Topics
Publishers
Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
Rhino Times - 2017-10-26
Magazines / Newspapers | Government 2017-10-26 00:00:00
Page 1 of 4
  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 1

    Vol. V No. 43 Greensboro, North Carolina www.rhinotimes.com Thursday, October 26, 2017 CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES’ FORUMS Scott D. Yost Commissioner Not Falling for Jedi Mind Trick plus Under The Hammer, Uncle Orson Reviews Everything AND MORE

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 2

    2 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, October 26, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com THE WEEKLY Hammer The Weekly Hammer Greensboro Needs by John Hammer Candidates often say, “This is the most important election of our lifetime.” Which makes me think this may be the most important election of your lifetime for you, but not for me. However, the 2017 Greensboro City Council election is historic, and more important than most. The City Council terms for the first time are four years, which means if the voters believe they made a mistake, they don’t have the option of correcting that mistake in two years. The next City Council election will be in 2021, which sounds like a long way away. Greensboro is poised for a period of long overdue growth. Other cities in North Carolina have experienced far more growth than Greensboro in the past 10 years, but currently Greensboro has everything in place to take off, and what the city desperately needs is an engine to fuel that growth – and that means jobs. In this election, Greensboro can either choose to continue on the path a Barber on City Council we are on, which has a good chance of attracting the kind of industry Greensboro needs to provide that growth, or Greensboro can take a sharp turn to the left, which means taxes will skyrocket and industry will look elsewhere. Going forward, Greensboro needs At-large City Councilmember Mike Barber for four more years. The long term makes the reelection of Barber even more of a necessity for the future of Greensboro. Barber is the glue that holds this City Council together. Barber doesn’t object to being the front man for an issue like giving police officers and firefighters raises, but much of what Barber does is behind the scenes, where someone else gets the credit, and that’s OK with Barber also. When former City Councilmember Jamal Fox needed votes for an initiative, he went to Barber. On the other end of the political spectrum, when the lone Republican on the City Council Tony Wilkins needs votes, he goes to Barber. The reason is Barber knows how to get things done. Barber served as a Guilford County commissioner and chair of the Board of Guilford County commissioners back when the board was controlled by Democrats, and he is in his second tour as a city councilmember. During those years as an elected official he has learned how to get things done, and on the City Council that means putting five votes together. A councilmember can have the greatest idea in the world but it will never be anything but an idea without five votes. When he was a county commissioner, Barber put together the deal that resulted in what is now First National Bank Field. It seems to have largely been forgotten, but the Guilford County social services building was on the site where the Grasshoppers stadium now stands, and in order for Guilford County to give up the land, the Bryan Foundation built the county a new social services building on Maple Street. It was far more complicated than simply a land purchase, and Barber was instrumental in putting the deal together. Barber also played a major role as a city councilmember in getting the Greensboro Aquatic Center (GAC) approved. Both First National Bank Field, which has resulted in major new development in an area of the city that was going downhill, and the GAC, which has been attracting national swimming meets, are considered major selling points for the city. Both are there today because Barber put the votes together to get them done. Barber is also the go-to guy for businesses that are having problems with the extreme regulation enforcement practiced by the city staff. Greensboro is known as one of the most difficult cities in North Carolina for businesses to operate in, and the city needs someone to bring the city staff and business owners together to work out the issues in a manner that doesn’t chase the business owners away or to court. You might call it business mediation or a commonsense approach to regulations, but Greensboro needs someone who can and will mediate the disputes. It’s doesn’t get any publicity but the people who are building and providing jobs in this city know they can call on Barber when they have a problem at city hall. We are in desperate need of new jobs in Greensboro. The closing of the White Oak plant is further proof that the old manufacturers for which Greensboro was known are gone and need to be replaced. Barber, as an at-large councilmember, represents the entire city and is needed to facilitate bringing in new industry. The other choice in this election is to take a sharp turn to the left. If either at-large candidate Michelle Kennedy or Dave Wils should get elected, their focus will not be on new industries and jobs, but on social programs that cost the city a fortune and don’t produce any new revenue. The only possible way to pay for some of the social programs being promoted by Kennedy and Wils is to raise taxes on the people who are already paying the highest property tax rate of any comparable city in the state. Barber has pledged not to vote (continued on page 4)

