OccupyRaleigh is at the state Capitol, Garvey thinks, but even better that OccupyWallStreet didn't go for the fake and is protesting in the place most representative of corporate malfeasance.
All of this was said with the greatest optimism written all over his face. It dimmed only slightly as his grandfather pointed to the sign they'd brought: "May You Have Enough," it said.
"It's a prayer that's often been prayed for me," Garvey said. "And I'd love to send it to that top 1%, 'May you have enough — and not much more.' And if you do, find a way to give it back or pay it forward."
And if they don't?
"Eventually, I hope people get that we have so much power in the way we spend money, as individuals, as citizens," he answered. "Every time we spend a dollar, that's a vote for a way of doing business and a vote for the people behind a business."
It isn't just buying local, although decent local businesses are certainly part of it, he went on. Corporations can be better, too. Or worse. "I would challenge all of us," Garvey said, "to keep a journal of how you spend your money, and where every dollar went for just one day — and how many of those dollars do you even know where they're going?"
Then I met Pearl Clutcher, who rephrased my opening question for me. "What would it take to drag a 43-year old mother of two out to the sidewalk holding this ridiculous sign?" Clutcher said. Her sign: "This land was made for you & me." She was making his first visit to OccupyRaleigh.
Clutcher, like the others, was more about the discourse we're missing in America than any specific policy demands. She's read an Occupy manifesto or two, she said, and reinstating the Glass-Steagall Act sounds like a good idea. "But if you're looking for answers from me, you are barking up the wrong tree," Clutcher said.
But if she's short on policy prescriptions, Clutcher was emphatic about the kind of social change that's needed. She likened it to the way attitudes in this country have changed about drunk driving over the last 30 years. "What did it take? A little bit of activism and a small amount of legislation," she said. "But mostly people just changed their way of thinking. And I would really like to see a society where it is obscene to take more than your share."
Clutcher saw a news clip recently in which Raleigh's Art Pope denied "buying influence" in state politics with his multi-million dollar contributions to right-wing groups, candidates and campaigns. "He puts a local face on a national problem," she said. "I would love to ask him, Mr. Pope, you don't look like somebody who just throws his money away, so if you are not buying influence, what are you doing with your cash?"
There's a word in Swedish for what she wants, Clutcher said. The Swedes are very proud of the fact that no other language has a word with quite the same meaning. "Lagom," she said, emphasis on the first syllable. "The idea is that everybody takes their share and no one takes too much. And I would very much like to see some lagom around here."
I've met about a dozen OccupyRaleigh participants in three visits to the Capitol recently. Most are there not due to some personal distress but rather because they perceive the country veering wildly off-course — or rather, they perceive that it's been dragged off its constitutional foundation by multinational corporations and super-rich Americans, the 1% whose interests lie elsewhere than in the well-being of the other 99% of the nation. They want to talk about that with the wealthy and their lobbyists out of the room.
She's looking for another job. Does she have any savings? "No," she answered lightly, treating the question as a little silly.
But it's not her personal circumstances that cause Maes to be angry. Rather, it's the fact that her father, who worked in construction, lost his job too, and she suspects it's because her little sister had a brain aneurysm and nearly died. (She's fine now.)
Maes doesn't know it for a fact, but she thinks that because her father's company's health insurer was hit with the charges, it was his job or higher insurance rates. "My stepfather worked his whole life. My mother worked her who life. Now they have nothing," Maes said.
And as she looks around, she notices that friends from high school who did go to college are out of work, losing their houses if they'd managed to buy one, and are moving back in with parents who, in a lot of cases, are also facing hard times. This in a country that is rife with "corporate greed, and some people who are so ridiculously wealthy."
Listening to Clutcher and I talk, Maes didn't know who Art Pope was. She doesn't follow politics in the sense of personalities or parties, she said. But that's because, she said, in the U.S. politics is little more than a popularity contest between two parties "on a teeter-totter," each of them going up and down but neither one forward in a way that would help people who aren't rich.
In Belgium, by contrast, a half-dozen or more parties compete for votes and take seats in the parliament, Maes said, based on their ability to stand for something and adapt national policies to the needs of people. "I do follow ethics, and morality and what's right."
