Two weeks ago for the web, we published an op-ed by Maya Handa, the campaign manager for Durham commissioner Nida Allam, who ran to succeed David Price in the state’s 4th Congressional District last year. Allam was defeated by now Congresswoman Valerie Foushee, and Handa had some choice words for local elected officials who recently criticized reported PAC spending in a Chapel Hill Town Council election but didn’t speak out about the vast sums of money Foushee, whom many endorsed, took from a crypto billionaire. Readers had thoughts.

From reader and Carrboro Town Council member Sammy Slade, via email: 

In response to the op-ed by Maya Handa contrasting Orange County electeds vocal opposition in Orange county this year to the silence last year on the distortion of democracy by lots of money from a few, she says “not a single Orange County elected official said a word.”

For the record one was very vocal.  

The race for NC 4th congressional district seat in the end was a record breaker for NC primary elections at <$40 per vote of super PAC money from one California crypto-billionaire and AIPAC spent on behalf of Valerie Foushee’s campaign. Contrast that with, the also condemnable, $12 per voter promised so far by a few local rich people on behalf of Adam Searings mayoral bid.  

A year ago, it was shocking to me the degree to which so many of my colleagues in Orange County were silent despite my many attempts to elicit a reaction by them. It got to a point where at one council meeting my whole council, excepting the mayor, walked out on me for making the connection with how this corruption of democracy translates into a political system that does nothing meaningful in response to so many issues that need serious attention (gun violence, climate emergency, affordable housing, war, etc.). That incident, along with a previous attempt by me to reaffirm Carrboro’s resolution against the supreme court’s Citizen United decision, caused one member of my council to float the idea of censoring me and ultimately to a process by our council to change council protocol including making it impossible for a councilmember to introduce a resolution that doesn’t already have unanimous support.

In the end I am grateful for the opportunity to have stayed true to mine and Carrboro citizen values despite the challenge and controversy. I am glad to see that a year later others have found it safe enough to join.

From reader E. Thomas Henkel, via email:

Maya Handa seems to suggest that any local Political Action Committee (PAC) involved in local municipal elections might be the same as Super PACs with their dark money. Nothing could be further from the truth! I am Treasurer of the Chapel Hill Leadership Political Action Committee (CHL-PAC), and this PAC has been active in Chapel Hill municipal elections since 2015. It is duly registered with the NC State Board of Elections (SBE). The campaign finance reports, which I am required to submit on a regular basis, detail the names and some personal information about our donors, their donation amounts, and details about how the PAC spends these funds. The PAC may only give a maximum of $357 to a Candidate Committee, unlike the Super PAC which gave $4M to the Foushee campaign last year, but it has not ever done so. The CHL-PAC funds the printing of campaign materials, which are used in door-to-door canvassing by volunteers not organized by Candidate Committees, for mailings to voters, and for other media advertising in support of its chosen candidates. The CHL-PAC accepts donations from all who want to see our candidates elected to office. This year we are supporting Adam Searing for mayor of Chapel Hill, and David Adams, Breckany Echardt, Elizabeth Sharp, and Renuka Soll for Chapel Hill Council.

And from reader Steve Fleck, via email:

Thank you, Ms. Handa, for your article on this very pertinent question. 

I’m probably not the only one, however, to have pointed out that Karen Stegman’s substack blog piece about planning a Super PAC was already incorrect when published, because the people planning it had dropped the project weeks before. It never existed other than a project focused on repealing the town’s change to its LUMO. 

Plus, Ms. Stegman did not mention that she herself had taken money from the Chapel Hill Leadership PAC in a run for Town Council. 

Apart from these quibbles, I found it a most timely expression about the effects of the Citizens United verdict’s unleashing of unlimited amounts of money into our politics. 

Also for the web, we published a piece about a local classical radio station’s reversal of a decision not to air certain operas “with adult themes.” 

From reader maxkath 21, via email: 

While I am glad that WCPE reversed its decision to not air certain operas that have “adult themes” and are in a “non-classical style,” I am more concerned that station manager Deborah Proctor seems to believe that art should serve as a refuge from real life. (To say nothing of the other belief that it should bear some sort of Christian content.)

There has been a broader discussion in online spaces about the incuriosity of the younger generation about any art that was made before the 1990’s, and a decision like this only encourages more of the same incuriousness. The fact that there was such intense pushback is encouraging that there are still people out there wanting to hear challenging art, but people like miss Proctor, who have final say about what art is shown to the public, have no right being in such places of power in the first place. Especially when such decisions have a negative impact on artists of color. 

And from reader Karen Moorman, via email:

My first reaction was “this cannot be true.” It is regrettable that a local station we have listened to for many years has resorted to censorship.

If we needed a classical music station for twelve-and under listeners, my music students and their parents would have asked for this years ago. And they did not. Alas, I believe there are other terms I might apply to my great disappointment, but they would not be appropriate for a general audience.

And from reader Mac McCord, via email:

I was horrified to learn that WCPE would even consider censoring certain operas—operas are art and you do not censor art and call yourself a viable public art station. I am glad they reversed the decision—we are loyal fans and subscribers; I would hate to have to cancel my monthly subscription but will do so if WCPE starts censoring music.

Head over to our Facebook page for some more takes on the topic, including this gem from Michael Byers:

We have to be careful. All the kids listen to that radio station.

Meanwhile, Kids: What’s a radio?

Correction: Sammy Slade is a current member of the Carrboro Town Council, not a former member. This has been corrected.

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