Top 10 Local and State stories of 2018By Yasmine Regester / December 28, 2018
Danny Rogers elected as new Guilford County SheriffDanny Rogers was sworn in as the new Guilford County Sheriff in a ceremony at the High Point Courthouse on December 3. Rogers, a registered Democrat, unseated former Sheriff BJ Barnes, a registered Republican, in the Nov. 6 General Election. He won 53 percent of the vote in his second attempt to unseat Barnes, who had served as sheriff for 24 years. Rogers is the first African American to be elected to Guilford County Sheriff.
GPD misconduct concerns and body-cam footage
A coalition of more than a dozen community groups and businesses came together to request Greensboro City Council intervene on two separate cases of police misconduct. Greensboro community members and local organizations rallied around Zared Jones and the family of the late Marcus D. Smith, citing issues of police misconduct by GPD officers. Jones filed a formal complain against the officers on August 24, 2017. The GPD internal affairs department reviewed Jones’ complaint and determined that no officers violated departmental policies or procedures. In February 2018, the Police Community Review Board reviewed the matter and upheld the ruling by the police department.A coalition of community groups and businesses filed an amicus brief on October 23, requesting that the Greensboro City Council review police worn body camera footage and take action on the 2016 Greensboro arrest of Jones, who asserts he was assaulted by police and unfairly arrested. A district court judge placed a gag order on everyone who was allowed to view the footage, which included Jones, his lawyer Graham Holt, and members of the City Council.
In the second case, thirty-eight year old Smith stopped breathing and died after police officers hogtied him during the early morning hours of September 8, 2018 on North Church Street in downtown Greensboro. A news release from the police department following Smith’s death, stated that he became combative and collapsed, and that EMS arrived about five minutes after the police encountered him. It states that Smith was then taken to a hospital for further treatment and died about an hour later. Smith’s family asserts that was not true, based on the autopsy report which attributed the cause of death to “sudden cardiopulmonary arrest due to prone restraint.”
Smith’s family sent a letter to the Greensboro City Council on November 13 demanding the following: An apology and compensation for their family member’s death; swift consequences for police department personnel involved; a ban on using hogtying as a restraint technique; train officers to handle mental health issues nonviolently; establish a legitimate process to investigate all allegations of police misconduct; and support citizen-led initiatives to reform the culture within the Greensboro Police Department.
The Greensboro City Council discussed the idea of adding social workers to the police force in order to better serve citizens with mental health issues at its December 19 meeeting.
Bennett College faces losing accreditationBennett College leaders announced on December 14 that they need to raise $5 million by February 1, 2019, to be able to reach financial stability under the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) guidelines, the regional accreditor which monitors, evaluates, and accredits education institutions across the southeastern United States. SACS put the school on probation in 2016 for financial instability, and the school is nearing the end of probation period and is facing the loss of accreditation. School leaders are seeking contributions from donors, while current Bennett Belles and alumna are helping to raise money through the social media hashtag #IStandWithBennett.
East Greensboro growth
The Renaissance Family Medicine Center opened on February 27, giving Northeast Greensboro residents a new medical home. The center is a partnership between the community and Cone Health Medical Group, the clinic provides on-site pharmacy services, health screenings immunizations, chronic disease management, preventive care and referrals to specialists. The Greensboro Municipal Credit Union also opened in the shopping plaza this year.
East Greensboro celebrated the new 70,000 square-foot, Research Facility Three, located at Gateway Research Park (GRP) on East Gate City Boulevard with a ribbon cutting ceremony on October 5. The facility is anchored by Core Technology Molding Corporation, a local, minority-owned, plastics company that provides injection molding for major manufacturers around the world.
The former Hayes-Taylor YMCA on East Market Street was demolished on October 29. Hayes Taylor was the first Greensboro Y opened to African Americans in 1939. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University bought the old facility in 2011 and will now construct a 130,000 square-foot Engineering Research and Innovation Complex (ERIC) for students, scheduled to open in late 2021.
Greensboro experienced some major natural disasters this year. A Tornado with 135 mph winds hit the area on April 15. The worst of the damage took place along a four mile stretch from Barber Park to Phillips Avenue on the Eastern part of Guilford County, damaging or destroying more than 300 homes and businesses. Three East Greensboro schools, Hampton, Peeler and Erwin Montessori Elementary Schools were all severely damaged beyond repair and students had to be transferred to different schools. There was one confirmed death and two injuries when a tree fell on two cars traveling on East Cone Boulevard during the storm.
Greensboro then braced for another storm when Hurricane Florence, a Category 4 storm, hit Greensboro just a few months later on September 16. The county received heavy wind and 24 inches of rain that produced flooding in the area and over a million power outages across the state. The flooding also shut down portions of major highways in the Southeastern part of the state. There were 37 storm-related deaths reported – 27 in North Carolina, eight in South Carolina and two in Virginia.
Guilford County experienced another weather phenomenon when two weeks before the first day of winter, 12 inches of snow fell on December 8. The record snowfall closed down some businesses, schools and roads for a week.
Voter ID law
A new Voter ID law passed in the 2018 General Election, when 55 percent of North Carolina voters approved having a constitutional amendment which mandates the use of state-issued photo ID when voting. Legislators called two special sessions after the elections to work on details of the law before the new lawmakers are sworn-in in January. N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the approved bill, but the N.C. Senate voted 33-12 to override his veto on December 18. The N.C. House voted 72-40 to override the veto on December 20.
Acceptable forms of identification within the law, known as S.B. 824, include driver licenses, passports, military and veteran IDs, tribal enrollment cards, school IDs issued by public institutions and eligible private postsecondary institutions that meet the state requirements, state ID cards issued to non-drivers, state and municipal employee IDs and a new type of ID issued by local boards of election.
Federal lawsuits oposing the law were immediately filed by The Southern Coalition for Social Justice and the N.C. NAACP to seek immediate relief, and to request that the court declare that the law violates federal law, and stop it from taking effect.
Community addresses gun violence
March For Our Lives, the national initiative that helped local high school students organize people to advocate for stricter gun laws, made a stop in Greensboro on its national tour. Students across the country and in Greensboro planned a series of walkouts and rallies in response to a school shooting in Parkland, Fl. The fatal attack on February 14 took the lives of 17 students and school staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School.
On October 30, a rally against hate and violence brought thousands of people to Temple Emanuel in Greensboro. The event recognized the 11 lives taken in a hate-fueled shooting spree in a Pittsburgh synagogue. Authorities charged Robert Bowers, 46, with the murders of 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life Congregation Synagogue in a 20 minute attack on the morning of October 27.
Greensboro community members worked to implement Cure Violence, a national model that uses a public health approach to violence prevention in communities. The program utilizes credible community members as violence interrupters, or people who are trained to intercept and mediate a violent situation. Community outreach workers act as mentors to connect people to resources. The program also promotes changing violence norms in communities through public education and community activities. Already in effect in Durham, N.C., Greensboro representatives have used that program’s success as an example to encourage members of the Greensboro City Council and Guilford County Commissioners to support the initiative with funding.