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 3

    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, October 26, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 3 table of CONTENTS 2 WEEKLY HAMMER BY JOHN HAMMER 6 COMMISSIONER SAYS HE’S NOT FALLING FOR HIGH POINT’S JEDI MIND TRICK CONCERNING BASEBALL STADIUM BY SCOTT D. YOST 8 READERS DIGEST VERSION OF CANDIDATES’ FORUMS BY JOHN HAMMER 10 COUNTY ANIMAL SHELTER GETS NEW TOP DOG BY SCOTT D. YOST 12 WORLEY SMITH, NEW VOICE OF GUILFORD COUNTY BY SCOTT D. YOST 13 UNCLE ORSON BY ORSON SCOTT CARD 23 YOST COLUMN BY SCOTT D. YOST 25 ASK CAROLYN BY CAROLYN WOODRUFF 35 UNDER THE HAMMER BY JOHN HAMMER 4 RHINO SHORTS 15 PUZZLE ANSWERS 17 REAL ESTATE 18 NYT CROSSWORD 19 CHILDREN’S SCHEDULE 21 SOUND OF THE BEEP 28 LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 31 SUDOKU Cover: Families in their Halloween costumes at two Saturday events: Pumpkin Palooza at the Greensboro Science Center and the Greensboro Youth Council’s Ghoulash at LeBauer Park. Photos by Sandy Groover PUBLISHER Roy Carroll EDITOR-IN-CHIEF John Hammer GENERAL MANAGER Joann Zollo managing editor ELAINE HAMMER county editor SCOTT D. YOST creative director ANTHONY COUNCIL advertising consultant DONNA GOODWIN contributing editor ORSON SCOTT CARD 216 West Market Street, Greensboro NC 27401 P.O. Box 9023, Greensboro NC 27429 | (336) 763-4170 (336) 763-2585 fax | sales@rhinotimes.com | www.rhinotimes.com

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 4

    4 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, October 26, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com RHINO SHORTS by John Hammer The “It’s Finally Fall” Schmoozefest is 6 to 8 p.m., Oct. 26 at Rue-Bar, 318 N. Elm St. in downtown Greensboro. For those who sign in and wear a name tag, there will be free beer, wine and snacks while they last. Imagine for a moment you are trying to help a millennial who has been living in his parents’ basement since he graduated from college five years ago and has never worked. You ask him how his job hunt is going and he tells you that he heard Cone Health was looking for a new CEO, so he has applied for the job and is now waiting to hear if he got it. You ask, just to make certain, and find out that, no, he doesn’t have any background in medicine, administration or business. His degree is in sociology and his only job since college has been part-time, working for a caterer who is one of his mother’s friends. So you ask why he thinks he can start right at the top of one of the largest employers in Greensboro in a field that takes considerable expertise. He tells you that applying for the job was a good experience and he did a very neat job with the application. He filled in all the blanks and is pretty certain he will be considered because he is young, bright and they might want someone to take over who has no preconceived ideas about how a major medical facility should be run. That’s pretty much what we have with Greensboro applying for the new Amazon headquarters. Is it possible that the kid playing video games in his parents’ basement will become the CEO of Cone Health? Yes, it is possible. Is it possible that Greensboro will be chosen as the new headquarters for Amazon? Yes, it is possible. But the likelihood of both is about the same. If the young man really wants a job, he should be spending his time applying for jobs for which he has some qualifications. Greensboro should be spending its time going after companies where it has better than a 0.00001 percent chance of success. Time is a limited hammer (continued from page 2) commodity. The time that Greensboro has spent applying for the Amazon headquarters is spent and that time can’t be retrieved and spent on a useful endeavor. How many companies bringing 200, 400 or 1,000 jobs have come to Greensboro in the past couple of years? Not many. As long as Greensboro is obsessed with going after the Boeings and Amazons of the world, we aren’t going (continued on page 30) for a tax increase for the next four years. It’s a pledge the entire City Council should make, because higher taxes will not only kill the chance of attracting new industry, it will cause the companies and people who are here to start looking elsewhere. Greensboro simply cannot afford to provide everyone in the city with a home they can afford. It can’t afford to feed everyone in the city that wants or needs food. And it cannot afford to provide a transportation system that takes people wherever they want to go when they want to go there. These are promises being made by the other at-large candidates, and while they sound good, such programs will kill any chance Greensboro has at bringing in the new jobs that will provide a means for people to improve their own lifestyles by working, not by giving them handouts. Both Kennedy and Wils say that when an industry is considering coming to Greensboro, the City Council should determine where they locate and what they pay their workers. It may sound good, but no industry has to come to Greensboro, and if those are the conditions then those industries considering Greensboro will simply locate in another jurisdiction where they get to pick their own location and determine what they pay their workers. Greensboro needs good jobs, but the way to bring them here is not to put even more restrictions on industries planning to locate in Greensboro. Barber knows this but, from what they have said, his opponents don’t seem to realize this is an issue. At forums both Kennedy and Wils talk about new bus routes and transportation systems as if they are free. Bus transportation is not expensive to the riders, but it is extremely expensive for the city. Providing crosstown routes and new services sounds great, but the city will either have to cut services somewhere else or raise taxes. Most people in Greensboro don’t ride buses, they drive, and streets and parking are far more important to most of Greensboro’s citizens than buses. Kennedy says she wants to represent the homeless population on the City Council. Certainly the homeless should not be ignored, but neither should the other 275,000 people in the city, many of whom are property owners paying the taxes to provide services to the homeless. Greensboro doesn’t need to take a sharp turn left in this election. It is a time for Greensboro to continue on its current course, which will lead to jobs and growth, and to do that Greensboro needs Barber on the City Council.

