Saturday, October 22, 2016


By Cash Michaels

On the first day of early voting, I can honestly say I certainly earned my “I VOTED EARLY” sticker, in more ways than one.
To my surprise after I dropped my daughter KaLa off at middle school, there was a long line at my polling place, the Herbert C. Young Community Center in Cary.
I hate long lines for anything, but I had just told my 13-year-old about how inspiring it was to cover the 2008 presidential election, and to see all of the older black citizens - some with canes and walkers, some in wheelchairs, come out and do something they never thought they'd have the opportunity to do in their lifetime - vote for the first black president of the United States. The memories of that still warm my heart.
I vowed that if they could make it to the polls to prove their citizenship and right to be heard, then I had no business waiting 20 days until the last minute. I needed to take the time NOW! So I was determined no matter how long the line was, to park my car, wait, and cast my ballot. Determination and duty were going to see me through.
Too bad common sense wasn't part of my equation. When I drove up to the Young Center, they had parking folks as always directing all traffic to the parking deck entrance. I should have asked for the handicapped parking area since I'm a stroke/cancer victim who still has some difficulty walking.
No, instead I never gave any of that any thought. So I just drove where they directed me to without asking any questions. BIG MISTAKE! I ended up not parking near the first floor where I wouldn't have to walk far, but on the top level.
Because of my hindered left leg, I decided to walk back down through the deck driveway, realizing that to get to the building, I'd have to take the stairs to the bottom level and then walk over.
No, I didn't fall down the stairs (Thank GOD), but once I left the stairwell, I looked ahead to see where the voting line was so I could walk all the way over and take my place in line to wait.
In doing so, I didn't look down to see that I was not on the ground, but a platform you had to step off of to the ground. By the time I realized that, all of sudden there was no there there, and I was placing my considerable weight on nothing moving forward, my 304 lb. immense body stumbling forward uncontrollably.
I immediately tried to almost dance my way down, hoping I could slow my barely standing stumble so I wouldn't hit the ground, but it was too late. With no cars parked anywhere near, and only a cement wall to stop me if i went too far. I ended up slamming to the cement parking deck floor HARD.
Luckily I put my left arm out to brace my descent, but it was still a hard tumble that cut up my arm pretty bad. Yes I was stunned for moment. I don't fall much, so when it does happen, it IS an experience.
I laid there for a moment to assess if I broke anything (I could have), but after moving my arm up and down, I realized I was damned lucky. Now all I have to do is get up and walk down to get in line, I thought.
Except that I COULDN'T GET UP. I do have problems with both legs getting up out of chairs and sofas because of the stroke two years ago, so getting up off the ground was near impossible. That meant I had to swallow my overblown pride and seek help.
Silly me! Here I am, on the ground sitting up as not one, not two, but three cars leaving the parking deck come down where i am and pass me going out, each driver seeing me without question. Why would I think ANY of them would slow down after seeing a 300 lb. black man in a tee-shirt on the ground with a bleeding arm obviously in trouble, and ask if I needed help? I didn't expect them to stop or get out of their cars or anything. JUST ASK!
Nope. Finally I realized I better swallow my pride and actually call out to the next car to please advise the police that I'm injured back here, which is what I did.
Soon the precinct supervisor and another lady walked back, asked if I needed an ambulance or 911. I assured them I didn't, just wanted to have my wound attended to stop the bleeding, get off the ground, and be able to vote, then be taken back to my car at the top (which I was steadily cussing myself out for).
The supervisor's name was Peggy, and her assistant was Carol. Those two ladies took care of my wound, determined that I was now eligible for curbside voting (well I was disabled), signed me up (I'm still on the ground now) and finally got two strong men to help me to my feet so I could finally walk over to where all of the action was, which I did. After going to the special section where curbside voting was officially being done on the other side of the parking deck, they got me a chair, gave me my ballot to fill out, and were super nice to me.
At one point I thanked the lady behind the table for allowing me to vote out of turn. She responded, "Of course, sir. After all, you did shed blood today to do it." Amen, Ma'am. AMEN!
When I finished, I noticed an elderly couple who were also waiting for their ballots. The man had a walker, and the workers got him a chair. His wife, who apparently was also his caretaker, was standing, however, because there were no more seats.
Yes, folks had bandaged me up and my arm was still hurting, but the way my mother reared me hurt me even more. So as soon as I handed my ballot to Carol, since I had to wait for her to walk inside to put it in the machine for me, I decided to stand and give my chair to the lady. Clearly the couple, (they were elderly and white) were shocked, and tried to refuse, but I insisted, bringing the chair to the  lady to sit in.
At that point, the poll worker who was behind the curbside voting table saw what I did, got up, and insisted I take her seat after she brought it to me, saying she had no problem standing doing her job.
These were good moments of decency that made everyone feel good.
One of the men drove me to my car at the top of the deck, and I paused for a breath once i got behind the wheel of my car. My right hand had dried blood on it from the wound on my left elbow. My left knee felt a little banged up as well. But all in all, I VOTED, and had my sticker, given to me by Carol, to prove it.
So the next time someone talks about "Our forefathers bled for our right to vote," you tell 'em, "Yeah, Cash Michaels did too."
And I was proud to do it!


