Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston didn’t want the Guilford County Board of Commissioners to vote on funding a local Cure Violence program at the board’s Thursday, June 6 meeting – but he sure did want to talk about it.
The commissioners had been scheduled to vote on whether to spend about $250,000 in county money on the program that enlists ex-felons and others with a criminal past to go into designated crime-ridden areas and attempt to bring down violence levels with a message that the potential perpetrators can relate to.
However, just hours before the June 6 meeting, Alston – who no doubt was counting votes and knew he didn’t have enough for passage – pulled the item off the agenda. The other commissioners, who didn’t want a heated drawn-out debate on the matter on a night when the board held a long public hearing on the county budget – agreed to remove Cure Violence from the agenda. It will come back later, likely at the next commissioners meeting on Thursday, June 20.
While that action did save everyone from having the debate on Thursday night, it didn’t keep Alston from voicing his dismay at the fact that the Board of Commissioners wasn’t ready to enter into an agreement with the City of Greensboro, and with the non-profit One Step Further Inc. in order to start up a Cure Violence program in Greensboro. Adding to an already controversial program is the fact that the executive director of One Step Further is City Councilmember Yvonne Johnson. About $400,000 of the $500,000 for the program would be paid to the nonprofit that she heads.
During the commissioners’ comments toward the end of the meeting, Alston passed out a report from the Greensboro Police Department that showed local homicides stats. He then reeled off the race and age of the city’s homicide victims in 2018.
“For age, the first is zero and black, a black 16-year-old, a black 17-year-old, black 19 year old…”
Alston went through 35 victims.
“Of the homicides in Greensboro, 32 out of the 35 were black in 2018,” he summarized.
Alston repeated the same details for the 2019 homicides in Greensboro and said that, of those 17 homicides so far this year, 13 of the victims were black.
He also said there were 532 victims of assaults with firearms in Greensboro injured last year and 387 were black.
“I just wanted you to hear that report, Mr. Chairman,” Alston said, “and the question is: Is anybody listening? Does anybody care?”
The board’s other two African-American commissioners – Carolyn Coleman and Carlvena Foster – also reiterated the importance of Alston’s message that night.
Coleman tied the homicides to the discussion of education funding that was the major theme of the June 6 meeting.
“I can almost assure you that most of them are high school dropouts,” Coleman said of the victims.
Since Alston pulled the item from the June 6 agenda, the question of Cure Violence funding will be addressed later – though it remains highly questionable whether Alston will be able to find the one or two additional votes he needs to get that funding.