Updating the debate over the proposed Clarence E. Lighner Public Safety Center since our Indy story 12 days ago. That the proposal's rollout was bungled is now a given; but the question remains, who bungled it? Was it City Manager Russell Allen's fault? Or Mayor Charles Meeker's? Or both?
It was Allen's job to shepherd the Lightner plan through the bureaucracy. But it was Meeker, along with Allen, who decided the plan ready for the City Council's rubber stamp of approval when clearly it wasn't.
Since the rollout, a trio of City Council members has pushed back against the Meeker-Allen combo and their hurry-up-and-vote approach, raising a series of questions that go not just to the details of the building (e.g., the fitness center, the circular stairway) but also to its basic premises -- i.e., its scale, function(s) and location.
Councilors Crowder, Gaylord and Stephenson are asking why this ought to be a single, 17-story tower when it appears that it contains two quite different functions, one of which (emergency operations and technology) requires a very expensive, "hardened" building while the other (police and fire deparment administration) doesn't.
Moreover, the police/fire administrative part of the building is envisioned as a public-friendly space, with easy access -- and a cafe -- for anyone who wants to enter. That's exactly the opposite of what's described for the other, emergency-center portion of the building, which is that it's supposed to be secure -- i.e., difficult to enter or attack.
So, the councilors observe, while the public-friendly space should certainly be located on an accessible downtown site, the secure-from-attack space should probably be somewhere else.
The Rev. William J. Barber II called a press conference today with three dozen of his friends and allies. The state president of the NAACP was bursting with news:
* The U.S. Justice Department's Civil Rights division has initiated its own investigation into the NAACP's complaint about school resegregation in Wayne County, joining ("coordinating with" the U.S. Department of Education's investigation.
* Barber continues to press the Wake County school board for a public airing of the NAACP's case against ending diversity and adopting resegregation in its stead under the veil of "neighborhood schools." He's asked School Board Chair Ron Margiotta, in a letter, to explain how the board decided not to grant his request for 45 minutes at a regular meeting. Was that decided in some secret, and possibly illegal, meeting of the board majority?
* Barber is calling on Gov. Bev Perdue, in another letter, to hold a Jobs Summit with the NAACP and other grassroots organizations that represent the working class and the growing ranks of unemployed and under-employed workers. Then Perdue should call a special session of the General Assembly, the NAACP says, to enact whatever emerges from the Summit. "The General Assembly can't wait until May," when its annual session is scheduled to begin," Barber said. "Too many people are hurting."
Those were the headlines, and needless to say, you're not supposed to step on your big news with more big news, let alone more and more big news. Not if you want a good grade in Public Relations 101. But forget all that, because the really big news is Barber himself: He is absolutely on a roll, inspiring to hear, and uplifting at a time when we can all use a little uplift.