Rigorous debate at NAACP candidate forum

Ashley Lopez's picture

Last night, the Chapel Hill/Carrboro chapter of the NAACP held a candidate’s forum for the County Commissioner at-large and County Sheriff’s race.

The candidates present were: Clarence Birkhead, Lindy Pendergrass, Joal Hall Broun, Barry Jacobs and Joe Phelps. Alice Gordon also stopped by, even though she is uncontested in her County Commissioner race in District 1.

There was actually a lot of ground covered at the forum. Among the topics discussed was the 287g Program, overcrowding in county jails, funding for the Chapel Hill library and Google Fiber Optics.

Most notable was William Thorp, the NAACP chapter chair, giving an impassioned plea to the commissioner-hopefuls to fix the situation in Rogers Road. The plea came in the wake of a new report that found 9 out of 11 wells in the region were contaminated and a quarter of the septic tanks in the area were in disrepair.

Orange County Sheriff

During the Sheriff’s forum, Clarence Birkhead and incumbent Lindy Pendergrass discussed the 287g Program and over-crowding in the county jail.

Birkhead said he agreed with the county commissioners’ decision to not instate the 287g Program in the county. He said that instating the program would be a “poor use of local resources.”

Pendergrass echoed the sentiment. He said the county police “doesn’t have the time” to carry out the program. Pendergrass also added that the county currently does not have checkpoints, and that the county police doesn’t “go to construction sites checking green cards.”

I mean, I get that 287g is a waste of money—something people always dislike about bad public policy—but this is the kind of policy that is wrong for so many other reasons. Considering the NAACP hosted this forum, I was expecting more discussion about how OC is not taking part in a socially unjust program.

County jails were a bit contentious. Pendergrass mentioned that the county was only over its inmate limit by 14. He also said it has been profitable to offset the county budget with federal funds. Birkhead said that there is a problem with “running a jail for profit” and that the county’s contract with the Federal Marshalls needs to be examined. He said federal inmates should not be taking the space from county inmates. Pendergrass added afterwards that the jail is “not being run as a business.”

Orange County Board of Commissioners, At-Large Seat

During the library funding discussion neither candidate said they were against funding the library system. However, Phelps did say the libraries are currently understaffed and not enough people are using them.

I have to say, there was some awkwardness during the commish forum. Phelps seemed to single out Jacobs for a whole host of things. During the discussion about public and private partnerships in the county, Phelps brought up an old article from WRAL that discussed Jacob’s commitment to keeping commercial standards high. This had to do with a disagreement that Phelps and Jacobs have concerning Hampton Point. Phelps said Jacobs wasn’t doing enough to attract commercial development. Jacobs countered and said the development is a mess and he is proud that the county has “rigorous standards.” Broun said that there should be a more definite plan concerning what to do with interested private/commercial parties. Phelps also went after both Broun and Jacobs for seeking other offices while in office.

During the closing remarks, Thorp asked that he candidates comment on Rogers Road. Jacobs said there are plans to ask for federal money to fix the immediate problems. Phelps said the county should ask the state for money like Hillsborough did.

Broun said, “We need to be upfront that we owe [the Rogers Road community] a debt.” She said even though it will cost a lot if money, the county needs to do a better job.

Glad to see this issue came up.

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Total votes: 7

5 Comments

Suzanne Haff's picture

287g Program

Thanks for recap. Please refresh my memory as to details of this program.Another comment:  After all these years, it is disheartening to hear comments about the Rogers Road community that say "we owe a debt" - or "we have applied for..." where has everyone in county government been for the last 10 years (or more)? What's the date for a yea or nay concerning current funding applications? Who can we write, how can we help to push the application along? If the two towns and the county can't come together and offer leadership on such a focused and immediate problem, we  really do have crisis in leadership.

Ashley Lopez's picture

287 g

No problem. 287g is a program that basically allows local law enforcement to act as ICE agents. The point of this program is to have more cops working the immigration beat, even though these local law enforcement officials have hardly the same supervision that a federal agency, like ICE, has.The reason why I say there are so many problems with this program (and its not just me saying this, this research conducted by UNC's Law School would agree) is because it is really poorly executed. This is especially true considering where this program is in place. We all remember Sheriff Bizzell's comments in the News and Observer from 2008. Let's just say, maybe people like that in Johnston County should not be given the job of checking for green cards.287g creates rampant racial profiling. It also stops immigrants from calling the police or asking for help if they are the victim of a crime, out of fear of being deported themselves.It's just a big ol' mess and I, personally, would like to hear more officials denounce the program based on principle. As far as Rogers Road, I would ask a county commissioner who exactly they are appealing to for federal funds. That department/person would probably be the best person to talk to. And we all should definitely work on rectifying that horrible situation. Thanks for your comments!

George C's picture

Section 287(g) of the Immigration and Nationality Act

Suzanne,The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act
(IIRAIRA), effective September 30, 1996, added Section 287(g),
performance of immigration officer functions by state officers and
employees, to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). This authorizes
the secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to
enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies,
permitting designated officers to perform immigration law enforcement
functions, pursuant to a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), provided that
the local law enforcement officers receive appropriate training and
function under the supervision of sworn U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) officers.

The cross-designation between ICE and state and local patrol officers,
detectives, investigators and correctional officers working in
conjunction with ICE allows these local and state officers: necessary
resources and latitude to pursue investigations relating to violent
crimes, human smuggling, gang/organized crime activity, sexual-related
offenses, narcotics smuggling and money laundering; and increased
resources and support in more remote geographical locations. 

On the Eubank Rd. issue back

On the Eubank Rd. issue back in 1996 when I ran for Commissioners this issue along with what to do with our trash was asked as well. At the time Chapel Hill was running the landfill and the County and Carrboro had some input. There were no water/sewer lines but they were near by and OWASA was going  to be involved as well. I felt we should use tipping fees with grants because those dumping were the cause for the problem. Now I wanted to limit who could get the assistance so that someone who rcently built would have to pay to tap on. You know that idea never caught on maybe it was because it came from a republican but I still think it should be explored.