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BCR's Daily Fishwrap Report for December 11, 2009

Allison retakes Committee chair seat in a landslide -- of those allowed to vote, that is

(Update: The Indy's Samiha Khanna has exceptionally good coverage at the Indy's Triangulator blog. Her vote count differs from the one I heard, but they're on the same side except for order of magnitude.)

Breaking news from the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People meeting: a source tells BCR that it's Dr. Lavonia Allison, in a landslide.

Well, "landslide" being a relative term.

Allison got 22 15 out of the 25 18 votes cast, with the remaining three parceled out to the Rev. Mel Whitley.

Lest you think it was a disinterested turnout, not so: 200 people turned out for the group's meeting.

But after a parliamentary maneuver by Allison -- one which flew in the face of attorney Billy Marsh's assertion of an open voting process -- the eligibility to vote was limited to just two dozen Committee members.

We noted here this morning the possibility of two outcomes: a Whitley win, or a parliamentary maneuver to keep Allison in the seat. From reports, it looks like the latter was the case.

Interestingly, Larry Hester and Denise Hester -- a husband-and-wife team long active in the Fayetteville St. corridor, and developers who struggled to complete Rolling Hills and completed the Phoenix Square and Phoenix Crossing shopping centers, in at least one case with City financial support -- were named second vice chair and political committee chair, respectively.

From what we heard at BCR, the 175 or so who showed up at the meeting and found they couldn't vote left in none too happy a mood. Something that will beg an inevitable question in the coming months: does this give rise to an alternative African-American political movement or organization in Durham?



As BCR and other media outlets cover the Durham Committee's election of officers, the lack of thorough coverage is extremely frustrating. The Durham Committee, unlike the People's Alliance, is an organization that requires no paid membership dues. All that is asked of members is to attend between 1-2 meetings out of a 3-month period in which up to 6 total meetings are held.

Many persons accuse the Committee of being an organization that restricts the participation of citizens. What is more restrictive than a $35 membership fee, which is imposed by the People's Alliance?

Furthermore, when has the People's Alliance, an organization that touts it's inclusiveness and diversity, ever had a non-white PAC Chair? Much has been made of the internal operations of the Durham Committee but no one has inquired about the internal operations of the People's Alliance. Who chooses their officers? How many ethnic minorities have a vote on their organization's important matters? Do the issues that they expend countless hours posting on blogs and listervs and raising funds for represent the many low-wealth communities in Durham?

It's time that all of the these organizations examine their philosophies and whether they are serving the people of Durham.

Frank Hyman

@ sign

Good questions. Too bad you're not proud enough of your opinion to sign your name.

FWIW, the PA's dues structure are a sliding scale--you pay what you can afford. Can't pay $35? Do like a friend of mine and pay $5 and become a member.

But you'll hafta sign your name to join.

The message was approved by Frank Hyman.

(can 'sign' say the same?)


This is our best chance to break the back of the Committee once and for all...if the news media picks up the story and the controversial manuever by Lavonia Allison. She has the nerve to say she represents the black community, but just like any other politician with a god complex, she's just in it for herself and her ego.

The more people know about her antics, especially black constituents who aren't members of the committee, but vote in local elections, the better the chance of organizing a new PAC that's more inclusive of its members.

I'll be waiting to see if the Herald Sun, WRAL, and WTVD pick this up and run with it for a while.

Interesting the Hesters made it to top positions. I'll bet there was a payoff in exchange for more pressure from Allison on the city to funnel money into their failing endevours. It's a good thing Mayor Bell has a mind of his own to resist such pressure.

Kevin Davis

@Sign: As I noted this morning in the article, the coverage of the Committees election machinations are indeed disproportionate.

That said, I cant imagine many organizations where youd have 200 people turn out to vote in a night like this -- or where only an eighth or less of them were then allowed to vote -- or where so many people got so bent out of shape over this thing.  Those things are newsworthy.  If a PA or FOD or GOP race were drawing these kind of antics, you bet itd be newsworthy.

That they dont is not a sign that the Committee is being picked on (necessarily -- though I also understand the risk of that.)  Its a sign that theres some weird stuff happening in Committee-land.


@ sign: Nice try at a diversionary tactic. Shoot across someone else's bough to avoid seeing your own burning ship. The PA's current president and treasurer are African-American, and over the years the executive committee has had plenty of African-American members.

Frank mentions the sliding scale. And at least all PA members can vote for endorsements and officers.

You're ignoring the fact that with the Committee being led by Lavonia, Wagstaff, and now the Hesters it has become a big bag of crazy.


