Supporters show up to support mayor, voice concerns
At High Point City Council’s special called meeting Thursday morning, they made their presence known and their voices heard.
They are the supporters of Mayor Bernita Sims.
There were about 130 people in attendance at the meeting, which was called by fellow council members to formally ask for Sims’ resignation.
Council passed a motion 6-3 asking for the resignation, “along racial lines,” yelled one man in the back of the room.
The six council members who voted for the motion for the mayor to resign are white. The three who voted against, including Sims, are African-American.
A letter, written by the Black Leadership Roundtable, which includes faith leaders and others in the black community, has been circulating, gathering signatures for those who support Sims.
“The petition started in a reorganizational meeting of the roundtable. We came together en masse and decided what our strategies would be to approach this situation,” said the Rev. Maurice Bolden. “The first was to appear en masse, secondly to sign the letter.”
Bolden presented the letters, a thick stack of about 250 of them, signed by residents of High Point.
“The letter was disseminated by email, snail mail and by any means necessary to get it in the hands of the constituents who support the mayor in her decision to remain in office,” Bolden said.
The letter addressed the City Council and said residents “find it profoundly disappointing and unacceptable, to find our City Council focusing so much of its time and energy on the mayor’s personal matters. These issues do not involve public business and have no place in the Council’s discourse.”
The letter goes on to insist that the council prioritize its focus and attention on the pressing issues of the community, including unemployment, business and economic development, suitable and affordable housing, and public safety.
“Those who are asking for her resignation were organized,” Bolden said later outside the meeting. “It was our intention to meet fire with fire. They can not unseat an elected official. Their primary intention is to besmirch her name. This is a resemblance to that kind of situation. I know when we are being pushed into a cubicle along racial divides.”
TURNING THE TABLES
Charity Belton, president of the Washington Street Business Association, openly asked for Councilwoman Becky Smothers’ resignation.
“If it is an issue of performance, I would like for each of you all to address that,” Belton said. “I have not seen any performance issues, and you all have not addressed any performance issues as it relates to her (Sims) personal issues which should stay personal. I believe, since you asked her to resign, we as citizens should ask Becky Smothers to resign if it is a performance issue. For the first time, we have a mayor to show up at our events.”
Belton stood at the podium and pointed her finger at the dais. “We are going to take this seriously. We are going to be watching each and every one of you from this day forward. We are going to hold you all responsible. I am going to hold each and every one of you accountable.”
‘LEAVE US OUT OF IT’
Smothers said the council had been bombarded by their constituents about Sims’ personal problems.
“All we did today was express formal council opinions,” Smothers said. “And as I told the media, leave us alone and let us do what we were elected to do. It’s not just them, it’s the community, too. For those who want to continue to divide the community, leave us out of it.”
The Rev. Frank Thomas, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church, replied to Smothers’ comment by telling her that if she wants the media out, she should not respond.
“Writing a letter to the editor is not saying to the media ‘leave us alone,’ ” Thomas said. “If this is a private matter, then I believe that members of council should have responded to the media with two words: no comment. Where you think that today may have been throwing water on the flame, I believe that you have thrown gas on the flame. Where there might have been just a small flicker, it may now turn into an inferno.”
Those looking to retrieve a copy of the letter can contact a minister on the High Point Minister’s Conference.
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