TO WIN NC IN 2012?
By Cash Michaels
In 1996, a group of black journalists were invited to the downtown Charlotte offices for former Mayor Harvey Gantt.
Gantt, a black Democrat, having lost a dramatic 1990 contest to unseat Republican archconservative Sen. Jesse Helms 48-52 percent, was going to give it another shot.
But he knew that in order to beat Helms; he had to somehow get past white moderate Democrats down east.
Those were the voters who, when it came time to cast their ballots, couldn’t bring themselves to vote for a black man for North Carolina senator.
So they voted for “Jesse.”
In the 1996 rematch between Gantt and Helms, they pretty much voted for Jesse again, as Helms beat Gantt again.
Fast-forward to the 2008 presidential election, and the state of North Carolina is now faced with deciding between presidential candidates Sen. John McCain, a Republican; and Sen. Barack Obama, a black Democrat.
Powered by areas like eastern North Carolina, Sen. McCain was seen as a likely winner. But because Obama, a fresh face on the political scene, had both the organization and campaign war chest to go toe-to-toe with McCain and the Republicans, most observers saw the battleground contest as a tossup.
On Nov. 8, 2012, Obama won North Carolina by 0.3 percent, or 14,000 of the over 4.2 million cast. Fortunately, he did not need North Carolina to win.
It is now 2012, and President Barack Obama has made it no secret that winning North Carolina for his historic re-election bid is crucial. But unlike four years earlier, there is a lot against Obama here in the Tar Heel state beyond the fact that he is perceived to be a “liberal” Democrat.
The economy in North Carolina, as elsewhere in the nation, has been brutal, and Republicans have been quick to blame the president for it. While recovery is clearly evident, it may not happen in time for the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte during the first week in September.
The Republican Party has strengthened here considerably since 2008, with the GOP dominating the 2010 midterm elections, and taking over the NC General Assembly, based on the electorate’s concerns about the Obama Administration’s spending and healthcare reform policies.
The right-wing Tea Party, in particular, has broadened its base as a driving force within the state GOP, defining public policy, and at times, kidnapping public debate.
But troubles on the Democratic side have made the challenge of winning North Carolina again more interesting for the Obama campaign. State Democrats are in disarray over who their party standard-bearer for governor should be after incumbent Gov. Beverly Perdue unexpectedly announced that she will not seek re-election.
Without a star quality name to head the state ticket, in addition to a state party struggling to regain the upperhand in the midst of Republican legislative dominance, makes the Obama campaign’s job of building on any inert excitement harder in North Carolina. With the margin just 14,000 votes before, any pluses or positives the down-ballot candidates can bring to Election Day would be more than welcomed by the president’s campaign.
And then there is the question about the president’s base. Will black voters, and college-age voters, come out at the same or better numbers as they did in 2008 for Obama? There is evidence already that because of the high unemployment rate in the African-American community, and among college graduates, that Obama may still get the lion share of those voters, but nowhere near the turnout in 2008.
So North Carolina, a battleground state, for sure, no matter who the GOP presidential nominee will be, is going to be far tougher to win for Barack Obama than it was in 2008.
And given his slimmer than slim 14,000-vote margin then, that 2008 win was no cakewalk at all.
POVERTY IN NC: WASHINGTON COUNTY
By Cash Michaels
Editor’s Note -For the next few weeks, The Carolinian will report on the issues surrounding persistent poverty in North Carolina. Based on research, and the Jan. 19-20 two-day Truth and Hope Poverty Tour through six counties, our stories will explore why there is poverty in our state, and what is, and is not being done to address it.
Our goal is not only to bring about awareness of this issue to our readers and community, but also to challenge our elected officials to do something substantive about the tremendous need for economic and social equity in our state.
Today, we focus on Washington County, the second of six counties on the tour.
[ROPER] Dorenda Gatling really doesn’t have a choice.
