Live blog from Greensboro City Council

I caught up with Rakestraw after the meeting.

I pressed her repeatedly on the reasons for the redistricting plan the council approved.

She said, "Everybody had a chance to do a plan," adding that she didn't believe the change would create additional cost for taxpayers.

She said, "I'm kind of landlocked. It wasn't to go out and be disruptive and mean."

As to the public benefit, she said, "I think that if the voters look at it, it'll be a much better plan than they realize."

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Adjourned.

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Mayor Knight talks about a golf tournament that Guilford County Commission Chairman Skip Alston is organizing.

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Her comments are about the recent District 4 neighborhood walk, issues related to people with disabilities and Triad Stage's production of "Steel Magnolias."

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Rakestraw making remarks.

Will she talk about the redistricting plan she just passed?

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Dianne Bellamy-Small: "Tonight is a historic night and not in a good way."

"This council will go down in history as the most destructive council in the history of Greensboro."

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Robbie Perkins moves to appoint Byron Nelson to the RUCO Board. Approved.

Perkins asks to place Larry Morse's name in the databank for service on the RUCO Board.

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Jack Zimmerman says council needs to investigate occurence of cancer with residents who live in White Street area before they vote to reopen the landfill.

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Joe Frierson, Beloved Community Center: "Greensboro police officer Deborah Thomas made a complaint to one of her superior officers. This officer was given authorization by the city manager to investigate himself. This authorization resulted in officer Thomas being summoned to her superior’s office for termination.

Frierson said she was told by her captain that she could not even tell a lawyer, a spiritual advisor or a physician about her discipline hearing.

“Who does the secrecy benefit?" Frierson asked. "Does it benefit the police department? Does it benefit Deborah? Does it benefit the people of Greensboro?”

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UNCG grad student asks city to place a bus shelter on South Eugene Street. He presents mayor with a petition with 222 signatures.

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The Rakestraw plan passes 4-3. Voting in favor: Mayor Bill Knight, Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan, Mary Rakestraw and Trudy Wade. Against: Robbie Perkins, Dianne Bellamy-Small and Jim Kee.

The audience responds angrily. Cries of "Shame." Marilyn Baird leads people in singing "We Shall Not Be Moved." Knight calls a recess until the crowd leaves.

None of the four members who voted in favor of this plan have yet provided a rationale for it.

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Perkins: "To move 32,000 people around and change their district representatives unless having to do so doesn't make any sense."

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Perkins: "This one is pretty unbelievable to me."

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What Greensboro citizens said about redistricting on March 12: Here.

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Tijuana B. Hayes, Greensboro NAACP: The NAACP has passed a resolution to the effect that Rakestraw's plan dilutes the minority vote and makes it more improbable that minority candidates will get elected.

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Donna Newton reminds council that Councilman Matheny was appointed redistricting liaison, that he made a presentation to the Greensboro Neighborhood Congress on March 12. She says there was a consensus among those who attended the meeting that no redistricting was required, that it requires an unnecessary expenditure of money, and that there should be no change for the benefit of any particular council person.

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Now, opponents of the Rakestraw redistricting plan are waving hands to show concurrence with speakers in lieu of applause.

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Patti Eckerd: "Mary, I am one of your constituents, and I just want to say, 'Shame on you.'"

"I would appreciate it if you would hold off, look at this a little bit closer and decide that you don't have to do anything at this time."

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Marnie Thompson, G48 voter: "What you are proposing and the way you are ramming it through in no more than three days notice is an affront to democracy.

"You don’t like us because we didn’t vote for you in big numbers....

"Any view of that map makes it clear that this is straight up gerrymandering....

"G48 wants to stay in District 4 and solve our own problems, which appears to be you...."

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Sharon Hightower asks those who are opposed to redistricting plan to stand. Almost the whole room stands and claps raucously.

Bill Knight: "You're time is up."

Voice from the audience: "Yours is too."

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Sharon Hightower: "This was a bait and switch. You send Zack out to do the transparency dance. Then you drop the Rakestraw plan drawn by Bill Burckley, your campaign manager."

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Mayor Knight has repeatedly warned people in the chamber against vocal outbursts, and threatened to remove people. The people are not listening.

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Marilyn Baird: "If we got that kind of money for redistricting, I would say let's take that money to feed the many homeless in our city."

Baird says that during a public input meeting on redistricting, 95 percent of the people in the room voted to send a message they didn't want redistricting.

"You all are playing politics with our lives. And it's time you stop it."

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Ralph Johnson: "I'm still looking for Councilman Matheny's plan. Has anybody seen it? He was the one who was chosen to draw up the plan. I guess he lied to us."

