Scuttlebutt: Developments across the Triad and beyond

by the YES! staff

Congressman wants the vets

Rep. GK Butterfield, who represents North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District in the state’s northeast corner, has requested that Gov. Mike Easley make all veterans “honorary North Carolinians” for the purpose of allowing service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, along with their spouses and dependents, to attend state universities and college at in-state tuition rates. The plan is modeled after one recently adopted by the state of Ohio. “This would be in keeping with out status as America’s most military- and veteran-friendly state,” Butterfield said in a prepared statement. “It would send a clear message to veterans that North Carolina wants them and that we believe they would be valuable students with immense potential.

– JG

Keep off the grass

On July 7, the city of Winston-Salem held a public meeting and invited citizens interested in sounding off on a proposed rule to ban cars in front lawns. The city wants to ban the practice of keeping cars on front lawns without a special permit and an approved parking pad. Violators would be charged a $25 civil penalty for violations of the ordinance, but exceptions would be allowed for special events.

– AK

Five’s company

The Winston-Salem City Council approved changes to zoning rules that will require owners of boarding and rooming houses to register their properties with the Department of Neighborhood Services. The rule change includes single-family houses occupied by more than four unrelated adults – that means you, punk rock and frat houses – and boarding houses. Houses must be registered and brought into compliance with zoning regulations by January 2009.

– AK

Bond, swimming pool bond

The Greensboro City Council will hold a public hearing on Wednesday to take public comment on four bond proposals totaling $205 million. The majority of the proposed bond spending addresses transportation needs, including intersection improvements, bike paths, sidewalks and the planned downtown greenway. A second bond allocates $50 million to remodel the War Memorial Auditorium – an increase from the $36 million bond that failed in 2006 – and a $1 million bond for housing. The most controversial item on the list is a $20 million bond for parks and recreation. At District 4 Councilman Mike Barber’s prodding, council voted 5-4 on July 8 to add a competitive swimming pool to the parks and recreation bond, which also includes an athletic field and facility improvements. City Manager Mitchell Johnson indicated that the bond would likely not cover all those projects, and predicted council will have to make some hard choices.

­- JG

Christians against gay rights

Following a July 2 vote by the NC House to not concur with a Senate version of the School Violence Protection Act that struck language protecting gay students, the two houses have appointed members to a conference committee to hash out the differences. Democratic House members from Guilford and Forsyth counties had blocked the Senate bill at the urging of gay-rights advocates and the state teacher’s union. Now comes the Rev. Mark H. Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, urging Senate members to hold the line against reinstating the protective language. Creech warned in a July 8 e-mail that the House bill put forth by Rep. Rick Glazier (D-Cumberland) “would elevate a sexual perversion on the same level with the sacred – religion – which generally speaking defines homosexuality as sinful,” adding that “if this legislation should pass it would essentially require North Carolina public schools to teach these behaviors are normal and perfectly acceptable. The premise for this contention would be the law itself.”

– JG

Jordan Reservoir rules considered

The NC Environmental Management Commission considers 11 new rules for cleaning up Jordan Reservoir by reducing nitrogen inputs when it meets in Raleigh on Thursday. The rules have been recommended by specially appointed hearing officers following a series of hearings last July. Public comments at a Carrboro hearing were reportedly split evenly between real estate interests and environmental groups, while a hearing in Elon was dominated by a coalition of opponents that included developers, industrialists and municipalities. The cost of cleaning up the Jordan Reservoir, which has been designated an impaired body, is estimated at $905 million, to be shared by municipalities, developers, farmers and factory owners. Should the commission approve the new rules, they will go before the NC General Assembly in January, with a proposed effective date of April 1, 2009.

– JG

Buracker debunks GSO crime myths

The Greensboro Police Department has an enviable rate of solving crimes, and the city’s per-capita crime rate has declined in the past decade-plus. Those are the conclusions of Carroll Buracker & Associates, the consultant that delivered its report on the department on July 7. The Buracker report also applauded the police for improving working relations with the city’s human relations department, establishing a more constructive climate for deliberating employee grievances and developing policies to make the department more responsive to citizens who file complaints since the departure of former Chief David Wray. The consultants found plenty of room for improvement, however, deeming the promotion process for supervisors to be “seriously flawed by being far too ambiguous and subjective.” They also found pay in the department to be out of whack, with one lieutenant earning more through overtime than the chief and assistant chiefs earning less than basic patrol officers in other cities. Tilting against political assumptions and conventional wisdom the report also recommended that assistant chiefs and detectives be given more clerical staff support, and that the gang unit be cut in half and officers be reallocated to a new domestic violence unit. The Buracker report noted that city council’s request for additional personnel in the gang unit was based on a finding that “commercial robberies are unusually high… there are more reported incidents of youth violence than ever before, and our schools have been negatively impacted by the activities related to youth gangs.” Those assumptions starkly contrast with reality, the consultants concluded: “Violent crime in 2007 was lower than 2006; moreover, there were fewer commercial robberies in 2007 than 2006.”

– JG