Current Topic 2

STATEMENT by City Council Member Dan Besse on 4/18/16 accompanying the adoption of a "Resolution Expressing Concern Regarding Inadequately Considered Provisions and Consequences of HB2, and Calling for Review and Reconsideration of the Legislation":

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In the three weeks since this issue first came before this council, increasing attention has been paid to the entirety of House Bill 2, and there has been a slowly spreading recognition that it is about far more than bathrooms.

Adverse reaction within the business community, both within our state and among employers and job-creators nationally, has been intense and continues to spread.  That reaction is already stopping specific job-creating projects in our state, hurting important convention and travel business that directly impacts our city, and risking further economic losses on a continuing basis.

A growing number of other North Carolina cities and towns from the mountains to the coast have adopted resolutions seeking repeal or reconsideration of HB2.

Legal analysis and debate on the bill’s full impacts have continued.  There is no dispute that the bill eliminates previously existing authority by local governments to bar discrimination in public accommodations in our communities.  It also clearly narrows previously existing state anti-discrimination legal rights for individuals, and specifically excludes protection against discrimination in public accommodations or employment on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.  The full impact of the bill on local governments’ authority to use our public works and services contracts to leverage better pay, benefits, or working conditions, eliminate discrimination, or improve opportunities for minorities and women is still under analysis and debate.  But it is clear that the bill at a minimum solidifies and reinforces restrictions on local contracting authority to leverage improvements in local business practices, pay and benefits.  That there is still ongoing discussion about how the courts could choose to apply some of HB2’s provisions only underscores the need for urgent re-examination of the bill as a whole.

And Winston-Salem citizens have weighed in with comments and questions.

One of those questions has been why, directed at us.  Why speak on the issue at all?  What does it have to do with Winston-Salem?  Why risk angering the legislature that has already stripped other authorities and imposed other outside dictates on cities, and appears willing to keep doing so?  What makes us think that legislators even care what we have to say?

These are good questions, and I believe that there are good answers. 
--First, it meets our threshold standard, of having direct impact on city authority and responsibilities.  There is direct adverse impact being felt on our economy, and the potential for more to come.
--The bill may affect what we are doing, and very certainly affects actions that we could have chosen to take for our citizens.
--Moves toward reconsideration are already beginning, including a limited state executive order that deals only with some state employees.  Some legislators from other counties who voted for the bill are now expressing regret and willingness to reconsider.  I believe that members of our own county’s legislative delegation are thoughtful individuals who are inclined to consider and respond to new concerns and developments. 
--Why would Winston-Salem specifically matter?  We have a reputation for not acting hastily or lightly, or on every issue that comes along.  As a result, when cautious and reflective Winston-Salem feels obliged to speak, it can matter more to many thoughtful listeners than resolutions from jurisdictions that may be faster to issue pronouncements on many more matters of current debate.
--And we have also have built a new reputation as a welcoming and diverse community.  That reputation is important to our future.  We need to let our own citizens know that they are still all a welcome part of our community, and let people and businesses around the country know that they are still welcome to come to our city and be a part of creating jobs and opportunity and building community here.
--Finally, on some matters citizens of good conscience have an obligation to speak.  We don’t want to have to explain to children or grandchildren decades from now about why our city was silent in the face of efforts to turn back the pages of the history books to an era when discrimination was treated as acceptable and most public officials were afraid to speak out.  We are not afraid and we will speak out.

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RESOLUTION ADOPTED 4/18/16 BY THE WINSTON-SALEM CITY COUNCIL REGARDING HB2:

RESOLUTION EXPRESSING CONCERN REGARDING INADEQUATELY CONSIDERED PROVISIONS AND CONSEQUENCES OF HB2, AND CALLING FOR REVIEW AND RECONSIDERATION OF THE LEGISLATION

WHEREAS, the NC General Assembly was called into special session on March 23, 2016, supposedly to deal with a single controversial provision in the City of Charlotte’s recent amendments to its long-standing local ordinance regarding nondiscrimination in public accommodations; and

WHEREAS, the special session in fact introduced and enacted sweeping legislation (HB2) dealing with a broad range of individual and local government rights and responsibilities; and

WHEREAS, this action was taken without advance notice of the legislation’s contents, and without opportunity for input from impacted local governments, businesses, or the public, or even most members of our legislature; and

WHEREAS, initially unrecognized consequences of this inadequately considered legislation are beginning to come to public light; and

