SP20. Rowan County Commissioners and the May 6 Primary


What We Need

Leaders who are:
1.  more interested in serving Rowan County than in serving politics,
2.  intelligent enough to hear, respect, and consider all perspectives of an issue, and
3.  strong enough to stand up against power-players


Why Rowan County Government Is Not Working Well

Government ceases to function when, on the political 1-10 spectrum, all the players (or the clear ruling majority) are ones and/or tens.  When one political party is able to take over a government body, or when there’s a stalemate of uncompromising extremes, whether it be national, state, or local, that body is in danger of losing the give and take that’s necessary in serving a diverse 2-party population.

Currently Rowan County’s Board of Commissioners is dominated by one extreme mindset and appears focused on holding onto that power above all other priorities.  What we need are, not more ones and tens, but some fours, fives, sixes, and sevens, who are able and willing to work together to find the best answers to Rowan County’s issues.

Many are upset about the commissioners’ recent purchase of the Salisbury Mall property, and the possible tax increase it will bring.  Many are upset at the lack of cooperative effort of the commissioners with other local boards like the School Board and the Salisbury City Council.  Many are upset about the commissioners wasting dollars and energy fighting a legal battle about prayer in government meetings.  Many are upset at the general lack of professionalism being exhibited under Rowan’s name. Voices all over the county are calling for change in our county government.


Why Should You Vote?

Some are saying this County Commissioner election is the most important in many years, because it could either harden the already one-party power play, or it could balance the board again so there is give-and-take in decision-making.  This directly affects our well-being as a people, socially and economically, as well as our reputation to surrounding counties, and even beyond NC.  Rowan is being noticed and talked about far outside our borders, often as a laughingstock.  No one can change this but the voters, and in recent local elections, a very few votes have won and lost the races.


What is a Primary Election?

The main election is in November.  In November the ballot will include candidates from both the Republican and Democrat parties.  Voters will be able to vote for any mix of Republicans and Democrats for the various offices.  The purpose of the primary elections in May is for each party to select its own candidates to put on the November ballot.  In the primary elections, registered Republicans can only vote for Republican candidates, and Democrats for Democrat candidates.  Registered Independents cannot mix votes in the primaries, but can choose to take either the Republican ballot or the Democrat ballot


Why most Independents are likely to opt for the Republican ballot this May

This year’s County Commissioner race has three Democrats and eight Republicans vying for three open positions.  Since there are three positions available, all three Democrats will automatically be on the November ballot, but the eight Republicans must be cut to three.


When to vote

Primary Election Day is Tues., May 6, but you can vote early, beginning Thurs., Apr. 24.  Early voting is preferable for two reasons.  It’s usually much quicker, with no lines; and if you wait until Election Day and something comes up to keep you from getting to the polls on time, you get left out of the vote.

On May 6 voters must go to their own precinct locations. Early voters can vote at the Rowan Public Library in Salisbury.  See Board of Elections website for other locations, times, precinct info., etc.


So who should you vote for?

Two newly surfaced “vote for change” groups, “La Resistance” and “Fix Rowan,” have endorsed the same three candidates: businessman and cattle farmer Jim Greene, Rowan County deputy Jonathan Love, and Lutheran minister Judy Klusman.  Klusman, who has experience in state level government and can add a feminine voice to the all male board, seems an excellent fit for Rowan leadership.

The other five Republican candidates are:  business owner Joe Coladarci who introduces himself as a tea-party candidate;  Brandon Cupp, local gun shop owner and the youngest of the candidates; Greg Edds, a professional and intelligent businessman and the best persuasive speaker of all eight candidates, but the recent chairperson of the local Republican Party with strong party ties; David Roueche, a consultant in pharmaceuticals; and Jim Sides, the current chairperson of the County Commissioners who also identifies as a tea-partier.


Three Other Possible November Candidates

There are three additional possible candidates for the November election, but they won’t be on the May ballots:  Independents Chris Cohen, Raymond Coltrain, and Gene Miller.  In order to run in November, an Independent must collect 4,000 signatures from Rowan County citizens before May 30.  The Salisbury Post reported on Apr. 18 that Coltrain has made history by being the first unaffiliated candidate to acquire the necessary signatures.

If you would like to help give these candidates a chance to run, you can print their petitions, sign, and mail your (and others’) signatures to be counted.  Your signature is not an endorsement or a commitment to vote for the candidate in November.  It simply allows the candidate the opportunity to run.
Gene Miller
Raymond Coltrain
Chris Cohen


Other  Interesting  Resources

Basic data and photos of candidates

Candidates Forum at Catawba College Tues., Apr. 15 (video)

Almost unbelievable video of Salisbury City Manager Doug Paris treated with disrespect at the Rowan County GOP Men’s Breakfast.  Meet some of the candidates here.

