News

Civil rights groups launch court challenge to Greensboro panhandling ordinance

This just in from the folks at the ACLU of North Carolina:

Three people who have experienced homelessness and a national advocacy group today filed a federal lawsuit seeking to block a Greensboro ordinance that criminalizes “aggressive” panhandling and many activities protected by the First Amendment.

The plaintiffs are being represented by the American Civil Liberties (ACLU) of North Carolina, Legal Aid of North Carolina and the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. The groups say that Greensboro’s ordinance violates the free speech, equal protection, and due process rights of people who ask for contributions in public places in the city.

“I ask for donations only because I need the money,” said Terry Lindsay, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, who is legally blind and regularly panhandles in downtown Greensboro and on Gate City Boulevard. “This law will only make it more likely that I will become homeless again. I need help keeping my housing and providing for myself, not more obstacles that will keep me from having a better life and being able to have clothes, food, and a place to live.”

“Asking people for money in public spaces is protected by the First Amendment, and the right to free speech applies equally to everyone in Greensboro,” said Emily Seawell, staff attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina. “Criminalizing unpopular or uncomfortable speech violates the Constitution, and taking a punitive approach to poverty does nothing to address the root causes of why people in Greensboro are resorting to asking strangers for help providing for their basic needs.” Read more

Courts & the Law, Defending Democracy, News

Tomorrow: Trial over judicial primaries begins in Greensboro

A trial over lawmakers’ cancellation of the 2018 judicial primaries will begin tomorrow in federal court in Greensboro.

The North Carolina Democratic party sued lawmakers and the state alleging the elimination infringed upon their First and 14th Amendment rights to Freedom of Association, or the rights of groups to take collective action to pursue the interests of its members.

You can read more about the elimination of the judicial primaries here.

The primaries had been reinstated by U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles as part of a preliminary injunction but then the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals cancelled them again in a decision that was not unanimous.

Candidate filing for judicial elections begins June 18. Lawmakers are still sorting through plans for judicial redistricting in part of the state.

The hearing in Greensboro is set to begin at 9:30 a.m. and is open to the public. Electronics are not permitted in the courtroom and members of the public who attend the hearing will be required to show courthouse officials their photo identification.

News

Greensboro is the latest N.C. city to announce lawsuit against opioid manufacturers

 

North Carolina’s third largest city is joining the state and a number of other municipalities in filing a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers.

On Tuesday night the Greensboro City Council passed a resolution saying “the opioid crisis unreasonably interferes with rights common to the general public of Greensboro,” and “involves a significant interference with the public health, safety, peace, comfort, and convenience of citizens and residents of Greensboro.”

 From the story in Greensboro’s News & Record:

It’s technically not a class-action suit, according to Mike Fox of the Tuggle Duggins law firm in Greensboro, one of the local attorneys who will handle the case. The city will be able to negotiate independently if leaders don’t feel the settlement is high enough, he said.

Hundreds of local governments across the country have joined the suit in an attempt to recoup the millions they’ve spent fighting opioid addiction and the fallout from related issues.

“This is something that is tearing our community apart,” Fox said. “The crisis is real, and communities like Greensboro all across the country are struggling to find a solution to it.”

Fox said the city will argue that manufacturers and distributors violated laws on drug distribution and reporting; were negligent by selling drugs they knew would cause harm; and were fraudulent in their claims that opioids are not as addictive as now believed.

 

Late last year Attorney General Josh Stein announced his office was filing suit against Insys Therapeutics, Inc., manufacturer of Subsys, a synthetic opioid spray.

The drug is about 50 times more powerful than heroin and 100 times more than morphine. The lawsuit alleges the company used kickbacks, fraud and deceptive marketing to push doctors to prescribe the highly addictive drug to patients for which it wasn’t approved.

The drug, approved for cancer patients experiencing pain that other drugs can’t address, has been much more widely prescribed. Over-prescription of such drugs has greatly contributed to the ongoing opioid epidemic.

Since then more than 200 local governments have filed similar lawsuits, including more than 15 in North Carolina and native tribal governing organizations.

News

Women, progressives rule election day in Greensboro

 

Michelle Kennedy was elected to an at-large seat on the Greensboro city council this week, becoming the city’s first openly gay member of the city council. One of a number of progressive first-time candidates, Kennedy will be part of the first city council to include no white male members. (Photo by Lauren Barber, Triad City Beat)

There were bigger, more expensive and more contentious local elections in Raleigh and Charlotte – but this week’s results in the state’s third largest city were historic on a number of levels.

Greensboro voters elected their first openly gay member of the city council in Michelle Kennedy, one of a number of progressive first-time candidates we profiled at N.C. Policy Watch over the summer.

Kennedy will be part of another first – a Greensboro City Council without a single white male member.

With eight women – three black, five white – and one black man, it will be a very different council.

Allen Johnson, opinions editor at Greensboro’s daily News & Record newspaper, thinks that’s likely to be a good thing.