Maes first heard about the OccupyWallStreet movement about two hours before the first OccupyRaleigh meeting was to begin three weeks ago in Moore Square. She jumped out of bed and raced downtown, she said, and she's been in the thick of it ever since. When we talked, it was after she'd put in an all-nighter at the Capitol, and she was exhausted.
She's not a socialist, Maes said, but you can call her that if you want, or a communist, or — she looked for a word —"call it panda-ism, it does't matter." What matters, she's convinced, is that a properly functioning government makes sure the "staples of society" — she listed food, clothing, shelter, and civil services, including education — are provided in adequate portions to everyone.
"When the staples start to crumble, and meanwhile the top gets top-heavy, call it whatever you want to call it, that's just plain wrong."
Couture for a Cause is back for its 3rd annual edition tomorrow night — Friday — at Marbles Kids Museum. CC2011 is a party and fashion show put on by Activate Good (formerly ME-3), Raleigh's group of unabashed do-gooders. Amber Smith, their founding leader, won an Indy Citizen Award last year. So put this in the shameless plug category if you will: Tickets are $20 if you buy them by midnight tonight, $25 at the door. Good times for a cause.
A cause? The idea is that cool Raleigh-area fashion designers are paired with worthy local nonprofits — then each designer tries for a look that will speak their partners' purpose. For example, last year—per Amber—the designer paired with The Green Chair Project "accessorized" with hats made from lampshades. (Green Chair, you see, is a nonprofit that recycles donated furniture to families in need.)
This year, 18 of our top designers are pitching in for 17 nonprofits (International Focus gets two, apparently). Look here for the list.
The fashion show is slated for 8-10:30 p.m. Doors open at 7:30. A limited-seating dinner starts at 6:30. For all the details, and to buy tickets online, go to the Couture for a Cause website.
Effective in the 2012-13 school year, unless it's put off by the new school board when it's seated in December, Wake County has a new student assignment plan. Superintendent Tony Tata's controlled-choice plan was approved by the lame-duck school board 6-2, with the Republican majority solidly in favor (the chair votes only to break ties, but Chairman Ron Margiotta was cheering it on), and Democrats on the board split.
Of greatest interest, Kevin Hill, whose continued tenure on the board depends on his winning a runoff election in three weeks, voted no. So did Keith Sutton. Proving Will Rogers' old saying that he doesn't belong to an organized political party because he's a Democrat, lame-duck Dems Carolyn Morrison and Anne McLaurin abandoned Hill and voted yes.
Sutton, before his no vote, proposed that the board defer action for 30 days to give the three members-elect — Susan Evans, Christine Kushner and Jim Martin — a chance to go over the plan. By then, however, Morrison and McLaurin had announced they were voting yes, regardless that the newly elected trio (of Democrats) were asking them to hold off.
Hill, before casting his no vote, repeated earlier statements that he thinks Tata's plan "is going to be a good plan" and will move the county forward — with some work. But without a stronger student achievement leg, and seats set aside in suburban schools for kids who will apply to be in them coming from Southeast Raleigh, he couldn't support it. "I can't negotiate on the subject of student achievement," he said.
For reasons I've discussed before, a yes vote was the better choice for Hill politically. But Hill, like his fellow Democrats, is not a politician and he doesn't think like one. (Sutton is the exception, and he was thinking like a politician; unfortunately, Morrison and McLaurin either didn't get it that he was giving them a good reason to vote no — with Hill — or they simply couldn't bring themselves to cast a political vote.)
Sure enough, John Tedesco started Facebooking and Tweeting immediately that Hill's vote was partisan, and naysaying. Tedesco, who doubtless will be Margiotta's replacement as chair if Hill is defeated Nov. 8, is putting it out everywhere he can that Hill is not just anti-Tata's plan, he's anti-Tata. Tedesco's conspiracy plot has the Democrats firing the popular school superintendent if they're in the majority — a fictitious campaign, but it's pretty much all Hill's Republican challenger, Heather Losurdo, has.
