SCUTTLEBUTT: Developments across the Triad and beyond, compiled by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green
NC one of ‘most prepared’ for election
North Carolina’s election system came in for praise from a national report released Oct. 16. The Brennan Center for Justice, the Common Cause Education Fund and the Verified Voting Foundation gave the state good marks for polling place contingency plans, ballot reconciliation and paper records and post-election audits in Is America Ready to Vote? State Preparations for Voting Machine Problems in 2008. The report described North Carolina as one of the “most prepared” for the Nov. 4 election, alongside Alaska, California, Minnesota, Missouri and Oregon. Neighboring states South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, in contrast, were labeled “least prepared.”
“Just this week North Carolina improved their audit procedures, increasing the security and reliability of the audit,” NC Coalition for Verified Voting Coordinator Joyce McCloy said in a statement.
“Because of that change, NC is now among the six states that have instituted the best policies and procedures to prepare for voting system problems.
North Carolina also is one of 12 states that recommends emergency paper ballots for when machines break down.” — JG
Forsyth County buys $430,000 in bus passes
Forsyth County commissioners unanimously agreed to purchase 7,000 monthly bus passes at a cost of $130,000 from the Winston-Salem Transit Authority during the board’s regular meeting on Oct. 13. The council also agreed to purchase $300,000 in bus passes for Medicaid transportation services during the meeting. The 7,000 bus passes, which will be distributed by the Forsyth County Department of Social Services, will be given out to eligible individuals in its Work First, adult services, and family and children’s services units.
The Forsyth County DSS non-Medicaid bus pass budget distributes bus passes through four separate programs. On an annual basis, the Work First food stamps transportation program receives $55,000; the Work First transportation program receives $42,000; the family and children’s services transportation program receives $30,000, and the adult service transportation program receives $3,000. The Medicaid transportation services resolution will provide medicalrelated transportation to an estimated 1,500 eligible individuals. Approximately 94 percent of the $300,000 in Medicaid transportation services funding will be reimbursable to the county. The funding will pay for 18,500 one-way para-transit trips, 3,500 one-ride bus passes, 225 tenride bus passes and 35 monthly passes. — KB
Unintended electoral consequences
As early voting got underway in North Carolina, election watchdogs warned that voters unfamiliar with the state’s straightticket option could be throwing away their vote for president. “NC is one of two states in the country where straight-ticket voting does not count for president,” wrote NC Coalition for Verified Voting coordinator Joyce McCloy in an Oct. 17 e-mail. “This unusual exception trips up tens of thousands of voters every 4 years.” The ballot provides an opportunity to vote for president, after which voters have the option of voting straight ticket, including Democratic, Libertarian and Republican. Voting straight ticket will choose the candidates for the given party in all partisan races, but ballots state that voters “may select a straight party and also vote for a candidate of a different party in an individual office. Alternately, voters may skip the straight party option, and mark each office separately. In 2000, 75,364 North Carolinians who went to the polls did not cast a vote for president, an under-vote of 3.15 percent. The undervote in 2004 was only slightly down, at 2.57 percent. North Carolina’s peculiar law accommodates the state electorate’s historical preference for voting for Republicans in presidential contests while sending Democrats to Raleigh, but Democrats are clearly worried that it will cost Obama some votes. — JG
Forsyth commissioners amend dangerous dog ordinance
Forsyth County commissioners more clearly defined the county’s dangerous dog ordinance during its regular meeting on Oct. 13. By a unanimous vote, the seven commissioners agreed to add definitions of a number of terms as they relate to the ordinance. The ordinance defines a dangerous dog as “any dog, that when unprovoked: (a) inflicts sever injury on a human being on public or private property; or (b) kills a domestic animal or livestock while off the owner’s property; or (c) has been previously declared potentially dangerous and the owner having received notice of such declaration and the dog subsequently aggressively bites, attacks or endangers the safety of humans or domestic animals or livestock.” The new ordinance added whole subsections regarding spaying or neutering of dangerous dogs, redemption of impounded animals, and a requirement that every dog and cat found in violation of the ordinance shall be implanted with a microchip and registered for purposes of identification and recovery. The new ordinance defines parameters for destruction of dangerous dogs and sets forth requirements for owners of dangerous dogs. Violation of the ordinance could lead to seizure of the animal and imposition of a civil fine of $250. — KB
Get your business downtown
A new study commissioned by Downtown Greensboro Inc. contends that the center city attracts more than 10 million shoppers a year, and found that downtown, currently comprised largely of restaurants and nightclubs, has a customer base that could support an independent bookstore and a music stores; stores selling sporting goods, bikes and running gear; a kitchen goods and cookware store, a gourmet food and wine shop; along with several other specialty retail ventures. The report was produced by H. Blount Hunter Retail and Real Estate Research Co. with a grant from the Cemala Foundation. Downtown Greensboro Inc. hopes to lure new businesses to the center city. As part of its Retail Initiative, the organization has posted a “Doing Business Downtown” guide on its website with “with information about business planning, financing, parking and various permits for renovating a space and opening a store.” — JG
The city of Greensboro has announced that up to 150 trees will be planted throughout the Aycock Historic Neighborhood on Nov. 8. The tree planting was to take place last fall, but was postponed because of the drought.
Funds reportedly for the trees came from the city, private donations to Greensboro Beautiful, American Express and REI. The saplings will be put in the ground as part of the NeighborWoods Tree Planting program, reportedly “developed as part of the city’s comprehensive planning process to help replace thousands of Greensboro trees that have been destroyed as a result of ice, wind and development.” Other neighborhoods such as East Side Park, Glenwood and Westerwood have also received tree-planting grants. — JG
Forsyth commissioners use funds to pay bond debt
Forsyth County commissioners unanimously approved a measure to utilize $6.6 million received by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools from the NC Public School Building Capital Fund to retire a portion of the county’s debt for the 2006 School Bonds during the council’s regular meeting on Oct. 13. The commissioners’ action came on the heels of a measure passed by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education in August to use the $6.6 million of NC Education Lottery proceeds received by the school system and apply it toward the school bond debt. In a letter to the Forsyth County Manager Dudley Watts, the board of education said the $6.6 million in lottery funds was not necessary for “planning, construction, reconstruction, enlargement, improvement, repair or renovation of public school buildings.”
On Nov. 4, Forsyth County voters will consider a $62.1 million educational bond referendum, which would allow Forsyth Tech to expand its facilities. The community college would use the money to add classroom space and construct a new career center for the county’s high school students. — KB
Greensboro gets a manager and communicator
Greensboro City Manager Mitchell Johnson announced the selection of Denise Turner as assistant city manager for communications on Oct. 15. Turner, who started her new job on Oct. 17, was hired to oversee the operations of public affairs, management information systems and enterprise resource planning. She left a job as a lobbyist for the Greensboro Partnership business consortium, and she managed Democratic US Rep. Brad Miller’s successful reelection bid against Republican Vernon Robinson in 2006. The hiring decision prompted questions during a press conference on Turner’s starting day about whether the city could afford to fill the position considering its current budget difficulties. A statement from the city justifying the decision cited Mayor Yvonne Johnson as saying that “the filling of this position was a high priority for [Greensboro City] Council, and the city was fortunate to be able to select a highly qualified person who council praised in the meeting this afternoon.” — JG