by YES! Staff

Developments across the Triad and beyond, compiled by Keith T. Barber

Federal law enforcement funding announced

The Obama administration announced $56.3 million in new law enforcement funding for North Carolina on March 5. The funds are designated for a wide variety of uses, including hiring new officers, multi-jurisdictional drug and gang task forces, crime prevention, domestic violence initiatives, courts, corrections, treatment and information sharing. A total of $2.8 million of the funds will go to local governments in Guilford and Forsyth counties, including $1.2 million to Greensboro, $901,711 to Winston-Salem and $403,652 to High Point. – JG

Protest petition passes

The protest petition has been restored to Greensboro after 37 years in which the city was exempted at the request of city council. The NC House voted unanimously to reinstate the protest petition on March 3, and the Senate approved the measure the following night. As local legislation, the bill will be signed by the secretary of state instead of the governor. “It’s a great day for Greensboro neighborhoods,” said Sen. Don Vaughan, one of the cosponsors. “I still don’t understand all these years why it was taken out of the Greensboro ordinances.” In a Feb. 18 e-mail that anticipated passage of the legislation, Rep. Pricey Harrison, one of the House sponsors, credited YES! Weekly with bringing the exemption to her attention, and High Point resident Keith Brown for his advocacy. “Keith, you kept me motivated to pursue this in the face of significant opposition from the builder/ realtor community,” she wrote. “Finally, we are close to righting this injustice.” — JG

Downtown Greenway to begin construction

Action Greensboro has issued a contract worth $134,673 to Greensboro-based S&S Building and Development to build the first phase of the Downtown Greenway. The contractor was set to begin work with a pre-construction meeting on March 2, and will soon break ground on a section of the 4.8-mile path at the Greensboro College Sports Park in the Warnersville neighborhood. The path will encircle downtown, connecting neighborhoods such as Westerwood, College Hill, Ole Asheboro, the NC A&T University area and Fisher Park. Both public and private sources are funding the project, including a $7 million street improvement bond approved by voters last November, and grants totaling $5.5 million from the Cemala Foundation, the Joseph M. Bryan Foundation, the Moses Cone Wesley Long Community Health Foundation and the Weaver Foundation. — JG

Motion proclaiming Smith’s innocence is tabled

A citizen review committee charged with looking into Winston-Salem police procedure in the 1995 Silk Plant Forest- Jill Marker assault case tabled a motion by one of its members proclaiming there is no credible evidence to link Kalvin Michael Smith to the crime and urging the city council to do everything in its power to have Smith freed from prison. In 1997, a Forsyth County jury convicted Smith of brutally assaulting Marker during an armed robbery of the Silk Plant Forest shop. James Ferree, a member of the Silk Plant Forest committee, put forth the motion, which met with considerable resistance from several members. Committee member Barry Lyons said the committee’s charge is to make recommendations on police procedure, not to determine guilt or innocence.

Ferree responded,stating the committee was instructed by city council to conduct acomprehensive fact finding review of the police department’sinvestigation. Ferree added the committee has an obligation toseek the truth and do justice. The committee resolved to hold its voteon the motion after three of its members interview Smith at AlbemarleCorrectional Institute on March 13. The committee’s next meeting isMarch 17. — KTB

Call for audit and open bidding on Health Plan

The State Employees Association of North Carolina and the NC Justice Center are calling on the state to audit alleged overpayments to Blue Cross/Blue Shield of North Carolinain its administration of the insurance plan that covers almost 670,000current and former employees and to open the contract up for bidding toreduce costs for the plan, which is facing a $1.2 billion shortfall.The NC Justice Department alleges that the healthcare provider charges18 times more per claim to administer the State Health Plan than thestate pays to process Medicaid claims. “While state purchasing agentsare required to bid office furniture,” said employees association Executive Director Dana Cope, “it’sridiculous that the $100 million annual health plan contract is notopenly bid for the best services and price available.” — JG

Silk Plant Forest detective served

The Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office served former Winston-Salem Detective Donald R. Williams acourt summons on March 7 to respond to a subpoena issued by theWinston-Salem city council in December, Assistant City Attorney Al Andrewssaid.Williams, the lead detective in the 1995 Silk Plant Forest-Jill Markerassault case, was served the subpoena on Nov. 28. On Dec. 17, the citycouncil instructed City Attorney Angela Carmon to seek courtaction to compel Williams to testify about police procedure in the caseafter he failed to appear at a special council meeting. Williamshas refused to cooperate with the Silk Plant Forest Citizen ReviewCommittee. Andrews said Williams has 10 days to respond to the summons,and has a number of options. “He could request an extension, which istypical. Then there would be a hearing set and the city would have torespond to whatever he puts forth. It could be anytime from 60 days until the fall,” Andrews said. Williams could also choose to come in voluntarily and testify. Lastmonth, the city council extended the deadline for the citizen reviewcommittee’s final report in part to give it time to gather Williams’testimony. — KTB

US House passes mortgage reform bill

TheUS House passed the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, which wouldallow judges to modify mortgages to help struggling homeowners avoidforeclosure, in a vote that fell largely along party lines on March 5.Rep. Brad Miller, a Democrat who represents the 13 thCongressional District, said on the House floor: “We do enforcecontracts, except when people get hopelessly in debt, we allow them todraw a line, to pay what they can, and then to get a fresh start inlife. That’s what bankruptcy does. In fact, home mortgages is the onlykind of debt that can’t be modified. And that is not because that wasbrought down on stone tablets from Mount Sinai, that exception. It’sjust a special interest give, which we see around here all the time. In1978, the mortgage industry got that exception as a special interestprovision.” Joining Miller in voting for the legislation was DemocratRep. Mel Watt from the 12 th Congressional District. Republicans Virginia Foxx and Howard Coble, whorespectively represent the 5 th and 6 th districts, voted against thebill. Miller credited Citigroup for “playing a constructive role in thecompromise” that brought about the bill, and lauded the Durham-basedCenter for Responsible Lending for advocating reform since early 2007. — JG