The Greensboro City Council reversed course on spending the last of the general fund money freed up by American Rescue Plan funds at the Tuesday, Feb. 21 meeting.
The council voted unanimously to allocate $1 million to Habitat for Humanity of Greensboro and to set aside $500,000 to be allocated in the future.
At the Jan. 3 meeting, the City Council voted 5-4 split along racial lines to allocate $1.5 million to Habitat, so the vote at the Feb. 21 meeting reduced that by $500,000. A funding ordinance requires a supermajority or it has to pass twice at two different meetings by a simple majority to become effective.
However, no motion was made at the Feb. 21 meeting to allocate $1.5 million to Habitat. City Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter amended her motion made at the Jan. 3 meeting to reduce the allocation to $1 million and that amended motion passed 9-0.
What Councilmember Sharon Hightower requested was that $1 million be allocated to Habitat and that $500,000 be set aside for “minority contractors.”
Hightower said, “I would like to see 0.5 set aside to help minority contractors, to give an opportunity to minority contractors.”
She said, “It is incumbent on me as a representative of people of color that look like me and say to me, ‘Sharon, help me,’ it is incumbent on me to do just that.”
Hightower added, “Opportunities don’t come along often for us people of color.”
Councilmember Goldie Wells supported Hightower’s request that $500,000 be set aside for minority contractors.
Hightower read some of the names on a list of 17 minority contractors and said she wanted to use the $500,000 to give them the opportunity to build houses.
The City Council did not vote to award the $500,000 to contractors of color as Hightower and Wells suggested.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.
For the City Council to set aside $500,000 for contractors of color would appear to be a direct violation of the Civil Rights Act, but no one at the City Council meeting mentioned that what Hightower was requesting appeared to be illegal.