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 5

    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, October 26, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 5

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 6

    6 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, October 26, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com Commissioner Says He’s Not Falling For High Point’s Jedi Mind Trick Concerning Stadium by Scott D. Yost One thing is crystal clear: High Point is absolutely, positively, 100 percent, categorically committed to building a downtown baseball stadium. The High Point City Council showed that determination to proceed with the major downtown revitalization project at its Thursday, Oct. 19 meeting, where the council voted 8 to 1 to enter into a contract with Elliot Sidewalk Communities – the project’s master developer and consultant – and also voted 8 to 1 to approve “plan B” for financing the stadium. “Plan A” called for Guilford County to help fund the project to the tune of $11 million, but that decision is taking too long for High Point leaders. The special Oct. 19 meeting of the City Council was called after High Point officials and business leaders got tired of waiting on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners to decide whether the county would contribute future tax revenue to help finance the $35 million stadium. In August, at a Board of Commissioners work session, High Point leaders asked Guilford County to help fund 20 percent of the baseball stadium payback cost over the next two decades – roughly $11 million in all. They requested the county use tax revenues from future increases in property values in downtown High Point that are projected to occur from revitalization. However, on Sept. 21, the Guilford County commissioners voted to delay a decision for “60 to 90 days,” and, on Oct. 19 – almost a month after the county’s vote to put a decision off – High Point officials said they had seen little to no indication the county was even attempting to address the question. High Point leaders have stated over and over again that the stadium must open by spring 2019 or the city will lose the Bridgeport, Connecticut, baseball team that has been secured to play in the multi-use stadium. They also say that, for financial reasons, given the timeline, it’s important the stadium not sit idle for much of 2019. They say the project will be a major expense and the coming new growth and property value enhancements need to begin as soon as possible. The Oct. 19 City Council meeting was the scene of a heated confrontation between High Point Mayor Bill Bencini and City Councilmember Cynthia Davis – the lone no vote for several motions by the council to move the project forward. Davis has been a constant critic of the planned financing method for the stadium and has been the one no vote all along the way. One complaint she’s had is that High Point is rushing the project. Bencini, who now has just over a month left as mayor, has been one of the projects biggest proponents. The sparks flew at the start of a Oct. 19 presentation by High Point Assistant City Manager Randy Hemann, who was speaking on the city’s proposed contract with Sidewalk Communities – the Baltimore-based consulting and planning firm the city has been negotiating with to design and develop the area around the stadium. Hemann said there had been a lot of back and forth over the contract in recent weeks and the finished product had only arrived in his email at 1:07 that afternoon. The City Council meeting started at 2 p.m. Hemann said of the contract, “It’s taken a lot of design work; it’s taken a lot of legal work and I apologize that this was late getting to you.” “I was about to pull my hair out hoping it would be here earlier,” he added. When Hemann prefaced his presentation on the contract in that way, Davis began asking how the city councilmembers were supposed to vote on something they hadn’t yet read or even seen. “With that being said,” Davis said of Hemann’s remarks, can I ask a question? I understand it was just sent to you, literally, so why are we being asked to –” Bencini interrupted her and said, “Councilwoman Davis, we are going to listen to the presentation.” Davis continued asking if councilmembers were supposed to vote on something they hadn’t read. “I’m sorry, mayor, I am asking a question!” she exclaimed, and then went on to continue asking. Bencini grabbed the gavel and banged it in a rapid staccato motion for 14 seconds – an extremely long time for gavel banging in a public meeting. The whole time Bencini was banging the gavel, Davis was trying to shout over it, so Bencini tried to slam it down louder while Davis tried to shout louder so it was an extremely interesting 14 seconds. When Bencini stopped – perhaps due to a tired arm – Davis kept right on talking. Bencini shouted: “Miss Davis, you are out of order!” But Davis kept asking her question of Hemann: whether she and others were expected to vote on the contract at that time without having looked it over. Photo by Scott D. Yost Finally, Hemann answered. “That will be the decision of the City Council,” he said. “That will not be my decision.” Hemann eventually finished his presentation and the contract was approved 8 to 1. The board also approved an additional incentives package for Sidewalk Communities, also on an 8-to-1 vote. The “Initial Development Agreement” calls for the city to pay the firm $599,500 for “design, legal work, engineering, architecture, feasibility and marketing” of the six-and-a-half acres of city land that will be sold for private development near the stadium. The incentives contract calls for High Point to pay Sidewalk Communities up to $1.3 million in incentives, depending on the square footage of retail, restaurant and related businesses that open around the stadium, as well as on the number of units of residential and hotel rooms that are built. At the meeting, the City Council also approved, on an 8-to-1 vote, alternative financing for project. Before the meeting, there were all sorts of rumors flying around as to how High Point would fill the $11 million hole in their financing plan left by the county commissioners’ failure to offer county funding right away. There were rumors that the city would raid little-used funds, or would consider a new restaurant tax or cancel some projects scheduled in the city’s long term capital development plan. The original stadium financing plan called for 20 percent of the $55 million cost to come from Guilford County’s tax revenues from the additional development of a designated 649-acre zone in downtown High Point, 20 percent to come from High Point’s future tax revenues – with 60 percent from the stadium naming rights, surcharges on ticket sales and parking fees, money that’s promised from the High Point Convention and Visitors Bureau and other sources. (continued on next page) High Point Mayor Bill Bencini and City Councilmember Jay Wagner at the Oct. 19 City Council meeting in the High Point City Hall Council Chambers.

