Category Archives: News

The #MeToo Movement is Tone Deaf

Demanding ban of Christmas classic is a disturbing display of censorship

Musings from the Curmudgeon-in-Chief
MeToo mihai-surdu-415698-unsplash

LENOIR, N.C. – It was inevitable I suppose. While I generally support the #MeToo movement, I knew it was only a matter of time before the intolerant extremists that are part of it would turn the movement into thought police.

They have. They have proven to be tone deaf in demanding that radio stations ban the Christmas classic, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” as reported by NPR. The demand is based on the belief that the song encourages date rape. You can listen to a cover of it by James Taylor and Natalie Cole.

I guess you hear what you want to hear.

The censorship must stop here. Before long, classical poems such as Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress” (written in 1681) will be banned. Read it. You’ll find it incredibly offensive if this song bugs you.

So, I’ve got to oppose the #MeToo movement on this. Censorship seems totally inconsistent with the movement’s values. Perhaps not, but I am an ally because it is consistent with my values. Decades before the #MeToo movement was born – before most of those involved in it were born! – I was working hard in North Carolina in the second half of the 1970s to get the Equal Rights Amendment passed. If the #MeToo movement cares about keeping its allies, it needs to avoid ridiculous debates such as this.

Courting METoo

Finally, I wish to remind the #MeToo movement that there are sometimes attractions between members of the opposite sex and persistence doesn’t always lead to rape; sometimes it leads to a lifetime of commitment and maybe even a family. It’s called courting and I enjoyed the hell out of it.

I wouldn’t today. I’d just be a committed bachelor. There was once excitement and joy in courting. If the #MeToo movement has its way, you’ll have to read about it in the history books. Or, you could read Marvell’s poem above. But prepare to be scandalized. It seems that for centuries, this desire has always existed. There is nothing desirable about being metaphorically stiff-armed before you get a chance to say, “Nice to meet you.”

Yes, courting is a delicate dance. But it is a dance. Sometimes, when you dance, you get too close. Other times, you get pulled closer. What do you do then? Keep dancing and take your chances.

Such is the life of a curmudgeon.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2018. Photos courtesy of Unsplash.

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Bill Stone ‘Not a Team Player’

Fellow BOE member Houston Groome: ‘You are not a team player. You’re a Bill Stone player’

Editor’s note: This is Part 2 of a two-part article. Part 1 can be read here.

Caldwell logoLENOIR, N.C. – As reported on Oct. 31 on this site, Bill Stone, the chairman of the Caldwell County Board of Elections (BOE), has had at least three complaints filed against him with officials in Raleigh regarding allegations of wrongdoing during Early Voting in Lenoir.

This is nothing new. The North Carolina Republican Party has done everything in its power since taking over the North Carolina General Assembly in 2011 to subvert voting rights of minorities, the poor and vulnerable in North Carolina. They’ve largely succeeded – despite the many court rulings against them – because of people like Bill Stone.

FTR BOE meeting

For instance, at the Caldwell BOE meeting on Oct. 30, Stone would not allow questions from the public because public input was not on the agenda. Fortunately, Stone is not the only member of the board. In addition to Stone, there are three other members of the BOE – Vice-chairman Fred Piercy, Secretary Houston Groome and member Pete McIlwain. Like Stone, McIlwain is a Republican. Piercy and Groome are Democrats.

In any event, Groome put forward a motion that in future meetings, time for public input be allowed. Groome looked at McIlwain and asked, “You’ll second that won’t you Pete?” McIlwain did. Stone said he didn’t like the idea, saying, “These comments always get personal. I don’t want that.”

Bill, you’re not a team player. You are a Bill Stone player.” – Houston Groome, Caldwell County BOE Secretary.

Groome replied, “Bill, the only ones that are personal are directed at you. You’re a lightning rod for controversy. You need to stay out of the parking lot.” Groome referenced an incident the previous week, when voters were complaining about aggressive behavior by volunteers for campaigns. Director of Elections Sandra Rich asked all four board members to go out together to talk to all the volunteers. As Groome noted, “Bill, the three of us could not get out of our chairs before you were outside saying whatever you were saying to them.”

Groome added, “Bill, you’re not a team player. You are a Bill Stone player.”

Groome also noted that when he had previously served on the board, public comment was part of the agenda. He said, “They can say anything they want about any item on the agenda or anything about voting. That’s why we’re here.” Piercy also called for adding a public comment period, saying, “We serve the public.”

Ultimately, a public comment period was added to future BOE meetings on a voice vote. Director of Elections Sandra Rich said after the meeting, “In the past, anyone could come to the meetings and be allowed to speak. But since the board has changed, that ended.”

The way I see it, I want all board members to represent all of the people and do their job. They need to cooperate, and I don’t see that with Bill. They need to work as one, not against each other.” – Caldwell BOE Director of Elections Sandra Rich

Groome and Piercy also cautioned Stone about appearing to favor Republicans. They asked Stone to not roam around the parking lot during early voting, as his time speaking with Republican Party candidates and workers calls into question his impartiality. Instead, as reported in the first story, when others at the table reminded Stone that he represented the BOE and hence had to be impartial, Stone replied, “I am going to represent myself.”

When asked about the complaint leveled against him by Michael Careccia, Stone seemingly underscored the concerns expressed by Groome and Piercy. Stone refused to answer, but did turn to McIlwain and say, “This is politics. We need to take this up with the (Republican) executive committee.” Immediately thereafter, though the meeting was not in recess, Stone and McIlwain retired to Rich’s office for a sidebar conversation.

So, during a meeting intended to have impartial discussions about voting rights, Stone was doing political calculus rather than heeding the calls of his BOE colleagues to hear from those complaining against him.

Rich finds Stone’s behavior disturbing. “As a board, when they come in that door, they are to leave the party at the door and serve all of the voters of the county.”

