The General Assembly isn't in session on Memorial Day — next Monday — so no "Moral Monday" protest is planned. The next one, on Monday, June 3, is shaping up as the biggest yet. A "Mega-Moral Monday," if you will. As the poisonous policies of the Republican legislature are thrown at us, people are rising up in righteous outrage, using the great tool of nonviolent civil disobedience to call these politicians to account.
Do read Will Huntsberry's account of the protest four days ago. And if you wonder what this all looks like, the NAACP has an excellent videographer helping out. Here's the latest, a 9:00 overview:
[Update x 2, 4 p.m. Wednesday] The House Judiciary Committee approved a substitute bill for Senate Bill 334 and sent it to the House floor. Does it renege on the state's lease with Raleigh? No and yes. It says the lease is invalid, but takes no action to dissolve it for a year. Does it allow Raleigh to proceed with planning for Dix Park? Yes and no. Raleigh is invited to negotiate with the state through April, 2014 — with all issues on the table. Rep. Justin Burr, who spoke for the bill, repeatedly suggested that rather than lease Dix from the state, Raleigh would be better served by acquiring it via an "installment sale." That's certainly true, depending of course on the price.
[I think the important takeaway from what happened today is that Art Pope was in the committee room and speaking for Gov. McCrory. So save Pope a seat on your park planning committee. Raleigh isn't conceding that its lease with the state is invalid — Mayor Nancy McFarlane and City Attorney Tom McCormick were clear that they consider it to be valid, because it is valid — but face it, if the state wants to dissolve/condemn that lease, it can't be stopped from doing so.
[Given that reality, the House version of SB 334 (assuming it passes the House and then — a minor if — the Senate) will give Raleigh/McFarlane and McCrory/Pope a year to see if they can thrash out a mutually acceptable plan to turn Dix into a destination park over time, perhaps with the eventual addition of the Gov. Morehead School for the Blind property. Adding some or all of the Gov. Morehead land — it's 40 acres, I was told — would allow Dix Park to link to Pullen Park via a pedestrian bridge or a trolley over Western Boulevard.
[I don't know that the two sides will be able to reach a deal in a year, frankly. There are a whole lot of moving parts to this negotiation. On the other hand, if both sides are serious — and Pope had his serious "I'm Art Pope" face on today, and you know McFarlane is serious — there's no insurmountable obstacle in their path, just a great many details that must be fitted together. Also, time is on their side ... in the sense that a great park evolves over many, many years, so what's allowed to be on Dix Hill today (i.e., the Department of Health and Human Services) is not necessarily going to be there 20, 50 or 100 years from today. As long as no one insists that something stupid, like leaving DHHS up there, also be permanent, a deal can certainly be envisioned.
[Update, noon Wednesday] WRAL has a story up in advance of the meeting. Sounds like the House leaders have decided to kick the can down the road a year — not tear up the lease just yet, but also not put a deal together with the city just yet. The city "blessed" this? More likely they've taken a vow of silence with a gun to their heads. The real stinker in this story would seem to be any language in the new bill that would lock both sides — i.e., the park proprietors — into leaving DHHS on Dix Hill indefinitely. Hard to have a great park when a state office complex is occupying the high ground — and you have no power to move them, ever. More later.]
A heads-up: Senate Bill 334, condemning the state's lease with Raleigh for the 325-acre Dorothea Dix tract, passed the Senate seven weeks ago but hasn't seen the light of day in the House — until now. The House Judiciary Committee has slated it for consideration tomorrow after the full House adjourns its session.
When that will be is unknown. Today's House session began at 2 p.m.
There's no start time yet for the session tomorrow, nor any indication of how long it will go. Tomorrow's session is now set to begin at 1:15 p.m. with what looks like a light agenda. The Judiciary Committee will begin 15 minutes after the House adjourns.
Usually, post-session committee meetings are quickies, designed to move a bill speedily and without much chance for a big public turnout. It's possible the committee intends to amend the bill before sending it on, either to the floor or to another committee. We'll see.
The meeting room for tomorrow is set: 544 in the Legislative Office Building, the one behind the Legislative Building.