For her part, Losurdo was at the meeting to share with the TV cameras her change of heart on Tata's plan. Before she finished second to Hill, she was against it because it wasn't a pure enough neighborhood-schools plan. Now, with Margiotta gone and GOP hopes of holding their 5-4 majority pinned to her candidacy, she's for Tata's plan (and for Tata) — seeing that if she & Tedesco are at the controls, maybe they can make it into a pure neighborhood schools plan.
As Tim Simmons, vice president of the Wake Education Partnership, said of Tata's plan — or really, he was talking about any controlled-choice plan of this type — the good thing about it is that it's so flexible. And the bad thing is, it's so flexible.
In the right hands, Tata's plan splits the difference between neighborhood schools (proximity) and diverse schools (achievement), honoring both. In the wrong hands, it can be twisted to put proximity above all else, producing "have" and "have-not" schools within a very few years.
(Or for the Republican perspective, listen to Wake GOP Chair Susan Bryant:
The two Democrats who bravely voted for the plan against enormous pressure from their party are both retiring from the Board. One of the nay votes, Keith Sutton, will be back on the Board next year, having won re-election.
The other nay was Democrat Kevin Hill. He failed go get a majority in the election, and now faces a runoff against Republican Heather Losurdo, who strongly favors neighborhood schools and came out for the Tata Plan.
So the three new Democrats, plus Sutton and Hill, would make a majority, which could undo the plan at any time, or emasculate it by amendment.
That means Heather Losurdo’s election becomes even more critically important than ever. Only if she wins is the new plan secure.
Apparently, emasculation to Bryant is the same as strengthening the plan to me — and to Hill.)
One last thought: If Hill wins, and the new board decides to make changes in the plan, does that mean putting it off for a year?
Tata insisted that his staff needs to get going on the marketing and public information efforts that are key to a choice plan's success — no 30-day delay was permissible or else the whole thing would have to be bumped from 2012-13 to 2013-14.
Whether that was true or not, with the 6-2 vote his staff can go ahead. And no, changes to the plan need not delay it, because set-aside seats aren't a critical issue in year one, though they will be very soon thereafter.
Or, the plan could be delayed a year and it would not make a lot of difference. Remember, Tata's "test drive" indicated that more than 90 percent of parents intend to keep their children in their current school. Thus, if the plan were delayed, its starting point in a year would not be greatly different than its starting point now.
The occupation of Raleigh continues.
Occupy Raleigh moved into its third day today, following a Saturday kickoff that brought at least 1,000 people to the State Capitol, according to organizers, and saw 19 of them arrested and quickly released without bail. I was away over the weekend and can't provide a first-hand crowd estimate. Other media estimates were in the hundreds. I can say definitively that at 2 o'clock this afternoon there were 17 people on the occupation line, not counting a few I saw on Fayetteville Street who were taking a break. Raleigh police have set up barricades and are allowing the occupiers to remain on the sidewalk on the Capitol's south side — looking down Fayetteville Street — as long as they don't block other pedestrians. Until 7 this morning, the cops weren't letting anybody sit down, however. Since then, they've relented — but they're still enforcing a rule against attaching signs to the barricades. If you've got a sign, you have to hold it or lay it down.
Twice-daily meetings, or General Assembly sessions, continue to be held at 12 noon and 6:30 p.m., the participants say. If you plan to stop by — and why would you not? — these meeting times would be a good way to get oriented.
When will Occupy Raleigh end? "Maybe never," was Kurt Zehnder's answer. The Raleigh waiter had been awake for 52 hours when I talked to him. He was there Saturday, got arrested (his first such arrest), was released, came back, stayed the night, left to work yesterday from 3 to midnight, then went home to change clothes, stop at Wal-Mart to buy some posterboard for a sign (his first sign was trashed by the police Saturday night), and here he was at mid-day Monday still going strong.
"I think the plan is, [stay] as long as we need to," Zehnder said. "New York is in Day 29. We're in Day 3."
What will constitute winning, I asked Zehnder and Margaret Schucker of Raleigh, another long-termer on the line?