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Saying that North Carolina “cannot be let off the hook,” the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus compared the plight of the embattled residents of Princeville – the historically black Edgecombe County town that has been destroyed by floodwaters twice in 17 years – with the tribulations of predominately-black Flint, Michigan, where residents discovered their drinking water was polluted with lead because state government refused to spend the money to purify their supply.
            “The state bears responsibility,” Congressman G. K. Butterfield declared in an exclusive interview about the growing needs of the 2200 residents of Princeville and surrounding areas ravaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew three weeks ago. While some federal disaster relief assistance is on the ground, and Rep. Butterfield [D-NC-1] and colleague Rep. David Price [D-NC-4] plan to introduce legislation in Congress for more appropriations targeting Princeville, he makes clear that Gov. McCrory and state lawmakers must do more.
            “We learned that in Flint, Michigan, and the water crisis [there],” Butterfield said, adding, “”We’re not talking negligence here. What we’re talking about is a natural disaster, and the [state] government has some money in reserve for natural disasters, and the rainy day fund needs to be utilized to some degree.”
             “So state and federal, it has to be a coordinated effort between both of these entities,” Rep. Butterfield continued, “and I support [the North Carolina state lawmakers] who have joined together to call for a special session of the legislature.”
            “It has to be a joint [state and federal effort] and no one gets a free pass,” said Rep. Butterfield. “What better way to use a [state] surplus than to help families who have been displaced by a natural disaster. I think this is a big deal, and is deserving of a special session of the legislature, because this is a 500-year flood that has come to our state and caused $2 billion in damage, and more than 25 individuals who have died. The least the legislature can do is to come to town for a day or two, and legislate sensibly on this natural disaster.
            There are those who believe Gov. McCrory is hoping that the federal government and private charities can fill in the financial and public assistance gap in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew flooding until the NC General Assembly reconvenes in January.
The 2200 residents of Princeville certainly hope not, and during a contentious meeting with their elected leaders Monday night at the Edgecombe County administration building, angrily expressed their frustration with not being allowed to return to their homes., and needing more assistance now.
Over 80 percent of Princeville was submerged under approximately ten feet of polluted floodwater before it was pumped out. However many of the homes and government buildings were destroyed in the process, left uninhabitable with toxic fumes and wastes.  Now many of those homes have been condemned, leaving those residents without a place to live.
It is the second time in 17 years that Princeville has been ravaged by a massive flood, and many there have decided to leave, saying that rebuilding again is too risky.
            At least 20 of the over 30 counties crippled in the aftermath of Matthew are eligible for disaster unemployment assistance, and federal financial assistance, including temporary housing after victims leave shelters.
            But as the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd proved in 1999, the mounting needs will go far beyond housing, food and lost employment, and the federal government will require North Carolina to shell out hundreds of millions in matching funds in order to get full disaster assistance for property buyouts, relocation and maintaining public health.
That’s why many state leaders agree that the $12-18 million in the state’s disaster relief fund is not nearly enough, and the governor needs to call a special session immediately to at least supplement the relief fund out of the $1.6 billion rainy day fund, or the $200 million in surplus budget savings, until lawmakers can consider a final bill.
Thus far, McCrory has refused to do so, preferring to wait until January.
            I do think there should be a special session at some point, which should be as soon as reasonably possible,” House Minority Leader Larry Hall says. “In December 1999, 2.5 months after Floyd hit, the legislature had a special session and appropriated $836 million for relief.  We can learn a lot from that experience, and should apply those lessons here.”


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