by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

Cornell credited with helping murdered son’s family

Several candidates have been attending Greensboro City Council meetings since filing closed in mid-July, but at-large candidate Jorge Cornell has distinguished himself by bringing along backers. At the Sept. 1 meeting, more than a dozen people demonstrated their support. Cornell asked the council how it could help persuade the Greensboro Housing Authority to grant a transfer to Hickory Trails resident Keisha McNeil, whose son was murdered in early

August and who is reportedly fearful about staying in her current residence. “Every time I come, I come with more people,” Cornell said. “You’re not doing your job.” McNeil sat beside Cornell for much of the meeting and addressed the council herself. The mother thanked District 5 Councilwoman Trudy Wade and Mayor Yvonne Johnson, before acknowledging Cornell. “I feel like I’m the victim,” she said. “I still have two small children that need a place to live. I don’t have anyone behind me besides Jorge Cornell, who’s reached out to me in my loss.” Donna Burnett, a domestic violence awareness activist, also credited Cornell. “I am here in support of Jorge Cornell, a commendable citizen who has gone above and beyond in support of Breyon Deese, ” she said. “Because of Jorge’s courageous support, we were able to help assist this family in the burial of Breyon Deese. Jorge has also been a great supporter of domestic violence and incest prevention awareness.” — JG Public art facilitates prostitution Ben Holder, a community activist who is challenging incumbent Dianne Bellamy-Small, called for the removal of a public art installation that features chairs in the Warnersville neighborhood at a Greensboro City Council meeting on Sept. 1. “Those benches are used for criminal activities,” he said. “Children are seeing that stuff go on, and the neighbors want those benches removed…. And I absolutely agree with them.” Mayor Yvonne Johnson concurred. “[I]f her children are witnessing acts of prostitution, maybe the chairs could be put someplace else until we’re able to get the cameras, and really divert that kind of activity.” — JG Candidate: Ban campaign cash from those who those who do business with city No city council candidate struck quite as much of a nerve as District 3 challenger George Hartzman. “I propose that we pass what’s called a ‘pay to play’ ethics rule that prohibits candidates and elected officials from accepting campaign contributions from those with conflicts of interests, including leading members of organizations receiving taxpayer money, and developers, contractors or their lawyers or agents for 12 months before and 12 months after doing business with Greensboro’s and Guilford County’s governments,” Hartzman said.’

Later, the candidate appeared before council and said he believes that establishing appropriations for $153.5 million of municipal bonds violates a resolution passed by the council last October to delay the sale or issuance of the bonds until the economy improves. City Attorney Terry Wood advised the council: “It’s a legislative matter. It’s your call. If you want to pass these, you can legally do so.” Hartzman protested, “You’re borrowing money at the expense of our children. I don’t see how you can do this. We’re in the middle of probably the worse recession since the Great Depression, and you’re going to borrow money from our kids to build a swimming pool when our tax revenues are falling.” Emotions on both sides flared when Mayor Pro Tem Sandra Anderson Groat said, “I’m confused why we are sitting here defending ourselves so vigorously,” and Mayor Yvonne Johnson was forced to bang the gavel to stop the two from talking over each other. — JG

Police lieutenant drops lawsuit Police Lt. James Hinson withdrew a lawsuit against the city of Greensboro on Sept. 4, shortly before a court hearing was to be held to consider a motion by the city to dismiss the lawsuit. Hinson has the legal right to refile his suit within a year, and said in a prepared statement that he will do so “if the issues cannot be resolved without further litigation.” He added, “My action in dismissing this case may also promote discussion and potential resolution of other cases involving similar or related issues. It is my hope that the city will welcome this overture in the same spirit in which it is offered and engage with my lawyers in an effort to resolve the issues between us so that our city can begin a much needed healing process much larger than this case.” — JG

Guilford Republicans angered by party switch The Guilford County Board of Elections processed a request by Greensboro City Council at-large candidate Ryan Shell to change his party registration from Republican to Democrat on Aug. 31. The candidate is going into a nonpartisan primary election on Oct. 6. Reaction from the Guilford County Republican Party was swift and harsh. “This is about making a decision and sticking to it,” the party Executive Director Tony Wilkins wrote on his blog the following day. “It’s about a backbone. It’s about removing the splinters from your ass while trying to satisfy both sides in an election and about talking out of both sides of your mouth.” Shell, who describes himself as a fiscal conservative, said on his campaign blog that about a year ago he found himself “feeling distant from the Republican Party,” and that “after having various discussions with other Republicans I found that, more times than not, I was the lone ranger when social issues came up or issues that had to do with the less fortunate.” The candidate argued that party affiliation shouldn’t matter: “I’m still the same guy that wants to do everything possible to make Greensboro a better place.” — JG

Greensboro baseball exec honored

Katie Dannemiller, vice president of baseball operations for the Greensboro Grasshoppers, has been named the 2009 female executive of the year in the South Atlantic League, the minor league team recently announced. The Akron, Ohio native recently completed her 13 th season in baseball and is winning the award for the second time in her four years with the Grasshoppers. — JG

City council candidate calls for reinvestigation of Smith case Derwin Montgomery, a senior at Winston-Salem State University and a Democratic candidate for the Winston-Salem City Council, is calling upon the council to instruct City Manager Lee Garrity to order Police Chief Scott Cunningham to “conduct a new investigation into the arrest and conviction of Kalvin Michael Smith.” Montgomery is also calling upon City Attorney Angela Carmon to file a brief with the NC Court of Appeals that cites the findings of the citizen committee in support of a new trial for Smith. In December 1997, Smith was convicted of the brutal assault of store clerk Jill Marker during an armed robbery of the Silk Plant Forest shop two years prior. Last month, the Silk Plant Forest Citizen Review Committee presented its final report to the Public Safety Committee. The redacted version of the final report was released publicly by the City Attorney’s Office on Aug. 26. “A full release of the unredacted report, numerous appendices and associated materials will not happen until the city receives an order authorizing such a release from the Superior Court,” Assistant City Attorney Al Andrews stated in an e-mail message. “I do not know when the city will petition for such an order or when it might be issued.” Montgomery cites the citizen committee’s majority opinion that it could find “no credible evidence” to link Smith to the scene of the crime, and the committee’s statement that it had “no faith” in the Winston-Salem PD’s investigation as just cause to reopen the case. “It is the city council’s obligation to take immediate action on this matter,” Montgomery said. — KTB