WHEREAS, those adverse consequences include (but may not be limited to) the following:
--All local ordinances regarding nondiscrimination in public accommodations and employment are revoked and further such ordinances banned;
--There are now no state or local nondiscrimination laws in North Carolina for public accommodations or employment regarding marital status, familial status, sexual orientation or gender identity;
--Local governments are now prohibited from requiring in their contracts with businesses, even for local public work using local public tax revenues, any provisions regarding nondiscrimination or good employment practices, wages and salaries, sick or family leave or other benefits, or other requirements that exceed the generally applicable minimum state requirements for all private employers;
--Local governments may have been stripped of their ability to use their contract bidding process to promote the development of local minority- and women-owned businesses as contractors and subcontractors on many public contracts;
--The decades-old right of employees to sue their employer under state law if fired for a legally prohibited reason was eliminated, making North Carolina one of only two states in the nation without any effectively enforceable state law protecting private sector employees from workplace discrimination based on race, religion, color, national origin, or sex; and

WHEREAS, these inadequately considered changes are already raising concerned questions nationally among businesses and industries considering locating, expanding, or doing business in our state, with potentially severe and far-reaching adverse impacts on our state and local economy; and

WHEREAS, these inadequately considered changes appear to undercut and retard our local efforts to build our community’s economic base and promote development of jobs and economic opportunities, especially for historically disadvantaged and underserved members of our community; and

WHEREAS, these sweeping new restrictions on local efforts to build welcoming communities are severely damaging our state’s reputation nationally as a place where all people are welcomed to take part in our civil society and economy without fear or discrimination;

NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the City of Winston-Salem calls for a public legislative investigation, review, and determination of the nature of these and other concealed or inadequately considered adverse consequences of HB2; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the City of Winston-Salem calls on the members of our Forsyth County state legislative delegation to work to reconsider and undo these inadequately considered and damaging legislative changes during the 2016 legislative short session, and if necessary in subsequent legislative sessions. 

[end resolution; end of section addressing HB 2]



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PREVIOUS CURRENT ISSUE STATEMENTS:
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Political violence of any stripe is unacceptable.  In our responses, we must work to keep our communities safe, without abandoning the historic values of our nation.

Thoughts on the recent acts of terrorism in our nation and abroad.  
November 30, 2015

The world was outraged earlier this month by the terrorist attacks in Paris.  Civilized nations around the world stand in support of the people of France, as well as the peoples of other nations that have been hit by similarly outrageous attacks in recent years.  The United States is working with France and other nations to help track the individual criminals responsible, and to respond appropriately against the criminal organizations (most recently ISIL) which claim responsibility for sponsoring or inspiring the attacks.

Unfortunately, understandable public anxiety about the risk of future violence has taken a dark turn since the Paris attacks.  In particular, some poorly-informed or unscrupulous political leaders have responded to public anxiety by calling for our borders to be closed to refugees who are themselves fleeing the violence and destruction of terror in their own countries.

First, those calls show a poor understanding of the actual process of refugee resettlement in the United States.  We are not dealing here with the European situation of a massive flood of poorly screened refugees across land or sea borders directly from Syria and the Middle East.  The only people who make it to the United States under “refugee” status have been thoroughly screened by U.S. immigration and law enforcement agencies, through a process that takes more than a year (18 to 24 months) to complete.  There are other easier, faster ways to legally cross national borders.  Refugee status in the United States is one of the longest and toughest processes to complete.  Potential terrorists are not likely to attempt it, and if they did would be more likely to be caught than if they went through alternative routes.  More details of the refugee screening process can be found here:  http://www.uscis.gov/refugeescreening

Second, turning back innocent children and parents to the violence and death they are fleeing would be a betrayal of our highest values as a nation.  Of course we should continue to insist on careful screening—but we have that in place now, and should not place additional unproductive barriers in the way of genuine refugees.  A total of fewer than 2,500 Syrians have been permitted into our country under refugee status since the current war began in their country in 2011.  Dozens of these real refugees are already living in our state, some here in the Piedmont Triad area.  For more information on refugees in our area, I encourage looking up the faith-based organization which handles resettlement and assistance for properly admitted refugees here, World Relief High Point.  www.worldreliefhighpoint.org

Third, we should keep in mind that fear and overreaction are exactly what international terrorist organizations attempt to provoke in the nations they attack.  ISIL in particular wants to drive wedges between the western nations and the world’s many Muslims.  Alienation and estrangement serve their purposes and boost their recruitment.  We would be foolish and self-defeating to cooperate in that plan.

Finally, the attack of this past week at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado should remind us that most acts of political violence and terror in our nation have been perpetrated by home-grown villains, not foreign imports.  The criminal who killed three people—including a police officer—and wounded others in Colorado Springs was a South Carolina native with ties to our state as well before moving west.  His declared motivation had nothing to do with the Middle East or Islam.  Instead, he referenced issues raised in fraudulent videos issued this year attacking Planned Parenthood.  Like the attacks in Paris, this cowardly attack was an outrage.  No one should have to fear violence because they are seeking or providing health care.

I encourage my neighbors to join me in declaring that terrorism of any political stripe is unacceptable, and that we will not be pushed by fear into turning against our nation’s historic values of welcoming refugees and the downtrodden to our communities.