Council adopts amendments to address goals for the Fair Housing Steering Committee

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 5, 2018

SALISBURY — The City Council established goals for the Fair Housing Steering Committee at its meeting Tuesday.

The council added amendments to address what the goals of the committee will be and who will be on it. City Planner Kyle Harris and Anne Little, staff liaison for the Human Relations Council, presented the plan.

“I couldn’t feel happier with the partnership with the Human Relations Council and the Housing Advocacy Commission on this,” said Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield, who worked to draft the amendments. “With you two guys, we’re more on the right path. Hopefully, we set the standard for the communities.”

Councilman Brian Miller said he wanted the amendments to guide the process of selecting committee members. Mayor Al Heggins said that was discussed when working on the amendments.

“We talked about qualifications and experiences,” Heggins said. “One of the things that we were concerned about that we didn’t want the selection criteria so strict and so tight that it excluded people’s daily living and the experiences that they have. We want to add value to what people are living.”

After a discussion and tabling the amendments to the end of the meeting, Harris and Little presented an amendment reading, “It is the intent of City Council that the committee be representative of the community and that it maintains a fair and balanced diversity of perspectives.”

Miller said he wants landlords and tenants to be included in the Fair Housing Steering Committee and wants language to address that. Other council members said they want the language to be broad. Mayor Pro Tem David Post said the bylaws of the committee will address the “nitty gritty” and address the specifics of members.

Several people spoke during the public-comment period about the need for a committee to address fair housing. Kim Porter of Truth, Hope, Healing and Equity Commission said as he was leaving class at Catawba College Tuesday, a student told him that before going to college she was living out of a car and that her mother was homeless. He said the committee must concentrate on having members with experience.

“We honestly mean someone who lives there,” Porter said. “We mean someone who has experienced it.”

Melissa Summers said she has worked with veterans and mothers who have lived in bad conditions and is interested in joining the committee.

The council also agreed to change the start time of its meetings to 6 p.m.

“It aligns us more with people who work,” Sheffield said. “Our downtown businesses right here, they don’t even close till 6 o’clock.”

Post said he thinks the decision should be made at the organizational meeting, which is the first meeting a council has after an election. He also raised concerns about late meetings.

“We’ve had some fairly long meetings that have gone to 10, 11 o’clock, and that means if they start at 6, they could go to 11, 12 o’clock,” Post said. “Not everyone like me is a night owl.”

Miller said he was in favor of the 6 p.m. start time and thinks Post’s concerns can be resolved if the council goes into closed session before the meetings.

“I would like to add to Councilwoman Sheffield’s point about starting at 6. We do that but we schedule closed sessions before the council meetings begin,” Miller said. “We’ve had attorneys that got a retainer that have sat through four hours of our zoning cases and other things. They could come just for the closed session meeting to speak for about 30 minutes, and then they could go back on their way.”

Councilwoman Karen Alexander agreed with both Sheffield and Miller, saying downtown business owners would be able to attend the meetings.

The 6 p.m. start time will begin with the next council meeting Jan. 2.

The council discussed with City Engineer Wendy Brindle how to address bike and scooter sharing. Brindle said she would have the Technical Review Committee come up with a draft ordinance and get council members’ input.

The council received an update about the transition from Fibrant to Hotwire. Max Kipfer, executive vice president and regional manager of Hotwire, gave a presentation with the team and answered questions. They said they expect the transition process to take another three to four months as they change hardware, which requires workers to go to customer’s homes.

The council recognized Alex Clark, the ’Tis the Season Spectacular Committee, and Transgender Day of Remembrance and paid tribute to the memory of A’yanna Allen.