Indeed, Rich, who during her many years as the Director of Elections would never comment publicly or privately on board members, said she could remain silent no longer about Bill Stone. “The way I see it, I want all board members to represent all of the people and do their job. They need to cooperate, and I don’t see that with Bill. They need to work as one, not against each other.”

Stone We the People

Rich is right. We can do better. The people serving on the Board of Elections are supposed to be advocates for voters. Bill Stone, ironically, is actively working to discourage voting. Because the Republican-led North Carolina General Assembly has mangled election laws so badly, the future of local boards of elections is unclear. Hell, everything about North Carolina’s future elections is unclear thanks to the intentional undermining of our democratic processes by the North Carolina GOP.

What is clear however is this – it’s time for Bill Stone to go. Our voters deserve someone that believes in our Republic rather than actively works to subvert it.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2018. Top photo: Bill Stone, center, conducts the Oct. 30 Caldwell County BOE meeting. “We the People” photo by Anthony Garand on Unsplash.

Caldwell, NC Elections Chair Bill Stone Accused of Wrongdoing

Stone, a Republican and Caldwell County Board of Elections chairman, responds defiantly

Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a two-part article. 

LENOIR, N.C. – Bill Stone, the chairman of the Caldwell County Board of Elections (BOE), has had at least three complaints filed against him with election officials in Raleigh regarding allegations of wrongdoing during Early Voting in Lenoir.

These are bullshit. We’re not going to do anything. Just send them to Raleigh.” – Bill Stone, Chairman, Caldwell County Board of Elections, responding to complaints against him.

Complaint 1

In one complaint, Michael Careccia, a campaign staffer with the campaign of state senate candidate Art Sherwood, alleges that Stone both misrepresented and failed to properly exercise his authority as BOE chairman. Careccia sent his complaint to the North Carolina State Board and Ethics Enforcement earlier this week. The incident Careccia reports occurred on Oct. 22.

Careccia presented copies of his complaint to the full BOE at the beginning of its regularly scheduled monthly meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 30. Stone took exception to the presentation of the document. After Careccia left the room, Stone rebuked Sandra Rich, the Director of Elections for the BOE, saying, “You know when we get these sort of things you need to bring them to my attention.”

Rich countered that she would not present a document to just one member, but the entire board at once. In an interview after the meeting, Rich reiterated that view. “I give it to the whole board because I serve the whole board.”

Stone BOE meets

Careccia’s complaint recounts, “On Monday, October 22, 2018, I was working at the Lenoir Early/Open Voting location …. Shortly after noon, I noticed a green pick-up truck parked in a parking spot designated for voters only. Upon noticing that the owner of the truck was not there to vote but to pass out political literature, I went into the county Board of Elections office to report it.”

Careccia added that because Stone had stated that he “was the person in charge,” “I asked Mr. Stone to have the person move the vehicle. He refused. After multiple attempts to request that he enforce the rules that he had presented to candidates and poll workers only a few weeks before during a BOE training … (and) since Mr. Stone had said he was in charge, I insisted that he had invoked jurisdiction and was therefore responsible to enforce voting laws.”

Careccia concluded, “He continued to ignore my requests until I informed him that I would report him to the state and take legal action if necessary. It was only then that Mr. Stone finally asked the owner to remove his truck from the designated voter parking spot.”

So, Careccia posed six questions to the Board of Ethics:

  1. Does Mr. Stone oversee the local Board of Elections staff, or does the Director (and hence staff) not answer directly to the N.C. Board of Elections?
  2. As Chairman, is Mr. Stone’s legal standing not limited to his role and status only when the Caldwell County Board of Elections meets as a corporate body, or may he (or other members) act in an official capacity apart from a legally called public meeting?
  3. Are there times when Mr. Stone (or any person in the position of BOE chair/member) is the person designated as the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) on behalf of the Caldwell County Board of Elections? If so, when?
  4. If Mr. Stone was the AHJ, why did he fail to act immediately?
  5. If Mr. Stone is not the AHJ, then did he not misrepresent his role and overstep his authority?
  6. If Mr. Stone is not the AHJ, who is?

Following the meeting, I spoke with Rich about these questions. She was unequivocal about Stone’s authority over her. “I am hired and fired by the state board.” Regarding the questions about who is in charge, again she was clear. “Me. By statute, the Director of Elections is the person in charge.”

Complaint 2

Two other complaints were filed, both having to do with incidents that happened on Oct. 24. In one incident, Lorene Reece, a worker in the office at the Lenoir Early Voting location, recounted an event when Reece was taking a complaint from a voter about the behavior of Republican poll workers who “… really felt threatening.” According to the report by Reece, Stone replied, “Let her (the voter) fill out her complaint. It would not go anywhere. These campaigners can say anything they want to as long as the don’t put their hands on them. They can campaign anywhere they want to.”

Stone article Campaign workers

Stone’s statement is not accurate. There are specific rules regarding campaigning outside of an election precinct, and Stone should know that since he was one of the trainers in Caldwell County for campaigns and candidates this election cycle regarding campaign law.

When Rich presented the board members copies of the other two complaints, Stone snapped at her, “You know I’ve got a problem with an employee making a complaint.” Rich again stated that all board members would be shown complaints simultaneously. After the meeting, Rich noted that Reece was well within her rights and insisted, “She was doing her job.”

Complaint 3

The third incident involved Robert Reece. He reports that when he came to the voting location to take his wife to a doctor’s appointment, “As I was heading into the building at the single glass door entrance, I spoke to a campaigner at the area near there and asked him why he was there instead of up in the designated area assigned to campaigners. He told me he could campaign anywhere he pleased.” Reece continued, “I returned outside with my wife through the same door where I saw him and Mr. Stone laughing and joking around at the bed of his truck. He told Mr. Stone that ‘He’s the one,’ indicating me.”

