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.

Commentary

Greensboro columnist blasts Congressman/Pastor Walker over “eye candy” remark

Just this week, reporter Lauren Horsch of the NC Insider posted a story about how women are still badly under-represented amongst elected officials in North Carolina. Yesterday, we got new confirmation as to why this is so — namely the neanderthal-like attitudes still adhered to by remarkably ignorant men.

As the AP reported, one of those men is pretty clearly Congressman (and Pastor!) Mark Walker (pictured at left):

“The chairman of an organization of GOP conservatives has jokingly alluded to female members of the group as ‘eye candy.’

North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker, who heads the Republican Study Committee, said at a Tuesday news conference that the group has almost 160 men and women and added that “if it wasn’t sexist, I’d say RSC ‘eye candy.'”

Standing next to Walker at the time was 41-year-old Rep. Mia Love of Utah, the only Republican African-American woman in Congress.

After the event, Walker said in a statement: “During a press event today, I made a flippant remark meant to be light-hearted but fell short. I’m proud of the women who serve in our RSC leadership.”

Doug Clark of the Greensboro News & Record, (Walker’s hometown paper) had this to say in a post late yesterday:

Eye candy?

I don’t like that term.

I cringed when a friend of my niece’s family used that term to describe her at her engagement party.

Yes, she’s an attractive young woman. Yes, remarking on a bride-to-be’s beauty is fine, in my opinion.

But “eye candy” isn’t the right expression of that.

Candy is sweet, tasty and insubstantial. There’s not much to it beyond a quick bite.

A woman who’s “eye candy,” in that sense, is nice to look at but that’s about all there is to her.

So it’s astonishing to hear U.S. Rep. Mark Walker refer to female colleagues as “eye candy.”

Honest to goodness.

Walker, as chairman of the Republican Study Committee, with members of that group standing next to him, was making a statement in front of the Capitol today and said:

“The accomplished men and women of the RSC. And women. If it wasn’t sexist, I would say the RSC eye candy, but we’ll leave that out of the record, are not attention seekers.”

Walker was a Baptist minister by occupation before his run for Congress.

Let me be clear: Compared to Donald Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape, this isn’t even a misdemeanor on the politically incorrect scale. Walker made the remark in a playful way, not like the habitual womanizer heard bragging to Billy Bush.

But it’s disappointing. I don’t understand it. Women who serve in Congress are not insubstantial people. They are not “candy” of any kind. They deserve more respect.”

Environment

NC appeals court rules against NC WARN in Greensboro solar power case

NC WARN installed a 5.25-kilowatt solar system on the roof of Faith Community Church and sold it the electricity as part of a leasing agreement. The state appeals court ruled NC WARN can’t sell the power because it in doing so it is acting as a public utility. (Photo: NC WARN)

The nonprofit environmental group NC WARN was acting as a public utility when it provided solar power to a Greensboro church, the NC Appellate Court ruled 2-1 today.

The decision favored Duke Energy, Dominion Energy and the NC Public Utilities Commission public staff, which had argued that NC WARN’s financial arrangement was infringing on the utility companies’ regulated monopoly.

Judges Hunter Murphy and Donna Stroud concurred on the ruling; Judge Chris Dillon dissented.

As Policy Watch reported in March during the original court hearing, NC WARN had entered into a “power purchase agreement” with Faith Community Church in Greensboro. The church leases a solar power system from the nonprofit by paying 5 cents a kilowatt hour for solar-generated electricity.

NC WARN stopped selling power to the church while the court weighed its decision.

“In this case, NC WARN was clearly and unlawfully acting as a public utility without following the rules of being a public utility,” said Duke Energy spokesman Randy Wheeless.

Jim Warn, executive director of NC WARN, said third-party financing arrangements such as this one are ‘in the public interest and are in accord with state policy promoting clean, affordable energy.”

The question before the court was whether NC WARN produced electricity for “the public” in doing so for the church. State statute doesn’t allow third parties to sell electricity to the public because it infringes on the regulated monopoly that is in place. However, House Bill 589, recently passed by the legislature, does allow for limited third-party leasing, which had previously been illegal.

