Tuesday, February 23, 2016




By Cash Michaels

            State Republican lawmakers may pleased with themselves after redrawing North Carolina’s 13-district congressional maps last week, but the NCNAACP is not.
            The civil rights organization told reporters Monday that they are asking the federal appeals court that ordered the new voting maps to now reject them, and redraw new ones itself, because GOP lawmakers substituted partisanism for race in their new maps, making them just as bad as the previous voting districts the federal court ruled earlier this month to be unconstitutional.
            The NCNAACP insisted that the Republican lawmakers who drew the original maps cannot be trusted.
            The original plaintiffs in the case have asked that the new maps be thrown out by March 18th.
            Attorneys for the NCNAACP are joining with the original plaintiffs in the lawsuit that forced the state Legislature to reconvene last week to redraw the congressional maps, in asking the US Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to expedite its review, and toss out the new maps. The NCNAACP also wants the US Supreme Court to consolidate the various North Carolina cases involving  congressional and legislative maps, and declare them unconstitutional so that voters will be able to have confidence in their voting districts.
            A state court case involving the constitutionality of the 2011 legislative maps is scheduled to be heard in April.
            Thanks to the Feb. 5th ruling by a three-judge panel of the Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals, the 2011 redistricting maps drawn  by the NC General Assembly were determined to be unconstitutional because black voters had been “stacked and packed” into the First and Twelfth Congressional districts.
            Race cannot be the primary reason for creating voting districts under the US Constitution. Party affiliation, however, can be used.
            The court ruling disallowed the 2011 maps, which had already been used in the 2012 and 2014 elections, from being utilized in the upcoming March 15th primaries and subsequent Nov. 8th general elections.
            The NCNAACP says the two elections that were conducted under the 2011 maps were illegal, given the federal court’s ruling that maps were unconstitutional.
            State lawmakers were given until Friday, February 19th to redraw the districts, and submit them to the federal appellate court for review. Republicans had hoped that the US Supreme Court would stay the lower court’s order, thus allowing the 2011 maps to still be used for March 15th, but the US High Court refused to stay the order Friday, meaning that the new congressional maps drawn will be in force on June 7th, the new North Carolina congressional primary day state lawmakers decided on last week.
            "The fact that no justices on the court issued a dissenting opinion gives us real hope that the Supreme Court is tired of these cases coming from North Carolina that are constructed for the sole purpose of undermining the voting strength of African-Americans," said atty Irving Joyner, legal counsel for the NCNAACP.
            With the new date, there will no runoff date, which means whoever gets the majority of the primary vote wins outright.
            Legislative Democrats complained bitterly as the new maps were being drawn last week, charging that Republicans were not accepting input from anyone but themselves , that hearings were really sham exercises since they already knew how the maps were going to be redrawn, and that the new maps were just as bad as the 2011 districts because Republican partisanism served as a proxy for race in their redrawing.
            Republicans denied the charges, countering that race was not a factor at all in their new maps, which changed the configuration of several districts beyond the First and Twelfth, and now have several incumbent congressional members facing off against each other.
            Much of Twelfth District Congresswoman Alma Adams’ district, for example, has now been absorbed into the Thirteenth District. Adams still vows to run to represent the Twelfth District.
            The NC Republican Party charges that there is nothing wrong with the new congressional maps, and the NCNAACP only wants them redrawn so that Democrats can have an easier way of winning in the upcoming elections.

DEMOCRATS DEBATE IN US SENATE BID - Democrats seeking to unseat incumbent Republican US Senator Richard Burr  are (left to right) businessman Kevin Griffin, Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey, former state House Rep. Deborah Ross, and US Army veteran Ernest Reeves. [Cash Michaels Photo]

