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John Hood: Voter ID should have been settled |

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RALEIGH — Movie sequels are almost always worse than the original films. Notable exceptions, such as this summer’s “Top Gun: Maverick,” merely prove the rule. For every “Empire Strikes Back,” there’s a “Highlander 2: The Quickening,” “Halloween Kills” and “Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol.”

If efforts to enact a voter-identification requirement in North Carolina were a motion-picture franchise, the current box-office bomb would be titled something like “Carolina ID 5: Voters Against Democracy.” Its baldly implausible plot is that self-styled defenders of democracy have gone to court to overturn a voter-ID requirement added to the state constitution by a voter referendum. “Let the will of the majority prevail,” warns one of the supposed protagonists, “and that will destroy democracy!”

As I have argued many times, an overwhelming preponderance of evidence shows little to no effect of ID requirements on voter turnout. In other words, progressives are mistaken when they claim such rules constitute voter suppression. By the same token, conservatives are mistaken when they claim voter fraud would be rampant without ID requirements. (If true, imposing such a requirement should significantly reduce the number of ballots cast. But that’s never happened.)

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In reality, the types of misbehavior to which voter IDs pose a barrier or deterrent — impersonation fraud, most obviously, but also residency fraud — are rare but hardly nonexistent. Although nearly all electoral outcomes involve margins far too large to be determined by fraud, a handful of illegal votes could be decisive in some local races or extreme circumstances. As long as requirements are clearly stated and citizens without an ID receive state assistance to get one, the policy is reasonable. Its modest benefits, in the form of public confidence in elections and greater convenience for those previously lacking IDs, easily surpass its modest costs.

Such arguments should have settled the matter years ago. In 2013, the General Assembly enacted an election-law bill that included voter ID among its provisions. Republican Pat McCrory, then governor, signed it into law.

Progressive plaintiffs sued in federal court. They lost at the trial court. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder concluded that however debatable the bill’s merits might be, there was no evidence of discriminatory intent or other violations of federal laws or constitutional provisions.

The plaintiffs appealed. In 2016, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Court of Appeals tossed aside Schroeder’s findings of fact — itself a rare and questionable act — and famously proclaimed that the bill’s provisions “target African Americans with almost surgical precision.”

I bet you’ve heard that phrase many times since. But it never had any basis in fact. And it should never have been the last word.

McCrory, House Speaker Tim Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger assumed that the state would appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. They had every reason to expect — and subsequent decisions in other cases have buttressed their expectation — that the Supreme Court would have overturned the Fourth Circuit and allowed North Carolina’s voter-ID rule to take effect.

Roy Cooper defeated McCrory to become governor. He and his Democratic replacement as attorney general, Josh Stein, surely agreed with the Republicans that the state would likely prevail on appeal. So they sabotaged North Carolina’s case. They refused to appeal. Moore and Berger tried to do it themselves, using their own counsel, but the justices were apparently unsure who was representing whom and declined to accept it.

Cooper and Stein have never received the scorn they deserve for their misbehavior. Nevertheless, I also hold the U.S. Supreme Court responsible for failing to sort the matter out properly back in 2017. Fortunately, they’ve now done so in yet another installment in the franchise — perhaps “Carolina ID 6: Disorder in the Court” — by issuing this month an 8-1 decision affirming Moore and Berger’s right to hire legal representation on the state’s behalf in yet another voter ID case.

The justices should have accepted that argument back in 2017. It would have saved us from some truly dreadful sequels.

John Hood is a John Locke Foundation board member. His latest books, “Mountain Folk” and “Forest Folk,” combine epic fantasy with early American history (FolkloreCycle.com). Follow Hood on Twitter @JohnHoodNC


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Eric Adams Cuts His Brother’s Duties After Giving Him Top Police Job

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When Mayor Eric Adams named a Virginia parking administrator and retired police sergeant to a top position in the New York Police Department, he said the man had one qualification that no one else there possessed: He was the mayor’s brother.

Bernard Adams, 56, a former police sergeant who retired from the force in 2006 after 20 years, has been given one of the most sensitive, elite jobs in city government: overseeing the unit that will protect the mayor’s physical safety.

As a community affairs sergeant, Mr. Adams helped support the security effort at various big events, including the U.S. Open, city officials said. His most recent job was at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, where he worked in parking administration.

The mayor, who said on Sunday that white supremacy and “anarchists” are on the rise, suggested that he can trust no one in the Police Department as much as he can his own kin.

“Personal security — my life, my life — I want in the hands of my brother with his 20-year law enforcement experience,” Mr. Adams said. “He has the police experience, but he also has the personal experience. He knows his brother, and he’s going to keep his brother safe.”

The mayor’s fund-raising methods have, in the past, tested the boundaries of campaign-finance and law, and the hiring has amplified concerns that Mayor Adams pays too little heed to ethics.

