by YES! Weekly staff

Senator calls for truth commission to examine Bush administration

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, proposed a truth and reconciliation commission modeled after ones established in Greensboro and in South Africa during comments at Georgetown University on Feb. 9. A Mississippi Truth and Reconciliation Project, partly modeled on the Greensboro commission, was recently launched, but official Greensboro never officially embraced the truth commission here. The commission envisioned by Leahy would examine the misdeeds of the Bush administration. “One path to that goal would be a reconciliation process and a truth commission,” said Leahy, a former prosecutor. “We could develop and authorize a person or group universally recognized as fair minded, and without axes to grind. Their straightforward mission would be to find truth. People would be invited to come forward and

share their knowledge and experiences, not for purposes of constructing criminal indictments, but to assemble the facts. If needed, such a process could involve subpoena powers, and even the authority to obtain immunity from prosecutions in order to get to the whole truth.” Leahy directly referenced Greensboro in his remarks, arguing that Americans’ ability to come together to tackle the current crisis “is no more improbable than the truth that came to light and laid the foundation for reconciliation in South Africa, or in Greensboro, North Carolina.” — JG

Young Democrats look to recruit

Frank Eaton has a clear vision for the future, and it includes young Forsyth County citizens running for local, state and national offices. Eaton, president of the Forsyth County Young Democrats, has issued a call for youthful candidates to toss their hat in the political ring beginning with the 2009 municipal elections. The 2009 municipal elections represent the first opportunity for “the movement” that elected Barack Obama the 44th president of the United States to make its voice heard on the local level, Eaton said. “The lessons we’ve learned are fresh and our perspective on the community renewed by the experiences we’ve had with voters in the precincts of Winston-Salem,” Eaton said in a videotaped message on the Young Democrats’ website. Eaton said the Young Democrats have enlisted the aid of Tara Orris, one of five Obama campaign field organizers, to “professionalize the chapter and build a rolling campaign.” Winston- Salem City Councilman Dan Besse, 54, is the youngest Democrat on the council, Eaton said, which underscores the need for infusion of new energy and new ideas.

“Forsyth County faces a quiet crisis as its elected leadership ages,” Eaton said. — KTB

Votes for stimulus bill fall along party lines

The US House of Representatives passed President Obama’s $787billion economic stimulus plan on Feb. 13 by a vote of 246- 183. Hourslater, the Senate passed the bill, known as the American Recovery andReinvestment Act, by a 60-38 margin. Votes fell along party lines in the House. Democrats gained the votes of three Republican senators, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, to secure a filibuster proof majority in the Senate. Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) voted against the bill, while Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) voted in favor of the measure. North Carolina’s House delegation voted in similar fashion. Republican Howard Coble, whorepresents the 6th Congressional District, said he voted against thebill because it would not “jump start” the American economy. “Most ofthis new spending will be in later years and the tax cuts are not broadenough to lift us out of this recession. We are burdening futuregenerations with a massive debt,” Coble said. Democrat Brad Miller, who represents the 13th District, hailed the bill as the first step toward turning the American economy around. — KTB

Complaint review committee changes

A majority of the GreensboroCity Council signaled their disapproval with a police review board withsubpoena power, but city staff has looked into ways of strengtheningGreensboro’s current complaint review committee. Human RelationsDirector Anthony Wade presented a new proposed model on Feb. 9that would give the committee access to “personnel informationregarding officers’ records of complaints, when reviewing a case thatinvolves them,” authority to initiate its own investigations intoofficer conduct, whether or not a citizen filed a formal complaint, andsubpoena power for calling citizens as witnesses. The draftstates that the police officers can already be compelled to appearbefore the committee, but Citizen Review Committee Chairman Wayne Abraham saidin an interview that in his years on the committee he cannot recallthat it has ever done so. The new proposed model would also give thecommittee the ability to review outside documentary materials such asYouTube videos and newspaper articles instead of relying solely onwritten complaints and police records. Wade said the complaint reviewcommittee currently is currently reviewing eight complaints, and hasclosed 25 cases since 2005. Of those, three cases were referred to thecity manager because the complaint review committee did not concur withthe police department. In two out of the three cases, the manager sidedwith the complaint review committee against the police. — JG

Business advocates target Sen. Hagan

Rep. Howard Coble wasscheduled to speak at a reception hosted by Americans for Prosperityfor a new campaign to defeat union card-check legislation at theGreensboro Historical Museum on Monday. The pro-business group washonoring Coble on Monday, and US Sen. Richard Burr on Tuesdayat a similar event in Raleigh for their opposition to legislation thatwould help labor unions organize more workplaces by allowing them torepresent shops simply by having

amajority of employees sign cards rather than winning a majority vote ina secretballot election. Americans for Prosperity noted in a pressrelease that the “Save My Ballot nationwide tour was to kick off inGreensboro — “the home of Senator Kay Hagan, whose vote on card-check legislation is viewed as critical in the US Senate.” — JG

City council extends deadline for Silk Plant Forest committee

The Winston-SalemCity Council passed a resolution extending the deadline for the finalreport of the Silk Plant Forest Citizen Review Committee from March 17to June 30 during the council’s regular meeting on Feb. 16. CityAttorney Angela Carmon addressed the major roadblock the committee hasfaced in compiling its final report. A motion filed with the court lastweek to compel DR Williams, the lead investigator in the case, torespond to the city’s subpoena could drag on well past the June 30deadline, Carmon said. Council member Dan Besse expressed his hope thecommittee could obtain the testimony of Williams and Kalvin MichaelSmith, the man convicted of the Marker assault by a Forsyth County juryin 1997, and include their interviews in its final report. Councilmember Wanda Merschel cast the lone dissenting vote, saying thecommittee should compose its report by March 17 and file an addendumwith Williams’ testimony at a later date. Mayor Pro Tem Vivian Burkeemphasized it was never the committee’s purpose to investigate Smith’sguilt or innocence. “We are not the justice system,” she said. “We arethe city council.” — KTB