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A response to Dr. Anderson’s ‘Attack on city leaders was unwarranted’

02 01 city of fay logoThe July 31 edition of The Fayetteville Observer ran an opinion piece by Dr. James Anderson, former chancellor of Fayetteville State University, rebutting a Publisher’s Pen printed in Up & Coming Weekly July 21. Former contributor to UCW, Karl Merritt, took issue with some of Anderson’s points and reached out to both The Observer and UCW. He shares his thoughts below.

On Sunday evening, Aug. 2, I read an opinion piece by Dr. James Anderson, former chancellor of Fayetteville State University. His comments appeared in the 31 July edition of The Fayetteville Observer. Primarily, Dr. Anderson very strongly condemned what Bill Bowman, publisher of Up & Coming Weekly newspaper, wrote in a column titled, “Leadership: What Fayetteville needs now.” It appeared in the 21 July issue.

Almost five years ago, Bill Bowman invited me to write a column for his newspaper. We agreed that I would do so. My column was in the paper every other week until just recently when I ended it in order to take on some other projects. Over the years, I got to know Bill Bowman; got to see his love for others and for Fayetteville. I also quickly grew to appreciate his willingness to speak forthrightly regarding the challenging issues of our time. Consequently, reading what Dr. Anderson wrote was a gut-wrenching experience.

The following paragraph from Bill’s column gives a good feel for what apparently sent Anderson on his tear. Bowman writes that there is “… plotting to take away our freedoms and our country.”

The next paragraph says: “Fayetteville is only one microcosm of that malicious movement, and it boils down to our leadership. Or, in Fayetteville’s case, our lack of leadership. Mayor Mitch Colvin and Police Chief Gina Hawkins have perpetrated a harsh injustice on our community by not implementing and demonstrating leadership that is representative of the safety and well-being of all the citizens of the Fayetteville community. By encouraging, endorsing and siding with the protesting Black community, they left the white, Asian, Hispanic and Native American Fayetteville citizens wondering what happened to their representation and assurance of safety and protection?”

Anderson starts by accusing Bowman of “confounding several things.” I read the publisher’s point to be succinct. He says Mayor Colvin and Police Chief Gina Hawkins failed this community when they did not allow police and other appropriate personnel to stop the damage to property that took place during a protest downtown on May 30. That is a statement of fact. Mayor Colvin has made it clear that a decision was made not to attempt to stop the damaging of buildings. His argument was that the consequences would likely have been made worse by police intervention. The problem with that assessment is that government had a responsibility to protect those downtown properties. Failure to do so rightfully allows for questioning city leadership.

Then comes three comments from Anderson regarding Bowman’s statement that the actions “perpetrated a harsh injustice on our community.” The first contends that “leaders should be evaluated on their complete portfolio of work and not single incidents.” I contend that failure to protect those properties was so egregious that, taken alone, there is sufficient reason to question the quality and fairness of city leadership. However, go on to consider the chaos created by how city leadership has, and is, handling calls for tearing down the Market House, building the North Carolina Civil War & Reconstruction History Center, protesters camping out at the Market House to the detriment of downtown businesses, and promoting a climate conducive to economic growth. None of these issues are being addressed in a productive and unifying fashion.

Then Dr. Anderson writes, “Second, we have no right to assign motives for their actions if we have not asked them.” For all the time that I have been writing for publication, it has been my practice to give individuals about whom I write an opportunity to give me input. I have gone so far as to allow subjects to review my text for accuracy. I have consistently followed this process with Mayor Colvin. After the first couple of exchanges, when the mayor obviously disagreed with my opinions, he stopped responding to my email offers to consider his input.

The latest instance of no response from Mayor Colvin was an email I sent to him and all members of Council. It was sent on 16 July 2020. To date, I have not heard from the mayor. In fact, only a minuscule number of Council members have bothered to respond. That email offered each of them an opportunity to address an opinion piece that I am writing and the email summarized my focus as follows (The full email is available at karlmerritt.com under “Blog”.) “The focus is on how individuals, governmental officials, and various entities have responded, and continue to respond, in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. It seems to me that the resulting efforts are so heavily focused on various conditions allegedly negatively affecting Black Americans that the white population is being neglected while, even worse, being painted as the enemy. Note, I am not alone in this thinking. I saw a post on Nextdoor recently where a lady said exactly the same thing. She and I are not alone.”

The point here is that I have zero belief that Mayor Colvin would have responded if Bill Bowman had attempted to contact him. Further, from reliable media reports and input from people in the downtown area, Bowman had sound substantiation for everything he wrote.

After a brief third point commending people who take on major responsibilities, Anderson moves to the prevailing argument that there are genuine protesters, then rioters and looters. Then comes his contention that because rioters and looters constitute a smaller percentage than the protesters, there should be conversation as to how their disruptions might be addressed. It would appear to me the first step should be to stop them from damaging the property of other people, while adversely impacting livelihoods. As to conversation, it would be interesting to see what groups would actually be invited and which voices would seriously be heard. In today’s environment, my guess is that white Americans need not expect an invitation and, if invited, should not speak unless they follow the Black Lives Matter script.

