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North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center good for this community

02 cv4I yield to Pat King’s editorial below because it seems to be the sentiment of many educated and well-informed Fayetteville residents on the historical, educational, cultural and fiscal benefits our community would gain from having the North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center located in our community. It would be a big win — unless small minds and personal political agendas crush another opportunity for us to enhance the quality of life of all citizens. The impact of this facility on Fayetteville would be grand and historical. Will it happen? Stay tuned. Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      — Bill
 
I just finished reading John L. Johnson’s letter published in The Fayetteville Observer Thursday, Jan. 23. It was the incentive I needed to write these comments. His characterization of “myopic attitudes and lack of visionary leadership” exactly matches my perception of the elected city officials — primarily the mayor — who are in a position to have the greatest influence on the possibility of the North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center coming to fruition.

In the Dec. 29, 2019, edition of The Fayetteville Observer is an article by staff writer John Henderson titled “Debate rages on about proposed Civil War History Center.” There is no raging debate, only the slow strangulation of support for this important project by the mayor and those he calls “concerned citizens,” primarily citizens that he needs to maintain his power base and time in office. On page A6 of that edition is a picture of the mayor, another local politician and a phalanx of Colvin’s “concerned citizens.” As the mayor continues his flip-flop about the NCCWRHC, he manages to keep this particular constituency opposed to what is already a functioning Civil War and Reconstruction History Center.

If he took the time to learn about the great work that the History Center’s Cheri Todd Molter and her small staff are doing, he might come to understand that most of his incitement about the Center is false and harmful to eventually getting this significant project committed and under construction. Anyone who goes to the website http://nccivilwarcenter.org and reads all the articles and watches the videos will understand what this facility will be — a teaching and learning center for all our people and (that will show) how this period shaped and still affects us all.

The mayor is resorting to the same tactics he used in his campaign to remove the Market House from recognition as the symbol of our city — keeping a number of our citizens hoodwinked into believing his version of the facts. It worked. And it will work again and lead to the demise of the NCCWR History Center by keeping it from becoming a full reality.

Mr. Johnson, the lack of “visionary leadership” you see will continue to do harm to the growth and betterment of our community unless citizens, like yourself, continue to speak up and support what is so desperately needed for the growth of jobs, development and investment in our city.

To the mayor I say: Take the time to fully understand and respond to Mr. Johnson like you did to Mr. Patrick Tuohey’s piece in Friday’s newspaper about the development along Hay Street. Your legacy is becoming one of keeping racial issues as part of what should be what is good for all of Fayetteville’s citizens. You should be focused on Fayetteville’s future — not on your future and re-election.
 

More on black privilege being real in America

04 UAC012220006In my column two weeks ago titled “Black Privilege Is Real in America,” I shared my reaction to an opinion piece that appeared in The Fayetteville Observer. It was written by Debra Figgins and titled, “County schools must address racial disparities in discipline.” The writer presented several actions that she contended should be taken by the Cumberland County School System to reduce adverse disciplinary actions toward black students. I saw her presentation as reflecting “Black Privilege.” See  http://www.karlmerritt.com/2020/01/09/black-privilege-is-real-in-america/ for my column. In part, I wrote: “If I have accurately assessed what is being called for here, it means special treatment of disruptive black students, while disadvantaging educators and non-disruptive students. For educators, that disadvantaging comes by way of adding a multitude of new requirements to a workload that is very likely already overwhelming for most. Further, the additional requirements, without attention to parental and student responsibilities, are doomed to failure. Sadly, students who, without regard to race, will be disadvantaged in that teachers will have even less time and energy for helping them in their education process.

‘The bottom line is that this is a call for special treatment of black students while disadvantaging educators and other students; even those black students who want to learn and do not present disciplinary problems. This is ‘black privilege.’”

The school situation allowed for discussion of one manifestation of black privilege. However, another glaring indicator came along at about the same time as I was writing regarding Cumberland County Schools. In a column titled “Smith Recreation Center as Early Voting Site for Primary: Fear and Anger,” I addressed the push to make Smith Recreation Center an early voting site for the 2020 Primary. See http://www.karlmerritt.com/2019/12/29/smith-recreation-center-as-early-voting-site-for-primary-fear-and-anger/.

 Because the Cumberland County Board of Elections was not able to unanimously agree on a 2020 Primary early voting plan, the decision had to be made by the North Carolina Board of Elections. With three Democrats and two Republicans on that board, only a majority vote is required. Democrats from our local board presented a Majority Plan, and Republicans presented a Minority Plan. This was done before the State Board Dec. 20, 2019.

