With 57 murders so far this year in Greensboro and businesses closing their doors because of COVID-19 restrictions, the City Council on Tuesday, Dec. 1 spent an hour discussing the boards and commissions it appoints.
It wasn’t a discussion about the boards doing a good job or not having enough members present for a quorum. In fact, there was no specific discussion of the work done by the boards and commissions.
Most of the discussion was about the Minimum Housing Standards Commission.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan said, “The Minimum Housing Standard Board has one African American and one Asian and everyone else is white.”
Councilmember Sharon Hightower was upset because that board elected its chair and vice chair for a second two-year term.
She said, “I really want us to consider a term limit on the chair and vice chair.”
Vaughan said that they should not have people serving on two boards at the same time.
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter said, “I’m not sure we should change all the boards because we have a problem with one commission.”
Hightower said that all the boards needed to be made consistent with one-year terms for the chair and vice chair.
Councilmember Tammi Thurm said that wouldn’t work with the Participatory Budgeting Board because it runs on two-year cycles.
Hightower also wanted the boards to meet at different times, rather than the same time each month. The City Council has met at 5:30 p.m. on the first and third Tuesdays of the month for over a decade. Evidently it is not a problem for the City Council to meet at the same time, just for the Minimum Housing Standards Commission.
District 2 Councilmember Goldie Wells said the Minimum Housing Standards Commission had three members from District 1, two members from District 3, two members from District 4 and one member from District 5. It has no members from District 2.
She added that one board “had four people from District 4 and seven of them were white and two were black. Something needs to be done about something like that.”
Hightower also said that the last appointment to the Minimum Housing Standards Board was made by an at-large councilmember who refused to appoint the person Hightower wanted appointed.
Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann said, “My feeling at this point is we are having this discussion because of one board or commission in the city. All of the others seem to be working perfectly fine.”
She added, “I’m finding it difficult that we can micromanage the whole process.”
Hightower, who has been on the City Council since 2013, said, “I think six years is just too long to serve and tie up one particular board,”
Councilmember Justin Outling noted that the boards elect their own leadership and said, “That board is probably in the best position to decide who should lead it.”
All the members of the boards and commissions are nominated by the mayor or a city councilmember and are confirmed by a vote of the entire council. It is extremely rare for any nominee not to receive a unanimous vote of the council.