Tuesday, October 31, 2017



            Well here we are, another odd numbered-year November, and another municipal election in Wilmington and surrounding cities across New Hanover County.
            A year ago at this time, everyone was so souped up about who was going to win the presidential election. Well, we know how that ended, and yet, truth be told, who won has little to do with the quality of life, or lack thereof, we have here in the port city.
            The president of the United States is not concerned with economic development in Wilmington’s black community, nor is the office concerned with how our black neighborhoods have been gentrified, or the need for more affordable housing.
            No, those issues are best handled by whomever we elect as our mayor and city council. Those issues are their territory, and they are directly accountable to the taxpayers of the city of Wilmington.
            They are elected to appropriately address our concerns and problems. They are responsible for governing our Wilmington Police Dept. They are responsible for setting the policies by which city government can operate by.
            We need more black police officers, NOT more riot gear and military equipment  to cause trouble with.
            It’s our City Council that decides that.
            More small black businesses want to open in downtown and across the city, and they need all of the assistance the city can give them.
            Again, it’s our City Council that sets the policy to make that happen.
            In turn, the more black businesses are helped to grow, the more employment there can be for citizens looking to work, and earn their way out of poverty.
            Wouldn’t a Wilmington City Council that is truly sensitive to answering our community’ employment and small business needs be just the ticket to improving the overall quality of life here?
            There are nine candidates running for City Council, and three of them are black. Now we are not going to recommend that you go out either during the early voting period, which ends this Saturday at 1 p.m, or to the polls on Tuesday, Nov. 7th Election Day, starting at  6:30 a.m., and vote solely for the three black candidates just because they’re black.
            As a people, and a community, we’ve historically been on the business end of racial voting when the tables are more often than not, flipped against us. Our job as voters, is to know the issues most important to our community, know what ALL of the candidates are saying regarding our issues, and then choosing the BEST candidates, based on their stated positions.
            Sometimes it doesn’t always work the way we would like, but that’s why voting has two key parts to it. First, we decide, abased on personal analysis, who the best candidates deserving of our support should be, and then secondly, if that candidate wins, we work hard to keep he or she accountable to our community for the support given.
            To be blunt, if you do one without the other, you’re wasting your time!
            You want a better community? Of course you do, but it takes work on everyone’s part, because ALL of us want better, and expect better from our Wilmington City Council. Hey, these candidates are all on job interviews, and they’re asking us to hire them because they say they are qualified.
            Our job is to decide who to hire, but our job is also to then make sure they know what the job we hired them for is, and that they do it to the best of their ability.
            So, now, during early voting period until this Saturday until 1 p.m., or on Tuesday, Nov. 7th, with polls opening at 6:30 am, ALL of us have important decisions to make about WHO WILL SERVE US on the Wilmington City Council.
            It is extremely important that our community know the issues, and is unified in electing the best candidates to address them.
            This election is when we decide, NOT divide!
            Early voting/same – day registration hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 2nd and 3rd; 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 4th at the Board of Elections, 230 Government Center Drive, Suite 38 in Wilmington.
            Tuesday, Nov. 7th Election Day hours at all precincts in the city open at 6:30 a.m., and close at 7:30 p.m..
            Last word on all of this – VOTE!