"The biggest variance is between district 4 and 5. Why are we going into districts 1 and 2. I'm confused."

"We could be a lot better being up front with each other."

"You're supposed to be our elected officials. Take our concerns seriously."

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James Burroughs III, Democracy at Home: No redistricting plan should be passed until the public and elected officials have a comprehensive understanding of how it will affect the community.

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Rev. Clarence Shuford: "Why do we need to do this? We know the districts are in compliance. I think the council members are satisfied with their districts. At least I think they are....

"It would dilute the strength of District 1....

"We're wasting time."

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Former Mayor Carolyn Allen: "It seems to me that when people are moved from precinct to another the likelihood that they will not be able to vote and get discouraged is greatly increased."

District 5 Councilwoman Trudy Wade: "The precincts are not changing. You will vote in the same place.... The precinct just may in be a different district."

Incidentally, Wade is correct.

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Bellamy-Small asks the mayor for the opportunity to make another motion.

Rakestraw repeats her motion.

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Knight says he wants to give speakers three minutes to address the council on redistricting.

"We have eighteen speakers. That's almost an hour."

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Rakestraw moves that her plan be accepted.

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Background on Rakestraw redistricting plan.

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Redistricting time...

Bellamy-Small makes a motion to continue the Rakestraw redistricting plan. Seconded by Perkins. Motion fails in 4-3 vote. Knight, Vaughan, Rakestraw and Wade kill motion.

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Chris Brook, staff attorney for Southern Coalition for Social Justice, pro bono counsel for Citizens for Economic and Environmental Justice: "We’re not just talking about reopening the landfill. We’re talking about expanding the landfill. And I think that’s very important because it hasn’t been talked about until now....

"You’re six weeks away from making a decision that’s going to impact a great deal of your citizens in terms of public health, budgetary and development impacts."

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Vanessa Martin says she built a home near the landfill in 2007, and other family members are considering purchasing homes in the area if the landfill stays closed.

"Please don’t open that landfill," she says. "We’ll remember in November."

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Theresa Sue Bratton, League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad: The league supports a two-year extension of the city's contract with Republic Services and use the time to explore alternatives.

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Goldie Wells, former District 2 council member: Citizens for Economic and Environmental Justice recommends the city extend its contract for Republic Services for a shorter amount of time so that other options can be explored.

She asks those opposed to reopening the landfill to stand. The chamber is full, and almost everyone stands.

Wells presents a petition with 272 names.

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NC Sen. Gladys Robinson: The NC Solid Waste Management Act prohibits the city from reopening the landfill. She says it instructs the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to deny an application or permit for a solid waste facility when it can be shown that the cumulative effect, along with other facilities, would have a disproportionate impact on a minority or low-income community protected by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

She says the 7,548 people in Census tracts adjacent to the landfill are 85 percent African American and Hispanic -- almost twice the percentage for minorities citywide.

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NC Rep. Alma Adams: "In so many ways it seems to be open season on minority communities…. Put people before profit."

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Hopkins: Reopening the landfill would break down trust across the city because previous councils voted unanimously to close the landfill.

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Cheryl Hopkins: New Garden Friends Meeting Social Concerns Committee sponsored a caravan from west Greensboro to the White Street Landfill to make the point that people from all across the city oppose the reopening of the landfill.

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The Rev. Clarence Shuford asks the council to consider the city's obligation to the people who have bought houses in the area of the landfill since 2001, when the city council decided to close the landfill.

He asks the council to consider not just the financial cost of solid waste disposal, but also the human cost.

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Speakers from the floor

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Mayor Knight: "Councilwoman Bellamy-Small, are you still with us?"

Bellamy-Small: "YES, I AM!"

Laughter and applause from gallery.

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Perkins makes a motion that the city put together a proposal to operate the landfill publicly. The mayor rules that the motion dies for lack of a second. Kee says he wants to second. The mayor still won't allow it, and the city attorney does not object.

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Rakestraw asks City Attorney Rita Danish if the city should hire a "special environmental attorney" if the city opts to go undertake a new direction.

"More likely than not we would consult with outside counsel and partner with them," Danish says.

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Morgan says staff hopes that the council can narrow the list of companies under consideration during its briefing next Tuesday so that due diligence can be performed.

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Deputy City Manager Bob Morgan says that Phase III of the landfill has roughly four years of life left -- six if the slopes can be permitted. If the city were able to obtain all the permitting needed to expand, the landfill could have 25-30 years of life left.

