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N.C. Opinions: Greensboro

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Protest petitions at risk

From an editorial in the Greensboro News & Record on Friday:

Protest petitions are back on the menu for state lawmakers, who have made their demise one of the ingredients in a heaping stew of potluck legislation – much of it hastily conceived and ill-considered – that began, believe it or not, as a bill regulating headlights.

The bill’s recipe: Almost anything goes, from banning the public release of mug shots to allowing private groups to serve summonses for eviction.

The imminent demise of the protest petition especially resonates. By eliminating the leverage these petitions give adjacent property owners to oppose unwanted development, lawmakers would break what had been fixed by sapping more power from ordinary citizens and muffling their voices.

This is the second consecutive year that lawmakers have attempted to eliminate protest petitions statewide.

Last year’s attempt faded in the face of some local resistance; the prospects for such a reprieve this year appear to be slim to none.

Opponents of protest petitions say they stifle growth and progress by placing too much power in too few hands.

You could argue as well that threat of a protest petition encourages more thoughtful and collaborative development through negotiation and compromise.

Could protest petitions have been improved? Yes. Is there a valid argument for lowering the super majority threshold?

Possibly so. But we may never hear it.

Making this witches’ brew of legislation even harder to swallow was been the abject lack of open debate and public input.

This process has been shrouded in darkness.

Headlight bill indeed.

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