Annexation Opponents Vow to Recruit Council Candidates

A day after the Winston-Salem City Council voted to annex 22 square miles, annexation opponents said that they will target members who favored the action.

Council members Vernon Robinson and Nelson Malloy, who opposed annexation, will be the only members safe from the effort, said Jerry Johnson, a Forsyth County resident who led opposition to annexation.

“We’re not going to wait until election time to find good candidates to replace the ones that voted yes,” Johnson said. “It starts now.” The 6-2 vote ended a months-long campaign marked by bitterness by many of the 18,000 people who will be annexed as of July 1, 2004.

Opponents said they are circulating petitions to recall council members. They are recruiting lawyers they know for advice on how to fight the plan in court, and they are looking for candidates to run for office in different wards. And they are drawing support from Wilmington residents who have been fighting the same battle for years.

“There’s definitely an organized campaign going on to get those people outseated,” said Joyce Krawiec, a local spokeswoman for N.C. Citizens for a Sound Economy, an anti-taxation group. “We are definitely not going to roll over and play dead.”

Krawiec said she backed away from buying a home in Pfafftown once she learned that it was in the proposed annexation area.

“We said no thanks,” she said. “I’m going to stay where I am in Kernersville. They are not annexing me.”

Krawiec has been working with Johnson, who helped form the local group, Citizens Against Forced Annexation.

The group sponsored a rally at Corpening Plaza before the vote Monday. About 100 people attended, which was far fewer than the 1,100 who stuffed into Joel Coliseum for a public hearing in May.

Alton Fulk, who lives off of Sawmill Road southeast of the city, said during the rally that he was disappointed that more people didn’t show. But he said that those who did come should keep fighting.

“One of the problems is that there are not enough people up in arms until after they are annexed and it hits them,” said Jason Thompson, a member of the Wilmington City Council who was elected in 2001 after pledging to vote against annexation. He joined a local opposition group there when his house was part of a Wilmington annexation plan in 1998.

“Forced annexation is of no benefit to anyone but the city,” Thompson said. “It is a way to subsidize programs and increase the tax base.”

Thompson has worked with the Wilmington group to change state law, which allows involuntary annexation. The case in Wilmington made it to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where the statute was upheld. Thompson said that it is unlikely that the case will go any further.

Thompson said that in most cases, the only recourse for opponents is to make annexation an issue at the polls.

Residents in Forsyth County are tight-lipped about their plans. Krawiec said that her group has narrowed its choice of lawyers. She would not say if any people have agreed to run against incumbents.

“We have several things up our sleeve,” Johnson said. “Even if we could hold it up a couple years, maybe we could get a different mindset on the council.”

To recall a member of the city council, opponents would have to gather enough signatures to equal 25 percent of the entire vote for mayoral candidates in the last election. Based on figures for the 2001 election, that comes to about 7,600 signatures for each member of the council that the group wants to remove.

“I will help with this fight regardless of whether this annexation affects me or not,” Krawiec said.