House votes down Greensboro redistricting proposal
Posted June 29, 2015 9:52 p.m. EDT
Updated June 30, 2015 12:32 a.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — By a resounding 35-73 vote, state House lawmakers Monday night refused to accept a bid by Sen. Trudy Wade, R-Guilford, to redraw the Greensboro City Council.
Wade first sent the redistricting proposal to the House in Senate Bill 36. When the House refused to take up that bill, Wade sent it over again, this time attached to House Bill 263, a redistricting proposal for the small town of Trinity.
The bill would eliminate the city's at-large districts, quadruple-bunk four incumbents into a single district, and revoke the mayor's vote on the council.
While a few Republicans spoke in its favor, including House Bill 263's original sponsor Rep. Pat Hurley, R-Randolph, all but one of the Guilford delegation denounced the bill as an attempt to railroad the House into approving the Senate plan.
Rep. Ralph Johnson, D-Guilford, argued that Greensboro residents want and deserve a referendum on the change.
"The sponsor of this bill, she’s united Greensboro, both Democrats and Republicans. She’s done that, and I thank her for that," Johnson said.
Rep. Jon Hardister, R-Guilford, said the feedback he's received on Wade's plan has been "about 40-1 negative, both Republican and Democrat. They don’t feel good about this bill."
"We can amend it and come up with a compromise," Hardister said. "I cannot support this. I think it’s wrong."
Rep. Pat McElraft, R-Carteret, spoke in the plan's defense, saying Wade is acting on behalf of city residents who feel they're not being fairly represented.
"When you have a town council that’s not in districts, it’s a very unfair town council," McElraft argued. "Referendums in Greensboro are not working because the majority continues to rule and the minority has no voice."
But Rep. John Blust, R-Guilford, spoke passionately about his opposition to the plan, both in substance and in the way it arrived on the House floor, aiming his criticism squarely, though not by name, at Wade.
"You all know it is wrong for a city of 285,000 to have a form of government put in place by one person. One person did the design. One person insists that every detail of the plan must be preserved," Blust told the House. "They’re trying to deny us a vote in any detail on this bill."
He said the House would fight to add the referendum to the bill in conference committee.
"If the support’s there for it, as some suggest, what better way to find out if that support is majority support than a secret ballot? That’s shouldn’t be revolutionary," he said.
Blust said he had received "thousands of contacts" about the proposal, overwhelmingly negative. Without a referendum, he predicted the change would generate "a lot of outrage in the community lasting a long time."
"We get accused of a lot of things falsely," he warned his colleagues. "This time, it’s going to be true."
After the motion to accept the Senate's bill failed, Hurley made a motion to not concur, and that passed 108-0.
The measure now goes to a conference committee.