Uncategorized

Jose Charles case in Greensboro latest NC police/community flash point

If you haven’t been following the case of Jose Charles in Greensboro, it’s time to start paying attention.

The story of the altercation between a 16-year-old Charles and police goes back to last year’s July 4th celebrations in downtown Greensboro.

From a story in Greensboro’s News & Record:

Charles was 15 when he was arrested and charged with malicious assault on an officer, disorderly conduct, simple affray and resisting arrest, according to Figueroa. The teen also is accused of spitting blood on an officer’s face.

Figueroa and several community organizations said Charles was attacked by a group of kids, then grabbed by an officer near Friendly Avenue. He spit blood because he was coughing and couldn’t breathe, witnesses said.

This week, after months of tensions over access to the police video of the incident, protesters disrupted a Greensboro City Council meeting and staged a protest in the street outside where 8 were arrested for impeding the flow of traffic.

From Triad City Beat’s coverage of the protest:

The tone was set early in the meeting when, in the midst of a discussion about a downtown parking deck, protesters scattered throughout the capacity crowd raised pink signs reading “Justice for Jose,” “City council take action” and “We believe the PCRB.”

The protest came on the heels of city council watching restricted police body camera video showing the July 4, 2016 incident involving the police and the then-15-year-old on Monday night, with discussion in closed session bleeding into the next day. Council members have made no comment about the video, citing a superior court judge’s order prohibiting them from discussing it.

Also precipitating the protest was the resignation of three members of the police complaint review board. Lindy Garnette, the first to resign, was pressured by the city attorney and chair of the human relations chair after she spoke publicly about the board’s disagreement with the police department’s decision to clear itself of wrongdoing in a complaint filed on his behalf by Jose Charles’ mother, Tamara Figueroa.

The Charles case is just the latest in a series of incidents that have heightened tension between police and the communities they serve. Last year’s fatal police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte led to large scale protests and rioting.

The case is also the latest in which access to police video – and whether public officials can comment on it – has been central to the controversy.

Environment, Trump Administration, Uncategorized

Today in Trumpland: Dems boycott Pruitt nomination for EPA + UNC panel deals with political influence over enviro policy

Scott Pruitt, nominee for EPA administrator (Photo: Oklahoma Attorney General’s office)

Senate Democrats boycotted a final committee meeting on EPA nominee Scott Pruitt today, stalling a vote on the controversial attorney general of Oklahoma. In addition to his deep ties to the fossil fuel industry, as AG, Pruitt  sued the EPA more than a dozen times over what he considered federal overreach.

And to be filed under You Can’t Make This Up: The Washington Post quoted Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, as saying: “I ask my Democratic colleagues: Will they take the blame for an EPA that is not fully informational? God forbid we have an environmental crisis.”

Shortly after President Trump was inaugurated, he imposed an information and media blackout on the EPA. The website could not be changed; official social media accounts were suspended, prompting a spate of Alt EPA and Alt NASA and Alt National Parks Service Twitter accounts.

As for Ernst’s concerns about an environmental crisis, the Trump administration has also called for a gutting of EPA funding and staff, which would leave the agency practically impotent to deal with any such disaster. A Florida congressman went so far as to file a bill disbanding the EPA altogether.

From the WaPo story:

As one after another lawmaker spoke, a GOP aide displayed a chart designed to show how quickly past EPA nominees had been confirmed. Notably missing from it, however, was President Barack Obama’s second EPA administrator, Gina McCarthy. Nominated in March 2013, she was not confirmed until July of that year — and at one point, committee Republicans boycotted a meeting to demand that McCarthy answer more questions.

For more insight into what we can expect for the environment and science under a Trump presidency and in North Carolina, the Roy Cooper administration, UNC Gillings School of Public Health is livestreaming a panel discussion today on that very topic.

What’s the Future for 2017: How Elections Influence Science and Environmental Policy” begins at 1:15 p.m. Speakers include Kelly Kryc, former senior policy analyst for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; David Goldston, director of government affairs at the Natural Resources Defense Council; Jason West, associate professor, UNC Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering; and Jennifer Mundt, senior legislative analyst, North Carolina General Assembly.

 

Uncategorized

Gov. Cooper to legislature: ‘Let’s get to work’

Gov. Roy Cooper is ready to put differences aside and work collaboratively with the North Carolina legislature.

The Democratic governor and Republican-led legislature started out this year with a power clash that the courts now have to settle, but Cooper, in an online post titled “Let’s get to work,” said he’s certain they can work together moving forward.

