Monday, April 9, 2012
Political endorsements reflect an opportunity missed
Another opportunity has been flushed down the toilet. Most people missed it when it happened. Even more could care less.
It’s one of those things lost among the litter that keeps Durham fragmented by this thing called race. It was an opportunity missed. It was a chance to prove that changes within the Durham Committee on Affairs of Black People leadership would alter the level of communication and collaboration with the People’s Alliance. It turns out there is more to this story than problems with Lavonia Allison.
For years, members of the People’s Alliance have belittled the DCABP for failing to form a pact to assure the advancement of a progressive political agenda. The recent cycle of endorsements demonstrates bad blood that removes Allison from the conversation about why these two groups can’t get along. The arrogance and lack of compromise from the folks within the People’s Alliance sends a message that demands attention.
The best word to describe what happened is War. The beef began when members of the People’s Alliance refused to play nice. Members of the DCABP leadership team approached the People’s Alliance to build a bridge. It didn’t happen.
The rift between the PAC’s is over the 751 development project. The People’s Alliance has called for a full blitz in removing anyone in support of the plan. They regard the project a major threat to the ecosystem and are prepared to take no prisoners. Members of the DCABP claim the project will create new jobs in a troubled economy. It’s the same skirmish that divided the groups when Wal-Mart wanted to build on 15-501 and Southpoint was proposed for Fayetteville Road.
The People’s Alliance refused to negotiate with members of the DCABP. Their conclusion is simple - oust the three liable for pushing the development forward. Get rid of Joe Bowser, Michael Page and Brenda Howerton. All three are black, and members of the DCABP are concerned over maintaining a racial balance on the Board of County Commissioners. No deal. Let the door hit your back side.
To add further insult, the People’s Alliance endorsed James Dornfried over Orlando F. Hudson, Jr. for Superior Court Judge. Hudson has been on the bench since 1989, and Dornfried has never served as a judge. Many argue that Dornfried lacks the experience to become Court judge, and should spend some time as a District Court Judge before tackling the rigors of the Superior Court. That endorsement has many wondering about the motive behind the attack on Hudson. Is this about his handling of Tracy Cline or is there a bad smell in the room? The bad blood thickens.
Next up, the DCABP’s endorsements. Those endorsed for the Board of County Commissioners is significant, but even more telling were the reason behind their selection. Phil Cousins, the chairman of the DCABP, mentioned the 751 project as key in the selection process. Despite the mishandling in the firing of Gerri Robinson, the former director at DSS, the audit that concedes laws broken in that process and a lawsuit coming from that fiasco, the DCABP endorsed Joe Bowser.
Bowser and Michael Page have been entangled like two gemsboks clashing horns. Despite the controversy regarding their relationship on the board, both were endorsed by the Durham Committee. Brenda Howerton, the other black incumbent, also got the nod from the DCABP. They threw in Fred Foster, who received the endorsement from the People’s Alliance, to round out an all black slate.
The sentiment before the endorsements was that the DCABP would endorse Wendy Jacobs as a compromise for the People’s Alliance endorsing Michael Page. The more telling moves in this endorsement cycle may be about the strategies of both groups. Why did the People’s Alliance endorse Will Wilson, and why did the Durham Committee endorse Fred Foster, who was endorsed by the People’s Alliance?
Both are intriguing for different reasons. If the DCABP selected based on candidates positions on 751, and the People’s Alliance did the same, why would both groups endorse him? Is his position cloudy, or is he strong enough to overcome people’s concerns regarding that position? Could it be that Foster serves as a compromise candidate, or is he the People’s Alliance’s way out of being tagged for failing to consider any of the other black candidates on the slate?
Then there’s the Will Wilson issue. What was it that led to him getting the nod with the People’s Alliance? The obvious answer is his anti 751 position, but will that be enough to get him over the hump? What is it that led the People’s Alliance to go with only four endorsements, a strategy often used by the DCABP, and used again in this endorsement cycle?
The games played by both groups lends to a broader conversation related to what is best for Durham County. Has the war minimized the integrity of a process aimed at presenting voters the best candidates for office? These are questions commonly asked of the DCABP. The public has held contempt due to the DCABP failing to engage in dialogue aimed at solving the riddle of the best among those running for office.
Once again, it came down to the matter of race. This time it’s not the DCABP responsible for the war of race. The People’s Alliance failed to smoke the peace pipe.
And now we’re back to politics as usual in Durham.
An opportunity missed.