House Judiciary Comm takes up Senate Bill 334, to renege on lease w/ Raleigh 4 Dix Park acreage, after House session Wed. Time TBD, Rm 544.
— Bob Geary (@rjgeary) May 21, 2013
[Update, 10:30 a.m. Dix Park supporters are gathering on the site this afternoon at 5. See below for more.]
Wow, if there was any question about whether the Wake County Board of Commissioners — the Republican-led board of commissioners — were representing their constituents or their political party by coming out against the Dix Park plan, it's answered in the poll released today by Public Policy Polling.
They're sure not representing their constituents:
Republican state senators have passed a bill to invalidate the City of Raleigh’s lease for the former Dorothea Dix campus, but at least in Wake County, the main beneficiary of the proposed park, voters are strongly opposed to this bill.
PPP's statement goes on:
By roughly 2:1 margins, Wake voters want the park (52% support, 27% oppose), think the state should honor the lease (57-27), want the governor to veto the bill if it reaches his desk (54-27), and are less inclined to support the re-election of a legislator who votes for the bill (23% more inclined, 49% less inclined). By a smaller but still double-digit margin (50-38), voters also think throwing the lease out will harm the state’s business reputation.
Almost two-thirds (63%) of the county’s voters say they are very aware of the plan to replace the former hospital site with a destination park. Among these voters, the margins are even stronger, with 63% supporting the park, 65% saying the state should honor the contract, 62% saying Gov. McCrory should veto the bill, 54% saying the General Assembly’s action will hurt the business climate, and 56% less inclined to vote for an anti-park legislator.
Further, Republican lawmakers are out of step with their own voters. As political as they have made this issue, there is far less polarization on the park than on most issues on which PPP polls. Rank-and-file GOP voters in Wake County support the park by a six-point margin, think the state should honor the contract by 11 points, think their governor should veto the bill by 16, and are less inclined to support an anti-park candidate by five. 39% of them think it will be a detriment to our ability to attract business to the area.
The poll was paid for by Dix306, an advocacy group for the park. But the questions are straightforward. Are Wake County voters aware of the plan? Yes, they are — overwhelmingly so. Do they support it? Yes, 2-to-1. Should the state honor its lease with Raleigh or tear it up? Honor it.
Here's the full poll, with the questions and breakdowns of voters by party etc. along with a press release from Dix306 and Friends of Dorothea Dix Park.
It's a "flash" gathering today on Dix Hill, so says Bill Padgett of Dix306. Here's the location:
"We will be on the great hill overlooking the city. The hospital (McBride building) will be to our South and Western Blvd just below us to the North."
From Lake Wheeler Drive enter at Umstead Drive and about 300 yards on the right, we will be gathering.
From Western Boulevard turn onto Boylan Avenue and immediately as you are going up the hill on the Dix property, you can park at the lower parking (greenway/gazebo) by turning left immediately on Tate. If that is full you can drive up the hill, turn left at the stop sign at Umstead Drive and at the next intersection parking will be off to your right.
The bill Chris Fitzsimon is talking about in the tweet below is House Bill 451, introduced yesterday by Rep. Edgar Starnes, a Republican from Hickory. (Democracy NC calls it the "Screw the Voter Act of 2013" — like!) As brazen as so much of what the Republicans have been doing is, this legislation is quite possibly the worst example of their partisan hackery yet. That is, unlike their Voter ID stuff, they can't even pretend that this bill has any public benefit. Its purpose is to reduce the number of Democratic voters — who've flocked to the early-voting sites and Sunday voting — while making it easier to vote by absentee ballot, a method more Republicans use.
Chris nails it:
Why would we want to shorten the length of time people have to vote or not allow people to cast their ballots on Sunday, unless we prefer fewer people show up at the polls?
When did that become a legitimate policy position, that we want fewer people to decide elections? The same question applies to Starnes’ plan to abolish straight-ticket voting. Some people prefer to support all the candidates of one party. Why should we make it more difficult for them to do that?
