Commentary, News

HB2 update: Feds rule law violates U.S. Civil Rights Act; Minnesota bans college sports travel to NC

The walls are closing in on Pat McCrory and Phil Berger. Jim Morrill of the Charlotte Observer reports:

“U.S. Justice Department officials Wednesday notified Gov. Pat McCrory that House Bill 2 violates the U.S. Civil Rights Act.

The department gave state officials until Monday to address the situation ‘by confirming that the State will not comply with or implement HB2.’

The letter says HB2, which pre-empted Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance, violates Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination in education based on sex.

If that determination is upheld, North Carolina could lose millions in federal school funding. During the current school year, state public schools received $861 million in federal funding.”

The news comes on top of this morning’s report that a Minnesota state university system is prohibiting athletics teams from traveling to tournaments in North Carolina in response to HB2.

The bottom line: It appears that the war will soon be over on this matter. All that Governor McCrory and Senator Berger will soon find themselves in a position to do is to negotiate the timing and terms of surrender.

 

Commentary

New York Times features voting rights op-ed by Rev. Barber

Rev. barber 2Be sure to check out the opinion section of the New York Times this morning, which features an op-ed by Rev. William Barber of the North Carolina NAACP entitled “The Retreat From Voting Rights.”

Here are some highlights:

“ON Monday, Judge Thomas D. Schroeder of Federal District Court in Winston-Salem, N.C., upheld legislation passed in 2013 that imposed far-reaching restrictions on voting across this state, including strict voter-identification requirements. Judge Schroeder justified his decision by claiming that robust turnout in 2014 proved that the law did not suppress the black vote. But in reality, his ruling defended the worst attack on voting rights since the 19th century….

In his ruling, Judge Schroeder, a George W. Bush appointee, said that there is “little official discrimination to consider” today. His nearly 500-page ruling is in keeping with the 19th-century opponents of “Negro rule” who argued that voter intimidation was not “official discrimination” because it was carried out by the Ku Klux Klan. In later years, poll taxes and literacy tests were also deemed not “official discrimination.”

North Carolina actually began rolling back voting protections in 2010, when the new Republican majority adopted a redistricting plan that packed black voters into a few districts and carefully limited the power of interracial coalitions. Racial gerrymandering elected a veto-proof Republican supermajority. When its champion, Thom Tillis, then ran for United States Senate in 2014, he won by more than 45,000 votes.

Since the Shelby decision, many states have been emboldened to implement laws like North Carolina’s. Republican-controlled election boards have greatly reduced the number of polling places. Wisconsin recently passed a bill creating major hurdles to voter registration campaigns. Alabama closed driver’s license offices in several counties with high percentages of black voters. But after an outcry, it sent part-time license examiners to those counties.

Allowing this kind of retrenchment on voting rights sets a dangerous precedent, especially in the South. In the 11 former Confederate states, there are 160 electoral votes, 22 United States Senate seats and 131 House seats. We cannot allow this level of political power to be determined by discriminatory voting laws.”

After noting the actions of civil rights activists a half century ago to overcome obstructionism and physical violence, Barber concludes this way:

“Half a century later, we again struggle for unfettered access to the ballot, especially for the most vulnerable among us. The Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore the protections stripped away by Shelby, has stalled in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Strom Thurmond was able to filibuster the 1964 Civil Rights Act for only 24 hours. But today’s extremists have buried voting rights here for nearly three years. It is time for the silence to end.”

Read the entire editorial by clicking here.

Commentary

McCrory takes the low road yet again; targets transgender North Carolinians for discrimination

Image: Franklin Graham's Facebook page

Gov. McCrory appearing with another champion of discrimination. Image: Franklin Graham’s Facebook page

Public attitudes on a lot of important social issues have moved in a progressive direction in recent years — sometimes at an encouragingly rapid clip. This progress has been especially noteworthy in the realm of LGBT equality, where hundreds of prominent politicians and public figures have embraced the 21st Century and abandoned their formerly bigoted stances.

