Mayor Nancy Vaughan announced Thursday, April 18 that the Greensboro City Council and the Guilford County Commissioners would likely hold a joint meeting to discuss Cure Violence during a City Council work session on Tuesday, May 7.
Vaughan sais the meeting would be open to the public.
Vaughan was speaking at the City Council District 2 Community Forum held by Councilmember Goldie Wells. Vaughan also said that One Step Further the non profit run by City Councilmember Yvonne Johnson would manage the Cure Violence program.
Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioner Alan Branson agreed that a joint meeting on that date had been discussed.
Although they meet about a hundred yards from each other, joint meetings between the Greensboro City Council and the Guilford County Board of Commissioners are rare. According to one knowledgeable source the last one was held about five years ago.
But the fact that the City Council and County Commissioners are planning to meet in public to discuss Cure Violence is welcomed news. The two elected bodies have been holding secret, closed door meetings for over a year on the Cure Violence program. Technically the meetings may not have violated the North Carolina Open Meetings Law. The only way to be certain of that would be if someone sued. But there is no doubt that the secret, closed door meetings violated the spirit of the law that the government’s work be done in the open whenever possible. The law includes a few exceptions when meetings can legally be closed such as real estate purchases and personnel matters. There was no legal exemption for these meetings, so the solution was to pretend that random groups of city councilmembers and county commissioners along with the requisite attorneys and managers, just happened to run into each other periodically and ended up talking about Cure Violence.
As a result of those secret meetings One Step Further is apparently going to be awarded the $600,000 contract to run the program without giving any other nonprofit a formal opportunity to bid or even submit a proposal to run the program. Johnson, the executive director of One Step Further, reportedly happened to be at the secret meeting where contracting with a nonprofit to run the program was being discussed and said her organization would manage it.
Branson said that they were hoping to have a contract to discuss at the joint meeting, but added, “We’re having some trouble getting answers from the group out of Chicago.” Cure Violence is headquartered in Chicago. Branson said it was a complicated contract because it involves the City of Greensboro, Guilford County, Cure Violence and One Step Further. It seems worth noting that neither the City Council nor the Board of Commissioners has taken any official action to contract with One Step Further.
Vaughan said Thursday that the city was ready to go ahead with the program and would vote on it at the Tuesday, May 21 City Council meeting, if Guilford County was willing to pay its fair share which has been discussed as half the $600,000 cost.
The Guilford County Commissioners have not been as supportive of a program that will be designed to help two neighborhoods in Greensboro, but not the rest of Guilford County. At one point there was some discussion of having a program in High Point to make it more countywide, but evidently that was dropped in one of the secret meetings.
Cure Violence is a controversial program that makes a point of not cooperating with local law enforcement and often hires convicted felons and former gang members to go into neighborhoods to attempt to prevent violent crimes, in particular murders before they happen.
It has also proven difficult to find an independent source that will verify the effectiveness of the program. Cure Violence claims to be effective at reducing the number of murders in a specified area. Durham, the only city in North Carolina that has a Cure Violence program saw the murder rate soar in 2018 going up 52 percent. Greensboro by comparison had a 23 percent drop in the number of murders in 2018.