2012: Forsyth County news in review

by Jordan Green


• About 40 members of Occupy Winston-Salem rejected a proposal by Councilman Dan Besse to ban overnight camping on the grounds of City Hall during a meeting at the site under dispute as the new year began. When the council’s public safety committee met a week later, City Manager Lee Garrity recommended that the matter be sent back to staff for further study, effectively killing the proposal.

• A study by YES! Weekly found that poverty deepened relative to median family income across a wide swatch of Winston-Salem neighborhoods straddling US Highway 52 over the past decade. As an indication of a widening income divide, a belt of affluence between Country Club and Robin Hood roads and grew wealthier. The same trends of growing wealth could be seen in Lewisville and Clemmons.


• As the filing period for the 2012 primaries approached, other Forsyth County politicians jockeyed for position. NC Rep. Bill McGee announced he would not run for reelection, and Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board Chairman Donny Lambeth signaled he would run for the vacated District 75 seat. Forsyth County Commissioner Debra Conrad and NC Rep. Larry Brown, who was drawn out of District 73, announced they would run for Dale Folwell’s vacant seat in District 74. Folwell had previously announced he was retiring from the NC House to run for lieutenant governor. And Winston-Salem City Councilman James Taylor Jr. announced he would run for the seat vacated by NC Sen. Linda Garrou, who was drawn out of District 32 during redistricting.

NC Rep. Larry Womble, who had been seriously injured in a car accident about three months prior, announced he would not seek reelection. Womble had originally planned to run for the vacant NC Senate District 32 seat. His decision to stand down set off domino effect among Democratic politicians in Forsyth County. NC Rep. Earline Parmon, who represented NC House District 72, announced she would run for Senate District 32, joining Winston-Salem City Councilman James Taylor Jr. Forsyth County Commissioner Everette Witherspoon announced he would run for District 71, eventually drawing opposition from former Winston-Salem City Councilwoman Evelyn Terry. And three candidates without previous experience in office filed for District 72.


• The Winston-Salem Sustainability Resource Center rolled out an expanded version of its Block By Block program with a goal of weatherizing 200 houses in neighborhoods such as Sunnyside, Waughtown, Bellevue North, South Skyland Park and West Salem. The program received $125,000 from a federal Energy Efficiency Block Grant. Residents such as Sandra Lawson realized savings of about $25 per month through a pilot version of the program.

• Tami Fitzgerald, executive director of the NC Values Coalition, rallied Republican supporters of the marriage amendment at the Golden Corral in Winston-Salem. “Marriage also produces our next generation of workers so we’ll have someone to pay into Social Security,” she said. “Without marriage, we wouldn’t have children to carry on. That seems silly to have to say it.”


• While African Americans as a whole are thought to be more socially conservative than whites, black leaders from both spiritual and secular backgrounds stood up in opposition to the marriage amendment. Among them was the Rev. Paul Lowe, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, who said at a Democratic gathering held at his church:

“I believe personally that this is a device that is being used to divide us. And certainly we as Democrats don’t need to be divided on this particular amendment. It’s already illegal for couples of the same sex to get married in North Carolina at this time.”

• Danby House, a group home in southwest Winston-Salem, held an emergency meeting with residents to discuss changing Medicaid requirements regarding unmet needs in “activities of daily living” such as eating, dressing, bathing, toileting and walking. “I have a 106-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s living here who is able to lift herself off the toilet and who is able to lift herself out of bed, but she needs reminders,” Business Office Manager Alex Dagenhart said. “That would not be covered under this new plan.”

• Dr. Bruce Peller, a candidate in the 5th Congressional District withdrew from a Democratic electoral coalition that included NC Rep. Earline Parmon, gubernatorial candidate Walter Dalton, lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Linda Coleman, Forsyth County Commissioner Everette Witherspoon and judicial candidate Jerry Jordan after learning that a political action committee set up by his campaign consultant to promote the slate was using deceptive tactics to manipulate uninformed voters. Peller accused consultant Chris Church of misappropriating funds. Peller sent notifications to 10,000 patients notifying them of a breach of patient health information after the data was obtained by Church.


• Earline Parmon easily defeated James Taylor Jr. in the Democratic primary for NC Senate District 32, effectively winning the seat vacated by NC Sen. Linda Garrou. Evelyn Terry bested Everette Witherspoon in the Democratic primary for NC House District 71, replacing Rep. Larry Womble.

Ed Hanes Jr. prevailed in a three-way contest with Wayne Patterson and Jimmie Bonham to replace Parmon in NC House District 72. And Elisabeth Motsinger solidly beat Dr. Bruce Peller in the Democratic primary for the 5th Congressional District.

On the Republican side, Debra Conrad defeated two opponents, including NC Rep. Larry Brown, in the primary for NC House District 74, putting her on course to replace NC Rep. Dale Folwell. The three Republican incumbents in Forsyth County Commission District B — Richard Linville, Dave Plyler and Gloria Whisenhunt — easily won their primaries.

• Two days after North Carolina voters approved the marriage amendment, dozens of same-sex couple requested and were denied marriage certificates from the Forsyth County Register of Deeds office.

