by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

Best laid plans go awry

Dale Wyrick, field operations director for the city of Greensboro, reports in a memo to City Manager Rashad Young that the city’s snow program overspent by $220,000 this past winter, spending $1 million to have operators salting the roads or plowing snow during nine “winter weather events.” Wyrick said the city plans for about three such events every winter, but “the winter of 2009-10 has been more severe than typical for Greensboro. Last spring, in the midst of a budget shortfall less severe than the one facing the city currently, staff presented council with a budget eliminating $50,000 from the snow program. “I think we’re going to have one less snow this year,” then-interim City Manager Bob Morgan said at the time. “That’s the plan.” — JG

Pilgrimage for Peace and Justice headed to Reynolds American headquarters Wednesday

It’s been almost three years since the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, or FLOC, called upon Reynolds American CEO Susan Ivey to sit down with tobacco farm workers to address grievances about substandard working conditions. There’s been no movement on Reynolds’ side, but FLOC and the farm workers have continued to build support statewide, said Alexandria Jones, organizer for the National Farm Worker Ministry. Last week, the Ministers Conference of Winston-Salem and Vicinity unanimously voted to support the Pilgrimage for Peace and Justice march from Tobaccoville to Reynolds American’s headquarters on Wednesday. The group is staging the 15-mile walk to raise awareness of the tobacco giant’s “complicity in worker abuses and continue to pressure them to meet with FLOC to end exploitation in the tobacco fields,” according to a press release. For more than 20 years, Witness for Peace Southeast has joined with 30 other organizations and churches during Holy Week to sponsor a 100-mile walk through various cities in North Carolina to raise awareness of social justice issues. The group will hold a press conference at El Buen Pastor Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem at 1:30 p.m. Leaders of the Ministers Conference will be on hand to express their support for FLOC’s efforts to improve the lives of tobacco farm workers, Jones said. FLOC is also organizing a protest for the May 7 Reynolds shareholders meeting. Jones said she expects the protest to be larger than last year’s event, which drew an estimated 175 people. — KTB

College Hill mobilizes against student housing project

Residents of Greensboro’s College Hill Historic District are mobilizing to defeat a proposed rezoning to allow Ohio-based Edwards Co. to build an apartment complex on the Newman Machinery site to house hundreds of students.

The city’s zoning commission defeated the request in December in a 7-2 decision, but the developer appealed to the city council, which is expected to consider it on April 6. A press release drafted by residents states that opponents have spent “nearly a year of effort to protect one of the oldest historic district in Greensboro from becoming one more sprawl of apartments and strip malls profiting from students.” Edwards Co. has reduced the number of beds by 10 percent, to 696, Vice President Steve Simonetti said. Former Mayor Yvonne Johnson will be among those opposing the rezoning at the meeting. The residents have filed a protest petition, so six out of eight council members will have to vote for rezoning in order for the measure to pass. Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan will abstain from voting because of a financial conflict of interest.

Her husband, lawyer and state senator Don Vaughan, is representing the opponents. — JG

Republicans call on AG to sue feds over healthcare reform

In case you had any doubts about what issue Republican candidates are running on this year, note that US Reps. Howard Coble and Virginia Foxx, along with the other three Republican House members in the North Carolina delegation, and NC Senate Republican Leader Phil Berger sent letters to NC Attorney General Roy Cooper on March 24 asking him to join attorneys general from more than a dozen other states in filing suit against the federal government to overturn the landmark healthcare reform bill signed by President Obama.

Many Republicans and conservatives have characterized the legislation as a constitutional overreach. “The Constitution gives the federal government the authority to regulate interstate commerce, but this legislation goes far beyond that power,” Coble wrote. “An individual is not engaged in interstate commerce if he decides not to purchase insurance, and compelling him to make such a purchase is beyond the bounds of the interstate commerce clause.” NC Justice Department spokeswoman Noelle Talley said on Monday that “as with any request from an elected official to join a lawsuit, our attorneys will carefully review the legal and constitutional merits of the action.” — JG

City and university offer landlord-tenant mediation

The city of Greensboro’s human relations department and the conflict studies and dispute resolution program at UNCG will launch the Landlord-Tenant Dispute program in April. Both landlord and tenant must voluntarily agree to sit down with a mediator. Some of the issues handled in the program include damaged property, noise complaints, repairs and financial problems. For more information, call the human relations department at 336.373.2038. — JG

Weatherization assistance available for low-income families

Greensboro City Manager Rashad Young reports that “thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, funding levels have significantly increased for the state’s Weatherization Assistance Program.” Homeowners, rental property owners and renters can receive nocost assistance to increase energy efficiency in houses and apartments, according to a recent memo from the city manager. Families with incomes 200 percent of the federal poverty level — $44,100 for a family of four — are eligible for assistance, including caulking, insulating, sealing air leaks, installing vapor barriers and replacing existing light bulbs with compact fluorescence ones. The program is administered in Guilford County by Regional Consolidated Services, located at 122 N. Elm St., Suite M-4 in Greensboro, 336.279.8184. — JG