by Keith T. Barber and Jordan Green

Advocacy group criticizes lawmaker’s ‘aggressive tone

In response to a letter written by the Latin American Coalition criticizing him for his behavior during a confrontation with a young immigration activist, Rep. Dale Folwell (R-Forsyth) acknowledged that he spoke with José Rico, an undocumented, 17-year-old activist for the NC Dream Team, but denies physically intimidating the young man. The letter, written by Irene Godinez — legislative director and lobbyist for the Latin American Coalition — was sent to NC Speaker of the House Thom Tillis and Majority Leader Paul Stam on June 1. In the letter, Godinez claims that Folwell, speaker pro tem of the NC House, approached her in the NC General Assembly a day after a number of immigration advocates spoke out against House Bill 744 or the Safe Students Act — a bill Folwell introduced in April — during a House Education Committee meeting on May 31. House Bill 744 mandates that public school administrators in the state ask parents about a student’s immigration status prior to their enrollment. In the letter, Godinez states that Folwell demanded that she give him the names and domiciles of all those who spoke during the May 31 committee meeting. Godinez said after the brief conversation, Folwell later returned “and demanded to know who called him a ‘coward’ in a press release earlier that week.” On the website Rico authored a press release about House Bill 744 entitled, “Cowards in the General Assembly Propose Bill Attacking Children,” that was published on May 31. In the press release, Rico states, “Plain and simple, the legislators who support these bills are unprincipled cowards.”

In her letter to Tillis and Stam, Godinez states that Folwell crossed the line in confronting Rico when he allegedly stated, “You don’t have the balls to call me a coward to my face do you?” Godinez also states that Folwell asked Rico, “Are you an illegal?” Folwell acknowledged that he approached Rico and asked the young man if he referred to him as a “coward” in his press release.

“I said, ‘You’re a man; I’m a man. I’d like to talk to you about the meaning of that word,’” Folwell recalled. “He kept shouting back at me, ‘We’re not illegal; we’re undocumented.’” Folwell said members of several “illegal immigrant advocacy groups” subsequently intervened, and he walked away.

In her letter, Godinez described a different version of events. Godinez said that Folwell actually engaged members of anti-immigrant groups “who were standing nearby and led to an even further aggressive tone in the interaction — so much so that someone standing within earshot requested that the General Assembly law enforcement intervene.”

Folwell characterized Godinez’s letter as “unproductive.”

“Getting to the bottom of a problem like this could not be considered cowardly,” Folwell said. “Someone has to tackle this problem.” — KTB

Feds sign off on changes to energy efficiency program

The US Department of Energy has signed approved a request by the city of Greensboro to revise the geographic scope of a $5 million grant to provide energy-efficiency upgrades to buildings. The grant application originally specified that the program would target 13 Census tracts in east Greensboro, a portion of the city that economically distressed and pre dominantly African American.

“We’ll revise the scope of work to include delivery in multiple neighborhoods throughout the city,” Steve Dunn, a project officer with the federal agency, said on Monday. He added that references to 10 out of 20 neighborhoods being from the original targeted area have been removed from an award modification currently under draft. That reverses a position taken by Dunn in an e-mail to two city of Greensboro staffers on May 12.

“I understand the city is interested in expanding the geographic scope citywide,” Dunn wrote at the time. “The approved scope, however, is intended to provide targeted services to neighborhoods in east Greensboro, and therefore this change in geographical scope is not allowable under your approved assistance agreement.”

Dunn said the federal agency subsequently agreed to the changes after the city reaffirmed a commitment to serve low- and moderate-income households. City staff’s request for city council approval of the program redesign was on the agenda for Tuesday’s council meeting. — JG