The State Board voted, along party lines, to approve the Majority (Democratic) Plan. This was not a surprise to me. However, I found the Majority’s argument weak, while Democrats on the State Board seemed to totally disregard the case made by the Minority. Given that the area in question is predominately black by population, I hold that this is another case of “black privilege.” What follows are some instances reflecting the Majority argument weaknesses and/or disregard of the Minority case.

Rev. Dr. Floyd W. Johnson Jr., Democrat and chairman of the County Board, opened the Majority presentation by saying, in part, “The members of the Majority Plan agrees that due to the aging community and lack of personal transportation that the Smith Recreation Center as an early voting site is a necessity because voters will not have to walk or ride the bus to another voting site. The site will not only accommodate the students from Fayetteville State University but also the voters from the Town of Spring Lake.”

He went on to say that the recommendation regarding Smith is not driven by consideration of race. This was followed by Johnson saying, “It is, however, one of the heaviest poverty struck areas in Cumberland County that is centered in heart of Afro-American community. It makes sense that everyone should have a right or access to a voting site regardless of their circumstances.”

When this opening is viewed in light of other information that was provided and the summary quote from my column, which is repeated at the end of this one, what is being called for here constitutes special treatment of black citizens in the area surrounding Smith.

Linda Devore, Republican and County Board member, talked about the Minority’s approach to selecting early voting sites. She emphasized that they want to minimize wait times on Election Day. That means focusing on large precincts when selecting early voting sites. Some have as many as nearly 5,000 registered voters. This is not the case in older neighborhoods like around Smith Recreation Center and around the Board of Elections. For me, this approach seems very reasonable. This thoughtful approach does not support making Smith an early primary voting site.

Irene Grimes, Democrat County Board member, also spoke for the Majority Plan. At one point, she made this statement: “I know we are probably going to hear about budgetary restraints that should keep Smith closed for the primary. Those, of course, have to be taken into consideration. However, one of the biggest arguments for Smith is that, this community, every time we have had a meeting about early voting plans, primary or general election, this community has shown up. They have shown up at the meetings advocating heavily for this center to be open. I believe we all are constantly lamenting the lack of voter participation in our elections. So, one of the biggest arguments is if the population in that area wants Smith Recreation as a voting site, then we should give it to them.”

I read this statement to say forget cost, scrap reason, and just give people what they want. That is a troubling approach and a weak argument. It is even more troubling when a statement by Linda Devore, regarding the Nov. 12, 2019, meeting referred to above by Grimes, comes into play. Devore said, “Of the 46 who attended the meeting, only two live in the precinct where Smith Recreation is, and only one was from the adjacent precinct. The other people live in scattered precincts all across the county.” These numbers do not line up with the tremendous interest and support argument claimed by Grimes.

Johnson and Grimes talked about not wanting voters to have to walk or take a bus to the Board of Elections to vote early. I found this interesting because of what was said about proposed weekend early voting. Devore explained that the Minority Plan called for Saturday voting on the first and third Saturdays so that workers would not work two weekends back-to-back. Grimes responded by saying: “I have been an election poll worker before I was appointed to the board. I also ran an early voting site, and I know that whether you are a regular staff member at the Board of Elections or a temporary poll worker like I was, everybody is extremely dedicated. And I understand that we have ... that we wanted to take into consideration the staffing issue, but it’s an election. I mean, we all just buckle down, put on our big girl pants, and do the 18 hours we have to do.”

So, people should not have to take a short bus ride to vote, but workers should “... put on big girl pants and ...” This sounds like very special treatment of a selected group of people.

Dr. Stella Anderson, Democratic member of the State Board, questioned Linda Devore regarding a reference Devore made during the Nov. 12 meeting to a newly revised state statute, adopted days earlier.  Anderson based her question to Devore on an article from The Fayetteville Observer titled “Vote site fight: Should early voting be held next door to Fayetteville State University?” Devore explained that her comments were mischaracterized by the Observer, which did not have a reporter at the meeting.  At the Nov. 12 meeting, Devore read the relevant section of the statute and then raised the concern about how this newly revised statute should be applied to the Smith issue. She also expressed her concern that the plan be based on what is best for the voters of the entire county.