New York City law prohibits public servants from using, or attempting to use, their position “to obtain any financial gain,” for themselves or close associates, including siblings.

That provision, city officials note, is not ironclad. The law allows for the hiring of siblings if the Conflicts of Interest Board determines that the “position would not be in conflict with the purposes and interests of the city.”

Bernard Adams started work on Dec. 30, before his brother was sworn in as mayor, city officials said. The Adams administration, however, did not begin the process of seeking approval from the Conflicts of Interest Board until Jan. 7, city officials said, when Bernard Adams’s hiring was first reported by The New York Post.

That same day, Philip Banks III, an unindicted co-conspirator in a public corruption case, announced his own hiring as Mr. Adams’s deputy mayor for public safety in an opinion piece in The Daily News.

“This does appear to be a serious problem,” said Richard Briffault, a professor at Columbia Law School and the former chair of the Conflicts of Interest Board. “A public servant, which includes the mayor, can’t use his position as mayor to obtain a financial gain for a sibling.”

City Hall officials have yet to determine their course of action, should the conflicts board deny their request for approval. It is not unheard-of for mayors to flout the board’s advice.

Initial reports said that Bernard Adams would serve as a deputy commissioner, a role that typically comes with a salary of about $240,000. Mayor Adams said on Sunday that his brother would be responsible for other elected officials’ security, too.

But city officials on Tuesday said that Bernard Adams’s actual title will be executive director of mayoral security. They could not say whether the title had existed before. Mr. Adams will oversee only his brother’s security, officials said. They did not explain why the position had apparently been downgraded, but added that his salary was $210,000.

Mr. Adams will not receive any pension payments from his prior service while serving in his new role; for that to happen, the administration would have to show that no one else was qualified to serve in the position, City Hall officials said. Nor, they said, will he oversee other officials’ police details.

It remains unclear what experience Mr. Adams has that would make him particularly well equipped to protect the mayor beyond the fact that they are brothers — during a time that Mayor Adams and his aides describe as particularly perilous for public officials.

Indeed, the mayor’s selection of his brother seems to underscore his apparent distrust of the Police Department, which Mr. Adams cast as a hotbed of police abuse while he was a police officer and activist in the 1990s. He has publicly suggested that a police officer might have shot out his car’s rear window in 1996.

City Hall officials did not make Bernard Adams available for comment; attempts to reach him directly were unsuccessful.

Other mayors have appointed family to high-level government positions, though historians struggled to come up with a recent precedent where those positions were paid. Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appointed his sister, Marjorie Tiven, as commissioner for the United Nations, Consular Corps and Protocol. She did not receive a salary.

Former Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed his wife, Chirlane McCray, to run the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City. She also ran ThriveNYC, the mayor’s mental health care initiative. She did not receive a salary, thanks to nepotism rules that her husband publicly lamented.

Former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani also drew criticism for placing a handful of relatives on the city’s payroll, though none held high-level positions.

“Many mayors have had family members as close political advisers,” said Jonathan Soffer, a professor of urban history at the N.Y.U. Tandon School of Engineering, citing mayors going back to Robert Wagner in the 1950s. “But none of those people ever had paid positions.”

Mayor Adams and his brother appear to be close. In an October interview, Bernard Adams recalled his older brother’s shielding him from the precariousness of their impoverished childhood.

“Being the younger child, it wasn’t my responsibility to provide for my older brothers and sisters,” Mr. Adams said. “Eric and my older brother Conrad, they kind of took that responsibility on.”

On Oct. 31, Bernard Adams told his neighbor in Mechanicsville, Va., outside of Richmond, that if his brother won the election, he would be in New York City to support him. On election night, Bernard Adams introduced the mayor-elect.

Mr. Adams graduated in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. During his years at the Police Department, he rose to the rank of sergeant, overseeing a staff of more than 40 as commanding officer of community affairs for Queens North.

During his 13-year tenure at Virginia Commonwealth University, Mr. Adams “did not provide executive protection services,” Thomas Gresham, a university spokesman, said. His most recent position there was as assistant director for parking at one of the university’s two main campuses.

A current job posting for that position, at the university’s health campus, the Medical College of Virginia, says its responsibilities include “proactively identifying and resolving issues related to both parking and transportation on the M.C.V. campus.” The job also calls for overseeing “the enforcement operation and Operations Center on the M.C.V. campus.” The position does not require its occupant to carry a weapon.

Mr. Gresham said the job entails, among other responsibilities, “the enforcement of the university’s parking rules and regulations.”

Keith Taylor, a former undercover narcotics detective and then detective sergeant who supervised an Emergency Service Unit at the New York Police Department, described the mayor’s protective detail as an “elite” assignment often given to veterans of emergency service units and detective bureaus.

