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redistricting_mapMicah Khater, a previous contributor to N.C. Policy Watch and a Caldwell Fellow in the University Honors Program at N.C. State University majoring in History and French, recently authored the following interesting essay on the efforts of state lawmakers to impose new electoral maps in Wake and Guilford Counties:

Echoes of North Carolina’s dark past
By Micah Khater

Our politicians often try to resurrect images of the past in order to justify present decisions. For many, history can have a political purpose: it can be used to uphold conservative ideals of American tradition while omitting the imperfections of our past. But this version of history is fraught with errors and grossly oversimplified. If we submit to the desires of those who wish to erase the flaws of our history, we will lose the hindsight necessary to fully evaluate present public policy.

As I was listening to the recent controversy over the General Assembly’s proposal to redistrict the Wake County Commission and Greensboro City Council, I found myself reflecting on a story that sounded eerily similar.

It was 1934. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was in the midst of enacting major legislation as a part of his New Deal. White Democrats maintained a choke-hold on the South. It’s important to remember that “Democrats” and “Republicans” of the early Twentieth Century were not what they are today. Although FDR was a Democrat, and often strived to appeal to southern lawmakers, his New Deal legislation threatened the racial and economic hierarchy enforced by the Democratic Party of the South. Anxieties ran high among North Carolina Democrats who worried that the New Deal might accelerate labor movements. Even though they singlehandedly controlled all state-level politics, the Democrats worried about a few renegade counties in the western part of North Carolina.

Wilkes County was one of those Republican strongholds. There were only a handful of counties in the western part of the state, like Wilkes, that had not yet disenfranchised African American voters, most likely because of their historic support for the GOP in a Democratic-majority state. Read More

Commentary

redistricting_mapWell, that didn’t take long. When Democrats swept the Wake County Board of Commissioners in last fall’s election, more than one wag opined that it wouldn’t take long before the GOP-dominated General Assembly would find a way to abolish the Board.

Things haven’t gone that far…yet. But as we’ve found out in the last 48 hours, conservative leaders in the state Senate have no plans to be shy in altering local election results that displease them.

On Thursday, the Senate  Redistricting Committee examined a pair of bills to alter the way voters elect county commissioners in Wake County and city council members in Greensboro. The Wake County bill was considered just a day after it was introduced.

Let’s hope the overwhelmingly negative response the bills have spurred from the public cause the senators to think twice. As the Greensboro News & Record noted in an editorial blasting the bill impacting Greensboro yesterday, even Gov. McCrory is sending signal that the bills go too far:

“The idea that the state should dictate Greensboro’s local governing structure contradicts the leeway granted by law to all other cities and counties.

While not referring specifically to Wade’s proposal, Republican Gov. Pat McCrory expressed an important principle Tuesday:

‘Let me put it this way: As governor I constantly have to fight Washington not to interfere. I think the same philosophy applies to Raleigh interfering with local governments.’

Members of the Senate Redistricting Committee, most of them Republicans and none of whom represents any part of Guilford County, should keep that principle in mind when Wade asks them to approve her bill today.”

Unfortunately, if past performance is any indication, Senate conservatives have little interest in principle when it comes to redistricting (or the Governor when it comes to just about anything).

The Committee plans to vote on the matters next Tuesday. It’s unclear at this point whether additional public testimony will be allowed. For Wake County residents, the legislative delegation from Wake will apparently have an open meeting on Monday at 3:00 pm in Room 1124 of the Legislative Building.

News
Garry Gupton, suspect in attack. Source: Qnotes

Garry Gupton, suspect in attack. Source: Qnotes

UPDATE: Greensboro police say no evidence links to attack being a hate crime. (Scroll down for more information.)

A Greensboro man is in jail facing charges of seriously beating and burning a man he met earlier at a gay nightclub.