Again, no one has answered my question as to whether their has been a non-white PAC Chair. We all know that the most important part of the organization and the one the often gives the People's Alliance credibility in addressing various other issues is the Political Action Committee.

What we've failed to acknowledge is that the Durham Committee operates exactly as the People's Alliance...both organization's have membership requirements...the PA's requires a fee and the Durham Committee requires attending a certain number of meetings. Neither method is better than the other. In addition, simply showing up with 200 ppl to a People's Alliance meeting (endorsement or otherwise) does not guarantee a person a right to a vote. In fact, if you have not paid your membership fee 30 days in advance of an important vote, you are unable to vote at a People's Alliance meeting. What's the difference in that requirement compared to the Durham Committee's attendance requirement? identity is not as important as the points that I am raising. What will knowing my name add to the discussion? Very little I suspect.


@sign -- your posts are rambling and make no sense. so yes, that's what's important.

Rob Gillespie

December 10, 2009 at 11:08 PM-
"The PA's current president and treasurer are African-American, and over the years the executive committee has had plenty of African-American members."

December 10, 2009 at 11:43 PM-
"Again, no one has answered my question as to whether their has been a non-white PAC Chair."

Just saying...

Kevin Davis

@Rob: In fairness to Sign, I had the same reaction you did to their comment about non-white PAC leaders -- but I think they were referring to the Political Action Committee of the PA (PA-PAC) -  Their question is whether PA-PAC has had a non-white leader. 

Will Wilson

Perhaps these events are a good sign? In a perfect, equal democracy, being black, white, hispanic, gay or straight, religious or not, none of these labels would matter. Perhaps these events are taking us to a focus on issues of environment, economics, and justice. I'm just asking, does the old Durham Committee represent "Republican" values (my view of the Committee's support of the 751 Assemblage)? Why the expectation that all blacks in Durham support a Democratic or Republican view?


@BCR- Thank you for clarifying my statement. It is very discouraging that "active" members of an organization aren't aware that their own organization (People's Alliance) isn't simply a PAC (Political Action Committee). Maybe the People's Alliance needs to spend some time educating people that their organization is more than a PAC/endorsing committee...or is it?

Similarly, the Durham Committee operates over 9 standing committees- ranging from education to housing...and the Political [Action] Committee is just one component of the larger Durham Committee organization.

I raise these points to not cause further division within the Durham community, but to simply share the truth about Durham's political operations. The People's Alliance and Durham Committee both operate in similarly...yet the Durham Committee continues to be accused of not being representative of the times in which we live.

It is my hope that the many so-called community activists, organizers and leaders begin to take an objective view of these organization and understand a need to break from their respective conventions/orthodoxy.

Erik Landfried

@sign - Here's the point: 25 people just voted for the leadership positions of an organization that supposedly represents the interests of the black community in Durham. As in, approximately 100,000 people.

Do you think that's a good ratio? Do you think those 25 people who voted truly represent the entire black community in Durham? Clearly, there are a lot of people in the black and non-black community that don't think that was sufficient.

You can defend whether the process was justified until you are blue in the face, but when that process leads to such a result, there is clearly something wrong with it.

If this had happened with a People's Alliance vote, you better believe it would be front page news. But it didn't. It happened with a Durham Committee vote. So that's where the focus is right now.


Is the Durham Committee's influence real or just perceived? Are we holding onto a history which has past? It's not 1994 or '54 for that matter. We've heard that most of the sub-committees are non-active and it doesn't seem like the voters cared much for their endorsements the last round. It appears that only local political insiders who've been around for a while actually care much about the outcome here.


I'm quite sympathetic to sign's point, and it does seem odd to me that an organization would allow any black citizen of Durham to vote in its internal elections. Having a membership fee or some threshold of participation makes a lot of sense to me.

That said, Erik Landfried is correct: why do only 25 people participate in the Committee enough to reach that threshold? What's wrong with the Committee that organizing is so weak that such a small number of people show up to meetings? Were I someone involved in the organization, that would deeply trouble me.

I come from a union background, and if only 25 people voted in a union election, like for officers or on contract ratification--regardless of the outcome--that would be a sign of a sick and dying organization. A sick and dying union is a gift to the bosses. To whom is a sick and dying Durham Committee a gift?

Justin B. Clark


how about you start answering questions about your organization instead of deflecting onto the PA? you can throw out hypothetical situations all day about "what would happen if the PA did this" or "if this happened at a PA meeting" etc. well, guess what? it didn't. it happened at a committee meeting; hence the discussion focusing on the committee. if the committee, and its members, cannot stand up to public scrutiny then they are even more out of touch and in need of change than we all first thought.

