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Healthy food bill

Forsyth County Rep. Donny Lambeth is primary sponsor of the so-called healthy food bill that would help alleviate the “food desert” problem in parts of North Carolina.

The bill comes a year after a legislative committee heard about the food desert issue. At that time, according to the Winston-Salem Journal:

At the time, former state Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, who was a co-chairman of the state House Committee on Food Desert Zones, said the General Assembly should not get in the way of the problem but could do little to help it.

“It (food desert) is a problem in North Carolina, but it’s something that has to be fixed by the private sector. We wanted to see if state government was putting up barriers to stop private businesses from locating in these food deserts, and we found that state government is not putting up barriers,” Starnes said. “There isn’t much we can do.”

Never let it be said—especially among progressives — there isn’t much government can do, and this bill is a good example. Who would imagine stocking veggies in convenience stores could involve so much time, effort and —of course—money.

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Stop the press –don’t blame climate change!

Started my week with a Susan Ladd N&R column saying “we” need to turn up the heat on climate change deniers:

Remember that kid in third grade who blocked out anything he didn’t want to hear by sticking his fingers in his ears and saying, “la-la-la-I-can’t-hear-you”?
Well, apparently, he grew up to be governor of Florida.

The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting quoted a former employee of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection as saying she and a colleague were forbidden to use the terms “climate change” and “global warming” in 2011 after Rick Scott became governor.

In the new vernacular of climate change denial, sea-level rise — to which Florida is particularly vulnerable — became “nuisance flooding.”

…“Recurrent flooding,” “climate disruption” and even “the weirding of the weather” were a few of the euphemisms created to talk about climate change by organizations that had no choice but to deal with the effects.

It’s past time to face this problem head on, call it what it is, and do what we can to address it in policy and practice.

What else should I expect from the ultra-liberal Ladd, you might ask—and you’d be right. What I didn’t expect was the comment from the University of Hawaii atmospheric scientist Gary Barnes in this NPR story on four simultaneous cyclones in the western Pacific and Indian Oceans.

Sure the NPR reporter was more than happy to raise the issue of climate change causing four simulnaneous cyclones, to which Barnes advised he “hold off on …..it happens.”

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Mabe removed as Rockingham commission chair

In a surprise 4-1 vote, Keith Mabe was removed from his chairman’s seat on the Rockingham County Board of Commissioners. Fellow Commissioner Mark Richardson will take the chairman’s seat in Mabe’s place. Mabe cast the lone ‘no’ vote, and Commissioner Zane Cardwell cast his vote via webcam from his bed in Moses Cone Hospital.

Mabe has been under fire since his DWI arrest in December, but was determined to remain as board chair. But last week a grand jury granted permission for the Rockingham County district attorney to look into filing additional charges for controlled substances he believes Mabe used at the time of his arrest.

According to the N&R, Mabe’s blood-alcohol content was 0.19 percent at the time of his arrest. Mabe claimed he taking paregoric –his late aunt’s old prescription –to treat back pain.

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Are we driving more or less?

Interesting N&R letter to the editor from Greensboro’s Beth Kizhnerman on state highway funding. Letter in full is below; emphasis mine:

Members of Transit Alliance of the Piedmont advocate for public transit to strengthen our communities. The N.C. Department of Transportation is seeking comment on the draft State Transportation Improvement Program, which defines priority projects for the next 10 years. The regional public information session will be 4-7 p.m. March 26 at NCDOT offices on Yanceyville Street in Greensboro.

Money for non-highway projects accounts for just 2 percent of proposed transportation spending. This share has decreased from previous years at a time the state should look toward innovative non-highway solutions. We maintain that the new formula developed to “rank” projects is flawed and biased toward road building rather than a long-term vision for mobility for all. Projects in the current draft do not necessarily reflect local priorities, since vehicle miles traveled are declining, yet we continue to spend on more roads.