Stone was with the husband of the Republican candidate for Clerk of Superior Court. Reece continued, “Mr. Stone told me that Mr. Kidd could campaign anywhere he chose. I said I thought I would call Raleigh and confirm that. Mr. Stone said he was chair of the Board of Election and that that those rules meant nothing.”

FTR Stone

Stone was defiant throughout the meeting, not only regarding the complaints, but also in response to pleas for cooperation from Rich and the other three board members – Houston Groome, Pete McIlwain and Fred Piercy.

When Rich pleaded with him to understand that he represented the entire board, Stone said, “I am going to represent myself. So unless you have three votes, go on with your agenda.” When Groome replied, “Bill, every time you go outside something happens,” Stone exclaimed, “I’m not going to change!”

Stone then added, “I keep an attorney on retainer.”

When Piercy asked Stone to work with the other board members, Stone argued, “Show me the statute.”

Piercy replied, “It’s just common courtesy and decency.”

And on it went until Stone returned to the complaints. Looking at Rich, he said, “These are bullshit. We’re not going to do anything. Just send them to Raleigh.”

© Michael M. Barrick, 2018. Top photo: Bill Stone, center, chairs a meeting of the Caldwell County Board of Elections on Tuesday, Oct. 30. Middle photo: Campaign workers outside the Early Voting location in Lenoir, N.C. Bottom photo: Signs outside the Early Voting location.

My White. Male. Privileged. Life. (Part I)

What happened to being judged by the content of our character?

FTR Confederate monumentLENOIR, N.C. – This past weekend, I had a long, enjoyable conversation with a dear friend. We make sort of an odd couple, which I love. We have the same general worldview, but we don’t have similar backgrounds. He is rational; I’m emotional.

So, it helps that he is patient and accepts that I get a bit passionate sometimes.

Like this weekend, when he hit me with all the benefits I enjoy from my White. Male. Privilege.

Confederate raiders in Lenoir

I did not and do not dispute that I am a beneficiary of my birth. I know of instances that I have enjoyed the benefit of the doubt from a police officer that a black person, for instance, would not enjoy.

Still, I will admit to becoming somewhat defensive at his remarks. I simply denied that my birth defined my character.

You can decide for yourself by reading on.

Confederate flagIn November 1998, I was elected to the Caldwell County Board of Education. I was sworn into office sometime in early December. My first act as a school board member was to use the bully pulpit of the Lenoir News-Topic. In that op-ed, I called for a ban of the Confederate flag on school grounds – t-shirts, hats, flags in trucks, it didn’t matter. My reason was simple. I knew that it was generally being used as a symbol of intimidation, if not outright hate.

The reaction to my essay was fast and furious. Had I written it a few days before Election Day, I would not have been elected. I heard the usual arguments – the flag is our heritage. The Civil War was about state’s rights, not slavery. While there are thin slivers of truth to the latter argument, it is not the motivating factor to fly the rebel flag in Caldwell County.

This is how I know. After that column was published in the newspaper, I attended my very first Caldwell County Republican Executive Committee meeting (for being a Republican, I plead temporary insanity). Anyway, the first order of business was for the party to present me with a Confederate flag with black letters emblazoned across it saying, “Hell No I Won’t Come Down.” Though I was initially stunned, I quickly recovered. I replied, “I accept this in the spirit in which it is offered.”

Frankly, I don’t think too many people there got what I meant so let me make it clear now. Hate. That flag was given to me in the spirit of hate.

Confederate flag on house

Then, after two-and-a-half years of sitting on the school board, I realized I was in the wrong place in the school system. I wanted to teach again. Fortunately, it worked out for me and I ended up at South Caldwell High School, where there were about 1,400 white students and one black student. There was also a small population of students from Mexico and Central America (and no, I didn’t check papers for ICE, nor would I ever).

From the first day, I would challenge the students that were wearing rebel flags on t-shirts as they walked into my classroom, asking them why they were doing so. To a person, I got the answer, “It’s our heritage.” So, I immediately peppered them with questions about their “heritage.” I would ask, among other things:

  1. What heritage are you celebrating?
  2. Who were the leaders of that heritage?
  3. What was the objective of that heritage?
  4. Do you know the context of that heritage in relationship to our nation’s founding and economic growth?
  5. Have you considered how that image might affect others in this school that recoil – maybe even in fear – at seeing you wear that shirt?

FTR confederate flag

And on the questions went until they slid into their seat, mute. I might have made them think, but now, as I look around Caldwell County, I kind of doubt it. At the end of the Civil War, Union soldiers called Lenoir “The damedest little rebel town.” I wasn’t here in 1865, but I’d be willing to bet there are as many – if not more – Confederate flags flying in Caldwell County right now, especially when one counts the license plates and bumper stickers.

Now, let me pause and say I believe the First Amendment offers protection to people who wish to fly the rebel flag on private property or affix a rebel flag on their truck bumper.

However, as a school board member and a teacher that wanted a safe classroom, civil discussion, and most importantly – an accurate portrayal of history – allowing that flag to fly in our schools was too much then and it’s too much now. It is an affront to education and terrifying to minority children.

I admit to being born White. Male. Privileged. However, I was raised to overcome that by a whole village of elders, teachers and neighbors.

Now then, how did a White. Privileged. Male. get to this point?

It’s how the hell I was raised. I was born in Harrison County, West Virginia. It was the hotbed of anti-secessionist movements when Virginia seceded from the Union. Eventually, many of West Virginia’s first leaders would come out of Harrison County.

Additionally, my great-great-great-great grandfather established the first Union newspaper in Morgantown in 1862, while it was still part of Virginia. That took gumption. That blood – or should I say ink – runs in my veins.

So, I admit to being born White. Male. Privileged. However, I was raised to overcome that by a whole village of elders, teachers and neighbors.

It is true, that when I was born, I had to be with my mom. She was white, as was my dad.

