Triangle Politics: A weekly look at the local political scene

TriPol: Wake schools equity affairs official to be 'conscience,' 'pest'

From staff reportsDecember 20, 2013 

In addition to promoting diversity and equity efforts, the Wake County school system’s next assistant superintendent will also be “a conscience for the organization.”

Superintendent Jim Merrill briefed the school board this week on the status of filling the new position of Assistant Superintendent for Equity Affairs. The school board had created an Office of Equity And Diversity in this year’s budget before Merrill was hired.

“There are going to be so many things that I expect this person to cover,” Merrill said. “They may not be as much of a doer as they are an observer, an adviser, a collector. If they get too mired in one thing then they don’t have the mobility I need. Involvement in departments, a conscience for the organization. Those sorts of phrases come to mind. A pest.”

School board member Bill Fletcher quipped that the person would be “Merrill’s gadfly.”

Merrill said the position will be posted after the holidays.

“It will be an interesting search and a difficult one,” Merrill said. “But a lot of people will be interested.”

ICLEI membership lapses

After fiercely petitioning the Orange County Board of Commissioners for more than a year to cut ties with Local Governments for Sustainability USA, Hillsborough resident Don O’Leary got his wish.

More than 1,000 local governments – including Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham and Raleigh – are members of ICLEI, a nonprofit global network focused on sustainability, climate change and clean energy.

O’Leary and other conspiracy theorists say the organization undermines individual rights and representative government, advancing the United Nations’ Agenda 21 programs they think could bring communist or fascist rule.

“When I go to Raleigh … I end up defending you folks, and the best I can come up with in your defense is ignorance, apathy and arrogance,” O’Leary told commissioners. “But believe me, it’s a whole lot better than what (other) folks are saying about you.”

They may not share his views, but the county is letting its ICLEI membership expire, Commissioners Chairman Barry Jacobs said. He extended O’Leary a framed, canceled bill for the membership. O’Leary paused, then stepped forward, thanking each commissioner.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do on Tuesday nights,” he said.

Jacobs quipped: “You can come tell jokes for three minutes.”

Triangle officials talk trains

The mayors of Raleigh and Durham were in Washington on Tuesday to talk about trains with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, the former mayor of Charlotte.

Raleigh’s Nancy McFarlane joined leaders from five other cities with Amtrak service, including Durham Mayor Bill Bell and mayors from Tallahassee, Fla., Charleston, W.Va., and Saco, Maine. They met with Foxx as well as staff of the Senate Commerce Committee.

The trip was hosted by the advocacy group Transportation for America, which brings together leaders and businesses from across the country to advocate for increased transit options.

Each city had a different story about how passenger rail is driving its future growth, McFarlane said. “It was really interesting to hear the different perspectives from different parts of the country,” she said.

McFarlane talked with Foxx about plans for Raleigh’s Union Station, which has obtained federal funding but remains short of its funding target. She said she’s working with Bell to bring Foxx to visit the Triangle.

Durham opposes N.C. gun law

The Durham City Council has adopted a resolution “Expressing Opposition to Recent Dangerous Gun Laws Passed By the North Carolina General Assembly.”

Councilman Steve Schewel presented the resolution, which the council passed unanimously at its Thursday work session.

The resolution states, in part, that the council “opposes and deplores the recent state legislation lifting restrictions on concealed weapons in local parks, playgrounds, trails, greenways, restaurants, bars and in cars parked on school properties.”

It calls on the legislature to “reverse those actions or, at a minimum, to grant local governing bodies the authority to limit” where concealed weapons are allowed.

Compiled by T. Keung Hui, Colin Campbell, Tammy Grubb and Jim Wise.

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