Couldn't have said it better — so I suggest you read his full piece:
The Fitzsimon File: The most conspicuous partisan power play - ow.ly/jxMYw #ncga #ncpol #vote #ncgov
— NC Policy Watch (@NCPolicyWatch) March 28, 2013
And from Democracy NC:
This is actually a bill to Promote Voter Fraud! House Bill 451 creates new barriers to Early Voting, which will put more pressure on Election Day and cause longer lines, more hassles, and more mistakes. But it makes it easier to vote using mail-in absentee ballots, which is actually the way most voter fraud is committed! Republicans are ready to manipulate the election process in this sick way because they think they gain an advantage with more mail-in voting and less Early Voting.
This same bill also eliminates the public financing program for judges and makes all judicial elections partisan rather than nonpartisan. It repeals Same Day Registration, slices a week off Early Voting, bans Sunday voting during Early Voting, and eliminates straight-party voting. Sick, very sick.
At his first press conference since being elected state Democratic Party chair, Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller called on Democrats to take a stand against the Republican-led "radical, reactionary legislature" by joining in the 7th annual HK on J march and rally Saturday in Raleigh.
Voller was elected Saturday by the party's state executive committee. He said he'll have weekly press conferences in an effort to hold the Republican legislature and GOP Gov. Pat McCrory's administration accountable. His role, he said, will be "messaging" and waging a campaign of ideas on behalf of his party. He'll draw on other Democratic officials and activists to help him flesh it out, he added.
He started this morning by recalling the old "Where's the beef?" commercial. "Where's the jobs?" Voller asked. The Republicans are busy dismantling the political and governmental system that built the North Carolina economy over the last half-century, but so far — Voller said — they haven't offered anything to replace it or create new jobs in the state.
"It's easy to be against things. It's harder to build things," Voller said.
Democrats in North Carolina are living in a "bizarre universe," Voller went on, in which the nation is celebrating President Obama's election victory and gains by Democrats in Congress while in North Carolina the election resulted in total Republican control, including by veto-proof majorities in both legislative chambers.
In this atmosphere, Voller said, the Democratic party itself must challenge what the Republicans are doing while also presenting a different, positive agenda. Doing both will allow Democrats to reinvent themselves and bounce back. "It's time to reset, it's time to rebuild, and it's time to recommit with our party leaders, activists and enthusiasts to move this party forward," he said.
The Voller press conference lasted just under half an hour. You can watch it on WRAL.com.
Perhaps this will cause Duke Energy to reconsider building more nuclear power plants?
MT: Duke Energy to retire idle Florida nuclear plant. Duke customers pay, not Duke shareholders. newsobserver.com/2013/02/05/265… via @newsobserver
— Bob Geary (@rjgeary) February 5, 2013
Seems like there are cheaper, more reliable ways to generate electricity.
Former state Sen. Eric Mansfield is out of the contest for state Democratic Party chair, citing the ill health of his mom. That leaves Pittsboro Mayor Randy Voller unopposed at this point — nine days before the Feb. 2 election meeting of the party's State Executive Committee
To read Mansfield's statement, click on the link in the tweet embedded below. Bob Etheridge is said to be considering a run in Mansfield's place. I gather this is the party establishment, such as it is, squirming unhappily at the prospect that Voller could prevail?
Voller time? “@nationhahn: I am sad that my friend Eric Mansfield must drop out of the race for Chair ericmansfieldforchair.com/announcement_r… #ncdem #ncpol”
— Bob Geary (@rjgeary) January 24, 2013
By the way, it would seem like the door would be open to a woman candidate, except that — someone correct me if I'm wrong about this — both candidates for first vice chair are women ... in part because until Mansfield dropped out, both candidates for chair were men. Is there a party rule that the two posts can't be the same gender?
(Updated to include McCrory press release, below, with bios of Tata and three other appointments, including two with extensive Duke Energy backgrounds — like McCrory himself.)
Tony Tata, ex-Army general turned ex-Wake schools superintendent, will be DOT secretary in the McCrory Administration. Puts me in mind of the "Welcome Back, Kotter" theme song.
Ironic, in that bus transportation snafus led to Tata's ouster by the current Wake school board. Or, at least, they were the stated reason for ...
