The People vs. Colvin and Co.

Politicians like to stay in power. As a result, they’re unlikely to change the method of their own election, if they can help it. Such is the case in Fayetteville at the present moment.


North Carolina law provides a way for citizens to change the way they elect their municipal leaders:

In a Chapter entitled “MODIFICATION OF FORM OF GOVERNMENT” lives this 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….

The People

A group of people in Fayetteville wanted to change our city council from nine single-member districts to five single-member districts and four at-large seats.

They started a petition and got 5,007 signatures:

Everything was on track to have the issue submitted to the voters of Fayetteville in the upcoming November election.

Colvin and Company

Mayor Colvin and five members of the City Council recently voted to table the issue. They won’t give voters the choice in November.

The reason they give: a form wasn’t filled out.

I’m not kidding.

Here’s the law they say wasn’t followed. It’s in a different chapter dealing with “Petitions for Elections and Referenda”:

§ 163-218.  Registration of notice of circulation of petition.

From and after July 1, 1957, notice of circulation of a petition calling for any election or referendum shall be registered with the county board of elections with which the petition is to be filed, and the date of registration of the notice shall be the date of issuance and commencement of circulation of the petition.  


Colvin’s been against at-large seats from the start, arguing that they will dilute minority voting power. This is incorrect, as I pointed out last year if you’re curious:

Regardless, Colvin and his voting block on council will do everything they can to stop this referendum, even denying the will of 5,007 petitioners because of one form.

Who will win? No one knows. That’s the point. If you keep the issue off the ballot, it can’t pass.

But if I’m a Judge, I’m erring on the side of “the people” to modify their own form of government.

Without that right, we’re no longer free.

The Coming Test

As America emerges from the grey clouds of the pandemic, our differences seem sharp and clear. Some credit goes to the Supreme Court, which expanded gun rights in the face of continued mass killings and ended a constitutional right to abortion that existed for almost 50 years. On the economic front, we face record inflation and energy prices. A recession seems imminent and each party wants to blame the other. But who has a solution?

President Biden is too old to govern effectively and his poll numbers reflect this. Former President Trump’s popularity is dwindling in Republican circles. I hope both Trump and Biden will either get out of the way or be forced out. Their moment is past. If neither runs, it opens the door for each party to put forward their best and brightest and have a legitimate debate about the future of America.

This is an important moment. We desperately need this battle, because we’re living in two different countries. One is red, white and rural and the other is blue, brown, and urban, and we are long past due for a legitimate debate about how to reconcile the two.

We can’t both be right. We learned that in 1865. Have we forgotten? Ultimate questions will not go away because we’re busy watching Netflix, and they can’t hide behind cloth masks.

Who are we? Who are we going to be? Do we even care?

Whether we like it or not, we will be tested. Our Constitution will be tested. Is it still in us as Americans to rise to the occasion? Can it still work?

We’re going to find out.

Physicians Group Opposes Fair Medical Billing

There’s a bill in the North Carolina Legislature that seeks to eliminate some surprise medical billing, among other things. Here’s a real-world example from Cumberland County:

Yours truly found himself with an exceptionally bad intestinal bug a few years ago. I then found myself in the Cape Fear Valley Hoke Emergency Room. I figured Hoke would have a shorter line. After I was admitted, a staff member rolled a fancy computer with a credit card scanner beside my bed. She took my insurance info and showed me what me what it would cost out-of-pocket. I paid before anyone would see me. It wasn’t cheap. They gave me IV fluids and ran some labs.

A few weeks later, I got a bill from the lab technician for several hundred dollars. I called Cape Fear and told them I already paid for everything. Cape Fear’s response was that their lab was “in-network” but the person who actually worked in the lab was not. He was special, apparently.

I was pretty upset, but I paid it anyways.

I think a lot of people do.

Most of you have probably faced the maze of medical billing at some point in your life. It’s insane. I deal with it every day in my legal practice, and I’m often frustrated by the amount of waste and deception that is involved. This provision is a step in the right direction:

All contracts or agreements for participation as an in-network health service facility between an insurer offering health benefit plans in this State and a health service facility at which there are out-of-network providers who may be part of the provision of services to an insured while receiving care at the health service facility shall require that the in-network health service facility give at least 72 hours’ advanced written notification to an insured that has scheduled an appointment at that health service facility of the provision of any services by an out-of-network provider to the insured while at that health service facility. If there are not at least 72 hours between the scheduling of the appointment and the appointment, then the in-network health service facility is required to give written notice to the insured on the day the appointment is scheduled. In the case of emergency services, the health service facility is required to give written notice to the insured as soon as reasonably possible. The written notice required by this subsection shall include all of the following:

(1) All of the health care providers that will be rendering services to the insured that are not participating as in-network health care providers in the applicable insurer’s network.
(2) The estimated cost to the insured of the services being rendered by the out-of-network providers identified in subdivision (1) of this subsection.