Beth Kizhnerman
Greensboro

Ms. Kizhnerman does not cite her sources when stating “vehicle miles traveled are declining.” All I know is our buddy the Antiplanner —citing federal Department of Transportation statistics — says driving reached record levels in 2014. Moreover, Antiplanner adds — the market for automobiles still isn’t saturated, considering the fact that car ownership rates among African-Americans and Latinos is still relatively low. So whether it’s a (ever-so-slowly) improving economy or the self-driven (pun intended) desire to get off the bus and enjoy the freedom of the automobile, I submit that miles traveled will continue to increase, thus justifying funding for roads.

That said –allow me to share a recent experience —while traveling to Winston-Salem recently, the I-40 bypass gradually narrowed from four lanes to two lanes to one lane due to road construction. Finally I came upon the road workers — seven guys standing around a pothole about the size of a basketball.

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New GPD chief

City of Greensboro names Deputy Chief Wayne Scott as its new police chief.

Scott, a 24-year GPD veteran, replaces Ken Miller, who left last year to become police chief in Greenville, S.C. The other finalist for the job was Oakland, Calif. deputy chief Danielle Outlaw.

As one person is not happy with the selection of Miller as new chief — you guessed it:

The Rev. Nelson Johnson, executive director of the Beloved Community Center, said he would have liked to have seen someone from outside the department take over.

“I think Greensboro is very much in need of a fresh start,” he said. “I don’t wish to say anything personal against Wayne Scott, but there have been problems with the culture in the department. And the choosing of someone who was so closely identified with that culture doesn’t provide hope and optimism.”

Note that the Rev. Johnson and Chief Miller — an outsider brought in from Charlotte — butted heads once or twice. Ironically enough, anyone who read Jerry Bledsoe’s Cops in Black & White series in the Rhino might actually agree with Rev. Johnson about the “culture” in the department, but for different reasons. With that in mind, Gboro citiznes can be grateful that Deputy Chief James Hinson — the main character in Cops in Black & White — wasn’t selected.

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Wade’s bill passes Senate; heads to House

Just a few minutes ago, Sen. Trudy Wade’s bill restructuring the Greensboro City Council passed the Senate by a 33-15 vote. The bill now heads to the House, where it likely will pass, albeit with amendments. If it indeed passes the House, it will become law because local bills cannot be vetoed by the governor.

Rhino team of John Hammer and Mark Shiver (the alt-weekly’s new Raleigh reporter) add their insight:

The bill, which radically changes the way the Greensboro City Council is elected, is opposed by the majority of the members of the Greensboro City Council. In fact, the City of Greensboro paid for a van to drive Mayor Nancy Vaughan and City Councilmembers to Raleigh to oppose the bill on Tuesday. No such transportation was provided for those in favor of the bill who also went to Raleigh to speak to the Senate redistricting committee on Tuesday.

…The opposition to the bill falls largely into three camps. One is Greensboro city councilmembers who see their chances of getting reelected greatly diminished. Two, the Democratic Party and its offshoots like the League of Women Voters, which has had several speakers at every event. And three is the News & Record, which has gone absolutely ballistic in it opposition.

The real question is whether the current City Council is doing a good job or whether it isn’t, and if it isn’t, would changing the way councilmembers are elected be helpful. If those who have come to City Council meetings to speak against the bill would hang around for more of the meeting they might change their minds on whether or not change is needed.

Indeed.That said —-and to be fair to opponents of Wade’s bill — it’s not as if there hasn’t been some change on the council in recent years —the election of Bill Knight as mayor in 2009 is the best example. Yet we keep getting the same old council—handing out to anybody who asks, obsessing on MWBE contracts, treating so-called “free” federal money as some sort of blessing from above. If if in your mind that dictates change from above, then Wade’s bill is not a bad thing. At least it’s not the worst thing to befall Greensboro since, well, the Klan-Nazi shootings, as the N&R would have us believe.

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Meanwhile, Rockingham County….

Reps. Bert Jones and Bryan Holloway, both Rockingham County Republicans, have filed legislation that would reduce the size of county’s Board of Education:

House Bill 189 would reduce the number of districts from six to four by 2016 and the number of school board members from 11 to seven by 2018.
Jones and Holloway, both Republicans who represent Rockingham County, said their motivation behind the legislation was to make the school board a more efficient body.