General Tony Tata, fmr Wake Co superintendent, will serve as Secretary of the Department of Transportation #ncpol twitter.com/PatMcCroryNC/s…
— Pat McCrory (@PatMcCroryNC) January 3, 2013
Now I wish I'd gone to the press conference :(
p.s. I'm tweeting away about it, nonetheless. Tata's basic problem in Wake schools was (IMHO) a 100-lb. choice plan in a 50-lb. budget. In other words, the plan couldn't be executed given the parsimonious Wake County Commissioners and their refusal to appropriate enough money to run a first-rate school system.
That said, Tony let his critics get under his skin more than he should've. But he did work his tail off and, as I said more than once, his intentions were good.
From McCrory's press folks:
Raleigh, N.C. — Today, North Carolina Governor-Elect Pat McCrory announced that he will appoint Brigadier General Anthony J. Tata (U.S. Army, Retired) as Secretary of the Department of Transportation, Sharon Decker as Secretary of the Department of Commerce and Bill Daughtridge as Secretary of the Department of Administration. Additionally, the Governor-Elect announced Neal Alexander will serve as Director of the State Office of Personnel.
With these appointments, Governor-Elect McCrory has filled all eight of his cabinet secretary positions with a diverse, bi-partisan group of people representing all portions of the state. Half of Governor-Elect McCrory’s cabinet secretaries are Republican and half are either Democrat or Independent.
“I am incredibly proud of the strong team we’ve assembled,” said Governor-Elect McCrory. “These individuals are pragmatic problem solvers and leaders that will help me run the government in the most effective way possible while seeking long-term solutions for our state.”
Governor-Elect McCrory has outlined broad objectives for his cabinet and leadership team, including: (1) instituting a culture of customer service to state government, (2) identifying and implementing efficiencies in state government, (3) collaborating and sharing resources across departments and agencies and (4) instituting the highest ethical standards while serving in government.
Brigadier General Anthony J. Tata (U.S. Army, Retired) joins Governor-Elect McCrory’s cabinet after most recently serving as Superintendent of the Wake County Public School System, leading the state’s largest school district of 18,000 employees, 150,000 students and a $1.25 billion budget. Prior to serving as Superintendent, General Tata was in Afghanistan where he served as the Deputy Commanding General of U.S. forces from 2006-2007. Throughout his career, General Tata has planned and implemented multiple operations involving complex transportation and infrastructure challenges ranging from multi-mode operations involving ports, airfields, rail, and highways to designing and implementing extensive infrastructure plans in developing countries. Among his many military assignments, General Tata served two tours of duty in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg. He also served as a brigade commander in the 101st Airborne Division and as the Deputy Commanding General of the 10th Mountain Division. General Tata graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1981.
Sharon Decker enters the McCrory Administration with extensive private sector experience. She was the CEO of the Tanner Company, a large textile company based in Rutherfordton, North Carolina. In 2004, Decker created the Tapestry Group, a non-profit that helps individuals lead healthy lives in body, mind and spirit. Decker has served on the boards of three Fortune 500 companies. She also has more than 17 years of experience with Duke Power Company, now Duke Energy. She began working with the company in consumer services and moved rapidly through the ranks to become the youngest and first female vice president in Duke Power’s history. Her work at Duke Power led to the creation of its 24-hour customer service center, an organization that still serves as a model for the industry.
Bill Daughtridge is the President of Daughtridge Gas & Oil Company based in Rocky Mount and currently is on the UNC Board of Governors, where he serves on the Budget Committee. From 2002-2008, Daughtridge served in the North Carolina House of Representatives, where he chaired the Commerce Committee and focused his efforts on promoting economic growth and development in North Carolina. Daughtridge is also a former President Area Seven (VA and NC) on the Southern Region Board of Directors for the Boy Scouts of America and is a former member of the North Carolina Travel and Tourism Board, the Nash County Board of Travel & Tourism, Carolinas Gateway Partnership and the Rocky Mount Community Foundation. Daughtridge also held other statewide and local leadership positions including President of the North Carolina Petroleum Marketers Association, Rocky Mount Area United Way and Rocky Mount Area Chamber of Commerce.
