Gordon Smith's blog

Pat Smathers Takes The Crisis Seriously

urgent.jpgPat Smathers is running for Lieutenant Governor, and he's the first candidate to demonstrate an understanding of the depth, breadth, and urgency of our mental health care crisis. In an email sent yesterday in advance of the Mental Health Coalition Forum on Monday in Raleigh, Smathers tells it like it is:

"We must begin an honest conversation about how we can improve mental health care statewide."
[...]
Our mental health system is in crisis. North Carolina is ranked 43rd in the nation for per capita mental health spending. Privatization of the system in 2001, hailed as a solution, has resulted in the closure of hospitals and clinics and ultimately made it harder for many North Carolinians to get help. Our current mental health system is a haphazard array of chronically under-funded programs that have failed all North Carolinians, but most especially our rural residents and veterans."

Mayor Smathers hits the nail on the head. The gang in Raleigh has kicked this can down the road for years, watching as the system grew more and more fragile. With too few exceptions, Raleigh politicians have allowed and encouraged the decline and crisis in our mental health system. Smathers' outsider status couldn't be more welcome than it is in the mental health care crisis arena. Raleigh politicians have cut funding, laughed off the State consultant's recommendations, and counted on public apathy to ignore their failures.

Gubernatorial Endorsements

Ripped from the Capital Letters blog at the Asheville Citizen-Times:

Gubernatorial candidate Bev Perdue picked up some more endorsements today, this time from 11 past presidents of the N.C. Nurses Association. One is from WNC, Gerry Roberts of Forest City.

The group's political arm doesn't make an endorsement in the primary, according to Purdue's campaign.

Perdue is piling up endorsements in her run for the Democratic nomination against state Treasurer Richard Moore (who has endorsements of his own) and longshot candidate Dennis Nielsen (really, who needs endorsements when a statue has been built of you?)

Perdue has the support of a couple of law enforcement groups, the N.C. Troopers Association and the new N.C. Sheriff Police Alliance.

Plenty of other workers' groups have her back: the Communications Workers of America, the United Transportation Union, the National Association of Social Workers and, probably most significantly, the N.C. Association of Educators.

Bush's Budget Slashes Mental Health Spending - Action Alert

Here's the letter I just zipped off to Congressman Shuler, and here's where I got the facts:

I know Bush's budget is going to undergo a KennyRogersesque transformation when it hits Congress, but I wanted to point out to you the issues about Mental Health spending.

Bush's budget cuts the following:

- the State Incentive Grants for Transformation to support the development of comprehensive plans to address fragmentation in a state’s public mental health system (to be eliminated);
- school violence prevention (to be cut by $17.8 million);
- jail diversion (to be cut by $2.9 million);
- seniors mental health (to be eliminated);
- post traumatic stress ($ 17.5 million cut);
- consumer support technical assistance centers (to be eliminated); and
- suicide prevention ($15.1 million cut).

Liveblogging the Tornadoes - Call For Help

Monkeyfister blogs from Memphis, TN, and he's been writing about the massive storms that hit the southeast Tuesday night:

LINK: "Bigassed tornado just 4-5 miles north of me. I HATE this shit. Sirens blaring constantly.

Very little scares me. THIS terrifies me.

UPDATE: 6:24PM. A tornado has touched down on top of the Hickory Ridge Mall in Northeast Memphis. Reports are saying the damage was VERY heavy. Plenty of people inside. Multiple injuries being reported."
[...]
"UPDATE 7:11PM-- Sears building hit with people inside. Debris from that hit spread miles away. A Sharp manufacturing plant was flattened. Reports of injuries. Every time a reporter gets to a scene, the newscaster asks, "Has Memphis Police or Firefighters set up any sort of Command Post anywhere?" The reports are always "NO,"
[...]
"UPDATE 7:30pm: A Taco Bell was flattened with people inside. Search is on for survivors. US Marshal's have been activated and are on the way to the area to assist.

The next wave of storms is producing baseball-sized hail, and tornadoes, and is about a 1/2 hour away.

Blue Century - Playing Offense

PhotobucketWhen it comes to becoming the media, a new group out of Asheville is taking the bull by the horns.

"Blue Century was founded by veteran Democratic campaign staff and volunteers. We believe the future of American politics lies in grassroots and netroots activism.

We're through playing defense. Through being defined by opponents. It's time we defined ourselves, not by what we're against, but by what we're for.

Creative, small-scale radio campaigns can - like Howard Dean's Internet campaign - make politics more accessible to ordinary people. Listen for Blue Century's messages on both progressive and conservative talk radio."

