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Jan 21, 2007

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John D. Young

Note comments of Sandy Carmany from her blog:

"The hottest topic of the day was the discussion of council's follow-up action (or lack thereof) on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report. Mayor Holliday explained that after our July 18 discussion of the report, he had chance conversations with four of us over a period of time who indicated we had no interest in doing anything else with it. Because of those responses from a majority of city council (after taking his own opinion on the subject into account), he did not put a high priority on formulating next steps, particularly with other pressing issues such as the ongoing police department investigation.

Councilmembers Yvonne Johnson and Goldie Wells expressed great frustration about not being consulted about this, being under the impression that the Mayor was going to make suggestions such as referring it to the Human Relations Commission for study. Mayor Holliday apologized numerous times for "dropping the ball" and for not talking with all members of council about the continued delay but stressed his actions were not intentional.

Councilmember Tom Phillips pointed out that ANY councilmember can bring ANY issue forward at ANY time for the council to vote up or down, and no one had chosen to do so with the recommendations in this report. Councilmember Wells replied she had not done so because she thought the Mayor was taking care of that. The Mayor responded that if another councilmember wanted to step forward and champion the issue and put something before the council for a vote, they are welcome to do so, but HE would not be that champion.

I predict this issue will be brought up for consideration at our next city council meeting on February 6. I further predict that any motions for approval or adoption of the TRC's recommendations will fail."

Tom Phillips

Should Keith have told Goldie and Yvonne that he wasn't going to do anything with the T&RC report? Yes, but if they didn't know that Keith didn't support T&RC where have they been. There was no secret agreement. I didn't know if Keith was going to do anything or not. Last July, I commented that if there were any issues in the report that a councilmember believed we should address, they should bring them up at a council meeting where we could discuss them, vote it up or down or decide if we wanted to ask the Human Relations Commission to review the issue and report back to the council. We have had about 12 meetings since then. Goldie and Yvonne have not brought up anything. If I have issues I want the Council to address, I'm not waiting on the Mayor or anyone else and Goldie shouldn't have either. Goldie indicated at the retreat that she didn't want us to disagree in public and we should discuss this behind closed doors. She also told us we should ignore our personal opinions. What she can't accept is that a majority did not endorse the T&RC and do not accept their recommendations.

jw

It's not entirely about the T&R report. It's about five Council members deciding, separately, whether an issue was going to get a public airing.

Would five of you get together, outside of a public hearing, and decide, oh, let's say, whether to pass a particular zoning request?

Jim Rosenberg

It boggles my mind how tone deaf this Council is on race. Here we are in the wake of a series of very recent racial issues, and the white council members have not only punted on the chance to advance the ball but also muffed the play by seeming to conspire. It doesn't take a genius to see that while those guys were on the phone to each other they could have at least reached an agreement to mutually support a non-statement statement that goes as far as they are willing and makes some generally positive statements that would be well-received in the minority community. Of course it would be considered insufficient, but it's a gesture. By structure, the Greensboro Council is a uniquely powerless body whose principle value is the way it frames and conducts public debate. So Tom Phillips is "right." Big deal. Being right isn't all it's cracked up to be. Put differently, did the Mayor and gang even ask themselves the question, "What are the opportunities to improve race relations in this situation and how should we handle it in order to get the best results?" I can't understand why this is always approached from the most simplistic Right/Wrong framework. That doesn't mean everyone has to agree or will get what they want. But, it does call for some engagement. It's an opportunity. Imperfect, but real. It will still be an opportunity if and when it is brought up again. It's probably too late to make that gesture now, and that's a shame.

Tom Phillips

JW, Five of us didn't get together. Four of us independantly told the Mayor we didn't want to do anymore. Any issue can get a public airing at any meeting if a councilmember brings it up. I believe Goldie never brought it up because she knows she doesn't have five votes. She wants us to just give her what she wants regardless of our opinions.

Sandy Carmany

jw,

As I responded over on my blog, I was not aware of the mayor's conversations with any other councilmember nor that there was a majority of us that did not want to do anything else regarding the report. There was no group discussion, decision, plotting, or secret agreement -- only the mayor knew the "score" because of his individual conversations.

