Hope Mills resumes community roundtable March 19

Update: Due to the spread of COVID-19, as a precaution, the Community Roundtable has been cancelled. 

Mayor Jackie Warner has probably survived two of the most turbulent years of her political life. Like the persistent and ingenious Don Quixote, she took up her lance and, along with her faithful friend and sidekick Sancho Panza, better known as Commissioner Pat Edwards, they challenged the unscrupulous and formidable windmill that was stifling Hope Mills’ growth and tainting its image. Warner’s lance of perseverance scattered the windmill’s four sinister sails of nastiness, gossip, innuendo and fake news, allowing truth, honesty and integrity to triumph over greed, selfishness and small-town pettiness.

Now comes the celebration, and with it, well-deserved municipal progress and responsible leadership now sitting at the dais of authority, leaders that collectively have the same positive vision for the future of Hope Mills and its residents. Cooperation now seems imminent in the town, and that is the vital element
for success.

The March 19 Community Roundtable will be hosted by Up & Coming Weekly community newspaper, Harmony at Hope Mills and the town of Hope Mills from 6:30-9 p.m. Members of our Cumberland County legislative delegation will be on hand. They have recently demonstrated remarkable cooperation on significant issues by coming together and setting aside their political affiliations to address local issues that affect all residents — like the situation we now face with GenX.

People over politics. We hear that phrase a lot around election time. However, how often do we experience it? You will experience it March 19 when Sen. Kirk deViere, D-District 19; State Rep. John Szoka, R-District 45; District 44 Democratic State Rep. Billy Richardson; and Cumberland County Commissioner Michael Boose come together to speak on important issues that affect all of us. Local town updates will be provided by Hope Mills Town Manager Melissa Adams and Mayor Jackie Warner. Elizabeth Blevins, president of the Hope Mills Creative Arts Council, will discuss Hope Mills’ emerging arts and cultural programs. The evening will be fun, entertaining and informative with plenty of prizes and surprises. Mark your calendars to attend. It will be great fun.

Thank you for reading Up & Coming Weekly, Hope Mills’ community newspaper.

Easy grades produce hard landings

05 N1402P28001CWalt Disney was no stranger to adversity. He grew up in a large, itinerant family of modest means. His first film studio went bankrupt. But Disney never gave up. And he never stopped learning from his mistakes.

“All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me,” Disney once said. “You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

Celebrating the virtue of perseverance may sound old-fashioned. In reality, however, it is a sound application of modern social science. In education, for example, there is a growing empirical case for the proposition that if we ask more of our children instead of trying to protect their supposedly fragile egos, they are more likely to enjoy success in school and beyond.

A new study of grading practices right here in North Carolina has gained significant national attention. Seth Gershenson, an associate professor at American University’s School of Public Affairs, looked at the records of some 350,000 North Carolina eighth- and ninth-graders who were enrolled in the state’s Algebra 1 course from 2006 to 2016. Gershenson chose these students because they had the same teacher for the whole year and were required to take an end-of-course test to assess their mastery of the subject.

For all 8,000 public-school teachers covered in the study parameters, Gershenson averaged the grades they gave their students and used a variety of statistical controls to adjust for student background and prior performance, teacher background and credentials, and other variables that might influence the grade averages. He then compared those average grades to the performance of the same students on the end-of-course test for Algebra 1.

The idea, in other words, was to see if the students of tougher-grading teachers were more or less likely to succeed than were students of easier-grading teachers — all other things being held equal.

Gershenson’s results suggest that tougher grading practices are an example of “tough love.” By expecting more at the front end as a student takes Algebra 1, the teacher makes it more likely that student will eventually achieve mastery in the subject. On average, students assigned to the toughest-grading quartile of North Carolina teachers scored 17% of a standard deviation higher on the exam than if those same students had been assigned to the easiest-grading quartile of teachers.

That’s not a small effect. “To put this difference in perspective,” Gershenson wrote, “consider that it amounts to a little more than six months of learning. It is also larger than the impact of a dozen student absences or replacing an average teacher with a teacher whose students consistently outperform expectations.”

Even moving from the easiest-grading 25% of teachers to one of the middle quartiles still boosted student learning by a significant amount. Gershenson also found that having a tough-grading teacher for Algebra 1 made it more likely a student would do well in subsequent math courses such as Algebra 2 and Geometry. And the benefits of higher academic expectations extended across all racial and family backgrounds.

That last point is particularly important in light of another of Gershenson’s findings: tougher grading standards are not equally distributed across public schools. Suburban schools and those with relatively low shares of poor students tend to have teachers who give lower grades. Rural and high-poverty schools tend to have teachers who give higher grades.

It is at least conceivable that teachers and principals in the latter groups of schools worry that rigorous grading might discourage students who are already facing significant challenges to their academic success. Their concern may be well-motivated but this study shows that acting on that concern is not well-advised.