Garry Joseph Gupton, a 26-year-old Greensboro water resources employee, is facing a felony charge of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill and inflicting serious injury, according to jail records and  this article by Matt Comer of Qnotes, a Charlotte-based LGBT news publication. Jail records show Gupton is being held at the jail in lieu of a $250,000 bond.

The 46-year-old victim Stephen Patrick White, who is also a military veteran, was beaten and burnt on over 50 percent of his body from the Nov. 9 attack at a downtown Greensboro hotel. A friend told QNotes that White has had his hand and part of his arm amputated as a result of injuries from the weekend assault.

An employee of the Battleground Inn in Greensboro called 911 around 4:30 a.m. after hearing a man screaming at the hotel at the same time a fire alarm went off, according to QNotes.

Stephen White, victim in Greensboro attack. Source: qnotes

Stephen White, victim in Greensboro attack. Source: qnotes

Police have not described the circumstances preceding the attack, and no charges have been filed indicating the attack may be considered a hate crime. A call to the Greensboro police department seeking additional information was not immediately returned Thursday morning.  (see update below.)

Equality North Carolina, a gay rights group, said in a news release that it is monitoring the investigation.

“We do not yet know the full details of this crime, but anytime a person is harmed, especially in such violent fashion, it is a tragedy regardless of circumstances,” Equality NC director Chris Sgro said in a written statement. “Equality NC is in communication with the Mayor and the City of Greensboro to determine exactly what happened and make sure that the crime is fully investigated.”

A fundraiser will be held this Saturday at the Chemistry Nightclub, 2901 Spring Garden St. in Greensboro, and all proceeds from the door, and tips from the bar and drag shows that night will be donated to help White. Online donations are also being accepted here.

UPDATE (12 p.m., Thursday): Greensboro police told N.C. Policy Watch late Thursday morning that they do not believe that the attack was a hate crime, where the victim was targeted because of his sexual orientation.

“He (Gupton) never verbalized to us that he intended to kill somebody,” said Susan Danielsen, a Greensboro police spokeswoman. “There’s absolutely no evidence to indicate that this is a hate crime.”

Some national outlets in the LGBT community, including the Advocate, have reported that the attack was premeditated, a conclusion that police believe is incorrect.

“We’re not sure what caused Mr. Gupton to act so violently,” Danielsen said. “This is not a crime motivated by hate.”

Danielsen said more charges may be filed in connection with the fire that was set in the hotel room.

Gupton is in custody in the Guilford County jail, and could not be reached for comment.

(Note: this post has changed from the original to reflect that Greensboro police do not believe White was robbed in the course of the attack, contrary to what was reported in QNotes and other publications.)

Uncategorized

Michelle Ford hasn’t received food stamp allotments since December, and the Greensboro mother says she’s out of options in trying to feed herself and her three children.

“We don’t have anything to eat,” Ford said. “This the way it’s been for the last two months, it seems like it’s just getting worse and worse.”

Ford usually receives $692 in food stamps a month to keep her family fed, but her January benefits never appeared. She said she’s neglected paying her light bill, car payment and other bills in order to keep her family fed.

“It’s been horrible,” she said, her voice clenched with tears. Her 18-year-old daughter stays with friends in order to get meals at night and was fired from a job at a McDonald’s stemming over a dispute about food she was taking to share with her family.

Ford’s problems come despite the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services declaring it has “reasonably achieved” an April 1 deadline set by federal officials to resolve a backlog of federally-funded food stamps cases statewide that had been in the tens of thousands for needy families.

A backlog of food stamps cases persisted for most of 2013 in the state when DHHS fully implemented a complicated benefits delivery system called N.C. FAST (Families Accessing Services Through Technology). County-level workers struggled to get the system to work, and cases piled up with some going weeks or months without needed food assistance. ncfast

In Guilford County, where Ford lives, the state discovered in the week before the April 1 deadline that workers had been keeping as many as 8,1000 recertification cases in a separate system then the N.C. FAST benefits delivery system. The head of the county’s social services director resigned shortly after the backlog became public.

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