As the town clerk of Roper, it’s her responsibility to make sure that all residents pay their local taxes and utility bills. Failure to do so puts even further strain on an already impossible budget situation that threatens the small town’s ability to deliver vital water, sewer and police protection services to the rest of its population.
People are struggling there, as elsewhere, trying to find what work they can, to feed their families. Even a local church pastor speaks of the strain of being unemployed, yet having to stay stoic to give strength to others who suffer the same.
But it hurts the town clerk deeply, Gatling says, when she has to turn off an elderly citizen’s water because her payments have not been timely.
“Many who live in our community are elderly, and live on fixed incomes,” Gatling told members of the Truth and Hope Poverty Tour last month when it rolled into town. “They live in homes with plumbing that needs to be upgraded. Most times there are leaks because of the plumbing, and their water bills increase.”
“But there is little that I can do.”
As newly-released report this week confirms what the Roper town clerk told the NCNAACP and other social action groups weeks ago - the elderly in North Carolina are increasingly unable to afford to live in this state.
With housing and healthcare accounting for more than half of an average person’s annual income, more and more elderly people are finding it difficult to survive in North Carolina just on their meager savings, if any, and Social Security, a study by the Washington, D.C.-based Wider Opportunities for Woman and the Gerontology Institute at University of Massachusetts Boston says.
So imagine what it’s like for the elderly of a poor northeastern North Carolina town with a per capita income in 2009 of just $9,666, in one of the poorest counties in the state.
“They have to add plumber to the their list of priorities, in addition to housing, food, medicine, electricity, water/sewer, in terms of what bills they choose to pay,” Roper Town Clerk Dorenda Gatling says. When she’s forced to cut off their service, even when she knows they don’t have the money, it’s usually someone she knows.
“It’s hard to do, and frankly stressful,” Gatling admits, “because I know what it’s like.”
Yes, at one time, the town clerk of Roper was among those who lived in poverty.
Roper is a small town in Washington County. With a population of just 602 residents in 2009, it has actually lost people since the 2000 US Census, which registered 613 residents.
Roper is one of 38 small towns in eastern NC populations less than 1,000.
Washington County is home to over 12,800 residents, 49.8 percent of whom are black.
Virtually 90 percent of Roper is black, with the median family income at just $16,958 in 2009, a steep drop from the $20,694 in the 2000 census.
Countywide, household median income was $32,172 in 2009, well below North Carolina’s $43,674.
Only 64 percent of Roper’s citizens graduated high school, and less than eight percent have either an associates, bachelor’s or graduate/professional degree of any kind.
Unemployment in Roper is 12.6 percent, higher than either the state or national average.
Percentage of residents living in poverty in Washington County as of 2009 - 25.8 percent, and the elderly comprise much of it.
No one knows the plight of Roper’s poor, let alone elderly poor, better than Mayor Estelle “Bunny” Sanders, who literally fights with the state and federal government every day to get more dollars flowing to her town. With no strong economic engine in the area, and no commensurate strong tax-base to speak of, the daily operations rest on Roper’s ability to collect taxes and fees, and attract whatever governmental assistance is available.
In essence, Roper, like many predominately black, predominately poor northeastern North Carolina towns, is getting older, and poorer.
“The cycle of poverty, is indeed a cycle,” says Mayor Sanders.
That cycle extends to the local education system, already suffering from a small budget, further gutted by the NC General Assembly recently.
It extends to healthcare, where costs are rising for seniors and the indigent because of stringent state and federal budget cuts.
And the cycle extends to a critical lack of infrastructure investment by the state that help Roper, and other low-wealth areas, put together strong economic development packages to attract industries and factories, thus growing jobs and the tax-base.
Matching funds is one way to get the grants needed to upgrade water and sewer services for small towns. But Roper’s revenue balance is barely enough to qualify, Gatling says, thus finding itself ineligible to even apply in many cases. So the town has to tackle infrastructure problems as they can afford to, which ultimately costs it more money.
