Student activist group dropped from proposed city contract

by Jordan Green

An organization mobilizing Greensboro college students to engage with community policy matters has been removed from a proposal to contract with the city to provide outreach services for a federally-funded weatherization program.

Assistant City Manager Denise Turner Roth told members of Greensboro City Council on Sept. 9 that Ignite Greensboro had been removed from a consortium of groups headed by NC A&T University Assistant Professor Robert Powell proposing to contract with the city.

Turner said she became concerned about Ignite Greensboro’s role in the BetterBuildings weatherization outreach effort after reading a story in YES! Weekly. The newspaper reported that the organization has been educating students about the White Street Landfill and planned to hold a march from the A&T campus to city hall on Sept. 20 to protest the planned reopening of the landfill.

Ignite Greensboro was founded by former UNCG student Zim Ugochukwu in 2009 following her experience volunteering for the 2008 Obama campaign. Since its founding the organization has raised money for the International Civil Rights Center and Museum and facilitated student volunteer efforts to provide low-income residents with energyefficient fluorescent light bulbs.

“I am concerned that the article suggests Ignite would engage in outreach of BetterBuildings while engaging in advocacy efforts regarding the landfill,” Roth said in a Sept. 8 e-mail to council members. “This obviously raises concerns about potential conflict between political advocacy work and government policy outreach. I want to avoid any real or perceived issues that would cast doubt on the use of program funds.”

Roth said she spoke with Powell, adding that “he immediately understood why there was a level of concern.” Neither Powell nor Cherrell Brown, director of Ignite Greensboro, could be reached for comment for this story.

“It’s very likely the activities Ignite Greensboro has been involved with in regards to the landfill — the activities of going door to door is what we’re hoping to do with the energy-efficiency grant,” Roth told YES! Weekly.

“The concern is that there isn’t any confusion about the outreach on weatherization being in conflict or overlapping with a political action effort.”

The council was scheduled to vote on Tuesday on a recommendation to execute a $214,200 contract with the Center for Energy Research & Technology at NC A&T University to provide community outreach for the BetterBuildings program. The Center for Energy Research & Technology will be the lead organization in partnership with the nonprofit Greensboro Housing Coalition and Housing Greensboro. The outreach funds will be paid out of a $5 million grant from the US Energy Department.