"Tis the season to Occupy something, yes? (I mean, other than a checkout line at the mall?)
So tomorrow — Saturday, December 17 — the Walking Occupation marchers from #OWS will reach Raleigh, the halfway mark in their trek from New York City to Atlanta. They'll march into Raleigh in time for a 3:30 p.m. rally at Mordecai Historic Park. At 4:30, they and all who join them will step off toward the State Capitol. From the Capitol, the march will move to the Occupy Raleigh encampment in "the triangle" — the little one formed by Edenton and Hillsborough Streets at West Street.
I copied this missive from the Occupy Chapel Hill website. It's a call to everyone in the Triangle who's Occupied something or who's thought about Occupying something — and either way, shouldn't you be able to tell the (grand)kids that when the Occupation started that turned the ol' U.S. of A around, that you were in the vanguard?
RALLY IN RALEIGH!!! Meet at Mordecai Park at Dec. 17th, 3:30pm.
Triangle-Area Occupation Rally and March into Raleigh, NC on Saturday, December 17th 3:30pm, at Mordecai Historic Park. March at 4:30pm.
Join the Walking Occupation Marchers entering the Capitol City of North Carolina. They have walked close to 500 miles, from Occupy Wall Street in New York, and will continue another 500 miles to Atlanta, Georgia.
We call upon all Triangle-Area Occupiers to join us on this
momentous day marking the 3-month anniversary of the Occupying of Zuccotti Park, in Wall Street.
The Walkers will be coming into the city from the Northeast on Atlantic Avenue. Mordecai Historic Park will be the rally’s staging point. We will march past the State Capitol Building continuing to Occupy Raleigh’s encampment at Edenton Street and Hillsborough Street.
Gov. Bev Perdue today vetoed Senate Bill 9, upholding the Racial Justice Act of 2008. The Republican-passed SB 9 would've repealed it.
Reactions as collected by WRAL: Republicans are mad, Democrats glad.
Opponents of capital punishment — and proponents, too, for that matter — will be justified in questioning whether any murder cases will lead to an execution if the standard for killing a convict is: 1) h/she must absolutely be guilty of the crime beyond any doubt whatsoever; 2) the crime must be especially heinous compared to other murders, the vast majority of which don't result in a death sentence; and 3) racism must be ruled out as a factor in the prosecution and jury deciding with certainty that No. 1 and No. 2 have been met.
The Governor's statement is self-explanatory:
“I am — and always will be — a strong supporter of the death penalty. I firmly believe that some crimes are so heinous that no other punishment is adequate. As long as I am Governor, I am committed to ensuring that the death penalty remains a viable punishment option in North Carolina in appropriate cases.”
“However, because the death penalty is the ultimate punishment, it is essential that it be carried out fairly and that the process not be infected with prejudice based on race. I signed the Racial Justice Act into law two years ago because it ensured that racial prejudice would not taint the application of the death penalty.”
“I am vetoing Senate Bill 9 for the same reason that I signed the Racial Justice Act two years ago: it is simply unacceptable for racial prejudice to play a role in the imposition of the death penalty in North Carolina.”
“Finally, it is important to be clear that the Racial Justice Act does not allow anyone to be released from prison or seek parole. Both my own legal counsel and legal experts from across the State have assured me that even if an inmate succeeds on a claim under the Racial Justice Act, his sole remedy is life in prison without the possibility of parole — and even that would only occur if a judge first finds that racial discrimination played a significant role in the application of the death penalty.
Family members of a half-dozen victims of murder in North Carolina met this morning with Gov. Bev Perdue, urging her to veto Senate Bill 9 and preserve the landmark Racial Justice Act. The RJA allows death-row inmates to challenge their sentence on grounds it may have been racially motivated. If they prevail, their death sentences would be changed to life in prison without possibility of parole. Perdue signed the RJA into law in 2009.
