I appreciated Robin Kirk’s My View column on the decline of the death penalty in North Carolina (TDN, Feb. 26). However, there were many players not mentioned and one in particular, responsible for that path: The Rev. Robert Seymour.
Rev. Seymour, a long-time death penalty abolitionist, founded People Of Faith Against the Death Penalty. He asked me to introduce a bill in the legislature for a moratorium, using research by law professor Jack Boger and sociology professor Gerald Uno, showing the death penalty was used disproportionately against blacks, especially those who killed whites.
He and Steve Dear, director of People Of Faith, set into motion the power of people all over the state – faith directed, organizations, businesses, newspaper editors – swamping the legislature with thousands of communications and meeting with their legislators. The Senate debate was shaped by members’ consciences, not party affiliation, in what one senator said was the most meaningful debate ever heard on the floor. President Pro Tem Marc Basnight, presiding that day, stated that he would support the bill, a brave move for a politician of his stature. The bill passed the Senate, but sadly, did not make it through the House.
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Even though the moratorium bill did not become law, meaningful changes arose from the debate. First, the execution of the mentally retarded was prohibited, even before the Supreme Court banned it. Prosecutors were no longer required to seek the death penalty for first-degree murder, instead allowing life without parole, prosecutors have to turn over all exculpatory evidence to the defense, two expert defense attorneys are required, line-ups have to reflect both races, and indigent defense was created to provide expert witnesses and to help defense attorneys try cases.
Perhaps someday, although not soon with today’s politics, North Carolina will abolish the death penalty, thus fulfilling Rev. Seymour’s greatest goal.
Rail would connect people, jobs
Public transportation has always been important in my life.
When I was a child living in Cleveland, Ohio, my mom and I were supported by my father’s minimum-wage income. The cars we owned were unreliable and I often had to take the bus with my mom to do errands. I started working when I was 14 and only applied to jobs that I could walk, bike, or take the bus to. Access to transit was literally the difference between employment and unemployment for me.
When I moved to Chapel Hill for grad school, my boyfriend (now husband) moved here with me. He initially had trouble finding work in his field, and with neither one of us employed full-time, we could not afford to buy a new car. So he had to search for part-time work in areas transit-accessible to Chapel Hill until he found full-time employment and could afford a car. This was very limiting. One of the part-time jobs he found was in downtown Durham, where the proposed light rail would go. It takes well over an hour to get there by bus and if my husband worked a late shift and missed the last bus, it was an expensive cab ride home. Eventually, he was able to find a full-time job, but that was a stressful time in our lives.
Lack of access to transportation is a major barrier to getting out of poverty. The proposed light rail and improvements in bus service in the transit plan will help connect people to jobs.
Light rail good for students
As a student at UNC, I know how useful transit is to our community. Many of us depend on buses to get to and from class, and bus service is a big factor in where we choose to live. However, our transit connections to the rest of Triangle are not as strong. The Durham Orange Light Rail Transit line would make it easier for students to visit or live in Durham. It would also increase connections between UNC, Duke, and N.C. Central, which would encourage more innovation and cooperation.
It’s not just students who would benefit from this project. Employees at Carolina would benefit from more connections to campus. There is a lack of parking on campus, and many employees cannot afford to live in Chapel Hill. For those living in Durham, light rail could be the solution to their commute issues. DOLRT would connect directly to campus from multiple stations in Durham, with multiple park and ride lots at these stations.
Finally, light rail would be beneficial for both congestion and the environment. Leaving campus during rush hour is a frustrating experience that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. With light rail as an option, cars could be removed from the road and commute times could clear up a bit. With the growth of alternative energy sources, light rail is less likely to have an impact on our environment compared to gasoline. Light rail is an investment in our future, and we should invest in a way that minimizes the impact on our environment. Light rail would benefit both the town and the gown, and we should support it.
Crystal ball protection
Sen. Rand Paul, a doctor, (R-KY) has just introduced an Obamacare replacement (S.222, the Obamacare Replacement Act).
This freedom-loving bill empowers us to take control over our health care needs and rising insurance costs by tapping our psychic abilities. Who needs Obamacare’s “government dictates” when magic is in the air?
“If your crystal ball doesn’t portend pancreatic cancer, pick this skimpy low-cost coverage. If tick-borne lyme disease or liver destroying Hepatitis C is not in the cards, choose this high-deductible bargain. If you don’t have sweaty night visions of stepping off a curb into the path of a bus, this is the $25,000 lifetime capped budget plan for you.”
I thought the whole point of health insurance is that we can’t predict the future, therefore we need protection against any number of unforeseen illnesses or injuries that can land us in the poorhouse, or worse, an early grave.
Sen. Paul’s crystal ball approach to health insurance reform mocks the very existence of an industry he insists we can’t live without ... an industry no longer capable of delivering as promised.
Keep it up, senator. You’re making a solid case for single-payer (Medicare-for-all).
Where were our senators?
Where were North Carolina’s senators? I am disappointed neither Sen. Thom Tillis nor Sen. Richard Burr held a town hall during the President’s Day recess.
In my opinion, choosing against a town hall is a missed opportunity. North Carolina is a purple state. I suggest that no party has a mandate to govern – Sen. Burr won by only a 5.8 percent margin (one of the 10 narrowest margins in 2016 Senate races). Citizens – myself included – have demonstrated an interest with phone calls, letters, public meetings and more. If those are the essential duties of a citizen, I contend hosting a town hall falls under our Senator’s essential duties.
Apart from cabinet positions and the Supreme Court, I wanted to discuss Tillis’ experiences on the Judiciary Committee and Burr’s plan for the Intelligence Committee. I was ready to listen and provide feedback.
I get it – they wanted to avoid what could be an uncomfortable meeting. But this avoidance only fuels the feeling of unrest. Not only do I feel unheard, but I am also insulted our senators chose to shirk their responsibility.
Time to replace bath house
I was unable to attend the Feb. 13 Coffee with Council Meeting at the Hillandale Resource Center, but want to convey my support for the replacement of the Duke Park Bath House with an Open Air Pavilion.
The Duke Park Bath House has been boarded up since late 1993 when the pool closed, over 23 years ago! It is a minor miracle that it has not been vandalized or burned to the ground.
Please make 2017 the year that this decaying structure is replaced with the picnic/pavilion plans that were developed for the sight and approved by the Duke Park Neighborhood Association.
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