As North Carolina students leave high school for college or the workplace, what matters most is how well they retain and apply what they’ve learned, not how students feel about themselves. Easy grades early in life can set them up for a hard landing.

This, that and the other

03 01 WeinsteinHollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s historic convictions in New York last week on charges of sexual assault and rape continue to resonate among women across the United States and in other nations as well. It is the latest in a string of high-profile cases in which powerful men either lost their top-tier positions and attendant mega salaries or were convicted of sexual offenses or both. Think Bill Cosby, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Les Moonves, Matt Lauer and on and on and on. Weinstein’s convictions add more fuel to the raging fire of the #MeToo movement, birthed by women no longer willing to tolerate sexual misconduct and assault in their workplaces.

Make no mistake.

It takes serious courage for victims of such behavior to come forward. They rightly fear loss of employment, maybe even loss of a whole career. Some fear for their physical safety. Some fear what others — family, friends, people they do not know — will say. “You should not have gone to his hotel room,” “your dress was too short,” “you had too much to drink,” “you wanted your job too badly.”

In addition, psychological professionals acknowledge the reality of “survivor’s  guilt” for sexual misconduct victims and others who have been abused in some way. “What did I do to cause this?” “Why did I keep quiet for two days, two months, two years, 20 years?” “Why did I remain in some sort of work or personal relationship with my abuser?”  
We will never know how many women continue to struggle with, and quietly endure, such conduct. What we do know is that what #MeToo has made breathtakingly clear is that “no” means exactly that — regardless of the context in which it is said. The New York District Attorney in Weinstein’s cases put it this way. “Rape is rape, whether it is committed by a stranger in a dark alley or by an intimate partner in a relationship. … This is the new landscape for sexual assault survivors in America.”
My guess is that Harvey Weinstein and other serial abusers wish they had learned that truth long before their well-deserved falls from the heights of money and power.


03 02 debateA longtime neighbor, a true Southern lady, would have described last week’s Democratic debate as a “pluperfect mess.” She would have been right. A debate, it was not. A shouting match, it was, leaving CBS anchors Norah O’Donall and Gayle King at their wits’ end as they struggled to moderate the chaos and control the hollering candidates. Democrats, both candidates and voters, need to get a grip on all this sooner, not later. I can think of two words that might light a fire under Democrats to stop shouting and come together.

George McGovern.
03 03 N1905P66005CHere is what North Carolina voters told pollsters from Elon University and several newspapers across our state just before North Carolina’s maiden voyage into Super Tuesday.

The deep and acrimonious political divide in our country is affecting our everyday lives. Two-thirds of us say partisan divisions make our lives uncomfortable at times.
Most of us support voter IDs at the polls.

Health issues loom large with most of us giving the U.S. health care system a grade of C.

Beneath that, more than three-fourths of us are satisfied with our health insurance.

At the same time, we say that government should be more involved with paying for health care.

Less than half of us believe our economy has improved since Donald Trump assumed the presidency.

More than two-thirds of us believe that finding housing is difficult for families earning less than $50,000 a year, and there is overwhelming
support for raising our state’s and our nation’s minimum wage.

It will be interesting to see if and how these professed opinions play out in voting booths all across our state.

Malleable politicians: As American as apple pie

04 N1405P66004CWe have come to a point in America where the overwhelming majority of politicians will say whatever they conclude will get them elected. The responsibility for this condition is not limited to politicians. Much of the blame rests with citizens.

A Google search for malleable yields this definition: “(of a metal or other material) able to be hammered or pressed permanently out of shape without breaking or cracking.” That is a reasonable characterization of the vast majority of American politicians. There are some exceptions, but they are few and far between. A prime example of how this malleable condition plays out with American politicians shows through in Mike Bloomberg’s response to outrage regarding his support for stop-and-frisk during his three terms as mayor of New York (2002-2013).

A Google search for “Stop-and-Frisk New York” gives this information: “‘Stop, question and frisk’ is an NYPD policy wherein police will detain and question pedestrians, and potentially search them, if they have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that the pedestrian in question ‘committed, is committing, or is about to commit a felony or a Penal Law misdemeanor.’” This policy was substantially employed by New York police during the time that Rudy Giuliani was mayor of the city (1994-2001). Crime in the city had started a very noticeable decline, beginning in 1991. The decline escalated during the Giuliani era. In great part, he credited stop-and-frisk for that decline. There are those who adamantly disagree with Giuliani’s assessment.

Giuliani was mayor throughout most of the 1990s and the following is from an article titled, “What Reduced Crime in New York City”, on the National Bureau of Economic Research website:

During the 1990s, crime rates in New York City dropped dramatically, even more than in the United States as a whole. Violent crime declined by more than 56 percent in the City, compared to about 28 percent in the nation as whole. Property crimes tumbled by about 65 percent, but fell only 26 percent nationally.

