A seemingly simple appointment to Durham's Planning Commission has been steeped in controversy for the past month, and was expected to come to an end Monday night at a meeting of the Durham County Commissioners, but for another unexpected twist.
Because of problems with previously-appointed candidate Darius Little, the board had to reconsider who should fill a seat reserved for an Oak Grove/Carr Township community member on the Durham Planning Commission, an advisory board that reviews city and county development proposals.
The board Monday appointed candidate-in-waiting Antonio Jones, but only after Commissioner Joe Bowser asked his fellow board members to consider Planning Commission member Linda Huff-Smith, a single-term member who recently applied to continue in her current seat. Her term expires in June. Bowser, apparently at the urging of some citizens who had contacted him, suggested that Huff-Smith could be considered for the Oak Grove seat because she lives in that community, he said.
Commissioners weren't sure it was legal to take Huff-Smith and shift her to a different seat, considering she had applied for a second term and was denied earlier this month when commissioners appointed Teiji Kimball. But legal or not, Commissioner Michael Page said, it wasn't fair to Jones, who had applied for the seat and then waited patiently as commissioners first appointed his opponent Little, then recalled that appointment. Jones was in the audience Monday night, Page pointed out.
"We have a process," said Page, who is chairman of the board of commissioners. "We have qualified candidates who have applied for the seat. How do you disregard that? That’s blatant disrespect."
NC Women United and several local legislators held a press conference today to address the 16 bills the community group supported during last year's long session of the N.C. General Assembly, and how those bills fared.
NCWU, which is a coalition of organizations that advocate for and serve women, issued its 2009 legislative report card that highlights the 16 bills that promote political, social and economic equality for women, from laws addressing domestic violence to health care access.
Of the 16 bills and budget items NCWU supported, eight passed, including the Healthy Youth Act that provides medically-accurate sex education to all public schools students in 7th through 9th grade, said Rep. Susan Fisher, (D-Buncombe). Additionally, legislators passed the School Violence Prevention Act (better known as the "bullying bill") last year.
But six items that NCWU backed are still pending and could be revisited during the upcoming short session of the NCGA, which convenes mid May.
Among them is the Public Municipal Campaigns bill (H120) that could resurge in the Senate after passing the N.C. House last year. Rep. Grier Martin (D-Wake) attended the NCWU event and stated his support for the bill, which would allow cities and towns to fund public elections, instead of allowing candidates to gather predominantly private contributions, as is the traditional process.
Currently, Chapel Hill is the only town to have public municipal elections, but Raleigh, Durham and other N.C. cities are in support. Read a recent Indy story about public financing >>
"Money is a corrupting factor in politics," Martin said. "Money is also a barrier to entry in politics." Martin said the pending legislation is even more relevant and timely given the recent Supreme Court ruling favoring Citizens United, which found the government cannot limit independent corporate spending on publicity for or against federal election candidates.
"The recent Supreme Court decisions puts us further at risk for becoming an oligarchy," Martin said.
Martin called the bill (H120) "first aid" to the influence of campaign contributions.
"In the end, the choice comes down to whether you want special interests to own elections, or the public to own elections," he said.
In addition to pushing these changes to campaign finance, NCWU and legislators at the event discussed a pending law that would establish a state commission on human trafficking (S353).