Our greatest leaders—both Republicans and Democrats—have recognized the power of a strong and growing middle class. Today, that must be our priority again.

This legislative session, we must work to rebuild our economy, repair our reputation, and expand opportunity for hardworking families across our state.

Cooper said they can start by repealing House Bill 2, the state’s sweeping anti-LGBTQ legislation that has brought steep economic consequences. In the post, he also pushes for Medicaid expansion, though that’s an ongoing legal battle that has yet to be decided.

The other two priorities Cooper laid out are raising teacher pay and rebuilding after Hurricane Matthew.

These are just a few of the issues we’ll face this year and I’m certain we will have disagreements and challenges in the weeks and months ahead. But I know we can do this. We didn’t agree on everything when I was in the legislature, but we found consensus to cut taxes for the middle class, expand early childhood education, and raise teacher pay to the national average.

North Carolinians work hard and don’t ask for much. They don’t care if something is a Democratic idea or a Republican idea. They just want an opportunity for a good job in a place they are proud to call home. Let’s get to work, find common ground, and build an economy that really works for everyone.

You can read the full post here. The legislature reconvenes at noon today.

Uncategorized

NC Department of Commerce found to violate Civil Rights Act

unemployment 

A multi-year investigation launched after a complaint was filed by Legal Aid of North Carolina, the North Carolina Justice Center, and Legal Services of the Southern Piedmont found the North Carolina Department of Commerce failed to comply with its obligations to provide services to persons with limited English proficiency (LEP). And yesterday, the state entered an agreement with the US Department of Labor to finally begin addressing this long-standing problem.

The original complaint alleged that the Department’s Division of Employment Security (DES) and Division of Workforce Solutions (DWS) violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by not offering language assistance to persons filing claims for unemployment insurance or seeking job placement or training.  In addition, the complaint asserted that the Department of Commerce did not provide written translations of vital documents and failed to make telephone and online services accessible to LEP persons.

For the 430,000 North Carolinians with limited English proficiency at the time the complaint was filed in 2013, the Department’s failure to provide adequate language access caused significant difficulties for them accessing services and benefits.  The complaint included affidavits from affected individuals who had to wait hours in order to receive language assistance.  Some were unable to report their work search because the telephone and online services to do so are only in English.  None was offered any job search or job training services. 

The complaint was filed after years of attempts by the complainant organizations to reach an informal resolution with the Department, and was updated in 2015 with examples of continuing problems.  The ongoing problems included: failure to identify appellants as LEP individuals needing interpretation for hearings, resulting in the need to reschedule the hearing; and sending notices of hearings and hearing decisions in English only.  There were also continuing problems with weekly job search reports since the only avenues for making such reports were in English.

Under the settlement agreement reached between the U.S. Department of Labor’s Civil Rights Center and the Department of Commerce, DES and DWS must

·         Assess the language needs of the LEP populations they serve and track and report encounters with LEP individuals;

·         Develop and implement meaningful language access plans;

·         Correct problems with translations of written materials and online services

·         Identify and correct deficiencies with the provision of interpreter services

·         Train all staff on their obligations to provide language access to LEP individuals

·         Publicize the availability of language assistance and review claims by LEP individuals whose services were denied or delayed

Whether the agreement results in meaningful access for LEP individuals to all of the services to which they are entitled will depend upon the commitment of the Department of Commerce to timely and effective implementation.

Uncategorized

The startlingly bad record of the General Assembly on Civil Liberties

The ACLU of North Carolina released its legislative report card on civil liberties today and it is not a pretty picture. Here is how ACLU-NC Policy Counsel Susanna Birdsong put it.

Simply put, the General Assembly has had an abysmal record on civil liberties in recent years. These recent bills, many of which became law, represent unprecedented attacks on civil liberties that have collectively restricted personal freedom, bodily autonomy, and equality under the law for countless North Carolinians.

The report card includes a list of some of the worst bills passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, starting with one that continues to demonize a group of people and damage the state economy.

Remove legal protections for and encourage discrimination against LGBTQ people, particularly transgender men and transgender women (HB2)

Triple the mandatory waiting period for a woman who has decided to have an abortion to 72 hours, the longest waiting period in the country (HB465)

Give law enforcement broad authority to keep body and dash camera footage from the public (HB972)

Fuel anti-immigrant sentiments and make it harder for immigrants to identify themselves to government officials (HB318)

Remove transparency and oversight from the administration of the death penalty in an effort to jump-start executions (HB774)

You can find out how your legislator voted on civil liberties legislation by checking out the full ACLU-NC report card here.