S C U T T L E B U T T:Developments across the Triad and beyond

by YES! Staff

Greensboro mayor: No tax increase, again

Greensboro Mayor Yvonne Johnson acknowledged the economic downturn and attempted to rally constituents in a new year’s address broadcast on Cable Channel 13 on Jan. 6. “Among many important items I have heard concerns about how your retirement income is faring; concerns about whether your sons and daughters will be able to find employment; and concerns about the safety of your communities with the growing sense that people are becoming more desperate.” She promised, “We will get through this rough patch,” and pledged to pursue a course of low taxes, corporate incentives and targeted loans to help the city survive. Her address noted that November was the single worst month for job loss in more than three decades, and that last year the city council awarded $1.3 million in incentives to companies that have pledged to bring 155 jobs; the investment breaks down to $83,870 per job. A member of council’s liberal bloc, Johnson

W-S suffers first homicide of 2009

On Jan. 11, Winston-Salem police officers responded to shooting call at 803 Utah Drive and arrived to find three victims — Jose Luis Guzman, Valentin Francisco Organis, and Antonio Adolfo Hernandez. Guzman was transported to Baptist Hospital where he died as a result of his injuries. It was Winston-Salem’s first homicide of 2009. Organis and Hernandez were treated and released with non-life threatening injuries. The criminal investigations division responded and conducted the on-scene follow-up investigation. Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 336.727.2800 or 336.728.3904 (Spanish) or the Winston-Salem Police Department at 336.773.7700.

Bingo and More robbed

On Jan. 9, the Bingo and More store, located at 2212 Randleman Road in Greensboro, was robbed by two male suspects in their 20s. The suspects entered the business brandishing a handgun and demanding money, stole an undisclosed amount of money, and fled on foot towards Savannah Street, according to police reports. Greensboro police encourage anyone with information about this crime to call CrimeStoppers at 336.373.1000.

Lorillard Federal Credit

is making common cause with her conservative colleagues by pledging to hold the line on taxes. “As we go into budget discussion, I will ask council to consider avoiding a tax increase once a again this year.” She also alluded to the fatal shooting of Mohammed “Mike” Ali. “Young shopkeepers should be safe in their stores on a Sunday morning,” she said. “The robberies and murders that we have witnessed in the past few weeks will not be tolerated.” — JG

Greensboro, Winston-Salem pursue federal funding

The city of Greensboro is looking towards federal government under the incoming Obama administration to finance a slate of infrastructure projects. Following the president-elect’s Dec. 6 announcement to develop an economic recovery plan to create millions of jobs while improving infrastructure and schools, the city developed a list of projects that would meet the new administration’s expected criteria. Among the big-ticket items: upgrade of Townsend Dam ($42 million price tag), street resurfacing ($17.5 million), a bus maintenance and operations facility ($17 million), a police substation ($5.2 million), upgrade and refurbishment of War Memorial Stadium ($5 million), a police specialty vehicle storage facility and the development of Keeley Park in east Greensboro ($4 million). Greensboro’s acting transportation director, Adam Fischer, wrote in a Dec. 29 memo that “due to budget constraints,” the NC Department of Transportation “has postponed all of its resurfacing contracts for 2009.” Meanwhile, the city of Winston-Salem has hired Washington, DC lobbying firm the Ferguson Group for $60,000 to pursue federal funds for local infrastructure projects — JG

Charges are dropped against Latin Kings

Charges of felony abduction of children against four members of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation have been dropped by the Guilford County District Attorney. North Carolina Latin King leader Jorge Cornell said the felony charges were dropped against himself, Russell Kilfoil, Robert Vasquez and Allan Jordan. The charges stem from a Halloween-night incident in which a 15-year-old girl left with Jordan, her boyfriend, following a dispute with her older sister. After the girl’s sister and mother made a statement to the police, the gang enforcement unit arrested Cornell, Vasquez and Jordan during a touch football game at Center City Park in Greensboro, later picking up Kilfoil. The four men still face misdemeanor charges of contributing to the delinquency of a juvenile in relation to the incident; Cornell said the four are confident they can beat the charges, and have no plans to plead guilty. The Rev. Nelson Johnson, an ally of the Latin Kings, reported that since Cornell was acquitted in December of assaulting a police officer, the gang unit has eased off the group. — JG

Greensboro council balks at marathon costs

Greensboro council members have been catching flak from constituents about the city’s role in supporting the United Healthcare NC Marathon, which was run for the first time last year. City Manager Mitchell Johnson reminded council members in a Jan. 6 memo that they had agreed to underwrite the marathon to the tune of $10,000 last year “due to it being billed as part of the Bicentennial,” but the city does not have a set policy for underwriting police costs for such charitable events. The city manager was scheduled to meet with Coliseum-Special Event Manager Scott Johnson, police Chief Tim Bellamy and marathon organizers on Jan. 9. “I know that several of you have reviewed the concerns, regarding the Greensboro Marathon,” the city manager wrote, “expressed via Talk to Council Form, you received last week.” — JG

