News

Rep. Deb Butler to receive LGBTQ leadership award

State Rep. Deb Butler (D-Brunswick) will be awarded the 2019 Tammy Baldwin Breakthrough Award, the Victory Institute announced this week.

Rep. Deb Butler

The international award recognizes lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender elected officials whose political career advances equality for LGBTQ people, according to the institute.

Butler will share the award with former Peruvian Congressman Alberto de Belaunde. Balaunde served in the Peruvian Congress until its president dissolved Parliament in late September.

Butler will be presented with the award at the International LGBTQ Leaders Conference in Washington, D.C. next month.

Nominees for the award included LGBTQ elected officials from Maryland, Colorado, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin.

The Victory Institute cited Butler’s dramatic opposition to last month’s surprise veto override vote on the budget in the N.C. House.

“As the Democratic Whip of the North Carolina House, Deb Butler is a warrior for North Carolina’s LGBTQ community,” the institute wrote of Butler. “Under the rallying cry of ‘I Will Not Yield,; Butler recently derided Republicans’ underhanded voting tactics, even resisting arrest to pursue justice. During her time in the House, she has fought for causes ranging from fair districts to common sense gun reform.”

Commentary, Courts & the Law, Education, News

The week’s top stories on Policy Watch

1. New analysis indicates that toxics were present in Wilmington drinking water at extreme levels


Tests of samples collected between 2014 and 2016 reveal sky-high PFAS readings

Astronomical concentrations of toxic compounds commonly known as PFAS were present in the Cape Fear River near Wilmington, years before researchers had the technology to detect them.

According to a new analysis of preserved samples from 2014 to 2016, PFAS that contain an ether molecule were found at concentrations of at least as high as 130,000 parts per trillion near Lock and Dam No. 1, near the drinking water intake for the City of Wilmington. The contamination originated at the Chemours/DuPont facility more than 80 miles upstream.

The samples at Lock and Dam No. 1 were taken in 2015 near by NC State and EPA researchers. But only now, with advanced technology, can scientists more accurately measure the concentrations of PFAS in water. [Read more...]

 

2. Superintendent candidates focus on racial equity at Raleigh education forum

As the proud owner of a new restaurant, Leonardo Williams surely had other things to do this past Saturday.

But there he was, taking notes and listening closely to six state superintendent candidates who want to replace Mark Johnson in the November 2020 general election.

For the record, Johnson has not announced whether he will seek re-election.

Williams, a former educator and two-time Teacher of the Year in Durham who still has more than a passing interest in educational issues because of his work as a consultant, explained that the superintendent’s race will be the most important statewide race on the ballot.

He said the winner of the election — he’s betting it’ll be one of the six announced candidates present Saturday — will be charged with the important work of slowing what he sees as an attempt by the Republican-led General Assembly to privatize public schools. [Read more…]

 

3. Equality advocates express concern, determination to fight on as high court weighs LGBTQ discrimination

This week, five years after a federal judge struck down North Carolina’s ban on same-sex marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court is taking up an issue that, for some, could be even more consequential for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender North Carolinians.

The nation’s highest court heard opening arguments Tuesday in three cases that could decide whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects LGBTQ people from employment discrimination based on their sexual orientation or status as transgender people.

Kendra Johnson, executive director of the LGBTQ advocacy group Equality NC, said that while the community has been fighting for employment protection in all states for decades, it is daunting to have it before the current Supreme Court.

“For me personally, it’s creating a great deal of anxiety to have this issue in the hands of the court with its current makeup,” Johnson said. [Read more…]

 

4. Latest Supreme Court battle a reminder that true LGBTQ equality is far from won

“The struggle for gay rights is over,” the writer James Kirchick wrote in The Atlantic in June. And just like that, you could almost smell the smoldering keyboards across the country.

I loathe sports metaphors, but if we were playing football, this headline still smacks of celebrating a touchdown on the opposing team’s 20-yard-line.

Yet it’s safe to assume Kirchick – a Brookings Institute fellow and openly gay reporter who, in 2007, won the National Gay and Lesbian Journalist Association’s award for “Journalist of the Year” – revels in a robust debate, else he wouldn’t pen such a provocative piece. That piece, it should be noted, is more nuanced and thoughtful than the headline.

(Indeed, I’m convinced he enjoys a good dust-up after watching Kirchick’s glorious trolling of the Russian propaganda network RT in 2016, in which he donned rainbow suspenders and dismantled the Kremlin’s anti-gay laws before the network booted him.)[Read more…]

5. It’s up to the court now: A redistricting update after the final round of filings

It’s a strikingly familiar tale in North Carolina: voters are waiting with bated breath for a court to either approve legislatively-drawn remedial House and Senate maps or to assign the job to a neutral third-party to correct unconstitutional gerrymandering issues.

Republicans drew the 2017 legislative maps to entrench themselves in political power and dilute the Democratic vote, a three-judge panel ruled in September. The panel gave lawmakers another bite at the apple to draw districts without partisan considerations ahead of the 2020 election.

Now there is a battle over whether legislators followed the court’s instructions or just ended up creating another unconstitutional scheme that continues to disadvantage voters.

The political stakes are high – 2020 is a Census year, so whichever party is elected to the majority will control the next cycle of redistricting, likely with some partisan intent if history gives any indication. [Read more…]

 

6. Legislature pushes another troubling attack on voting and immigrants

Sometimes you have to wonder if there isn’t a very specific chapter in the political playbook of Donald Trump’s modern American right that includes the following entries under the heading “default strategies”:

A. Attack immigrants
B. Restrict voting rights
C. If possible, combine strategies a and b

After all, any political movement that would, a) stubbornly stand by a president who proposes to employ tactics reminiscent of the East German Stasi in dealing with border crossing immigrants and, b) host “how to” confabs in which architects and defenders of some of the most notorious gerrymanders and voter suppression schemes in U.S. history hold forth for politicians from across the country, is doing little to disguise its objectives.

