Appeals to Reason

A few years ago, I represented a bail agent in a case before the North Carolina Court of Appeals. The facts were simple: A man was locked up in a Virginia jail and missed court in Fayetteville. His bond was forfeited for failing to appear. The bail agent filed a form to “set aside” the bond forfeiture, but she checked the box for incarcerations in North Carolina, not incarcerations in other states.

In North Carolina, forfeited bond money goes to the local school system, so a lawyer representing the school board objected. The matter went before Judge Jim Ammons.

At the hearing, the school board attorney argued that the form controlled and the defendant should forfeit $25,000 for missing court. Judge Ammons ruled that he would not forfeit the man’s bond because the wrong box was checked. The school board lawyer appealed Judge Ammon’s decision.

I made a late appearance in the case and stayed up all night writing a last-minute brief on behalf of the bail agent. We won in the end. The defendant didn’t lose his bond money because the wrong box was checked.

It was a classic case of substance over form. Most would call it justice.

Ammons Rules in Favor of “Vote For Six”

A few weeks ago, Judge Ammons ruled in favor of several “Vote For Six” petitioners in his courtroom.

The Fayetteville City Council had voted (6-4) to stop a ballot initiative to put four “At-Large” seats on the council because a particular form wasn’t filled out at the start of the petition process. The Petitioners asked for emergency relief from the court. Judge Ammons ruled in their favor.

“Quite frankly, at the end of the day, a group of concerned citizens circulated a petition that the City Council fully knew about,” Ammons said. “They needed 5,000 signatures. They got those 5,000 signatures. Apparently, six out of 10 of the City Council arbitrarily decided that they weren’t going to allow the ballot to be printed.”

“I want to point everybody to the North Carolina Constitution, Article I, Section 2:  Sovereignty of the people,” Ammons said as he announced his decision in favor of Vote Yes Committee members Bobby Hurst, Karl Merritt and Suzanne Pennink. “All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.”

As it stands today, if you’re a citizen of Fayetteville, you will get to vote to alter the makeup of the city council in November’s election.

Colvin Appeals Ammons Ruling

After losing, Mayor Colvin called an emergency council meeting. Three members didn’t show up. The council voted (4-3) to appeal the decision.

The Court of Appeals recently ruled that the matter would remain on the ballot. However, the court has yet to decide the legal validity of the petition.

The result of all this is flat-out worrisome. We’re going to have an election in November where the citizens of Fayetteville will decide whether to change the makeup of our city council. Mayor Colvin and the council could then try to overturn the results by challenging the legal validity of the Petition in the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

All because of a form…

Battle Continues on the Air

Mayor Colvin went on 640am a few days ago and continued to fight the petition. To discredit it, he stated that there would be “six at-large seats” in the new arrangement and that these six would be a “controlling majority.”

https://omny.fm/shows/the-podcast-pepper/september-15-2022-mayor-mitch-colvin

Colvin was wrong, and the host tried to point it out, but Colvin continued to misrepresent the petition, which is strange because he’s one of the “six”:

The number “six” from “Vote For Six” includes:

  • 4 At-Large Seats
  • 1 District Seat
  • The Mayor’s Seat

You’ll get to vote to fill these “six” seats if the new arrangement passes.

Is Colvin intentionally misrepresenting the issue? Ask him. But you have to wonder if he read the petition before he decided to spend thousands of tax dollars in legal fees to appeal it.

Adding fuel to the fire, newly-elected councilman Mario Benavente made headlines last week when he accused Judge Ammons of judicial misconduct for even hearing the case:

https://www.fayobserver.com/story/news/2022/09/15/mario-benavente-fayetteville-nc-councilman-accuses-judge-jim-ammons-misconduct/10371017002/

Benavente also went on 640am to talk about his accusations. He didn’t back down.

https://omny.fm/shows/the-podcast-pepper/september-16-2022-mario-benavente

Ultimately, Benavente admitted he had no evidence to support his claims.