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 7

    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, October 26, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 7 stadium (continued from previous page) All eyes – and TV news cameras – were on High Point Financial Services Director Jeff Moore, to see how the city would make up the difference brought about by the county’s delay in agreeing to participate. “So this was the premise that we provided to the county, and that was that they share a matching proportion of new tax dollars to help repay the project investment,” Moore said, adding, “We all know the conversations with the Guilford County commissioners have gone in a different direction.” His big reveal was somewhat anticlimactic: The city replaced the commissioners’ expected part with nothing. While no new funding source had to be found, Moore said the project will now take longer to become profitable. Under the original plan, with Guilford County contributing, the financing plan – the cost of debt service compared to all revenues for repayment – becomes positive annually beginning in five years, and, on a cumulative basis, in 10 years. Under “plan B,” that breakeven point is in the ninth year rather than the fifth year. Also, under Moore’s projections, plan B more than doubles the amount of time for High Point to recoup its total investment costs for the project. Under plan B, recouping that investment will take 22 years rather than 10 years. “It takes about 22 years to pay for itself,” Moore said of the new payment plan. He added, “The city has the capacity to continue the project and can do so without a tax increase.” High Point City Manager Greg Demko said staff would amend the application to the Local Government Commission (LGC), a state financial oversight board that must approve the loan. Demko said the new plan would be provided to the LGC, but if the county commissioners decide to participate, High Point could switch back to the original plan. Guilford County CommissionerHank Henning said it is fascinating the way High Point is constantly changing messages to the county, while acting as though there had never been a change. Henning said the first message to the commissioners was that a financing option known as a TIF – tax increment financing – would be used. With a TIF, local governments divert new property tax revenue from increases in property values in a certain district, for a set period of time, to pay for an economic development project. He said that shifted suddenly to an interlocal agreement proposal from the city that had different characteristics, while High Point maintained there was no real change and a TIF had never been on the table. Henning also said that, likewise, High Point officials have hammered home the point that county funding was critical for the project and now they are saying that it was never needed. He said High Point makes big changes while acting as though nothing had happened. Henning compared it to the Jedi mind trick in Star Wars when Obi-Wan Kenobi is manipulating minds of the storm troopers by waiving his hand and saying, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” Henning waved his hand slightly like Kenobi in the movie and said softly, “This is not the TIF you are looking for …” He waived his hand again, and said in his Kenobi voice, “We never said we needed county financing.” Henning said he wished that, from the beginning, High Point leaders had revealed they could do the project without help from the county because then the two local governments could have had a more rational and less heated discussion without everyone getting “discombobulated.” “I wish they had said, ‘What can you guys do?’ and not have misled the public about it depending on our help,” Henning said. Commissioner Skip Alston, the only commissioner to attend the Oct. 19 High Point City Council meeting, said he’s still looking for ways the county can help with the project despite the fact that many High Point officials claim the commissioners have already opted out. “I’m not looking for a way out – I’m looking for a way in,” Alston said. Alston said that, while he’s been working to get some commissioners on board, the announcement by High Point officials that the city doesn’t need county participation, and the Oct. 19 vote to proceed without county help, (continued on page 11)

