Scuttlebutt: Developments across the Triad and beyond

by the YES! staff

Anti-torture bill passes NC House committee

The NC House Judiciary Committee I passed the “Crimes of Torture and Enforced Disappearance” bill in a 4-3 vote on June 19. Guilford County Democrats Pricey Harrison and Earl Jones are among the bill’s sponsors but Republican Judiciary I member John Blust, also from Guilford, cast one of the three votes against the legislation. The bill’s next stop is the larger House Appropriations Committee. Under the proposed legislation, torture and enforced disappearance would be considered statutory offenses, and state prosecutors could petition a judicial panel for a grand jury to consider evidence and bring charges. The bill is seen as a remedy to a longstanding frustration among North Carolina anti-torture activists who have unsuccessfully pushed state officials to take action against aviation companies alleged to be ferrying terrorism suspects to secret international torture centers.

– JG

Development scramble at airport

The Greensboro City Council approved an amendment to the city’s comprehensive plan for interim corporate business park to mixed-use commercial on NC Highway 68 west of Piedmont Triad International Airport. The 69-acre tract sits adjacent to GTCC’s planned aviation campus. At-large Councilman Robbie Perkins, who is president of the commercial real estate company NAI Piedmont Triad, abstained from the vote because of a direct financial interest. District 3 Councilman Zack Matheny, a financial planner with Wachovia Securities, abstained because of a conflict of interest. The unanimous vote was taken on June 17.

– JG

Greensboro council approves budget with no tax raise

The Greensboro City Council approved the city’s annual budget on June 17, with at-large Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw casting the lone dissenting vote. The $425.7 million budget for 2008-2009 is an increase from $392.6 appropriated in the current budget year. The budget maintains the property tax rate at 6.35 cents per $100 of property value. That’s in addition to the county tax rate, of course – currently set at 6.91 cents. City staff neglected to provide documentation during the vote on June 17, so council will take another vote Tuesday, June 24 to make it legal. District 2 Councilwoman Goldie Wells said she expected the consensus to hold.

– JG

Sour milk

Small dairy farmers won a victory last week when legislation that would overturn a law requiring them to dye raw milk black cleared the House Agriculture Committee. The bill, introduced by Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), faced little opposition in the committee, passing by 16 votes to two. Next week it will go to the Health Committee, and, if they approve it, to the full House. Ruth Foster, one of the people fighting the dyeing rule, said the issue is important to small farmers and consumers with an interest in locally produced food. The NC Department of Agriculture proposed the rule to keep raw milk – which has not been pasteurized to kill bacteria – out of the hands of human consumers. “In terms of food illness outbreaks due to dairy products,” Foster said, “they account for less than one percent. It’s really a control issue.”

– AK