Patsy Keever for NC House 115

I’ve endorsed Patsy Keever in the current primary race for NC House District 115, basically southeast Buncombe County. Click below to hear radio ads PARC Political Action Committee will be running on local stations. Ads run from $15 to $65 each. Your contributions to my campaign this week will go directly to funding those radio ads. Listen for them on WPEK 880AM and WQNQ 104.3FM. Thanks for helping us to elect a progressive representative from Buncombe County. Click on the Donate tab at the top of this page.

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Today’s op-ed in the Asheville Citizen-Times

Liberty and justice for all
by Cecil Bothwell
A “conversation” about my proposed civil liberties resolution has been stirred to a froth in recent weeks by noisy naysayers. To date there is no final draft of the proposal, since I am still collecting feedback from law enforcement, legal experts and the community as I fashion a more concise document, but that hasn’t stopped the critics.

While it is easy to dismiss much of the hoopla as transparently racist or jingoist, questions raised by more respectable critics warrant a response. For example, a Citizen-Times editorial published April 11 offered a broad brush dismissal of the idea by asking, “Is there any ‘there’ to much of this resolution? After all, there’s no firm federal definition of a ‘sanctuary city.’”

The question reveals an editorial writer as unfamiliar with my draft proposal as any wild-eyed rumormonger on the Web. While I endorsed the sanctuary city concept during my campaign, the words “sanctuary city” do not appear anywhere in the resolution, and the immigration issue is a tiny slice of the whole.

Further on the editorial states, “it’s hard to say what, if anything, the bulk of Bothwell’s resolution would accomplish at all. The time might be better spent fixing the things a City Council can fix.”

Given that the paper has failed to inform readers what the bulk of my resolution entails, it’s hard to say what readers might glean from such an assertion. As for time spent, no official time has been spent by Council on this matter to date, and once a final draft is prepared, debate and a vote will consume some small portion of one formal meeting. Others may be squandering an inordinate amount of time venting their spleen, but it hasn’t cost Council a New York minute.

I have advocated Council endorsement of a civil liberties resolution since passage of the USAPATRIOT Act in 2001. The Act threatened severe encroachment on rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and resulted in widespread domestic spying. I am hardly alone in my concern. The illegality of some of that surveillance was affirmed in the March 31 decision of Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker which ruled that the Bush administration had engaged in illegal wiretapping of a charitable organization.

Three of the six bullet points in my draft resolution directly address such illegal spying on legal activities.

The fact that a civil liberties resolution would merely reaffirm federal law and current local practice offers no argument against endorsement. Each month Council affirms its support for one cause or a few in proclamations ranging from child abuse to “government in the sunshine” or participation in the Census. Moreover, as applied to immigration law, this proposal would have real practical effect—making the Asheville Police Department’s non-participation in what is known as “287(g)” a matter of stated policy rather than administrative choice.

A just-released report concerning 287(g) by the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General found that: the Department has failed to establish appropriate performance measures and targets to determine whether program results are aligned with program goals; failed to develop guidance for supervising ICE officers; failed to provide adequate program oversight; not fulfilled its duty to establish a thorough review and selection process for law enforcement agencies requesting to participate in the 287(g) program; failed to establish data collection and reporting requirements to address civil rights and civil liberties concerns; not provided adequate training programs; failed to provide accurate and honest program information to Congress and the public; and not standardized 287(g) officers’ access to DHS information systems. The report reinforced the findings of the Police Foundation that local enforcement of federal law undermines public safety.

There is good reason for our constitutionally mandated separation of powers, and we blur that line at our peril. Tax cheaters are far more prevalent in our country than undocumented immigrants and arguably do far more financial harm. Those demanding that local police be deputized as federal officers might do well to ask themselves if their enthusiasm extends to APD enforcement of Internal Revenue Service rules.

In a broader context affirmation of civil liberties extends well beyond a handful of recent immigrants in our community. “Driving while black” or ” … brown” or ” … gay” or “…while displaying controversial bumperstickers” do not demonstrably result in excess traffic stops under the leadership of Police Chief Bill Hogan. But there exists the perception that such preferential enforcement exists. Affirming Asheville’s support for equal treatment under the law and innocence until proven guilty is to stand for essential protections accorded all of us under Constitutional law. My proposal would simpy affirm your rights regardless of race, skin color, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, religious or political opinion or activity, or immigration status.

