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If fingers should wag, it’s in other direction

Democrats are atwitter over whether one of the area’s top Democrats of the past 20 years told fellow Democrat Vilma Leake “to shut up.” The bigger question, though, is whether Pat Cotham should shut up, which was the intended message.

Parks Helms, a former chairman of the Mecklenburg County commissioners, met with a group of Democrats last Friday, including commissioners Cotham, Leake and some past board chairs. Helms was concerned about friction between Cotham and county staff, and wanted Cotham to dial back her aggressive approach toward County Manager Harry Jones and his crew.

The aftermath has focused on whether Helms shook his finger in Leake’s face and told her to “shut up and don’t say anything,” as Leake alleges. All in attendance agree words got heated, and Helms acknowledges “I speak with my hands.” Accounts differ on whether he said “shut up.”

More important, however, was what Helms wanted to convey to Cotham. She is the new chairman of the Mecklenburg board, and has been ruffling the staff’s feathers in questioning how things have been done in the past. Helms said he wanted to impress upon Cotham the importance of “a good working relationship with the management team.”

“I wanted us to give Pat some suggestions and advice about how she might avoid what I call unhealthy tension,” Helms told Observer reporter David Perlmutt. “... I was trying to say that the public perception of how you conduct meetings and business is very important. The reports we’re hearing indicate that the public does not have a good perception of what you’re doing.”

Not a good perception? The public hasn’t had a good perception of commissioners for years. They repeatedly rolled over as county staff mishandled an embezzlement case, lied about a severance agreement, mismanaged the Department of Social Services, botched a property revaluation and lost control of more than $200 million in Medicaid money.

Maybe Helms had good intentions in advising Cotham to smooth things over with Jones. But a little tension between commissioners and staff is long overdue.

Another guns misfire

It’s not news that some gun advocates are unhappy at President Obama’s gun control proposals, especially the 23 executive actions he signed this week to curb gun violence. Those proposals and actions, they say, disregard the Second Amendment.

So how do dozens of state lawmakers propose fighting back? By ignoring another part of the Constitution.

In Mississippi, about 30 lawmakers – including a couple of Democrats – vowed to ignore federal regulations and laws they think infringe on their gun rights, the web site Talking Points Memo reported. Mississippi’s governor, Republican Phil Bryant, said he would block federal measures from being enforced. In Texas, state Rep. Steve Toth vowed on CNN to do the same.

Gentlemen, let us introduce you to Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution. It says federal law is the “supreme law of the land,” and states are bound by it. If you think a federal law violates the Constitution, get a second opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court.

There’s a lot of gun rights ignorance going around – not from all gun advocates, but still. We’re tempted to propose Executive Action No. 24: Gun purchasers must pass a civics test – think of it as a driver’s test for guns. We know - it’d never fly. But talk about effective gun control…

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