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 8

    8 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, October 26, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com Readers Digest Version of Candidates’ Forums by John Hammer The City Council candidates have had a plethora of forums in the past week. Rather than write about each one, I’ve taken some of the comments made at three forums and combined them together. Mayor In the mayor’s race, Mayor Nancy Vaughan talks about her service to the community as a city councilmember for eight years, then as mayor for four, as well as serving on a long list of civic boards and commissions including the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority, which is of particular note with all the emphasis on development in the airport area. Mayoral candidate Diane Moffett, who was not a resident of Greensboro until the day she filed to run for mayor, talks about what she has done as the pastor of Saint James Presbyterian Church and makes a big point of the fact that she was recruited to move to New Jersey from her home in California and then recruited to be the pastor here. But the depth of Moffett’s lack of knowledge about Greensboro was revealed in the answer to a question where she said there was a little known plan for how the city should move forward called Connections 2025 that she said was last updated in 2007. Connections 2025 is not a forgotten or little known plan, but a plan that comes up frequently at City Council meetings and has been amended countless times since 2007. In fact, it was amended at the last City Council meeting. The working document for Connections 2025 is the Generalized Future Land Use Map, and it is usually amended when the City Council rezones property. Vaughan pointed this out when she said, “We do talk about the Comprehensive Plan at just about every single meeting.” The fact that Moffett doesn’t know this is proof that not only has she not been a resident of Greensboro, but she has not been following what the Greensboro City Council does. Moffett also said that the city shouldn’t just try to recruit new industry but should focus on particular types of industries. This is also something the city has been doing for years. Vaughan does have an advantage because she can talk about things she has done for Greensboro, while Moffett hasn’t lived here and, according to what she says, has almost exclusively been involved in her church and Photo by John Hammer At-large City Council candidates Dave Wils, Michelle Kennedy, Councilmember Yvonne Johnson, Councilmember Mike Barber and Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter (from left) and mayoral candidates Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Diane Moffett at the Greensboro Central Library for the Greensboro Neighborhood Congress candidates’ forum on Tuesday night church-related activities. Many of Moffett’s answers are so general they could be about anything because she talks about getting everyone involved in decision making. It sounds like a good idea but it doesn’t work. The City Council used to have a meeting to discuss the proposed budget in every district, but so few people wanted to be around that table that the council reduced the number to two and didn’t have many more people at those. Participatory budgeting, where people get to spend $100,000 in each district, hardly has anyone participating. Only 8 percent of registered voters voted in the primary election. Clearly people don’t want to participate in city government. At Large The City Council at-large race has six candidates running for three seats, which means everybody is technically running against everyone else. In reality, everyone knows that City Councilmember Yvonne Johnson is going to finish first in the primary. City Council candidate and Guilford County Board of Education member Diane Bellamy-Small has not appeared at most of the forums I’ve attended. Bellamy-Small finished sixth in the primary, hasn’t raised any money and it appears she has all but given up on the idea of being elected. She did attend the Neighborhood Congress Forum on Tuesday night briefly and made a short impassioned speech about why she should be elected. City Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter finished second in the primary, finished second in the election in 2015 and it appears that she will most likely finish second in the general election. The race within a race in the atlarge election is City Councilmember Mike Barber, who finished third in the primary, against City Council candidate Michelle Kennedy, who finished fourth only six votes back, and Dave Wils, who finished fifth but is campaigning hard to move up to third. It’s an interesting race because while all three are Democrats, Barber is the more business-friendly moderate while Wils and Kennedy are far to the left of any current city councilmember. Electing either of them would cause a dramatic change on the council. When the question was whether the City Council should appease or oppose the state legislature, Barber said, “Absolutely, 100 percent appease.” He said, “We have zero power against the legislature. We will lose every single time.” Wils said, “I don’t think we need to appease.” Wils has also suggested that the city sue the state for being derelict in public education. He noted that the City Council has nothing to do with public education but that the City Council could still sue. Wils also suggested suing the state if it gerrymanders districts. Johnson said the City Council needed to build a good relationship with the legislative delegation. She said, “We need to build relationships and start on mutual ground.” Johnson added that she was not afraid to stand up if she thought they were wrong. Both Wils and Kennedy are proponents of an independent police review board with subpoena power – something that no city in the state has and can only be granted by the legislature. Both Wils and Kennedy say they would take the side of neighborhoods over property owners when it comes to rezoning disputes. And both are in favor of telling developers where they can develop, primarily in east Greensboro, and industries where they can locate, primarily in east Greensboro. Both are in favor of community benefit agreements, where a developer and the community make a side deal that often includes wage requirements, local hiring goals, Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise percentages, job training programs, open space setasides and environmental issues. This is in addition to whatever agreement the developer reaches with the City Council. Barber said, “I strongly believe that we need to develop. We need to build and we need to grow.” He added, “The developers are the good people. They create jobs. They fund our nonprofits. That’s not always popular but it’s reality.” Wils said the he favored helping small businesses rather than trying to attract big industries. Abuzuaiter noted that she owned a small business for 22 years and when the big textile corporations were doing well she did well, but when they struggled she struggled and had to lay off employees. She said, “Small businesses also thrive when big corporations are here.” In answer to a question about moving homeless services out of the downtown, Abuzuaiter said that she was a proponent of “one stop shops.” She noted the success of the Family Justice Center, which put all of the services related to domestic violence under one roof, and the housing hub, which is a plan to do the same thing with housing services. She said that considering moving homeless services to one location was something that should be looked into. Kennedy described the proposal to move services for the homeless out of the downtown as a “morally bankrupt concept.” At another forum on the same question, Kennedy said, “Downtown Greensboro is never going to be the hub for large economic development in Greensboro.” (continued on next page)

