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scuttlebutt

by Keith Barber

Items from across the Triad and Beyond

Council holds line against landfill reopening

The liberal-centrist faction of Greensboro City Council won the latest skirmish in the garbage war on June 16. Council voted 8-1 to approve a motion by at-large Councilman Robbie Perkins, who proposed “that we study the solid waste alternatives as they relate to our best alternatives in terms of cost, societal and technology aspects. And that way we can get all the facts on the table and come up with the best decision. I would not want to structure it as reopening the [White Street] Landfill. I think that brings too many negatives to the table. That is not my goal. My goal is to have Greensboro be the leader in how we dispose of municipal solid waste.”

The lone dissenting vote came from District 4 Councilman Mike Barber, who proposed that the council receive budget information about how much money

the city would save byadding 50,000 tons per year of municipal solid waste with an eyetowards allocating the money towards the library system and thehomeless day center. Barber’s motion did not receive a second. Thediscussion took an ugly turn, with Barber calling District 2Councilwoman Goldie Wells, whose district encompasses the landfill, “the perpetual victim.” Intwo separate actions, council voted to request the NC Department ofEnvironment and Natural Resources and the Guilford County Department ofPublic Health to assess whether the nearby EH Glass Landfill is apublic health threat. — JG

Complaint review committee wants to see cops’ disciplinary records

Greensboro’scomplaint review committee is asking for an amendment to the cityordinance and legislative action to give it more wide-ranging authorityto investigate allegations of officers mistreating citizens.

Wayne Abraham, thecommittee’s chairman, told city council on June 16 that “the volume andcomplexity of the complaints coming to us has increased substantially. In2008, the committee had 13 complaints appealed to it. This year, by theend of May, we’ve already had 20 complaints.” The council tabled theitem until July 21, so that police Chief Tim Bellamy would have an opportunity to outline any concerns. In the meantime, Assistant Chief Anita Holder hintedat points on which the department is likely to put up resistance. “Myconcern is that the one change that the department had asked to comeout of that proposal is the notion that the CRC would be able to lookat past performance issues, past disciplinary issues.” Rank-and-fileofficers have vociferously objected to efforts to grant the complaintreview committee additional powers in the past, but some have viewedthe committee as ineffective and irrelevant. The proposed changes would address those perceptions on three fronts. “We occasionally need toaccess an officer’s personnel record,” Abraham said. “Sometimes we needto establish whether or not a pattern of complaints is occurring…. Weneed to know if any officer is having the same kinds of complaintsreported by various people, and how those complaints are being handled.As you know, when a person calls in, there are differentclassifications that they can be given. Not all are officiallyclassified as a complaint, so it’s important to be able to see the fullrecord rather than only a small portion. We also need to be informedabout what specific disciplinary actions have been taken when it hasbeen determined that an officer violated the law or policy. Sincepersonnel records are barred from being made public it is importantthat we, on behalf of the public, know that proper actions were taken.This way the public knows that we can and are reviewing this on theirbehalf. Currently, we know what determination has been made regardingan officer when we review an incident, but not what happens as aresult. Therefore our information is incomplete. I believeRonald Reagan termed this, ‘Trust but verify.’” A second proposedchange has been considered the most controversial in the past, but mayend up being the least contentious in this battle. “Subpoena power hasbeen a hot-button item for some time,” Abraham said. “We may need tomeet with someone directly who is reticent to meet with us and tell hisor her version of events. While we can already compel a police officerto come meet with us because he or she is a city employee we cannotcompel a citizen or resident.” A third proposed change grapples withthe reality that many residents who believe they have been mistreatedby the police do not know they have the ability to file a formalcomplaint with the complaint review committee. “Events occur publiclythat are

recorded by the mediaor are broadcast over the internet that are directly related topolice-resident interactions in our city,” Abraham said. “Incidents arealso brought to the attention of our staff and sometimes members of thecommunity itself. currently we cannot initiate an investigation intoincidents unless a complainant files it with us first. Therefore weneed the ability to initiate an investigation into events that arebrought to our attention so that public confidence can be maintained inthe integrity of our city government and police force.”

At-large councilwoman Mary Rakestraw said,“Two or three years ago I probably would not even have consideredlistening to this. some of the events that have happened in recentmonths have made me think otherwise.” she expressed reservations aboutthe proposed changes in light of the fact that the city was a defendantin a lawsuit brought by 39 police officers, adding, “I would think avote on this would be viewed as ‘we’re going after those policemen bydoing this.’” city Attorney Terry Wood validated Rakestraw’sconcern: “This involves review of police discipline is what they’reactually asking for…. some of the complainants in the charges that havebeen brought have indicated disparity in discipline as being one oftheir issues, so I’m not sure that they’re totally separate.” — JG

Council awards no-bid Contract for Greensboro swim Center

TheGreensboro city council voted unanimously on June 16 to approve ano-bid contract to Teague, Freyaldenhoven and Freyaldenhoven

Architectsand Planners for the design of a planned aquatic center at the coliseumcomplex. The Teague firm will head up a design team comprised of localcompanies Davis-martin-Powell & Associates and suttonkennerly &Associates, along with Atlanta-based Rosser International.

The estimated cost ofthe aquatic center is $17 million, but a successful bond passed byGreensboro voters last november only includes $12 million for theproject.’  at-large Councilman Robbie Perkins asked where thecity was going to come up with the money to close the gap. “right now,we’re just about on top of where our estimate is — about $17 million,”engineering & Inspection Director Butch Simmons said. “Thelast fire station we just bid, Fire station 61, came in, if you takeoff the contingency, 38 percent below the last one we built. I canexpect on this facility — we’re hoping for 15 percent, which gets usdown into the $14.4-$14.6 [million] range. so there is a gap.” District3 Councilman Zack matheny said, “I’m making a plea for theassociates with the swimming community to say, ‘Give your dollars andhelp close that gap on a private basis,’ because we’re going to be putin a tough spot if we’ve got these grandiose plans and we’re likeWinston-salem that’s got a ballpark being built and then we come backand say, ‘We need $2.2 million to finish this swimming pool that wewant to meet and exceed citizens’ expectations but we as a council haveto vote to come up with another $2.2 million of citizens’ dollars.’” — JG

NC stimulus money about one-third spent

north Carolina is slated to receive $6.1. billion in federal stimulus money over a two-year period, nC sen. Don Vaughan (D-Guilford)reports in his weekly newsletter. “since February, north Carolina hasused $1.9 billion to help fund our schools and avoid

teacherlayoffs, to provide healthcare to the poor and elderly, and to keepgovernment open and providing essential services such as public safety. stimulus funding has also helped lessen the severity of cuts toeducation and healthcare in the state budget we are currentlyconsidering.” – JG

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