Bloomberg followed Giuliani as mayor and continued the policy over the course of his 12 years. Crime rates kept falling. However, many more stops were made on an annual basis than had been the case under Giuliani. This from an article titled “Stop and frisk gets renewed attention in Bloomberg candidacy’” by Regina Garcia Cano and Jennifer Peltz, appearing February 16, 2020:

The New York Police Department began increasing its emphasis on stop and frisk in the mid-1990s, when Republican Rudy Giuliani was mayor. But stops soared under Bloomberg – who held office as a Republican and later an independent — rising from about 97,000 stops in 2002 to a high of about 685,000 in 2011. There were fewer than 13,500 stops last year, according to NYPD data.

Over 80% of the people stopped during the surge of stop and frisk were black or Latino.

The surge in stops under Bloomberg, and the continued high percentage of those stopped being black or Latino, generated strong opposition to the program. Recognizing the depth of opposition, when Bloomberg was moving toward announcing his run for the presidency, he started apologizing for his support of stop-and-frisk. His first stop was a predominately African American mega church in Brooklyn, New York. This from an article by Devan Cole and Cristina Alesci titled “‘I was wrong’: Bloomberg sorry for ‘Stop and Frisk’ in about-face apology ahead of potential presidential bid”:

“Now hindsight is 20/20. But as crime continued to come down as we reduced stops and as it continued to come down during the next administration to its credit, I now see that we could and should have acted sooner. And acted faster to cut the stops. I wish we had. And I’m sorry that we didn’t,” Bloomberg said.

“But I can’t change history, however today I want you to know that I realize back then I was wrong and I’m sorry.”

In the months since his apology before that congregation, Bloomberg has repeatedly apologized in several settings. The fact of life is that, to be elected president, any Democrat will need to substantially win the black vote in the primaries and general election. Given the impact of stop-and-frisk on blacks, Bloomberg needs to separate from his 12 year full-throated support of the program. That full-throated support shows through in a recently released recording of Bloomberg talking about the why and how of it. This from an article by Julia Musto titled “Trump: Bloomberg’s ‘stop and frisk’ policy sparked a ‘revolution’ in NYC, Giuliani was a ‘far better’ mayor”:

“Ninety-five percent of murders- murderers and murder victims fit one M.O. You can just take a description, Xerox it, and pass it out to all the cops,” he said. “They are male, minorities, 16-25. That’s true in New York, that’s true in virtually every city (inaudible). And that’s where the real crime is. You’ve got to get the guns out of the hands of people that are getting killed.”

Bloomberg also said urban crime-fighting required cities to “spend the money” and “put a lot of cops in the streets,” particularly in “minority neighborhoods,” where he said the crime is. He also acknowledged the “unintended consequences” of the policy.

“So one of the unintended consequences is people say, ‘Oh my God, you are arresting kids for marijuana that are all minorities.’ Yes, that’s true. Why? Because we put all the cops in minority neighborhoods,” Bloomberg is heard saying on the recording. “Yes, that’s true. Why do we do it? Because that’s where all the crime is. And the way you get the guns out of the kids’ hands is to throw them up against the wall and frisk them... And then they start... ‘Oh I don’t want to get caught.’ So they don’t bring the gun. They still have a gun, but they leave it at home.”

I would contend that the quote above reflects Bloomberg’s strongly held position regarding stop-and-frisk. However, now that he is running for president, he proves malleable and does what the vast majority of politicians do; abandons a strongly held position even when there is a reasonable argument for the position that is being abandoned. Without doubt, the way Bloomberg said what is reported above is inflammatory, offensive, and deserving of a bunch of other negative labels. However, there is some sense to be made of his core points.

Let the record be clear: I cannot think of a scenario where I would vote for Bloomberg for any office…definitely not for president of this country. The challenge is to put that aside and honestly consider the facts of what he says: Crime is highest in minority neighborhoods; police should be more concentrated in high crime areas; male minorities commit crimes at an alarming rate; crime in New York did decrease substantially with stop-and-frisk in place; the possibility of unintended consequences should not automatically prevent taking an action.

Faced with an election-threatening public response, most politicians do what Bloomberg is doing regarding stop-and-frisk. They give in to the public will; no matter that there is substance and reason in the politician’s position regarding an issue. The public’s contribution to this response from politicians is that, in general, Americans no longer deal well with hearing and processing any truth that does not fit with their desires or personal self-interest. That’s why we have deficits and debt out of control, a Social Security System going broke, a health care system in shambles, illegal immigration flourishing, a Congress that is impotent…and that is just for starters.

