by YES! Staff

Developments across the Triad and beyond

Council members call for police review board Mike Barber and Trudy Wade, who respectively represent districts 4 and 5 on Greensboro City Council, called for a police citizen review board with subpoena power and a civil service board during a press conference at city hall on Jan. 15. Barber said that City Attorney Terry Wood traveled to Charlotte to receive a briefing on the city’s police review board and civil service board, and has been instructed to draft a motion for two citizen boards for Greensboro modeled on those in Charlotte. Barber noted that Greensboro’s complaint review board, which does not have subpoena power, has had difficulty obtaining police reports to review citizen complaints, and Barber has had to meet with the committee’s chairman, Wayne Abraham, on two different occasions. “The city attorney confirmed that these reports can be given to the committee with protected information redacted,” Barber said. “This consistent inability to provide effective communication remains a great concern.”

The civil service board would have the authority to hear appeal by an officer or employee of the police or fire department to a firing decision or suspension without pay. “It’s your city,” Wade added. “You should be involved. “That’s why Mike and I have brought up these two review boards.” She added that at-large Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw agreed “with the issues” brought up at the press conference, but was not able to attend. The three members, who comprise the council’s conservative voting bloc, have made no secret of their dissatisfaction with City Manager Mitchell Johnson, but Barber signaled that firing the manager is effectively off the table for the time being. “There’s no reason to debate whether we’re going to bring in some new administration. I think that debate, by and large, is over. There aren’t the votes to do that.” In the past, the concept of a police review board with subpoena power has garnered more support from the council’s liberal members. A previous effort to create a police review board with subpoena power was supported by Mayor Yvonne Johnson, then an at-large councilwoman, and Earl Jones, whose seat is now held by Dianne Bellamy- Small, but the measure failed by a 6-2 vote. “We believe this is the right step for Greensboro,” said Barber, who acknowledged that he has not always embraced the concept. — JG

Rabid skunk found in Browns Summit

A skunk found on Polonia Courts in Browns Summit on Jan. 13 tested positive for rabies, the Guilford County Department of Public Heath disclosed. The department used the incident to urge residents to vaccinate domestic pets, teach their children to avoid contact with wild animals, and maintain yards to keep them from attracting wildlife. The department asks the public to report stray animals, critters acting strangely to animal control officers at 336.641.5990 in Greensboro or 336.883.3224 in High Point. — JG

Councilman Barber tepid on gang unit

Councilman Mike Barber, who represents District 4, indicated his lack of enthusiasm for the gang enforcement unit, created by the Greensboro City Council in 2007. “I have an opinion on specialized units,” Barber said. “A robbery suppression unit focuses on solving crimes and recovery of property. And that makes sense. Gangs don’t commit crimes as gangs; these are individuals breaking the law. I believe that money is best used by getting more officers on the street. That’s where the gangs are, whether you call them a gang unit or an officer working a second shift…. I think these units, I think it’s just popular…. The core goal is to fight crime, and officers on the street accomplish that.” At-large Councilman Robbie Perkins, who frequently spars with Barber on the dais and who tends to support city staff, expressed strong support for the gang unit in comments last month. “We had a huge outcry from the community,” he said. “We directed the police department to do something about it, and they’re doing something about it. They’ve got an aggressive approach to policing gangs, and I support it.” — JG

Councilman predicts protest petition okay

Councilman Mike Barber, who represents District 4, predicted that the Greensboro City Council will include restoration of the protest petition in the city’s legislative agenda on Wednesday, but he said council members believe the 5 percent threshold for opposition among adjacent property owners to require a three-quarters supermajority vote on council to approve a rezoning request is too low. The Triad Real Estate and Building Industries Coalition, whose members consistently finance local political campaigns, has vigorously opposed the move, but the Greensboro Neighborhood Congress and the League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad have officially supported restoration of the protest petition. Barber said it would be hard to deny Greensboro residents a right enjoyed by people in every other city across the state. “Some level of consistency is, I think,” he said, “of value to Greensboro.” — JG

Council members call for city-county cooperation

In their Jan. 15 press conference, District 4 Councilman Mike Barber and District 5 Councilwoman Trudy Wade called for exploring the possibility of combining some city of Greensboro and Guilford County departments to achieve cost savings for citizens. Barber said that under the new leadership of Skip Alston and Steve Arnold, respectively the chairman and vice-chairman of the county commission, “there is renewed interest in collaboration between the county and the city, and momentum to resume the effort to combine some of our departments. We look forward to bringing resolutions to council representing a plan and timeline for this endeavor. The legal department has been asked to draft a resolution reflecting this collaborative effort, and we hope to present that soon.”

Functioning day center in church

The Interactive Resource Center, a temporary facility opened on the third floor of Bessemer United Methodist Church in Greensboro, has emerged as the actual day center, the lawyer responsible for incorporating the nonprofit said in awidely circulated email on Jan. 17. Organizers had hinted that alocation for a permanent day center would be disclosed on Jan. 14, butthe date passed without an announcement. “It was felt there was acurrent need, ‘it is cold now’ and we should start the center withwhatever we could get together and learn by experience,” Cameron Cooke wrote.He added that organizers believe the center has enough funds to operatethrough March 15. Cooke urges people interested in offering programmingor volunteering personal time to come forward, but alluded to plans toopen a permanent day center at another location later. The center canbe reached at 336.332.0824. — JG

Census bumps up Winston-Salem’s population count

The US Census Bureau has agreed to add more than 8,000 people to its estimate of Winston-Salem’s population, Mayor Allen Joines announcedon Jan. 14. Joines challenged the bureau’s initial estimate of 215,348for 2007 as being too low. The new estimate of 223,532 indicates thecity’s population has grown by 20.3 percent since 2007, compared to a10.4 percent growth in neighboring Greensboro, whose current countlands at 247,183. City-County Planning Department Director Paul Norby said the federal revision could be helpful to Winston- Salem in securing federal distributions or grants, and puts the city “higher on the radar screen” for companies. He added that the revised figure moves Winston-Salem up from 91st to 85th in national ranking, behind Orlando, Fla. and Baton Rouge, La. — JG

Grasshoppers make coaching adjustments

Following the departure of Manager Brandon Hyde, wholeft for the Jacksonville (Fla.) Suns of the Double-A Southern League,the Greensboro Grasshoppers have named a replacement. Darin Everson comesto the post from the Jamestown Jammers of the NY-Penn League, who went47-29 last year. Filling out the skipper’s crew are hitting coach Robert Bell, formerly of the Frontier League’s Evansville (Ind.) Otters; and pitching coach Charlie Corbell, who worked with Everson in Jamestown,NY. In 2008 the Grasshoppers finished in fifth place in the NorthernDivision of the South Atlantic League, with a record of 66-72. OpeningDay at Newbridge Bank Park is April 3, when the Grasshoppers will takeon the Augusta Greenjackets. — BC

Personal day for Obama

Theinauguration of President Obama conforms to a neat historicalthrough-line, coming a day after the official holiday commemoratingMartin Luther King Jr. The outgoing message on the voice mail ofGuilford County School Board Vice-Chair Amos Quick, who is theexecutive director of Greensboro’s six Boys and Girls clubs, ties themtogether. “Please note that we are closed on Monday, Jan. 19, 2009 inobservance of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday,” he says, “and I amout of the office on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009 on a personal day.” — JG