Martin Luther King JrBut you must also remember that it was Martin Luther King Jr. who challenged us to judge one another by our character. In fact, I developed a week-long study of the life and literature of Dr. King for my sophomore English students. As powerful as his “I Have a Dream” speech was for the students, what really started to challenge their outlook was reading his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

Oh, and my wife just reminded me of some writing I did while at the News-Topic as a reporter in the mid-1990s. I met with elders in the black community about the many challenges facing it, and I was surprised to find many within the community critical of it; yes, they talked with hard experience of suffering under white, male, privilege. But they also argued that the generations behind them had to continue the battle to overcome it.

So yes, it’s a long struggle. But I, by my birth, did not contribute to it. I have, however, to the best of my ability, helped how I could through what talents I have, to counter it.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2018. Top photo is part of the inscription on the Confederate Monument in Lenoir. Flags are on home near downtown Lenoir. Historical marker is in downtown Lenoir. Other Confederate flags in the public domain. Martin Luther King Jr. photo in the public domain.

Early Voting in Appalachian County Shows Strong GOP Turnout

GOP early voters are outpacing their registration numbers by nearly eight percent

Unaffiliated voters and Democrats accounting for less than half of ballots cast

LENOIR, N.C. – Republican Party voters in Caldwell County are starting off the 2018 election cycle as they ended it in 2016 – energized and voting.

FTR GOP logoIndeed, after only three days, of the 3,609 votes cast so far, 52 percent – 1,894 – have been by Republicans, a number that exceeds the number of GOP registered voters by about eight percent. It represents a burst of energy that began on the first day of voting this past Wednesday and has not subsided.

Democrats account for 909 votes, or 25 percent; and, unaffiliated voters have cast 798 votes, equaling 22 percent of the total, according to data provided by the Caldwell County Board of Elections.

Vote totals through Friday represent nearly seven percent of the 54,515 registered voters in the county. Republicans make up the vast plurality, accounting for 24,747 of the total voters, or 44 percent. Unaffiliated voters now outnumber Democrats. There are 15,867 unaffiliated voters, accounting for 30 percent of total voters, and 13,901 Democrats in the county, representing 25 percent of the voters. Less than one percent of voters are registered with one of the other political parties.

Voters have been turning out consistently since the first day, averaging about 1,200 early voters per day at the county’s two One-Stop Voting locations.  In Granite Falls, 1,420 voters – 39 percent of the county’s total – have voted; in Lenoir, 2,188 have cast ballots, accounting for 61 percent of vote totals.

Analysis

Caldwell County Republicans are voting at a pace that could be record-setting, especially for a mid-term election. Unaffiliated voters, which Democrats are undeniably counting on this cycle, are not turning out, as their voting numbers are eight percent below their percentage of registered voters in the county. Democrats are holding steady with their registration numbers.

CCDPIn a perfect year for Democrats, overcoming such registration numbers would be virtually insurmountable; ticket-splitting is virtually nonexistent today. So, while unaffiliated voters can be a wild card, those registered by party are counted upon by party officials to vote their ticket. There is no evidence to suggest this year will be any different.

Republicans are enthused; Democrats are not; unaffiliated voters are yawning. Since 2016, pundits and politicians on both sides have said that 2018 is, “The Most Important Election of our Lifetimes.” It’s rather obvious the Republicans believe so, but they would appear to be alone in that thinking, at least in Caldwell County.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2018

How and Where to Vote

According to the Caldwell County Board of Elections, here is what you need to know about voting this year:

If you have not yet registered to vote, you can register when coming to One Stop/Early Voting.

 

There are 2 One Stop/Early Voting Locations:

  1. Caldwell County Alden E. Starnes County Office Plaza
    City/County Chambers
    905 West Avenue NW, Lenoir
  2. Shuford Recreation Center
    56 Pinewood Road, Granite Falls

The One Stop/Early Voting Dates and Time:
Monday, October 22 through Friday, October 26: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Monday, October 29 through Friday, November 2: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday, November 3 – 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.  (the only Saturday)

The Last Day to Apply for Absentee Ballot – October 30, 2018

Click Here to See 2018 Sample Ballot 

Memo to W.Va. Governor’s Lawyers: Buy a Dictionary

‘Reside’ is not a new word in the English lexicon

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – According to West Virginia Public Broadcasting, “Lawyers for the governor of West Virginia have told the state Supreme Court the meaning of the word ‘reside’ is unclear in a case regarding his residency outside of Charleston.”

Reside definition

From my 1997 copy of Webster’s Universal College Dictionary.

Isaac Sponaugle, a Democratic Delegate who represents parts of Hardy and Pendleton County in the state’s lower eastern panhandle, has asked the court to require Gov. Justice to do as the West Virginia Constitution requires and “reside at the seat of government,” – in the state capital of Charleston. Presently, Justice lives at his resort in Lewisburg.

Webster's DictionaryGood grief, Charlie Brown!

Those who wrote the West Virginia Constitution did not need to define “reside” because they had dictionaries – regular old ones that average people can use. Indeed, “reside” is hardly a new word in the lexicon. It is late Middle English with roots in French and Latin.

My copy of Webster’s Universal College Dictionary” from long ago offers the following definitions:

  1. “To dwell permanently or for a considerable time; live”
  2. “To be present habitually”

The word games the governor’s lawyers are using – and the arrogant taunt to the people to “impeach him” if they don’t like it – is why average people have had it with politicians.

While we’re struggling to live paycheck to paycheck, or on fixed incomes, or affording to have our gallbladders removed or ruptured disc repaired or replace the old tires, mincing words is insulting and pathetically self-serving.

Move the Mission

This is how the poor and vulnerable are greeted in Clarksburg, W.Va. by some merchants.

Jim_Justice

Jim Justice

So, Governor Justice, if you think the mansion overlooking the Kanawha River is beneath your lifestyle, go visit some of the struggling in the hills and hollows or the homeless in Charleston, Huntington, Clarksburg or Richwood. Then, get back to the “People’s Capitol” and get about their business. It’s what you signed up to do – “To dwell … and be present habitually.” Anyone that can read a dictionary understands that.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2018

Where are the Democrats?