And because of the way money is appropriated by the state and federal government, sixteen poor counties in North Carolina are forced to compete against each other for funding, instead of working together to meet the needs of their citizens. Unless they band together, Mayor Sanders says, they will never amass the political lever of a Charlotte-Mecklenburg or Raleigh-Wake to get their fair share of resources and funding.
Mayor Sanders says her town can’t even hope to grow without the capability of broadband technology for computers and cellphones.
“Everybody is doing business online,” she said. “Remote rural North Carolina areas still do not have affordable broadband, and in some cases, no broadband at all.”
Why? Because high tech companies will not run lines into high poverty areas, seeing no markets to profit from. So the people there are cut off from the world.
Town Clerk Dorenda Gatling made clear that she has a job to do when she garnishes wages or income tax refunds, or aggressively pursues those who fall behind in paying their fare share for the municipal services they receive.
But she also, and tearfully made clear, that by her own experience, she understands, and seemingly resents not being given an option to deal with those who are desperately struggling to survive, like she once was.
“I have a great compassion for the citizens of our community because I’ve lived it,” Gatling told the Truth and Hope Poverty Tour members. “A couple of years ago I lost my job, and a substantial amount of my income. I lost my home. I tried everything I could do to keep it. I tried to work with the mortgage company; I tried the homeowners’ assistance program…both of which strung me along for a year. And the payments and the interest kept building. I begged for help, and finally, I had to walk away. Thank God, into another home. I’m blessed to have a job.”
[Editor’s note - The Truth and Hope Poverty Tour Through North Carolina was sponsored by the NCNAACP; the NC Justice Center; the UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity and the NCCU Institute for Civic Engagement and Social Change.
It begins its second leg March 2.]
STATE NEWS BRIEFS
TWO-WEEK FILING PERIOD FOR PUBLIC OFFICE BEGINS
[RALEIGH] Even though there are two lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Republican-drawn voting districts, candidate filing for the 2012 elections began unimpeded Monday as those vying for re-election, and others vying to win their first, began signing up to compete. Among some of the more interesting filers are two Democratic candidates for lieutenant governor, state Sen. Eric Mansfield and state Personnel Director Linda Coleman, both African-Americans. For governor, thus far, on the Republican side, former Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory. For the Democrats, former Congressman Bobby Etheridge, Rep. Bill Faison of Orange County, and Lt. Gov. Walton Dalton.
OBAMA CAMPAIGN OPENS SIXTH NORTH CAROLINA OFFICE
If there is any doubt about President Obama’s intention to win North Carolina, look no further than how many campaign offices it has so far opened. In Durham this week, Obama’s “Organizing for America” grand opened campaign office number six in Durham in the Heritage Square Shopping Plaza on Lakewood Avenue. Thus far, the campaign has opened offices in Raleigh, Charlotte, Wilmington, Greensboro and Fayetteville.
SHAW BEARS WIN CIAA SOUTHERN DIVISION
[RALEIGH] Heading into the 100th anniversary of the CIAA basketball tournament, the Shaw University men’s basketball team, with a 21-2 overall, and 13-0 in the CIAA, having claimed the Southern Division title, defeating Johnson C. Smith University 94-74 Monday evening.
TRIANGLE NEWS BRIEFS
STATE DEMOCRATS SPONSOR SEN JEANNE LUCAS ESSAY CONTEST
Honoring the life and legacy of the late state Sen. Jeanne Hopkins Lucas of Durham, the NC Democratic Party has announced the Jeanne Hopkins Lucas Essay Contest for only high school seniors in the Durham Public School System. Students should write a minimum 750-word essay titled, “How Will I be Unforgettable?, and submit it to the NC Democratic Party, with entry form, postmarked no later than February 29, 2012. The winner will be awarded a $500.00 scholarship, among other awards. For more information, contact Gwen Wilkins or Walton Robinson at the NC Democratic Party at 919-821-2777.