In the event all else fails, now Bowman gets hit with the race card. Anderson writes, “This is not the first time that Bill has applied the broad brushstrokes of race to indict a Black person.” Without giving the Black person’s name, he recounts how Bowman “…placed a Black man’s face on the cover of his newspaper and inserted this man’s face onto a facsimile of a wanted poster. This person’s purported crime was that he was running for public office while being investigated for some questionable personal quandaries.”

He is referring to Tyrone Williams, who was serving on Fayetteville City Council in early 2018. Following is a section from an article in The Fayetteville Observer by Greg Barnes titled, “Williams resigns council seat”:
“Williams came under fire nearly a month ago after The Fayetteville Observer published a secret audio recording of a December meeting during which he told a developer that he could resolve a minor issue with a property title for $15,000. The council immediately asked Williams to resign. When he refused, the council began a process of forcible removal that would have taken a few months.”

Williams was forced from office because of his action that Dr. Anderson characterizes as “some questionable personal quandaries.” He further minimizes the situation by saying that, to his knowledge, Williams has never been convicted. Was it wise for Bill Bowman to use that wanted poster in America’s “with no proof or fairness, racist around every corner” atmosphere? No. Does it show him to be racist? Absolutely not.

Finally, Anderson challenges Bowman’s contention that people are afraid to speak up; Bill lays those fears out. Anderson apparently thinks Bill’s comments here only apply to white citizens. I know, firsthand, that what he says in this regard is absolutely true. I hear it from Black and white citizens. The unsettling treatment I receive as a conservative Black Republican would apparently shock Dr. Anderson. Anybody who follows Bill Bowman’s advice and speaks up better be prepared for rough seas; but he is right, we better speak up and take action.

I have tremendous respect for Dr. James Anderson, but I will not be quiet in the face of his unjustified broadside on Bill Bowman.

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Picture: Spirited debate is a sign of a healthy democracy and has the power to bridge differences and influence change.
Up & Coming Weekly encourages the civil public discourse of ideas, which is a hallmark of our great republic.

The gift of marriage

16 N1907P37002CMy wife and I share a date with one of America's most memorable and celebrated events.

On the 20th of July in 1969, America claimed its place in history as the Apollo Lunar Module Eagle landed and the first human walked on the face of the moon. We heard those famous words, “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” as they were first spoken and television news large and small worked tirelessly to deliver even the most minute detail of the historic event to a waiting world.

Just 10 years later, on July 20, 1979, Dorothy Aafedt said, “I do” in a remarkably unremarkable ceremony. Unlike the NASA mission, there were no television crews, no microphones or calculated illustrations — just a pair of kids surrounded by a couple of friends and family in a courtroom in southern Arizona. At the time, it seemed like a small step, but it has proven to be a giant leap as we've continued to mark time since that date. We recently celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary, and it's given me cause to reflect on all that's transpired since our historic first steps.

Time has allowed us several years in Europe with our three children and a home on both the east and west coasts of the United States. The small, quiet union of two youngsters from Kansas gave way to an eventual family of 18 — counting grandchildren and spouses. All but one now call North Carolina home.

As a military family, we share memories of being diverted en route — never once landing at our intended destination at the point of our departure. We've relocated to Germany as our belongings relocated to Okinawa and have lived in hotels and motels on two continents, while making new friends time and again.

Over the course of the last four decades, one thing has become evident: there is nothing more important in a marriage than the relationship between husband and wife. When other things became more important, such as careers, children, and personal pursuits, trouble isn't far behind. Though I've failed miserably at this on occasion, the facts show that when we make the relationship our top priority, the marriage
flourishes.

Just like any other married couple, we've had our share of trials. From the lack of to the abundance of money to devastating loss and health crises, we've navigated a lot of territory in the past four decades. And honestly, I don't know how we would have fared had we not put our faith in Christ early in the game.

God has proven trustworthy. When we faced struggles, we've been able to lean on the promise that there is more to this life than living and dying or meeting and missing bills. Even death has stared us in the face, but with God in our corner, though our knees have gotten weak at times, we never blinked.

America against God

05 N2008P39008CThe presence of ungodly mobs on the streets of many American cities, every night, is clear proof of the miseducation which has been taking place in our education system.

The great sacrifices made by earlier generations of Americans have been forgotten by much of the present generation.

Forgotten too, were the great godly principles, this great nation was founded upon.

The past great contributions America has made to this world (are) all but forgotten. Without America’s contributions in feeding many parts of this world, and in defeating many past evil enemies in the world, this world would be in terrible shape. We need to thank God for this nation, and we also need to thank America for trying to follow God’s principles.

America needs to get back to God and to the just laws and principles set forth by him. Obviously, rioting, looting, burning, disrespecting and killing law enforcement (and) fellow human beings are just the opposite of what God commands his created human world to do.

You should have been taught that at home and in school.

Unfortunately, for America, too many ungodly people were placed in the Supreme Court of America, and they voted God out of schools and government places.

