Politics & Government

TriPol: Wake school board relents, lets student musicians play during its meeting

It took some wrangling before a quartet of Apex High School orchestra students could perform at Tuesday’s Wake County school board meeting.

One of the students, Ben Shugg, had signed up for the public-comment period to use his three minutes to have the group play Kansas’ “Carry on Wayward Son.” It was part of an effort by orchestra boosters to encourage the school board to expand the district’s strings programs.

School board attorney Jonathan Blumberg urged the board to modify the meeting agenda to specifically allow the performance. During the ensuing discussion, school board vice chairman Tom Benton said he was concerned, too.

“At the risk of being chastised by a lot of people, I am concerned about the precedent we’re setting,” Benton said. “Are we going to allow different groups to come in and present skits?”

School board chairwoman Christine Kushner said she was trying to find a middle ground between making counsel happy and allowing the presentation.

Blumberg said that the public-comment period is designed for an individual to make comments, and said he’d be content with amending the agenda to show the presentation was not part of public comment.

Kushner said that by making the presentation an information item, it could be next on the agenda.

The motion passed unanimously, and the performance proceeded. The board discussion took nearly four minutes, longer than the performance.

Wake Republicans say goodbye

Monday’s meeting of the Wake County Board of Commissioners was the last for the Republican majority, and the four outgoing members left in style.

Phil Matthews, the defeated chairman, delivered his last State of the County address, highlighting Wake’s recent milestones, including the arrival of its millionth resident and its first $1 billion budget.

Then, at the meeting’s end, it was time to say goodbye. The four defeated members – Matthews, Joe Bryan, Paul Coble and Rich Gianni – gathered for a last photo.

Matthews, and perhaps others, formed an “L” on his forehead with his thumb and index finger. “There’s a dead man walking here,” someone in the group sang.

“It’s been quite a day – quite an emotional ride here,” Matthews said as he concluded a four-year term.

Mixed news on Durham crime

Durham’s violent crime through the first nine months of 2014 was up 19 percent over the same period a year ago.

But Police Chief Jose Lopez told the City Council this week that there is good news. The increase is less than it was after the year’s first six months, when incidents were up 30 percent from last year.

Police have made some “good arrests” this month, the chief added, including two pairs of suspected serial robbers that had targeted convenience stores and pizza delivery drivers.

Mayor Bill Bell said he was particularly pleased about those arrests, but he was dismayed that all four of those arrested were young black men.

“Somehow, we’ve got to get the message out that if they commit these crimes, they’re going to get caught,” Bell said. “Great police work, but a sorry state of affairs when our young African American males are getting involved with these issues.”

Compiled by staff writers T. Keung Hui, Andrew Kenney and Jim Wise.

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