City discusses legislative agenda

City discusses legislative agenda
December 01
07:00 2016

City discusses legislative agenda



The ability to release police body camera footage, moving local municipal elections back to odd- numbered years, juvenile justice and gender equality were among the things considered for the city’s current legislative agenda.

During its meeting on Monday, Nov. 21, the City Council considered the legislative agenda it’ll ask state lawmakers representing Forsyth County to champion. The proposal contained:

*An act that would once again make the body cam and dash cam footage of Winston-Salem Police Department officers public record. The proposed legislation would allow for requests for an officer’s footage to be released or reviewed. It would give the local district attorney’s office and the officer five days to get a court order to prevent its release if it jeopardized a legal proceeding. Once that legal proceeding is over, the footage would have to be released. This is in response to a state law passed this year that prohibits the release of police body and dash cam footage without a court order.

*An act to move the city’s mayoral and City Council elections back to odd-numbered years. The next election would be 2020, with it returning to its old schedule in 2023. This was the first year these races were held on an even-numbered year, because of action by the General Assembly.

*A resolution asking for the age of juvenile court jurisdiction in North Carolina to be raised to 18 years old. North Carolina and New York are the only two states in the country where teens 16 and older are tried as adults.

*A resolution asking the General Assembly to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that guarantees equal rights for women. In the late 1970s, it passed both houses of Congress, but failed to be ratified by the 38 states it needed to become an amendment.

*Legislation to allow the city to recover the cost of publishing housing code complaints and orders in local newspaper if the owner doesn’t pay by making it a lien on their property that could be collected through tax foreclosure.

*A resolution eliminating part of the city charter that requires unaffiliated candidates to get signatures equal to 25 percent of residents eligible to vote in that contest. A state requirement that unaffiliated candidates need signatures equal to 4 percent of eligible voters already overrides this provision.

Council members said the body cam legislation would let the city release footage when the public has questions about police conduct. This is what happened locally after Travis Page died in police custody. Body cam footage of the incident was released earlier this year to help alleviate public concerns after it had been investigated. City Council Member Denise “D.D.” Adams said the current body cam law would’ve prevented that.

“The way the state has written the law, we would have had no ability at all to release the tapes to a community that may be on edge,” she said.

Robert Clark, the sole Republican on the council, said most of the items would be “dead on arrival” and said that moving the City Council elections back to odd-numbered years, when far less people vote, was “voter suppression.”

Many other council members took exception to the words “voter suppression,” saying it evoked Jim Crow laws and the recently overturned state voter ID law. They said the City Council race got drowned out by the presidential race and other contests on a lengthy ballot.  Adams and City Council member Dan Besse, who have had challengers in previous elections, said they had none this time, something they attribute to it being a presidential year.

Ultimately, the legislative package was divided. At the request of City Council Member James Taylor, the resolution on juvenile jurisdiction was voted on separately in order to get unanimous consent on it. The item on election timing was sent back to committee to consider a suggestion by Clark that the election should be moved to mid-term years.  The rest of the pack-age, along with sending that one item back to committee, passed 6-2. Council members Vivian Burke and Molly Leight voted against it. Leight didn’t think the election item should have been removed and Burke felt Clark’s issues should have been brought up originally in committee.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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