According to Scott Bass, interim executive director of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation of NC, Perdue did not tell the group what she intends to do with SB 9. "She listened, and she seemed to get it," Bass said. The Republican-led General Assembly completed action on the bill, which would return the law to its pre-RJA form, two weeks ago today. Perdue has a little more than two more weeks left to decide if she wants to veto the measure, sign it or let it become law without her signature.
If Perdue intends to veto it, as seems likely, her delay can be seen as giving the RJA's proponents time to counter claims by the Republicans and the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys. The DA's group came to Raleigh two weeks ago with other murder victims' family members who support the death penalty and want it imposed in their cases regardless whether racial bias infects the system of capital punishment.
The DA's also asserted that some death-row inmates could be eligible for parole if they win their RJA appeals, an assertion that appears to be false and which Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, one of the law's authors, denounced today in no uncertain terms. "They've marched in families ... and tried to make the issue something it's not," McKissick said. "We've seen things very much distorted."
McKissick said the only question under the RJA is whether a death-row convict will be executed or, if his death sentence is shown to have been the product of racial bias, be allowed to live but kept in prison for life. Without the RJA, he went on, some DA's were systematically excluding qualified blacks from jury pools when the defendant was black. "We can't have a system where you're looking for lily-white juries," McKissick said. "The criminal justice system has got to work with integrity ... and when that death sentence is imposed, it's done without racial bias."
Andre Smith, whose 21-year old son Daniel was killed at a Raleigh nightclub in 2007, made the same point. Smith said some RJA's opponents have intentionally misrepresented what the law is about. "It's not a get-out-of-jail-free card," he said.
His son's killer was caught immediately, convicted and sentenced to life without parole, Smith said. The death penalty wasn't sought in Daniel's case because the killer, though armed with a knife, was deemed not to have planned to kill anyone with it when he came to the club.
That was acceptable to Smith, a Buddhist who doesn't support capital punishment anyway, he said. Still, he wants his son's killer to remain behind bars for life. "I would never want my son's killer back on the streets again," Smith said.
Bass' group, which is part of a national organization opposed to capital punishment, joined with People of Faith Against the Death Penalty last week in calling for North Carolina to get rid of the death penalty.
Short of that, said Jean Parks, a member of the group from Asheville, the system of imposing a death sentence must be free of racial taint.
Parks' sister was murdered in Raleigh 36 years ago. Her killer received a life sentence and, per the law before 1994, he is eligible for parole now, though the state parole board has denied his requests, Parks said.
"Although I would like to see North Carolina repeal the death penalty, as long as we have it, we must make it as fair as humanly possible," she said. "Justice tainted by racism is not true justice for my sister."
Tom Fewel of Chapel Hill, whose daughter was murdered in 1985, testified in the sentencing phase of her killer's trial that he and his wife opposed capital punishment, helping the killer avoid a death sentence. He, too, said the RJA should be given a chance to weed out racially tainted sentences. "Not only has racial bias impacted death sentences in our state historically, but we have evidence that bias has impacted who is on death row right now," Fewel said. "We can't say we're for justice and then ignore that fact.
Bass said his group's members aren't "against" the pro-death penalty family members who came to Raleigh, but rather "stand in solidarity with them" and share their pain.
They aren't against the DA's either, Bass said. But the DA's should be held accountable, and the RJA is a tool for holding them accountable when they ask a jury for a death sentence.
They're activists, but it's so dangerous out there.
Margaret Schucker, the disabled Occupy Raleigh participant arrested at the State Capitol October 27 for sitting in her chair on the sidewalk, was in a Wake County courtroom this morning expecting her case to be heard. It wasn't. According to her lawyers, the prosecution didn't intend the case to be tried today and scheduled it instead for Jan. 10.
Schucker was charged with second-degree trespass when she refused to get up from her little folding chair after the Capitol Police ordered all of the OR demonstrators to get their stuff off the sidewalk. The demonstrators were told they could stay but their stuff — food, signs, chairs, bed rolls — had to go.
Schucker didn't consider her chair to be "stuff," but rather a necessity — given her very bad back — for her to be able to stay and exercise her First Amendment rights.
