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Posted here are some excerpts from Courtney Napier’s recent op-ed for INDY Week. Read the entire piece here
Why did Raleigh City Council give Carmen Cauthen unanimous support, then turn around and vote six-to-one for Stormie Forte to take the District D seat vacated by Saige Martin?
Cauthen comes from a long line of civil servants and has spent the majority of her life in service to government and community, most recently with the Southeast Raleigh Community Engagement Strategy Sessions and the Wake County Housing Justice Coalition. Read more about Cauthen here.
Forte is a lawyer and real estate agent who is a part of the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association (RWCA) and its affiliate, the Wake County Voter Education Coalition, both of which work to nurture Black political leaders and support voter turnout
Both women were excellent candidates, yet the city council needed someone to fit certain criteria: a candidate who would communicate their support of Raleigh’s Black community while also letting them gentrify their neighborhoods with little pushback.
A couple of days after the council chose Forte, Cauthen demonstrated why she didn’t make the cut. During a “Downtown South” community engagement meeting hosted by consulting firm APCO and Kane Realty, Cauthen asked probing questions regarding Kane’s commitment to creating a community benefits agreement.
It is common knowledge in the Raleigh activist community how Mayor Baldwin and the council truly feel about the issues most impacting its Black and Brown residents. In a forum before the 2019 election, Nicole Stewart said she did not support a police accountability board with subpoena power because “the only people who want it are from District C.” Jonathon Melton said that while City Manager Ruffin Hall and Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown have made decisions that have negatively impacted the Black and Brown community “that he doesn’t agree with,” he does not believe they should be fired. Listen to Nicole Stewart on Police Accountability.
Forte is a part of an organization that represents Raleigh’s Black political establishment. Several Black politicians on the city, county, and state level value RWCA and the WCVEC as a source of support. But when one looks at the platforms and voting records of those politicians, one questions their effectiveness in advocating for working-class and working poor Black people.
With their eyes on the 2021 election—and on the developers that have exchanged financial contributions for support of ambitious building projects—Baldwin and her allies needed a candidate who was impervious to media scrutiny but wouldn’t hinder their controversial, injurious gentrifying developments. It remains to be seen if Forte will fulfill this role, but it was clear that “bystander” was not a position Cauthen was willing to take. Stormie Forte gets District D seat (no surprise); what will she do about John Kane’s massive upzoning bid?
Carmen Wimberley Cauthen
City Council will choose a new member tomorrow to represent District D . It’s an historic opportunity to appoint the first African-American woman ever to serve on the Council. We believe that Carmen Wimberley Cauthen is fully worthy of that honor, and we recommend her without hesitation.
We thank everyone who supported our efforts on behalf of former District D member Kay Crowder. But the current Council wanted someone new, and they rejected the idea that Kay’s experience would be helpful to them. So Kay will not be appointed.
Instead, the Council will choose from among their 5 selected finalists.
In our view, Carmen Cauthen stands out in that group as a lifelong activist for racial justice and a servant-leader in the African-American community in Raleigh.
Carmen Cauthen’s roots in the community go deep and wide.
Her work with children and parents, always as a volunteer, spans her entire adult life.
She’s been a missionary—a quiet, determined force—in a multitude of faith-based, school and community projects to advance racial equality.
She was the founder of the NAACP chapter at N.C. State University.
Carmen Cauthen: A Life of Service to Raleigh
As co-founder of the Wake Housing Justice Coalition, she’s helped change the conversation about affordable housing in Raleigh to focus it on helping those in the greatest need.
By accident of birth, Carmen comes from a Raleigh family legendary for their work on civil rights. Her lived experience, as a daughter, mother, wife and community leader, follows in their footsteps. If appointed to City Council, she would be more than equal to the moment when our city, and our country, are finally able to say that Black Lives Matter.
We especially want to recognize Carmen Cauthen’s commitment to community engagement as a vital element in creating change. “Growing up during other periods of civil unrest,” she told Council in her application, “I know that change is difficult.
“But with openness, transparency and civic engagement, change and growth are possible. I am eager to help facilitate those changes here.”
Again, thank you to the more than 1,300 people who signed the petition asking Council to return Kay Crowder to her District D seat for the remainder of this 2019-2021 term only. Kay made it clear she would fill the unexpired term and then step down in 2021 to allow the voters of District D to choose their own new representative.
We appreciate Kay’s willingness to pitch in on a temporary basis to help the city and the residents of District D, and we know that Kay appreciates everyone who got behind her.
Nonetheless, the reality is that District D’s new representative will be chosen by the Council. They can do themselves proud by appointing our first-ever African-American woman, Carmen Wimberley Cauthen.
Councilor Crowder in 2019
1) Kay has the experience and knowledge.
2) She has a great record of constituent service and community involvement.
3) 100% focus on City Council (won’t be distracted by re-election campaign).
4) It’s the right thing to do (an online petition says so).
5) Righting a wrong.
1) Right now Raleigh is experiencing a budget crisis due to the coronavirus epidemic. The City could really use Kay’s knowledge and experience. As a councilor for 5 years, Kay worked on many City of Raleigh budgets. In fact, under her leadership in 2019, the City Council ushered in its first billion-dollar budget; and did so with no tax increase.
2) We District D residents were used to seeing Councilor Crowder at our neighborhood meetings, our CAC meetings, and other events. If our neighborhoods were experiencing a problem or had an issue to be addressed, we could email or call Kay and she would get involved and make things happen. That level of constituent service has been missed in 2020.
3) Kay has promised not to seek re-election after she is appointed to fill the District D seat. That means she can devote her full attention to the issues facing Raleigh, her duties on City Council, and serving Raleigh residents. She will have no need to be fundraising and running a campaign. Most likely, anybody else appointed to the District D seat will seek re-election, and spend a great deal of time in that effort. Kay will have our full attention.
4) Kay Crowder was elected twice before to represent District D. She finished second in the 2019 election, and could have called for a runoff, but didn’t (sparing Raleigh the time and expense). There is an online petition that was started by District D residents, which has over 1,300 signatures as of Saturday morning. Kay has the support of more District D residents than any other candidate. Appointing her is the right thing to do.
5) In 2019, Councilor Crowder ran an honest campaign based on real issues and her record of civic involvement, Saige Martin did not. He lied about his voting record, and he lied about Kay Crowder. His campaign did push-polls* that perpetuated a series of lies and half-truths. These lies angered the LGBTQ community as well as the residents of District D who (like Kay) support the LGBTQ community. The Friday before the election, when it was too late for Crowder to respond, Martin dropped a mailer full of cruel and untrue allegations against Councilor Crowder. The postcard’s fear-mongering was a standard Jesse Helms technique, just done in reverse. Jesse routinely stirred up anger against gay people to win elections; Saige stirred up anger within the gay community to win an election. While Saige was working the LGBTQ community for political purposes, he is now accused of working them for his own sexual predator purposes. These deceptions have caused a lot of hurt and sense of betrayal. Let’s start the healing process by righting this wrong, we need Kay Crowder as our District D representative. We know her and trust her.
There is no better choice for Raleigh’s District D than Kay Crowder. The next 17-months of City Council business is going to be intense with difficult decisions to be made, Kay has the experience and knowledge to handle it. Kay has earned the trust of voters over the years and has proven herself as an advocate of our concerns. She will commit herself 100% to the public service of her constituents in District D, and for no other purpose than doing the right thing.
City Council please listen to the residents of District D,
District D resident
* Push polls are a form of telemarketing-based propaganda and rumor mongering, masquerading as an opinion poll.