By Cash Michaels

The other day I was perusing Facebook to see what interesting tidbits people were writing about, or nuggets of news people were reacting to (I find those most interesting). 
Then I came across a post by one of my nieces, who I think very highly of. She was opining about the fact that apparently some people have accused her of “talking white,” and this seemed to bother her, though she was quick to dismiss them, and in my opinion, rightfully so.
My niece is a young woman, so I doubt if folks in her generation have ever heard the term “code-switching,” or know what it means. Black folks in my generation, who mostly came up in the 1960’s, know only too well what “code-switching” means, and I dare say it’s a skill that just doesn’t apply to African-Americans, as you’ll see in a minute.
Code-switching is how black people are able to appropriately adapt to the different circumstances they find themselves in, and effectively communicate accordingly. So, for instance, being a black man of age 61, appropriately educated, generally skilled, professionally trained and having been “around the block” a few times in various settings, I feel that I’m able to be conversant with just about anyone I come in contact with, as long as they are speaking (or at least trying to speak) what they call “the King’s English.”
Thus, when I have to be “Cash Michaels” in various settings, either meeting the public, or being on a radio or television interview, or conversing with my media colleagues or asking questions of a public official, I instantly “code-switch’ to be able to adequately and appropriately do my job. Indeed most black people I know are able to do the same thing, depending on what they do professionally, and that’s a good thing.
But some folks would call that “talking white.”
Then, when I’m home, talking with my family, the “professional” code is no longer appropriate, and I just …talk, being more relaxed (assuming there’s nothing to get upset about). Now if I have to jump on the phone per business, I’ll code-switch in a heartbeat, but generally at home, I’m more laid-back in my speech and tone.
Again, most black folks I know are like this.
If I’m talking to an old friend from “around the way, back in the day…,” I definitely code-switch to an even more relaxed tone and texture than what I have even at home, and indeed, that’s where my “Black side” may show itself most. I’m talking to old friends, almost family, so my language with them is even more intimate, more exclusive. I’m more likely to say “Yo man (or Yo cuz)…” or “Yeah...,” or “Damn right… (I’ve consciously reduced my cussing significantly in recent months), or “Thank you, my Sistah….,” or any other variety of some of what folks would call “street” talk.
Again, it’s a language of intimacy, which reminds me, how many of us “brothas” really say, “Yo baby…” when we’re talking to our significant others, especially if you’re way over the age of 20, huh?
The one thing I’ve always been proud of when it comes to my people and community is that African-Americans are multi-faceted, and ALWAYS have been. Whether it be speech, literature, music, dance, or other viable means of expression, we can, and have, mastered it all. Indeed, I’ve always found it extraordinary hearing some foreign guy or gal speak in their language, but then when it came to singing, sound a “black” as possible (anyone ever hear of “Tom Jones” from Wales?)
Indeed, many foreigners who came to America have also had to learn how to code-switch in order to mainstream into American society. Some even adopted Americanized names in order to appropriately fit in. But when back among their own, their Spanish or Italian would be as thick as ever.
A lot of American television newsmen, like Dan Rather or Bob Schieffer, actually have thick Southern accents (they’re both from around Houston, Texas), but code-switch on TV in order to communicate better.
I could go on and on, but the bottomline is judging black people by the way we speak is dangerous territory. I’ve also learned in my life that judging black people by who they marry is also perilous. In both cases, they should be judged by their actions towards or for their communities.
Is a drug dealer who uses black “slang” truly “Black” just because he sounds the part?
C’mon, if you’re THAT interested in whether someone is really “Black” or not, broaden your standard, including yourself. What should be the TRUE measure of any black person’s commitment to our community? I mean really.
Answer that, and you’ll find a lot of the cosmetic stuff we’ve been arguing about amongst ourselves has been just a tremendous waste of time!
Yo, ya dig?!!!


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            Once again, a three-judge federal panel has dealt Republican legislative leaders in the NC General Assembly a legal, and potentially political blow by ordering last week that a “special master” assist the court in both evaluating, and most likely redrawing the redrawn NC legislative maps submitted to the court in September.
            But now, not surprisingly, comes word that GOP leaders aren’t happy with the special master chosen to essentially correct nine of the 28 redraw districts still found to be “legally unacceptable”. This new development signals that Republican legislative leaders may be willing to throw a monkey wrench into what would most likely be a fair and nonpartisan redrawing of North Carolina’s state House and Senate districts, compared, most observers agree, to what it is now.
            A process that could remove the apparent partisan and racial advantage the original 2011 GOP redistricting voting map gave Republicans in illegally “stacking-and-packing” African-American voters into “minority-majority” voting districts in order to lessen their influence in surrounding elections. The US Supreme Court ruled those districts unconstitutional.
            Some observers even suggest that the GOP might again appeal any final decision of the federal three-judge panel – two of which were appointed by Pres. Obama – again, as they did in 2016 to the US Supreme Court, where Republican appointees now hold a 5-4 advantage with Pres. Trump’s addition of Justice Neil Gorsuch.
            Doing so not only delays any implementation of a nonpartisan redrawn redistricting map for the 2018 primaries and possibly the general election (candidate filings in February would be delayed pending a High Court decision), but also takes the final decision on whether the GOP ‘s redrawn maps in September are indeed still unconstitutional because of the nine outstanding districts cited, out of the hands of the lower court.
            Phillip Strach, the attorney representing Republican legislative leaders told the court Monday in a motion that they oppose the appointment of special master Professor Nathaniel Persily of Stanford University in California. Strach went on to say the court failed to rule on why the nine outstanding voting districts from the legislature’s September map submission were legally invalid.           
By assigning a special master now, Strach went on, Republican leaders will be denied the opportunity to fix whatever problems indicated, and further suggested that Persily was biased.
            "The legislative defendants are concerned that the appointment of a special master as described by the court will instead affirmatively obstruct the state's ability to exercise its sovereign right to redistrict in the first instance,” Strach wrote in his letter.
            But that’s not how Anita Earls, executive director of the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and lead attorney representing plaintiff Sandra Covington and others in the case, sees it.
            “It has been shown time and again that the state legislature refuses to draw fair districts that comply with the law. Our clients are hopeful that this process will result in fair districts for all North Carolinians,” she told reporters after the three-judge panel issued its order.
            And that Oct. 26, 2017 order from the court was also clear.
            After careful review of the parties’ written submissions, arguments, and evidence, the Court is concerned that 2017 Enacted [nine House and Senate districts] either fail to remedy the identified constitutional violation or are otherwise legally unacceptable.  In anticipation of the likely possibility of such a finding, in view of upcoming filing period for the 2018 election cycle, and upon consideration of the technical nature of determining an appropriate remedy when district lines are at issue, the Court finds exceptional circumstances and intends to appoint a Special Master …to assist the Court in further evaluating and, if necessary, redrawing the Subject Districts by developing an appropriate plan remedying the constitutional violations allegedly rendering the Subject Districts legally unacceptable.”
            Both sides in the Covington case had an opportunity to recommend a special master to the court they both agreed could do the job, but failed to do so.
            Prof. Persily is widely known and regarded for his expertise in redistricting plans, having previously been appointed by the courts as a special master to draw voting districts in the state’s of New York, Georgia and Maryland. Persily has also written extensively about redistricting and voting rights, and is considered an expert in the field.
            "Persily has many media appearances and published works relating to North Carolina redistricting which raise questions about his ability to fairly assess the plans before the court," attorney Strach alleged in his court letter.
            The professor filed an affidavit with the court last week indicating that he saw no reason why he couldn’t fulfill the court mandate.


