Who stands with Skip?
If there is, as former County Commissioner Melvin “Skip” Alston contends, a “silent majority” that supports, as he does, Trudy Wade’s bill that drastically reshapes the Greensboro City Council, it remained deathly silent at Sunday’s local NAACP meeting.
For two tense and angry hours, it became abundantly clear that the people who had packed the sanctuary of Union Memorial United Methodist Church were not buying what Alston was selling. In the end, they overturned, by a landslide, a vote last week by the local NAACP executive committee (on which Alston sits) to endorse Wade’s N.C. Senate bill that eliminates at-large seats, shrinks the council and strips the mayor of her vote.
It was a loud and decisive rebuke.
Alston and local NAACP President Gladys Shipman had earlier resisted taking any action Sunday on the board’s support of Wade’s bill, which was ruled illegal by the state NAACP — and which had not been approved by the general membership. But during a long, hot war of words, the Rev. T. Anthony Spearman stood firm in insisting that the ill-considered endorsement of Wade’s bill needed addressing then and there.
The debate wasn’t settled until the deep, disembodied voice of state NAACP President William Barber ordered the local chapter, via a cellphone held to a mike, to deal with the issue now. “There must be a discussion of that matter today,” Barber said. “The general membership should act.”
Here’s what we reasonably can conclude from what happened after that:
l Most had turned out because of their concern over Wade’s bill.
- Alston, who, in the past has tried to intimidate the opponents with threats and personal attacks, wasn’t very effective at that on Sunday. (When Alston accused Spearman of badgering the flustered Shipman, Spearman, a state NAACP official, shot back: “Mr. Alston, you are the last person to be talking about badgering because you are bullying your way into ruining this branch.”)
- In two consecutive public meetings, Alston has been sharply challenged on his alliance with Wade. It first happened last week at a meeting of local black ministers, the Pulpit Forum, where Wade’s bill was described as “fool’s gold” and Alston’s motives were questioned.
- lDespite those setbacks, Alston and Wade got what they wanted. Wade read a letter from the local NAACP in defense of her bill, which then passed the Senate. That clever exercise in political theater and the misleading impression it made can’t be erased.
But the bill now goes to the House, where its path shouldn’t be as smooth. The NAACP’s resounding veto should hold some sway going forward. And it provides further evidence of the lack of support for Wade’s bill on the council, in the business community, in the black community and among the vast majority of speakers at public meetings. The House should halt this uncalled-for state intrusion into local affairs and put this bill out of our misery.