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This week in government: New Hanover Boards of Education and Commissioners, Wilmington City Council

New Hanover County and Wilmington
Benjamin Schachtman
New Hanover County commissioners, Wilmington city council members, and the county's school board all meet this week.

County commissioners will hear the latest on $45 million in Covid-relief funds, the school board will revisit masks and the district's relationship with in-school law enforcement officers, and the City of Wilmington will consider extending the popular, but controversial 'Black Lives Do Matter' mural.

Board of Commissioners

It looks to be a quiet meeting — or, at least, on paper, there are always last-minute surprises — but we will hear an update on how the county will spend $45 million in Covid-relief funds; the latest change looks to be more administrative support for the housing support programs, definitely something the public has been clamoring for.

Also, while it might not get mentioned this meeting, on Friday, county commissioners made a surprise announcement, allowing the county manager to tap into $350 million in hospital sale funds to address youth gun violence and school safety.

Related: NHC commissioners will tap $350 million in hospital sale funds to address school safety

That move was essentially an 'audible' by Chair Julia Olson-Boseman, and few details were given. Commissioners might offer some more parameters, like whether or not the county manager will be constrained by the usual spending rules. Under the county's current regulations, a county manager can spend only up to $90,000 before a vote from the board is required (for construction, there's a much higher limit of $500,000).

Board of Education

The board will revisit policy 5120, which outlines the district's relationship with law enforcement, specifically for School Resource Officers (SROs) in the schools. Advocates, including the North Carolina ACLU, and parents have expressed concerns over the current arrangement, which appears to allow SROs to detain and interrogate students without their parents present — a violation of state law and U.S. Supreme Court precedent.

Related: Deep Dive: Initially eager to pass SRO policy, New Hanover school board now waffles amid criticism

After pushback and an in-depth piece from WHQR, the board put the policy's second reading on hold last month.

In accordance with state requirements, the board will also revisit the mask requirements for the district. Currently, the district requires masks for all students, staff, and visitors. The issue has drawn heated, even hostile commentary from the public in the past — and a recent mandate from the county's health department drew serious opposition (as well as deranged comparisons to the Holocaust).

The board will also review new policies — but as of Sunday afternoon, they were not posted on the district's meeting agenda site. This has been a bone of contention with a variety of groups (including members of the media). Unlike the City of Wilmington and New Hanover County, which post information three or four days ahead of time, the district has not consistently provided advanced material to the public or media.

City of Wilmington

The city will vote on a roughly quarter-million dolalr investment in technology allowing the Wilmington Police Department access to the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network. Chief Donny Williams has been beating the drum for this investment for some time; it would allow the police department to link ballistic evidence — like shell casings and bullets — to firearms used in other crimes around the country. Williams said acquiring the technology would be a "game-changer" for WPD, which is struggling to deal with serious gun violence in the city.

Councilman Kevin Spears has proposed extending the tenure of the 'Black Lives Do Matter' mural by another year. The initial proposal (before the 'do' was added) met with considerable pushback and concerns, most vocally from councilman Charlie Rivenbark, who claimed the installation would be racially divisive and would harm the self-esteem of white children; while many criticized Rivenbark, some going as far as calling him a white supremacist, public records searches at the time showed he received upward of a hundred emails supporting his position.

More info

You find agendas and watch the meetings live using the links below:

  • New Hanover County Board of Commissioners agenda — Watch live, Tuesday, September 7, 4 p.m.
  • New Hanover County Board of Education agenda — Watch live (via YouTube), Tuesday, September 7, 5:30 p.m.
  • City of Wilmington Council agenda watch
Ben Schachtman is a journalist and editor with a focus on local government accountability. He began reporting for Port City Daily in the Wilmington area in 2016 and took over as managing editor there in 2018. He’s a graduate of Rutgers College and later received his MA from NYU and his PhD from SUNY-Stony Brook, both in English Literature.