Sunday, March 17, 2013

Legislature Stymies Obama Agenda

By: Mildred Robertson

 Arguably the most powerful man in the world, President Barack Obama still seems to have trouble keeping his House in order—and his Senate too.  Much like spoiled children, legislators carry on their antics late into the night, stopping only for snacks and bathroom breaks. The posturing of Sen. Rand Paul and other legislators doggedly working to thwart the President and his agenda, only offer a disservice to the American public whom they claim to represent.
We have faced self-imposed crisis, one after the other, for no other reason than to keep this president from implementing his agenda. Any victory for President Obama seems unacceptable to partisan politicians who have lost sight of the real reason they are in Washington D.C.
Whether I voted for them or not, they are SUPPOSED to represent me and the majority of other Americans who decided that Barack Obama’s plan for America is the best choice.
It appears that many of our legislators, although they refer to themselves as “The Tea Party” have forgotten the foundation of our Democracy. The American Revolution was not about taxation. It was about taxation without representation. Because of their single-minded opposition to the president, our government has stalled and no one is being represented.

I have watched the pundits on various news broadcasts who insist that the President “DO” something. What is it that they would have him do?

He has offered compromise. He has introduced proposals almost identical to those the opposing legislators introduced themselves. He has sent out surrogates to schmooze and negotiate. He has used his bully pulpit to appeal to the American public. But the opposition is so entrenched in the idea that the President should win no victory that they resist all such overtures.
Now, while they are doggedly fighting to ensure he doesn’t win, he seems to win anyway. He won the Detroit bailout, he won the Stimulus battle, he won the election, and he won healthcare reform. While slipping in the polls from time-to-time, he continues to win the hearts and minds of the American people. He has even won a shaky economic recovery. All of these victories came hard fought, and without any meaningful support from across the aisle.

The pundits are right. Something HAS to be done. But it is not up to the President to do it. It is up to us. We sent them to Washington D.C., and we need to bring them home!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

NC Legislation Creates a Path to Opportunity for Ex-Felons

By Mildred Robertson

Do you want a convicted bank robber working as a teller in your bank – probably not. But you might want to give a chance to 25-year-old who served time for DUI, or possession of an illegal substance. With NC House Bill 208, that 25-year-old may stand a chance, because the measure would eliminate the check-off box on employment applications asking whether the applicant has a felony conviction on his or her record.

That check-off box has created an underclass of men and women who never get another chance to be productive citizens. Though these ex-felons may have paid their debt to society, they are summarily eliminated from most job interviews because of their record. In an already competitive job market, they don’t stand a chance.

So what do we as a society expect them to do?  If an ex-felon cannot work, and cannot get housing, what options are left for his or her survival?

I recall when I lived in New Orleans that a group of amazing street performers passed the hat to bystanders, asking them to “give a little to my house, so we don’t have to come into your house.” After a little uneasy laughter, the hat filled to overflowing. Their talent was undeniable. But so was their underlying message. With a little hustle and ingenuity, these young men had figured out a way to survive. But their street-wise philosophy made it clear that in the final analysis, survival was the goal.

And it is the goal of us all.

These people have already paid their debt to society. Many people are lured into the streets at an early age, seeing only the money that life can give them—money they think they cannot achieve anywhere else. By the time they learn the downside of this decision, they have acquired the new “scarlet letter,” the “F” that will close almost all doors to opportunity.

House Bill 208 would prohibit employers from asking job applicants about whether they are convicted felons. Basically, the measure eliminates the check-off box on employment applications about felony convictions.  Employers would only be able to ask such questions after they have made a conditional job offer to the applicant, or if the person is seeking a job where his or her felony might put the employer or the public at risk. Another bill, Senate Bill 91, would prohibit employers from asking applicants about expunged criminal records. Senate Bill 33 would require state licensing boards to review the circumstances under which they deny professional licenses.

All of this legislation is a move in the right direction. I applaud the North Carolina legislature for taking up this matter. This proposed legislation acknowledges that just because a person made a serious mistake, he or she should not be forever shunned. It also acknowledges that a pathway to good citizenship must exist in order for someone to take the path. Ultimately, our goal is to rehabilitate and allow people the dignity of making their own way. Call your representative and express your support for a pathway to opportunity for these individuals seeking to be productive members of our society.