What a difference seven months can make.
In January, the Greensboro City Council, by a 5-3 vote, turned down a $250,000 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant from the US Department of Justice.
On Tuesday, Aug. 18, the same City Council voted 9-0 to accept a $242,000 Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG).
Five members of the City Council – Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Councilmembers Michelle Kennedy, Sharon Hightower, Yvonne Johnson and Tammi Thurm – completely changed their opinion about accepting federal money for the Police Department.
The amount of the grant was slightly different, but the language in the grant application that five members of the City Council found so offensive in January was no longer offensive.
It’s also true that there wasn’t a member of the Working class & Homeless Organizing Alliance (WHOA) telling the City Council they should turn down the grant, and the city staff provided more information about the grant process.
It is understandable that the city staff was caught off guard in January, because the City Council had voted unanimously to accept the grant in December and then decided, after hearing from one representative of WHOA who opposed the grant, not to accept it in January.
One factor that seemed to make a lot of difference to the City Council was that they found out what happened to the money that was turned down and it didn’t simply disappear.
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter, who had voted to accept the JAG funding in January, pointed out that the money her fellow councilmembers had rejected had been divided between the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department and the High Point Police Department, which also received funding through the same JAG.
The other deciding factor was a smart move by Police Chief Brian James, who reportedly plans to spend some of the money on “racial equity training.”
The reason the grant was turned down in January was that it was pointed out to the City Council by a member of WHOA that the JAG application included the provisions that Greensboro had to provide information on the immigration status of people in custody if requested.
As in January, Assistant City Manager Trey Davis explained to the City Council that the Greensboro Police Department doesn’t collect information about the immigration status of people who are arrested, and since Greensboro does not have a jail, there is never any reason for the GPD to collect that kind of information. Davis said that the GPD wasn’t asked for that information because it didn’t have it.
This time the City Council listened to Davis and accepted the grant, but a cynic might think that it also had something to do with the fact that economic conditions caused by the stay-at-home order and other attempts to stop the spread of COVID-19 are going to cost Greensboro millions in lost tax revenue.
Out of the JAG funding, Greensboro will receive $133,000, the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department $59,000 and the High Point Police Department $49,000.