Katy Parker, legal director of the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, was in court with Schucker today. Parker (see this ACLU statement) is co-counsel on Schucker's case along with Durham attorney Scott Holmes.
At least one other of the eight Occupy Raleigh folks who were arrested that day was also in court this morning. Katina Gad said she'd been notified to be in a different courtroom at
12 noon anytime between 7:45 a.m. and 3 p.m. So Gad was surprised, when she arrived to support Schucker, to see both of their names on the 9 a.m. list for Courtroom 2C. Gad's case was also put off until Jan. 10. Gad (shown next to Schucker in the picture below) was among the demonstrators who sat down with Schucker in a show of solidarity as the Capitol Police were preparing to arrest her. Gad's lawyer is Raleigh attorney Steve Edelstein.
A postscript to what I wrote yesterday about Mayor Nancy McFarlane's "team" on City Council. McFarlane's committee assignments unfolded as I thought they would. In Raleigh, the mayor names committee members, usually based on what they want but not always; the seven councilors don't vote on it, however. McFarlane's appointments were made without comment.
But the council does vote on the mayor pro tem. I'd forgotten that, because under Mayor Charles Meeker, no council member ever questioned his choice of which council member it would be.
And yesterday, when McFarlane attempted to name Russ Stephenson as her pro tem, her choice was questioned — and changed.
Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin jumped in as McFarlane was asking for approval and offered her own pick: Councilor Eugene Weeks.
Baldwin's pitch: Diversity. Weeks is the council's only black member. He's been on council just one year (he was appointed to fill a vacancy, and was just elected to his first term in October). Stephenson's served three terms and is beginning his fourth. He's either the council's hardest-working member or I'm badly misinformed. Still, Baldwin said, "diversity needs to be celebrated in terms of leadership." She'd been asked by constituents in Southeast Raleigh to put Weeks' name forward, she said. "No affront" intended to Stephenson.
No affront to Stephenson, but this was McFarlane's very first act as the newly seated mayor. And Baldwin was challenging it, suggesting that the new mayor was insufficiently attentive to her black constituents.
Baldwin's nomination was contingent on Weeks wanting the post, she said. Weeks, who might've demurred, didn't miss a beat. He did want it, he said. John Odom promptly seconded Baldwin's motion.
Councilor Thomas Crowder, who'd seconded McFarlane's nomination of Stephenson, just as quickly jumped in with a "friendly amendment" — Stephenson and Weeks could share the job, Crowder said. One year each.
McFarlane swallowed hard, said she nominated Stephenson in recognition of his past contributions, and said all of her appointments were designed to draw on councilors' strengths. But she didn't fight the compromise (did she have five votes to back up her nomination?) and it passed unanimously.
The whole episode unfolded in about two minutes and whatever attention it might've drawn was subsumed later when the Council voted to oppose the anti-LGBT constitutional amendment.
Yesterday I said Stephenson and Weeks would be the key members of McFarlane's inner circle. Both supported her mayoral candidacy. She'd picked them to be chairs of important council committees — the comp-plan committee and public woks, respectively — and in addition was giving Weeks a seat on the Budget and Economic Development Committee, another plum.
Add Councilor Randy Stagner, McFarlane's hand-picked successor in District A, and Crowder to that group and you'd have a working five-member majority under McFarlane's leadership.
But maybe not.
Baldwin, who is not a McFarlane ally, is close to Weeks. Along with Odom, the council's only Republican, and Bonner Gaylord, the four of them could prove to be the real power center on council, especially on planning and development issues.
I don't want to read too much into one quick vote. But watching it, I was reminded of the councils under Meeker that were really controlled, not by the mayor, but by Councilor Jessie Taliaferro.
Like Baldwin, Taliaferro was a pro-developers Democrat, progressive on social issues but laisssez-faire when it came to giving the real estate industry whatever it wanted.
