I wrote a post mid-pandemic criticizing Cape Fear Valley Hospital for not assisting enough with vaccination roll-out.
Here’s how it started:
Due to the nature of our for-profit health care system, a tremendous responsibility lies with regional hospitals to help coordinate and distribute the Covid vaccine. Here in Fayetteville, Cape Fear Valley Hospital needs to step up to the plate and save lives in the community that keeps it in business.
Well, Cape Fear Valley has stepped up in a major way. They hit a home run. It’s so good, people are driving into Fayetteville from out of town because it’s so easy to get vaccinated here.
But…today I read this:
This is beyond aggravating. Are we intentionally trying to make 2020 drag into 2022?
In all seriousness, a selfish, ignorant decision to abstain from the vaccine means you could catch Covid and spread it to a vulnerable person, killing them. And you’re cool with that, Fayetteville?
Local leaders of every race, political party, church and institution need to encourage everyone to get the vaccine. It’s time for tough love.
If we can’t come together to end a pandemic that upended our way of life, then we didn’t deserve it to begin with.
“They know better than anyone the history of our city, to where there was significant imbalance between minority leadership being elected because of the way the system was set up, so much so that the Justice Department had to come in and make the adjustment for us,” Colvin said. “And so it just looks a little disingenuous that past council members, most of which who were beaten in this system, now want to change the rules and dilute the voting power of the minority community.”
Colvin has won multiple city-wide elections. The citizens that elect him every two years are the exact same people that will be voting for or against the at-large seats at issue. Apparently, Colvin thinks the residents of Fayetteville are good enough to elect him, but can’t be trusted to give other African Americans a fair shake? It’s kind of hard to figure. It also ignores the reality that in 2021, there are more African American voters than white voters in Cumberland County.
I realize that at-large seats pose a problem for individuals without significant resources. It’s expensive to run for office city-wide. Democrats like Mayor Colvin are often forced to contend with the influence of wealthy business interests that rally behind Republican candidates. However, Mayor Colvin went straight to skin color, as if poor white people in Fayetteville don’t have the same disadvantages as poor black people to fund a campaign.
Fractions Increase Factions
I continue to support at-large districts. My support starts with the premise that we are a divided city. We chop ourselves up into camps. Some are racial. Some are financial. Some are partisan. Unsurprisingly, the politics in City Hall reflect these divisions. Council members fight it out in special committees, if they can even agree on who’s going to lead the committee. If they can’t, they’ll make two committees to do the same thing.
This could change if we’re given the option to vote for a majority of the council with the use of at-large seats. To get elected, council members would have to build consensus on issues that impact the entire city. This would require political compromise, something the city desperately needs. Simply put, a majority of the council would represent the entire city, not 1/9th.
Speaking of fractions, look at our turnout in municipal elections. It’s in the single digits lately and lags behind the rest of the state. Why go vote if you only get to vote for one city council member? Most people don’t. Here’s a chart of the votes our council members received in the 2019 municipal election. There were 149,847 registered voters in Fayetteville at that time:
0.55% of Registered Voters
0.47% of Registered Voters
0.89% of Registered Voters
0.78% of Registered Voters
0.68% of Registered Voters
0.68% of Registered Voters
0.60% of Registered Voters
0.45% of Registered Voters
0.44% of Registered Voters
Can we honestly defend this system? You can be elected to the Fayetteville City Council with the support of less than 1/2 of 1% of the registered voters in town. As long as you keep your tiny pocket of supporters happy, you’re back in office in two years.
We’ve had the current system in place for 21 years. I’m not happy with the direction of the city I’m choosing to raise my sons in. It could be so much better. That’s why I’m supporting a change. Whatever happens, dividing people on racial lines goes against everything we stand for as Americans. As long as those in power continue to filter every political decision through a racial lens, we’ll never progress as a city.
Are we doomed to fight this same fight every couple of decades?
A website advocating a change in the makeup of the Fayetteville City Council is making rounds on social media.
From the homepage:
Today, a local group of concerned citizens announces that they have formed a new group, VoteYesFayetteville (VoteYesFayetteville.com), to organize a citizen-led petition to add a referendum on an upcoming election to improve the structure of the City Council from its current nine single member districts and mayor to a structure of five single member districts and four at large members and mayor elected by the entire city.
They’ve even created stick-figure graphics to get their point across:
Before I give you my opinion on this, here’s a breakdown of the law:
In North Carolina, if you want to change the way your city council is elected, you have two options.
Get the city council to make the change; or
Force the city council to make the change.
#1 is extremely rare. Why change the political mechanisms that put you in office?
As to #2, here’s relevant portions of a relevant statute:
§ 160A-104. Initiative petitions for charter amendments. The people may initiate a referendum on proposed charter amendments. An initiative petition shall bear the signatures and resident addresses of a number of qualified voters of the city equal to at least ten percent (10%) of the whole number of voters who are registered to vote in city elections according to the most recent figures certified by the State Board of Elections or 5,000, whichever is less.
