A Civil War Around the Center

This site has been live for over a year now.   I have posted over 80 different articles covering a range of topics, many controversial in nature.  To this point, I have only taken down one.  It was a post entitled “Leave it in the Dirt” in which I criticized the new Civil War Center being built in Fayetteville.  I took it down because it angered and upset certain people who support the museum.  For context, here’s how the post ended:

Instead of reading the tea leaves that say, very clearly, that young people are fed up with North Carolina’s celebration of the confederacy, Fayetteville has chosen a new path in the exact same direction.   Yes, we’re going to take this emotionally charged, painful history and put a shiny new cover on it and tell “both sides of the story” in our “museum of the future.”

The problem with the “museum of the future” is that it celebrates the past when it’s way past time to move forward.  It’s way past time to move on.

Leave it in the dirt where it belongs.

I take some pride in standing by my opinions, but I didn’t in this case.  The conflict didn’t seem worth it, and I retreated with a click of my mouse.  But I knew the battle would go on, and so I was not surprised when the museum found its way back into the news this week.

Colvin Steps into the Breach

On April 30, the mayor of Fayetteville stirred up a skirmish over the new museum, questioning the project’s funding on his Facebook page:

colvin-1-e1556888252681.png

Colvin’s argument is that the state’s money could be better spent on more pressing issues.  He was interviewed about his comments by local news sources, and here’s some of the media coverage that ensued:

Fayetteville Mayor Criticizes State’s History Center Proposal (Fayobserver)

Fayetteville Mayor: State Funding For History Center Overlooks Community Needs (WUNC)

$46 million proposal for Civil War museum draws concern from city leaders (WTVD)

Representative John Szoka, the sponsor of the legislation funding the center, said he was “perplexed” by Colvin’s position because the Fayetteville City Council had unanimously supported the project in the past.  Szoka’s correct.  Here’s Colvin with a golden shovel in his hand (along with Rep. Szoka and others) at the groundbreaking ceremony a year ago:

EP-180417886Szoka was quick to defend the project’s economic impact.  He believes the museum will be a tourist destination, drawing visitors from across the state.

Colvin didn’t back down from his new position.  Apparently liking the sting of this battle, he doubled down last night with another Facebook post:colvin-2-e1556889100169.pngFirst, let me point out how profound this is politically.  There is a bill in a state legislature to give a municipality over 55 million for a construction project in the municipality.  This is free money.  Just, here you go, have 55 million dollars.

The mayor of that municipality is now publicly chiding the expenditure, saying the money should be spent on other things like Florence relief and infrastructure.  He’s basically telling state legislators how to do their job, a “thanks, but no thanks,” if you will.

“Increase Our Divide”

At the groundbreaking ceremony that Colvin attended, Former Governor Jim Martin told the crowd that he prayed the museum “would be an instrument of healing through our part of a divided country.”  Colvin himself stated “this was something that will bring us together, not increase our divide.”

So why is Colvin now challenging the project after publicly supporting it?

There are two ways to look at Colvin’s actions, one is the raw political take, the other is the human side:

It’s easy to see Colvin’s actions as political hedge.  This project has been controversial in the African American community from the start.  It’s going to be built on the top of  Haymont Hill, the site of the old Confederate Arsenel.  By criticizing the project without really challenging it, Colvin is giving lip service to those critics.  He’s also giving red meat to Hurricane Florence victims who are fed up with government in general right now.  You could also argue that Colvin is trying to change the narrative, shift blame, or rally people to his side.  It could be any of these things.

But I think it’s deeper than all that.

I think Colvin, like me, is personally conflicted about the entire project.  He admitted at the groundbreaking ceremony that it was “difficult” for him to embrace the museum initially, but he came around when he learned that it would tell the full story of the war and its aftermath, including its impact on African Americans.  Now he’s trying to “unembrace” it.  Unfortunately, politicians (unlike bloggers) don’t get to “unembrace” ideas with the click of a mouse.

And so I’m left with the same take I had when I wrote about this project a year ago.  This museum, although it has admirable goals, will not bring people together.  The Civil War, by its nature, cannot do that.  It is and always will be about race.  We cannot “tell both sides” without making a moral judgment about one of them, and there is only one right side of this history.  Fayetteville wasn’t on it in 1860.

Charlottesville, Chapel Hill, and recent presidential politics have demonstrated that our nation is still grappling with this debate, and our state and local leaders have made a policy decision to bring the debate, front and center, to Fayetteville.

Maybe Colvin’s right that our resources could be better spent on other things.  I guess he should have left that golden shovel in the dirt where it belongs?  Instead, he’s using it to dig a trench between our community and our state delegation.

The Cross Creek Divide just got a little bit wider.  But don’t worry, there’s still “very fine people on both sides.”

The Weight (NC-09)

After months of trying to convince North Carolinians and the State Board of Elections that his victory in the 9th Congressional District was legitimate, Mark Harris did an about-face and called for a new election at the tail end of a multi-day hearing that was investigating the fraud in his campaign.