Meeker faced a choice of fighting Taliaferro's bloc of at least four pro-industry Republicans and Democrats ... and at best getting a stalemate ... or joining them and abandoning whatever smart-growth, pro-neighborhoods inclinations he might've had. He generally joined them, calling it "governing from the middle."
McFarlane, an independent with a progressive, pro-neighborhoods bent, says she wants to move the Council away from its laissez-faire past toward a "smart growth" future. (Thus, this headline on her interview the other day with WRAL.)
But on the eight-member Council, you need five votes to get things done. Four is only enough if you want to get nothing done.
[Update, 8:45 p.m.: Back from the meeting. Guess what? Despite the low, low (free) price of my good advice, the new majority tossed Tedesco out as vice chair. Kevin Hill is the new chair, Keith Sutton is vice chair. Both by 5-4 or 5-3-1 votes. (A convoluted process; the vote for Hill as chair happened ... and then it happened again ... the reason doesn't matter.} Jim Martin, new member, made the good point that organization meetings, as a rule, should occur after elections — in December — not in June, as they do now. Martin wants the dates changed, which requires action by the General Assembly. Another example of the idiotic mother-may-I system of legislative control over local issues.
[Still, the bottom line is that Tedesco, a Republican, was ousted in mid-term on a party-line vote. Another body blow to the old nonpartisanship that Hill, as chair, said is his prime directive. Is JT planning to run for the DPI post? He didn't confirm or deny — but he had that look in his eye.]
Below is what I wrote this morning:
So here's a question for y'all who've spent the last two years in open or quiet despair over the antics of the Wake County Board of Education's Republican majority. With the recent elections, the Republicans' hold is broken. Non-Republicans, a.k.a. registered Democrats, will be in the majority by 5-4 as of today's swearing-in meeting. The Republican board chair, "Papa Ron" Margiotta, was defeated for re-election, so he must be replaced mid-way through his one-year term as chair.
Kevin Hill, I'm told, will be elected the new school board chair. A non-Republican.
But now the question is —
What of the vice chair, Mr. Grandiloquence himself, John Tedesco? Not just any Republican, but a firebrand Republican of the Tea Party variety and a likely candidate for state Superintendent of Public Instruction in the 2012 GOP primary.
Should Tedesco be allowed to serve the remaining six months of his term as vice chair? Or should he be ousted in favor of, say, Democrat Keith Sutton?
You will recall that, when the Republicans took power in December, 2009, Hill was the sitting board chair with six months left in his term. Margiotta & Co. knocked him immediately, notwithstanding the long, long board tradition of nonpartisanship and, actually, bipartisanship, under which Republican members and Democratic members served side-by-side and so cooperatively that most people had no idea which was which.
The ouster of Hill in mid-term blew that tradition off without care, signaling the Republicans' intention from the jump to run the school board as partisans.
But the old tradition was a good one — one the new board would do well to restore.
Leaving Tedesco as vice chair for another six months would send the message that this new school board majority, albeit all registered Democrats, intends to serve in the nonpartisan way their predecessor boards served — with the unfortunate 2009-11 period the exception proving why the rule is needed.
On the other hand, can you really leave Tedesco in office, even if it is a largely meaningless office with no authority, knowing he'll be calling himself the Wake school board vice chair if and when he runs for state DPI leader?
This morning, with the sun shining and the holidays approaching, I'll say yes.
I don't know that I'd say yes every morning.
[Update, Tuesday, 3 p.m. The newly installed Raleigh City Council, led by new Mayor Nancy McFarlane, voted 6-2 this afternoon to go on record in opposition to the proposed anti-LGBT constitutional amendment. The action was swift. Councilor Eugene Weeks made the motion to follow the recommendation of the city's Human Rights Commission (see below). His motion passed by a 6-2 vote.
Councilors Bonner Gaylord and John Odom dissented. Gaylord said he was torn. His 10-year marriage needs no defense, he said, from an anti-gay amendment to the constitution allegedly aimed at "defending" marriage. But he said the Raleigh council was "outside its purview" in addressing the issue. Gaylord's vote may indicate that, while he is an unaffiliated voter, he sees his political future on the Republican rather than the Democratic side of the fence. Odom, the other no vote, is the council's lone Republican. He said he was voting to defend his 40-year marriage and the idea of marriage as "one man and one woman."