On Tuesday, news of the bill shocked some people, pleased others and drew comparisons to similar legislation state Sen. Trudy Wade (R-Guilford) proposed in February to change the makeup of the Greensboro City Council.
“It had not even entered my mind as a possibility,” said school board member Bob Wyatt, who represents District 6. “I had heard no rumors about this, but I’m not surprised.”

….Holloway (R-Rockingham) said Tuesday that 11 members is simply too many. “This bill condenses it down,” he said, “and makes it a little easier to manage.”

School board member Josh Austin, who represents District 2, agreed.

“I think it would be much easier to work on a board with less members because with 11, you have so many different ideas,” Austin said. “But with seven, you still have a representation of ideas there but it’s less people to disagree.”

So far, nowhere near the opposition Wade’s bill has faced.

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Wade bill goes to full Senate; Pricey reacts

N&R reports Sen. Trudy Wade’s bill restructuring the Greensboro city Council has passed committee —“in what appeared to be a party line vote” and could be taken up by the full Senate as early as today:

Wade said the maps meet all the federal and state requirements. “They are drawn geographically and they try the best they can to keep communities together and not split up precincts,” she said.

Ultimately the Democrats said they heard overwhelming opposition to the bill from Greensboro residents. They pushed to amend the bill to require a voter referendum before any Senate Bill 36 changes are adopted.

“I am having trouble understanding why we in Raleigh need to tell the citizens of Greensboro how to conduct their local government,” said Sen. Jane Smith (D-Robeson), who proposed the referendum requirement.

On the subject of voter referendum, first-term state Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford —along with fellow Guilford Democrat Cecil Brockman — is sponsoring HB 179, which would amend the state Constitution to require that all proposed legislative changes to local governments be by referendum only.

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Get on the ball, N&R

Most interesting exchange (1:41 mark) during last week’s Greensboro City Council debate over Sen. Trudy Wade’s controversial bill was between council members Tony Wilkins —a supporter — and Mike Barber — an opponent.

Barber, when speaking in opposition, made the comment that Wade’s bill was stomping all over the rights of Gboro’s roughly 300,000 citizens, to which Wilkins replied that if that’s the case then why have only a grand total of 36 people spoken out in public against Wade’s bill? Barber replied that “maybe only 40-50 people are feeling it right now, but when this consistently hits our print media, when they’re made aware that their government is changing and that they have absolutely no control and that it’s being crammed down their throat, you’ll see more than 26 or 36.”

Interesting statement, considering the fact that the N&R has been all over this issue right from the beginning, whether it’s banner headlines, editorials opposing the bill from every angle, blog posts from editorial writer Doug Clark or tirades from ultra-lefty columnist Susan Ladd. Lest you think out local paper of record is falling down on the job, pick up today’s edition and note yet another editorial stating that Wade’s bill disrespects Gboro’s citizenry.

When you’re out and about today, ask someone what they think about Wade’s bill and see if they even know what you’re talking about. Given that voter turnout for municipal elections is what –roughly 10 percent (at most)— I’d be willing to bet they don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m not sure if that says more about the number of people who care about city government or who read the N&R.

I guess the question is whether or not people who don’t exercise their rights can have those rights taken away from them.

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Save the Suburbs!

NPR story on Italian architect Renzo Piano, who believes the future of Europe’s cities is in the suburbs:

Whatever he calls them, Piano believes “the suburbs are the place where energy is in the city — in the good, in the bad. When you say Milan or Rome or Paris or London, you mean that 10 percent of people [living] in the real center. But the 90 percent live in the outskirts.”

And there’s too much prejudice about those outlying neighborhoods. “They were built not with love and affection,” the architect says. “They are like a symbol of disease, of suffering, of bad environment. And that is not true. There is a kind of beauty in the suburbs.”

If Europe is doing it, then the U.S. must surely follow suit, especially since some fledgling downtowns are starting to get a little cramped.

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