The first regular meeting of the newly elected Greensboro City Council was notable for who wasn’t there.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan is on vacation and participated via Zoom, as did District 4 City Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann.
City Manager Tai Jaiyeoba was in Denver with Fire Chief Jim Robinson. Deputy City Manager and former Interim City Manager Chris Wilson sat in for Jaiyeoba.
City Attorney Chuck Watts was also absent and Deputy City Attorney Al Andrews filled in for him.
With Vaughan participating by Zoom, Mayor Pro Tem and former Mayor Yvonne Johnson presided over the meeting, and it’s always a show when Johnson runs a meeting. Johnson doesn’t like to waste time.
Because the meetings are technically “hybrid,” which allows participation by Zoom, votes have to be taken orally. Johnson began the meeting by calling on each councilmember by the honorific “councilwoman” or “councilman.” But later in the meeting started calling on councilmembers only by their last names and sometimes by their first names. Toward the very end of the meeting, Councilmembers Zack Matheny, Hugh Holston and Sharon Hightower started voting in order without being called on. The votes, the vast majority of which were unanimous, went much faster and Johnson thanked the councilmembers for voting when she looked at them rather than waiting for their names to be called.
Unfortunately, at the beginning of the meeting the status quo was preserved. With an election and technically a new City Council, there was a chance that the City Council would follow its own policies, but that is not to be.
In theory the consent agenda is a grouping of noncontroversial routine and housekeeping type items that are passed without discussion with one vote.
According to the policy, any councilmember can remove an item from the consent agenda and it is then placed on the general business agenda for discussion at the next meeting. However, Hightower is allowed to remove items from the consent agenda and discuss them at length, as she did on Aug. 16.
The Justice Assistance Grant from the US Department of Justice to the Greensboro Police Department was a routine grant that for years was accepted by the City Council without discussion. In 2020, the City Council voted to turn down the grant and the money that would have gone to the Greensboro Police Department was split between the Guilford County Sheriff’s Department and the High Point Police Department.
Hightower had questions about how previous JAG money had been spent, which was not relevant to the item on the agenda – which was to apply for another JAG – but despite the City Council policy prohibiting such discussion and the irrelevancy of the questions, the discussion was allowed.