Monday, 25 January 2021
Written by Bill Bowman
Hey, what's going on? Where? Here in Fayetteville? Raleigh? Washington D.C.? Portland, Seattle? "What's going on?" used to be a friendly, inquisitive and common query? Now, this once innocuous inquiry is met all too often with the flippant response: "How the hell should I know!" That's because they don't know. No one knows. How could they? The news media has gone off course and lost its sense of responsibility along with its journalistic integrity.
Hey, what's going on? Who the hell knows, but, you will surely know what this generation of inept news media posers want you to know. If it's news that doesn't suit or endorse the narrative of their political agenda or their employers' or advertisers' political agenda, then generally speaking, "it isn't news!"
As you read the next few hundred words, try to read them through the lens of being an American. Not a white, Black, brown, Democratic, Republican, Liberal, Conservative or vegetarian American, just an American. Think about how great it is. Do we not live in the most fabulous county in the world? And, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation, what do we all have in common? Our freedom. So many freedoms. Why would we want to give them up or put them in jeopardy? We wouldn't. At least, not intentionally. This is why the First Amendment of our Constitution is so vital to our existence as a free nation.
Without free speech and the free press, we have no idea what our government leadership is doing. And, nothing good has ever come from that. Traditionally, the news media has been the formidable guardian of truth and the ardent enemy of tyranny. Unfortunately, today the media has acquiesced to political and commercial pressures. Now, the tech giants like Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google are closing in on Americans by censoring free speech and picking and choosing what news and information we are entitled to receive. (Sound a little Third Reich?) This is a bold and blatant example of extinguishing American freedoms. It doesn't make any difference what color, race or political persuasion you are, in the end, if this continues, you are going to lose your rights and liberties along with the rest of America.
Let's put all this on a local perspective and be honest with each other. The next time someone says to you, "Hey, what's going on in Fayetteville?" Admit it! You have NO IDEA! How could you? We are a community of over 300,000, and we have no local TV station, an inept failing daily newspaper, and no media outlets willing to report on local issues and news. Local taxpaying citizens have no idea what is taking place at Fayetteville's City Hall, the County Courthouse, the CC school board meetings, or any other government meetings. We don't know our law enforcement status, what our crime rate is or how our tax dollars are being spent. We have little knowledge of how well our Mayor and fellow council members are performing, and we very, very seldom hear from our City Manager. In other words, Fayetteville and Cumberland County need local news media to keep residents informed on how our community is functioning. This is the responsibility of the local press and what residents expect. The Fayetteville community has a great deal of growth and economic potential. Citizens need to communicate with their local officials and monitor their performance, ensuring they have the community's priorities in proper order and are spending their tax dollars prudently.
Most people who know me know I'm not a fan of social media. I think it has a few good attributes, but mostly it causes more harm than good by disseminating false and misleading information. Besides, I don't believe in "aiding and abetting" the enemy. Using or providing support, financial or otherwise, to Google, Amazon, Apple, or Facebook only empowers them with more authority to restrict information and impede our First Amendment rights. So, knowing as a local community newspaper, I cannot affect or influence these mega tech companies' sinister actions, I will continue to focus my media concerns locally on Fayetteville and Cumberland County. The Up & Coming Weekly newspaper will continue to work within the journalism industry's basic guidelines and ethics. And, with the help and support of the community, we are working hard to prevent the Fayetteville/Cumberland County community from becoming the next North Carolina "news media desert."
We desperately need to know what is going on at City Hall, in the County Commissioners' chambers, and at the meetings of the school board and other public gatherings. More importantly, we need honest and factual information to hold our local government officials accountable - information required to celebrate their achievements and congratulate their accomplishments, as well as admonish incompetence and neglect when it exists. It's all about LOCAL. It's all about transparency, and it's all about accountability. It all starts with free speech and the FREE PRESS. Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.
Tuesday, 22 December 2020
Written by Rep. John Szoka
Earlier this year when peaceful protests turned violent I recognized that there were questions affecting North Carolina that I didn’t know the answers to. Those deeply disturbing events that tore apart communities made it clear that our state needed answers.
Are chokeholds applied by law enforcement officers legal or illegal in North Carolina? Is there a duty for law enforcement officers to intervene when observing potential official misconduct? And the list went on.
I went to Speaker Moore and suggested he convene a House Select Committee to investigate these and other issues. He agreed and the House Select Committee on Community Relations, Law Enforcement and Justice was formed and I was appointed a Chairman.
This committee was unique in that it not only had legislative members but also reached into the community to ask non-legislators to be voting members of the committee.
Committee members ranged on both sides of the political spectrum and included governmental and special interest groups as well.
We began committee work in early September with the goal of creating a forum where lawmakers could listen to diverse voices across the state, seek understanding, and work toward making meaningful recommendations for transformative change.
During the committee process members heard from various stakeholders across North Carolina, solicited recommendations from committee members and the public, explored potential changes and eventually adopted the committee’s final recommendations.
I am proud to announce that on Dec. 14 the committee ended its work and in a historic, bi-partisan vote unanimously adopted the recommendations.
It was an honor to lead this committee and I am thankful for the hard work of the members that allowed us to recommend targeted, meaningful reforms in such a short time.
The final committee report includes thirteen recommendations for action-oriented policy solutions that reflect broad community and stakeholder agreement. Those recommendations are:
• Creating additional statewide law enforcement training requirements that include requiring crisis intervention training and implicit bias training; as well as providing additional resources to officers and agencies to complete the new requirement training.
• Requiring mandatory reporting requirements for law enforcement agencies for disciplinary actions, resignations, terminations and de-certifications.
• Creating whistle-blower protections for officers that report misconduct.
• Providing law enforcement with additional resources when encountering mental health issues in the field.
• Providing law enforcement with additional resources to receive mental health treatment.
• Reclassification of some lower level criminal offenses.
• Directing the Administrative Office of the Courts to examine whether each judicial district would benefit from the availability of specialty courts such as drug treatment or Veterans Courts.
• Banning the use of chokeholds.
• Requiring psychological evaluations for all public safety officers.
• Requiring law enforcement to report use of force incidents.
• Mandating the duty to intervene and the duty to report officer misconduct.
• Creating and funding a pilot program for high school student law enforcement career exploration.
• Creating a system to allow individuals to receive additional notification of court dates, to avoid additional Failure to Appear charges.
These committee recommendations will provide guidance for potential legislative action by future sessions of the North Carolina General Assembly. A full committee report can be found on the committee website at www.ncleg.gov/Committees/CommitteeInfo/HouseSelect/200
This committee report is just the beginning; I look forward to working during the upcoming session with fellow legislators to advance these policy recommendations into meaningful legislation.