Speaking for the action, Councilor Russ Stephenson said it was indeed within the council's purview to oppose an amendment that could put Raleigh at a competitive disadvantage in attracting new businesses. A non-discriminatory environment for all employees is something many companies look for when making location decisions. Putting Raleigh's opposition in that framework should allay Gaylord's concerns about "getting off the page" and onto extraneous federal or state issues, Stephenson said.
Chris Moutos, chair of the Human Relations Commission, hailed the vote and said it's evidence of Raleigh becoming a progressive city for human rights issues. Jimmy Creech, a leading gay rights advocate, called it an important step that will help to energize Raleigh opponents to the amendment as it heads toward a referendum at the 2012 primary elections.]
The original post from Saturday, Dec. 3 is below:
Equality North Carolina is asking its supporters to pack the Raleigh Council chambers Tuesday afternoon in hopes the Council will take a position against the proposed state constitutional amendment to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The anti-LGBT amendment, billed by its supporters as anti-gay marriage, would also bar the state from enacting laws to recognize civil unions or any form of domestic partnership unless it consists of one man and one woman. The amendment was approved by the Republican-led General Assembly and will be on primary election ballots in 2012.
The Raleigh Council, newly seated following the fall elections, will be considering a recommendation from the city's Human Rights Commission that it oppose the amendment and support gay equality. Here's the agenda item:
The City of Raleigh Human Relations Commission recommends that the City Council make a public pronouncement against the “anti-gay” marriage amendment recently passed by the General Assembly and which is scheduled to appear on the May, 2012 ballot. The language which is to appear on the ballot is as follows: “Marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.” Representatives from the Commission will be present to respond to questions.
The Council meeting begins at 1 p.m. It will be the first meeting for the members elected in October, and the first led by Mayor-elect Nancy McFarlane, who will be sworn in Monday night at ceremonies in the Raleigh Convention Center. McFarlane replaces outgoing Mayor Charles Meeker; the only other change in council personnel is in District A, where Randy Stagner was elected to replace McFarlane. So, eight members — including the mayor — and one new face.
Meeker, according to Councilor Russ Stephenson, offered a ringing declaration in opposition to the anti-gay amendment this morning at the Mayor's Unity Breakfast. (I wasn't there.) Of course, Meeker won't be in office Tuesday when the issue comes up for discussion.
Stephenson said he's been flooded with emails asking him to oppose the amendment, which he's ready to do, he added.
So far, Stephenson said, he doesn't think anyone on Council has drafted specific language for a resolution. That could happen Tuesday after the Human Relations Commission makes its report.
A majority of the Council, including Mayor-elect McFarlane, took pro-gay rights positions during the elections. However, this cast of councilors (with the exception of Stagner, who's new) has never voted, in connection with city employee benefits, to accord equal treatment to employees' married spouses and same-sex partners.
Durham and Chapel Hill do treat their employees' spouses and same-sex partners equally for purposes of benefits, policies that would — not incidentally — be outlawed by the constitutional amendment.
Equality NC's website details what the amendment says and the case against it.
This is from the email Equality NC is sending to supporters:
[A] great chance to make a very public difference in fighting NC's family-harming, job-killing, discriminatory, anti-LGBT amendment will come on Tuesday.
The Raleigh City Council is set to vote on a public pronouncement against the amendment. The matter comes before the Council on Tuesday, December 6, at 1 p.m., in the municipal building located at 222 W. Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh.
Please join us in the audience as we all come together to support our capital city leaders in this important proclamation so that Raleigh can go "on the record" as opposing this discriminatory measure.