Judge Murphy, wrote the majority opinion, stated that if NC WARN were allowed to generate and sell electricity to “cherry-picked nonprofit organizations” in North Carolina, “that activity stands to upset the balance of the marketplace.”

“Specifically,” Murphy went on, “such a stamp of approval by this court would open the door for other organizations like NC WARN to offer similar arrangements” to other nonprofits or commercial enterprises. That “would jeopardize regulation of the industry itself.”

Judge Dillon, though, disagreed. He wrote that NC WARN wasn’t acting as a public utility because one church doesn’t meet the definition of “public.” Nor does the nonprofit’s financial arrangement of leasing the system — basing it on a kilowatt hour basis rather than a flat monthly rate, Dillon wrote.

He compared the NC WARN arrangement with a hardware store that rented a portable generator based on the power it used rather than only a daily rate.

The NC WARN viewed its appeal as a test case, Warn said, “a challenge to Duke Energy’s blockade against competition from companies that install solar systems on rooftops with little or no up-front cost to the customer. Such financing arrangements have been a key to the growth of rooftop solar in many other states.”

Warn said the organization is “strongly considering” appealing the case to the North Carolina Supreme Court.  

NC WARN Appeals Court by Lisa Sorg on Scribd

News

Greensboro Police again face charges of profiling, brutality

One of the Greensboro police officers involved in the Jose Charles case is again at the center of racial profiling and police brutality complaints.

The complaint, filed late last month, is again raising questions about a department that has for years faced charges of profiling and several high-profile brutality cases.

From a story this week in Greensboro’s alternative weekly, Triad City Beat:

Almost from the moment they parked their car in front of Cheesecakes by Alex on South Elm Street, the four young, black men attracted the attention of the Greensboro police downtown bike patrol, Jones said.

“Immediately, we were surrounded by police officers, maybe seven of them,” Jones recalled. “They started asking us what we were doing, where we were going. We asked them why they were asking all these questions. The best answer they could give us is that they were the community resource team, and it was their job to go out in the community and ask questions.”

They would soon encounter the bike patrol again, this time on the 100 block of West McGee Street bustling with raucous late-night revelers in a confusing situation that quickly spun out of control, ending with Jones’ friend, Aaron Garrett, getting Tased and all four arrested and hauled down to the Guilford County Jail. Graham Holt, Jones’ lawyer, contends that the four men became the target of the police’s attention solely because of their race, and that the officers unnecessarily escalated the situation.

One of the officers involved in the incident was Officer Samuel A. Alvarez, who can be seen in an eyewitness video grabbing one of the young men from behind and slamming him into a car before he is tossed to the ground.

Alvarez was also involved in the controversial Jose Charles case:

Jose Charles, a 15-year-old boy who had been attacked by a group of teenagers at the Fun Fourth Festival at Center City Park on July 4, 2016, wound up in a melee with downtown bike patrol officers that resulted in criminal charges against him and a hospital visit. While Charles was using his T-shirt to stanch blood from a cut above his eye, Officer Alvarez approached Charles and asked him what he was doing. Tamara Figueroa, Charles’ mother, alleged in an interview with Triad City Beat earlier this year that Alvarez reacted to her son’s profane response by grabbing him, lifting him “in the air with all the force they could, and slam[ming] him on his head.”

Cpl. Johnson, the supervisor on duty on both July 4 and Sept. 10, acknowledged in the investigative report for the Charles incident that following the encounter with Alvarez, “Charles’ pre-existing lacerations to his right eye began bleeding rapidly.”

The administrative investigation by the department’s professional standards division cleared the officers of wrongdoing in the Charles incident, but the police community review board, a citizen panel, disagreed with the department’s finding. Lindy Perry-Garnette, a member of the board, was forced to resign after she publicly expressed concern about what she saw in police body-camera video of the incident. Frustration about city council’s handling of the matter boiled over with dozens of Charles’ supporters taking over council chambers in May.

The latest incident is under administrative investigation, according to the Greensboro Police Department.