Among those who came to the county building to witness the event were Commissioner Walter Marshall, who has undergone a conversion on the matter. “At one time, I didn’t think they had the right to live,” Marshall said. “When I was a teenager I would have grabbed a baseball bat and hit one of them over the side of the head, and felt justified.”


• James Douglas, general manager at King’s Crab Shack & Oyster Bar, sought payment from Earline Parmon’s NC Senate campaign for catering expenses. King’s Crab Shack, Finnigan’s Wake Irish Pub & Kitchen and Willow’s Bistro provided food at the last minute for an April 25 campaign fundraiser for the Parmon campaign whose featured guest was Gov. Bev Perdue. The Parmon campaign refused to pay the bill, assigning responsibility to Ray Herrera, a volunteer whom they said was not associated with the campaign.

• The Winston-Salem City Council voted to raise taxes by 3.4 percent while cutting senior management jobs and deferring equipment replacement to cut costs as the city faced budget strains from rising costs in pensions, healthcare, fuel and electricity.


• Nine months after its founding, Occupy Winston-Salem persevered, albeit with smaller numbers at first. Members picketed employers such as Reynolds American and Novant that announced plans to trim their workforces, and made common cause with campaigns against fracking, protests against racial discrimination and efforts to block the marriage amendment, to name a few initiatives.

• Forsyth Village Assisted Living on the outskirts of Winston-Salem was notified by the NC Department of Health and Human Services that all residents would lose Medicaid benefits because the facility had been deemed an “institute of mental disease.” The threat came about because of the US Justice Department’s position that the North Carolina’s mental health system has been discriminating against people with mental illness by holding them in group homes rather than allowing them to live in community settings integrated with the rest of society.


• The Winston-Salem City Council voted in closed session to take no action in the case of Kalvin Michael Smith, who was convicted in the brutal beating of store employee Jill Marker based on evidence gathered in a flawed and incomplete investigation. Councilwoman Denise D.

Adams, who publicly said that city leaders “must use our political will to always right injustice,” was part of the majority that voted to stay on the sidelines by not filing an amicus brief with the federal courts to request a new trial for Smith. Former Councilman Larry Little later said, “I have to tell you that [Mayor Pro Tem] Vivian Burke and DD Adams went south on us and refused to support the motion for appropriate relief.”

Council members Derwin Montgomery and James Taylor Jr. dissented from the majority. Montgomery charged that the council “has failed the citizens by doing nothing because it sends a message that a person can be treated without regard by its police department, and the council, as the highest level of oversight, will not speak up.”


• Winston-Salem City Councilwoman Denise D. Adams had a frontrow seat at the Democratic National Convention, standing next to Becky Carney, a state lawmaker from Mecklenburg County. Dan Besse, Adams’ fellow council member, grabbed a pink placard at a Planned Parenthood rally, and Forsyth County Democratic Party Chair Susan Campbell snapped up a pink “Yes, we plan” shirt. In a fit of exuberance, Besse predicted that Barack Obama would carry North Carolina by an even larger margin than in 2008. We know how that turned out.


• The Winston-Salem chapter of Black Panther Party was honored with historic marker at the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive and East 5th Street. The National Alumni Association of the Black Panther Party held its annual meeting at the Carter G. Woodson School, founded by former Winston-Salem Black Panther Hazel Mack, in Winston-Salem. Black Panther Party co-founder and Chairman Bobby Seale gave the keynote speech. “Nationally and locally, the Black Panthers sought to protect African-American neighborhoods from police brutality; the volatility of the times often led to confrontation with the police,” the marker reads. “Later the chapter offered community service programs, including breakfasts for school children, sickle cell anemia testing, and the Joseph Waddell Free Ambulance Service, which received national acclaim. These programs brought meaningful change to Winston-Salem during a time of social and political upheaval and lent validation to the chapter’s slogan ‘Power to the people — right on!’”


• Local election results in Forsyth County held little surprise. Democrat Mel Watt and Republican Virginia Foxx kept their seats in their respective Congressional districts. Democrat Norman Holleman fended off Karen Gordon’s challenge for register of deeds. NC Sen. Pete Brunstetter kept his seat, and will remain a senior budget writer in the Senate. NC House Rep. Julia Howard, a Republican senior chair of the powerful Finance Committee, was reelected. Republican newcomers Debra Conrad and Donny Lambeth won election to districts drawn to favor Republicans. Democrat Earline Parmon was promoted from the House by winning election to a Senate district drawn to favor a Democrat. And Democratic newcomers Evelyn Terry and Ed Hanes Jr. were elected to districts drawn to favor Democrats.


• Mark Baker, a Tobaccoville Village Council member and parochial school principal, was elected by the Forsyth County Republican Party as its pick to replace Debra Conrad on the Forsyth County Commission. A staunch social and fiscal conservative, Baker ran unsuccessfully for a seat on the commission in the spring. The commission will hold a special meeting next month to vote on the party’s recommendation. The executive committee of the county Republican Party also recommended David Regnery to replace Donny Lambeth on the partisan Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board. Lambeth, like Conrad, is resigning his position on the local board to serve in the NC House next month.