The State Board unanimously agreed with Harris, so we’ve got a “do-over” coming up in southern North Carolina.  The question has arisen whether Harris will run again.  After all, he’d be the favorite in a special election against Democrat Dan McCready, despite all that’s happened.

Harris won’t run again, and the reason is weight:

Politics is a cutthroat, vicious game.  At times, it can turn into a disease, and the disease (like cancer, alcoholism, or depression) has a way of affecting everyone around it.  Real values are put on hold for a few months in an “ends justify the means” game to get elected.  After all, we’re the ones fighting for what’s right, right?

Harris’s son stood up to the game at the Board of Elections hearing and said, “enough!”    He testified under oath that he warned his father about McRae Dowless’s history, contradicting his father’s story that he didn’t know about the man’s past or that his ballot scheme was illegal.  Harris, overwhelmed, cried at the end of his son’s testimony:

This isn’t something you see everyday, and it was good political theater for state and national news.  But this wasn’t acting.  This was a man calling out his father, asking him if he wants to win at all costs, asking him if he’s willing to go that far, and perhaps more importantly, whether he practices what he preaches.

In short, this was weight, and you saw it all come down on a man, a father and a Minister.  And then he gave into it:

“I believe a new election should be called,” Harris said. “It has become clear to me that the public’s confidence in the 9th District’s general election has been undermined to an extent that a new election is warranted.”

Harris, citing recent strokes and other health concerns said he isn’t sure what he will do.

harris

You can almost feel that weight, can’t you?

It’s too much for any decent man to carry.

Honor in a Minute and Thirty Seconds

It’s hard being the son of a politician.

This folks, is honor.  It gives me hope about the future of North Carolina.

Foreign Cash in N.C. Races

for·eign

  • of or belonging to another district or area.
  • coming or introduced from outside.
    “the quotation is a foreign element imported into the work”
  • (of a law or restriction) outside the local jurisdiction

One of my legal heroes is Justice John Paul Stevens who retired from the Supreme Court in 2010.  I got to see him live on the bench when I was in college, and he reminded me of my late grandfather.  He rocked a bow-tie throughout the decades.

john_paul_stevens_01

Stevens was appointed by Gerald Ford, a Republican, and came to be known as a “liberal” justice in his 35 years on the bench.  One might say he evolved with the times while his party didn’t.  I am the “one” who might say that.

I thought of Stevens after reading a short editorial in the Fayetteville Observer and some recent news about Governor Cooper.  We’ll start with the Observer’s piece titled, “The Price of Politics“:

After every election on just about every level of government, we shake our heads a month or two later as we learn how much candidates have spent to win their races. We’re doing that this week as we try to absorb the news that Wesley Meredith and Kirk deViere spent a total of nearly $2.4 million on the campaign for the N.C. Senate seat that Meredith lost and deViere won.

That’s astonishing, really — $2.4 million for a job whose base pay is a bit under $14,000 a year. Even with per-diem expense payments and other extras, that seat sold for many multiples more than it will return to winner. And the grand total is even more than $2.4 million, because the campaign finance reports don’t track what advocacy groups spent to promote the candidates. The money came from individual donors, the political parties and from political committees. Ultimately, a big chunk of it came from people with deep pockets, people who spend lavishly on political campaigns.

And do you suppose they expect something in return? Based on what we see happening in the General Assembly in any given year, it appears the donors get what they’re looking for.

And what about we, the people?

Yes, we still need campaign finance reform. More than ever.

Now for the news about Governor Cooper:

It seems he’s kicking off his re-election campaign in New York City!?

Image result for new york city pace picante gif

Why in the world is “Nash County” Cooper announcing his re-election bid in New York?  Well, besides failing politically, he’s raising a lot of money from people with a lot of money.  Cooper’s not a political novice.  He had to know there’d be blow-back, and he’s decided that it’s worth the cash.

Predictably, the Republican Party was all over it:

“By announcing his re-election campaign for governor of North Carolina in New York City, that tells voters all they need to know about Roy Cooper,” NCGOP chairman Robin Hayes said. “Behind that folksy facade is a big-city liberal Democrat ready to bring failed tax-and-spend policies to NC to please his wealthy Wall Street donors.”

Even though it’s low-hanging fruit for Chairman Hayes, it’s a bit hypocritical.  Remember last August:

Robin Hayes, chairman of the NC GOP, spoke at the fundraiser for U.S. Rep. David Rouzer at the Figure 8 Yacht Club in Wilmington on Aug. 10 when he asked attendees to donate to the party organization to help Rouzer…

“This is an envelope. You have heard things that should inspire you to dig deep tonight. But federal law says you can only give, you and your wife, $5,200 to David Rouzer,” Hayes says in the recording. Rouzer then corrects him to say the individual federal spending limit is $5,400 per year.