And then there’s North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. Despite, at times, giving the impression of being a relatively modern man who knows better that to parrot the haters and theocrats, the Guv cannot, apparently, resist the temptation to demagogue for perceived political advantage. Last November, the Guv took the absurd step of inserting himself into a Virginia dispute over the bathroom usage of a transgender schoolboy and now he’s at it again. The Charlotte Observer reports:

“Gov. Pat McCrory warned two Charlotte City Council members Sunday that if the city approves new legal protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people on Monday, the vote would ‘most likely cause immediate state legislative intervention.’

McCrory is concerned about a provision in the proposed expanded ordinance that would allow transgender residents to use either a men’s or a women’s bathroom. That part of the ordinance has also caused a furor in Charlotte and led to the ordinance being defeated 6-5 last year.

‘It is not only the citizens of Charlotte that will be impacted by changing basic restroom and locker room norms but also citizens from across our state and nation who visit and work in Charlotte,’ McCrory said in an email to the council’s two Republicans, Ed Driggs and Kenny Smith. ‘This shift in policy could also create major public safety issues by putting citizens in possible danger from deviant actions by individuals taking improper advantage of a bad policy.’

McCrory, a Republican, continued: ‘Also, this action of allowing a person with male anatomy, for example, to use a female restroom or locker room will most likely cause immediate State legislative intervention which I would support as governor.’”

It’s hard to overstate the mendacity and cowardice of the Governor’s statement. As we noted last fall in response to the Governor’s inane observation that federal enforcement of civil rights laws to help transgendered persons amounted to an “unacceptable” federal overreach that “must be stopped”:

Read more

Commentary, News

EPA’s weak response to environmental racism complaints in focus at Friday public hearing in RTP

Though polluters and their apologists on the Right love to bash the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a bastion of leftists running roughshod over innocent businesses, the truth is quite frequently the opposite. Indeed, the agency is often guilty of bending over backwards to dismiss the complaints of pollution victims. This is particularly true for poor people of color who, as has been demonstrated time and again, are typically the first to suffer when pollution invades places of human habitation.

A 2015 report from the Center for Public Integrity (“Environmental racism persists, and the EPA is one reason why: The EPA office tasked with policing alleged civil rights abuses is chronically unresponsive to complaints and has never made a formal finding of discrimination”) made the following remarkable findings:

  • Ninety-five percent of the time, communities of color living in the shadows of polluters find their claims of civil-rights violations denied by the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • In its 22-year history of processing environmental discrimination complaints, the EPA’s Office of Civil Rights has reviewed nearly 300 complaints filed by minority communities. It has never once made a formal finding of a civil-rights violation.
  • While touting the importance of tackling environmental racism, the EPA has closed only 12 cases alleging such discrimination with official action on behalf of minority communities. EPA officials have negotiated settlements in nine cases; the rest were resolved among the complainants and targeted agencies.
  • At least 17 communities are still waiting in limbo — more than half for over a decade — as the EPA reviews their civil rights claims. The delays have left residents, many forced to endure unsafe pollution levels, without recourse.
  • The EPA’s civil rights office takes, on average, 350 days to decide whether to investigate a case. In nine cases, the agency took so long — an average of 367 days — that investigators had to dismiss the allegations as “moot.”

In the aftermath of the report and numerous complaints about the EPA’s performance in this vital area, the agency has proposed some new rules to revise its procedures that it claims are designed to make things better. Unfortunately, advocates representing victims are not so sure.

This Friday, the topic will be aired in public as the EPA Office of Civil Rights holds a public hearing in Research Triangle Park — one of five sites around the nation to do so. Advocates for victims of pollution and environmental racism are calling on citizens and advocates to attend the event and speak out. This is from news release issued by the UNC Center for Civil Rights earlier today: Read more

Commentary

Race-based police stops in NC: Experts explore the data, prospects for change (Video)

For those who missed last week’s Crucial Conversation luncheon, “The problem of race-based policing: Can we finally overcome it?”, be sure to check out the video below. In it, you’ll hear the latest (mostly damning) data on the subject from Prof. Frank Baumgartner of UNC Chapel Hill, some hopeful news from the city of Fayetteville where police chief Harold Medlock has made enormous progress in transforming the culture of that city’s police department and a higher-altitude overview of the subject, including where things stand and where we’re headed, from Chatham and Orange County Public Defender, James Williams. It’s definitely worth a little of your time if you couldn’t be there in person.

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