Items from across the Triad and beyond
GREENSBORO’S CITY ATTORNEY SAYS HASTY GOODBYE
Within weeks of the Greensboro City Council becoming the direct employer of the city attorney by virtue of legislative action in Raleigh and hours of a giving notice of a closed-session meeting to discuss a personnel matter, the city announced City Attorney J. Rita Danish’s departure.
An ambiguous prepared statement from Mayor Bill Knight — “I received a commitment from a majority of council members in support of establishing a mutual separation agreement” — left room for question: Was the city attorney pushed out or did she resign voluntarily? More specifically, if a majority of council members supported the agreement, did that mean there were five votes lined up to fire her?
If so, it has been hard to find a member of the nine-member body willing to admit it. Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan, sometimes a swing vote on the divided council, said no one from council consulted her.
Zack Matheny, the District 3 representative, is more often than not the swing vote.
“I’m not aware of any vote,” she said. “If there had been a vote, I don’t think there would have been enough votes taken to release her of her duty.”
Matheny said he spoke with Danish the day of the announcement and with City Manager Rashad Young the day before. Matheny indicated that the decision was Danish’s.
“I’m taking her word for it that she was open and transparent in the choice that she made,” he said. “She told me what she wanted to do.”
At-large Councilman Robbie Perkins, like Vaughan, expressed dismay. Perkins blamed the council for Danish’s departure.
“Instead of trying to hold in there and work through, she said, ‘Life’s too short, and I’m going to go get another job,” Perkins said. “Our board was not supportive of Rita as a city attorney because she made some calls that they didn’t like.”
Members of both factions on council have expressed support for Young, but Perkins indicated Danish’s departure marks a further power shift from the manager to council.
“She’s a heck of a city attorney and for us to lose her is a crime,” he said. “It’s a blow against the city manager.”
RULING INDEFINITELY DELAYS CONTRACTING DECISION ON LANDFILL
A ruling last week by Guilford County Superior Court Judge Richard W. Stone enjoins the city of Greensboro from entering into a contract with Gate City Waste Services, Waste Industries or any other provider to construct additional sections of the White Street Landfill until a lawsuit filed by landfill opponents is resolved.
The plaintiffs contend that to enter into a contract with any solid waste company to reopen the landfill, the city must first hold a public hearing, and must consider socioeconomic data and alternative sites, on the basis that the currently permitted portion of the landfill is expected to fill to capacity in the next two to six years. In contrast, the city’s request for proposals calls for a 15-year contract; any successful bidder would have to obtain additional permitting to continue operating the landfill through the life of the contract.
Stone’s ruling supports the plaintiff’s key contention.
“Phases II and III of the White Street Landfill are ‘existing sanitary landfills’ as defined by NC General Statute ‘§ 160A-325 [and] Phases IV and V are ‘new sanitary landfills’ as defined by [statute],” he wrote.
Four council members have voted in favor of reopening the landfill, against three opposing members. Two members have been recused from the vote because of conflicts of interest. Considering the recusals, the power to reopen the landfill rests in the hands of a plurality of council rather than a majority. Their efforts have mobilized electoral opposition and an effort to unseat the pro-landfill representatives, including Mayor Bill Knight. Part of the landfill opponents’ acknowledged strategy has been to tie the matter up in the courts until a new council is seated in December that will reverse the decision to send the city’s trash back to White Street.
REDISTRICTING PLANS RATTLE REPS
Proposed redistricting plans released by the Republican-controlled committees for the NC Senate and NC House stunned Democratic lawmakers last week who were either drawn out of their districts or forced into competition with each other.
One of those on the chopping block is Sen. Linda Garrou, a Democrat from Forsyth County, who was has served in the past as cochair of the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee.
Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Mecklenburg) and Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), who chair their houses’ respective redistricting committees, said in a joint statement on June 17: “Chairman Rucho also recommends that the current white incumbent for the Forsyth Senate district not be included in the proposed Senate District 32. The white incumbent has defeated African- American candidates in Democratic primaries in 2004 and 2010. The Senate Chair recommends this adjustment in the absence of a 10 th reasonably compact majority African-American Senate population. If adopted by the General
Assembly, proposed coalition District 32 will provide African-American citizens with a more equal, and 10 th opportunity, to elect a candidate of choice.”
The proposed plan also increases the number of minority-majority House districts in Guilford County from two to three, and reduces minority voter registration in those districts from about 60 percent to just over 50 percent. Reps. Maggie Jeffus and Pricey Harrison, both white Democrats, are both drawn into the same minority-majority district, which would force them into a primary contest next year or one of them to retire. “I am fairly certain neither of us has the appetite to take each other on in a primary but both want to serve Guilford County in the state House,” Harrison said in an e-mail to YES! Weekly. “Were I to run, I would continue my practice of meeting the voters in an aggressive door-to-door campaign with the help of campaign literatures and possible media ads. The district seems to be just at the 50 percent minority-majority level, so I think it is a toss up whether a black or white candidate can win.