Support for urban loop among requests to NC lawmakers

by Amy Kingsley

The first time Greensboro Mayor Keith Holliday addressed state legislators from Guilford County at a Jan. 10 meeting, he requested more support for the urban loop – also known as Painter Boulevard, an end to the landfill moratorium, funds to improve public transit, to clean up contaminated areas and, more broadly, to finance Greensboro’s transformation into an economic center rivaling Raleigh.

But he was not done. After other speakers had their say at the Jan. 9 meeting, Holliday again took the podium and asked the legislators for another favor. This time it was for more money for the judicial system, specifically to add magistrates, prosecutors and judges to benches in Guilford County.

“This is one of the greatest steps we can take toward the Triad area becoming a better economic engine for North Carolina,” Holliday said about the Millennium Campus, a joint research park being developed by NC A&T University and UNCG. “For too long have we seen Raleigh-Durham and Charlotte being the main economic engines.”

Holliday was not the only speaker with issues to bring to the legislators’ attention. The meeting attracted about 40 citizens. They arrived with a laundry list of requests.

Three speakers urged the legislators to enact legislation that would mandate spaying and neutering pets.

“It costs the state around a hundred million dollars to kill and house innocent animals,” said Marilyn Green, a volunteer at the Guilford County Animal Shelter. “There is a very simple solution: Enact something statewide that asks people to spay and neuter their pets.”

Paul Jeffrey of the Mental Health Association in Greensboro urged lawmakers to better support treatment for mental health. He outlined a number of challenges facing cities that do not have resources for their mentally ill citizens.

“Law enforcement is being challenged with custody and transportation,” Jeffrey said. “Similarly, emergency medical resources are the de facto safety net and the judicial system is challenged with the ever-increasing number of mental health cases.”

Representatives from Greensboro arts organizations thanked lawmakers for their support, but not all of their tidings were good. John Smith, a member of the Greensboro Symphony, chided the legislators for what he perceived as favoritism toward arts organizations in Raleigh. He cited the Greensboro Symphony’s record of high-quality, low-cost productions before encouraging the delegation to throw money their way.

“Please make sure that Guilford County receives fair and equitable funding whenever money is given to arts groups,” he said.

Educators requested raises for teachers and classified employees. They encouraged legislators to maintain all of the education funding streams including the lottery, bonds and discretionary monies, and then asked for another break.

“We request that you either exempt public schools from the sales tax or return those funds to us,” said Dot Kearns, an at-large member of the Guilford County School Board.

The most impassioned speakers hailed from the King’s Mill subdivision in Sedgefield. Unlike Holliday, these residents had only harsh words for Painter Boulevard, a construction project they portrayed as intrusive, dangerous and destructive.

“I come to you tonight because I’m saddened and I’m angry,” said King’s Mill resident Marilyn Baird.

She and her neighbors complained about utility cutoffs, trespassing construction workers and damage to the foundations of their homes.

Rep. Maggie Jeffus, expressed dismay that the King’s Mill project was still causing so many problems. She said she was surprised to hear from the residents because she thought the problem had been taken care of.

“Several legislators are looking into it,” she said. “We should see what we can do to help.”

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