Rob Gillespie

What gives you the impression that I'm a member of PA? And, not knowing Thomas's last [or first] name, what can make you sure that he's a member?

Yes, I'm a liberal. Yes, I live in Durham. No, I'm not a member of Durham's PA.


@Jacob- Thank you for raising valid points. In fact, it is extremely troubling that participation has been extremely low in recent years. In fact, the civic participation (or lack thereof) of all citizens in Durham has waned...with exception to the 2008 Presidential Election.

The same is true of the People's Alliance. From reports that I have read (, out of the more than 100,000 voters in Durham, only 60 participated in the People's Alliance endorsement meeting. Do those 60 people truly represent the thousands of progressives in Durham?

"To whom is a sick and dying Durham Committee a gift?" This is one of the most profound questions posed to me in a number of years. It is a question that the organization must deeply reflect upon.

Black students continue to fall behind than their white peers; Black are often disproportionately affected by easily treatable and preventable diseases; Blacks are disproportionately unemployed and incarcerated; and Blacks have failed to achieve the "American Dream" of owning a home and providing for their families. These aren't just Black issues...but they are human issues. We are, as a community, only as strong as the least among us.


So now it's the Durham Committee on the Affair of 25 Lavonia Supporters...

Don Moffitt

Hmm... Sign is an impassioned supporter of the DCOTABP, a reader of BCR and apparently one of the privileged few who got to vote last night. Wonder who it could be...

No matter. The obvious answer to his question is that the co-chairs of the PA-PAC are white. He wouldn't keep asking it if he didn't know the answer.

Since Sign would prefer we talk about the PA, instead of the DCOTABP, let me tout the People's Alliance! At PA the PAC chairs are appointed by the Coordinating Committee, which in turns simply carries out the mandates of the membership. The PAC chairs just committee chairs organizing member activities. Those PA members who so wish help draft the candidate questionnaire, interview candidates, draft the summaries of candidate responses, participate in an open debate and vote on endorsements.

I got involved with PA because I wanted to help elect great people to local office. 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.

If you're fed up with other PACs in Durham, you can join PA at You WILL be able to vote!


@Sign- I agree entirely with your last paragraph, and that's why I want a strong Durham Committee--just as I want a strong PA. (A strong FOD--meh, I could do with out that.) I don't know what the solution is for the Durham Committee, but I do know that the current path does not lead to a strong and revitalized organization.

On another point: What's the next step for the Committee's dissidents? Is it a law suit on the grounds to enforce the organization's bylaws? Is it leaving and founding a competing group? Or is it sticking around and acquiescing to another Lavonia term?


I also think that Sign makes some valid points comparing the "active member" criteria of the two organziation. What he didn't say that is probematic for the Committee is that there was and is no documentation to support Dr. Allison's ruling about voting requirments. All she could do at that meeting was to say that the records had somehow gotten lost or disappeared. Sorry but this dosen't pass the laugh test, in my view. If she runs the organization but has not seen to it that actual records are maintained, then there is a problem.

While many were unhappy with the process last night, there seemed to be broad agreement to acquiesce to them. In the words of the late Senator Kennedy . . . "the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die." If this energizes a new group either to make a difference in the way the Committee is run going forward or to start a new organization, then it was a good night for Black folks in Durham and Rev. Whitely needs to be thanked and congratulated for his efforts and for absorbing the many unnecessary and irrelevant attacks on him in such a dignified and principled way.

After all that has happend over the last few years, folks, black and white, still care about the Committee, its heritage and what it means to Durham. Let's see where we are in 6 months and then take appropriate action.


hear hear to the last two posts...

white person

Is it possible to join the Durham Committee if you are white?


Mr.Landfried if the 25 people that earned the right to vote at the Durham committee election by meeting attendance requirements dont represent the interest of the black community,Then My question to you would be does the 8.10% (according to Durham Co. board of election)11,484votes out of 141,834registered voters who voted Nov.3,2009 to elect our most recent councilmembers back in there current seat, are these the people who speak for the 130,350 people that didnt vote.

Moe Rivera

Just pick a leader and move on. If you don't agree with the way things are being run, then leave and start a new group. It's not a government election where you have to work within the confides of an area. Real power is not within an individual, but within an entire group. You take that group away and all you get is one person speaking to his/her fans. More importantly, It doesn't assure me that the Black and Latino communities are hurting and we can't get even pick leaders without controversy. The fact that only 8 percent of durham voted in the last election cycle is the main reason we need these organizations to offer a voice and reach the 92% of durham that didn't vote...

National November '09 Stats (we need leadership!)

Blacks = 15.6 percent
Hispanics =12.7 percent
Whites = 9.3 percent.

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