Letters to the Editor

Letters: Partisan elections harm the judicial process

Party labels harm courts

For the first time since 1996 (Superior Court) and 2001 (District Court) N.C. local judicial elections will be partisan. Gov. Roy Cooper attempted to avoid this change with his first veto. (“Cooper’s veto message said judges should be elected based on their experience and ability, not their political party ... partisan politics has no place in the courtroom.” N&O 3/16/2017)

Durham County’s Chief District Court Judge Jim Hill, a native of Durham County and registered Republican, seeks re-election to the seat which he has served honorably for 16 years. In the People’s Alliance questionnaire, Judge Hill states emphatically that judicial elections should be nonpartisan. This has always been his belief.

In conflict with Cooper’s veto message, Hill’s opponent states that judicial elections should be partisan. His opponent also states that “For far too long judges’ moral and ideological views have been hidden from the general public.” This is not a progressive view and suggests a misunderstanding of N.C.’s progressive history in judicial campaign reform whose purpose is to promote voter-owned elections and to protect the courts from partisanship and money influence.

Judge Jim Hill holds the progressive view that judicial elections should be nonpartisan. He also supports and presides over restorative justice courts, namely, the Mental Health Court, Drug Court, and the prior Youth Drug Treatment Court. Judge Hill created a voluntary Truancy Court to help kids develop pathways for success. Judge Jim Hill is a nonpartisan judge with wide bipartisan support who I as a Democrat am proud to support.

Devon White

The writer is an attorney and past president of the 14th Judicial District and Durham County Bar Association.

Remembering Coach Doc

On Sunday, Oct. 7, my former track coach, Dr. Brenda Armstrong (“Coach Doc”), passed away. Coach Doc was among the first black students to graduate from Duke, not before protesting unfair treatment of black students in the 1969 Allen Building Takeover. She then completed her M.D. and become the second black woman to receive board certification as a pediatric cardiologist.

Coach Doc was the associate dean of admissions at Duke’s medical school for 20 years and directed a medical diversity program that prepared minority undergrads for medical school. She spoke about turning students’ baggage into a toolkit, and their power to choose. She taught students what she’d taught me, capability and strength.

I remember Doc’s mezzo-trill, threatening us slowpokes with laps. I remember her sprinting down metal bleachers to our 4x4 anchor when the girl’s ACL ruptured at pre-lims. I remember the standing ovations her summer program commencement speeches inspired.

How will Durham remember Doc? How will Duke?

As a brilliant academic, mentor, activist and university pioneer, Dr. Armstrong should have a building or two named after her. What better way to honor her life’s of redefining our racist historical baggage than by revising racist structures into a toolkit for progress? The Dr. Brenda Armstrong History Building redresses Julian S. Carr’s violence. None of Duke’s buildings are named after a person of color. We can honor Dr Armstrong by allowing her to continue pioneering in memorium.

Whitney Wingate


Armstrong was loved

America has lost a giant. Dr. Brenda Armstrong was my lifelong family friend who lived her younger life in segregated Rocky Mount, N.C., attending Booker T. Washington High School. Her service to the medical profession continued a tradition started by her father, Dr. W. T. Armstrong, who was a nationally renowned physician. Her mother, Mrs. Marguerite Armstrong, was a distinguished educator who touched the lives of so many young people.

Dr. Brenda Estelle Armstrong will long be loved and remembered by her family, friends, patients, and students. Rest in peace, my dear friend.

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield

D-1st Congressional District

Campaign rallies and golfing

I am a Democrat and resented it very much when the president referred to Democrats as a “mob.”

I always felt that in a democracy with a two-party system, we might disagree on things, but show respect for our differences. Trump seems to respond by attacking, rather than stating his own case. With him, everything is a conspiracy and if it doesn’t agree with his views, he labels it a lie.

There were a few days when it seemed he was acting presidential, but unfortunately he has returned to the attack mode. He got his Supreme Court nomination, but instead of moving on and being grateful for that, he continues to spread hate at all who don’t agree with him. With all of the problems facing our country, I wonder how our president spends more time at campaign rallies and golfing than attending to the business he was elected for.

Well, the elections are coming, and I for one will voting FOR my party and what we stand for. Let’s counteract the negativity, with positive action.

Jean Stasi

Chapel Hill

Davis for Superior Court

I am writing to share my enthusiasm for Durham County Superior Court judge candidate Josephine Davis. Born and raised in Durham, she has spent over 15 years tirelessly advocating for the marginalized as a public defender and with the District Attorney’s Office.

Josephine embodies what a fair court should look like: access, mercy and justice. She’s already demonstrated a strong history of this, such as in last year’s Durham Driver Amnesty Program, which worked to dismiss charges and waive fees for folks in Durham County who’d had suspended/revoked licenses for over 18 months. Driver’s licenses are often crucial for getting and keeping a job, yet one in six adults in Durham have a suspended or revoked license, with 75 percent of those folks being people of color.

Josephine, through her work in the DA’s office, changed lives: 793 people were eligible, and 2,000 charges were dropped. Josephine works through the system to address the inequities within it, such as the DA office’s embrace of restorative-justice practices. Her vision of helping the community thrive includes working toward eradicating how we criminalize and tax poverty. To learn more about the role of judges and other elected officials, I hope folks consider attending the Oct. 16 progressive issues forum at NCCU Law School: bit.ly/2IMUsoq. I believe a vote for Josephine Davis is one of the ways Durham can keep moving forward!

Katie Mgongolwa


SNAP to it

After the November elections, Congress will vote on the Farm Bill and the final versions of the fiscal year 2019 budget and spending bills. The Farm Bill contains support for nutrition programs including the highly efficient and effective Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which helps keep food on the table for people who are struggling financially.

This election season provides a good opportunity for voters to ask candidates, “What are you doing to reduce poverty and increase opportunity?” If the candidate responds with some version of “We can’t afford anti-poverty programs,” ask them how much is being spent on high-tech weaponry to sell abroad for the enrichment of military contractors compared to what’s spent on SNAP?

The candidates probably won’t know, so be ready to provide the answer. Visit www.nationalpriorities.org for an income tax ‘receipt’ that shows where your tax dollars go. In 2017, the average North Carolinian paid $11,604 in federal taxes, of which $280 went to SNAP and $1,279 went to military contractors.

We are often cowed into unquestioning support for high military budgets with the mere words “national security.” It’s time we demand of our representatives that the federal budget prioritize “food security.”

Betsy Crites

The writer is the co-coordinator of End Hunger Durham.

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