Their ads are already running on Asheville area radio, and they're looking forward to expanding via the internet and airwaves.

Follow this link to hear four of their ads.

After the jump - more about Blue Century.

Democratic Candidates For Lt. Governor Debate in Asheville

PhotobucketArratik and I, after loading up with kegs of Caffiend's finest roast, ventured into the blowing snow and made our way to UNC-Asheville's Lipinsky Auditorium for the first of six scheduled debates between the Democratic candidates for Lieutenant Governor. Moderated by NC 11th District Democratic Party Chairman, Luke Hyde, and organized by the NC Federation of College Democrats, the debate allowed too much time for each response and too little chance to compare candidates stances. Each of the four men meandered away from the prescribed questions. They're politicians, after all, and they're going to keep talking if you let them. Very few questions were answered at the Jan. 19th debate, but the ones that were reveal four distinct personalities running on four different records.

The debate was dominated by environment and energy issues, and this being Asheville, that's no surprise. I imagine that each debate will have its own set of pet issues, so I'm hopeful that we'll have a comprehensive picture of each candidate by the end of the series.

Dan Besse certainly came across as the environmental candidate by repeatedly listing his experience on various environmental boards and commissions as well as the progress he's made in Winston-Salem as City Councilman there. Walter Dalton's presentation was rooted in maintaining the status quo. One got the sense that if you like the Easley/Perdue system, you're going to love Walter Dalton. He's the status quo and isn't pretending to be anything else. Dalton was openly contemptuous of Hampton Dellinger, who has decided to attack Dalton on a number of issues while pretending he's in a two-man race. Hampton Dellinger, ambitious and proud, is another stay-the-course candidate. His determination to score some political points against Dalton was off-putting. Canton Mayor Pat Smathers, who got the least time to speak, probably had the most to say. Smathers concentrated his message on advocating that local leaders be empowered through targeted funding and increased decision-making latitude. He also concentrated on integrity, repeating Esse Quam Videri.

What follows is from my notes. Anything not in quotation marks is my blogger's prerogative paraphrase:

11th District Republican Party Asunder

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It's been a torturous time for North Carolina's 11th District Republicans since disgraced former Congressman Charles Taylor's ignominious defeat in 2006. Wacky Chad Nesbitt tried to take over the Buncombe Party, forcing the end of a libertarian coup. The Henderson County webmaster resigned very publicly. A chorus of voices rose up to criticize The Lump for playing coy over whether he would run again for the Congressional seat. Taylor himself, safely bunkered at his Transylvania compound, was silent as the grave for over a year. Strong potential candidates like Jeff Hunt and Tom Apodaca withdrew their names from consideration in part because of Taylor's intransigence.

Today there are three candidates in the running for the Republican nomination: An intellectual libertarian, a rigid ideologue, and a squishy Party man. The head of the redundantly named Henderson County Republican Men's Club wants to see more of the Party apparatus get involved in putting the candidates out before the public in the same way they did in late November.

The GOP's district Chair, Stephen Duncan, isn't too interested in making that sort of thing happen,

"There are individuals who feel there are different ways of doing things," Duncan said.

Shuler, McIntyre and 159 Republicans Vote To Keep Discrimination Legal

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketHeath Shuler and Mike McIntyre voted with 159 Republicans and 23 Democrats to allow employers to discriminate against gay and lesbian employees. That is, they voted to give employers permission to fire employees solely because of their sexual orientation. The bill, Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), passed the House on a 235-184 vote, no thanks to Congressmen Shuler and McIntyre, who again chose to give their homosexual constituents a raw deal.

Here’s what Shuler said in a press release regarding his opposition to ENDA. This is the statement in full:

“I oppose discrimination and bigotry in any and all forms. I was pleased to support Chairman Miller’s amendment to bring further clarification to this legislation. However, I was unable to support final passage of this bill because I believe there are still serious legal ambiguities in the legislation, which could lead to protracted and onerous legal challenges. I look forward to working with my colleagues to address these concerns as this legislation moves forward.”

Shuler did not name a single “legal ambiguity”, nor did he explain why fear of legal challenges would outweigh taking a principled stance opposing “discrimination and bigotry”. Chairman Miller’s amendment made it certain that religious groups could continue discriminating and that this wasn’t some sneaky way to allow gays to marry. In otherwords, Shuler supported the amendment, which would allow and support continued discrimination, but he opposed the actual bill, which makes discrimination on the job illegal.

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