US ATTY. GEN. ERIC HOLDER TO SPEAK AT UNC COMMENCEMENT
The first African-American to serve as attorney general of the United States is scheduled to speak during the commencement at the UNC School of Law in May. US Atty. Gen. Eric Holder will deliver the commencement address on May 12, confirmed the school this week. Holder had previously served as deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton.
DURHAM D.A. GETS DELAY IN HEARING SEEKING HER OUSTER
Tracy Cline, the embattled Durham District Attorney who has conducted a one-woman war against Senior Durham Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson, won a delay in the hearing on whether she should be permanently removed from. Office. Cline has been suspended by a judge, cited for the frivolous nature of her charges against Judge Hudson. Her hearing, delayed because of health reasons, is scheduled to resume Monday, Feb. 20th.
CASH IN THE APPLE
By Cash Michaels
WHITNEY - Yet another tragic loss to our world. A talent that will never breathe again. A talent and spirit that will never know how much we really loved her.
A talent, spirit, and yes, human being, whose precious life was lost because of drug and alcohol abuse.
Since that dreadful news was first reported last Saturday, the world has seemed to stop on its axis, as songs, videos, movies and interviews of Whitney Houston have played continuously.
Like her entertainment equal, Michael Jackson, Whitney had a wide-ranging impact on the culture. Unlike some of the “stars” of today, Whitney had real talent, she could actually sing, something that seems against the law nowadays. And she knew how to flaunt her sexuality without ever crossing the line, making her even more powerful in presence.
Plus Whitney had a joy and honesty to her music, two qualities, combined with her energy, that made her a standout.
Combine all of that with her extraordinary vocal range on such classics like,” I Will Always Love You” and “I Believe in You and Me,” and, of course, Whitney’s stunning version of the “Star-Spangled Banner” shortly after the Gulf War had commenced in 2002, and you have the stuff of which legends are born.
Whitney Houston is, indeed, an American legend.
Losing Whitney Houston in the manner that we have just reminds us how much of our proud musical tradition we’re actually allowing to escape. Performers who actually worked hard, and paid their dues for the right to perform before us on the biggest stages.
Some of those legends, like Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin (Whitney’s godmother) and Dionne Warwick (Whitney’s cousin), are still with us. Somehow, they’ve taken the worst that show business could throw at them, and found a way to last, and endure.
But then, strangely enough, we have those from the following generation, like Whitney, who always struggled with survival, no matter how loud the applause, or how long the ovation.
Whitney’s body was flown back to her native New Jersey this week from Los Angeles, where she was found lifeless in a Beverly Hills hotel bathtub. She will be funeralized Saturday in the small Newark, NJ black church where her great gift of song was first discovered when Whitney was a child.
There are those who say that Whitney was a drug addict, and that she “killed herself.”
Maybe all of that is truer than we want to admit.
Doesn’t lessen her legend, or the fact that when it came time for Whitney Houston to give her best to her fans and the world, she did.
Thank you, Whitney.
OPRAH’S INTERVIEW WITH WHITNEY - Perhaps one of the most disturbing celebrity interviews I’ve ever seen, and that’s Oprah Winfrey’s 2009 sitdown with Whitney Houston, where the struggling singer talks about her drug usage and marital problems with singer Bobby Brown.
That 9 p.m. tonite (Thursday) on Oprah’s OWN cable channel.
THE TRAGEDY OF FAME - Billie Holiday. Dorothy Dandridge. Florence Ballard of The Supremes. Janis Joplin. Teena Marie. Amy Winehouse.
Add to that list Marvin Gaye. Michael Jackson. Luther Vandross. Freddie Prinze. Jackie Wilson. Don Cornelius.
And now…Whitney Houston.
All of the above died tragically, in one form or another, because of the toll that fame took on their lives. It makes one wonder at what cost is celebrity. To be known the world over for a GOD-given talent, a gift, as it were, that makes one stand out as exceptional.
Did GOD create us to deal with that? The wealth, the fame, the glamour?
In many respects, no!
True, He’s given us all gifts to share freely with the world. That’s the beauty of humanity.
