by Jordan Green

Items from across the Triad and beyond

Mike Barber returns to Greensboro politics

Former Greensboro City councilman Mike Barber announced last week that he will run for council at large in the election this fall. Barber, a Democrat, served as the District 4 councilman and decided not to seek reelection in 2009.

“Taking some time away has given me a fresh perspective and some new ideas,” said Barber, whose family took a sabbatical in Spain after his tenure on council. “I care a lot about Greensboro and I feel like I have something to contribute. Looking forward, we need to renew our focus on branding and marketing the city of Greensboro.”

Barber, who also served as a Guilford County Commissioner, is the CEO of First Tee of the Triad, a nonprofit that teaches kids life skills through golf. He has been with the nonprofit for almost two years and still practices law.

During his tenure, Barber introduced the Greensboro Aquatic Center, he said. He also helped balance the city’s budget by reducing the number of city employees through attrition and consolidation, which allowed the city to increase employee compensation as well, he said. Barber is partially known for bringing up the option of reopening the White Street Landfill, which he said was a bargaining chip in the city’s waste-management contracting negotiations. Barber said he underestimated the sensitivity of the issue at the time and pointed out that he was not on council during the divisive debates on the landfill. He said it is a non-issue now that he does not plan to revisit. — EG

VA dispatches official to Winston-Salem at Hagan’s prompting

Allison Hickey, the undersecretary for benefits at the Veterans Administration, will visit the Winston-Salem regional office to look into a stubborn backlog of disability claims, US Sen. Kay Hagan announced last week.

Hagan asked Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki to send a top official from the agency to Winston-Salem, citing a yearlong waiting list of more than 7,000 veterans who have been waiting for the regional office to rule on their claims and more than 700 who have waited more than two years. In April, Hagan and 66 Senate colleagues urged President Obama to take action to end the backlog.

“I’m pleased that, at my request, Secretary [Eric] Shinseki will send the undersecretary for benefits to Winston- Salem to help us ensure veterans can access their hard-earned benefits in a timely manner,” Hagan said in a prepared statement. “While I believe this decision marks a step forward for our state’s veterans, I will not be satisfied until the VA eliminates the backlog and refines procedures to prevent future backlogs from developing. We owe this to our brave men and women who have sacrificed too much to face unnecessary delays with the VA, and I renew my call for President Obama to take direct, public action to address this problem.” — JG