Is Appalachia heading towards another red autumn?

By Michael M. Barrick

LENOIR, N.C. – If the Democratic Party is going to enjoy a “Blue Wave” in this year’s mid-term elections, it isn’t going to start in Caldwell County. That is if the campaign activity – or the lack thereof – by the Democratic Party and its candidates at the One-Stop (early) Voting location in Lenoir is any indication.

GOP poll workers

GOP volunteers work the Lenoir early voting location on the first day of voting, Oct. 17.

Also, the first day of early voting totals reveal an energized Republican base. At the county’s two early voting locations in Lenoir and Granite Falls, a total of 1,217 voters turned out. Of those, 632 were Republicans, making up 52 percent of the total vote. The 329 Democratic voters accounted for 27 percent of the vote, numbers consistent with their registration levels. Unaffiliated voters accounted for 251 ballots, making up 20 percent of voters. Less than one percent cast ballots as Libertarians.

Also of note is that of the total votes cast, 473 – 39 percent of the voting – took place in the predominantly Republican south end of the county at the Shuford Recreation Center in Granite Falls. The only precincts in the county that could be considered remotely favorable for Democrats are centered in and near Lenoir. Low turnout there combined with the absence of Democratic candidates and poll workers would not seem to lend itself to a Blue Wave anywhere in the county.

Also, in the year of the #MeToo movement, women were outvoted by men yesterday by about four percent. Women cast 48 percent of the ballots – a total of 580. Men cast 633. Blacks cast 70 ballots, nearly six percent, a number relatively consistent with population totals in the county.

Mark Cook and Sherri Yi.jpg

Mark Cook and Sherri Yi campaigned for Kim Clark on the first day of early voting in N.C.

The Democrats did not have a tent set up as customary, and only two people were actively campaigning for a Democrat. Incumbent Clerk of Superior Court Kim Clark had two people volunteering for her, but they were both Republicans. And one was her husband, Mark Cook. The other was Sherri Yi.

Ironically, the only incident of acrimony I witnessed was when Cook and Yi attempted to hand some campaign literature to a voter wearing a Trump hat. Flipping his hand towards them like he would a bothersome cat, he grumbled, “She’s a Democrat. I don’t vote for Democrats.” Yi simply replied, “Yes sir,” and backed away.

Nathan E Dula

Nathan E. Dula campaigns for School Board candidate Elaine Setzer-Maxwell on Oct. 17

School Board candidate Elaine Setzer-Maxwell had a campaign volunteer out, Nathan E. Dula. He had positioned himself under a small shade tree and was approaching potential voters alone without having to compete with other volunteers. Closer to the doors of the ground floor of the City/County Chambers on West Ave., though, no less than a half-dozen GOP workers approached every voter. Some voters strolled on by, but many stopped to chat and take a copy of the party’s sample ballot.

Speaking of which, when I went into vote, there was a Republican sample ballot in the voting precinct on top of the stack of county’s official ballots. The two look virtually identical. However only official ballots are allowed. It isn’t clear if it was placed there inadvertently by a voter or intentionally, but when it was pointed out to election officials, it was thrown in the trash.

The official ballot can be seen here. It is printed in yellow, as is the GOP sample ballot. So, look at the top of the ballot on the left-hand corner. It should have Sample Ballot, Caldwell County printed on it, with a bar code in the top right-hand corner. The GOP sample ballot has Republican in the top left-hand box and no bar code in the right. And, of course, they’ve marked the ballot for you. So, be on the lookout for that.

The Republican workers were jovial and talkative. When I asked where the Democrats were, they mentioned the name of one veteran Democrat, saying he had stopped by for a while. Meanwhile, the GOP workers had several of their candidates popping in and out.

Oh, and there was no shortage of poignant bumper stickers.

Taking Back the Rainbox and Trump 2020 signs

One day does not an election make. However, for a party that is supposed to be energized to send Freshmen legislators to Raleigh to help Gov. Roy Cooper and to break the 5-0 hold the GOP has on the county commission, one would expect to see a blaze of blue at the polling places. The only thing I saw blue was the clear sky above me – perfect for greeting voters.

How and Where to Vote

According to the Caldwell County Board of Elections, here is what you need to know about voting this year:

If you have not yet registered to vote, you can register when coming to One Stop/Early Voting.

There are 2 One Stop/Early Voting Locations:

  1. Caldwell County Alden E. Starnes County Office Plaza
    City/County Chambers
    905 West Avenue NW, Lenoir
  2. Shuford Recreation Center
    56 Pinewood Road, Granite Falls

The One Stop/Early Voting Dates and Time:
Wednesday, October 17 through Friday, October 19: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Monday, October 22 through Friday, October 26: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Monday, October 29 through Friday, November 2: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday, November 3 – 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.  (the only Saturday)

The Last Day to Apply for Absentee Ballot – October 30, 2018

Click Here to See 2018 Sample Ballot 

© Michael M. Barrick, 2018.

Today, Help N.C. Advance Again

One Stop or ‘Early’ Voting Begins Today; Do Not Wait

FDR“Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” – President Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his first inaugural address in 1933.

By Michael M. Barrick

LENOIR, N.C. – One Stop or “early” voting begins today in North Carolina and runs through Nov. 3. Election Day is Nov. 6.

So, as you ponder when (or God forbid, if) you are going to vote, consider the echo of President Franklin Roosevelt’s words in your ears. We are not a fearful people! We are the children and grandchildren of the Greatest Generation. Sacrificing all, putting lives on hold for years, families disrupted and changed forever, they defeated Fascism and Communism.

In short, the Greatest Generation left us a legacy of courage and sacrifice. They were able to do so because they understood the consequences of defeat. They were inspired by their president, fearless in their determination to save the world.

