Triangle Politics

One voice for the Wake school board? Not likely

May 26, 2012 

Some Wake County school board members are hung up on the idea of the board speaking with “one voice or none at all” when it comes to supporting the new student assignment plan.

During the often frank discussion at this week’s meeting, Superintendent Tony Tata backed the idea that once a vote is taken, the board has spoken and decisions must be supported as decided.

“The board should be helping us implement this assignment plan so that we can take care of 150,000 students that will be going to school next year,” Tata said. “If there was overwhelming disagreement, then the assignment plan should have been voted against or voted upon. But we’re in this netherworld where the new board never voted for or against it.”

Tata added that “it’s not helpful if the board speaks with many voices about support for or against the plan.”

But school board member Jim Martin, a vocal critic of the new assignment plan, balked at Tata’s request.

“How are we going to go forward if I’m told one voice or not at all?” Martin said. “How do we work a disagreement? How do we work a dissent? How do we work a change?”

Small town, big impact

Months before North Carolina’s amendment against same-sex marriage passed, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt was already working with others behind the scenes to find ways to preserve public domestic partner benefits.

The day after the amendment passed, Kleinschmidt got a call from a White House aide giving him a heads up that President Barack Obama would be endorsing same-sex marriage that afternoon.

Kleinschmidt, who is gay, was on CNN that week, too, and MSNBC a few months back, opposing the amendment.

Now the public interest attorney is working with a coalition of lawyers on a litigation strategy to challenge the constitutional amendment that recognizes one man and one woman as the only valid legal union in the state.

Kleinschmidt says he didn’t ask why the White House called but thinks “the simple answer is probably the right one.”

“I mean, I am mayor of a well-known town with a national brand in a purple state who is openly gay and a well-known activist on the issue,” he says. “I think they … reached out to me because I’m in that position.”

Chapel Hill’s not a small town anymore, Kleinschmidt says.

“We are a town that’s much bigger than our population, at least (in terms of) our impact on state and national issues,” he says. “I think it’s a well-deserved reputation as people look to us to be leaders. When I go to mayor’s conferences, all I have to do is say, ‘Hey, I’m Mark, the mayor of Chapel Hill.’ … I don’t have to say, ‘North Carolina.’ ”

Can you police ugly?

The Durham City Council is considering changing its housing rules. One of the big changes is adding language aimed at preventing mold in rental housing – a problem linked to asthma.

But the proposed code changes also take on aesthetic problems, like those beat-up sofas that code administrator Rick Hester says you can see on nearly every other porch in parts of Northeast Central Durham.

The changes go to a public hearing June 4. Councilwoman Cora Cole-McFadden has asked Hester to go a step further, investigating inadequate coverings on windows, such as rags. “If a window isn’t covered you are inviting someone to come and often look in and often break in,” Cole-McFadden says.

Hester says he’ll take a look at it but makes no promises.

“Ugly is not a violation,” he says.

Political trail

• A rally for equal rights in the wake of the recent same-sex marriage amendment vote will take place at the State Capitol, 7. E. Morgan St. in downtown Raleigh at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Compiled by staff writers T. Keung Hui, Katelyn Ferral and correspondent Virginia Bridges.

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