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Wake Book Burners Claim a Scalp
Thurs., Dec. 16: Durham officials tell Community Safety Task Force to stay in their lane + Jeff Jackson bails + our priorities, in 2 headlines
» Durham Officials to Safety Task Force: Pipe Down
In yesterday’s newsletter, I reported that the Durham Community Safety and Wellness Task Force opposed the Board of County Commissioners’ decision on Monday night to spend about $30 million on a new youth detention facility.
I won’t rehash the debate here. The important thing is that commissioners believed the task force spread misinformation, and task force co-chairs Xavier Cason and Marcia Owen were scheduled to give a presentation to city council members and county commissioners on Tuesday morning. You can imagine how it went.
Watch here. The presentation starts around the 53-minute mark.
A little history before I jump in.
The task force was created after Durham Beyond Policing convinced the city council not to hire additional cops in 2019. Amid last summer’s protests, the city set aside about $1 million to fund its recommendations.
It’s now six months into an 18-month lifespan, with an option for an additional six months.
Its mission, per its bylaws: “examining the public safety & wellness needs of Durham residents and communities, educating residents on existing safety and wellness resources, and providing recommendations for additional programs to enhance public safety and wellness that rely on community-based prevention, intervention, and re-entry services as alternatives to policing and the criminal legal system.”
You’ll see why I bolded that last part in a second.
After Cason and Owen made their presentation—their quarterly report wasn’t up on their website as of yesterday—Durham’s new mayor, Elaine O’Neal, started:
“There is good work, and then there’s busywork, and we’ve got to make sure there’s an accountability aspect to the work that you’re doing so we can kind of figure out where we need to go as a community.”
“[The Youth Home] was outdated when I was on the bench—when I came to the bench. That’s something that needs to be built for those kids. I don’t mind weighing in where I have expertise. Something has to be built for these kids. It is a necessary part of the system that we have.”
Brenda Howerton, the chair of the county’s Board of Commissioners, was more direct:
“This task force is not an advocacy group. … I think somewhere something’s gotten offline as to what the task force is supposed to be doing—some of the folks may be misunderstanding what their roles are.”
“Recommendations is what this task force is tasked with. To call a meeting and challenge the elected officials—to use this committee, the task force was used to have a public media conversation about what the county was supposed to do. That was not was this task force was supposed to do.”
As council member Mark-Anthony Middleton pointed out, however, Howerton got one thing wrong:
“I want to be very clear about the evolutionary history of this task force. It was born as advocacy. What we have now is an evolutionary process and a reshaping of it. This task force was very much about furthering an article of faith, which was less police, less law enforcement, looking at things in opposition to that.”
Council member Jillian Johnson echoed the point:
“I think the bylaws are very clear: bring us recommendations, the boards then take those recommendations and debate and discuss and figure out what we do with them—ways we can improve safety in our community without always relying on an enforcement mechanism or carceral mechanism. That’s what we wanted. That’s what we asked for. I don’t want us to backtrack on that. This is their charge.”
“We feel defensive of our institutions when people criticize them. But this is what we asked for.”
But that, Middleton asserted, had changed:
“A system involves every piece of the system, and quite frankly, there are some folk involved in this conversation who want to excise one part of the system totally and move forward, and I don’t think that’s where the people are.”
It’s not clear when that change occurred—officially, anyway. In last month’s election, voters chose a council that reflects Middleton’s views more than Johnson’s. But the council hasn’t changed the task force’s mandate since then.
Why this matters: Commissioners were frustrated, but their chiding matters less than Middleton and O’Neal’s. It’s not that the city is going to shut down the task force. But the exchange is a tell. Seeking public safety solutions that exclude law enforcement is no longer the city’s priority.
What that means for the council’s upcoming decision on transferring vacant police positions to the Community Safety Department remains to be seen.
Read my story about Durham’s public safety debate here.
