Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 5:30 the Greensboro City Council will sit at the dais in the Council Chambers for hours, not to conduct the city’s business but if the meetings of 2018 are any indication of how the meetings will go in 2019, to be harangued, yelled at and berated.
The agenda for the meeting includes three resolutions honoring people and groups. The purpose of the meeting is to hear “speakers from the floor on non-agenda items.” So the only things people cannot talk about are the three resolutions, every other topic is up for grabs.
The City Council cut it’s business meetings to one a month, with this one gripe session a month a year ago, right after the current Council was elected in November of 2017. Previously the City Council had allowed people to speak on non-agenda items for 30 minutes at the beginning of the two regular meetings a month and business was conducted at both. The idea was that the one business meeting would be less contentious if the City Council had not just been yelled at for 30 minutes to an hour.
That part has worked to some degree.
But to have the City Council meet once a month, not to conduct the city’s business isn’t very efficient and it’s tough on people who have business before the City Council. There is no such thing as a short continuance, it is either 30 days, 60 days or 90 days.
Also although the City Council doesn’t conduct any business at the first meeting of the month. At the December 4 meeting Mayor Nancy Vaughan made an announcement of one of the most far reaching and likely expensive programs the city has undertaken in years. Vaughan said that because of the death of Marcus Deon Smith after being in police custody, the city would have mental health professionals on call to assist police officers when they encountered someone with mental health problems.
No action was taken on this initiative at the business meeting of the City Council on Dec. 18. The City Council didn’t even appoint a committee to investigate how the City of Greensboro will get into the mental health business, how much it would cost or how it would be paid for.
But at the Dec. 4 meeting Councilmember Sharon Hightower who was one of the four members of the City Council that decided the city would take on this new mental health program said that the mental health professionals would be available 24 hours a day seven days a week.
Councilmember Justin Outling said that he didn’t learn about this initiative until Vaughan announced it at the meeting.
Councilmember Michelle Kennedy said after watching the police body worn camera videos of the Smith incident she, Vaughan, Hightower and Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann decided that the city needed to hire mental health professionals to assist the police and she said the city was going to do it.
Since that meeting Doug Henderson who was at the time Guilford County District Attorney ruled that the police committed no criminal wrong doing in how the situation with Smith was handled.
It’s almost certain that the death of Smith will be a major topic of discussion at the Jan. 8 City Council meeting and it is possible that some further announcement will be made about this new initiative for the city to hire a team of mental health professionals to assist Greensboro Police Officers.