The Greensboro City Council was completely blindsided by the bill that passed the state House to create a civil services review board for the city.
At the work session on Thursday, April 27, one councilmember after another said that they had no idea that House Bill 470 was coming up for a vote on Wednesday, April 26.
The bill creates boards for Greensboro and Winston-Salem to adjudicate complaints from employees about being demoted, having their salary decreased or being terminated,
Despite the fact that the Greensboro City Council was in the dark about the process, the bill was passed by both the Local Government and Rules Committees and then by the House.
For the first time ever, Greensboro has an intergovernmental relations manager, LaToya Caesar-Crawford. Part of Caesar-Crawford’s responsibilities is to keep the City Council informed about legislation in Raleigh that affects Greensboro. Since House Bill 470 amends the charter of the City of Greensboro, it will have a major impact on the city and the majority of members of the City Council are vehemently opposed to the bill.
Caesar-Crawford was never asked at the work session why councilmembers were not informed about the progress of this bill, but she volunteered that she only found out that it would be heard by the committees five or 10 minutes before the meeting started.
The City of Winston-Salem, however, knew that the bill would be considered and had a contingent on hand to speak in opposition to the bill.
Greensboro Police Chief John Thompson and Fire Chief Jim Robinson also knew about the committee hearings and spoke at the Local Government Committee hearing.
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter said, “It was very late Tuesday evening when I found out the bill was coming up and I wrote the whole delegation.”
She said, “Apparently we had plenty of time for public input, but we had no idea that it was being calendared so quickly and that it was going to be pushed through. It has been stated that Greensboro has not been there to support or oppose the bill.”
She said, “It kept being mentioned that we must not be opposed to it since we weren’t there.”
Councilmember Sharon Hightower said, “I’m in total opposition to this bill.”
Hightower said that the City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 2, the City Council should pass a resolution in opposition to the bill and send it to Raleigh.
Councilmember Zack Matheny said, “I do not recommend that action. I understand the passion behind it, but if you’re talking about strategy and how to formulate the bill should it continue to go through, that’s probably the worst strategy we could use.”
Matheny added, “You think a resolution from us is going to change anything? No. In 20 years of doing this I can tell you sending a letter has never worked.”
Both Councilmembers Hugh Holston and Nancy Hoffmann agreed that the City Council should pass a resolution in opposition to the bill.
The City Council discussed the fact that House Bill 470 would not come before the state Senate before May 4. However, on Thursday, April 27, the same day as the work session, House Bill 470 passed the first reading in the Senate and was referred to the Senate Rules Committee.