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Answering Wade's questions, Readling says, "I’m not sure I’ve been used as a political tool quite as effectively."

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Mayor Knight says that City Manager Rashad Young had to leave suddenly on a family matter... it's not anything serious.

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The background of the conversation: The city has an interest in extending the life of the landfill as long as possible, while private vendors' profits increase the faster they can fill the landfill.

Perkins adds that the city would be investing in improving roads.

"You've spent a whole lot of front-end money betting that you'll get a new permit in four and a half years," he says.

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Perkins says if the city isn't able to get the solid waste permit amended, the landfill has only about four and a half years of life left in it.

He asks what happens if the landfill runs out of space.

"Most likely you revert to your current business model," Readling says.

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City Manager Rashad Young passes a note to Mayor Bill Knight, and leaves chambers. City Attorney Rita Danish goes up to the dais to confer with the mayor as Readling answers Perkins' questions.

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Readling acknowledges that his model does not take into account the cost to the city of improving roads to mitigate traffic concerns of residents who live in the White Street area.

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Kee asks if the city were to choose a particular company, would it be obligated to enter into a 15-year contract, as outlined in the RFP.

Readling responds: "You don’t have to…. But if you say you only want a 5-year contract, that might open the door for them to renegotiate their pricing."

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Readling recommends that if the council doesn't reopen White Street Landfill, they renegotiate a contract with Republic Services to continue to ship garbage down to Montgomery County. The other non-landfill option would be an advanced pyrolysis facility proposed by Carolina Energy Development.

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Readling: "Part of the reason you put out this RFP is to see if there was anything better than reopening the landfill -- to find out if there's anything else out there. I don’t think we scored real high with these offers. I don’t think there’s much we found here that says we can move ahead with an alternative waste strategy....

"If you’re locked into a 30-year contract with a solid waste option, recognize that that may prohibit you from pursuing an alternative waste option in the future."

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Graph on overhead screen shows net cost of various options over 15 years. Advanced Disposal's Option 1, in which the city bears much of the responsibility for the landfill, is the least expensive ($84 million). But Advanced Disposal's Option 2, which Readling calls "a turnkey, privatization" model, is more expensive than Waste Industries' proposal ($88 million), which is comparable in scope of services.

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Readling: Advanced Disposal's Option 1 proposal would involve the company operating the landfill, while under Option 2, the company would be more or less privatizing the landfill. He says Advanced Disposal's Option 2 is similar to the proposals by Gate City Solid Waste Services and Waste Industries, the two other companies proposing to reopen the landfill.

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The document drafted by HDR comparing financials for the five companies proposing to handle the city's solid waste can be reviewed here.

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Joe Readling from HDR presenting information to council on solid waste.

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Wade complains that she and Thompson would have no way of knowing the policy.

The city attorney responds that any council member may talk with her about rules of procedure so that members may participate in meetings.

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Wade says she does not see anywhere in the city's code of ordinances regulating how members can participate telephonically.

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NC Sen. Gladys Robinson and Rep. Alma Adams are here, along with Rep. William Wainwright from Craven County.

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Wade moves to continue item concerning early voting in the 2011 municipal election. Passes 5-3. Perkins, Bellamy-Small and Kee are on the short end.

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Confusing: District 3 Councilman Zack Matheny has just called in, and Danish says it's acceptable for him to participate, but not Thompson.

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At-large Councilman Danny Thompson has been calling in and hanging up. City Attorney Rita Danish says that the city's ordinance prohibits council members from participating telephonically unless they've done so since the meeting, as Bellamy-Small has done.

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Council is blazing through its agenda. The chambers are filled. It appears most people are here about White Street Landfill.

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Council considers a request from staff to approve the expenditure of $3.1 million for the lead-based paint hazard control program. The funds come from a federal Community Development Block Grant. Request approved by unanimous vote.

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Council is considering a request from the coliseum to approve the purchase of $275,000 score board for the aquatic center. The city reports that a joint fundraising campaign by the Greensboro Coliseum Complex and the city's swimming community has resulted in sponsorship commitments of $320,000.

The motion passes 7-1, with Wade in dissent.

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Council votes unanimously to appropriate $360,000 for the amphitheater's sound barrier wall, loading dock, AFA ramp and stage floor. The money will be charged to the coliseum's buildings-improvement account.

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Mayor Knight asks if this cost was anticipated.

"Our notes indicated that there was a Phase 2 that would be funded through future revenues," City Manager Rashad Young says. "We were advised and indicated to council that this would be a planned Phase 2 expenditure…. It was anticipated."