Upon receipt of a valid initiative petition, the council shall call a special election on the question of adopting the charter amendments proposed therein, and shall give public notice thereof in accordance with G.S. 163-287. The date of the special election shall be fixed on a date permitted by G.S. 163-287. If a majority of the votes cast in the special election shall be in favor of the proposed changes, the council shall adopt an ordinance amending the charter to put them into effect.
I love the way that statute starts: “The people…” That’s rare in law.
It appears that the purpose of the voteyesfayetteville.com website is to get a whole bunch of people to sign their petition. They need 5,000 registered voters in Fayetteville to sign. If they get them, the issue of at-large seats will be put on the ballot.
Put Your Name On It
As to where I stand, I wrote a post on this site two years ago called: The Case for At-Large Seats – Fayetteville City Council. Read it. I also remember going on the “Good Morning Fayetteville” radio program and promoting at-large seats shortly thereafter. My opinion hasn’t changed in the past two years. At-large seats would be good for Fayetteville.
Note: A previous version of this post criticized the website for not identifying the individuals behind it. A few hours after this post, a reader pointed me to the bottom of the “What’s At Stake” portion of the website. It lists the following supporters:
Tony Chavonne, Mayor 2005-2013 Nat Robertson, Mayor 2013 – 2017 Bobby Hurst, Council Member 2007 – 2017 Ted Mohn, Council Member Dec 2007-Dec 2011 and Dec 2013-Dec 2019 Wade Fowler, Council Member Dec 2011 – Dec 2013 Wesley Meredith, Council Member Dec 2005 – Jan 2011 Jim Arp, Council Member Jan 2011 – Dec 2019 Chalmers McDougald, Council Member Dec 2013 – Dec 2017
Something rare for North Carolina politics happened today. Governor Cooper and the Republicans controlling the North Carolina Legislature actually agreed on something:
The plan calls for all elementary schools to open under “Plan A,” a category that means full in-person classes without the distancing requirements of “Plan B,” which has typically been implemented as a mix of in-person and online instruction to cut class sizes and spread students out.
Middle schools and high schools around the state would pick from Plan A, Plan B or a blend of both under the deal. The difference is based on ages: Older students are thought to transmit the virus that causes COVID-19 more easily than younger children.
All grades still have to provide parents with an online-only option.
Our school board members in Cumberland County should proceed with this plan immediately. They won’t, but they should. Other large counties, like Wake, sent their kids back in February. Instead, the Cumberland School Board will wait until the last possible moment under the law to get our kids in school full-time. It’s looking like April for us, and it’s a lesson that power and control, once acquired, are difficult to give up.
Our constitutional framework gives a great deal of power to the executive branches of our state and federal governments in times of emergency. We gladly handed over control to our fearless leaders when we were afraid last Spring. They’ve kept it since then. Now, a year later, some across the country want to take it back.
When an emergency ends, it’s only reasonable that governors should relinquish some control, or at least give it to the people’s representatives in the legislative branch.
Power, however, is not easily relinquished.
Watch any Star Wars movie for a quick lesson on the dangers of emergency executive control.
In the meantime, here’s what’s happening in 2021:
In N.Y., Cuomo is Being Neutered by His Own Party
Democrats in New York are upset with Governor Cuomo. They are attempting to limit his emergency powers, as we speak.
On Wednesday, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, a Democrat and chairman of the health committee, said it was now time for action. “We need to remind them that state government is not one big branch: There’s three of them,” he said.
Cuomo literally wrote a book on his covid performance.
Apparently, the people of New York don’t want anymore “leadership lessons.”
In N.C., Cooper Wants More Time
This week, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a bill to force open public schools. Governor Cooper said he supported reopening, but he didn’t do anything to actually open schools, leaving the decision to local schoolboards. This guaranteed gridlock, status quo, and frustration for parents and students.
Cooper came out against the new bill, wanting to hold onto the emergency power he was afraid to “execute” himself.
Local Democrats Billy Richardson, Kirk deViere, and Ben Clark voted for the bill, against Cooper’s wishes.
The only remaining question is whether Cooper will veto. As of today, he hasn’t decided what he’ll do. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
“Before taking action on the bill I have on my desk…”
That’s a ridiculous statement considering the crisis we’re in. Our kids deserve some action, Governor Cooper, one way or another.
If Cooper does veto the bill, he will likely be overridden. Unless something drastic happens, N.C. schools should all be open in March. It’s about damn time.
What it Means
These two Democratic Governors have higher office in mind, and they have been angling through the crisis to be a future V.P. or Presidential nominee of the Democratic Party.
Cooper didn’t write a book about it, but he would often brag about how N.C. was “doing better” than other states in the region. Now, we’re not doing better. It’s all about the same, wherever you go, regardless of restrictions and regardless of whether schools are open.
In the end, we’re left with two governors who tried to turn their covid performance into a political springboard.