A Tale of Two Cities was published in 1859 but it was on Tuesday, May 7, 2019 that there was a tale of two local governments – one that was clearly ready to move ahead on the spot with funding for a proposed new Cure Violence program in Greensboro, and another that had a whole lot more questions before being ready for the two governments to commit more than a half-million dollars to start up the program.
The rare joint meeting between Greensboro City councilmembers and Guilford County commissioners was held in the third-floor conference room of the Guilford County BB&T Building in downtown Greensboro. At the meeting, several Greensboro City Councilmembers stated that they were prepared to vote for the initiative immediately, while some Guilford County commissioners said they needed more time and answers before being ready to commit Guilford County funds to cover half the cost of the program that’s meant to reduce violent crime in two neighborhoods in Greensboro.
Cure Violence, which got its start in inner-city Chicago before opening chapters in other cities including Durham, NC, uses ex-felons and others with a criminal past to go into high-crime sections of cities and dissuade potential perpetrators from murder and other violent crime.
At the May 7 joint meeting, the City Council members and the commissioners considered newly drawn up contracts that would enable the non-profit One Step Further Inc. to house and administer the program. One Step Further is run by Greensboro City Councilmember Yvonne Johnson and that has generated some concern about a conflict of interest since half of the money would be coming from the City of Greensboro under the proposal now on the table.
Democratic Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston made it clear at the meeting that he’s solidly behind the proposal.
“If we don’t do anything, we are going to continue to have funeral after funeral after funeral, and continue to be talking about it instead of doing something about it,” Alston told the elected officials and county and city staff in the room.
Alston added that he was glad to see the city and county working together on this critical issue and he said that meeting was a signal to the community that their local elected leaders were trying to do something about the problem of violence.
While it was clear at the May 7 meeting that Alston and many City Council members were behind the plan – and the Democrats on the Board of Commissioners seem likely to vote for it – some if not all of the Republican Guilford County commissioners have their reservations. And that five-man Republican majority runs the nine-member board, so at least one of them will have to buy into the idea in order for Guilford County to get on board.
One issue they’ve cited as a cause for their concern is the liability exposure that comes with employing those with a violent past.
Johnson said at the meeting that the liability insurance was already lined up.
Commissioner Justin Conrad pointed out that the city had been discussing Cure Violence for a much longer time than the county and he added that he’d just seen the proposed contracts and he wants to see more data before making his decision.
The Republicans on the Board of Commissioners have expressed other concerns as well such as whether the program is effective, whether it will work well with police efforts and whether the money could be better spent on other more mainstream efforts to reduce violence in Greensboro.