As some of you might know I was a lobbyist for SEATOA (Southeastern Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors) who fought against Time Warner Cable and the rest of the telecom companies here in NC. We fought to preserve the right of municipalities to deploy their own networks to provide services being denied to them, their residents and businesses. While we had some victories in Wilson, Salisbury and Davidson, we ultimately lost this fight to a billion dollar industry. Cities that had plans and were not grandfathered into the bill were left out to dry and put at a competitive disadvantage. Cities that had already started to make investments or had made them in full already were stonewalled and forced to lose their investment. Fayetteville is one such city.
Fayetteville, after a long public approval process, invested in deploying 240 miles of fiber optic cable to bring 21st century broadband internet to areas of its city that were not being served by Time Warner Cable. Some of the representatives for Fayetteville did stand up after we informed them of the consequences of this bill passing for their city.
On March 28th, 2011 Representative Parfitt (D-Cumberland) from Fayetteville explained how Time Warner Cable served only one side of a main street running through the city and had refused to serve the other for many years. She noted that the city would lose the ability to make sure her city was properly served if the bill passed. This was the bills 2nd reading in the House. Here is a link to Parfitt's statement on the House floor, as well as some others.
One month later, on April 28th during a Senate Floor debate Sen. Eric Mansfield (D-Cumberland) tried to get Fayetteville grandfathered in to the bill by offering an amendment. Sen. Meredith(R-Cumberland) then repeated Representative Parfitt’s story about TWC not providing service to Fayetteville on one side of Main Street. A lot of debate on H129 gets heated on the floor. Senate Rules Committee Chair Sen. Tom Apodaca stepped in to kill the debate and Mansfield’s amendment to grandfather Fayetteville.
The Amendment and the Fold
Apodaca (who is a powerful Republican from Henderson, NC) submitted an amendment to ensure that there is no porn on city owned telecommunications systems. He went on to accuse Sen. Mansfield of letting his children watch porn on cable TV. As you could imagine, all hell broke loose on the Senate floor until Sen. Nesbitt called for an emergency recess.
The recess lasted about 15 to 20 minutes. When they came back in, Apodaca apologized to Mansfield for his out of line remark about his children. They both then tabled their amendments. Mansfield was trying to save a huge investment that was already deployed and installed- Apodaca was trying to kill it. Apodaca wins and Fayetteville became the only city with such an investment that did not get grandfathered in and will remain dark because of Mansfield's fold.
What happened in the closed door meetings during that recess? Why would Mansfield fold on his constituents? Is this leadership from Mansfield? What was the bait that Apodaca dangled in front of Mansfield?
Sen. Wesley Meredith told my organization months later that he suffered from fighting his party on this issue. Apodaca is the Chair of the Rules Committee. He decides what bills see the floor and what bills die in his committee. Sen. Mansfield did not seem to have too much of an issue getting his bills moved forward after that. One might draw the conclusion that that was the bait.
Mansfield might say he was a freshman Senator with no power, but Senator Buck Newton(R-Wilson) fought successfully for his constituents as a freshman against his own party. Mansfield might say that it is give and take in the Senate, but he gave the future of Fayetteville and its people for what? I would like to stop the excuses before they surface. Sen. Mansfield represented the people of Fayetteville (he didn’t run for re-election); he should have fought tooth and nail for his constituents. He started off on the right note, but that note got real flat real quick.
Mansfield is now running to be the Democratic State Party Chair, leader of our party. With Art Pope’s regime in power, what would happen in the face of the coming adversity? If Mansfield folded on his constituents, do you really think he would stand up to Art Pope for the Democratic Party? I don’t. I need a leader who will lead in the right direction, a different direction then the one the Democratic Party has taken under David Young and David Parker. I want to get back to fighting for what we believe in, winning elections and turning this state blue again. I do not see Eric Mansfield as that leader.
The broadband story is only one instance for Mansfield’s lack of moxie, but a personal one I wanted to share with you. The future of the Democratic Party can go two ways. I simply want to get back to fighting, back to winning and back to producing results; something Mansfield knows nothing about.