Thursday, December 13, 2012

Don Moffitt's comments cause for concerns among black voters

Within the next few weeks members of the Durham City Council will appoint a person to replace Michael Woodard. Woodard leaves to take his seat in the North Carolina State Senate.  The race is between Don Moffitt and Anita Daniels.
Who wins will depend on the leverage of two of Durham’s Political Action Committees- the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People and the People’s Alliance.
To no one’s surprise, The Durham Committee has endorsed Daniels, who lost in a bid to become a member of the Board of County Commissioners.  Moffitt, who has been running for public office since 2008, has been endorsed by the People’s Alliance.   The council’s vote has bearing beyond selecting a black woman or a white man. 
It’s true the city council will face tough challenges related to the race of its members after Howard Clement steps down.  For now, the battle is a continuation of the rhetoric that consumed the race for County Commission.
Who holds the biggest stick in Durham?
It’s a question that Moffitt placed on the table on December 11, 2009.  After the vote for leadership of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People, Moffitt expressed his thoughts on the blog Bull City Rising.
“I got involved with PA because I wanted to help elect great people to local office,” Moffitt wrote. “PA is the only PAC in Durham that welcomes anyone's and everyone's participation. The People's Alliance is THE big tent in Durham.”
Moffitt’s comments regarding the affairs of the DCABP exposed his thoughts on the leadership of the most powerful black political action committee in the state of North Carolina.  His criticism dug like a knife in the gut of the organization that has fought for the rights of black people since 1935.
“If you're fed up with other PACs in Durham, you can join PA at You WILL be able to vote!,” Moffitt concluded in his post.
Moffitt made a valid point about the limits of the DCABP.  It is true that only a few were allowed to vote the night Lavonia Allison was able to continue as the chair of the DCABP due to a controversial reading of the organizations constitution. I was among the many that attacked Allison and the DCABP for failing to rid itself of Allison’s ways.  The difference between my comments and Moffitt’s is I’m not running for public office.
Moffitt’s pitted the PA against the DCABP, and, as a person hoping to lead all of Durham’s citizens, made it clear that he views the PA as a more advanced organization.
It’s that perspective that has Durham in a mess today.  The battle between the two PAC’s has taken center stage over the selection of quality candidates.  You’re left wondering if members of the Durham City Council will be able to make a decision based on the credentials of the candidates, versus the power of the organizations that help elect them to office.
Moffitt’s relationship with PA raises serious concerns in appointing him to the council.  The best option is for the council to appoint Daniels, and allow Moffitt to prove his worth among voters by running for the office.  Placing him on the council will cause tension that Durham can’t afford during a season of tremendous growth.  His negative comments about the DCABP make it difficult to embrace an appointment to the council.
Moffitt’s 2009 statements regarding the DCABP are more than insensitive.  They reflect the thoughts of a man who had already run for political office.  He lacked the diplomacy to keep his thoughts about the DCABP to himself.  You can make that statement among friends, but when you place it before the entire community you must face the consequences.
So, Mr. Moffitt, how do you feel about the DCABP?  While you consider you answer, do members of the city council care?
If not, we have a serious problem in Durham.


  1. Thanks for this background on the current situation.

  2. Wouldn't it be ideal if both of these progressive groups could come together and get a consensus on a candidate they can both back, thus enhancing the influence and outreach of both and creating a more effective coalition? It takes some political will by all concerned, but it's certainly possible.

  3. I agree that it would be great for these progressive groups to come together, but the DCABP only permits African American participants. In fact, they wouldn't even let County Commissioner candidate Wendy Jacobs speak at one of their meetings so they could find out who she really is and what she really believes (rather than trusting erroneous second-hand information that certain controversial DCABP members were telling voters at the polls). A significant number of closed minded, combative and vocal members of the DCABP (note, by this I certainly don't mean ALL DCABP members) are not interested in being factually informed about any candidates other than the ones they already favor, for whatever reasons they have.

    This situation certainly gives the DCABP the appearance of being very non-inclusive and, in fact, closed-minded.

    For these reasons, I have absolutely no problem with the Don Moffit quotations provided in this post. It is worth noting that the quotes included in this article do not single out the DCABP. Indeed, the Friends of Durham has its own schisms, the most recent of which apparently resulted in the formation of Durham's first (and only) Superpac to support ONLY pro-751 county commissioner candidates (this Superpac is ironically named "Durham Partners for Progress" and appears to have been formed because the Friends of Durham refused to support certain County Commissioner candidates who supported the 751 South development project).

    So, I am personally fed up with the *other* PACs in Durham. The People's Alliance *is* the only one that includes everyone, regardless of race, political party or creed; and anyone who is a member has a right to speak, to try to sway others to their way of thinking and to vote. The PA goes out of its way to welcome any and all candidates to its meetings, so that its membership can make the most informed decisions.

    In this regard, how can one NOT regard the PA the umbrella PAC of Durham.

    I respect Don Moffit for being straight-forward and transparent, something many other candidates have intentionally avoided. Transparency is the #1 attribute I want in my elected officials. If they aren't up front about how they feel/think about certain issues from the get-go, how can I make a good decision about whether I want to vote for them?

    Certainly, Ms. Daniels lacks some of this transparency regarding development issues in Durham. Many of her answers to questions in this regard on the PA's website are vague.

    While I admire her desires and actions to help the underprivileged and to create jobs, I am left wondering how she really feels about the many other issues that elected officials must consider.

    Will she vote for anything that promises to produce jobs even though there are no commitments to hire Durham residents, particularly inner-city Durham residents who need work? Certainly, many developments (and other initiatives) have promised Durham jobs in the past only to break that promise. I'm sick of our local government simply taking these special interests at their word. It's time to steepen the learning curve.