We better find a lot more politicians with common sense and a backbone; while we, at the same time, find what it takes to deal with uncomfortable truth.

Houston (Astros), you have a problem! FTCC, you don’t.

02 FTCCTrojansI love sports. I specifically love baseball. After coaching 13 years, visiting The National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, and graduating from umpiring school in Austin, Texas, the game of baseball, with all its characters, history and traditions, is about as genuinely American as you can get. The excitement, anticipation, and sights and sounds of attending the season’s opening game never really leaves you. 

Now, for the first time this season, as I climbed the stairs to the top row of stadium bleachers and set my eyes on the bright green freshly cut grass embracing the newly raked infield soil of the baseball diamond, the joy and memories of experiencing America’s favorite pastime nostalgically rushed over me. That, my friends, was the feeling I had this weekend watching Joe Riddle III threw out the first pitch of Fayetteville Technical Community College’s second season opener in its new home at J.P. Riddle Stadium, Trojan Field. The stadium was built in the mid-80s through the generosity and benevolence of longtime Fayetteville resident, successful businessman and famed developer, the late J.P. Riddle Sr. and the Riddle family.

After three generations of baseball clubs — the Fayetteville Generals, the Cape Fear Crocs and the Fayetteville SwampDogs — the stadium was gifted to FTCC by Cumberland County commissioners as a sports and event complex to further the education, development and lifelong learning preparedness of FTCC students. There is little doubt the county commissioners’ decision was based on the assurance that the Riddle legacy and this valuable county recreational asset would both be maintained and utilized to the maximum benefit and enjoyment of the community. This decision was brilliant.

FTCC’s president, Dr. Larry Keen, and his competent and dedicated staff have displayed great vision and leadership. FTCC has an impeccable track record of academic success along with a reputation for unparalleled attention to detail and an exceptional commitment to excellence with every program the college engages in or develops. Again, FTCC has delivered. Trojan Field is beautiful, clean and well-manicured and will definitely be a proud showplace when it hosts thousands of out-of-town visitors during the season.

FTCC’s master plan includes opening up Trojan Field to outside commercial events as well as for use of local events like festivals, fundraisers and concerts. Congratulations to FTCC, and good luck to the Trojans. We look forward to supporting the team and spending time at Trojan Field.

Since we are talking baseball, I wanted to share my thoughts on the Astros’ sign-stealing/cheating scandal. Notice the media have dropped the adjective “alleged” when reporting on this unfortunate situation. Here’s what is bugging me. Little League opening day is right around the corner in April. At the Kiwanis Honeycutt Recreation Center, over 400 children will take to the baseball field. How many teams will be donning Astros uniforms? It’s a tough subject and situation to explain to a child, and, unfortunately, it is not going away any time soon — if ever. The Major League Baseball Houston Astros are cheaters, and baseball fans have long memories. Without a doubt, the Astros will have to deal with the realities that resulted from their bad behavior and tarnished reputations. Baseball fans can be unforgiving, and they have already been demonstrating their displeasure at spring training with a barrage of boos and jeers every time the Astros take the field or step up to the plate. And, rightfully so.

The MLB already had to issue stern warnings and penalties for pitchers who intentionally try to hit Astros batters. A serious situation? You bet. It is rumored that opposing teams are already strategizing to send their most expendable hurlers to the mound knowing that once the deed is done, they will be expelled from the game. Crazy, huh? Not only has the scandal tarnished the game, but many innocent lives have been destroyed —  not to mention the young aspiring careers that have vanished.

On the surface, there seems to be very little the Astros can do about it. Many have called for the MLB to revoke their 2017 World Series title. I agree with that. However, I doubt it will happen. Even if it did, it would not solve the dilemma. They are still cheaters and that won’t get them back into the good graces of the fans or baseball community, but I do have an idea that could be a possible solution and may start the healing process to get that crippled Astros ball club back into the good graces of the nation.

The Astros should publicly admit their wrongdoing and apologize to the baseball community. Then, they should voluntarily give up the 2017 World Series title and trophy. If they man up now, admit the wrongdoing and acknowledge how such a sinister act hurt the game of baseball by sacrificing the title, I have little doubt that over time, the fans and the baseball community would see the honor, sacrifice and dignity of such an action. Lesson learned. And, we all can be pretty confident it won’t ever happen again. I fear that unless this sincere action is taken, the Houston Astros’ reputation and brand have been damaged beyond repair.

Think about it. Anyone can make a mistake and ask forgiveness, but once you’re branded an unrelenting cheater, it’s a hard moniker to lose and it will make the Astros vulnerable to years of boos and jeers. The only way out is for them to do the right thing — now — or live with the consequences.

 We are thankful that all FTCC sports programs put an emphasis on character development. Let’s play ball!

Thanks for reading Up & Coming Weekly.

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