By Cash Michaels
Contributing writer

            No, President Trump and the Republican Congress haven‘t “repealed and replaced” Pres. Obama’s Affordable Care Act (ACA), the federal health care law, yet. But yes, as Open Enrollment began on Nov. 1st this week, there are significant changes than in previous years.
            Here in North Carolina, the enrollment period, now underway, ends on Dec. 15th for coverage through the 2018 Federal Health Insurance Exchange to begin January 1, 2018. This is the shortest enrollment period (45 days) in recent years, so those without health care coverage are urged to act immediately.
             And in order to qualify for federal tax subsidies to offset the rising cost of health insurance premiums, those seeking to apply should go online to www.healthcare.gov. An estimated – 496,420 residents -  85% of those insured by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBS) through the ACA are eligible for what are known as Advanced Premium Tax Subsidies (APT).
            The average ACA health insurance premium is calculated at $662 per month, but after the APT subsidy tax credit kicks in, comes down to just $129 per month, and in some cases, as low as $87 a month.
BCBS is the only ACA health insurer in all 100 North Carolina counties, insuring 502,000 residents. It has been given the green light by the NC Dept. of  Insurance to raise ACA insurance rates by an average of 14.1 percent for 2018 coverage (the insurer originally asked for 22.9 percent). Federal premium subsidies, however, would also increase to cover.
            Reportedly, 549,158 North Carolinians signed up for the ACA last year for 2017 coverage, a decrease of over 64,000 more who signed up the year before. Observers say one of the reasons for the decrease was uncertainty about the future of the ACA, especially after Pres. Trump won the 2016 presidential election, vowing to mothball the federal law, which he and the Republican Congress have repeatedly failed to do.
            The Trump Administration has significantly cut the advertising budget to make more Americans aware of the ACA Open Enrollment period, in addition to shortening it to just 45 days, hoping to slowly phase it out in the future. It has also cut federal funding to nonprofit groups that traditionally helped low-income residents navigate the process of signing up and qualifying.
            The White House has also discontinued the cost sharing reimbursements to insurance companies to help offset rising premiums to consumers. As a result, premiums across the nation have gone up anywhere from 15 to 21 percent, according to published reports.
            North Carolina residents “are guaranteed to be insurable and are encouraged to sign up for health insurance….” through the ACA if they currently have ACA coverage, but want to change their plan for 2018; they don’t have health insurance through their employer or spouse’s employer; they don’t have government coverage (veterans, Medicaid or Medicare); or they’re older than 26 and are no longer on their parents’ policy.
            Failure in having health insurance in 2018 will result in a sizable tax penalty, official warn. For the past two years, that fee has been $695.00 per uninsured adult, and $347.00 per uninsured child, or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever is higher.
            Also keep in mind, per new rules that are now in effect, insurance companies can now deny you coverage if you owe them money on current coverage. You must settle any outstanding balances before you will be re-enrolled.
            And you can also be denied the premium tax credit to lower your bill in 2018 if you’re behind in your taxes. To correct this, fill out the federal tax reconciliation IRS form 8962 to determine your 2016 taxable income.
            For more information, call the NC Dept. of Insurance to speak to a consumer specialist at 1-855-408-1212.


            [RALEIGH] This week, Gov. Roy Cooper came up short when a three-judge Superior Court panel effectively dismissed the Democratic governor’s lawsuit against the Republican-led state legislature, claiming that it was overstepping its constitutional bounds when it came to restructuring the Bipartisan State Board of Elections and Ethic Enforcement. Republicans combined the two panels in December after it was clear that Cooper won the governorship. The governor balked, saying he had the constitutional right to appoint members to the state’s various boards and commission. He does, but the judicial panel unanimously ruled that the General Assembly has the right to alter the duties and functions of boards and commissions. The panel noted that it did not have jurisdiction to address the governor’s lawsuit directly, only the constitutional powers question. Republican legislative leaders hailed the judicial panel’s decision.

            [WASH., DC] Despite the best efforts of Democrats, the NAACP and others, the Republican-led US Senate Judiciary Committee recently approved Pres. Trump’s nomination of Republican Raleigh attorney Thomas Farr to a lifetime appointment to the federal bench. Now Farr, who has represented the GOP-led NC Legislature in it’s court battles defending voter ID and racially gerrymandered voting districts, is awaiting confirmation by the full US Senate, which has yet to be scheduled. Once confirmed, Farr would serve as a federal judge in North Carolina’s Eastern District.



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