    If, like other candidates, Ms. Daniels takes the position that she needs more information to determine how she feels about this and other issues like it, then she should wait until she learns and digests this information before serving in an elected office (or running for an elected office).

  4. I have worked with members of both of these PACs and I an personally tired of the infighting and wish that the progressive leadership of both would stop this infighting and work together to build a even stronger force in area politics. But what I know of these two, either will continue to be as strong an advocate of Durham and Durham's cultural, educational and business climate as Mike has been....

  5. Carl is correct. I ran for office in 2008--without success--and posted the comments about PACs in Durham in 2009. I agree with him, that public officials should be neutral on such matters. Just as Carl agrees with some of my remarks, I agree with Carl on some of his. The DCABP today is not that of 2009, and has new, dynamic leadership. I understand that its leadership embraces the participation and contributions of its members, and that can only strengthen the organization and its ability to positively influence policy decisions in Durham.

    I also agree with Carl that "The battle between the two PAC’s has taken center stage over the selection of quality candidates." The six remaining members of Council are highly informed and will thoroughly vet the candidates. I'm confident they will make a carefully considered selection that is in the best interests of the entire community.

    I appreciate Carl holding me accountable. I learn and grow because of it. Regarding the PACs, both have played important roles in making our city a more vital, inclusive community. But we can and must do better. We are more powerful, more effective when we work together. Each of us--and the PACs--can lead the way.

  6. But in the end, Melissa is right. One PAC allows only African-Americans and the other PAC allows everyone. So, who represents ALL of Durham?

    No one negates the role of the DCAPB historically, but it's time to modernize. We all live here, so let everyone into the tent, or at least let everyone speak occasionally. Otherwise we just have a PAC that only lets black people talk to themselves.

  7. WRT Mark Lee's comment: "Cultural, Educational and Business" climate, perhaps, but what about Durham's and the Triangle's water supply and natural resources? These are in serious jeopardy, particularly Jordan and Falls lakes. And if development is not truly 'smart growth' but is based solely on promises of jobs, what will happen to our many overcrowded schools? Are we just going to count on Charters to form willy nilly to accommodate this growth? I trust Moffit wrt environmental issues. I don't know enough about Daniels to form any judgment regarding her opinions and feelings regarding such issues...

    1. I do know that the school system and its future are very important to both Daniels and Moffit, and while I personally do not know where Daniels seats on important environmental issues, I do believe she is the type who will thoroughly research the issue and not be corrupted by those who would threaten her important natural wonders here in this area like Jordan, Falls, and the Eno.......

  8. With Jackie Wagstaff as the new chair of the DCABP, do we really expect that this PAC is interested in coming to the table and truly working together with the likes of the PA?

  9. Karl:

    It is a little unfair to single Don Moffit out in this regard. Over the years lots of people have talked smack about the Committee, the PA, and the Friends. In the statement you quote he is telling the truth and everybody knows it. The Committee was and (despite Don's attempt to spin his previous words) continue to hold views counter to those of the PA. The People's Alliance is indeed the big tent political group. You will certainly get a hearing from them whether you're black, white, hispanic, republican or democrat. Then, if your opinion differs from theirs, you will simply be ignored. That's how it works. Their objective is to pacify the more radical elements in Durham by drawing them into the PA's process and crafting a "moderate" left/centrist response. It works for the Democrats!

    There are, however, very real issues that we should be talking about rather than setting up this straw man argument that people are being "divisive". To divide something, some group of people, they have to first have been "undivided". Despite what the Chamber of Commerce, our elected officials, and the Political Action Committees would have you believe there never has been anything resembling "cohesion" or "unity" in Durham. This whole "Durham is colorful" front that is put forward serves the powers that be that really like things just the way they are. The PA spouts all the right liberal catch phrases (environment, civil rights, inclusiveness) but they don't really get excited until someone starts cutting down some trees. We have police brutalizing black folks on a regular basis (as in the recent Stephanie Nickerson case) but we haven't heard a peep out of the PA. I'll bet they'd be screaming if an innocent white woman was beaten by the cops. The silence is deafening. The Committee is no better. I'm surprised, however, that the Friends haven't issued a letter of support for Cpl. Schnee.....yet. Remember the cross burnings a few years ago? It was a perfect opportunity to address issues of race (and class) in Durham but all we got was a few rallies, some speeches and then nothing. When some of us were getting arrested by the racists on the Durham School Board for trying to stop the "school to prison pipeline" the PA was missing in action. The Committee was somewhat supportive and the Friends simple chuckled smugly.

    Can we talk about racist cops who beat down poor and minority people? Can we talk about how prisoners at the jail are treated? Can we talk about gentrification? Can we talk about getting some jobs to folks in Durham that don't require advanced degrees? Can we talk about the effect the drug war has on our community and maybe take steps against it? Can we talk about how the public schools are re-segregating and charter schools are failing? While we're at it could we have a "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" that would look into everything from the roots of poverty in slavery in this area to the destruction of Hayti? Let's do something about the poverty wages paid by Walmart and others retail outlets. Unfortunately, complaining to our elected officials is what they want you to do. So, they can ignore you and still say that you were given a chance to speak you mind.

    Finally, (and this is addressed to Melissa's comment above)it is true that the Committee only allows black folks to join. It is a common sense policy derived from years of dealing with Jim Crow and racism. Let some liberal white folks join up and before you know it the Committee would be just an arm of the PA.

    Steven Matherly
    Durham, NC

  10. When Donald Hughes announces his candidacy for the Durham City Council or School Board in the spring, I hope you recall and publish his statement of there being a special place in hell for the white members of the DPS Board of Education.