If empirical data is any indication, they may do a better job than us guys.

“According to decades of data from around the world, The New York Times reported in a 2016 story, “Women govern differently than men do in some important ways. They tend to be more collaborative and bipartisan.”

In a study of women in Congress, the American Journal of Political Science found that they tend to sponsor and co-sponsor more bills than their male counterparts – and to bring 9 percent more in federal funding to their home districts.

And while the Times story points out that women pass fewer bills, “women also have advantages in governing — and the biggest gender differences appear during behind-the-scenes work.”

A variety of studies, the Times reports, “have found the biggest gender differences appear during behind-the-scenes work.

That research has found “that women interrupt less (but are interrupted more), pay closer attention to other people’s nonverbal cues and use a more democratic leadership style compared with men’s more autocratic style. The result is that women build coalitions and reach consensus more quickly, researchers say.

“Women share their power more; men guard their power,” Michael A. Genovese, director of the Institute for Leadership Studies at Loyola Marymount University, told the Times.

Greensboro City Council elections are non-partisan, but the new council will be composed entirely of registered Democrats ranging from center left to strongly progressive. That’s appears to be another first, at least in living memory, even in a reliably blue city.

The council’s only remaining Republican, Tony Wilkins, was ousted by progressive Democrat Tammi Thurm, by a decisive ten points.

Kennedy was elected at-large – which is to say, by voters from the entire city rather than a particular district where she may have been able to count on an ideologically friendly cache of voters in one area.

She told area weekly Triad City Beat the election night message was pretty clear.

“I think this has been a clear message Greensboro is ready for new leadership that better reflects the values of the community,” said Kennedy, who wore a UE Local 150 Greensboro City Workers Union T-shirt as she celebrated in the Old County Courthouse with other victorious candidates.

Thanks to a change in election laws this week’s victors will also serve four year terms.

One of the most progressive city councils in the city’s history, composed entirely of Democrats and with no white men, locked in for four years.

It is safe to say this was not the result Sen. Trudy Wade, formerly one of Greensboro’s most conservative city council members, was looking to achieve when she set out to change the city’s electoral maps and voting laws.

But newly elected council members say the firestorm that created – a long with a lot of push back on a number of actions of the General Assembly in Raleigh – likely fueled this week’s results.

 

 

 

Commentary

Appropriate: Failed McCrory HHS Secretary to host Trump fundraiser in Greensboro

Aldona Wos

Donald Trump speaking

President Trump

WRAL.com reports that former Pat McCrory HHS Secretary Aldona Wos and her go-zillionaire husband Louis DeJoy will host a high dollar fundraiser for President Donald Trump this weekend in Greensboro. This seems appropriate since Wos and DeJoy are both Trump’s kind of people: rich and overbearing plutocrats who think their wealth somehow gives them the divine right (and the knowledge necessary) to run government, but who in fact have scarcely a clue.

For those who may have already erased the memory of Wos’ contentious and unproductive tenure at HHS from their minds, this is from a post that followed her long overdue resignation in August of 2015, entitled “Chief reaction to Wos departure: Relief”:

Here’s Wos’ hometown Greensboro News & Record in an editorial called “Good heart, bad fit”:

“As for tangible results, well, that was another matter. Despite her background as a physician and former U.S. ambassador— and her famous, sunrise-to-late-night work ethic — the sheer weight of the DHHS bureaucracy seemed to overwhelm Wos.

In time, critics on both sides of the partisan aisle began to wonder out loud if they were getting their money’s worth.

Now, after two and half years at the post, Wos is leaving, Gov. Pat McCrory announced at a Wednesday news conference in Raleigh. Standing at his side, Wos noted it was ‘time to go home.’ Although the governor tearfully praised Wos’ job performance and commitment — as he has all along — her tenure has been wracked by a series of missteps and crises, large and small…”

The N&R then goes on to list a half dozen HHS disasters under Wos’ leadership.

Raleigh’s N&O put it this way in a piece entitled “Don’t cry for me North Carolina”:

“Some Republican lawmakers were annoyed by the turmoil in the department and Wos’ inability to provide reliable numbers on the cost of Medicaid. Senate Republicans even proposed that their version of Medicaid reform would remove the program entirely from DHHS and place its management under the control of a new agency. Indeed, lawmakers doubts about Wos may well have played a role in her resignation.”

The Winston-Salem Journalcalled for the department to be put back on track:

“The resignation Wednesday of Dr. Aldona Wos, the embattled secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, was as overdue as it was unsurprising.…During the two-and-a-half years she has served as secretary, legislators of both parties, advocates and state audits have repeatedly pointed out flaws in the department’s delivery of service to some of our most vulnerable citizens.”

Charlotte Observer cartoonist Kevin Siers compares the department Wos leaves behind to the Statue of Liberty — the torch section.

Let’s hope Wos gives Trump some ideas about transitioning from public to private life in the near future.