HB2, News

NCAA to allow championship basketball to return to Raleigh, Greensboro – in 2020

State lawmakers who hoped a repeal compromise of the anti-LGBT law HB2 would be enough to return NCAA championship games to North Carolina got their answer Tuesday.

The NCAA announced that post-season soccer games would return to North Carolina in 2018.

The far more lucrative first and second rounds of Division I men’s basketball will return in 2020.

(Greensboro was tapped as a host site in 2020, with Raleigh hosting the first two rounds of basketball in 2021 at PNC arena.)

The NCAA explained its site selection this way:

Criteria for selecting the host sites included creating what will be an exceptional experience for the student-athletes, along with adherence to NCAA bid specifications. Specifications can include, but are not limited to, providing optimal facilities; ease of travel to the location and ample lodging; and adherence to NCAA principles, which include providing an atmosphere that is safe and respects the dignity of all attendees. The site selections follow the NCAA Board of Governors’ vote to allow consideration of championship bids in North Carolina.

Lawmakers replaced HB2 with House Bill 142 earlier this month, though LGBT advocates called the new law a “sham” as it prevents local governments from passing their own non-discrimination ordinances through 2020.

The Human Rights Campaign and Equality NC have condemned the NCAA’s decision:

“The NCAA has fallen ‘hook, line, and sinker’ for this ‘bait and switch’ sham ‘deal’ doubling down on discrimination,” said JoDee Winterhof, HRC Senior Vice President for Policy and Political Affairs. “Even worse, the NCAA has inexcusably gone back on its promise to ensure all championship games are held in locations that are safe, respectful, and free of discrimination. By rewarding North Carolina with championship games, the NCAA has undermined its credibility and is sending a dangerous message to lawmakers across the country who are targeting LGBTQ people with discriminatory state legislation. In addition to protecting the broader LGBTQ community, the NCAA needs to clearly state how they will be protecting their student athletes, personnel and fans.”

“How can LGBTQ people  — especially members of the transgender community  — be safe and free from discrimination, much less protected against mistreatment or harassment with the sham fake repeal of HB2?” said Equality NC Executive Director Chris Sgro. “The unfortunate reality is they cannot. HB 142 was a cheap political trick that did nothing to alleviate the concerns the NCAA initially outlined when it pulled games from the Tar Heel state last year, and even adds new forms of discrimination to North Carolina’s laws. It is unthinkable that the NCAA would abandon its commitment to LGBTQ fans, players, and administrators by falling for this trick.”

Courts & the Law, News

Federal judge blocks redistricting law singling out Greensboro voters, rules it unconstitutional

A federal judge issued a partial ruling Monday in favor of the city of Greensboro in a redistricting lawsuit that involves a 2015 controversial law passed by the General Assembly.

U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles also ruled the General Assembly’s redistricting of the Greensboro City Council districts unconstitutional.

She cited the one person, one vote doctrine and said “the evidence here establishes that the North Carolina General Assembly drew Greensboro City Council districts with materially unequal populations in an attempt to maximize success for Republican candidates.”

“Neither the State nor any legislative leaders defended this law in court or disputed the plaintiffs’ evidence, and the primary legislative sponsor refused to testify,” the 27-page court document states.

She enjoined the Guilford County Board of Elections, the defendant in the case, from conducting any elections under the eight-district plan and directed that future elections “shall use the pre-existing statutory and city charter system with five single-member districts and three at-large members, unless and until that system or those district lines are lawfully changed.”

Her first order regarding the 2015 law, which passed despite widespread opposition in the House and only after backroom arm-twisting, prohibits residents of Greensboro from participating in municipal initiatives or referendums.

Eagles wrote in her ruling that the law violates the equal protection clauses of the U.S. and the N.C. Constitutions. She made issued an opinion and order after the plaintiffs, six Greensboro residents and the city, requested a summary judgment.

“The defendant, the Guilford County Board of Elections, takes no position on the constitutionality of this
provision,” the ruling states. “The State has not appeared in this litigation and thus has identified neither a legitimate governmental purpose for the initiative and referendum ban nor a rational relationship between any such purpose and singling out of Greensboro voters. No legitimate purpose or rational relationship appears in the undisputed evidence.”