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Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan indicates that the city's parks and recreation and library departments operate at a loss.

"When you take a look at the coliseum, when you take a look at the general fund and don’t look at how the coliseum is affecting the local economy I think you’re being intellectually dishonest," Vaughan says.


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Wade wants to be sure that expenditures on the amphitheater won't have to be shouldered by city taxpayers.

Perkins says the city has a total investment of $344,000.

"You’re telling us that you’re going to generate a $197,000," Perkins says. "That’s a 57 percent return. Sounds like you’re making money, Matt."

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District 5 Councilwoman Trudy Wade asks Brown if he has the money in hand from the sponsorships. Brown says no.

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Brown says half of the $360,000 cost will be covered by the sponsorships. The rest is coming from the coliseum's operating budget.

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Coliseum Director Matt Brown requests that council approve a $360,000 contract to construct a sound barrier wall at the amphitheater. Brown mentions YES! Weekly, IH Caffey and RH Barringer as sponsors.

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Council hears recommendation to close 150-foot section of Battleground Avenue near intersection of North Eugene Avenue and Smith Street.

Background: "As part of the downtown greenway, the proposed street closing will allow the reconstruction of the intersection of North Eugene Street, West Smith Street and Battleground Avenue to provide a safer crossing for pedestrians and a small park."

Perkins notes that new Deep Roots Market will be in area. He wants the city manager to look into maximizing the redevelopment potential of area, which is near a large undeveloped parcel owned by the Jones brothers. Perkins wants Action Greensboro to be invited to participate in the study, and suggests that this might be an ideal place to locate a statue of Dolley Madison as a complement to the statue of Nathaniel Greene at Holliday Circle.

The council votes unanimously to hold a public hearing to receive public comment on the proposal.

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The council unanimously approves Sheetz' request.

District 2 Councilman Jim Kee thanks the Sheetz family.

"It adds to the options to the customers when they’re traveling up and down the corridor," he says.

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Breaking from the action for a moment: City Attorney Rita Danish confirmed what two other city employees have told me about my request for an opinion on whether a financial investment involving DH Griffin, a company proposing to reopen the White Street Landfill, and the employer of Councilman Zack Matheny creates a conflict of interest preventing him from voting on the matter. The legal department won't issue an opinion.

"It's my role to respond to a request for a legal opinion from a member of council, but if a media representative asks for an opinion, it's not my role because you''re not my client," she said.

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Lawyer Brian Byrd: Sheetz plans to demolish the existing BP gas station and a house to make way for its store.

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Tony Federetto, identified as a Sheetz employee, says a typical store hires 40 full- and part-time employee. This would be the company's fourth store in Greensboro.

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Council is considering an annexation and original zoning request. It affects 6.4 acres on US Highway 29 North. FSH Properties LLC is requesting original zoning of conditional district-commercial medium. Sheetz has property in the area under contract.

The Greensboro Zoning Commission voted unanimously to approve the project. Staff supports the request. No one spoke in opposition during the zoning hearing.

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Council votes unanimously to declare May 6 "Law Day" in Greensboro.

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Former Mayor John Forbis has just appeared before council to acknowledge a resolution honoring his forebearer Col. Arthur Forbis for his service in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse and renaming a section of Church Street in his honor.

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I'm live-blogging from Greensboro City Council tonight. Welcome.

The meeting is underway.

District 1 Councilwoman Dianne Bellamy-Small is patched in by phone. She made a motion to postpone the vote on redistricting. The motion is seconded by at-large Councilman Robbie Perkins. Mayor Bill Knight says he won't allow it.

5 comments:

triadwatch said...

unbelievable no talk about the traffic issue with a major highway and this sheetz . ridiculous

Royall said...

Always money for that coliseum, but how often for things that actually affect the quality of life in Greensboro?

Craftyboro said...

It was my pleasure to present this resolution to Mr. Matheny recognizing Historic Forbis St.

I am sorry he could not be there to present the resolution to Council.

I enjoy listening to our City Attorney.

Craftyboro said...

Let's talk trash........

triadwatch said...

Breaking from the action for a moment: City Attorney Rita Danish confirmed what two other city employees have told me about my request for an opinion on whether a financial investment involving DH Griffin, a company proposing to reopen the White Street Landfill, and the employer of Councilman Zack Matheny creates a conflict of interest preventing him from voting on the matter. The legal department won't issue an opinion.

"It's my role to respond to a request for a legal opinion from a member of council, but if a media representative asks for an opinion, it's not my role because you''re not my client," she said.

i think that attorney works for city manager and hopefully city manager will say that it is a conflict of interest