Because Raleigh is only the beginning,
Mayor Nancy McFarlane's inaugural speech last night was cheery. Raleigh's the greatest city anywhere; she plans to keep it that way. Better transit is needed. The Dix tract should be our Central Park one day. A new zoning code — the so-called Unified Development Ordinance — is coming. Details of these and other issues TBD.
Well, not the time perhaps.
More interesting, to me anyway, was the list of Council committee choices McFarlane circulated yesterday. She'll make them public at the Council table this afternoon. At-large Councilor Russ Stephenson and District C Councilor Eugene Weeks, both early and enthusiastic supporters of her mayoral candidacy, will constitute McFarlane's inner circle, clearly. Both are Democrats. McFarlane, who ran with Democratic backing, is nominally independent.
That goal is often in conflict with the goal of major developers, which is to build whatever wherever it will make them the most money quickly regardless of any long-range city plans. Whether the new code will tighten things up and move Raleigh in the direction of urban, transit-oriented development is a major question facing the new Council.
In that vein, Stephenson promises to be a positive force. However, McFarlane's CPC won't have the services of the other positive planning force on council, District D member Thomas Crowder. McFarlane will leave Crowder off and instead put District E member Bonner Gaylord and her District A replacement Randy Stagner on the CPC with Stephenson. Gaylord and Stagner are independents. Both are capable; neither, though, has shown Crowder's passion for strong planning, at least so far.
Weeks, meanwhile, will chair the Public Works Committee, taking over there from Stephenson. Public Works handles all the infrastructure issues — roads, streets, water and sewer lines — which are the nitty gritty of city government. Crowder will have a seat on Public Works, as will Councilor John Odom, a Republican.
Weeks will also have a seat on the Budget and Economic Development Committee, the third major council committee. McFarlane, as mayor, chairs this one, and Crowder will serve as co-chair as he did under outgoing Mayor Charles Meeker. The fourth seat on this committee — it's the only one with four — is expected to go to Stagner.
The Law and Public Safety Committee, usually the least active committee, will again be headed by at-large Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin, a Democrat. It made news last term as it thrashed out an ordinance allowing food trucks on a very limited basis.
I've heard that McFarlane will also move to create a new technology committee, with Gaylord in charge. He's already busy — throughout his first term — figuring out how to make city government more accessible to citizens with websites, apps and such. As McFarlane also said, "The key to a successful city is the participation of its citizens."
Apps should help citizens get and transmit information about city services. Whether better tech will translate to more active citizen involvement in decision-making ... we'll see.
We don't usually call him Sen. Dan Blue Jr., but we may need to start now that his son, Dan Blue III is beginning to make a mark in Wake County. Dan Blue III is a lawyer in his dad's firm, an officer in the Wake County Democratic Party and a new member of the Downtown Housing Improvement Corporation's board, among other things. He's also a front-runner to succeed Mack Paul as chair of the Wake Democrats when Paul steps down at the end of the year.
An email circulated yesterday by an unhappy Democrat objected to Paul's "endorsement" of Dan III to succeed him. I checked with Paul. He said he did write party activists to say that he, Paul "didn't want to leave without knowing that someone who can do the job" was willing to take it from him. Dan Blue III, Paul said, is well-qualified, is ready to put in the time and wants the job. Other well-qualified candidates may emerge as well, Paul said. "It's an open process."
Paul added that former Wake Commissioner Lindy Brown, who is first vice chair, did not want to step into the chair's role because she's considering running for elective office herself in 2012. (For a seat in the state House of Representatives. Update: To clarify, Brown is looking at District 38. Remember, the Republican map puts incumbent Democrats Grier Martin and Deborah Ross in the same district — District 34 — leaving 38 without an incumbent. District 38 is 4-to-1 Democrat and 53 percent African-American voters.)
Paul's successor will be chosen at a meeting of the party's executive committee (precinct leaders and elected officials) on Jan. 19. Wake Dems are also recruiting for a new executive director to replace the departing Tammy Brunner, who's moving to a position with the state party organization/Obama campaign.
Details of the meeting and applying for Brunner's job are on the Wake Dems website.