But we’ve corrupted the process. We’ve put a price tag on it, with the high cost going both ways. If we want to see the talent, we have to pay.
And if the talent wants to get paid, they must turn their gift, into a machine, producing more and more for a marketplace to eat that talent alive until there isn’t any more left to give.
That’s what happened with Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Billie Holiday and so many other great performers. Long after their prime, long after their most productive years, they were spat out, and left to the side to die.
And when they, in fact, did die, we, the “fans” who forgot them, laud their memories, their greatness and yes, shamefully, their humanity.
I say “shamefully” because it is usually not until the truly great are dead and gone, do we even take the time to even acknowledge their humanity.
We don’t bother to ask the question - “Michael, Amy, Whitney…were they ever really happy?”
When they were performing on stage, they seemed to be. But who among us who are what we think to be as “normal” live our lives on a stage? Who, among us, find happiness in our work, instead of making our work as only part of our happiness?
When Whitney Houston died last weekend, she did so as someone still wanting very much to be relevant, and respected.
Someone who still, very much, wanted to be loved.
But in order to get any of that, she, like Michael, Amy, Don Cornelius, Billie, Luther…and so many other stars who’ve tragically passed on, had to die first before they could find out.
And that’s the true nature of fame. Once you’ve really achieved it, you’re not needed anymore. You’ve made your contribution. You’ve made your money. You’ve made your mark. We reserve the right to say what you really meant to us. Goodbye.
Kind of coldblooded, isn’t it?
ROLAND MARTIN’S BIG MOUTH - By now you’ve heard that CNN suspended commentator Roland Martin for an indefinite period of time because of some dumb remarks he tweeted during a Super Bowl commercial featuring world famous soccer player David Beckham in his underwear.
Essentially, Martin tweeted that if you’re with a group of men watching the game, and any of them start fawning over the Beckham ad, to beat the mess out of them.
Of course, Martin was just running his mouth, as he loves to do, and not really advocating for actual violence against anybody. But it was too late. The tweet was picked up on by the gay community, and the next thing you know, pressure was brought to bare on CNN for Martin to be fired.
CNN sent Martin to the showers indefinitely, which is close to it.
The moral of this story is that when you have a big mouth and you’re in the public eye, trust me, it will catch up with you when you least expect it. Which is why you better be able to back up and justify everything that’s attributed to you. In the golden age of social networking, public dialogue is a good thing, but it could lead to bad results.
Martin should have realized that as playful and tongue-in-cheek his “harmless” tweet may have seemed at the time, it checked off all of the boxes for anyone who wanted to accuse him of wanting to bring violence on those who may find David Beckham - who is straight and married last time I looked - attractive in his draws.
That was enough for a worldwide news organization like CNN to act.
Mistake, Martin. He’s been in the public eye long enough to know there are just some things a public figure cannot walk into with their eyes covered, and seemingly advocating violence against a protected group - a group that has experienced the very violence he joked about - is at the top of the list.
The reason why I don’t call this evidence of Martin’s alleged homophobia is because I’ve not seen a pattern of this before from him. Just as with race, it is entirely possible to say something stupid one time, and not mean it as everyone else is taking it.
Martin will keep his job at CNN, but it will be a bitter lesson.
It already has been a blow to his tremendous ego.
Make sure you tune in every Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m. for my talk radio show, ''Make It Happen'' on Power 750 WAUG-AM, or online at www.Power750.com. And read more about my thoughts and opinions exclusively at my new blog, ‘The Cash Roc” (http://thecashroc.blogspot.com/2011/01/cash-roc-begins.html). I promise it will be interesting.
Cash in the Apple - honored as the Best Column Writing of 2006 by the National Newspaper Publishers Association. Columnist Cash Michaels was also honored by the NNPA for Best Feature Story Journalist of 2009, and was the recipient of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP’s President’s Award for Media Excellence in Sept. 2011.
Until next week, keep a smile on your face, GOD in your heart, and The Carolinian in your life. Bye, bye.