The undisputed evidence is that the law prohibits the City of Greensboro from changing the form of its municipal government and it does not apply to any other municipality in the state. Of particular issue in the lawsuit is a prohibition on citizen initiatives and referendums that would change the form of city government.

“While the General Assembly has redistricted and reapportioned other cities and boards from time to time, nothing before the Court indicates that the General Assembly has ever before prohibited an existing municipality’s voters from participating in the referendums and initiatives described in §§ 160A-103 and -104,” Eagles wrote. “The same law at issue here also changed the government of the City of Trinity, but the General Assembly did not prohibit the citizens of that city from using initiatives or referendums. The only other similar 2015 session law, which changed the City of Albemarle’s election procedures, did not deprive those citizens of their initiative or referendum rights, either.”

You can read the entire 21-page court document here.

In her second order, she also enjoined the section of the law prohibiting citizen initiatives and referendums.

Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan announced the partial victory on her Facebook page, but withheld comment.

Allison Riggs, Senior Attorney at the Southern Coalition for Social Justice and lead attorney on the case for the individual plaintiffs involves, issued the following statement:

“We are pleased that the court recognized the wrong that would have been done to the City of Greensboro and its residents if this redistricting scheme were allowed to go into effect. We can debate policies and practices, but there are certain rights that should never be denied to anyone in America. One of those is the right to have everyone’s vote have the same weight.

“When the legislature overreached into local politics, it did so with no regard for respecting the people’s right to have their voice heard. Today, the court correctly provided a check for a gross legislative overreach.”

News

Greensboro Columnist Susan Ladd on personalizing HB2

Like the rest of us, Susan Ladd – columnist for the News & Record in Greensboro – read former N.C. Governor Pat McCrory’s recent complaint that people don’t want to hire him because, after he signed and defended HB2, people seem to think he’s some kind of bigot.

But Ladd saw something deeper.

As she writes in a column in today’s paper:

But McCrory’s poor-pitiful-me comments did accomplish one positive thing, albeit in a completely self-serving way:

They personalized the effects of HB 2.

Citing last week’s N.C. Policy Watch story featuring transgender advocates Ames Simmons and Candis Cox, Ladd said we could all stand to look beyond the often-discussed economic impact of HB2 to the human costs. Even – and perhaps especially – the GOP lawmakers most responsible for it.

Ladd breaks it down:

Perhaps McCrory, Berger and Moore should consider for a moment what life would be like in the shoes of a gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender North Carolinian. What if Pat McCrory had to hide his marriage to Ann or risk being fired? Or if, having been fired for his spousal relationship, he had no legal recourse against his employer?

Suppose Phil and Pat Berger wanted to stay at a cozy bed-and-breakfast inn in the mountains but were turned away by the owner, who disapproved of their relationship. Suppose Moore had to fear being beaten to death in a public restroom for wearing a suit?

That’s the reality for LGBTQ North Carolinians and has been for decades. HB 2 solidified legal discrimination, in addition to endangering transgender North Carolinians with its bathroom provisions.

Suppose lawmakers said your rights didn’t matter because your numbers were few. Suppose they put your rights to a vote.

Berger and Moore apparently lack the empathy to imagine such a scenario, and McCrory has a history of only feeling sorry for himself where HB 2 is concerned.

They also lack factual backing for their claims that transgender people are a threat to non-transgender people or that allowing them rights would enable sexual predators.

Statistics show that transgender Americans are far more likely to be targets of violence.

Yes, HB 2 is hurting the economy. But most important is the damage it is doing to our fellow North Carolinians.

News

Greensboro arrests highlight ongoing struggle over police transparency

The arrest of seven protesters at Greensboro’s city hall Wednesday is the latest incident in an ongoing struggle police transparency in North Carolina.

From the story in Greensboro’s News & Record:

GSO Operation Transparency has been demanding since mid-December all written and electronic correspondence connected to the violent arrest of Dejuan Yourse on June 17, 2016, by Officer Travis Cole, who has since left the Greensboro Police Department. On Wednesday, about 40 members of the group marched to City Hall about 9:45 a.m. The seven were arrested after City Manager Jim Westmoreland told the group that the documents would not be released.

