The Greensboro City Council could get hung up on the consent agenda at the Tuesday, Sept. 21 virtual meeting.
The meeting, traditionally held on the third Tuesday of the month, is the only regular business meeting the current City Council holds during the month and tends to be lengthy. Previous City Councils have held two business meetings a month, but the current council dedicates its first regular meeting of the month to a public forum, and unlike previous councils does not hold a public forum at the business meeting.
The consent agenda is a group of items that are supposed to noncontroversial housekeeping type items that by policy the City Council does not discuss and passes all the items with one vote. That is the policy. However, at meeting after meeting Councilmember Sharon Hightower is allowed to violate that policy and interrogate city staff about consent agenda items, usually about the Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise (MWBE) percentages in contracts.
At the Sept. 21 meeting, an item is on the agenda that caused the City Council a lot of problems in 2020 – the application for a Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) of $295,000 for the Greensboro Police Department, the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office and the High Point Police Department. Greensboro is the lead agency, so Greensboro applies for the JAG from the US Department of Justice and the money is then divvied up as per the Justice Department’s instructions.
It is routine business that has been handled on the consent agenda for years. However, in January 2020, speakers from the floor from the Working class & Homeless Organizing Alliance complained about the city accepting the JAG because, according to the speaker, it required the Police Department to turn people it apprehends over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division of the Department of Homeland Security.
Ignoring city staff, which assured the council that the Police Department did not collect information on the immigration status of people it apprehended, the City Council voted to rescind its earlier action on the JAG and refused to accept the money. Those voting in favor of depriving the Greensboro Police Department of this regular source of federal funding specifically to deal with violent crime were Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Councilmembers Sharon Hightower, Tammi Thurm and Yvonne Johnson and former Councilmember Michelle Kennedy.
Councilmembers Justin Outling, Nancy Hoffman and Marikay Abuzuaiter voted in favor of accepting the JAG. Councilmember Goldie Wells was absent.
The result of refusing to accept the JAG was that the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office and the High Point Police Department got to split the money that would have gone to Greensboro.
Since an election is coming up in less than a year and Kennedy is no longer a councilmember, it is unlikely there will be five votes to turn down federal money to help the Police Department fight violent crime, but there was in 2020, and if a speaker from the Working class & Homeless Organizing Alliance shows up on Sept. 21 to complain, who knows.