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Archive for January, 2013

Re: City seeks Yes!Weekly restraining order

Yes! Weekly reports the City of Greensboro unsuccessfully sought a restraining order to stop distribution of yesterday’s story about Greensboro police surveillance of local activists. City Attorney Mujeeb Shah-Khan said “the city sought the restraining order to prevent the dissemination of information that was not public record but was criminal intelligence, even though it was released through public records requests filed with the city’s public information office.” I wonder what got out that the city didn’t want us to read, maybe like a City Council member serving as a police informant.

As for the City Council’s role in the legal action, Shah-Khan said “with certainty that no council member was involved in the discussion or decision to pursue a restraining order.”

In this thread Ed Cone says “it’s about her having a close, information-sharing relationship with the police that may come as a surprise to people who thought she was just another person at a meeting.” But that’s the problem for Marikay Abuzuaiter—she’s not just another person at a meeting. She’s been a public figure for quite some time now, and evidently quite a few people believe her knowledge and opinion on how this city is run carry weight —Occupy Greensboro among them. The only question is whether to give her the benefit of the doubt that she legitimately believed her info was in the interest of public safety.

N&R’s had an interesting day to say the least; will be interesting to see their take on this under Warren Buffett’s ownership.

Bonus question: Wonder about GPD surveillance of the gun show up at the Greensboro Coliseum last weekend, or was it just the N&R’s Mike Kernels keeping an eye on the gun nuts?

Update: N&R runs A3 in today’s print edition, lede focusing on city’s restraining order against Yes! Weekly. Marikay Abuzuaiter tells the paper she “never, ever snitched on anyone,” but — as the N&R puts it —- “worked with officers on behalf of certain groups to ensure the safety and the rights of group members to protest.”

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Meanwhile, down at City Hall….

..Got an e-mail from the City of Greensboro stating Mayor Robbie Perkins called a special meeting on Tuesday to consult with attorneys concerning legal action against the city by pretty much anyone and everyone involved in the GPD scandal covered in the Rhino’s 92-part Cops in Black and White series.

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Why we’re just hearing about Guilford inmate death

I posed that question last week, and this week the Rhino’s Scott Yost provides the answer– a confidentiality clause inserted into the $475k settlement with Guilford County at the request of Christopher Armstrong’s family.

But the confidentiality clause still does not trump public records laws. The Rhino first made the request in late November, and the request was finally granted in mid-January.

The Rhino also reports that Guilford County District Attorney “looked into Armstrong’s death, based on information provided by the Sheriff’s Department, and decided not to prosecute anyone.”

That it just so happens detention officers “didn’t make required entries in the jail’s logbook as to when Armstrong was put in and taken out of the chair” leaves an odor hanging over this case. Sheriff BJ Barnes says his department “has made changes to assure that this type of thing never happens again.” Let’s hope not.

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Gboro city council member / police informant

I read with interest Eric Ginsburg’s Yes!Weekly article on police surveillance surveillance of Greensboro residents. The bulk of the article focuses on those residents active in left-leaning groups, though it does say surveillance also covered “white supremacists, gun enthusiasts, abortion activists, political bloggers and any protest activity in Greensboro.”

Blew me away that of all people City Council member Marikay Abuzuaiter –according to the article—- “has been a confidential informant for the police department, forwarding information from various e-mail lists like the Peace & Justice Network and gathering intelligence at meetings.”

Abuzuaiter “characterizes her role differently, saying she was not participating in events to collect intelligence but sometimes coordinated with police, like when she was a parade marshal for Occupy Greensboro.”

Read for yourself and decide if Abuzuaiter was tipping the cops on the activists she claims to represent or if she was just working behind the scenes to try and keep the peace. But I don’t see how this isn’t some conflict of interest with her position on the City Council.