“It’s as much an art as it is a science, because you want someone who is able to handle high-stress situations with a level of professionalism and actionable intelligence,” said Mr. Taylor, who now teaches at John Jay College.

The Police Department offers training for executive protection positions, which Mr. Taylor recalled as lasting three to five days. City officials said Bernard Adams has received that training. They did not specify when.

Reporting was contributed by Jeffery C. Mays and Emma G. Fitzsimmons in New York City, and Leah Small in Richmond, Va.


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Criminal activity in the Bull Mountains must be stopped – Daily Montanan

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The Bull Mountains just north of Billings are home to Montana’s only underground coal mine, owned by Signal Peak Energy.

I have ranched in these hills my entire life, just like my parents before me. We have ranched alongside coal production for generations. It’s always been a challenge because coal mining inherently causes damage to the land and water we depend on for our cattle and livelihood. But we’ve always found a way to make it work. 

We try to be honest and forthright. We work to maintain respectful relationships with the workers earning a living for their families. When dealing with corporate executives, we stand up for our rights, uphold our values, and do our best to protect our community without undercutting the livelihoods of others. Managing these relationships takes work and patience. It requires civility and understanding others’ perspectives. Fourteen years ago, Signal Peak moved into our community. Soon after that, civility and respect were shoved aside, and it’s only gotten worse since. 

Headlines about Signal Peak’s repeated criminal convictions, investigations, and the wild details involved are plentiful. They sound sensational and would be hard to believe if not for the facts detailed in criminal court proceedings and law enforcement reports. In one case, a workplace injury led to a finger amputation, and the worker’s superiors bribed him with a cash-filled envelope to refrain from reporting it. 

In another case, former mine executive Larry Price, Jr., staged his own kidnapping while trying to outrun business investors he had swindled $20 million from. He was sentenced to five years in prison for fraud and lying to the FBI about the false abduction. 

In January, Signal Peak was sentenced in federal criminal court to a $1 million fine and three years’ probation after pleading guilty to multiple counts of health and safety violations. One violation involved pumping toxic waste slurry into the ground, threatening the safety of our community’s water sources. 

A Department of Justice statement about the investigation says, “….mine managers lied about the mine’s expenses, its safety record, and other matters, which… resulted in individual criminal convictions and charges for nine persons, including former mine vice presidents and their associates, on crimes ranging from embezzlement, tax evasion and bank fraud to money laundering, drugs and firearms violations.”

This toxic culture has extended to the treatment of landowners who ranch over the mine. Signal Peak is trying to drive us off our land by tearing out spring developments and water storage facilities (as documented in a DEQ complaint and order for Signal Peak to provide replacement water), cutting us off from water sources we have the legal right to use, and by forcing us into endless legal cases, one of which was ruled harassment to landowners by the District Court in Billings.

Now Signal Peak is canceling long-term leases we’ve held for over 65 years, claiming they can kick us off our own deeded land and block access for the next eight years, imperiling our ranching operations and our livelihoods.  

The toxic culture and criminal behavior of Signal Peak is not surprising given the history of the parent companies that created it. Wayne Boich, Jr., FirstEnergy Corporation, and Gunvor Group jointly own Signal Peak. These entities have a disturbing history of criminal charges, bribery schemes, and well-documented international corruption. In 2014, the U.S. Treasury found that Russian President Vladimir Putin has investments in Gunvor and may have access to Gunvor funds. 

Court documents show that former FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Johnson passed along an image of himself, Wayne Boich, and other associates’ faces Photoshopped onto Mount Rushmore with the caption “F*** ANYBODY WHO AIN’T US.” They were bragging about a $60 million bribery scandal and legislative bailout scheme in Ohio that analysts have called “the worst energy policy in the country.” 

Apparently, “F*** ANYBODY WHO AIN’T US” is their version of the golden rule. Signal Peak and its owners have held to this rule with us and the rest of Montana. These are not the type of people we want doing business in our state. The Department of Environmental Quality has an obligation to protect our communities from habitual criminal offenders who have no morals and no respect for ranchers, local residents, or even their own employees.

Steve Charter is a Bull Mountain rancher and member of Northern Plains Resource Council, a conservation and family agriculture group founded in 1972 by Bull Mountain ranch families and others.


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Outspoken Former Police Commissioner Hamasaki Will Challenge Brooke Jenkins for SF DA

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By David M. Greenwald
Executive Director

San Francisco, CA – For many who supported recalled DA Chesa Boudin, had Mayor London Breed selected someone who could unite the city, they might have gone quietly.  But when Breed selected Brooke Jenkins, who was one of the faces of the recall, that changed the dynamics.

He waited until the literal last moment to file, but former Police Commissioner John Hamasaki filed his paperwork on Friday and the next three months figures to be, if nothing else, interesting.