His answer: When corporate influence is removed from politics. It won't be just one thing that happens, obviously, but many — which is why he wonders if the Occupy movement will ever end. Schucker, nodding, said victory will be achieved when "we throw the bums out," the bums being all the politicians who've been bought by corporate money.
Is that all politicians? I asked.
Schucker paused. "Possibly some local politicians are exceptions," she said, but yes, at the national level, as far as she's concerned, all politicians have been taken over by the big-money political process.
Occupy Raleigh, and the entire Occupy movement, "is about transparency, fairness and respect" for human beings, Schucker said. She made the mistake of watching Republican presidential debates and was disgusted to hear the audiences boo a gay soldier, laugh at the thought that people who couldn't buy health insurance should just die, and applaud Rick Perry's record of 234 executions in Texas.
And, of course, the Republican candidates just took it all in stride. "How did compassion become un-American?" Schucker's sign said.
But it's not just the Republicans, she added, nor will electing Democrats cure the problems. What will cure it, she said, is when enough people join the movement and elected officials can't ignore them any longer. In that sense, Schucker said, the movement is succeeding brilliantly. "Yes," she said firmly. "It's beginning to open some eyes."
Angela Schulte agrees. A Cary woman with 12 years experience in corporate sales and customer service, she said, but who is currently unemployed, Schulte was one of the first to join the Occupy Raleigh ranks and has been among its chief organizers. She was not arrested Saturday — "I had to make a personal decision not to be," she said — and needed to rest on Sunday. But she was back Monday morning and feeling good.
"Given the pro-corporate environment in Raleigh, I had the feeling that it would be harder here to break through and be heard, and to some extent I think that's proven to be the case," she said. "Overall, the movement is going very well [and] growing by the day. Look at all the honking, happy cars going by," Schulte said, gesturing as one more honked while we talked. "People are noticing, and a lot of people are in solidarity with this. They may not be out here occupying, but the heart of this —
"I remember talking to a man in a convenience store and telling him about the Occupy movement, and he literally wanted to jump for joy. It's clear that a lot of people feel a part of this."
On the other hand, Schulte said, one driver had just yelled, "You need to be at work," as he went by. This "unwillingness to consider an alternative point of view when people are suffering and hurting," Schulte said, "it's simply unfathomable to me."
While I was there, Stacie Borrello arrived. She'a another of the core organizers, someone I spoke to when I posted about Occupy Raleigh a week ago. Borrello, with her two-year old son Jackson in tow, was feeling great about events. She said friendly lawyers are negotiating for Occupy Raleigh with the N.C. Department of Administration. The department controls the Capitol grounds. No predictions, but Borrello thought a deal to allow the occupation to continue in some ongoing way without the threat of police removal hanging over it was in store.
By the way, props to U.S. Rep. Brad Miller, D-Raleigh, who's been a visitor to Occupy Raleigh and did an interview with the N&O's Rob Christensen the other day, and to Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, who stopped by Saturday and spoke to the crowd. Also, state Rep. Bill Faison, D-Orange, has been by at least twice. Are there other elected officials I don't know about?
[UPDATE, 10/14: After the hearing last night, I spoke with Kevin Hill and Keith Sutton briefly. I asked Keith how he plans to vote on Tuesday, assuming there is a vote. "I'm deliberating," he said. Same question to Kevin. "I have my doubts," he said. I told him I'd written this piece, which is about how it would be smart politics for him to vote yes. "Because ..." I started to say, but Kevin jumped right in to remind me that he doesn't make decisions based on politics.
That said, Kevin underscored that he's not in favor of going back to a nodes-based assignment system. "Yes," he said, echoing the idea of a yes vote, "this is the plan we're going to work with. But I want to take care of the edges up front."
Most of the speakers last night urged the lameduck school board to slow down, postpone the vote on Tata's plan and give the newly elected school board members a chance to consider it before it's set in stone. One idea: Do a test drive of the actual plan when it's finished, rather than rely on the test drive done earlier of a hypothetical plan that has since changed quite a bit — and will continue to change as it moves forward.