The following section from my column gives attention to what Devore was referring to — “four precincts” are those close to Smith: “Finally, this singular focus will very possibly conflict with the intent, if not the letter, of recently passed legislation. During the 2016 primary, in these four precincts, a total of 2,516 ballots were cast: 205 by Republicans, 2,301 by Democrats and 10 by others. Having Smith Recreation as an early voting site during the primary would clearly favor Democrats and a primarily black population. Senate Bill 683/SL 2019-239, 163-227.6(b) speaks to voting site selection and ends with ‘... that the use of the sites chosen will not unfairly favor any party, racial or ethnic group, or candidate.’”

My assessment is that Anderson made a lengthy statement intended to exempt the State Board from considering the requirements of Senate Bill 683/SL 2019-239, 163-227.6(b). Quoted below is the heart of her statement: “We all need to be understanding about what the considerations are supposed to be for the state board when we have before us petition plans. And the standard is for us to look at the plan as a whole ... period. All of the sites that are proposed for the county and the extent to which the county’s electorate is well served by, and in this case, the multiple sites that are before us. So it is not the inclusion or exclusion of a single site and the perception of who will be best served, who would be mostly served, by any given site.”

Simply put, I strongly contend that Anderson’s statement dismisses consideration of an applicable statute.

Over the course of this hearing, Devore made several points that were also raised in my column. That was the case because much of what I wrote was prompted by a review of the  Nov. 12 meeting minutes. Aside from the statute issue, I summarized as follows: The picture here is one of misinformation that is not widely and forthrightly corrected by those who initially contribute to forming it: accusations of black voter suppression not supported by facts or reason; focusing on a small segment of the population when, in this case, equal treatment of all should be the aim; disregarding the high financial cost of the proposed change; not recognizing the inequity of having one site so much closer to another than is the case with others; by declining use of city buses, calling for greater convenience than seems necessary.

At the bottom line, Democrats on the State Board approved a plan including Smith Recreation Center, despite a weak argument for doing so, and a multitude of legitimate reasons for not approving it. Even further, they totally dismissed appropriate consideration for a statute that certainly should have been given far more attention. This is unjustified special treatment of a group of people; it is black privilege.

Note to Houston Astros: There’s no cheating in Major League Baseball

02 BaseballThis week, Bill yields his space to sports writer Earl Vaughan Jr. to address the Houston Astros cheating scandal. The sport of baseball has a relationship with its own rules that often defies description.

While sports like football and basketball seem to insist that rules be enforced with precision and accuracy across the board, baseball is the one major sport where the competitors seem to approach certain aspects of the game with a wink and a grin. I had the great fortune to interview legendary pitcher Gaylord Perry. For those not familiar, Perry’s a North Carolina native best-known for his alleged mastery of an illegal pitch called the spitball. He never admitted that he threw it, but there were strong suspicions and a trail of frustrated batters that would swear he did. But while Perry’s spitter was legendary, another staple of baseball is the stealing of signs.

Again, for the uninitiated, here’s what that involves. The catcher gives a signal to the pitcher as to what pitch to throw. This usually involves dropping down a different number of fingers that represent each pitch. The pitcher either accepts the signal or he shakes off the sign and the catcher makes another suggestion. It’s possible for players on the opposing team to see these signs. The next step is to figure out the code the pitcher and catcher are using so the batter can be alerted to what pitch the pitcher is throwing. For a Major League player, that information is a huge asset that will most often result in him getting a hit. This has been going on since the game was invented.

No complaints. Until now. You may have heard about the Houston Astros cheating scandal. They just happen to be the parent team of Fayetteville’s minor league affiliate, the Woodpeckers. The Astros have been accused of taking the art of sign stealing into the 21st century. With the help of electronic enhancement, they picked up the other teams’ signs then relayed the information to the batter. So guess what? The Astros won the 2017 World Series 4-3.
The commissioner of baseball, Rob Manfred, warned the Astros to stop. Apparently, they didn’t.

So, Manfred suspended Astros manager A.J. Hinch and G.M. Jeff Luhnow for a year. The team then fired both men. The dominos continued to fall as Alex Cora, a former Astros bench coach who led the Boston Red Sox to the World Series title in 2018 and New York Mets manager Carlos Beltran, a former Astros player, were both implicated in the scandal.

There’s just one problem with all this. That shiny trophy the Astros got for winning the 2017 World Series is still in their possession. The record books still say they are the champions. That’s got to change. Stealing signs is one thing. Adding electronic technology to the mix is taking it to a completely unfair and unacceptable level.

Multiple talking heads on television say that taking the championship from the Astros is pointless. They won the games. They won the championship. No one is going to forget that.