A Final Appeal

This isn’t going well, folks.

We’re spinning off the rails here, heading full-speed into a political nightmare, and there’s no good reason for it. Colvin recently stated that the purpose of the appeal is to seek “clarity.” I’m forced to ask what clarity exists in trying to overturn the results of an election. Recent attempts to do so only caused hate, division, violence, and distrust in our system of government. If you want “clarity,” let the people decide, and then honor their decision.

Justice doesn’t come from a form.

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.

Background

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:

https://www.votefor6.com/2022/06/17/vote-yes-fayetteville-initiative-secures-5007-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.  

History

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:

https://crosscreekdivide.com/2021/03/30/mayor-colvin-ignores-his-own-reality/

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.

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.

Undefined

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.


Partisan Primary Primer

We’re in the home-stretch of the primary election season for 2022. Early voting begins in just over two weeks. It’s time to shed some light on some interesting races and make some early predictions.

Note: For state primary races, you need at least 30% of the vote to secure your party’s spot in the General Election. If no candidate wins 30%, there is a run-off.

NC Senate District 19

Republicans: Wesley Meredith and Dennis Britt

Meredith is going to win the primary. He has the money and name recognition from holding the seat in the past.

Democrats: Kirk deViere (incumbent), Val Applewhite, Ed Donaldson

This is going to be a horse-race between deViere and Applewhite and they know it. Each has begun to attack the other with negative mailers. Applewhite’s latest mailer compares deViere to Trump.

DeViere is fighting for his political future, and this one is too early to predict. It’s likely this race will have some fireworks in the next few weeks, but unless some kind of hydrogen bomb is dropped, it’s not going to matter. This primary is going to be won on the ground, door-to-door, person-to-person.

Advantage: The one with the most stamina.

NC House District 44

Republicans: None. The winner of the Democratic Primary gets the seat.

Democrats: Charles Smith and Terry Johnson

  • Terry Johnson came within a few hundred votes of upsetting Billy Richardson in this district two years ago. Richardson announced he was retiring, leaving the seat open this time around.
  • Charles Smith is a 30-year-old attorney that works for Johnathan Charleston’s law firm. Charleston has been in the news a lot lately. If there’s a controversy in municipal government, Charleston tends to be around: PWC Lobbying/Tisha Waddell’s Resignation, Spring Lake Finances, Halfway House on Cain Road, etc. His associate, Smith, looks the part, but I couldn’t tell you a reason why he is running or what he’ll do if he wins.

If I could predict this race right now, I think Johnson wins it by 5-10 points. He’ll align his campaign with Applewhite’s and benefit from her coattails and grassroots organization. You’ll see a lot of their signs together:

The majority of voters in the Democratic primary will be black, and Smith needs to give them a compelling reason to choose him. Time is running out.

Advantage: Johnson

District Court Judge – Seat 6

Republicans: None.

Democrats: Adam Phillips, Rosalyn Hood, Sherry Miller

  • Adam Phillips is a former public defender and was appointed to the seat by Roy Cooper after April Smith retired. April Smith recently endorsed Phillips. A video of Smith’s endorsement can been seen on Phillips’ Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100075747082125
  • Rosalyn Hood is a prosecutor and has run for District Court Judge in the past.
  • Sherry Miller is a family law/divorce attorney.

The three-way nature of this race gives Phillips an edge. Women have dominated county-wide judicial races lately, but there’s two of them on this ballot this time.

At the same time, Hood will get the financial support of a lot of attorneys, many African American like herself.

It’s going to be an interesting race.

Advantage: Phillips, barely.


I’ll try to cover some City races in the next couple of weeks. If you’re a candidate and wish to post something on crosscreekdivide.com, feel free to reach out.

A list of all current candidates can be found here: https://www.cumberlandcountync.gov/docs/default-source/board-of-elections-documents/current_candidate_list.pdf?sfvrsn=f8b1c098_164