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Honor their legacy. Vote today!

But be ready.

The Republicans will have their fear peddlers working the polls; they certainly did in 2016. Ignore their cajoling threats of doom and destruction under the Democrats and wish them a blessed day. Then, bless our state and nation by voting Democratic.

The modern Republican Party insults the legacy left by our courageous parents and grandparents you see in those fading photographs on your wall. Look into their eyes. Do you see fear or determination? Do as they did; live courageously.

After voting, stop for a moment to talk to the Republican poll workers. Each one will likely identify as an evangelical Christian. Remind them of this verse: “Be strong and courageous.” It’s a command given to Joshua repeatedly by God according to the Old Testament. Thank them for their active citizenship and let them know you voted courageously – for Democrats. (I am close to digressing into a history of the song “Alice’s Restaurant” by Arlo Guthrie, but for now, just know that if we all stopped and repeated that scripture verse to every GOP poll worker, they’d wonder just what sort of movement is going on. That just seems like too much fun to pass up).

In any event, don’t argue. Just thank them, then talk to your neighbors, families and friends and “Speak out! Speak out against the madness. Speak your mind, that is if you still can and still have the guts to.”

Remember when our state’s teachers tried to get the attention of Republican lawmakers? Who will forget the image of those suits looking out windows at the throngs and cancelling short their session. Regardless of their excuses, men and women of courage don’t hide; they welcome their adversaries and seek compromise. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to function in a Republic.

You’ve seen Republican party officials and lackeys jerk the phones out of hands of college students. You have heard the constant drumbeat of fear, calling us – the people – a mob for opposing a rigged Supreme Court nomination process (I refer not just to Brett Kavanaugh; the stonewalling on Merrick Garland’s nomination was reminiscent of the former Soviet Politburo).

Fear girl in bed alexandra-gorn-471463-unsplash.jpgI’ll be writing more on their fear-mongering soon, but until then, remember what American Poet Carl Sandburg wrote. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Sandburg spent his career celebrating what he considered the attributes that made America great. Here is one brief sample from his poem, “I Am the People, the Mob.”

I am the people – the mob – the crowd – the mass.

Do you know all the great work of the world is done through me?”

So, we the people have a great work to do. You must convert retreat into advance. We can’t do that if we fall prey to fear.

Don’t allow it. We’ve been called a mob, whether protesting sexism, racism or bigotry – all on full display through the legislation of the GOP super majority in the N.C. General Assembly. So, let them call you a mob. Just show them what great work can be done through you – through me.

How and Where to Vote

According to the Caldwell County Board of Elections, here is what you need to know about voting this year:

If you have not yet registered to vote, you can register when coming to One Stop/Early Voting.

There are 2 One Stop/Early Voting Locations:

  1. Caldwell County Alden E. Starnes County Office Plaza
    City/County Chambers
    905 West Avenue NW, Lenoir
  2. Shuford Recreation Center
    56 Pinewood Road, Granite Falls

The One Stop/Early Voting Dates and Time:
Wednesday, October 17 through Friday, October 19: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Monday, October 22 through Friday, October 26: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Monday, October 29 through Friday, November 2: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday, November 3 – 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.  (the only Saturday)

The Last Day to Apply for Absentee Ballot – October 30, 2018

Click Here to See 2018 Sample Ballot 

While voting, ‘Nix All Six’

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Speaking of fear-mongering, the GOP has placed six “constitutional” amendments on the ballot to frighten – and hence – turn out their base. StrongerNC, Inc. has developed a website that explains the dangers inherit in every amendment on the ballot. They write, “These amendments will affect your rights and radically change the structure and separation of power in our state government indefinitely.” To learn why, visit their Nix All Six Amendments website.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2018. Flag photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash; Photo of girl hiding under sheets by Alexandra Gorn on Unsplash

 

 

 

Art Sherwood Seeks to Change State’s Direction in N.C. Senate

Retired biomedical engineer, active Baptist focused on education, healthcare, jobs and Voting Rights

Voting Begins Tomorrow!

LENOIR, N.C. – In late 2011, Art Sherwood retired from his career as a biomedical engineer helping veterans recover from spinal cord injuries. But he did not retire from his vocation of helping to analyze and solve problems. Indeed, after retiring, he immediately began devoting more time to politics until in 2016 he made his first run for public office, when he ran for State Senate in old District 45.

Art Sherwood primaryThe reasons he ran two years ago have not changed; in fact, they’ve intensified, so he’s at it again, this time seeking to represent redrawn State Senate District 46, which includes Burke, Caldwell and Avery counties. He is looking to unseat Republican Warren Daniel.

Perseverance, it seems, is a family tradition. Sherwood’s great-grandfather, the Rev. James Justice Lafayette Sherwood, helped establish First Baptist Church in Blowing Rock and served as pastor at First Baptist Church in Boone twice, from 1893-1895 and 1904-1906. Like his great-grandfather, Sherwood is a man of active faith. He served two five-year terms as a trustee of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and he has provided leadership in local congregations wherever he has lived.

Following completion of his doctorate in biomedical engineering from Duke University in 1970, Sherwood devoted his career to helping veterans and others with spinal cord injuries maximize their ability to function independently. He worked for three decades in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, and concluded with a decade in Washington, D.C., where he helped formulate research policies to aid those who have sustained life-altering disabilities.

Sherwood has clearly devoted his life to helping others. And, being retired, he could do anything. Instead, he has decided to run again.

Why Run?

I was first motivated to seek election to the North Carolina State Senate so that I could be part of restoring North Carolina’s public education system to its former prominence and student-focused outlook. … I am further motivated by the GOP-led assault on Voting Rights in this state. It is shameful – and as the courts have repeatedly said – unconstitutional.”

