Garner mayor faces community leaders

April 15, 2008 3:51:15 PM PDT
The mayor of Garner was back on the hot seat Tuesday over comments he made about school kids from southeast Raleigh.

He said Garner gets a disproportionate amount of low-income kids bussed in, which he says is bad for everybody.

Tuesday he faced community leaders and his own words.

"I've been accused of being a racist," Mayor Ronnie Williams said last week. He acknowledged that his statements about southeast Raleigh students were controversial. Others agreed.

"To me, as an individual, it hurt deeply," community activist Bruce Lightner said.

Lightner says Williams may be right about Garner having too many low-income students bussed in, but he shouldn't have singled out southeast Raleigh.

"If you're talking about, we don't want anymore poor students or low, free and reduced lunch students, then we need to talk about that," Lightner said.

"But if you're just saying we don't want anymore students from southeast Raleigh, I have a real problem with that," Garner resident David Forbes said. "Everybody who is in southeast Raleigh, number one, are not poor and the reality is, is that everyone who is poor does not exclude Garner. we have our own share of free and reduced lunches."

Those opposed to the mayor's comments looked for an apology Tuesday, as well as ways to help all Wake County children.

"The children in southeast Wake County, and with that I include Garner, have not had the opportunity to have some of the instructional activities that the Leesville High schools and the Green Hopes and the Morrisvilles," Amy White, education advocate, said.

While the meeting was cordial, Mayor Williams stopped short of apologizing.

"No, I want to clean up my rhetoric so to speak and I won't use that rhetoric, which has been perceived as negative," Williams said.

Still, Lightner says he's satisfied. "I feel good about what has been said and the commitments and the feelings that were expressed. It's a start."

The meeting lasted an hour longer scheduled, but the group will meet again to talk more in a couple of week.


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