By Cash Michaels

            Tonite, the four Democrats seeking to unseat Republican incumbent US Senator Richard Burr will gather to debate to the issues, and why they would be the best nominee to face Burr on Nov. 8th.
            But over a month ago, at the behest of the African-American and Hispanic caucuses of the NC Democratic Party, the four candidates indeed debated several issues dealing with economic opportunity, immigration, terrorism and more.
            Taking part in that debate at NC Democratic Party headquarters were former NC Rep. Deborah Ross, Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey, Durham businessman Kevin Griffin and retired US Army Officer Ernest Reeves.
            All four candidates answered the first and fourth questions. Two candidates answered the second, and the two others answered the third.
            First question How is Sen. Burr failing North Carolina and failing the nation?
            Ms. Ross charged that Sen. Burr has not been taking care of “ordinary people’s needs” or reflecting North Carolina’s values. She continued that “people are hurting today,” adding that children are entitled to a high-quality public school education. Burr, she says, has voted against ways to manage student loan debt, and increasing access to Pell grants for higher education. Ross also charged that Sen. Burr is opposed to raising the minimum wage, and has voted against equal pay for women. Burr also opposed the Affordable Care Act, and came up with a plan that would have allowed insurance companies kick people off their insurance. Burr has also voted to privatize Social Security and other social safety programs for the elderly. Ross promised to be on the “right side of those issues” if elected to replace Sen. Burr.
            Mayor Rey charged that Sen. Burr has failed North Carolina “miserably and miserably.” He said he was “sick and tired of an economy…health care system and criminal justice  that doesn’t work for everyone.” Rey blasted Burr’s position’s on Social Security and immigration reform. “So my position on running is very simple…it is our time, and it is our turn.”
            Kevin Griffin said Sen. Burr “worked hard to forget about the people, taking the “Sen. No” title form Jesse Helms.” Griffin said Burr has forgotten about the problems facing common people.
            Ernest Reeves said Sen. Burr has done little to support teachers, increasing the minimum wage for working people, or Medicaid expansion.
            Second question – Blacks and Hispanics comprise the lion’s share of prison populations across the nation. As US Senator, what could you do about this?
            Spring Lake Mayor Chris Rey said one of the first local ordinances he signed into law upon his election in 2011 was “Ban the Box,” which allowed ex-felons to apply for jobs without initially revealing their criminal history. Rey said he’s also working with Pres. Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative to help young black males build more productive lives. If elected US senator, Rey said he wants to look at implementing “second chance” programs and alternative’s to incarceration.
            Businessman Kevin Griffin said removing mandatory sentencing guidelines is one step towards reducing incarceration. But Griffin also advocates improving educational opportunities for poor children. Griffin said he’s also for helping small businesspeople in depressed areas have an easier time getting loans so that they can help build stronger economies in their communities.
            Third question – As a US senator, what would your priorities be in the areas of national security and unemployment?
            Candidate Ernest Reeves said, given his extensive military background, that national security would be his “number one concern.” “National security is a must. We must protect the homeland.” Regarding unemployment, Reeves said Republicans have done very little to create jobs.
            Ms Ross said “keeping people safe” would be her “number one priority per national security. People are feeling insecure from external threats like Isis that “need to be taken out right where they are. Stronger international partnerships to fight terrorism have to be made. Ross also called for stronger efforts at safety domestically, redoubling efforts with the intelligence and law enforcement communities to root out internal threats.
            Regarding unemployment, Ross agreed with Ernest Reeves that the Republicans have done very little to help create jobs and rebuild the economy. She said the state government alone could create numerous jobs by rebuilding roads, bridges and other infrastructure across the state.
            Fourth question – As US senator, what would you do to make sure that immigrant refugees are treated properly upon entering the country?
            Kevin Griffin said immigrants need to be “brought into the system instead of being forced into hiding,” meaning that they able to work and build better lives for themselves and their families.
            Ernest Reeves said he is not for a pathway to citizenship, and those that are here illegally must follow the law until the courts decide on what to do with them.
            Mayor Chris Rey said he is for a pathway to citizenship for immigrants, and that he has confidence that the current system in place is proper, and keeps Americans safe.
            Deborah Ross said America is “a nation of immigrants, and that’s something we need to be proud of.” But the country also needs comprehensive immigration reform, but unfortunately, Republicans in Congress have “overpoliticized” it. Ross said she would have voted for the reform package put before the US Senate several years ago if she had been in the US Senate. Richard Burr voted against it.  “Comprehensive immigration reform is the only solution, and if elected, I will make that happen.”



            [RALEIGH] The NC Historical Commission and NC African American Heritage Commission, in conjunction with Gov. Pat McCrory, the NC Dept. of Natural and Cultural Resources and the State Capitol Memorial Study Committee are joining together to sponsor statewide public hearings into memorials on state Capitol grounds honoring African-Americans. Those hearings are scheduled for Tuesday, March 1 at the International Civil Right Museum in Greensboro at 6:30 p.m.; Tuesday, March 8, 6:30 p.m. at the Harvey B. Gantt Center in Charlotte; Tuesday, march 22 at 6:30 p.m. at Braswell Memorial Library, and Tuesday, March 29th, 6:30 p.m. in Shaw auditorium, Fayetteville State University in Fayetteville. For more information call 919-807-7290.

            [CHARLOTTE] Gov. Pat McCrory and Republican legislative leaders have vowed to counter a new Charlotte City nondiscrimination ordinance that allows transgender people to use the public bathrooms of their choice in restaurants and locker rooms. . The Charlotte City Council passed the controversial measure Monday 7-4. It goes into effect April 1st. Gov. McCrory, a  former Charlotte mayor, issued a statement saying, “As governor, I will support legislative action to address this regulation and will remain committed to protecting the privacy and safety of all men, women and children of all ages in North Carolina.”

            [CLEMMONS] The 1985 Lincoln Continental limousine once owned by author/poetess Maya Angelou was recently raffled off by charity, and won by Brian McGrail of Clemmons. The charity, The Children’s Home, reportedly raised  $5300 from the sale. The limo was donated by Ms. Angelou’s estate. The charity provides therapeutic home care for children.



            In the wake of superstar singer Beyonce’s controversial protest Super Bowl halftime show and music video against police brutality, several police unions across the country where her concert tour will play have been calling for a police boycott.  Beyonce is scheduled to bring her concert to Carter-Finley Stadium on May 3rd, the Raleigh Police Protective Association voted Tuesday night not to boycott the event, opting instead to do their jobs to keep the public safe. Nation of Islam leader Min. Louis Farrakhan had vowed to provide security for Beyonce’s concert tour if police departments failed to do so.

            Senator Dan Blue is hosting a town hall meeting from 6:30 pm – 8:00pm on Monday, November 16th at the Garner Road Community Center (Formerly the Garner Road YMCA) 2235 Garner Road in Raleigh.  Senator Blue encourages members of the local community to attend and engage in a conversation on the goals and priorities of NC and the future of our area. Senator Blue will discuss issues related to education, economic development, transportation, court challenges to legislative efforts to change voting rights requirements, redistricting, the March 2016 primary for all elective offices, and the upcoming legislative session starting in April 2016.

            Retired Durham Superior Court Judge David LaBarre has pled guilty to a Dec. 16th charge of driving while impaired. As part of his plea agreement. LaBarre must undergo substance abuse treatment, complete 24 hours of community service, and be on unsupervised probation for a year. Judge LaBarre has served on the Durham bench for over 20 years.


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