Did I leave anyone out?

From my latest newsletter

My first three months on Council have proven to be fun, time consuming and educational. I’ve made at least one serious mistake (viz: a Planning & Zoning Commission appointment oversight) and learned a lot about the City, the community and Council procedure.

This week I announced a new sidewalk initiative I’ve dubbed Z-Link (more info below). In brief, it is a volunteer effort to reconnect existing sidewalks throughout the City.

I’ve begun to advance the Civil Liberties Resolution I first announced in my February newsletter. In order to create an effective resolution with broad-based support, I’ve sought feedback from the Asheville Buncombe Community Relations Council, Police Chief Bill Hogan, Sheriff Van Duncan, City Attorney Bob Oast, several lawyers, civil liberties organizations including the WNC ACLU, UNCA ACLU, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (Washington, DC), Nuestro Centro, Coalición de Latino-Organizaciones Americanas and others.

While the goal of the proposal is broad protection of everyone’s Constitutional rights, with particular emphasis on ensuring that law enforcement officers do not preferentially target anyone for arrest, surveillance or record keeping based on race, ethnicity, gender or gender-orientation, religious beliefs or practice, political affiliation or immigration status, it is the latter which has drawn right-wing outrage. (An entirely predictable reaction.)

My two reasons for specifying that Asheville law enforcement not participate in federal immigration enforcement have not been successfully challenged by any of the numerous naysayers on talk radio, in the blogosphere or in print.

1. A 2010 Police Foundation study established that cities where local police do not participate in federal immigration enforcement (the 287(g) program) are SAFER than cities which have joined the program. Furthermore, a new study by the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security has identified multiple serious problems with its 287(g) program, and concurs that non-participating cities are safer. Both results uphold conclusions in a 2009 study by the NC ACLU which showed that the law was having unintended and detrimental effects in North Carolina communities.

2. An Immigration Policy Roundtable formed by the Kenan Institute at Duke University and the Brookings Institution, consisting of a bipartisan group with widely divergent ideas about immigration, agreed on some basic policy ideas which are being advanced at the national level. These include better workplace identification and verification as well as speeded up naturalization for workers who have been in the U.S. for five years or more. The key point of agreement among the 20 participants was that immigrant labor is absolutely essential to the North Carolina economy. Managing immigration and finding ways to smooth the rapidly changing cultural reality in our communities must be a priority. Putting up barriers between the immigrant community and our law enforcement agencies is counterproductive and works against our collective economic interest.

I have advocated Council endorsement of a civil liberties resolution since passage of the USAPATRIOT Act in 2001. The Act threatened severe encroachment on rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution and resulted in widespread domestic spying. I am hardly alone in my concern. The illegality of some of that surveillance was affirmed in the March 31 decision of Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker which ruled that the Bush administration had engaged in illegal wiretapping of a charitable organization.

Three of the six bullet points in my draft resolution directly address such illegal spying on legal activities.

I hope you will join me in working to protect all of the rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, as I affirmed I would do when I was sworn into office.
***
Z-Link
I delivered a kick-off presentation of Z-Link, a new volunteer sidewalk restoration project on Monday, April 12 at the regular meeting of the Coalition of Asheville Neighborhoods.

Asheville has two sidewalk problems. The big, expensive problem involves too few sidewalks in too many places. Extending our sidewalk system is urgent and will take time and money. The other problem involves existing sidewalks that have been neglected for years, and fixing those sidewalks is a matter we can literally take into our own hands. Sidewalks are an essential piece of a sustainable transit system, the piece which enables everyone to access transit routes.

The Z-Link initiative is a coordinated volunteer effort that will launch in coming weeks. The goal is to reconnect existing sidewalks that have been obstructed by eroded dirt, weeds and encroaching shrubs. A perfectly useful sidewalk that runs for ten blocks can be rendered impassable to those in wheel chairs or with mobility issues simply because dirt has eroded and mounded up in front of one vacant lot. We have the X portion and the Y portion but a real problem with the Z. Volunteers can step up to reclaim the Z-Link.

