Butterfield calls for fair redistricting

Published 10:10 pm Saturday, March 12, 2011

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., jokes with his audience Saturday near Washington at a meeting hosted by the Beaufort County NAACP. (WDN Photo/Jonathan Clayborne)

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., warned a friendly audience to be vigilant as the N.C. General Assembly reshapes legislative and congressional district lines in the coming weeks.

Republicans running the Legislature will try to draw districts favoring their future candidates, Butterfield advised a group convening Saturday near Washington.

“We’ve got to make sure that the lines are drawn fairly,” he told a gathering of 40 or more mostly black leaders from at least 13 counties in eastern North Carolina.

The meeting, called to address issues important to the black community, was hosted by the Beaufort County branch of the NAACP.

The session was presided over by Fred Yates, mayor of Winfall and president of the Eastern North Carolina Civic Group.

In his time at the lectern, Butterfield said the district he represents č the 1st Congressional District č doesn’t have the ideal population of 733,000 needed for a congressional district following the latest U.S. census.

The district is home to around 600,000, and state lawmakers will have to add 97,000 residents to the district to achieve the right figure, the congressman related.

Under the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, the district will have to stay majority-minority, Butterfield said.

But the Republicans will try to craft legislative districts that will give their party an edge in coming elections, and that could make the GOP the dominant party in the state for years to come, he added.

Also, redistricting plans aren’t subject to the governor’s veto, so Democratic Gov. Beverly Perdue won’t be able to turn back the Republican majority’s maps, Butterfield pointed out.

“You must make sure that your opinions or your views are heard,” the Wilson resident said.

Butterfield also criticized Republicans in the U.S. House, saying many if not most of the new GOP lawmakers were elected by tea-party voters.

The congressmen said the tea-party faction has two goals: to defeat and discredit President Barack Obama and cut spending.

“They feel that they have a mandate to come in with a meat ax and cut federal spending,” he said.

Butterfield endorsed responsible spending cuts, but offered no specifics.

He said the tea partiers are a small but vocal group of people, “and they are running the show in the House of Representatives.”

He said the GOP wants $100 billion in spending cuts, but added of the roughly $3 trillion federal budget, $2 trillion is mandatory spending for programs including Social Security and Medicaid.

Two-thirds of the discretionary money goes to homeland security and defense, so that leaves approximately $500 billion in discretionary spending that could be slashed, the congressman said.

Butterfield told his audience the government nearly shut down because of budgetary disagreements in Congress, and that short-term spending measures have kept operations afloat temporarily.

He forecast more budget struggles ahead as Congress and the president work to reconcile their differences.

Saturday’s meeting, held in the Alpha Life Enrichment Center just east of Washington, attracted a wide range of officials, including Washington Mayor Archie Jennings and Beaufort County Commissioner Ed Booth.

Jennings said he took the advice of Bill Booth, president of the Beaufort County NAACP, left his title at the door and came to learn about issues facing the community.

“Any time the community comes together out of concern for itself, that’s a very important day,” Jennings stated.

Ed Booth urged his listeners to linger in the county and spend money.

“We need all the funds we can get,” he said.

Also on hand were state Sen. Ed Jones, D-Halifax, state Rep. Annie Mobley, D-Hertford, former state Sen. Don Davis, D-Greene, and two people representing the governor’s office.

For more coverage of this meeting, see a future edition.