The Greensboro City Council and the Guilford County Board of Commissioners are considering spending $300,000 each to bring a Cure Violence program to Greensboro.
Cure Violence is a program designed to stop murders by interceding on the streets and convincing people that murdering someone is not the only or best option. It has reportedly had good results in some cities.
The only city in North Carolina that has a Cure Violence program is Durham and through the first three quarters of 2018, Durham’s murder rate was up 50 percent over 2017. Cure Violence may be a good program, but it’s hard for a program that is designed to prevent murders to claim much success when the murder rate in the city increases rather than decreases.
But there are other issues, a group of City Councilmembers has met at least twice with a group of Guilford County Commissioners to discuss how to take this program forward in Greensboro. The meetings were closed to the public. Why would these meetings be closed to the public, if the idea of these elected bodies is to be open and transparent?
Interim City Attorney Jim Hoffman said that legally the meetings could be closed because, “This is just an exploration process by a few members of the City Council and a few members of the Board of Commissioners to determine whether this is something either one of them wants to do.”
He said it wasn’t a committee of city councilmembers or commissioners, but something that individual members were looking into and discussing together.
Also troubling is that at the last meeting which City Councilmember Yvonne Johnson attended, the group reportedly discussed having One Step Further the nonprofit organization that Johnson heads, manage the program. It would appear to be a conflict of interest for a city councilmember to discuss awarding a $600,000 contract to the nonprofit that she runs.
Hoffman said it did not rise to the level of a conflict of interest because it was too preliminary. He said, “What happened was some folks asked if One Step Further would consider managing the contract.” Hoffman said that Johnson said that One Step Further would consider it and that was about the extent of it.
However, Hoffman said that if that is the direction that the program takes, “There is a potential for a conflict of interest that would need to be determined.”
Neither the City Council, nor the County Commissioners have agreed to fund the program and one of the stumbling blocks is finding someone to manage it. In the City of Durham, the program is run by the Durham County Department of Public Health, but the County Commissioners are not interested in having the Guilford County Health Department run the program. Cone Health has also said that it is not interested in running the program.
It appears that One Step Further could get the program by default, if that is, the City Council and County Commissioners do decide to fund the program.