LAURINBURG — The Scotland County Democratic Women decided on Thursday to send a letter of commendation to North Carolina’s U.S. senators — both Republicans — for their sponsorship of a federal sentencing reform bill.
“It’s unusual for us to thank our Republican senators, so I think this is a good thing for us to be able to do, to support them when they do things we think are going in the right direction,” said Jan Schmidt, the group’s president.
The Sentencing Reform and Corrections Act of 2015 would reduce mandatory minimum sentences for drug-related felonies, allow judges to consider individuals’ criminal histories when sentencing, and apply the Fair Sentencing Act to those currently serving sentences for crimes related to crack cocaine.
The Scotland County Democratic Women voted to write U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis and U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, both co-sponsors of the bill, to urge them to solicit support from fellow Republicans in the Senate.
“It really affects communities all across the country, but I think it particularly affects lower-wealth communities like ours, and communities that have larger drug issues,” said Schmidt.
Also on Thursday Laurinburg Mayor Matthew Block told the Democratic women’s group that officials and stakeholders throughout Scotland County should unite to develop a comprehensive approach to addressing the county’s issues of high unemployment and poor educational outcomes.
“I don’t think there really is one right now, or one that there’s wide buy-in on what needs to be done to improve the situation,” Block said.
“Obviously, by most measures, Scotland County is not doing well and it’s not the fault of any one person or thing. It’s just that the world has changed in the last 30 years. We’ve gone from agricultural base to industrial and textile base and now we have no base.”
In the coming months, Block hopes to invite the Laurinburg City Council, Scotland County Board of Commissioners, Scotland County Board of Education, and the municipal boards of Wagram, Maxton, and Gibson to a retreat to discuss a 10-year vision.
Block also promoted developing Laurinburg’s curb appeal and “sense of place” to attract new residents, and highlighting Scotland County’s historical character to set it apart from other rural cities in eastern North Carolina.
“Why would anyone come to Scotland County, why does it make a difference if you’ve given up your Laurinburg Institutes and you’ve given up your Market Furniture buildings and you’ve given up all the things that make Scotland County a unique place” he said. “Then you’re just up there competing with all other 75 similarly-sized cities in North Carolina and hundreds throughout the southeast.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.