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 9

    www.rhinotimes.com | Thursday, October 26, 2017 | RHINO TIMES 9 candidates (continued from previous page) And she added that there was a lot of data about how much the daytime homeless shelter downtown benefitted the downtown. A lot of downtown business owners would no doubt like to see that data. District 1 As far as the district candidates go, in the District 1 race City Councilmember Sharon Hightower says she decided to run for City Council because of the inequities in east Greensboro that she didn’t think were being addressed. District 1 candidate Paula Ritter- Lipscomb said that she was running because she wanted to be able to use her voice to make a change. District 2 In District 2 City Councilmember Goldie Wells made a point that she had been in Greensboro since 1967 and that she and her opponent Jim Kee had worked together to form the Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro. She said she was running because she was concerned about the living conditions in District 2. Kee, who like Wells has previously served on the City Council, went a different route from most candidates who talk about how long they have lived in Greensboro. Kee, who changed his party affiliation to Republican last week, said that he had lived in seven cities and six states and that had given him a more global perspective. As a small business owner and developer, Kee said he knew how to bring jobs and affordable housing to east Greensboro. District 3 District 3 City Councilmember Justin Outling emphasizes being chairman of Greensboro’s Minimum Housing Standards Commission before running for the City Council. He talks about authoring the city policy on viewing body-worn camera videos, which was overturned when the state legislature passed a law governing the release of the videos that is much more restrictive. He also talks about using his experience on the Minimum Housing Standards Commission to develop a new policy that allows the city to repair homes rather than tear them down. City Council District 2 candidate Craig Martin makes a point of being a public defender, not a corporate lawyer like Outling, who is a partner at Brooks Pierce, and the fact that as a public defender he is helping people every day. He doesn’t have any civic activities outside his job that he talks about. District 4 District 4 City Council candidate Gary Kenton wants to make certain that everyone knows he is far to the left of his opponent, District 4 Greensboro City Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann. Kenton introduces himself as an “advocate and activist.” He notes that he is a member of Greensboro Operation Transparency and says the city should stand up against the state law governing the release of police body-worn camera videos. District 5 District 5 City Councilmember Tony Wilkins, the only Republican on the City Council, makes the point that he is the most conservative member of the City Council. District 5 City Council candidate Tammi Thurm talks about returning phone calls, attending community meetings and being available to the people in the district. Thurm also talks about the need to have more bus service for the district, including mini-hubs so people don’t have to travel all the way downtown to change buses. She also said, “It’s critical that we have a livable minimum wage in our city.” Wilkins said that in his five years on City Council he has never heard a complaint about bus service in District 5 and is opposed to the city having its own minimum wage. Wilkins and Thurm agree that they disagree on a lot of issues, but have done so amicably. + + + At forums candidates get asked questions that they all know are coming and some that catch them off guard. One that seemed to catch Wils off guard concerned big industry. Wils is not a fan of trying to attract big corporations to Greensboro and said that the big corporations come and go. He said, “These jobs don’t last forever. We just lost those textile jobs.” It’s true the White Oak plant announced it’s closing, but Cone Mills had been here for 112 years; that’s not forever, but it might as well have been for generations of employees. Maybe (continued on page 11)