True. But, they will also never forget if the title is stripped from them. When people look in a record book and go down the list and notice that word vacated next to the year 2017, it will recall this incident, how wrong it was and that the penalty exacted for it was steep.

If the NCAA can strip national championships from college teams, there’s no reason Major League Baseball can’t do the same with the Astros. CBS Sports compiled a list of teams that lost their NCAA titles and are no longer recognized as champions for far less than what the Houston Astros did.

San Francisco men’s soccer, 1978 — One student-athlete submitted an altered transcript when he enrolled in the school.

Tulsa women’s golf, 1988 — The golf team did nothing wrong but lost the title because the NCAA put the entire Tulsa athletic program on three-year’s probation after a host of violations by the school’s track and field team.
Syracuse men’s lacrosse, 1990 — Lost the title because the wife of the head coach co-signed a car loan for a player on the team.

Hawaii men’s volleyball, 2002 — One player played on a professional team before playing for the college team.

LSU women’s outdoor track and field, 2012 — One player used a stimulant that’s on the NCAA’s banned list. The stimulant is routinely found in over-the-counter nutritional supplements.

The Astros, Red Sox and Mets took the first step in sending the right message that electronic sign-stealing won’t be tolerated by cutting ties with the people who have been implicated in the scheme.
Now, Major League Baseball needs to finish the puzzle and leave the Houston Astros with an empty trophy case.
 
 

Everything old is new again

03 margaret picRemember bell-bottom pants from the 1970s? How about shag haircuts and midriff-baring outfits and skinny suits for men? They are all back in some form, generally with new monikers like “flares,” “bedhead” and “hipster.” At the end of the day, though, these blasts from the past are comebacks of ideas that worked before and are working again.

The same is true for the names we bestow on what is most precious to us in life, our children.

The Social Security Administration has kept track of what we name our children since the 1880s, and it turns out that vintage names are making a comeback, especially for baby girls. A century ago, the 10 most popular names for girls were Mary, Dorothy, Helen, Margaret (yay!), Ruth, Mildred, Virginia, Elizabeth, Frances and Anna. I know babies and little girls today with some of those names, even though none of them are in the current top 10. Still, the SSA says traditional names are popping up on birth certificates, including Violet, Hazel, Faye, June, Millie, Eloise, Vera, Elsa, Stella, Rosalie, Olive and Josie. I know a few of those as well.

As for boys, the 1920 top 10 names were John, William, Robert, James, Charles, George, Joseph, Edward, Frank and Richard. William and James are still among the top 10 in 2020, which indicates that parents may be more willing to take a flier on girls’ names than with those for boys. Like the girls, boys are also experiencing a return of vintage names, including Clyde, Warren, Silas, Everett, Otto, Hugh, Jasper, Leon, Amos, Otis, Dean and Archie. Our family has a new double-traditional, George Claude.

North Carolina parents seem right on trend in our baby-naming. In 2018, the latest year available, we named our little girls Ava, Emma, Olivia, Charlotte, Harper, Isabella, Amelia, Abigail, Sophia and Elizabeth, a nice mixture of tradition and a bit of modern. Tar Heel boy-naming continues to lean on tradition, with William and James still in the top 10 in second and fourth place, along with Noah, Liam, Elijah, Mason, Jackson, Carter, Lucas and Benjamin.

Make no mistake, though. American parents are perfectly willing to be creative on names when the mood strikes, according to Huff Post, which seems to be every bit as interested in baby naming as I am. For example, Maverick is more popular for boys than the first man’s name, Adam. Brooklyn, originally a New York borough, is more popular for girls than the traditional Anna. Oaklynn, a word that does not register on spellcheck, is one of the fastest rising names for girls. Axel was recently bestowed on more little boys than ever-popular Edward, and Genesis is both more popular than Lauren for girls and the fastest-rising name for boys between 2017-2018. Jason was a biggie several decades ago, but it has now been passed by Angel, and Roman now tops Justin. For girls, Serenity has edged out the traditional Julia, and Brittany, once in the top five, has declined to only a few hundred in 2018. Dior is one of the fastest risers, with more than 1,000 baby girls receiving it in 2018. Kairo, another made-up word, is zooming up the name chart for boys, while Cairo, the actual spelling of the word, has never hit the 1,000 mark.

The real question for parents with a new and precious bundle of joy is whether his or her name has already stood the test of time or whether someone will say 20 years later, “Oh, you must have been born in 2020!”
 
 

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