THE RALEIGH REPORT
September 28, 2016
There was so much troubling news last week: the unrest and rioting in Charlotte after another police shooting of an African American motorist, more national championship game cancellations to protest HB2, and the most contentious presidential election in my lifetime. I was tempted to turn to something less difficult to comprehend. But, we have been here before. Good has always overcome hate, and when good prevails, we are stronger for it.
Good is sprouting up all over. The courts are handing down decisions that require state legislators to draw fair districts for the US Congressional and the North Carolina House and Senate seats. One proposal would require districts that ensure election outcomes mirror, within reason, the partisan makeup of the votes cast.
The courts also ruled that our voter laws are unlawfully designed to reduce the number of eligible African Americans that are able to vote. As a result, North Carolina voters will not have to show a government issued voter ID to vote in November, and most voters that had Sunday early voting in prior elections will have Sunday early voting for the upcoming election.
We are hearing the beginnings of a national discussion on how to build better relations between police and the citizens they are trained to protect. We are looking to research for more answers. We now have data that debunk the notion that frisk and search decreases crime or improves public safety. Should we have national training standards or a national standard for deadly fire? How can we transfer the successful community policing practices that have evolved in some urban areas to our rural communities?
We still have a long way to go to fully integrate minority populations; but we have made significant progress on LGBT rights. That's due in part to our court system but also to the courage of our LGBT family members who stepped forward to lead the fight. Now we know you are just like the rest of us. When we meet our gay friends for dinner, we no longer think of their sexual preference any more than we think of the sexual preference of our straight friends.
The poverty-creating cost of a college degree is front and center in the presidential debate and in the media. One recent college graduate said he had a good degree and a good job but was still living at a food stamp level because making the payments on his student loan was consuming most of his take home pay. We need bills at the state as well as the national level to ensure a college degree will not be out of the reach of middle class families.
We see progress on other fronts as well. Self-driving, all electric cars, buses and trucks will soon be a reality, with prototypes already on the road. The scientist entrepreneurs at 8 Rivers, in Durham, are developing a new way to generate affordable power from fossil fuels that is free of polluting air emissions. In Raleigh, a distribution center put solar panels on their roof to generate the electricity they need and to save money. Soon, instead of replacing roofs to support solar panels, the roofs will be made of solar panels.
New industries, like these, are creating new professions. Policy makers can use this opportunity to retrain our displaced workers and the next generation of works to step into these new professions. We can rebuild the middle class.
Iím optimistic that we won't retreat on our partially fulfilled goal of universal health care; but it's time to expand Medicaid in North Carolina and push the US Congress to authorize Medicare and Medicaid to negotiate the price of prescription drugs.
I agree with those who say the November election is the most important in our lifetime. I also agree with Gene Nichol, the brilliant often-maligned UNC law professor, who said in a 2012 speech.
"This is not the first time we've been tapped to fight for justice against the odds. In fact, there's a good argument to be made thatís why we are here. To do what Daniel Webster called "the great work of humans on earth, achieving justice." He went on to quote Theodore Parker and Martin Luther King, Jr. "The arc of the moral universe is long; but it bends toward justice.Ē He added: "As God's children, though, itís up to us to do the heavy lifting, to be the arc-benders."
The arc of the moral universe is bent toward justice by the thousands of small kindnesses most people practice every day as well as by the big policy changes like recognizing gay marriage. So on Election Day, donít discount the impact of your one vote. With your vote, you can bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.
As always, thank you for your support of my work in Raleigh as your representative. Please let me know of your position on issues, your suggestions for legislation and your requests for help.