In far-ranging discussions we’ve had during the past several months, I’ve asked Sherwood the first question I am sure his family members and friends asked – Why have you decided to run again? He explains, “I was first motivated to seek election to the North Carolina State Senate so that I could be part of restoring North Carolina’s public education system to its former prominence and student-focused outlook.” He continues, “I am further motivated by the GOP-led assault on Voting Rights in this state. It is shameful – and as the courts have repeatedly said – unconstitutional.”

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Still, he was not inclined to run again. That is, until a call one late evening early this year from Governor Roy Cooper changed that. He told Sherwood that the Democratic Party was determined to compete for every legislative seat, and that Sherwood’s campaign in 2016 positioned him well for this cycle.

So, on the ballot he is. Sherwood argues, “My background, my family history, and my faith all guide me as I identify and work towards legislative priorities to offer solutions to the problems I’ve identified.” Still, he resisted prioritizing the many issues he wishes to address. “Trying to say one issue is more important than another is absurd. All are vital topics of the day.”

Sherwood also wishes to focus on how the local businesses and artisans can build a local sustainable economy that is immunized from the boom-and-bust cycles of the furniture, textile and other manufacturing enterprises.

Finally, as a person that has spent his life in healthcare – as has his wife, Gwen – he knows that people are suffering because they cannot access proper healthcare. As he notes, the United States doesn’t have a healthcare system; rather it has a health delivery industry. It is uncoordinated and profit-motivated, thus causing its ostensible purpose – to alleviate and heal the suffering of people – to be subverted to lobbyists for the pharmaceutical, hospital, insurance, medical equipment and related industries.

Voting Rights

There is nothing more fundamental to our Republic than the voting rights of her people. Without that right, we are mere pawns. … I will vigorously oppose gerrymandering by supporting the establishment of an independent commission to draw congressional and General Assembly districts.”

He pointed to the assault on Voting Rights as a classic example of the challenge of deciding which issue is the most urgent. He explained, “There is nothing more fundamental to our Republic than the voting rights of her people. Without that right, we are mere pawns. Therefore, I will work to ensure open and convenient access to polling places for all voters and eliminate burdensome requirements designed to suppress voter turnout. I will vigorously oppose gerrymandering by supporting the establishment of an independent commission to draw congressional and General Assembly districts. Republicans, including our own House representative, argue that gerrymandering is constitutional.

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Sherwood argues, “Considering the many court rulings saying otherwise, Raleigh Republicans have forfeited their right to hold office. It’s not a stretch for me to promise voters I’ll protect their rights. I’m quite confident that is what people from our founders to Martin Luther King Jr. to those in the #MeToo and #IfIDieInASchoolShooting movements rightfully expect that of public servants.”

Education

“Regarding the many challenges facing public education, in particular front-line teachers, I will work to ensure that public schools are properly funded, teachers paid a fair and living wage, classroom management is not held hostage to standardized testing, and local control is restored. I will work to ensure adequate funding and forward-looking technical and liberal arts curricula in the district’s community colleges,” said Sherwood. He added, “It is time to develop a teacher pay structure consistent with that outlined by NC Policy Watch. It is time to provide teachers with the assistants they need to serve our children, and it is time to move North Carolina to the top of the nation in terms of per-pupil funding.”

HealthCare

It is understandable that a man who devoted his life to alleviate the suffering of others would have some expert insight into healthcare. “I support universal health insurance that will permit people to seek medical care in a timely manner, and to optimize the care provided at all stages of life, from prenatal to geriatric. I will work diligently to move us to a single-payer system to put the focus where it belongs, on improving the health of North Carolinians, which would also simplify and streamline the accounting, thereby reducing costs. And, I will work tirelessly to minimize government intrusion on interactions between patients and properly-licensed providers.”

The North Carolina General Assembly had a chance to expand Medicaid with federal funding and declined, leaving billions of dollars on the table and the people it was intended for in distress. Clearly, the Republican controlled super-majority in the General Assembly does not support affordable health care.”

He continued, “The North Carolina General Assembly had a chance to expand Medicaid with federal funding and declined, leaving billions of dollars on the table and the people it was intended for in distress. Clearly, the Republican controlled super-majority in the General Assembly does not support affordable health care.”

Jobs

On jobs, Sherwood argues, “Because of the damage done to the workers and families in the district by large manufacturers closing and abandoning the community, it is up to local leaders in the arts, nonprofit sector, towns and county to come together with a list of priorities for the legislature to support. Lenoir is quickly becoming known as ‘A funky little town’ because of our strong musical and arts heritage. We can and must continue to build on that. The same is true for Morganton and other towns in the district. And, it’s always good to have artists around, for they are the most fearless when it comes to speaking truth to power.”

He continued, “We also have to be judicious as we look forward. Many economic forecasters say that in roughly a decade, one-third of our nation’s workers will have to learn a new trade to remain employed. We need to prepare now by enhancing continuing education opportunities and providing broadband internet everywhere. Together with renewable energy jobs, that will provide a huge pool of good jobs to assure economic viability.”

The Environment

“We must protect our environment. That means acknowledging that Climate Change is real and aggravated by human activity. We need not waste time with attempting to change the minds of climate change deniers; in time, Mother Nature will do that for us. Instead, we must simply work to reverse the primary cause of Climate Change – our dependence on fossil fuels. That is why I support a moratorium on fracking and related pipeline development. I will fight to require municipal ownership of public water sources so that money is reinvested in infrastructure, not sent to out-of-state investors. And, I will work to re-empower the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to provide strong oversight of the fossil fuel industry in North Carolina. The presence of coal ash in our tributaries, streams and the Atlantic Ocean from Hurricane Florence is a sentinel call to our state to make ecological preservation a priority.” Sherwood notes also, “Our climate is ideal for solar and wind power. In fact, the solar industry now employs more people nationally than the coal industry. We must tap into that future. It is also the responsible thing to do to reduce our ecological footprint.”

