Triangle Politics A weekly look at the local political scene

Tension flares at Raleigh City Council meeting

April 20, 2012 

A heated exchange between two Raleigh City Council members led to a bit of unwanted physical contact this week.

Thomas Crowder touched the arm of Mary-Ann Baldwin as he was trying to finish a comment about the need for tougher penalties for construction crews that make noise in neighborhoods. The two sit next to each other at the end of a long, crescent-shaped table.

“Please keep your hands off me in the future,” Baldwin said.

Asked later about the incident, Crowder said he “barely touched” Baldwin but would be more careful to avoid making contact in the future.

“I’m sorry if she took that as a threatening gesture,” Crowder said. “I meant it more as one of, ‘Let’s calm down and allow me the courtesy to complete my sentence.’”

Baldwin said the gesture was inappropriate.

“His over-exuberance made me uncomfortable,” she said. “While I did interrupt him, I was trying to correct a number of misstatements he had made.”

Baldwin chairs a committee that recommended no changes to current policy on construction noise. Recently, neighbors off Hillsborough Street complained about noise from the nearby Stanhope student housing project.

ACLU looks at academies

The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is taking a look at Wake County’s two proposed single-sex leadership academies to see whether they meet constitutional guidelines for such schools.

The group made a request for a voluminous pile of school system records and is examining them to see whether it met the constitutional goal of having an “exceedingly persuasive justification” for creating schools that discriminate on the basis of gender.

“We at the ACLU have found no sound education data that would support a finding that single-sex education is substantially related to improving educational outcomes,” said Sarah Preston, policy director of the state ACLU.

As it mines emails and other county records, the group is also talking to parents with views on the subject, Preston said. A decision on whether to take further action could come as soon as next week.

The ACLU likely will face a significant burden if it tries to stop or slow the academies’ startup as public school systems across the country and as close as Guilford County have offered single-sex schools for years.

Lessons from Pittsburgh

More than 100 Wake County elected and government officials and business and community leaders are heading to Pittsburgh this weekend to see what they can learn from the Steel City.

This year’s Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Inter-City Visit and Leadership Conference will concentrate on how Pittsburgh’s economy has rebounded since the collapse of the steel industry.

Other topics include the natural gas extraction method known as fracking and a program called the Pittsburgh Promise, which guarantees up to $40,000 in scholarship money for high school graduates.

The chamber of commerce will cover the costs for some elected officials making the trip. But in the case of Raleigh, which is sending seven City Council members, the city is picking up the $999-per-person cost for two of them.

Party wants resolution read

The Durham County Republican Party has made it known that it favors the proposed “marriage amendment” to the state constitution, which goes to voters in the May 8 primary election.

In a resolution sent to the county Board of Commissioners and the City Council, the party announced its support for Amendment 1, which specifies that “marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be recognized or valid in this State.”

The Republicans asked the council and commissioners to read their resolution into the public record at one of their meetings.

Among other things, the resolution states, the amendment is needed to protect “us from fundamental change in our law by the judiciary or the legislature without a vote of the people.”

Political Trails

Democratic candidates for governor and lieutenant governor have been invited to speak to the Democratic Women of Wake County on Thursday at the N.C. State University Club, 4200 Hillsborough St., Raleigh. Reception with cash bar begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the program at 7:15 p.m. The cost is $18 for members and $20 for nonmembers having dinner, and $5 for anyone wishing to attend and not eat. Reservations: email democraticwomenwakecounty@gmail.com or call 919-467-0151 by 10 a.m. Tuesday.

Compiled by Matt Garfield, Thomas Goldsmith, T. Keung Hui and Jim Wise

Got a tip, item or coming event? Fax Triangle Politics at 919-829-4529, or send e-mail to metroeds@newsobserver.com. Send items by noon Thursday.

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