The three new members-elect — Jim Martin, Susan Evans and Christine Kushner — are also asking that the Tuesday vote be put off. Martin, a chemistry professor at State, said he's reviewing grant proposals from graduate students now. If their proposals were as lacking in detail as the Tata plan currently is, Martin said, he wouldn't be able to approve them.
That's certainly true. The Tata plan is, at present, a framework, or as I said the other day, like a chair that needs four legs but so far has just three — and the third one is shaky.
That's not to say, however, that the new board, when it takes over, can't glue in the third leg and add the fourth — the missing student achievement leg.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce and Wake Ed Partnership amped up the pressure to move ahead with a column in the N&O today. And Ron Margiotta, lameduck chair though he is, repeated last night that the Tuesday vote will go ahead just as if the voters hadn't ousted him on Tuesday.]
What follows is the original post from 10/13:
Question 1: Should Kevin Hill vote yes or no on the Tata school choice plan?
(Answer: Vote yes — but I'm not sure Hill will listen to this sound advice :)
From over here on the pro-Kevin Hill side of the District 3 runoff, I can report that Hill's supporters are split down the middle on the question of whether he should vote yes or no when Tony Tata's controlled-choice student assignment plan comes to the lameduck school board next Tuesday.
In fact, the yes-or-no question presents itself first for Hill later this afternoon when the school board meets for a public hearing on Tata's plan at Broughton High School. The hearing starts at 5 p.m.
The reality is, however, that the lameduck, Ron Margiotta-led board intends to vote on the plan next Tuesday. And with Debra Goldman having signaled her assent at the last board meeting, there are five Republican votes to pass it regardless what Hill does.
In fact, there may be six or seven votes for it, with Keith Sutton, who was re-elected Tuesday in District 4, and lameduck District 6 member Carolyn Morrison each a likely yes vote on the Democrats' side, I'd say.
Here's the political backdrop. Board Vice Chair John Tedesco, who is poised to take the gavel from Margiotta should Hill lose, has begun to frame the Hill-Heather Losurdo runoff as a referendum on Tata himself as well as on the Tata plan. As I said in the Indy today, Tedesco's got a whole "SAVE Superintendent Tata and our Schools" thing going. The only thing it lacks is veracity.
Tedesco would like nothing more than for Hill to vote against Tata's plan when it comes up Tuesday. This would give his "SAVE Tata" campaign what might termed colorable credibility, even though there's not a shred of truth to the idea that a Democratic school board majority would be gunning for Tata's removal.
If Hill votes yes on Tata's plan, where does that leave Tedesco?
Notwithstanding the above, though, if we've learned anything about Kevin Hill in this campaign, it's that he prides himself on making decisions based on his judgment as an educator, not on political grounds.
The question for Hill, then, is whether he believes a controlled-choice plan of the type Tata's presented is the best way forward for Wake County. If he does, he should vote yes. If he doesn't, if he thinks the current approach of base assignments by nodes is better — or some other idea not heard about yet is better — then he should vote no.
Again, the reality is that Tata's choice model will be approved Tuesday, and the important question is whether it will be put into practice — and fleshed out in its details — by a Democratic board that may well be under Hill's chairmanship or by a Republican board under Tedesco's.
There are, as the Hill supporters who think he should vote no point out, many, MANY unanswered questions about the Tata plan. Unanswered or perhaps unanswerable until it's put into practice.
One huge question is how a new high school in remote Rolesville can possibly be filled unless students are assigned to it — or, in the case of a controlled-choice plan — put in it by default when their other, higher and more proximate HS choices are full.
With feeder patterns guaranteed (as is the case with the Tata plan as it stands) that if you go to "X" elementary school, you then are guaranteed to go to "Y" middle school and "Z" high school, and everybody's "grandfathered" and new schools are filled with volunteers only, guess what? There simply won't be enough volunteers to fill a brand new high school that far off the beaten track.
Another huge question about Tata's plan involves student achievement and avoiding high-poverty schools, which Tata wants to do but the Margiotta-led board wouldn't give him the tools to do it. A Tedesco-led board won't either, especially if Heather Losurdo has anything to say about it — which she will if Hill hands her the runoff.