Click to access H149v3.pdf

Doctors Oppose Patient Protections

The North Carolina Medical Society, a special interest group representing physicians, opposes this reform. Per Paul Woolverton at the Fayetteville Observer:

The Medical Society has concerns about this provision, Baggett said.

“We’d like to see an end to surprise billing also,” he said, but doctors worry that when they see the cost, some patients may forgo care that they need. The Society wants to work with the legislature to find another solution to surprise billing, he said.

The arrogance of physicians (and their lobbyists) in this case is baffling.

When people can’t afford the cost of a service, they don’t usually ask for it. You don’t get to trick them into accepting your service by hiding the cost up front. In any other instance in our society, we would simply call this “fraud.”

Apparently, the physicians and their lobbyists prefer the current way we do things: don’t tell people what it’s going to cost and send them a bill later. If they don’t pay it, send them to collections and wreck their credit score.

It’s awful, and it ruins people’s faith in our health care system.

Fix it.

Primary Kool-Aid

In the early years of marriage, the store bought taco kit became a weekly staple. Old El Paso was the go-to, until Taco Bell came out with a kit that included a pack of Tropical Punch Kool-Aid:

Like a kid wanting a box of cereal for the toy inside, 20-something me bought these kits specifically for the Kool-Aid. I could have just bought the Kool-Aid for like 25 cents back then, but it seemed better this way. I’d mix it up merrily as Mrs. Richardson rolled her eyes.

It should come with a warning. It stained every pitcher we had. Somehow the red dye would permeate the plastic. If you got any on the carpet, you were done.

I did…

It cost us the security deposit on our Buies Creek apartment.

Partisan Dye

The partisan litmus test got out of control in 2022. For months, we’ve had every single candidate trying to out-red or out-blue the other.

Every day we get flyers from Val Applewhite featuring a picture of Donald Trump that tells us Kirk deViere is “not a real Democrat.” He is.

Every day I hear a radio ad claiming Bo Hines is “not a real Republican.” He is.

It’s absurd, and it’s not going to solve a single problem facing our country. But it gives us a quick sugar rush and makes us feel good, so we keep buying it.

The price we pay is an erosion of faith in our institutions and distrust in our fellow man. Good ideas and the compromise needed to implement them are stifled. There’s no room. Instead, millions are spent on ads convincing you to fight the other side with politically-pure partisan warriors.

In the end, we can’t all be right, all the time, but we keep drinking the Kool-Aid.

Then it stains who we are.


The stock market is tanking, interest rates are rising, and a value meal at McDonalds will run you ten bucks if you get an apple pie. The post-covid world is not as pretty as we imagined.

From the yard signs scattered about town, you probably know we have an election coming up in a few days. Do you care? Is there an issue that has you motivated to vote in this primary?

We should be talking about a lot in politics right now, because decisions are being made that will shape our short-term future. Instead, it seems the world is looking ahead, trying to find some solace of normalcy.

In the midst of uncertainty, politicians like to sit and wait. This seems to be the case from City Hall to Congress. Everyone’s waiting to see how it shapes up.

Missed Opportunity

There’s a problem with the wait and see approach. A lot of these primary races are crowded. There’s eleven Democrats and fourteen Republicans running for one U.S. Senate seat in North Carolina. There’s six people running for Mayor of Fayetteville. Most City Council races have multiple candidates.

When you’re in a crowd, you’ve got to stand out. You stand out by standing for something. Say what you want about Trump, but that’s how he got through the Republican field in 2016, and he wasn’t nice about it. He defined himself and his opponents with vicious clarity.

I know we’ll get back to torching one another as soon as the primary is over. Then it’ll be all-out partisan warfare going into the midterm elections.

I’ll leave you with this: Voting starts in 48 hours and the leading story in the news is Madison Crawthorn accidentally bringing a gun into the Charlotte airport.

That’s where we are.

Where are we going? I have no idea.