Cooper busts political telemarketers A political telemarketing group making “robo calls,” in what appears to be a voter suppression effort, has been fined $100,000 and barred from operating in North Carolina until after the Nov. 4 election, stated Attorney General Roy Cooper in a press release. Cooper said the group began placing automated calls to voters before the May 6 primary, telling them they would soon receive voter registration forms in the mail, which they should fill out and submit. But the deadline to register by mail had passed, and some call recipients already were registered to vote, causing confusion.
Under state law, political campaigns and non-profits making prerecorded calls must identify who is making the call, give the nature of the call and provide contact information for the group that makes the call. The calls did not identify Women’s Voices Women Vote or tell how to contact them, so people who were confused by the calls were not able to ask for clarification. Cooper’s office received complaints from consumers, the NAACP and Democracy North Carolina. On Oct. 21, Women’s Voices Women Vote agreed to pay $100,000 in civil penalties and suspend all voter activities until after the Nov. 4 election. The money will go to North Carolina schools. — KB
RUCO compromise reached The Greensboro Engineering & Inspection Department has struck language stating that “rental unit certificates of occupancy shall be reissued automatically if there have been no reported and confirmed violations” from a draft revision of the city’s housing inspection ordinance. The latest draft includes a compromise that city staff will conduct exterior inspections every five years, and apartment complexes of more than 50 units will be subjected to sample interior inspections. Representatives of the real estate industry and tenant advocates gave a tentative green light to the plan during a meeting at the Greensboro Builders Association building on Oct. 23. The task force plans to reconvene at the builders association building on Thursday to approve final language before recommending the changes to the Rental Unit Certificate of Occupancy Advisory Board, which in turn hands the proposal up to city council for final approval. — JG
Emergency shelter shortfall expected in Greensboro Homeless service providers were scheduled to meet with local officials at Greensboro Urban Ministry on Monday to plan for an anticipated shortfall in emergency shelter this winter. “I am very concerned about having enough emergency shelter for this winter for our homeless friends,” Urban Ministry Executive Director Mike Aiken wrote in an Oct. 22 e-mail. One of Urban Ministry’s shelters has been operating at capacity all summer. Another agency has 44 families on their waiting list, and Guilford County Schools has identified 1,000 homeless children in its system, Aiken said, adding, “Urban Ministry and Salvation Army are making plans for winter emergency overflow shelter, but I feel what we have done in the past will not suffice for this winter because the ‘depression not recession’ our country is experiencing.” — JG
State groups disappointed Guilford didn’t add more voting capacity Polling places were running smoothly during early voting in Guilford County, with voters reporting wait times of 30-45 minutes and with sites equipped with some 15 electronic voting machines. Notwithstanding generally positive reports from voters, the state NAACP and Democracy NC found some deficiencies. NC NAACP President William Barber II and Democracy NC Executive Director Bob Hall said in a joint statement that they were disappointed in an Oct. 21 decision by the Guilford County Board of Elections not to add more capacity, “despite the record number of people standing in lines to vote in Greensboro and other sites.” They wrote, “State law and state funds are in place to encourage the use of early voting. When election officials experience first-hand the large turnout and demand from their citizens ‘let us vote,’ they must take action that fulfills their responsibility to operate an accessible, fair and secure voting system.” — JG
Unemployment at recessionary levels, state group says While economic conditions in Greensboro may feel like a depression to homeless people, the NC Budget & Tax Center in Raleigh has posited that unemployment in North Carolina is now at recessionary levels. Research Associate John Quinterno said that unemployment across the state rose for the ninth month in September, even before the financial crisis took hold. “Unemployment in North Carolina has reached recessionary levels,” Quinterno said. “The September unemployment rate of 7 percent is the highest monthly rate recorded since 1990. It is higher than any monthly rate posted during the 1990-91 recession or the official part of the 2001 recession.” The US House recently passed an extension of an emergency unemployment program that would provide insurance for jobless workers for an additional 13 weeks for North Carolina workers, Quinterno reported. He urged the Senate to approve the legislation during its November session. — JG
Depression screenings offered Free screenings for depression will be offered by a consortium of agencies in Guilford County on Thursday, which is National Depression Screening Day. Participants will complete brief, written questionnaires and learn the symptoms of depression, and counselors and therapists will be on hand to answer questions. Screenings will be offered at the UNCG Psychology Clinic, First Lutheran Church and Evangel Fellowship Church of God In Christ in Greensboro; and First United Methodist Church in High Point. According to the Mental Health Association of Greensboro, 80 percent of people with clinical depression can be successfully treated, including employees, who can become productive and fully functioning again. For more information about the free screenings in Guilford County, call 336.373.1402 or visit www. mhag.org. Free screenings will be offered in Forsyth County in early December. — JG
Labor goes to work for Obama Change to Win, a labor coalition that includes the Teamsters Local 391 and UNITE HERE Local 294-T, disclosed that is conducting a “comprehensive” mail, phone and canvass effort in 13 battleground states including North Carolina to help elect Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama. The organization said it would send 10 million pieces of direct mail, make 20 million phone calls and field 1,500 member organizers across the nation. Teamsters Local 391 President Jack Cipriani in Greensboro charged that Republican nominee Sen. John McCain’s “economic agenda will finish what George W. Bush has started.” — JG