The Question Was Political Accountability? The Answer Is Profoundby GDN Shared Post January 14, 2016
Our first Voter Rights Forum, held in Fayetteville in November 2015, revealed the issue that has stymied Black leaders and communities throughout the Civil Rights Movement. The question has always been simple but the answer has always been elusive. The question is: How do we as Black voters hold our elected officials accountable for our support? Voter apathy was identified as a major issue for voter participation in our Fayetteville forum and addressing it seems to hold the answer to the question of political accountability.
While responding to the issue of voter apathy, our second forum answered the question of political accountability in a profound way. To properly understand the answer, meeting demographics should be considered. On Saturday past, we met in Greenville, NC. In attendance were 40-50 attendees of which 15-20 were Black elected officials and the others mostly community political activist. All agreed that economic equity was essential in addressing voter apathy and if we’re expecting Black people to fully engage in politics.
At the beginning of our meeting we agreed that the Democracy NC presentation would be last on our agenda because of a scheduling issue with their presenter. Their presentation covered the political ground game for the Primary and General Elections. They are working in collaboration with the NAACP to create massive voter turnouts in March and November.
The majority of our meeting was our discussion of voter apathy and political accountability. Our discussion was very intense and focused on the following proposal:
Every elected official and candidate for office should support hiring or agreeing to hire an M/WBE (Minority & Women Business Enterprise) consultant, by their entity, to review the spending policies of their public body, or the one that they aspire to, in order to determine if there is racial equity in its hiring and spending policies. That is, to determine if people of color are being treated fairly and equitably in hiring and spending by their entity.
There was unanimity in the decision to support this proposal with many in attendance planning to incorporate the proposal in their political forums and to present it directly to boards and commissions. Gerry McCants, an M/WBE Consultant, was a forum presenter and explained how evidence could be compiled that would reveal whether people of color were being treated fairly by the spending and hiring policies of their public entities.
Several elected officials in attendance described their ongoing efforts to support economic equity for their constituents and the beneficial use that such M/WBE findings would have in supporting their efforts. They felt that the reports on public spending would also enable their constituents to accurately measure their success and make them much more accountable as elected officials.
It was also appealing that adopting the proposal requires no money from the elected officials or candidates and that it allows voters to easily measure the commitment of their elected officials to racial equity in hiring and spending. The information from the studies can be reviewed by voters on an ongoing basis as they evaluate the accountability of their officials. It was also appealing that annual reports would increase the dialogue between voters and elected officials and help create stronger working relationships.
It should also be noted that our proposal doesn’t lend itself to use in State House and Senate races and therefore we need to create different accountability measures for them.
In our effort to identify other issues that would appeal to potential voters we discussed free college tuition and expanding Medicaid. Our discussions showed strong support for economic equity and expanding Medicaid. Our discussion on free college tuition showed very strong support but some in our audience wanted more information before adopting it as a major issue. Our accountability proposal was designed to address our issue of economic equity and its implementation should have profound benefits to people of color.
Planning for our Triangle Voter Rights Forum is well under way and Durham was chosen as our host county with March 5th as our tentative date. We will continue to update you with other details as they become available.
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