Should he have let the rest of us know -- I agree with Tom, yes.

jw

I accept that individual Council members didn't know that the others had expressed their preference to the Mayor. The Mayor was negligent in not informing everyone on the Council about the results of a request by a member. You are at a point where your credibility, as a Council, is coming into question. These kinds of missteps only make matters worse. I consider this a serious breach for which the Mayor should be held accountable by the Council. And while you didn't "physically" get together, your input as individuals were put together to represent the corporate opinion.

harold

I'm disappointed to hear a Council member label a community initiative that involved the hard work of lots of Greensboro citizens "a crock".

There are probably initiatives that deserve that label; ones that line someone's pockets at the expense of taxpayers, for example.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was not that kind of initiative. It was educational and inspirational as a grassroots effort that garnered international positive attention for the city as one that is looking to heal from its past.

Phillips is entitled to his opinion, but the Council should collectively censure his bullying, divisive name calling. It makes them all look like kindergarteners.

The Mayor is not helping the body's image by consistently fumbling ball after ball, either.

Someday, Greensboro will grow up and out of this racial chess match. Hope I live to see it.

David Hoggard

Tom and Sandy, (and Keith, Mike and Florence)

Rosenberg nailed it.

Even if (since) a majority of the council didn't give a hoot about the initial TRC process or the outcome, the five of you missed a golden opportunity to both stand by your convictions and offer an olive branch.

Instead of inching us closer together, you have successfully driven another Alston-istic wedge between us. Instead of coming off as peacemakers and statesmen you have elicited a "see... I told you so" response from the 'good-ol-boy' theorists.

There is little good that can come from being right to a fault.

Tom Phillips

David, Look through the list of reccomendations and tell me which ones we are supposed to offer as an olive branch. Police review board?, Apology?, Monument?, Living Wage? I didn't agree with this from the start and I don't agree with their conclusions.

sean coon

this isn't about granting a magic wish from the members of the gtrc, this is about being willing to subjugate the noise of your opinion to a part of the community that was actually affected on 11/3.

i spent last monday at the mlk jr. day parade, walking up and down the street taking pictures and video of the event. there were thousands of residents out on the curb, enjoying the day and the parade -- even the political protest of george bush's effigy in a jail cell float. it was at that moment, when i heard the crowd around me cheer as the bush float passed, that i had a flashback to what the political vibe of 11/3 might have felt like.

the difference this time around? there were cops everywhere, doing their job to protect citizens.

for you to make your position so vocal -- in the media and personally with the mayor -- to drown out fellow council members who represent people that have ongoing issues stemming from that day... well, in my mind, that's where the opportunity to extend an olive branch was missed -- you just wouldn't take a backseat and shut up.

you're a city council rep and like the rest of us, you're obviously entitled to your opinion, but neither you or your district's constituents have much skin in what happened on 11/3. well, except that you all probably want to live in a town with less racial tension (at least i'd hope that is the case).

David Hoggard

"Police review board?, Apology?, Monument?, Living Wage?"

Number two, Tom. To the former residents of Morningside.

Ed Cone

There is a lot more to the report than the recommendations, Tom. But you know that, of course, because you said you planned to read it...

I agree that the recommendations are all over the map, and that they weaken the impact of the report. Yet the long document is rich and flawed and well worth discussing, and hiding behind the recommendations is not a satisfactory way of avoiding the conversation.

capo

Can an apology be made without legal repercussions? Is that the stumbling point?

Jill Williams

Good question, Capo. Maybe the city council could consult with the NC Democratic Party, who just voted to apologize for the party's role in the 1898 Wilmington "race riots." More here. I haven't heard anything about legal repercussions stemming from that apology.

sean coon

but jill, if they consulted the nc democratic party, the consultation itself could be construed as an admission of a sort and then blah, blah, blah... i can hear it already.

benholder

I got a question..even if they did apologize...what would that do? the fact is,...the HUGE majority of the residents on Mcconell road and the immediate area would not care even the leaders did say they were sorry...I am not saying they shouldnt...but...really..what would it do?

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