by YES! Staff

Items from across the Triad and Beyond, compiled by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

State senator questioned about municipal campaign finance A handful of advocates for publicly financed municipal elections peppered NC Sen. Don Vaughan (D-Guilford) with questions about whether he would support a bill passed by the House called “Public Municipal Campaigns” during a town hall meeting in Greensboro on June 11.  The senator took a neutral stance on the legislation, noting that Mayor Yvonne Johnson was the only member of city council who had gone on record in favor of the bill. “I don’t see any negatives to it,” he said. “I just want to hear from council.” Gail Stroud wondered aloud whether that constituted a flip-flop. “I thought you were in support of it,” Stroud said. “Could your change of heart be because your wife is running for city council and there’s a lot of developers contributing to campaigns?” The senator deferred the question to his wife, Nancy Vaughan, who is running for an at-large seat on council. “Frankly, I’m insulted,” she said. “I am my own person. Don and I have served on council together, and we always ran separate campaigns. Certainly he’s not going to let legislation be influenced by me.” The public municipal campaigns bill, one of whose sponsors is Rep. Pricey Harrison (D-Guilford), allows any city in the state to appropriate funds for a public campaign financing program after holding a public hearing. The city council would be free to set the parameters of the program provided the candidates participating in public financing demonstrate public support and accept strict fundraising and spending limits and the program not discriminate against any candidate on the base of race, creed, position on issues, status of incumbency or non-incumbency or party affiliation. — JG Brunstetter holds off on nonpartisan municipal election push NC Sen. Peter Brunstetter (R-Forsyth) put forth an amendment to NC House Bill 833 that would’ve made city council elections in Forsyth County non-partisan during floor debate over the bill, but later withdrew his proposal. HB 833, which became law after its third reading on June 8, makes school board elections in Forsyth County non-partisan. Brunstetter said he withdrew his amendment to make city council elections in Forsyth nonpartisan after Sen. Linda Garrou (D-Forsyth) offered to work with him on cosponsoring the measure in another bill. Prior to the bill’s passage, Forsyth was one of only 10 school districts that did not follow state statutes, which call for nonpartisan school board elections. Brunstetter pointed out that Forsyth is one of only nine municipalities out of 551 in the state that has partisan city council elections. “It seemed that if the logic applied to one, it should apply to the other,” Brunstetter said. “If partisanship is not the issue, then let’s make city council elections nonpartisan.” Brunstetter said CHANGE’s campaign to push HB 833 through the General Assembly did not allow for discussion of the bill’s merits at the local level. “I would like to have seen CHANGE take their case to the local PTAs, but instead they relied on gaining the sympathetic ear of certain legislators.” The Winston-Salem chapter of Communities Helping All Neighbors Gain Empowerment, or CHANGE, spearheaded the campaign to reform school board elections in the county. — KTB First Guilford student confirmed with virus as pandemic declared The World Health Organization declared H1N1 swine flu to be a pandemic on June 11. On the same day, Guilford County Schools confirmed that a student at Gibsonville Elementary has the virus, marking the first case of a student being infected in the county. A press release from the school district said that a letter and factsheet were sent home with all students at the school, the infected student was at home, and the school had thoroughly cleaned and sanitized all touch surfaces. — JG Former detective testifies before city council Former Winston-Salem police Detective Donald R. Williams testified before members of the Winston-Salem City Council about police procedure in the 1995 Silk Plant Forest-Jill Marker assault case during a special meeting held June 11 at City Hall. The Silk Plant Forest Citizen Review Committee — the body tasked with looking into police procedure in the Marker case — asked the council to subpoena Williams last September after the former detective refused to meet with the committee’s investigators. Earlier this year, City Attorney Angela Carmon issued a summons to compel Williams to testify. Forsyth County Judge Edgar B. Gregory upheld the city’s summons of the former detective in April. Mayor Allen Joines opened the June 11 special meeting with a statement advising Williams that his testimony before the council could not be used against him in any future civil or criminal trial. The city council, joined by several members of the citizen committee, then adjourned to closed session. The examination lasted nearly five hours. Gathering Williams’ testimony represents one of the final elements necessary for completion of the committee’s final report, which is due June 30. The committee passed a resolution stating they had “no confidence” in the Winston-Salem Police Department’s investigation of the 1995 assault on Jill Marker, and the committee had found no credible evidence linking Kalvin Michael Smith to the crime during a meeting on March 17. Smith is currently serving a 28-year prison sentence for the attack on Marker. — KTB Senator has harsh words for Helms protest Sen. Peter Brunstetter (R-Forsyth) said in his June 11 newsletter that he wasn’t a big fan of honoring resolutions, but he objected to one colleague, Sen. Julia Boseman (D-New Hanover) — who is the chamber’s only openly gay member — voting against the resolution. “During this particular resolution, I witnessed what I believe is the most shameful thing I have seen in my time in the legislature,” Brunstetter wrote. “First, about seven senators ‘took a walk,’ during the resolution, which is the Senate term from boycotting or walking out of the room to avoid a vote. Worse than that, though, were the actions of Senator Julia Boseman, who has a long and troubled history of moral, ethical and legal problems. Julia sat quietly throughout the reading of the resolution, and the following comments about Senator Helms’ life, and then voted ‘no,’ embarrassing both herself and her leadership.” One wonders what purpose is served in passing a resolution if everyone is expected to vote unanimously in favor, but Brunstetter likened Boseman’s action “to picketing someone’s funeral and dancing on their grave.” — JG