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Paying for light rail with synergy

In his regular Wednesday column, the N&R’s Doug Clark has shown a knack for satire. With that in mind, I had to read his vision (unposted) for a light rail line between G’boro and High Point twice, and I think he’s serious:

Connecting the dots was achieved through the innovative light-rail system, constructed on an elevated track at a multibillion-dollar price over two decades. The steep cost has been more than recovered with the synergy afforded by access. When people can move efficiently from one point to another, they find ways to work together, merging assets to encourage investment and multiply value.

Tell that to San Jose. Or Norfolk. Or —last but not least —- Charlotte.

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Re: Bottom of the broadband barrel

Ed Cone passes along this N&O op-ed on North Carolina’s place at the bottom of the broadband barrel and how it hurts the state.

As you can probably imagine, the writers hold up the City of Wilson as the standard for public broadband (emphasis mine):

Because it is owned by the city, the Wilson network keeps its prices affordable. And because locals now have a choice, Time Warner Cable priced its services more competitively in Wilson than in nearby towns without meaningful competition.

And who owns the city? You guessed it— taxpayers, which means Wilson’s affordable prices are artificial. And –irony upon irony — of all people my buddy makes the same case about public broadband that the evil John Locke Foundation makes— that cities like Wilson and Salisbury are investing public money in technology that could be obsolete before it’s paid for.

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Wos creates new DHHS position

Greensboro resident and Health and Human Resources Secretary Aldona Wos announced Monday that she has created the new position of chief information officer to help the department meet its July 1 goal of going live with a new computer network:

Joseph Cooper Jr., who’s worked for Bank of America, First Citizens Bank and most recently RBC Bank USA, will take the newly created post in a department already facing challenges within information technology for Medicaid.

The state Department of Health and Human Services has more than 17,000 employees and needed someone to bring efficiency to its vast computer networks and systems, Wos said in an interview.

“Our IT structure is very complicated with very many specific projects,” Wos said, adding: “It is a huge undertaking.”

Wos has also hired an outside agency to scrutinize the project, adding “she would be surprised if the consultant uncovers something that would scuttle the project altogether.” Let’s hope not.

For what it was worth, Gov. Pat McCrory gave DHHS employees a ‘pep talk’ —if you want to call it that, considering the fact that he said he’d “never seen such a broken information systems operation until I came here.”

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Not a good time to be asking for economic incentives

Proctor & Gamble will will request a total of $2 million in local incentives to make improvements to its local plant.

P&G’s request comes as Guilford County is grappling with a $41 million budget deficit, and today we learn the City of Greensboro is facing a $6 million budget gap:

The budget estimate doesn’t take into account items on some council members’ wish lists, such as better roadside leaf collection, renovation of the new police headquarters or five new clay courts at the Spencer Love Tennis Center.

Connie Hammond, director of human resources, asked the council to add $182,175 in pay increases to the budget as salary adjustments recommended in last year’s compensation study.

At Monday’s meeting, the city staff proposed using two-thirds bonds to fund a variety of projects.

P&G will present its request to the City Council on Feb. 5, the same night the downtown performing arts center task force is scheduled to give its final presentation.

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Hagan Tea Party opponent

Wake County physician Greg Brannon, who officially announced on Saturday.

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Coked-up monkeys

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s appeal of a USDA violation is still pending. The hospital was cited after PETA filed a complaint over the escape of a female monkey from the medical center’s primate center back in July.

PETA claims Baptist’s monkey research constitutes cruel treatment. The hospital responds:

Paula J. Faria, a spokeswoman for the medical center, said in a statement that the research is important and is being carried out to improve human health. She said the research is highly regarded in the scientific community.

“The first study is looking at the relationship of social stress to addiction and the changes that occur in the brain,” she said. “This research is particularly relevant now because of the rise in illegal drug use.”
Faria said the second study is non-invasive and is focused on understanding the effects of cocaine on cognition. Researchers hope to use the study findings to help develop new drugs that alleviate cocaine dependence.

A federal veterinary officer inspected Baptist’s primate center and concluded the money escaped because her cage’s latch wasn’t secure. Somehow I think even if the latch was secure, she would have found a way to open it.

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