DA clears former A&T chancellor

Former NC A&T University Chancellor James C. Renick “did not act in bad faith or with criminal intent,” Guilford County District Attorney J. Douglas Henderson announced on Jan. 6. An NC Auditor’s report released in August 2007 found that the university inappropriately transferred $380,000 in vending receipts from a contract with Pepsi into a discretionary fund controlled by the chancellor. The audit concluded that the University of North Carolina System policy dictated that the funds be used for scholarships and student financial aid, but instead the largest share was spent on an annuity for an unnamed faculty member while other amounts were spent on art, travel and alumni events. “It is clear that Pepsi preferred that these vending monies be used for scholarships, which would have complied with UNC System policy,” Henderson said. “It is also clear that former Chancellor Renick and some of his senior staff did not believe these monies were so restricted.” Yet the DA found no wrongdoing. “In diverting these vending receipts to his discretionary fund and using them for purposes at variance with UNC System policy, we find that former Chancellor James C. Renick did not act in bad faith or with criminal intent. In support of this conclusion, we note that none of the questioned expenditures from the vending receipts personally enriched former Chancellor Renick, and all such expenditures benefited NC A&T State University.” The DA also cleared another A&T employee mentioned in the Auditor’s report. The report noted that the husband of program manager Anna Anita Huff received a higher stipend than other students in a program funded from a grant from the US Office of Naval Research; that, as the DA described it, “Huff hired and supervised her daughter as a student worker in the program in violation of the state’s nepotism policy….” Again, the DA found “no evidence of criminal intent or criminal conduct,” concluding that “Ms. Huff’s husband was selected as a student participant in the ONR grant program by a selection committee over which Ms. Huff had no control or influence, and that the selection committee could not have known that the two were married.” — JG

GPD cleared in detainee’s death

Three Greensboro police officers acted appropriately and lawfully in the arrest of a motorist, who later died at Moses Cone hospital following his arrest, Guilford County District AttorneyJ. Douglas Henderson announced on Jan. 6. According to an investigative report completed by the State Bureau of Investigation, PaulEdwards Thompson Jr. wasstopped for speeding by police on Business 85 in Greensboro on April22. Thompson reportedly refused an order to spit out something he waschewing and resisted arrest “by kicking at the officers with his feetand legs,” according to the DA. One officer reportedly tased andpepper-sprayed Thompson to try to get him under control. While in anambulance, Thompson reportedly showed signs of cardiac arrest and diedfive days later at the hospital. An autopsy reportedly determined thatThompson died from complications of cocaine toxicity. — JG

Daves to step down as NC Republican chair

NC Democratic Party Chairman Jerry Meek will step down this year. So too, will his counterpart at the head of the state Republican Party. Linda Daves announced on Jan. 6 that she will not seek reelection at the party’s annual convention in Raleigh in June. The Republicans lost a US Senate seat held by Elizabeth Dole and Republican Rep. Robin Hayes was ousted by Democrat Larry Kissell under Daves’ watch. Daves authorized a post-primary ad that attempted to link Democrat gubernatorial nominee Bev Perdue to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright through presidential candidate Barack Obama. Thead’s effect was apparently negligible, as Perdue won her electionhandily while Obama narrowly carried the state. “I am proud of whatRepublicans have been able to accomplish together for the people of North Carolinaover the last two years,” Daves said in a prepared statement. “Thefruit of the labor associated with party building takes time to grow.” — JG

Miller files mortgage reform legislation

With a Democratic administration taking control of the executive branch on Jan. 20, Rep. Brad Miller, the Democrat who represents North Carolina’s13th Congressional District, took another swing at his homeownersbankruptcy bill. Miller filed the Emergency Homeownership and EquityProtection Act on Jan. 6. Opposition from the mortgage industry and itslobbyists helped defeat the bill in the past. The bill would allowbankruptcy courts to modify “subprime” and other risky mortgages tohelp homeowners avoid foreclosure. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. John Conyers (D-Mich.).On Jan. 8, the lawmakers announced that they had secured the support oflender Citigroup on the legislation. “Reforming mortgage bankruptcylaws is the only remedy available that we will provide the stick to gowith the many carrots that we have offered lenders to modify mortgagesvoluntarily,” Miller wrote in an opinion piece for The Hill on Jan. 9. “We know it will work. And we need something to work right away.” — JG

Greensboro Police training takes place at shuttered hotel

The city of Greensboroannounced that High Point Road motorists and neighboring residentscould notice unusual low-level noises as police use small explosives togain entry into motel rooms at the Coliseum Inn on Monday, and thenagain on Jan. 20. Unspecified units of the Greensboro Police Departmentwere scheduled to conduct training at the former low-cost hotel wheresome of the poorest citizens stayed before the city bought the propertyand evicted guests. The property is expected to be demolished, and atsome point sold to a developer to build a retail and restaurantcomplex. — JG