I’ve teamed up with People Advocating Real Conservancy with our campaign fund providing trash bags and PARC providing tools. Z-Link will enable citizens, neighborhood by neighborhood to reclaim their sidewalks through weekend work parties. At the same time, volunteers will be encouraged to take note of more serious problems such as broken pavement, missing bricks and other repairs which require attention from the City’s Public Works Department.

Platform 2010

From the grassroots up!
I have continued to work toward the goals outlined in my City Council campaign platform last year, including: green energy retrofits and resource conservation; new rules for downtown and steep slope development; guarantees of civil liberties; a living wage for city contractors; domestic partner benefits for city employees; and more. (Scroll down or click on the sidebar links for more details.)
 
Today I’m focused on the 2010 Democratic Party platform. This week we’ll be conducting precinct meetings in Buncombe County. Many will be held on March 1, but schedules will vary. (Check with your Precinct Chair, or contact the Democratic Party.) I’m outgoing Chair of Precinct 3, and we’ll meet Sunday, Feb. 28, at 4 p.m. at St. Marks Lutheran Church. Precinct meetings are normally held in the same location where you vote. Click here to check your precinct meeting.
 
Precinct meetings are where grassroots initiatives can be introduced that can become Platform Planks for the county, district, state and national party. You and your neighbors can discuss and vote on the ideas you’d like to see play out in Asheville, Raleigh and Washington, DC! Get active! Devote an hour or so to our common future!

My Platform Suggestions
Here are the ideas I’m taking to my Precinct meeting. Feel free to share them (or contradict them—this is where the democratic rubber hits the road.)
 
Platform ideas for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District
 
• Whereas marriage strengthens the social fabric by forming more stable social and financial ties, the Democratic Party fully endorses marriage. Marriage must be freely chosen and freely agreed to. Government must never dictate who can marry whom.
 
• Whereas modern health care is a community concern with wide ranging social implications, the Democratic Party fully endorses universal single payer health insurance. A healthy populace is an important part of a healthy community and like every other industrialized nation in the world we deserve universal single payer health insurance. Until we achieve that goal, the Democratic Party endorses creation of a strong public option in any health care reform plan.
 
• Whereas it is urgent that we move to a lower energy, green economy as rapidly as possible, increasing local production of industrial material and reducing our dependence on foreign oil, the Democratic Party endorses legalization of the cultivation and manufacture of industrial hemp. Hempcrete, a combined structural and insulating material, has been demonstrated to substantially reduce construction and operating costs in buildings. This joins a long and well known list of economically and environmentally beneficial uses for hemp, and industrial hemp could be a very significant cash crop for N.C. farmers.
 
• Whereas cap and trade emissions programs elsewhere have proven difficult to manage and verify, the Democratic Party endorses creation of a carbon tax system to encourage energy conservation in a manner that will be equitable for all businesses and consumers.
 
• Whereas the minimum wage has fallen behind increases in the cost of living in the U.S. for many years, the Democratic Party endorses an immediate increase in the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour with an increase to $12 over the next four years.
 
• Whereas the global recession has inflicted serious damage to the U.S. economy and whereas the wars in the mideast have imposed unsupportable costs on U.S. taxpayers, the Democratic Party endorses an immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from both Afghanistan and Iraq. We should no longer squander American lives and American treasure on those wars. The Afghan government is hopelessly corrupt, the so-called “country” is a fiction imposed by England in another century on a region that has no historic unity and attempts to control the region have beggared empires through the centuries. Meanwhile, Iraq has stabilized after our imprudent invasion and it is time to exit. The only nation-building we need to do is right here at home.
 
• Whereas the U.S. Supreme Court accidentally conferred personhood on corporations in the 1800s, and has expanded corporate intrusion into the nation’s political life in the years since, the Democratic Party endorses a return to the corporate laws formulated by our nation’s founders. Corporate charters should be of fixed duration, generally no longer than seven years, renewable upon documentary demonstration of meaningful public benefit.