» Wake Libraries Pull ‘Gender Queer’ Following Complaints
After anti-LGBTQ ideologues complained—both to library administrators and the police—Wake County Public Libraries yanked its three copies of the book Gender Queer: A Memoir from shelves.
The book, written by Maia Kobabe, is the autobiography of a nonbinary, asexual child struggling with (to quote Amazon) “self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears.”
It won a ton of awards.
It also has some sexual content and illustrations of nudity, which, according to the new book-burning movement, simply cannot be allowed to exist.
Around the country, activists have sought to have library administrators arrested and the book removed.
Wake gave in. Sigh.
An LGBTQ book criticized by some parents and Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson has been removed from circulation in the Wake County Public Libraries. …
“WCPL is committed to thoroughly reviewing titles when we receive a formal request from the community,” said Alice Avery, spokesperson for Wake County. “After the review, WCPL determined that the book does contain explicit illustrations that do not align with WCPL’s selection policy. This is the only book that WCPL has pulled in the 2021 calendar year.” (N&O)
Alternatively, the complaining parents could think about the harm that cutting off access to this book might cause children who are going through very difficult periods in their life. (If they’re worried about their kids seeing naked illos and thinking dirty thoughts, they could always give them this classic.)
This isn’t really about Saving the Children. The book has become part of the culture war. It’s about Taking a Scalp. And WCPL played along.
» Jeff Jackson to Drop Out of Senate Race, Reportedly
State Sen. Jeff Jackson is reportedly going to drop out of the U.S. Senate race, perhaps as early as today. That effectively makes former Chief Justice Cheri Beasley the Democratic nominee.
Friends, if I knew more than that, I would tell you.
» American Priorities in 2 Headlines
Yesterday, the Senate approved a bill to spend $768 billion on the military this year, while in the same Senate, a tax credit that has literally cut child poverty in half is about to derail the president’s signature legislation—which, by the way, will spend $2 trillion over 10 years.
About the military budget, which passed 89–10 (hooray, bipartisanship!):
The bill contains several historic measures, including provisions to move prosecutions of sexual assault and related crimes involving military personnel outside their chain of command, and instructions to establish an independent commission that will scrutinize the legacy and errors of the 20-year Afghanistan war. …
The bill includes multiple sections ordering close study of traditional and emerging threats, from adversary nations like Russia and China all the way to the undefined corners of outer space. It orders the Pentagon to report to Congress on a “grand strategy” for countering China, the testing and development of hypersonic missiles, threats posed by “unidentified aerial phenomena,” and the pattern of mysterious debilitating incidents afflicting U.S. diplomats and spies abroad — what’s become known as Havana syndrome. (WaPo)
About the Bring Back Better package:
Democrats in the Senate are preparing to miss their self-imposed deadline to pass President Joe Biden’s $1.7 trillion social safety net bill before the end of the year, according to four sources familiar with planning by Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office.
The decision to try again next year is based on simple math — Schumer doesn’t have the 50 votes needed to pass the legislation thanks to Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who remains a holdout. (NBC)
Why is he a holdout?
A push by Senate Democrats to pass a roughly $2 trillion tax-and-spending measure before Christmas appeared in new political peril on Wednesday, as talks soured between President Biden and Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) over the size and scope of the package.
The gaps between the two sides remain immense, with Biden seeking to safeguard his economic agenda from significant cuts while Manchin continues to insist on steep spending reductions, according to three people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity to describe the sensitive negotiations. The sticking points include the fate of the expanded child tax credit, one of the sources said, a Democratic priority that Manchin hopes to defund from the bill in full. (WaPo)
It occurs to me that this—a blank check to the Pentagon, but defunding needy families—is how the political press defines “moderate” these days.
The military bill has a lot of funding for North Carolina’s army bases, which means nearly the entire delegation voted for it. The one exception: Rep. Dan Bishop, who voted no because …
Bishop took issue with the bill for not doing away with the military’s requirement for its members to get COVID-19 vaccines. (N&O)