  • Add to bookmarks Add to subscriptions Share
    Page 10

    10 RHINO TIMES | Thursday, October 26, 2017 | www.rhinotimes.com County Animal Shelter Gets New Top Dog by Scott D. Yost Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing got a new title on Friday, Oct. 20 – “interim Guilford County animal services director.” County managers in North Carolina, and other states for that matter, usually spend most of their day in a quiet, cushy office, but, for the immediate future at least, Lawing will be spending a lot more of his time in a noisy, odorfilled animal shelter. This move is Guilford County’s latest effort to take control of a problem-riddled shelter that’s now failed two consecutive state inspections. The change comes after a rash of complaints in recent weeks from rescue groups, volunteers and others who have been expressing concern about the shelter’s practices and operations. Until the Oct. 20 change, Deputy County Manager Clarence Grier had been serving as interim Animal Services director. Grier had held that job since the resignation of former Guilford County Animal Services Director Drew Brinkley on Wednesday, July 26. Brinkley quit hours after the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services levied fines against the shelter for a failure to provide dogs proper shelter from the sun. Inspectors found 12 dogs on a very hot day that did not have shade or a way to get out of the sun. In a subsequent visit from inspectors, some dogs were found with no access to water. The Guilford County Animal Shelter has failed two consecutive inspections and the reports from the Department of Agriculture show that the shelter didn’t even correct some problems that were specifically pointed out by inspectors in previous visits. The new move of making Lawing the temporary head of the shelter is being billed as an “administrative decision,” but it’s common knowledge that some county commissioners have been very unhappy in recent months with the inability of the county-run shelter in the third largest county in the state to pass an inspection and they are also not pleased that it continues to be fined. Guilford County is currently attempting to find a permanent new animal services director, but sources familiar with that search say the county was on the verge of filling that position and were very excited about a woman from a northern state who was coming to Guilford County to run the shelter. However, at the last minute, her employer made a counter offer enticing enough to keep her in that job – meaning Guilford County had to restart its search for a new director. According to the Guilford County Human Resources Department, the county received 160 applications for the animal services director position, and 53 of those applicants met the qualifications that were laid out by the county. Several county commissioners said this week that Guilford County has excellent candidates in its sights and is very likely to hire a new shelter director soon – but the estimates of the time that that will take vary from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. In the meantime, however, Lawing is the new top dog at the shelter. With the current shelter quandary, county leaders considered handing over the shelter responsibility to the Sheriff’s Department, as the county has done at times in the past. It doesn’t appear as though that discussion took very long. Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes stated in an email, “They asked. I declined.” In the ’90s, when the shelter had major problems, Guilford County turned the responsibility of the shelter over to the Sheriff’s Department, which improved the situation greatly. Also, after a huge 2015 shelter scandal that involved the neglect and mistreatment of a large number of animals, the Sheriff’s Department helped run the shelter until a new director could be found. But that wasn’t an option this time around. Commissioner Skip Alston said this week that this latest move is meant to provide more oversight at the