If you haven’t voted before Sunday, Apr. 27, check the Salisbury Post for a helpful collection of candidate and voter information.


Who am I?

I am a registered Independent who dislikes political polarity and who votes for candidates who are able and willing to play well with others for the good of the whole community.  I am a devout Christian who is troubled when elected political leaders purport to have been elected as the county’s spiritual leaders.  I have been called liberal by conservatives, and conservative by liberals, and I think they’re both right.

My views are my own and not a reflection of my workplace, my church, or the Salisbury Post.



SP19. Fred Phelps: Sifting Through His Tragic Legacy


According to a Twitter post by Fred Phelps’ son Nathan, the 84-year-old patriarch of Topeka’s infamous Westboro Baptist Church is in hospice care, near death.  Phelps’ tactics of spreading his “God Hates Fags” message were so harsh that even the churches that are outspoken against homosexuality deplored what he was doing.  Phelps, a disbarred lawyer, a four-time political candidate, an Eagle Scout and a civil rights activist in earlier years, will likely be forever known and remembered as the leader of that little gay-hating funeral-protesting church in Kansas.

 Fred Phelps is a tragic figure, a life lived in such a way that few will mourn his death, and millions are likely to celebrate it.  His “Fags Die God Laughs” picket signs are forever embossed on the public mind, the same public that will laugh with joy in the face of his death.  The tragic irony.

 Yet, it has been wisely stated that there is something to learn from every life, and Phelps is surely no exception.  A man with gifts, a man who made some contributions to the world in the past, but, by his own choosing,  a man who sold out along the way, maybe for fame and what he might have perceived as power.

Most church leaders with Phelps’ level of name recognition are mega-church leaders and/or TV evangelists, with their fame bringing even more growth to their churches; but Westboro Baptist Church reportedly has about 40 members, most of whom are family members of Phelps, and their media attention has not added parishioners to their pews. To add to his tragedy, many of his other family members, including son Nathan and three other of his 13 children, left the organization, and, according to Nathan’s Twitter report, the elder Phelps has been excommunicated from the church since August 2013.

Fred Phelps’ life seems a wasted one, but for those of us on the outside looking in, there is much we might learn if we will, first from Phelps’ own life, and second, from those of his followers.

Power.  Not an unusual motivator, but always a dangerous one, for when power is gained too quickly, it almost always becomes abusive. Phelps was a failure in many ways.  He was disbarred from his law practice.  He ran for several political offices but never won.  His church has not been successful.  But -  maybe it started with the murder of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard  –  the “God Hates Fags” picket signs caught the media’s attention, and Phelps’ name and face were soon recognized everywhere.

Did Phelps really hate gays that much, or was it all about personal power and media fame?  Who can know?  But we have all seen power take over people’s lives, especially those who seem to feel most without power.  Administrators who abuse their staff, white supremacists, those who concoct elaborate lies online just to see how far they’ll spread, those who physically or emotionally abuse their spouse or children, gunmen who kill school children, those who troll blog sites with the goal of stirring people’s anger . . . The desire for power and fame is dangerous.

Then there’s the question of those who followed Phelps.  Why?  How does Phelps, Koresh, Billy Graham, Nelson Mandela, Jim Jones, Charles Manson, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Michael Moore, Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell, Sun Myung Moon, Joseph Smith, MSNBC, Bill O’Reilly, the Dalai Lama, or Hitler attract followers?  People follow people usually for fear or for attraction, and we are all people.  We are all, by nature, learners, and we learn from those we “follow” – our ministers, our friends, our favorite talk show hosts, our favorite basketball players.

My pastor told a story Sunday of three neighborhood boys playing in the newly fallen foot-deep snow.  The father of one of the boys challenged them to a competition.  Positioning himself at the far corner of the yard, the challenge was to see which of the three boys could walk to him with the straightest path.  One carefully watched his feet as he trod to the father.  Another carefully watched the other two boys as he trod.  And the third, the actual son of the father, kept his eyes on the father the entire walk.  They finished with two very crooked paths and the last one straight.

When we “follow” our trusted mentors, even our trusted religious leaders, we are all susceptible to being led astray.  The goal on which we focus should be carefully chosen.  As Christians, while our pastors and teachers can be helpful guides, constant focus on the Christ from which we get our name is what will make our path straight.

Phelps was a misguided soul for whatever reason, as are all of us to some degree, ever seeking our own ways.  May we not forget out own faults as we react to the sometime-in-the-future news of his passing, and may we find the grace to leave all judgment in the hands of God.   

Two final personal questions to be sure our developing legacy is not like that of Phelps:

1.  Are we oppressing or putting down others as we find our way?

2.  Are we misusing the name of God to push our own agendas?


Would that our legacy be one of grace and love.




Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.  (Prov. 3:5-6)

I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  (Phil. 3:14)

For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Phil. 1:21)


SP18. Duck Hunting, Defrocking a Minister, and Other Gay Tidings

All in the same day, New Mexico became the 17th state to legalize gay marriage, Olympic figure skating gold medalist Brian Boitano came out as gay, the United Methodist Church defrocked the Rev. Frank Schaefer for refusing to denounce gay marriage, and, receiving by far the most social network attention, the A&E Network has suspended Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson indefinitely for his published comments against homosexuality (in GQ Magazine, Jan. 2014).

Let’s address the public outcry of the latter first Many are claiming that their favorite duck hunter lost his job for sharing his faith.  You know, the war against Christians thing.  If this were the case, I would be among the loudest to protest, but this was not the case.  Others are claiming that his first amendment rights were abused Again, a great cause to be upset, but this was also not the case.  Phil Robertson and all of us have the right to say whatever we like without being arrested for it.  Phil was “indefinitely suspended” from his high paying high profile tv job, not prosecuted.

Faith in America said it well. “The Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty/A&E issue is not a question of Phil Robertson not being able to express religion-based bigotry towards gay and lesbian people. It’s a matter of his employer choosing not to allow Robertson to espouse and promote this uniquely harmful form of bigotry under the A&E brand.”

Not only do we have a right to choose our own public image, our employers have that same right, and those who work in the entertainment industry making millions of dollars, like many of our actors and athletes including Robertson, have the opportunity to use their positions to influence the world for good, or the danger of putting forth an image that their networks, teams, etc. do not want attached to their name.  A&E had every right to suspend their star’s employment in the name of protecting their own reputation.

It was not Robertson’s statements of religious faith that brought his suspension.  It was his ignorant and offensive declarations about homosexuality (and maybe his race rantings or his ridiculous musings about vaginas and anuses).  While indeed certain extremist Christian groups have embraced such ignorance into their teachings, there is no legitimate connection between anti-gay sentiment and the Christ of Christianity.

The Duck Dynasty stars have always been outspoken about their Christian faith, becoming iconic figures to many of their viewers, and the show itself ends each episode with a prayer.  Politically, while the Robertsons have independently campaigned for Republicans, the show itself has drawn a following in both red and blue states and has managed to remain largely nonpolitical and to avoid issues like race and gay rights, according to the Chicago Tribune.

We all have our favorite public figures, and especially if we have just purchased Duck Dynasty t-shirts for everyone on our Christmas list, and have embraced them as Christian icons, we are hurt by this suspension.  My prediction is that he will be back after the dust has settled.  That’s my personal interpretation of the “indefinite” suspension.  If not, he will surely surface soon somewhere else.  We have not heard the last of Phil Robertson.  Besides, next season is almost all taped, so it’s pretty likely he’ll be there.

Perhaps those who are most enraged by Robertson’s suspension would most applaud the United Methodist Church for the second piece of news today, the defrocking of the Rev. Frank Schaefer Rev. Schaefer brushed against the Methodist powers for conducting a wedding ceremony for his gay son in a state where gay marriage is legal.  One month ago he was given a choice of abiding by the denomination’s entire Book of Discipline which would mean committing to never conducting another such service, or of being defrocked, and he was given one month to think about it.  That month ended today.  He chose to be defrocked.  

A courageous move on his part, challenging the status quo, the way it’s always been, forcing the establishment and the public to face the issue again.  Schaefer is not the first and surely won’t be the last, but he has lost his job for standing firm for his beliefs.  Again, just as with Robertson and A&E, the United Methodist Church has every right to choose their positions and to employ only those who comply.  Schaefer will have to find a way to minister outside the UMC. Rev. Jimmy Creech has written an excellent memoir of his similar defrocking, and his ministry has broadened tremendously.

I am not Methodist, I do not live in New Mexico, I was not familiar with Brian Boitano, and I have never watched Duck Dynasty, so I am not personally tied to any of these four stories.  Yet, I am very tied to all of them for two reasons.  One, I live and interact in a world of people on all sides of these stories, and two, I am a Christian.

As  citizens of the world, living and working together, we can be assured we encounter gay people every day.  The American Psychological Association has estimated that 1 in 10 males is gay and 1 in 20 females.  Many are choosing to live openly, but many more are just living their lives among us without our knowledge.  Maybe we could just be kind.  To everyone.  Without trying to figure them out or judge them.  Just plain “be ye kind one to another.”

As Christians, we do not know and understand all things.  There is much we have yet to learn, and there is much we, like everyone else, have been incorrectly taught.  Unlearning is far more difficult than learning, because, studies have shown, once we hear something seven times it often has become a part of who we are.  In many religious circles we have heard that homosexuality is a sin, not seven times, but seventy times seven. 

Today’s news shows a changing world with the wheels of justice ever spinning, sometimes forward, sometimes back.  Sexual orientation, the social justice issue of this generation, is widely misunderstood, especially in certain religious circles.  

