by YES! Weekly staff

Healthcare skirmishes

Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem took a turf battle with local rival Novant Healthcare directly to the court of public opinion when interim President Donny Lambeth issued a statement on Sept. 8 indicating that the nonprofit was “extremely disappointed with the decision by Novant to appeal the state’s approval of the application to build a replacement hospital for Davie County Hospital.” Lambeth argued that Novant’s appeal of the state’s decision to award a certificate of need to Baptist “is nothing more than an attempt by Novant to protect its market share by delaying the people of Davie and surrounding counties from having a modern hospital.” Lambeth characterized the appeal coupled with an earlier statement by Novant that it did not oppose a replacement hospital as contradictions that “are puzzling and create doubt about Novant’s credibility.” Novant issued no press releases in rebuttal. — JG

Tobacco company cuts jobs as farm workers seek changes

ReynoldsAmerican announced plans to eliminate about 570 jobs at its Winston-Salem headquarters and area facilities on Sept. 9. The tobacco company also said it would focus on Camel and Pall Mall as its growth brands while relegating its Kool cigarettes as a support brand. ReynoldsAmerican expects to generate savings of about $100 million by the end of 2010 as a result of the job cuts, which represent about 16 percent of the company’s total Winston-Salem workforce. Reynolds CEO Susan Ivey earned $9.5 million in total compensation in 2007, according to regulatory filings earlier this year. “Simplifying and discontinuing activities results in significant job eliminations, and has involved many difficult and painful decisions,” said Daniel M. Delen, CEO of subsidiary RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. “We deeply regret the personal impact on employees whose jobs are eliminated; and we are providing generous severance benefits to help with their transition.” Only two days earlier, about 50 Hispanic tobacco workers organized by the Farm Labor Organizing Committee union marched in Greensboro to highlight recent work-related deaths. Local pastors sympathetic to the workers’ cause have been meeting with Reynolds executives to try to persuade the company to negotiate with the union. — JG

Obama borrows Hunt’s ed cred

George W. Bush touted his success in improving education as governor of Texas to reach moderate voters in the 2000 presidential election. The result was increased emphasis on testing and accountability under the No Child Left Behind Act. Jim Hunt also made education one of his signature issues in his four terms as governor of North Carolina, and he recently advised the campaign of Sen. Barack Obama on his education plan and then endorsed it. The Obama plan, released on Sept. 9, promises to broaden school choice and increase federal funding for charter schools — key aspects of the Republican education agenda — but bears some hallmarks of the Democratic Party too in its pledge to “recruit an army of new, highly qualified teachers” and increase teacher pay. “Senator Obama’s commitment to our children’s future with his robust education plan is right on,” Hunt said. “He understands what we know here in North Carolina, that quality public schools are essential to the future success of our children and a strong economy.” — JG

NAACP denounces Johnston County sheriff

The NC NAACP’s president issued a strong denunciation of racially inflammatory characterizations by Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell of Latino immigrants in his county. The News & Observer has reported that Bizzell said Hispanics were “breeding like rabbits” and were “trashy.” The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was founded in 1909 to eliminate racial hatred and discrimination. “This language comes from an old playbook,” said the Rev. William Barber II, president of the NC NAACP on Sept. 9. “We see it in from the prism of history when elected officials were allowed to say any and every thing publicly about African Americans without any repercussions. We’ve heard it before, when elected officials, such as sheriffs and governors in the South, castigated, scapegoated and violently abused African-American people. Officers of the law have too much power (the backing of the government, the license to use a gun and the authority to arrest) for an officer, let alone a sheriff to engage in mean, hateful, stereotypical, racist and vitriolic speech which destroys public trust, places in suspect the fairness of law enforcement and could have greater social consequences.” — JG

High Point candidates forum scheduled

The nonpartisan Guilford County Unity Effort holds its second candidates Forum on Sept. 23 at the High Point Theatre. All candidates for competitive races in the High Point City Council election have promised to attend, including incumbent Latimer B. Alexander IV, Mary Lou Blakeney, Jason Cox and John Wesley Sneed, the four candidates vying for the council’s two at-large seats; Julius Clark, Tony L. Davis, Foster Douglas, Price D. Grimm Jr., Jerry C. Mingo and Fitzgerald L. Waller, the six candidates battling for the open Ward 2 seat that is being vacated by Ron Wilkins; and incumbent John Faircloth and challenger Jim Corey in Ward 6. Mayor Becky Smothers and Ward 1 Councilwoman Bernita Sims, who are running unopposed, have also agreed to participate. Sandra Alexander and Michael McKinney, the two candidates for the at-large Guilford County School Board seat being vacated by Dot Kearns, will also be on hand. While there are no other match-ups, the list of candidates who have committed to attend runs long: Ty Cobb Jr., Republican candidate for the 12 th Congressional District; Michael C. Munger, Libertarian candidate for governor; Ronnie Ansley, Democratic candidate for commissioner of agriculture; Wayne Goodwin, Democratic candidate for commissioner of insurance; June St. Clair Atkinson, Democratic candidate for superintendent of public instruction; Democrat Earl Jones and Republican Laura Wiley, who face no challengers in their bid to keep their respective NC House seats in districts 60 and 61; Democrat Jeff Thigpen, who is running unopposed for Guilford County register of deeds; and Carlvena J. Foster, who is running unopposed for the District 1 Guilford County School Board seat being vacated by Walter Childs. — JG

Pedal-power market force at work

One prominent property management company is responding to the demand by shoppers strapped by high gas prices who are demanding more amenities for bicycle riders. CBL & Associates Properties has agreed to add 18 new bike racks at the Friendly Center Retail Complex in the west-central Greensboro. The Greensboro Department of Transportation will hold a free bike safety event on Saturday to teach new riders the rules and responsibilities of the road at a parking lot located near the intersection of Pembroke Road and Northline Avenue. — JG