Michael Graves is back. I knew he would be. In fact, I expected him to address the last meeting of the Alamance County Board of Commissioners, which was held on June 6.
But he didn’t. He told me later that he wasn’t fully prepared to speak to the board about remarks made nearly a month ago on the radio by Alamance County Commissioner Tim Sutton but would do so soon. I was thinking he could do so by the next meeting, which falls this coming Monday on June 20.
Today I have reason to believe it will be in July. This morning I got an email from Graves, who formerly headed the county’s branch of the NAACP and is now the leader of Concerned Citizens of Alamance County. The email was actually a copy iof a letter sent by Graves to several elected officials in Alamance County — from state lawmakers Rep. Alice Bordsen (D), Rep. Dan Ingle (R) and Sen. Rick Gunn (R) to Burlington City Council members, those on the Board of Education and Sutton’s colleagues on the Board of Commissioners.
What Graves and his organization want is an acknowledgement from local political leaders that what Sutton said on WBAG’s Talkline show on the morning of May 16 was wrong and worthy of denouncement. They also again ask for an apology from Sutton.
For the record, I’ve already written that Sutton’s comments about crime and responsibility in black and white neighborhoods were not only simplistic and not accurate but poorly worded. It’s his opinion, though and he’s certainly entitled to it in a free society. I also think how the remarks were made was is in many ways offensive and understand why Graves and others want an apology. They are certainly entitled to ask in a free society. We have published letters and good ones about this issue. More than a few people in the community have approached me in person and by email with concerns about Sutton’s remarks — both for and against.
For me, the remarks were harsh but nudge the line where political correctness or even good manners meet debate. Sutton and Graves have frequently been at odds over the years on any number of issues, especially on the Talkline show. This, however, is the first time Graves has taken his case beyond the radio or blogs and into the public arena. In May he sent a letter to Linda Massey, chairwoman of the Alamance County Board of Commissioners seeking some kind of sanctions against Sutton for his remarks, which were made in reference to a Durham case in which a child was killed by incidental violence. Because Massey has no control over what a fellow commissioner might do, she declined but also noted that she did not agree with Sutton.
The case then created a brief stir around the state. Nearby media in Durham and Raleigh filed their own reports. The Associated Press picked up on the incident.
I think it’s getting ready to heat up again. But I don’t expect Sutton to apologize no matter how much political pressure Graves can muster. Sutton doesn’t believe he’s wrong and therefore has nothing to apologize for. And if Sutton truly feels that way, he shouldn’t. And besides, I’ve seen enough half-assed apologies over the past 20 years from public officials in hot water to know that few are very genuine.
Here’s the letter Graves sent to elected officials in Alamance County this morning.
As elected officials representing ALL citizens of Alamance county, I am writing you to ask that you denounce the racist comments of Commissioner Tim Sutton. If you are not aware of his comments on 5-16-2011 on WBAG 1150 AM Talkline program, you can listen to his remarks by following this link, www.wbag1150.com, Mr. Sutton comments start at the 39.00 minute mark.
The Concerned Citizens are leading the effort but we are working with other agencies and individuals to demand a apology from Mr. Sutton but more importantly we are also asking the leaders of this county to distant this county, cities and her citizens from those statements.
We are asking for a statement from you in anyway/form that you see fit that will be presented to the board along with other letters of condemnation of the commissioners comments.
We believe that those comments to not reflect this county in the 21st century and is not a fair depiction of the county nor its citizens beliefs. We believe that his negative comments concerning children in single parent homes or from low income areas do not reflect the attitude of ABSS, community support and staff, and more importantly our children.
We also believe that in today’s economy with every job opening having many applicants and every company seeking to start-up or relocate, having many counties to choose from, it would behoove this community to assert that Alamance county leaders are fair and progressive individuals.
Please call me or Dr. Larry E. Covingtonif you have any questions or comments. We would like to have your letter by the next commissioners meeting in July 2011. We welcome any conservation you may have. Thank you for your time and your willingness to put party, personalities and politics behind and do what is moral and right for our county.
We fell that the citizens of voters in this county need to hear your voice loud in clear on this subject because as Dr. Martin L. King stated, “In the end, we will not remember the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Very best regards,
Michael J. Graves
We will certainly be following this in the Times-News. As for any remarks on this forum by Sutton, I don’t expect any. A little more than four weeks ago he decided to stop calling me because he became agitated by a previous post in which I wrote that he called me four times in one day to tell me how much support he was receiving for his remarks. He found my reporting of the calls to be “bush league.” Note that he didn’t say inaccurate. Just so people know, when politicians call me anything they say is up for public consumption.
My take on it is this: It’s the function of a blog to be a rolling report about news subjects — often telling readers something behind the story. Sutton doesn’t seem to understand that. He doesn’t care much for blogs anyway. In the final analysis it doesn’t really matter.
But for some reason he thinks I’m being punished by not having to answer his calls or listen to his messages multiple times each day. Me? I feel like I won the lottery.