My challenge to us as Christians is that we educate ourselves by listening to voices outside our own constructed boxes.  Use the news stories not just to seek argument, but to seek growth and understanding.  The media storms that follow news like today’s are a good place to find all kinds of voices, or the gay person in the next cubicle might be an excellent and enlightening voice. 

At the very least, as Christians and as human beings, let’s admit to ourselves that we really don’t fully get the orientation thing, and leave open the possibility that our understanding might, maybe, just could possibly be not entirely correct.


photo credit: Assignment Editor


SP17. Happy 95th Birthday, Rev. Graham!

Throughout history there may not have been a more respected Christian leader than the Rev. Billy Graham. He has ministered for a lifetime without serious controversy or compromise, focusing on preaching the message of Jesus Christ and keeping himself clean of all political factions.

In the 1970s when Jerry Falwell changed the face of American Christianity by marrying it with conservative politics, Rev. Graham refused to be a part of it. Although a Southern Baptist and a registered Democrat, he never let either of those distinctions rule his life. Graham willingly pastored all presidents regardless of political party, from Truman to Obama.

He refused in 1979 to join Falwell’s Moral majority, saying, “I’m for morality, but morality goes beyond sex to human freedom and social justice. We as clergy know so very little to speak with authority on the Panama Canal or superiority of armaments. Evangelists cannot be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle in order to preach to all people, right and left.”

In 1981 he told Parade magazine, “I don’t want to see religious bigotry in any form. It would disturb me if there was a wedding between the religious fundamentalists and the political right. The hard right has no interest in religion except to manipulate it.”

Happy 95th birthday to a wise and honorable man!



excerpted from: http://kathyon.blogspot.com/2012/10/b50-franklin-grahams-religion-is-not.html
photo from sojo.net


SP16. Where Math Education Has Failed

It’s time we rethink the mandated requirements of our math education.  Many of our societal and personal failures could be avoided if our required math curriculum were doing something different.

Every high school student, for example, is required to pass at least one level of algebra, college bound students more, depending on the university.  While algebra is helpful for preparing some students for higher math endeavors, it has proven to be for most students merely an exercise in abstraction, manipulating numbers to solve for seemingly meaningless x’s and y’s.  Most will never use it, because most never grasp what it’s even about.

Yet our real world is filled with high school (and even college and above) educated adults who struggle from paycheck to paycheck, not because they are at poverty level, but because they have never acquired the most basic money management skills.  I have regularly watched friends and professional colleagues struggle at the end of every month with how to pay (the minimum on) their multiple credit card bills.  They are late paying cable, phone, mortgage/rent, or electric bills, accumulating additional charges.  They throw away hundreds/thousands of dollars every year on interest without having any clue where their money is going.

I remember one colleague getting violently angry at the school system because the December payday was one day later than she thought it was, causing problems with all her bill payments.  Another acquaintance who was making an annual $90,000 celebrated every payday with major shopping purchases and then had no money for groceries the final week or two of the month.  Another didn’t have money to pay her electric bill, but it never occurred to her that she could cancel her cable until she was able to afford it, or that she could live fine without a pedicure.

recent survey showed more than 2/3 of the US adult population lives paycheck to paycheck.  This is epidemic, and while it’s easy to blame our ailing economy for our struggles, it seems more accurate to blame our lack of applicable math skills (perhaps coupled with our cultural demand for instant gratification), for both the economy and our personal financial struggles.  What if instead of solving for abstract x’s, all students at various grade levels focused on the practical philosophies and skills of managing their own money, from understanding throwing away money on credit card interest (by making minimal payments monthly), to how to get out of debt, and even to the very simple idea of saying no to what we can’t yet afford?

Practical math skill means understanding how grades work while we’re in school.  What if math students practiced fewer abstract averages and focused instead on averages that have meaning, like what happens to your grade average when a zero is added to the mix of 97, 94, and 100?

Yes, I’m talking about those dreaded word problems, but much more than that.  Not a single question about money management and a single question about grade averages, but a curriculum completely built around such practical and important life issues.  Math that can improve our academics and math that can give us financial freedom; math that once acquired, we naturally hand down to our children through our modeling, so they too can possess the skills for managing their lives.

Somehow, unintentionally mandated by governmental regulations, math has become a dreaded academic endeavor, a meaningless exercise of abstract symbology.  Surely there is good purpose for this in some higher level degrees and in many math and science related career paths.  Algebra, trigonometry, and calculus should always be offered for those who excel in math and are preparing for careers that use them, but for the masses, for that 2/3 of the population who think they just don’t get paid enough, our math curriculum is failing.




 2 disclaimers: This article is not about the many who are indeed living at or below poverty level, nor is it about any failure on the part of math teachers.  Math teachers are teaching what the curriculum mandates they teach.

photo credit: educationnews.org