If Hill thinks controlled-choice can work under the watchful guidance of a progressive-minded school board, then he should vote yes while making it clear that he intends to provide the progressive-minded leadership that will make it work.
And if he thinks controlled-choice may or may not work, he should vote yes and give it a chance for a year, trusting that with the grandfathering provisions in place, the shape of student assignments can't possibly change so much in a year that, if insurmountable problems persist after that test period, the plan can't be set aside.
With 90 percent-plus of parents predicted to stand pat with their current school assignments for 2012-13, controlled-choice can indeed be put to a probationary trial for a year and, if the unanswered questions remain unanswered, declare it a failure and go back to square one.
Only if Hill is persuaded right now that controlled-choice can't succeed regardless of who's on the school board should he vote no — mindful, however, of the fact that his no vote makes it more likely that the plan he thinks is so terrible will be made permanent by the time of the 2013 elections.
If I were offering advice, I would advise Hill to vote yes, but not just that.
I'd advise him to speak out, starting tonight, in favor of the plan while promising to lead the process of adding the details that will make it work — in other words, I'd try to "model" (which is a word Kevin likes) the behavior of the school board leader I intend to be when I'm re-elected in a month.
Question 2: Can Hill lose the runoff? Or is he a lock?
(Answer: He can't lose ... but there is a way others could blow it for him.)
Hill got 49.7 percent of the vote in a four-way race Tuesday. In a runoff, he can't possibly lose, unless of course somebody runs a losing campaign for him.
Voting against the Tata plan, and opening himself up to the Tedesco charge that he secretly hates Tony Tata and so do his Democratic cronies, might actually help Hill if he could somehow use it to underscore for the voters that he is his own, sometimes prickly but always independent-minded man, doing what he thinks is best regardless of politics.
Because on the politics of it, he really should vote yes.
As for his campaign over the next four weeks, Cash Michaels in The Carolinian is online today with a column strongly suggesting that Hill keep the image of John Tedesco front-and-center for the voters in the runoff — just as Hill did in round one by contrasting his own record, not with Losurdo's, but with Margiotta's.
The idea of Tedesco as spokesman for the public school system in Wake County should get every Democrat in District 3 out and voting in the runoff. Independents too.
Meanwhile, all but the most diehard Republican voters are likely to stay home given that their only purpose in a runoff would be to check the box for Losurdo, whose credentials for public office are, to be charitable, lousy. in round one, Republicans were there anyway voting for Raleigh mayoral candidates Billie Redmond and Randall Williams and District A candidate Gail Wilkins in the City Council elections.
In round two, the only Republican running is Losurdo.
The one thing that might bring out the Republican faithful in that scenario is a sympathy vote for Losurdo if, that is, the Democratic campaign against her goes too far.
Hill, about as non-political a Democrat as he could be, kept his negative comments about Margiotta to issues of governance and process, not personal attacks, and he promises to do the same with Losurdo. As Losurdo has no record whatsover with governance or process, Hill's comparative ads — if there are any — will list his accomplishments on the left and leave a blank space on the right where hers should be.
While Hill remains above the fray, though, Democratic Party groups are busy congratulating themselves for how tough they were in their attack advertising against Margiotta. Dean Debnam and Tom Jensen, at Public Policy Polling, posted a memo this morning spelling out how their tying Margiotta to the Tea Party helped bring him down. (Debnam, PPP's owner-president, is behind at least one of the Democrat-aligned independent campaign committees that went after Margiotta directly.)
Tying Heather Losurdo to the Tea Party won't be hard. She's tied herself to it repeatedly. (As she's taken down her own Tea Party-related videos, I have to link to this anti-Losurdo piece still online from Progress NC Action that draws from them.)
Still, Losourdo's only hope in the runoff is to turn the Democrats' negative tactics back on them if they go too far. "I'm so sorry they've chosen to attack me personally," she's taken to saying.
Losourdo's biggest problem is that she has lived in Raleigh just three years, having moved from New York State. She's not all that conversant with the Wake school system. She has no credentials to be on the school board, whereas Hill — a former teacher and principal who now teaches future teachers at N.C. State — has exactly the kind of resume most voters will want.