“I think after the recall, everybody was ready to stand down and was hoping that the mayor was going to appoint somebody who was moderate, but reasonable, sensible, ethical—and instead what we’ve got is just the opposite,” he told the Vanguard in a phone interview on Friday afternoon.

He added, “It’s been a nightmare of ethical issues, Brady issues, getting paid by Republicans and not disclosing it issues, and hiring back people with really problematic records, and people who have had the same ethical issues as Ms. Jenkins.”

For Hamasaki the last week or so might have been the straw that brought him into the race.

“I think as a community, people have been looking for somebody to step up and I decided to start looking into it after Friday, when she had appointed Don Dubain because I just felt it was really a slap in the face to everybody in the criminal justice world to bring somebody with his record.”

He added, “Then the story broke about her taking $200,000 for something like six months of work…  It just seemed like we can’t survive like this.”

John Hamasaki has over a decade of experience in the courtroom, earning him a reputation as one of the Bay Area’s most tenacious and effective litigators.

“I’m here today because San Francisco needs an independent District Attorney who will hold everyone accountable to the law,” said Hamasaki in a release. “Whether you are a drug dealer selling deadly fentanyl in the Tenderloin, a multi-million corporation exploiting workers and small business owners, or a political machine selling influence in City Hall, I will fight for safety and justice.”

After earning his Juris Doctorate degree from the University of San Francisco School of Law, he opened Hamasaki Law, a top-rated criminal defense law firm that represents individuals in the criminal justice system.

Hamasaki also served as a San Francisco Police Commissioner from 2018 to 2022, where he was the lead commissioner on the Domestic Violence Working Group, which modernized the guidelines for the San Francisco Police Department’s interactions with domestic violence victims. He was one of the attorneys for the family of Cecilia Lam, who was killed by her ex-boyfriend despite calling SFPD five times in 2014.

Hamasaki is a fourth-generation Japanese American and has lived with his family in North Beach for nearly three decades. If elected, Hamasaki would be San Francisco’s first Japanese American District Attorney.

Hamasaki has been an active part of the Bay Area legal community, serving as President of the Asian American Bar Association in 2020 and on the Board of Governors for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice. He has done extensive pro bono legal work through the National Lawyers Guild.

Anyone who has followed Hamasaki on Twitter for any length of time knows this will not be a dull campaign.

Hamasaki is concerned with the influence of the mayor on her appointee.

“I’ve heard that basically the mayor is running the office, including putting one of her top people in as a new hire to be one of Brooke’s top people,” he said.  “This all goes back to the mayor’s tough-on-crime, make life hell speech for December, when she made it clear that her police was kind of to open war on people in poverty, people who are unhoused, people who are struggling with substance abuse and other disorders.”

What will John Hamasaki’s campaign look like?

“John Hamasaki campaign looks like a campaign by the regular people of San Francisco,” he said.  “It’s not Chesa Boudin’s campaign.”

He pointed out they did the filing and had 40 people there supporting him, “really dedicated social justice driven people.”

In a campaign release, Hamasaki listed his priorities:

  • Protecting the San Francisco community while ensuring that justice is served in every case—from car break-ins to wage theft to violent crimes.
  • Restoring integrity and trust to the District Attorney’s Office through independent leadership, transparency, and data analysis of criminal case outcomes.
  • Protecting vulnerable victims, including Asian elders and domestic violence victims.
  • Investing in culturally competent victim services including language access and wrap around services.
  • Partnering with local and federal agencies to investigate and prosecute corruption in City Hall.

This week Brooke Jenkins announced some of her early supporters, not surprisingly including Mayor London Breed, and three Supervisors—Matt Dorsey, Rafael Mandelman and Ahsha Safai, plus State Senator Scott Wiener and Treasurer Fiona Ma.

John Hamasaki is endorsed by former State Senator Mark Leno, former State Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, former President of the Board of Supervisors Norman Yee, former President of the Board of Supervisors Matt Gonzalez, Supervisor Dean Preston, former Supervisor Sandra Lee Fewer, former Supervisor John Avalos, former Police Commissioner Angela Chan, and former Police Commissioner Petra DeJesus among others.

“San Francisco deserves a District Attorney who is going to fight to keep us all safe, not just the super rich and powerful in our city,” said former Police Commissioner Petra de Jesus, “I’m very excited to support John Hamasaki’s campaign.”

“Hamasaki’s years of experience and unshakeable integrity uniquely qualify him for the role as District Attorney,” said former Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee. “It’s time for San Franciscans to have true representation in our criminal justice system.”

For Hamasaki, “Brooke was very much a part of the recall, I think everybody wants to put that behind us.  It’s a reminder of the power of right wing Republicans to undermine lawful democracy.”

He noted, “Brooke’s not really a known figure until this, but I’m a pretty known figure in San Francisco.”  He said that the media is probably more excited than anyone, because they are “hoping for the next three months to be a knock down, drag it out battle for the spot.”




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