By almost every indication, the right sees the demographic wave that is headed squarely in its direction over the next few decades and is scrambling madly to do everything its leaders can think of to hold back the tide. [Read more…]

 

7. Weekly radio commentaries and newsmaker interviews:

 

8. Weekly Editorial Cartoon:

Commentary, Trump Administration

If Trump is innocent, why lock up the evidence?

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump has placed a heavy shroud of silence over the executive branch.

Under his orders, no witnesses from the State Department, the Defense Department, the Energy Department, the Department of Justice, the White House or any other executive agency will be allowed to testify under oath to Congress. It’s all shut down.

Likewise, no documents, no memos, no email or text-message exchanges will be made available to Congress as it considers impeachment.

That’s an odd thing to do if you’re innocent.

If you’re innocent, why would you keep all the copious evidence of your innocence locked away from Congress and the world? Why would you tell eyewitnesses to your innocence that they can’t utter a word about it? Why would federal judges feel it necessary to order you not to destroy evidence of this innocence?

The most obvious explanation is that you in fact are not innocent. The most obvious explanation is that you realize that your only hope of retaining office and any degree of public support is to hide as much evidence of your wrongdoing as possible, for as long as possible, using every desperate measure at your command.

In a letter to Congress this week, White House lawyers did just that.

“There is no basis for your inquiry,” those lawyers told Congress, condemning the investigation as “partisan and unconstitutional,” “constitutionally invalid,” “an unconstitutional exercise in political theater” and “illegitimate.”

Writing about a controversial phone call with the Ukrainian president, they claim that a rough transcript of that call proves it “was completely appropriate, that the President did nothing wrong, and that there is no basis for an impeachment inquiry.”

This would be the phone call in which the Ukrainian president begs Trump for permission to buy U.S.-made Javelin anti-tank missiles, which he needs to protect his country from Russian invasion. The very next words out of Trump’s mouth are fateful:

“I would like you to do us a favor though….”

As Trump explains, that favor involves two investigations. Read more

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Judges set first hearing in Congressional partisan gerrymandering case

The first hearing in a new partisan gerrymandering case over the 2016 Congressional map has been scheduled for Oct. 24.

The same three-judge panel who decided another recent case over legislative districts, Common Cause v. Lewis, will hear this lawsuit, Harper v. Lewis. The plaintiffs, voters from allegedly gerrymandered Congressional districts, filed a motion to expedite proceedings to enjoin the use of the 2016 map ahead of the 2020 elections.

The judges granted it in part, setting the hearing over the injunction for 10 a.m. Oct. 24 at Campbell University School of Law. The legislative defendants have until 5 p.m. Oct. 21 to respond to the motion for the injunction, and the plaintiffs have until two days later to respond to that document.

The intervenors in the case, three incumbent Congressional members, can also respond to the injunction motion and appear at the hearing.

The motion for the preliminary injunction states the case is straightforward and the court can issue it based solely on the official legislative criteria for the creation of the 2016 plan and the admissions of the legislative defendants and the mapmaker at the time, Thomas Hofeller.

They adopted “partisan advantage” as an official criterion, directing that the districts be drawn to produce a Congressional delegation of “10 Republicans and three Democrats,” the document states.

“North Carolinians have voted in unconstitutional Congressional districts in every election this decade,” it states. “They should not be forced to do so again. This court should issue a preliminary injunction enjoining the 2016 Plan and ordering a new, fair plan for the 2020 elections.”

The judges who will preside over the case are Alma Hinton, Paul Ridgeway and Joseph Crosswhite. Read their full order from this week and the notice of the hearing below.



10 10 19 Order on Mtn to Expedite 19 CVS 12667 (Text)



10 10 19 NOH 19 CVS 12667 (Text)

News

Conviction stands for man who punched Silent Sam demonstrator

The conviction of a Burlington man for punching a demonstrator opposing the “Silent Sam” Confederate monument last year will stand.

Barry Lee Brown of Burlington, a member of neo-Confederate group Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County (ACTBAC), was convicted of simple affray after punching one of a number of demonstrators preventing his group from placing flowers at the base of the toppled monument at UNC-Chapel Hill last August.

Brown had appealed the conviction but withdrew his appeal this week.

This week Brown also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault on a female in a separate case. He was sentenced to a year of unsupervised probation. In May he was charged with misdemeanor violation of a no-contact order, felony breaking and entering to terrorize and simple assault.

Brown, whose group has frequently clashed with anti-racist protesters around the issue of Confederate statues, has a long history of criminal convictions.

In 2008 he was convicted on charges of misdemeanor assault with a deadly weapon, communicating threats and second degree trespassing.  He was convicted of felony possession of cocaine in 2005 and had two misdemeanor convictions in 2000 for wanton injury to real property.

Though Brown set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for his defense on the Silent Sam-related punching, he raised just $340 of his $5,000 goal.

Brown is not the only member of ACTBAC to be charged with offenses related to the Silent Sam controversy.

In March the group’s founder, Gary Williamson, was charged with one count of resisting, delaying or obstructing arrest and was issued a trespass warning from McCorkle Place, the former site of the Silent Sam monument. Williamson’s charges stemmed from his attempt to stop the removal of the statue’s base, which was ordered removed from its site by former UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Carol Folt before her resignation.