Other Issues

Sherwood pointed to other issues that the General Assembly should address. “As we look at our abandoned buildings in the district, which distract from our region’s natural beauty and hard-working entrepreneurs attempting to revitalize the district, we must adopt a balance of tax incentives for these small, sustainable private entities and designate public funds to demolish or repurpose abandoned buildings.”

Suggesting a way to mitigate the impact of the box store and fast food cluster on U.S. Hwy 321 north of the Lenoir Crossroads, Sherwood shares, “We need to find a location to build a Visitor’s Center like the one recently built on U.S. 421 between Wilkesboro and Yadkinville. We can work with the Chamber of Commerce to promote the museum, the arts council, our natural beauty, Fort Defiance, the Wilson’s Creek Visitor’s Center, our ‘funky little downtown,’ and ideas just waiting to be developed by our artists and musicians.

Conclusion

Asked if he has anything else he’d like the voters of Caldwell, Burke and Avery counties know about him, Sherwood says simply, “I will strive to reverse decades of polarizing politics to find compatible folk on both sides to work with for the common good.”

Voting Begins Tomorrow!

One Stop/Early Voting begins tomorrow, Oct. 17 and runs through Nov. 3. Election Day is Nov. 6.

According to the Caldwell County Board of Elections, here is what you need to know about voting this year:

If you have not yet registered to vote, you can register when coming to One Stop/Early Voting.

There are 2 One Stop/Early Voting Locations:

  1. Caldwell County Alden E. Starnes County Office Plaza
    City/County Chambers
    905 West Avenue NW, Lenoir
  2. Shuford Recreation Center
    56 Pinewood Road, Granite Falls

The One Stop/Early Voting Dates and Time:
Wednesday, October 17 through Friday, October 19 : 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Monday, October 22 through Friday, October 26: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Monday, October 29 through Friday, November 2: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturday, November 3 – 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.  (the only Saturday)

The Last Day to Apply for Absentee Ballot – October 30, 2018

Click Here to See 2018 Sample Ballot 

 © Michael M. Barrick, 2018. #MeToo photo by Mihai Surdu on Unsplash; photo of girl painting by Kasturi Laxmi Mohit on Unsplash; Star-Spangled music notes by Ministries Coordinator on Unsplash

Editor’s notes offered in the spirt of full disclosure:

  1. I served on the Caldwell County Board of Education from 1998-2001 while a Republican. I was the Republican nominee for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 2000 and a candidate in 2003 before dropping out because of a friend’s terminal illness. I have volunteered or worked as a paid staff member in no less than eight Republican campaigns from municipal to federal elections, not counting my own. Right now, the Republican Party is doing all it can to destroy our state government. I am ashamed of it and plead with moderate Republicans and unaffiliated votes (like myself) – to choose the best candidate. As a former candidate, I can promise you that Art Sherwood, Amanda Bregel, other Democratic candidates and their volunteers are among the hardest working people in North Carolina right now. For that determination alone they deserve your support. Most importantly, they represent true North Carolina values.
  2. I was the campaign manager for Art Sherwood in 2016. We have forged a relationship out of that battle that continues to this day. It goes beyond politics. We are friends. But he also knows this article wouldn’t be written if I didn’t believe in him.

N.C. Gerrymandering No Laughing Matter

Rep. Destin Hall’s vigorous defense of Republican gerrymandering causes stunned laughter from audience at NAACP forum in Lenoir

LENOIR, N.C. – Destin Hall, Caldwell County’s representative in the North Carolina General Assembly, was greeted with stunning, uproarious laughter from the audience at the NAACP candidate forum on Oct. 6 when he vigorously defended the Republican legislature’s gerrymandering of North Carolina’s congressional and state legislative districts.

Despite repeated court rulings that the gerrymandering is unconstitutional, Hall said otherwise. Fortunately, his remarks were recorded on video, which you can see here.

And I can tell you that the way the maps are drawn now are much, much, much more fair than they ever were.” – Destin Hall

He was asked by an audience member, “What would you do to fix the gerrymandering problem in this state?”

Hall responds, “So in my opinion, partisan redistricting is what the Constitution calls for.”

NC Nothing comparesHe then continues speaking, making unsupported claims of gerrymandering being historically constitutional, and essentially arguing that those opposing the GOP’s efforts in Raleigh are sore losers.

He also proudly states, “This is actually a topic I know something about.”

That’s because he, no doubt, like every Republican member of the General Assembly, saw no problem with drawing maps to exclude minorities and members of the opposition party. Hall’s comments that gerrymandering is legal is laughable, as you will obviously see in the video. More chilling though, is that Hall did what the GOP is becoming expert at. Telling the big lie.

He concluded his remarks by saying, “And I can tell you that the way the maps are drawn now are much, much, much more fair than they ever were.”

The audience wasn’t buying it, as they responded with uproarious, spontaneous laughter.

Unfortunately, it’s no laughing matter, but one can understand why the audience laughed in his face; it’s better than crying. Ironically, he smiles in response, either clueless or arrogant. The latter wouldn’t be surprising, as shortly after Republicans took control of the N.C. General Assembly in 2011, courts ruled they gerrymandered districts along racial lines. Then, earlier this year, by their own admission, Republicans were again found to have gerrymandered districts unconstitutionally, this time along party lines. Indeed, if you will look up the phrase North Carolina unconstitutional gerrymandering on the Internet, you will discover at least 86 articles written about these and other cases since the 2010 takeover of the North Carolina General Assembly by Republicans, including this one that ranks our state just above Cuba as a “deeply flawed democracy.”

NC State MottoThis can be reversed though. Early voting begins next Wednesday, Oct. 17. It is time for our state’s leaders to live by its motto – “To be, rather than to seem.” The Republican Party in North Carolina clearly doesn’t believe that.

I think our people do though. If you agree, you might want to take a look at Hall’s challenger, teacher Amanda Bregel.

© Michael M. Barrick, 2018