Chapel Hill High School alumnus James Barrett announced today his candidacy for the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education.
“We as a community share a set of goals and values for our school district. Now is the time to do things a little differently to make real progress on those goals,” he stated in a press release.
Barrett, who also attended Seawell Elementary School and Phillips Middle School, moved back to the Triangle in 1995 after working in Atlanta, and says the time is ripe for reform. New superintendent Thomas Forcella will take the reins July 1 replacing Neil Pedersen, who will step down after 19 years, which makes him the longest tenured superintendent in the district’s history.
UPDATE, noon, June 2: Senate Bill 9 has been pulled from today's House calendar
UPDATE, 10:30 p.m., June 1- Senate Bill 9, a bill that would reverse the 2009 Racial Justice Act, is now scheduled for second reading Thursday at the N.C. House of Representatives. This blog post describes Wednesday's action, which moved the bill from a House subcommittee to the House at large.
The N.C. House of Representatives could vote on a bill to reverse the N.C. Racial Justice Act as soon as this week after the bill received a favorable vote in a House subcommittee Wednesday morning. The 9-6 vote was a clean partisan divide.
The proposed law, titled "No Discriminatory Purpose in the Death Penalty," would take the state's law books back to where they were before the progressive 2009 law took effect. It would also nullify the more than 150 appeals death-row inmates and criminal suspects have made in the past two years, as well as the rulings that have thus far been made—including a Forsyth County judge's February finding that the law is constitutional.
The Racial Justice Act allows inmates or suspects facing the death penalty to appeal capital punishment if they can prove racial bias was a factor in their case, such as in the way a jury was selected, or in a prosecutor's decision to seek the death penalty. If a defendant could prove such bias—no case has yet proceeded to that point—the defendant's only relief under the law is the defendant's life would be spared and he or she would instead continue to serve life in prison with no chance for parole.
One way a defendant may prove bias is through the use of statistics—a point that conservative members of the House committee have called insufficient both in the proposed bill and in their discussion Wednesday.
"My big opposition to this is the use of statistics," said Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Republican from Mt. Airy and co-chair of the committee. "I'm all in favor of trying to get at racial justice. I love solving the problem. But to me the only problem created here was the use of statistics that we don't even know the underlying data for."
Stevens said she wanted to see data associated with the results of a study by two professors at Michigan State University, who have testified that in their examination of 20 years of capital cases in North Carolina—173 cases all together—prosecutors were more than twice as likely to exclude black members of a jury pool than nonblack members during jury selection. According to a figure in the report, it's nearly impossible that a racial disparity of this magnitude would occur in a jury selection process free of racial bias. However, although some results of the study have been entered into court records, the study itself hasn't yet been released.
Among those who opposed the repeal bill were Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland), who stood behind the use of data and statistics to illustrate that racial bias is indeed a factor, and must be corrected, he said.
"We are human beings, and we are fallible, and we have prejudice, and we have bias," Glazier said. "And we use statistics to point that out in every other aspect of our lives—including employment discrimination cases—every day. But here we sit, with a bill that says you may use that data to prove that your employer discriminated against you so you can get damages, but you cannot use that data to save your life. How profoundly absurd."
A couple of these items have moved forward since the original writing, so note the updates below.
With a budget deal all but done, more and more of Jones Street's attention will turn to the slew of bills that have been sitting in committee while bigger fish were fried.
These are the dangerous days at the state legislature, when bills — good, bad, in between and occasionally full of obscure unintended consequences — will move before a June 9 crossover deadline, or fade away as the session chugs toward its expected close.
We picked a few to focus on — a small sampling of the 70 bills slated for committee discussion Wednesday at the North Carolina General Assembly. Read on, but know this isn't for the weak of heart. Sausage making seldom is ...