Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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Graham, NC 27253
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Two new members appointed to fill vacancies on Mebane’s Racial Equity Advisory Committee


Mebane’s city council appointed two new members to the city’s Racial Equity Advisory Committee, to fill vacancies that most city residents may not know even existed.

Two of the initial members appointed to the seven-member council last May, Tommy Jones and Dr. Schenita D. Randolph, have recently submitted their resignations.

Jones had been a major advocate for establishing such a committee, which was established by the city council in May 2021; Jones was one of those named to the committee, although he never attended any of its subsequent meetings. Jones’ resignation was submitted October 12, 2021, but Monday night’s meeting was the first time it had been mentioned.


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Parting shot from one REAC member
Meanwhile, Randolph submitted her resignation letter last month and in it, she expressed her irritation that the city council had not given more weight to three of its members’ opinions during their November consideration of a zoning issue for Kenyon Meat Market. Randolph listed herself as the co-director of a program within the Duke Center for REACH Equity, which she described as focusing on addressing inequities of black communities.

The Mebane meat market wanted to build a new store, to replace its location in a strip shopping center along NC 119, on a lot on South Fifth Street in a traditionally residential area of the city that is simultaneously in transition because of the construction of the NC 119 bypass nearby.

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See earlier coverage of the Kenyon Meat Market rezoning request, as heard first at planning board and later by city council:

Planning board recommends approval on 4-3 vote: https://alamancenews.com/planning-board-splits-4-3-on-rezoning-for-new-business-zoning-for-popular-meat-market/

City council approves revised rezoning request unanimously: https://alamancenews.com/rezoning-for-meat-market-divides-residents-largely-along-racial-lines/


Darrin and Renea Kenyon, who are white, had initially proposed that all 1.55 acres of a lot at 1204 South Fifth Street, which runs between South Fifth Street on the front and Foust Road on the back side, be rezoned from office and institutional use to B-2, general business.

Between their appearance at the planning board and the city council’s consideration, the Kenyons lopped a third off the back side of the lot from the rezoning request, promising to leave it undisturbed, asking instead that only the front portion of the lot be rezoned for their future business location.

Much of the Foust Road area is historically black, and three members of the city’s REAC – Randolph, Keisha Bluford, and Travis Albritton – raised questions about the rezoning. They

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Dr. Schenita D. Randolph at the November 2021 city council meeting.
Keisha Bluford, a members of Mebane’s Racial Equity Advisory Committee during city council meeting in November 2021.

suggested that the council delay its consideration of the request; some even suggested or implied that the REAC should, itself, have an opportunity to consider the rezoning and offer its own recommendations on it. Rezoning requests have customarily been handled initially strictly by the city’s planning board.

The council voted 5-0 in favor of the revised rezoning request.

According to Randolph, “Absolutely no consideration was given to the positions of these three members, all who are experts in their areas and have expertise in community engagement and equity.”


Council members said Monday night that they would choose their replacements from among the other 40 applicants who were not initially selected by the council for the committee.

But Alamance News publisher Tom Boney, Jr., present to cover the meeting, questioned how Mebane residents would know there were even vacancies available to be filled since there did not appear to have been any notice of the vacancies or the council’s intention to fill them.

Unlike the planning board (which the council filled at the same meeting), for which the city advertised the vacancy, and solicited applications, no formal public notice was given, city officials acknowledged, for the two REAC vacancies.

Immediately after the item came up on the agenda, councilman Sean Ewing, who filed last week to run for the N.C. state senate seat now held by Republican Amy Galey, made a motion to appoint Erica Bluford and Daniel Troxler to the seats expiring in 2023 and 2025, respectively.

Erica Bluford (right) is a new member of the Racial Equity Advisory Committee, based on city council action Monday night; her mother, Keisha Bluford (left), is already a member of the committee.

Council members unanimously agreed to Ewing’s motion.

Council members said the recentness of the city’s action in appointing the seven-member committee made it unnecessary to solicit applications, but they had decided to just work off the list of those who had applied but not been appointed in 2021.

Both Bluford and Troxler had been among the 47 applicants whose names were considered last May. Each had received one vote, Ewing’s, when council members submitted their recommendations for whom to appoint.

Mayor Ed Hooks had asked each of the five council members to submit 10 top choices for the seven available slots from among 47 applicants who applied for the positions.

Initially, six applicants who had received at least three of the five council members’ votes were appointed in May.

The seventh was selected the following month when council members chose among the seven applicants who had initially received two council members’ votes.


Juneteenth as a paid Mebane holiday?
Ewing also used the occasion to suggest that Mebane should add Juneteenth as a city holiday, and he asked that city staff bring such a proposal ready for the council’s consideration to the next council meeting, on April 4.

Ewing noted that Juneteenth had been made a federal holiday in 2021 and suggested that Mebane should add it to the list of city-financed days off for city employees.


Planning board appointment made
Mebane’s council also filled a vacancy on the city’s planning board.

Lori Oakley, often a vocal member of that board who lives in Mebane but works in the planning department in Roxboro, submitted her resignation to the city in January.

Lori Oakley with then-fellow planning board members (left to right) Larry Teague, Keith Hoover, and Kurt Pearson.

Advertisements were posted seeking applicants. Two applied: Brian Burtram, 219 Emerson Drive; and William Chapman, 1521 St. Andrews Drive.

Council member Montrena Hadley, herself a former planning department employee with the city, recommended Chapman, who was unanimously approved for the remainder of Oakley’s term, through June 30, 2023.

See related editorial page opinion in this week’s edition, “Take Democratic Party politics out of non-partisan city council”: https://alamancenews.com/take-democratic-party-politics-out-of-non-partisan-city-council/

See story on original appointments to the committee from last May https://alamancenews.com/first-members-of-racial-equity-advisory-committee-appointed-by-mebane-city-council/

Other Mebane news in this week’s edition:

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