shelter. “We’ve asked the county manager to take a ‘hands on’ approach,” Alston said. “We have asked Marty to take on more of that responsibility himself. We don’t want anymore hiccups.” Alston added, “This is no reflection on Clarence.” He said Grier has had many additional responsibilities on top of the shelter and it was difficult for anyone to take on all those obligations and be expected to keep constant watch over the shelter as well. “It’s an awesome task,” Alston said. Lawing, of course, has a great many other responsibilities as well, but Alston said that, when it comes down to it, Lawing is the county manager – so it’s only right that the job of getting the shelter on track be directly in his hands. Alston also pointed out that this arrangement shouldn’t be in effect very long since the county is on the verge of hiring a new Animal Services director. When asked if this move came from the county manager or from the Board of Commissioners, Alston said it was “a little of both.” Commissioner Justin Conrad, who is the Board of Commissioners liaison to the Guilford County Animal Services Advisory Committee, said this should help the situation. “It’s a good move,” Conrad said. He said Grier has been running the shelter for three-and-a-half months and that’s a lot to ask of anyone with a lot of other duties. “It’s an overwhelming job,” Conrad said of looking after the 500 or so animals that are usually found at the shelter. This isn’t the first time Lawing has been named as the head of a county department. In fact, Lawing is already the head of the county’s largest department due to a vacancy – the roughly 900-employee Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). After former DHHS Director Joe Raymond resigned in July 2015 – after only one year at the job – the Guilford County Board of Commissioners decided to leave that position unfilled and Lawing assumed those responsibilities, which were piled onto his others. Grier has his supporters among animal welfare advocates and those serving on the Animal Services Advisory Board, but there is also some very bad blood between Grier and some of those who work closely with the shelter. There is hope that removing Grier might help bring down that level of discontent. Brinkley, who often came across as “robotic” also was not a favorite shelter director for many animal lovers in Guilford County. “He never petted the animals,” one volunteer said. The move to make Lawing interim shelter head comes after a barrage of new complaints to the Rhino Times about shelter practices, a failure to answer phones, and what some claimed to be questionable euthanizations – given that the county states it doesn’t euthanize over space considerations. Also, many animal lovers were aghast when, in September, the shelter turned down a truckload of donations from High Point First Baptist Church because shelter employees mistakenly believed a former volunteer, now banned from the shelter, was involved with the donation. Commissioner Alan Branson said that the county’s animal lovers are very emotional about what goes on at the shelter and he said that, while there are certainly concerns, much of the rancor comes from misinformation spread about the shelter. He added that there are personality conflicts at play as well. “Folks are disgruntled,” Branson said. “Every time the wind blows, they call Raleigh.” He said there are so many views on how things should be done at the shelter that it’s going to be virtually impossible for a new director to please all the animal lovers. “They’re not going to like anybody,” Branson said. Several county officials said that the county had been under very close scrutiny from the state in the wake of the 2015 scandal. Commissioner Hank Henning said that, close scrutiny or not, the Guilford County Animal Shelter should be able to pass a state inspection like almost every other county shelter does. “It’s disgraceful we fail inspections,” Henning said. He said the lack of a full time director (continued on next page)

Page 1 of 4

Please wait