Meeting Recap: 4.24.18

Greensboro City Council’s April 24, 2018 work session and meeting were especially lively, as the Council addressed several topics of particular public interest.  Here are a few noteworthy points from the work session and meeting, which lasted over eight hours:

(1)    Adoption of Local Preference Policy. By a 6-3 margin, City Council passed a local preference policy Councilwoman Tammi Thurm and I authored. A summary of the policy can be found at the blog post here and a copy of the final/adopted version of the policy can be found here.

According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, “a growing body of research shows… that locally owned businesses create communities that are more prosperous, entrepreneurial, connected, and generally better off across a wide range of metrics.”  In addition, “these studies find that local businesses recirculate a greater share of every dollar in the local economy, as they create locally owned supply chains and invest in their employees.”  This recirculation creates a multiplier effect that increases the value of dollars initially spent.

That is to say, the adopted local preference policy will help local businesses continue to drive our local economy and create jobs.  Because of the policy’s adoption, it will be less likely that the City will award a contract to a non-local bidder/business merely because it underbid a local bidder/business by some tiny and inconsequential amount.

(2)    Greenlight on Davie Street Parking Deck.  City Council also voted, 8-0, to pay the owners of the Cone Denim Entertainment Center $735,000 (as well as legal fees) to resolve a lawsuit by Cone Denim regarding an easement held by Cone Denim over property owned by the City and part of the plans for a forthcoming parking deck on Davie Street (Downtown).  The vote (from which I recused on account of one of my law partners providing advice to N-Club/Cone Denim regarding the easement) clears the way for the construction of the deck, which will provide parking to local businesses, as well as the public (including guests at a forthcoming Westin Hotel).

(3)    Repeal of Panhandling Ordinance.  City Council unanimously voted to repeal the City’s panhandling ordinance because of concerns about whether the ordinance was still lawful given a relatively recent Supreme Court case involving sign regulations.  In a 6-3 vote, Greensboro City Council adopted a much more narrowly tailored ordinance in its place.  Specifically, the Council voted to adopt a “aggressive solicitation” ordinance.  The ordinance prohibits certain aggressive acts during solicitation of all forms, including, but not limited to, panhandling.  The Councilmembers who voted against the ordinance argued (among other things) that the ordinance was duplicative of other laws and criminalized those experiencing homelessness.  Greensboro’s Police Chief, however, indicated that the ordinance was necessary to address conduct not covered by other laws.  For example, the ordinance prohibits (a) soliciting anyone who is waiting in line for entry to a building or for another purpose without the permission of the owner/landlord of the premises and (b) forcing ones-self upon the company of another by following that person after the person to whom the request is directed made a negative response.  The type of “aggressive” behavior covered by the ordinance is unacceptable.  To not run afoul of the ordinance, all a solicitor must do is not harass the person to whom he or she makes their request.  Solicitation is still allowed.  Merely aggressive (i.e., harassing) solicitation is prohibited.

(4)    City Manager Retirement. The meeting was Greensboro City Manager Jim Westmoreland’s last.  Westmoreland, who had a 18 year career with the City, served as Greensboro’s City Manager the past four years. After City Council approves City government’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year in June, the Council will likely conduct a national search for its next City Manager.  Hopefully, the interim City Manager (David Parrish, who is both relatively young and very talented), will seek the position.

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Greensboro City Council will next meet on May 1, 2018 for consideration of ceremonial/presentation items and unlimited public comment.  The Council’s next business meeting will be on May 15, 2018.  –post written on April 30, 2018.