Police identified the arrested as Pamela Theresa Crosson, 42, of 813 Glenwood Ave.; Sabina Nogo, 26, of 2406 Gracewood Court; Cletis John-Allen “CJ” Brinson, 28, of 504 Gorrell St.; James Lamar Gibson, 26, of 422 N. Cedar St.; Sofia Tull, 25, of 519 N. Mendenhall St.; Juan Carlos Miranda Buzetta, 26, of 1100 Hicks Court; and Gary Scott Kenton, 66, of 606 Park Ave.

They were taken before a Guilford County magistrate, police spokeswoman Susan Danielsen said. The charge is a Class 3 misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $200. None of the names of those as arrested appeared in jail records late Wednesday.

“Now more than ever we need (the City Council) to put safety above comfort,” Brinson said before the arrests. “There must be something that makes them uncomfortable about releasing the files.

“We need to ensure we live in a city with democracy and transparency,” he said. “I’m prepared to stand for democracy and protect those who are most vulnerable.”

Footage of the June 17 arrest from the body cameras of Cole and fellow Officer Charlotte Jackson was released September 2016. It shows Cole punching Yourse in the face and throwing him the porch to the ground. Cole and Jackson were investigating a possible robbery at the address of Yourse’s mother. Like Cole, Jackson has since resigned from the police force.

Greensboro is one of a number of communities that have been struggling with the question of police body camera footage and other records.

Charlotte is still reckoning with police response to demonstrations over last year’s police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott.

Greensboro’s police chief said last week that police violence taints the entire profession and his department has been working on its own problems with public trust and transparency.

For more on existing laws on access to police body cameras and other records, see N.C. Policy Watch’s talk with Jonathan Jones, director of the North Carolina Open Government Coalition and an instructor of media law, ethics and media writing at Elon University.

 

Commentary

Charlotte, Greensboro editorials: Only one path forward on GOP gerrymandering

Another day, another pair of strong editorials blasting North Carolina’s outrageously gerrymandered legislative maps and demanding a permanent, nonpartisan fix.

After noting that a recent court order demanding new state legislative districts in 2017 will probably provide a little improvement, but not much, the Charlotte Observer puts is this way:

“There’s a better way. This past session, 63 N.C. House members – both Republicans and Democrats – co-sponsored House Bill 92, which would have established a nonpartisan Redistricting Commission whose members would be chosen by both parties. Those 63 House members made up a majority, but the bill never made it to a vote.

Similar redistricting reform efforts have been supported in the past by Republicans, including N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate President Pro-tem Phil Berger. But whenever a party takes control, the prospect of reform suddenly becomes less appealing to its members.

Tuesday’s federal court ruling won’t change that, even if it does provide an incremental improvement in racial gerrymandering. Our best hope: That someday, enough lawmakers will see the greater good of redistricting reform instead of their own small self-interest.”

“Those impacts [of gerrymandering] are clear. One is that voters are denied the opportunity to choose representatives in truly competitive contests.

Another is the fixed outcomes. Here, the gerrymandering is intended to saddle a Democratic county with mostly Republican representation in Raleigh. Democratic candidates received an average of about 60 percent of the vote in Guilford County, yet Republicans won five of nine legislative seats. It’s simply a matter of arranging districts so that votes are apportioned to elect more Republicans than Democrats. It’s clever, effective and undemocratic.

This pattern was repeated in the state’s other urban counties.

The legislature must take seriously the court’s order and draw fair, balanced districts that allow minority voters a reasonable chance to elect candidates of their choice, without packing overwhelming numbers of them into a few districts.

Ideally, elections next November will see full slates of candidates vying in competitive contests — and no more 100 percent victory margins.

Unfortunately, experience suggests that partisan lawmakers still will try to stack the deck to the greatest extent they can manage. Ultimately, redistricting should be undertaken by a nonpartisan commission given the responsibility of drawing balanced districts that serve the best interests of voters, not of the politicians. There has been bipartisan interest in the state House to do this; opposition has come from the state Senate.

Senators should soften their stance and, for once, do something that advances democracy rather than denies it.”