January 17, 2013The Greensboro City Council is always trying to get more money out of its citizens, and one proposal for the legislative agenda would raise the motor vehicle registration fee from $10 to $15.
The council went over its proposed 2013 legislative agenda at a Thursday, Jan. 10 work session in the plaza level conference room at city hall.
Assistant City Attorney Tom Carruthers said the Greensboro Transit Authority (GTA) is asking the City Council to request that the North Carolina General Assembly raise assessment fees by 50 percent from $10 to $15 per vehicle.
Carruthers said, "Ridership in the City of Greensboro is subsidized and that means they are incurring higher costs and they need an additional funding source."
The additional revenue from the 50 percent rate hike is estimated to be about $1 million, which Carruthers said would be used to create a new route on Randleman Road and defray additional costs GTA may have as ridership increases.
Another item discussed was a state statute to allow Greensboro to treat parking tickets like unpaid taxes. Such a change would require people to pay their tickets before getting tags renewed.
Carruthers said legislation already requires payment of vehicle taxes before tags are renewed by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Counties no longer collect those taxes.
So the request to the state legislature would be to require unpaid parking tickets to be paid before a license plate is renewed and allow unpaid parking tickets to be collected at the DMV window.
Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter expressed skepticism about that move and DMV offices in general. "Some closed down because of their irregularities in their 'collections,' as such, to put it nicely," she said.
The council also considered asking the state to make changes to the breast cancer diagnosis standard of care to factor in breast density.
Dense breast tissue makes cancer harder to diagnose, and the suggested changes would require women to be informed about their breast density levels, risk factors and supplemental screenings. That is the only medical issue the council has on its legislative agenda.
The Jordan Lake Rules, which have already been delayed by two years by a Republican controlled legislature that is not likely to enforce them as they are, were also discussed.
Carruthers presented changes he said the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) should make to three of the 13 rules.
The changes included giving implementation responsibility to DENR rather than local governments, relaxing the permitted use table and clarifying the existing development rule to make retrofitting water quality devices voluntary.
Mayor Robbie Perkins recommended that councilmembers contact North Carolina state Sen. Trudy Wade, who served on the council for five years and resigned last month after being elected to the state Senate in November.
After discussing the legislative agenda the council also discussed an ordinance that would permit street performers in downtown Greensboro and distinguish them from panhandlers.
The discussion heated up when Abuzuaiter suggested that the current noise ordinance might make the street performances illegal.
"I can guarantee you on busking, if you have a person who has a rather loud voice, you're going to be 20 feet away, that decibel reading is going be 85," Abuzuaiter said.
The current noise ordinance is the most lenient in the state with a 75 decibel limit, but Abuzuaiter said she doubted cities with lower limits enforced them.
City Manager Denise Turner Roth said that Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann had placed the noise ordinance on the agenda for the Jan. 15 council meeting. Hoffmann's resolution, which was removed from the agenda, would have lowered Greensboro's limit to 65 decibels.
Police Attorney Jim Clark said that Greene Street Club, which was the cause of most of the noise complaints that prompted passage of the ordinance last year, already had three violations. Three violations trigger enforcement beyond civil penalties, including abatement actions to shut down some of the club's activities.
Abuzuaiter questioned going back and changing the ordinance when problem clubs were already being addressed by the current ordinance. "They are starting enforcement. You have one club that is violating that. Why are we going to go back and punish everyone else again?" she asked.
Councilmember Nancy Vaughan said she was not aware the noise ordinance would be on the upcoming agenda, and that she felt the other councilmembers should have been notified before an issue as divisive as the noise ordinance is put on an agenda.
"I think we should have a discussion before it's on the agenda," said Vaughan.
"That's what we're doing," said Perkins. Vaughan said that the item was on the agenda already and called Perkins "obtuse."
"Now we're opening up this huge can of worms and you have no idea what you just invited," Vaughan said.
Perkins maintained he thought the matter was being handled appropriately, but after the meeting the item was removed from the agenda.