The one way Hill can lose, IMO, is if the inde-Dem groups lose it for him with a tactless, mud-slinging campaign. Expect the Art Pope crowd on the right to bait them with a mud-slinging attack on Hill. It's bait they shouldn't take.
On the plus side, every Democrat I know is heading for District 3 this month with good thoughts about putting the adults back in charge of the Wake school system. A positive message will win it for Hill.
The voters in Raleigh and Wake County soundly rejected "neighborhood schools" and Tea Party Republicanism Tuesday in favor of centrist Democratic candidates. Click here for a rundown of the vote totals:
* The Republican majority on the Wake County school board is no more, pending only the result of a likely runoff election in District 3. But Board Chair Ron Margiotta, the Republican leader, was ousted by challenger Susan Evans, a registered Democrat, in District 8 (Southwest Wake), which is generally viewed as THE most Republican of the nine school board districts. Evans won by a solid 52-48 percent margin in what can only be viewed as a stunning repudiation of Margiotta's and the Republican school board's extremism.
* Democratic candidates won or led by wide margins in the other four school board district races. Keith Sutton buried Republican Venita Peyton in District 4 (Southeast Raleigh). Jim Martin was an easy winner over Republican Cynthia Matson in District 5 (West Raleigh and Southwest Wake). Ditto Christine Kushner over Republican Donna Williams and two other candidates in District 6 (Central Raleigh).
* In District 3, incumbent Kevin Hill, a former school principal and a registered Democrat, led Republican activist Heather Losurdo by about 10 percent, but with two other candidates in the race, Hill apparently fell about 40 votes shy of an outright majority. Losurdo reportedly plans to call for a runoff in November.
In the school board races overall, turnout was about 21 percent of registered voters, which doesn't sound like a lot but is twice the turnout of the 2009 elections, in which the Republicans seized their 5-4 board majority.
In '09, Republican candidates won all four seats on the ballot, with John Tedesco winning his District 2 (Southeast Wake) seat in a runoff. Tedesco, Chris Malone, Debra Goldman and Deborah Prickett remain on the board for two more years, but without Margiotta, first elected to the District 8 board seat in 2003, they'll find themselves in a 5-4 minority unless Losurdo somehow is able to unseat Hill in a runoff.
Given Losurdo's nosedive late in the campaign when voters learned more about her, Hill seems in a commanding position going into a runoff. A Public Policy Polling survey of District 3 voters a week ago gave Hill a 16-point edge over Losurdo in a head-to-head contest.
Similarly, in the Raleigh city elections the Republicans lost across the board to Democrats and progressive-minded independents.
The latter term describes City Councilor Nancy McFarlane, who won the mayor's race by trouncing Republicans Billie Redmond and Dr. Randall Williams. McFarlane won 61 percent of the vote in the three-way contest.
In the at-large City Council race, Democratic incumbents held their seats against a lone Republican challenger. Mary-Ann Baldwin and Russ Stephenson were re-elected with twice as many votes as Republican Paul Fitts.
Independent candidate Randy Stagner will replace McFarlane as the District A (North Raleigh) representative on Council. Stager was an easy winner over Republican Gail Wilkins.
And in District C (Southeast Raleigh), incumbent Eugene Weeks, who was appointed to his seat a year ago when it was vacated by now-County Commissioner James West, won a convincing first-round knockout over four opponents, getting 56 percent of the votes.
For a Republican Party bent on holding its school board majority and taking the Raleigh mayor's post after 10 years of Democrat Charles Meeker in charge, Tuesday's results were nothing short of a colossal collapse. Democratic voters, who were asleep at the switch two years ago when the GOP won the school board elections, rose up in big numbers this time to push them out.
After the GOP wins in Wake County in '09 and statewide in North Carolina (and nationally) in '10, do the '11 results in North Carolina's Capital City and County mark the beginning of a Democratic resurgence?
Downtown in Raleigh tonight, it was hard to find anyone who didn't think the answer to that question is yes.