WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – The Wilmington City Council discussed a number of items during its regular meeting Tuesday night.
Council members voted 6-1, with Kevin Spears casting the dissenting vote, to adopt an ordinance that would prohibit discrimination in public accommodations within city limits on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy), or national origin.
“This ordinance is one step in a process of building a more welcoming city,” Mayor Bill Saffo said. “As I’ve said before, it is not the final step. While this represents progress, and I do admit it does represent progress, we’ve heard from some community members tonight and at our previous meeting that it could go further.”
Saffo said he would be putting together a task force that would look for ways to enhance protections and find additional opportunities to make Wilmington more welcoming.
“This task force will include many voices that expressed concerns for a lack of protections in our city and state,” said Saffo, who added that Councilman Spears will be a member of the task force. “It will include a diversity of voices, different perspectives, and a professional facilitator with experience in the area.”
Saffo admitted that the ordinance didn’t go as far as some had hope, but this is a “step in the right direction.”
“Black Lives Do Matter” Mural extended
City council voted 5-2 (Councilmen Neil Anderson and Charlie Rivenbark dissenting) to approve a resolution that extends the display of the “Black Lives Do Matter: End Racism Now” mural for another year — to Sept. 26, 2022.
“I sponsored this resolution as a way of saying I appreciate the initiative but I don’t think we’re quite done with the mission, we still have some unfinished business. It’s a kind gesture but we just need more. But I think this vote of confidence from this council and this city has been a step in the right direction for what we want to be, for what this city wants to be, for how citizens of this city want to go forward,” Spears said.
The art piece, which was painted by local artists last year during the nationwide protests over the murder of George Floyd, was approved during an Aug. 2020 city council meeting to be displayed at Jervay Memorial Park for a period of one year.
One council member wasn’t enthusiastic about extending the mural’s display for another year.
“I knew when we passed this last year that would not be the end of it. And I fully expect it to come back every year, it’ll never go away. I was against it then and I’m against it tonight. I don’t think it is as uniting as you think it is, I think it’s more divisive — it just is,” Rivenbark said.
New 25 mph change policy
The council also voted to approve the formalization of a process to lower the speed limit of some Wilmington roads. According to the new policy, it would only apply to minor roads with an existing speed limit of 35 mph and that 25 mph would be the presumed speed limit to be considered.
Changes would only be made as part of an area-wide reduction, and not for individual streets that would be inconsistent with the surrounding residential areas.
“Staff will coordinate with the applicant to determine a preliminary subject area, using neighborhood entry and exit points, geographic features, traffic patterns, etc.,” according to the policy.
Those applying for the speed change would be required to start a petition and gather the signatures of at least two-thirds of owners/occupants of the homes in the area.
Staff would verify the signatures and create an ordinance that would eventually need to be approved by city council during a public meeting.
Signage would be put in place for a minimum of 25 days to alert residents to any public meeting about the proposed speed limit change.
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