Marion City Council to state: Repeal House Bill 2

The Marion City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt a resolution calling for the state of North Carolina to repeal the highly controversial House Bill 2.

Even though the resolution has not been drafted, City Council members unanimously support the repeal of the new state law, which critics say discriminates against the LGBT community and limits local government control in North Carolina.

“It's discriminatory,” said Councilman Don Ramsey. “It's an economic disaster to our state. We didn't elect state legislators to micromanage local governments.”

The discussion about this legislation was brought up at the conclusion of the City Council’s regular meeting. Ramsey said the council should consider adopting a non-binding resolution stating that this should be repealed.

He added the General Assembly rushed to pass this law with no transparency or public hearings.

“They didn’t do the right thing,” said Ramsey.

House Bill 2 was approved late last month by the Republican-led General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory. It was a swift response to Charlotte’s ordinance approved in February that would have extended protections to gays and lesbians as well as bisexual and transgender people when they use hotels, restaurants, stores and other businesses. The ordinance approved by the Charlotte City Council also would have allowed transgender people to use a restroom aligned with their gender identity, rather than how they were born at birth. House Bill 2 overturns Charlotte’s ordinance.

But the new law covers other areas besides rights for the LGBT community and transgender people using a restroom. It limits how people pursue claims of discrimination because of race, religion, color, national origin, biological sex or handicap in the state courts. House Bill 2 also means a city or county cannot set their own minimum wage standard for private employers. It also overturns and eliminates all existing local ordinances about family leave policies, child welfare protections and limits on the number of consecutive hours an employee may be required to work without a break or health insurance standards, according to information provided by Ramsey.

Since the governor signed House Bill 2 into law, North Carolina has faced intense and nationwide criticism from advocates for the LGBT community, civil rights groups and major corporations. On Tuesday, PayPal announced it would cancel its plans for expansion in Charlotte because of House Bill 2. This expansion would have created 400 jobs. Other major companies are considering similar actions. The NBA’s all-star game in Charlotte could be in jeopardy, according to a story by the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, Ramsey said the Marion City Council should voice its objection to House Bill 2 and call for its repeal. He told The McDowell News he was not aware of other cities and towns in North Carolina that have adopted or planning to adopt similar resolutions.

Ramsey’s proposal was supported by other council members.

City of Marion officials said North Carolina’s reputation is at stake.

“The last thing we want to be known for is discrimination,” said Councilwoman Juanita Doggett. “I am opposed to any form of discrimination.”

Ramsey’s motion was seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Billy Martin and approved without dissent.

“I think that is a unanimous vote of the Marion City Council,” said Mayor Steve Little.

Little added he is not able to vote on matters like this unless there is a tie. But he added he would've voted in favor of calling for the repeal of House Bill 2.

Interestingly, the McDowell County Commissioners voted unanimously last month to adopt a resolution voicing their opposition to Charlotte’s ordinance. At their regular March meeting, the commissioners said they don’t want their wives and children in a restroom with a man who claims to be a woman. This vote was taken before the state approved House Bill 2.

In other business, the City Council agreed to hold a ribbon-cutting and grand opening ceremony for the new Mount Ida Wilderness Area on Friday, April 15 at 1 p.m. The ribbon-cutting will take place at the picnic shelter at the top of Mount Ida Drive, located off of Young’s Fork Road, which can be found off of Rutherford Road just north of Ideal Rentals and Jalapeno Fresh Grill.

The Mount Ida Wilderness Area includes a gravel access road and parking lot, picnic shelter and a one-half mile moderate to strenuous trail to the top of city-owned property on Mount Ida overlooking downtown Marion. The city acquired 36 acres on the top of Mount Ida in 2007, using state and federal grant money. Construction of the access road, picnic shelter and trail took place over the past year and was completed by city crews, contractors, American Conservation Corps volunteers and the N.C. Forest Service’s BRIDGE crew, according to city officials.

“I would note that parking is limited at the top of the mountain, so the city encourages people attending the ribbon cutting to car pool if possible,” said City Manager Bob Boyette.

After the ribbon cutting, the Mount Ida Wilderness Area will be open to the public during daylight hours. “The public is invited to participate in the ribbon-cutting and to enjoy the beautiful scenery and views on Mount Ida,” reads an announcement from the city.

In other business, the Marion City Council:

• Presented the city’s water treatment plant with an award from the western section of the N.C. Waterworks Operators Association. This award recognizes that the plant has met area wide optimization goals from 2002 through 2014 Marion and has clean and pure drinking water. The award commends the “outstanding performance by all water treatment staff members.” Little presented the award to Chief Operator Ben Worley and Plant Superintendent Larry Carver.

• Approved the city’s landscaping contract with Lawrence Moore. The contract is for three years and will be $725 a week.

• Heard an update on the repairs to Carson Street, which was damaged due to the unfinished demolition of the old Drexel Heritage Furniture plant. This damage forced city officials to close that street to through traffic. The section of Carson Street closed to through traffic is between Blue Ridge and Murray streets. Public Works Director Brant Sikes said Tuesday an easement has been received from the property owner Fred Godley and the work to repair the street should start Friday or Monday. The repairs should take around two weeks, depending on the weather.

• Endorsed McDowell Economic Development Association’s application for a $275,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission. If awarded, this grant would pay for an economic impact study on the U.S. 221 South widening project.

• Agreed to hold pre-budget workshops on May 9 and May 24.

• Commended Councilman Everette Clark for his 44 years of service to Marion’s government. Clark first became a city councilman on April 4, 1972. He later was Marion’s mayor.

• Announced that more than 100 people have so far visited the railroad exhibit at the former Laughridge Furniture building. Many more people will see it especially when school groups are brought there, said Boyette.

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