The meetings of the Greensboro City Council with the Guilford legislative delegation are always amusing, if you have a twisted sense of humor.
The City Council is suing over the City Council redistricting plan passed by the legislature in 2015, which doesn’t make for good relations. Also, the City Council has a bad habit of passing resolutions opposing actions by the state legislature. Sometimes before the legislature acts and sometimes after, which seems to serve no purpose except to annoy the Republican legislators who control the General Assembly.
The Guilford legislative delegation met with the City Council at the beginning of February at Union Square, at the corner of Gate City Boulevard and Arlington Street.
The meeting started with a commercial message from former City Manager and current Vice President and COO of the Bryan Foundation Ed Kitchen. It appeared the legislators and councilmembers thought they were going to get a two-minute welcome from Kitchen. Instead they got a report on what a huge success Union Square has been that lasted about half an hour. Kitchen didn’t ask for more money but made it clear that in the future, as Union Square expands, there well might be “an ask.”
State Reps. John Blust, John Faircloth, Jon Hardister, Cecil Brockman, Amos Quick and Pricey Harrison were all in attendance, as well as state Sen. Gladys Robinson. State Sen. Trudy Wade and President Pro Tem of the Senate Phil Berger were absent.
City Council Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson and Councilmembers Tony Wilkins, Sharon Hightower, Nancy Hoffmann and Jamal Fox attended the meeting.
City Attorney Tom Carruthers made the presentation for the city on the proposed legislative agenda, which is what the city wants from the legislature this year. He explained that the city didn’t want to finalize its legislative agenda until after meeting with the delegation and getting some direction.
Carruthers noted that because of the ongoing plan to decommission the North Buffalo Creek wastewater treatment plant and move all treatment to the Osborne Wastewater Plant, the city had exceeded permissible nutrient levels and was asking for relief from the penalties.
Harrison said she was opposed, which is no surprise. But on the upside, Harrison, as a Democrat, has little control over what the state legislature does.
Carruthers congratulated Faircloth on being able to put together a “grand compromise” on the statewide body-worn camera video law, but noted that there were some issues with the law.
Faircloth said they understood the current situation and that they had committed to look at how the law was working and see what needed to be tweaked. He asked for recommendations on what, in the city’s view, needed to be done to improve the law.
Hightower said the law needed to be more transparent.
Harrison asked about the Faith Action identification initiative.
Johnson noted that illegal immigrants can’t get in-state tuition and she thought they should.
Brockman asked why there was no mention of House Bill 2 (HB2), “the bathroom bill,” by the city.
Carruthers said the council had not addressed HB2 this year.
City Manager Jim Westmoreland said, “The impact to Greensboro has been pretty significant. We’re all hopeful and expecting the General Assembly to take some sort of action this year.”
Carruthers once again asked the state for help in collecting the city’s parking ticket fines. The city has been asking for this for years, but so far the state hasn’t shown much interest in getting in the Greensboro parking ticket collection business. You have to wonder how much of a cut the state would take to collect the fines for the cities, and if collecting parking fines for cities is an appropriate function of state government.
It’s kind of how this conversation between the state and city goes. The city doesn’t want to support what the state does but expects the state to do it favors, like collect parking ticket fines. Maybe this will be the year that it works.
Hightower, as expected, talked about the Minority and Women Business Enterprise program. She once again said the cost of the disparity study the city is undertaking for $300,000 “is really nothing.” She added, “That’s no money.”
Harrison spoke in favor of the Jordan Lake rules, which will cost Greensboro millions if they are ever put in effect. So far the Republicans have been able to delay implementation, but not make the rules go away.
The Republicans in the state House and state Senate have veto-proof majorities, which means they can pass whatever they want without any help from the Democrats. But at this meeting the Democrats talked more than the Republicans – perhaps because the Democrats can promise whatever they want and they know they can’t get it passed, while if the Republicans promise something they will be expected to follow through.
Berger is the most powerful elected official in Raleigh. If Greensboro really wants to get anything done, it needs Berger’s support. But Berger wasn’t there to hear the concerns of the city, which should make the City Council worry.
It may be that Berger doesn’t appreciate being sued.