Get the Damn Shot, Fayetteville

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?

The iPhone is finally getting a facepalm emoji

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.

Mayor Colvin Ignores His Own Reality

Racial tensions are brewing over a movement to add at-large seats to the Fayetteville City Council.

Mayor Colvin weighed in recently. His comments to the Fayetteville Observer caught my attention. Colvin opposes the change:

“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:

District 1Jenson 819 votes 0.55% of Registered Voters
District 2Ingram705 votes0.47% of Registered Voters
District 3Waddell1,334 votes0.89% of Registered Voters
District 4Haire1,164 votes0.78% of Registered Voters
District 5Dawkins 1,016 votes0.68% of Registered Voters
District 6Davis 1,019 votes0.68% of Registered Voters
District 7Wright893 votes0.60% of Registered Voters
District 8Banks-McLaughlin672 votes0.45% of Registered Voters
District 9Kinston658 votes0.44% 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.

Wrap-Up

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?

FCC_City_TAG_4C

I hope not.

If you like it then you should have put your name on it…

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.

VoteYesFayetteville.com

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.

  1. Get the city council to make the change; or
  2. 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

An Early Bright Spot in 2021

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.

https://www.wral.com/coronavirus/governor-lawmakers-reach-deal-to-reopen-nc-schools-amid-pandemic/19568052/

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.

Regardless, this is good stuff.

Hug your children today.

In the Shadow of Cape Fear Valley

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.

“We Saw this Coming”

Thus far, the only people in Fayetteville that have been vaccinated are the employees of Cape Fear Valley. Our hospital got right to it and started shooting up its staff as soon as the doses arrived in Mid-December:

“We’re very excited and proud that we have three of the very first 11 hospitals (in North Carolina) to receive the vaccine so we’re very excited about that,“ said Chris Tart, the vice president of professional services.

Tart oversees the hospital’s pharmacy services which bought a special freezer in the summer to make sure staff was ready for the vaccine.

We saw this coming and went ahead and purchased deep freezers and have them in strategic locations on backup generators, temperature monitoring and very secure locations, as well as a lot of backups,” he explained.


Fayetteville’s not special in this regard. Health care workers were put at the front of the line across the country. There are good policy reasons for this, but wouldn’t it have been better to vaccinate the elderly, first, instead of young, healthy hospital workers? Wouldn’t this have saved more lives?

But “life” is not always the linchpin of American medicine. We’ll need your method of payment, first, sir.

N.C. Lags Behind

North Carolina can’t seem to figure out the vaccine distribution quandary. We’re told the plan is advancing, but the evidence doesn’t support the talking points. Per yesterday’s news:

Some 462,000 doses of vaccine have been shipped to North Carolina since mid-December, but only a fraction of them have been administered. 

North Carolina’s vaccination rate so far is 966 per 100,000 people, lagging behind most other states in the country. That number for most states is between 1,000 and 2,000.

Based on the CDC’s vaccination rate data, only five states have a lower rate than North Carolina; Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas and Arizona.

https://spectrumlocalnews.com/nc/charlotte/news/2021/01/04/north-carolina-lagging-in-coronavirus-vaccine-rollout

You never want to be compared to Alabama and Mississippi when it comes to health care. Yet, here we are.

Fewer Doses for Cumberland?

All we hear about is a vaccine “shortage,” yet, per the CDC’s data, North Carolina is literally “sitting on” about 200,000 vaccination doses, today. Life saving medicine is stuck in freezers across the state in the middle of the bleakest winter we’ve had in 100 years. Schools are closed because of it. Businesses are shutting down. People are dying. It’s inexcusable.

Now here’s the scary part for us, locally:

“To increase the pace of vaccinations, DHHS sent a letter to all hospitals and local health departments alerting them that future vaccine allocations will be modified based on the number of vaccines administered that they have reported to the state,” the department said.

If you sit on your allocation of doses, you get less in the future. It’s that simple.

So what’s our hospital doing? They “saw it coming” and bought freezers and backup generators to keep the doses cold for their employees, but I can’t tell you what their plan is to help vaccinate everyone else. Maybe they are doing something, but they’re not letting the public know about it. The only thing about Covid on the hospital’s website is the new visitor restrictions they put in place.

Cape Fear’s Failure to Lead

I often talk about the blurry lines between public and private interests and the legitimate role of government intervention into both spheres. For example, Fayetteville’s one-sided public-private partnership with Prince Charles Holdings got us an unfinished 17-million dollar parking deck downtown.

But what do you do when you’re dealing with people’s lives?

The American health care system blurs the hell out of public and private interests due to the mix of funds that keep it running. Hospitals like Cape Fear Valley have a difficult dance to perform. But do not forget that the number one priority for a business entity is survival. The hospital only stays open if it makes money, whether it comes from the government, private insurance, or your checking account.

So what happens when a massive public health crisis arises that requires the distribution of a vaccine, but there isn’t a financial incentive for a local hospital to assist?

Nothing.