Every city in the Triad should be thankful for the plaintiffs in the Greensboro redistricting trial that began this week in the federal courthouse.
When state Sen. Trudy Wade introduced legislation that changed Greensboro City Council districts and the makeup of the council, they stood up to say that their 14th Amendment rights were being curtailed.
We should be thankful for the defendant, too: the Guilford County Board of Elections and Guilford County Attorney Mark Paine, who opted not to mount a defense against the complaint because, as Paine attorney explained, they do not care how the districts are drawn, only that fair and impartial elections take place within them.
But had it not been for the suit itself, the thing may have gone through.
Back in 2015, SB 36 proposed to turn the city’s five council districts into eight, remove the at-large seats and take away the mayor’s vote except in case of a tie. The new configuration split existing districts, double-bunked all four African-Americans on council into two districts and appeared to increase potential Republican presence on council from two or three of nine to four of eight.[pullquote]Had it not been for the lawsuit, the Greensboro political landscape would look very different.[/pullquote]
It also moved the election up a month, with space on the November ballot only in the event of a runoff. And it locks the deal in place by preventing city government from making any rules about its own make-up and processes.
Let us remember that the only Greensboro councilmember who spoke well of this plan was Tony Wilkins, who for the first time invoked the anonymous “Big Daddy” who runs things in Raleigh upon its introduction. Former councilman and apparent sore loser Jim Kee also supported Wade’s gambit, along with Skip Alston and Earl Jones, two other former elected officials currently surviving in the wilderness.
Let us remember, too, that this bill passed both the state Senate and House, with the support of Rep. John Faircloth, the only Guilford County representative who voted for it.
And remember, too, that had this law stood unchallenged, most city business — along with half the councilmembers — would run through Sen. Trudy Wade.