That was not all their ungodly decisions. They also went against God’s laws and legalized the killing of unborn babies and other abominations, such as same-sex marriage.

Once upon a time, laws required schools to teach about God and his word (the Bible). Now because of Court decisions, they cannot.

Now a large part of America does not know about God, eternal life and eternal damnation. Because they do not know, they will eventually spend eternity in hell, and the lake of fire. Two places, one would not want to be in for eternity.

Manuel Ybarra Jr.

Protect yourself against financial scammers

06 N2004P32005CIt’s unfortunate but true: During this period of economic uncertainty, one of the busiest “industries” has been financial scamming. It goes on even during normal times, so you’ll want to know what to look for and how to defend yourself.

For starters, just how widespread is financial fraud? Consider this: In 2019, more than 3.2 million fraud cases were reported to the Federal Trade Commission, with identity theft being the most common type of fraud, accounting for about one-fifth of the overall cases. And fraudulent new accounts — mortgages, student loans, car loans and credit cards — amounted to about $3.4 billion in 2018, according to a study by Javelin Strategy & Research.

To prevent yourself from being victimized, consider the following suggestions. They are certainly not exhaustive, but they should prove useful.

• Watch out for unsecure websites. Make sure a website is secure before entering any payment or personal information. Look for sites that start with HTTPS, rather than those with just HTTP, which are not secure and can be hacked. But even a site with HTTPS can still be used by scammers, so, if you don’t recognize the name of the company or group that’s requesting your information, do some research to make sure it’s legitimate.

• Review your credit reports. As mentioned above, the fraudulent opening of new accounts is a big source of financial scams. To be sure nobody has opened new accounts under your name, try to review your credit reports at least once a year. You can get them for free at AnnualCreditReport.com.

• Follow up on fraud. If you’ve already been victimized by having new accounts opened in your name, contact one of the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax or TransUnion) and place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit file.

Government’s basic tasks need doing

04 andre hunter 5otlbgWJlLs unsplashOne morning in late March, I drove from my home in Southern Wake County to my office in North Raleigh to pick up some files so I could work from home. As I exited the Beltline onto Six Forks Road, I noticed a deer lying beneath the overpass, the apparent victim of a high-speed impact.

It’s a familiar sight on the side of the road, in urban or rural areas, and I thought little about it at the time. I assumed it would be cleaned up by the next time I drove to my office.

But it wasn’t. I saw it again and again. By mid-April, it occurred to me that with so many folks sheltering at home or otherwise distracted by the COVID-19 crisis, dead animals in public rights-of-way were probably going unreported. So I perused the city’s website, phoned the number I found, and then spent a frustrating half an hour trying to get to the right person after multiple transfers and a couple of dropped calls.

I finally succeeded. I assumed the deer would be gone within days. It wasn’t. Several weeks later, I called the city again, got cut off again, and after some insistence was given the opportunity to report the dead animal a second time.

As of Friday, July 24, the badly decomposed deer was still beneath the overpass, at one of the most-traveled intersections in North Carolina’s capital city, its skull twisted at an extreme angle into what looks like a mocking smile.

At this point, it would be very easy to launch into an extended rant about government inefficiency. It shouldn’t take multiple calls and the navigational skills of Ferdinand Magellan to reach the requisite public employee during a workday. There ought to be some other way to produce a work order. Then it should be acted on.

But as I’ve watched that carcass rot, throughout the spring and into the middle of summer, it has come to represent more than just garden-variety bureaucratic inertia.

Why haven’t I just carried it off myself? I don’t own a pickup truck but I know plenty of friends who do. Alas, private initiative isn’t an option here. The overpass in question is too dangerous, with high-speed traffic during the day and limited visibility at night. Even taking a snapshot of the carcass, as I did Friday morning, proved to be a harrowing experience. At least the right lane of this public highway needs to be blocked off by those duly authorized to exercise public authority, so that what’s left of the deer can be safely removed.

That neither city nor state workers have yet performed this straightforward task is emblematic, it seems to me, of a deeper issue. We are experiencing both a public-health crisis and an economic recession. Hundreds of thousands are out of work. In several of our cities, including Raleigh, heartfelt protests have devolved into destructive riots. North Carolinians feel divided, anxious and, in some cases, desperate.

Handling just one of these problems would be challenging. Facing them all at once, interrelated and seemingly intractable, surely feels overwhelming. But we cannot let them overwhelm us — overwhelm our leaders, our governments, our private institutions, our communities, our families.

Becoming distracted, distraught, or distrustful will help no one. We all have critical roles to play and jobs to do. We must be resilient and resolute, giving each other the benefit of the doubt when it comes to motives while also holding each other responsible for results.

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that our governments and other social institutions are rotten. They haven’t languished long enough on the metaphorical side of the metaphorical road to reach that condition. But can you truly say you aren’t worried about their future soundness and vitality?

I can’t. And there is a now-putrefied deer in North Carolina’s state capital, at the intersection of Six Forks Road and the Beltline, that reminds me of those worries on a regular basis.

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