Change comes to W-S?

by YES! Weekly staff

The list of problems in the Camel City continues to grow. In the last three years, two policemen have been slain in the line of duty — in 2007 Sgt. Howard J. Plouff was gunned down outside the now-defunct Red Rooster nightclub, and just last week Sgt. Mickey Hutchens, a 27-year veteran of the force, took a fatal bullet outside a Bojangle’s restaurant.

In the last five years, two men of color arrested in Winston-Salem have been freed from jail after evidence exonerated them from their prison terms. Darryl Hunt served more than 19 years for a murder and rape he did not commit before being released in February 2004, and just this summer Joseph Abbitt became a free man after being convicted of a double rape in 1991. Still a young man named Kalvin Michael Smith sits behind bars for an assault that many — including the members of a panel appointed by the city to study the matter — feel he did not commit.

City leaders appear to have been scammed on the construction of a downtown ballpark, which is running about a year behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget, dollars which the city has seen fit to kick in at taxpayer expense.

And then there’s Dell Computers, which coaxed almost $300 million in incentives from the city, county and state to build and staff a desktop-computer assembly plant, about $26 million of it from local government. Winston-Salem is now owed more than $15 million by the computer maker, which the city says it will recoup through “clawback” stipulations in the contract, though as of yet we are still in the hole.

City leaders looked pretty good when Dell broke ground in 2007, but when Dell announced the plant was closing earlier this month, those same city leaders are running for cover. For those running for reelection to the Winston- Salem City Council, the Dell news could not have come at a worse time.

The municipal election is in two weeks, but winds of change already blow through the Camel City. Witness political upstart Derwin Montgomery, the 21-year-old Winston- Salem State student who in the East Ward unseated a 16-year council member, Joycelyn Johnson, before the polls even opened on the day of the primary.

Dan Besse, who has generally been viewed as a popular, progressive candidate and just last year ran for state office, the seat of lieutenant governor of North Carolina vacated by Beverly Perdue, is in the fight of his life to win a third term in the Southwest Ward against Republican Ted Shipley, who is running on a platform of governmental oversight and responsibility.

Meanwhile, Mayor Allen Joines, who was actually behind some of these fiascoes, runs for his fifth term unopposed.

Change, apparently, starts from the ground up.

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