In addition to three Cabinet appointments, McCrory also announced that Neal Alexander will serve as the Director of the State Office of Personnel. Alexander joins Governor-Elect McCrory's leadership team with 40 years of experience in various Human Resources roles at Duke Energy. Most recently, he served as Vice President for Human Resources for Duke Energy’s US Franchised Electric and Gas Service, and has won awards for excellence in Human Resources such as the Duke Power William S. Lee Leadership Award and The Employers Association Babcock Award. He also currently serves as chair of the Gardner-Webb University Board of Trustees and The Employers Association, which provides human resources and training services to organizations.
Good news on New Year's Eve in the Wilmington Ten case. Gov. Bev Perdue has come through with the hoped-for pardons of innocence.
Her office sent us the photo.
Gov. Perdue's statement follows:
“I have spent a great deal of time over the past seven months reviewing the pardon of innocence requests of the persons collectively known as the Wilmington Ten. This topic evokes strong opinions from many North Carolinians as it hearkens back to a very difficult time in our state’s past, a period of racial tensions and violence that represents a dark chapter in North Carolina’s history. These cases generate a great deal of emotion from people who lived through these traumatic events.
In evaluating these petitions for clemency, it is important to separate fact from rumor and innuendo. I have decided to grant these pardons because the more facts I have learned about the Wilmington Ten, the more appalled I have become about the manner in which their convictions were obtained.
In 1980, a federal appeals court overturned the convictions in a written decision that highlighted the gross improprieties that occurred during the trial. The federal court determined as a matter of law that numerous instances of prosecutorial misconduct and other constitutional violations took place. Among other things, the court ruled that with regard to the testimony of the prosecution’s key witness — upon whose credibility the case depended entirely — “the conclusion is inescapable that [he] perjured himself” and that “this fact was bound to be known to the prosecutor . . .” The court also declared that it was undisputed that key documents had repeatedly been withheld from defense lawyers. It also found numerous errors by the trial judge that had the effect of unconstitutionally prejudicing the defendants’ ability to receive a fair trial.
Since the trial ended, the prosecution’s key witness and two supporting witnesses all independently recanted their testimony incriminating the defendants. Furthermore, last month, new evidence was made available to me in the form of handwritten notes from the prosecutor who picked the jury at trial. These notes show with disturbing clarity the dominant role that racism played in jury selection. The notes reveal that certain white jurors believed to be Ku Klux Klan members were described by the prosecutor as “good” and that at least one African American juror was noted to be an “Uncle Tom type.”
This conduct is disgraceful. It is utterly incompatible with basic notions of fairness and with every ideal that North Carolina holds dear. The legitimacy of our criminal justice system hinges on it operating in a fair and equitable manner with justice being dispensed based on innocence or guilt — not based on race or other forms of prejudice. That did not happen here. Instead, these convictions were tainted by naked racism and represent an ugly stain on North Carolina’s criminal justice system that cannot be allowed to stand any longer.
Justice demands that this stain finally be removed. The process in which this case was tried was fundamentally flawed. Therefore, as Governor, I am issuing these pardons of innocence to right this longstanding wrong.”
Another tough break for the palace in Roanoke Rapids formerly known as the Randy Parton Theater.
Let's see if the Republicans in Raleigh change directions now and let them stay open — w/ campaign contributions cheerfully accepted.
Supreme Court upholds state ban on video sweepstakes machines - ow.ly/g6GBs #ncga #ncpol
— NC Policy Watch (@NCPolicyWatch) December 14, 2012
A unanimous Supreme Court opinion, with a sharp rebuke to the plaintiffs written by Justice Robin Hudson.
In a word, Ouch!
Plaintiffs have attempted to “skillfully disguise[ ]” conduct with a façade of speech to gain First Amendment protection for their conduct. Lipkin, 169 N.C. at 329, 169 N.C. at 271, 84 S.E. at 343. We have “strip[ped] the transaction of all its thin and false apparel and consider[ed] it in its very nakedness,” id., and have found plaintiffs‟ arguments unavailing. We conclude that N.C.G.S. § 14-306.4 regulates conduct, with only incidental burdens on associated speech, and is therefore constitutional.