“But you can take this envelope, put money in here and give it to your friend and citizen, Robin Hayes, who happens to be party chair and I can take unlimited money and put it to his campaign, legally,” Hayes said.

How many yachts in the Figure 8 Marina on August 8th, 2018 had the words “North Carolina” written on the stern?  I bet less than half.

Constitutional Cluster

Back to Justice Stevens, who wrote the dissenting opinion in Citizens United, the seminal campaign finance case.  Stevens argued that the government should be allowed to place reasonable restrictions on the way corporations advertise in political elections:

At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt. It is a strange time to repudiate that common sense. While American democracy is imperfect, few outside the majority of this Court would have thought its flaws included a dearth of corporate money in politics.

Stevens lost this one.  You can thank the five winning Justices on the court for a great deal of the political mailers and ads you see on TV around election time.

Barack Obama criticized the majority opinion in Citizens United in a State of the Union Address, arguing that it opened the floodgates to foreign money in American politics.  This drew a “Not True” from an aggravated Justice Alito:

Flash forward to 2019, and the FBI is hopefully wrapping up a multi-year investigation into Russian interference in our elections.  Raleigh and Charlotte were targeted by the Russians in 2018.  Perhaps Obama was onto something?

Wrap-Up

In the end we’re left with real world examples of a broken system.  It makes everyone a hypocrite, and our leaders become beholden to everyone except the people that actually elect them.  So what’s the answer?  How do we fix it???

Justice Stevens had a solution to all this, after he retired:

He proposed the adoption of a constitutional amendment providing that: “Neither the First Amendment nor any provision of this Constitution shall be construed to prohibit the Congress or any state from imposing reasonable limits on the amount of money that candidates for public office, or their supporters, may spend on election campaigns.”

In support, Stevens argued:

“While money is used to finance speech, money is not speech.”

His proposal was rejected by many Republicans, including Senator Rafael Edward Cruz (R-Texas), who said:

“Money is and always has been used as a critical tool of speech.”

And so it will remain.

C.C.D.’s Top 8 for 2018

We’re wrapping up the first calendar year of this site.  Below is a look back at the eight most popular stories for 2018.

8.  Fayetteville Observer Wins an Important Victory (Mike Lallier Case)  This is the most recent post on the site, but it gained traction quick.  It’s worth a read if you’re into sealed court documents and the 1st Amendment.

7. Judicial Election Preview (Cumberland):  After much fanfare and a few years of hype, District Court Judge Lou Olivera decided he was not going to challenge sitting Superior Court judges Mary Anne Tally and Jim Ammons.  This would have been an amazing three-person race to cover.  Instead, it’s the one that got away in 2018.

Image result for the one that got away

6. Don’t Pick the Player Without Knowing the Game (By: Andrew Porter):   Porter criticizes the Cumberland County Democratic Party for how it handled the Tyrone Williams replacement process.  In the end, Republican Dan Culliton was appointed to represent a heavy minority/democratic district in Fayetteville.

Related image

5.  What’s in a Name? (Senate 19) (By: Andrew Porter):  The democratic primary in NC Senate 19 was full of “interesting” politics.  This post caused quite a stir when Porter hypothesized that Ed Donaldson was calling himself by his given name “Clarence” in his media advertising in order to trick Democratic primary voters into thinking he was black.

Image result for this guy's a gangster his real name's clarence gif

4.   No Parking: Fayetteville’s 14 Million Dollar Mistake:  After a public records request, I was the first to bring to light the contractual details surrounding the Prince Charles Holdings parking deck.  A quick summary:  your tax dollars are paying for the new parking deck by the stadium downtown, but you won’t ever get to park there for baseball games, unless you book a dinner or hotel reservation.  This is a good strategy at Disney World, less so in downtown Fayetteville.

Image result for downtown fayetteville parking chart

3.   “One of Us” Democrats – Senate 19:  An analysis of the attack ads in the Senate 19 primary between DeViere and Donaldson, this post has everything:  Trump, catch-phrases, fake checks, Samuel Coleridge, and a crystal-ball prediction that comes true in seven months.

giphy

2.   Washed-Out Dams, Parking Decks, and Double Standards (Fay. City Council)  City leaders told city residents they cannot repair broken dams on private property unless the public will have access to the lakes after the repairs.  At the same time, City leaders gave millions of dollars to Prince Charles Holdings, a private corporation, to build a parking deck that the public will have no access to.  You be the judge.

Image result for double standard

1.   Rep. Szoka on Teacher Pay: At least you’re not a farmer (Audio) The subject of this post was not happy with it.  I thought it was fair game and the tape backed it up.  Moral of the story:  don’t minimize concerns over teacher pay on the morning that tens of thousands of teachers are rallying in Raleigh to protest…teacher pay.  This one went viral.

Image result for teacher rally nc

Thanks for reading.  It’s been a fun year.