"We don't have a school to tell you how to handle crisis situations, and he was very new to the situation at the time. It caused a tremendous amount of criticism, but it shouldn't take away from 27 years of public service."
So goes Butch Williams' quote from the Independent's endorsement of Mike Nifong ("Indy Endorsements 2006," Oct. 25). Just so I understand: You get a pass for what many view as prosecutorial misconduct, arrogance, race baiting and tainted lineups, because you have a long history of good behavior? Nifong is a public servant and these were not minor mistakes.
Your endorsement states, "It's a crazy scheme that undermines the democratic process. How could anyone know whether or not the person the governor would appoint would do any better than Nifong?" So, you are worried about the democratic process when you have a DA who runs "just pick any three" lineups and one who we got courtesy of the governor. I guess that means we can't do worse, so from my view, why not let the governor choose?
Shame on the Independent. Your reasoning is incomprehensible.
I very much enjoy your publication; please keep up the good work.
I was surprised and disappointed however, by your endorsement of Mike Nifong for Durham DA ("Indy Endorsements 2006," Oct. 25). Your paper is very influential—several of your endorsements may sway me in other races. I think that your rationale for not supporting Cheek has some merit—that it undermines the democratic process, and the appointed replacement is unknown. But I simply cannot imagine a less qualified DA than Nifong has shown himself to be. What scares me is not even how he'll handle this case in prosecuting three white, male, well-off individuals. But instead, how he would handle a case where the convenient suspect is not someone of privilege, who doesn't have the resources or media attention that the lacrosse players have. It seems like supporting someone who has so egregiously disregarded his duty as a public official is unwise.
Judge Ann McKown should be re-elected. Your endorsement of her opponent drew what you describe as an "unprecedented level of response from lawyers who felt [you] had made a mistake" because you are, indeed, wrong ("Indy Endorsements 2006," Oct. 25). You rightly acknowledge McKown's great work in the community. (She started Durham's award-winning Truancy Court and shows up at 7:30 a.m. to ensure those kids get back on the right track.) Your earlier article mentioned her hard work on the bench and justifiable pride in her decisions—which, indeed, are regularly upheld on appeal.
It is inexcusable that you would endorse an attorney who, as you acknowledge, has "missed deadlines" (a very serious matter) over a judge who has decided over 50,000 cases, has a backlog of zero cases, and has a reputation as a fair, unbiased jurist who gives each side a full opportunity to be heard.
A recent Court of Appeals decision illustrates the respective quality of the two candidates: The lawyer whom you endorsed filed her brief late, failed to include information necessary for one of the arguments she made, and was wrong on the law. McKown's decision, which was issued early last year and ruled in favor of the party not represented by her present opponent, was upheld on all points.
I am a former president of the Durham Bar and have served in leadership positions and observed judges around our state. "Slow decision-making" that means all sides are heard before a case is decided, and that the decision is correct, is far better than a rush to a judgment that risks error just so a few lawyers can leave at 4 p.m. instead of at 5 p.m. McKown is one of the best District Court judges in this state, and should be re-elected.
Susan Feya Olive
This letter is in response to your failure to endorse Judge Ann McKown for Durham District Court Judge because of your feeling that "her slow decision-making impedes courthouse progress" ("Indy Endorsements 2006," Oct. 25). I have been practicing law in Durham since 1979 and have appeared in McKown's court on numerous occasions. I have appeared before her and seen her hold court in criminal court, traffic court, family court and child support court and I find her to be thoughtful, learned and fair. If anything, I find her decisions to be well reasoned and in accordance with the law which leads to fewer appeals and therefore a much more efficient courthouse than you describe.
I am writing regarding the Independent's endorsements in the race for Orange and Chatham counties' Superior Court Judges ("Indy Endorsements 2006," Oct. 25). We in this judicial district are fortunate that we have four excellent candidates for two seats. But that also means that we have very difficult choices to make. I appreciate that the Independent has made the choices, and I respect your endorsements.
However, I would like to add another perspective. I plan to vote on Nov. 7 for Judge Charles (Chuck) Anderson for Superior Court. I have worked with Anderson in several capacities over the past 10 years as he has served as our district judge. In that time I have come to recognize that he is perfectly suited for this position. We expect our judges to be thoughtful, intelligent, fair, honest, compassionate and disciplined. Those are exactly the attributes that I have seen in Anderson.
The role of judge in our society is usually in the background—something taken for granted. But when people end up in a courtroom, with important matters on the line, it's good to have someone like Anderson sitting in judgment. I hope your readers will recognize this, and vote for him on Nov. 7.
Kevin C. Foy
The writer is the mayor of Chapel Hill.Chatham's false rhetoric
I appreciate the extensive coverage the Indy has given to Chatham County Commissioner Bunkey Morgan's district voting scheme on the Nov. 7 ballot ("Fault lines," Oct. 18). The Indy has been the only Triangle media outlet that's exposed the truth about why this abominable scheme must be defeated. You've pointed out the irony that those who favor Morgan's power grab claim its purpose is to protect the voting power of rural Chatham, when in fact it's been Morgan's policy of rubber-stamping developments that put rural voters in the tiny minority.
Chatham's problems are not about farmers vs. suburbanites or old-timers vs. newcomers. The candidates who've won commissioners' seats over the last two years favor policies that defend farmers and longtime residents, and they've won election on the strength of overwhelming support from Chatham's exurban northeast. Democratic commissioner candidate Tom Vanderbeck and commissioners-elect Carl Thompson and George Lucier oppose Morgan's district voting scheme. They want to protect Chatham's water quality and farmland; control property tax increases that drive longtime residents off their land; promote agriculture and other beneficial economic development; and open the halls of government to the county's people instead of big-money contributors.
So it's unfortunate that your article gave uncritical airing to the false rhetoric, spewed by proponents of Morgan's scheme, that northeastern newcomers want to "dictate to [longtime residents] about property issues," and that they have "no clue" about the needs of the rural population. Political ironies and political vengeance make for a good story, but the laugh-so-you-don't-cry humor of Chatham's situation is that the land profiteers succeed by dividing our community against itself. We need our media outlets to take every single opportunity to help break down these artificial barriers.
The writer is a former member of the Chatham Coalition Steering Committee.