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Archive for January, 2010

Hotel insanity hangs over museum’s grand opening


NYT reviews Greensboro’s International Civil Rights Museum, complete with slideshow. It looks impressive, although the review states toward the end that the museum’s focus is a bit too broad, which has the unintended effect of minimizing the sit-in movement.

I also read Joe Killian’s N&R front-pager on how the dispute over the proposed downtown hotel hangs over museum’s grand opening and founder Skip Alston like a late January snowstorm.

A couple of things jumped out at me. First, there was the quote from Guilford County school board member Deena Hayes asking why hotel skeptics are “asking these questions of this particular project, and why are they doing it now when it’s nearly cleared all of its political hurdles?”

What political hurdles? Guilford County commissioners? Give me a break. The Greensboro City Council? Please. How I wish there had been political hurdles to this project.

Then there’s Sharon Hightower’s comment that the black community is “not happy” with Mayor Bill Knight. I’ve seen Hightower speak at several City Council meetings, and she honestly seems like a straight-up lady —she also criticizes Alston for having “a hard time separating (his) agenda from what he’s supposed to do as a community leader and representative.”

But why would the black community be upset with Bill Knight? For discovering that city staff gave him and the council bad information on the hotel project? For refusing to back down from Alston’s threats if he makes a motion to rescind the bonds?

Sometimes I seriously wonder about our fair city.

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Young places Scott, Hails on suspension

At the very end of this Rhino article about a supposedly conservative Greensboro City Council hiring a federal lobbyist, John Hammer drops (what I think) is a pretty big bombshell —–“both Assistant City Manager Andy Scott and Planning Director Dick Hails have been placed on suspension” by City Manager Rashad Young.

I think we know that Scott’s misinformation on the federal bond program is what (rightly) got him in trouble, but what did Dick Hails do to warrant suspension? I haven’t seen his name in relation to the bond-mix-up very much. Hammer said the council “didn’t talk about it because it is a personnel matter. Nothing from the city, and if it appeared in another media outlet, I missed it.

Back to the federal lobbyist, Hammer says it “appears that the majority on the council is inclined to give in to every whim and fancy of the city staff.”

All of which involve pots of money, and the federal government shipping ’em like there’s no tomorrow. But it never hurts to go for more, huh?

Update: The N&R reports in Saturday’s edition that Scott was “reprimanded” for not turning over a consultant’s reports casting doubt over the downtown hotel’s financial projections to City Council members before it was released to private hoteliers Mike Weaver and Dennis Quaintance.

The so-called ‘reprimand?’ Scott was docked a vacation day. Not sure what to believe here. Meanwhile, Greensboro resident Jean Brown asks why “there’s not someone on this council who can investigate the staff who gave misleading information to the council” and “why are these people still on staff after misleading our elected leaders about this proposed, so-called luxury hotel?”

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Commander Hood’s badge of honor

Locker Room’s Jon Sanders informs us that JLF president John Hood made MSNBC whack job Keith Olbermann’s list of “Worst Persons in the World.”

If you have nothing better to do, stick around for Olbermann’s rant on the code words right-wing racists use to describe President Obama.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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Tasers vs. semi-automatic handguns

As Guilford County Schools continue to debate whether or not schools should have SROS —and whether or not they should be armed with Tasers —– look what’s happening out at Eastern Guilford High School:

There are unhappy parents at any school, but the discontent at Eastern was strong enough that the school system arranged a full-dress event to respond to it, complete with (Superintendent Mo) Green and the school board members, which is unusual.

The spark that drew the parents to Eastern was the Dec. 18 arrest of an Eastern student for having a loaded .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun in his locker at the school.

According to Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes, the sheriff’s deputy serving at Eastern arrested Isaiah Neal Crawford, 17, of 1912 McKnight Mill Road, Greensboro, after finding the handgun in the locker loaded, with a round in the chamber. Barnes said Crawford was charged with possession of a firearm on school property.

I recently had a another phone conversation with a respected and politically-sympatico blogger who questioned the $2.9 million for SROs, considering the fact that he’s seen more than a few of them doing nothing. I say that with all the millions the school system fritters away that $2.9 million is a drop in the bucket for SROs.

School board member Sandra Alexander said “the science and the data suggest it’s only a matter of time that an officer is going to use a Taser on a student and that child is going to die.” I’ll suggest that empirical evidence dictates that if a student dies, it’ll be at the hand of another student, not a school resource officer. Heaven forbid said fictitious student would just keep shooting, with no one there to take him down. The question is how effective a Taser would be versus a semi-automatic handgun.

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GCS owes me an hour’s sleep

Got a robo call at 5 a.m. informing me that school was letting out two hours early due to a snowstorm that’s not due until 6 p.m.

Now I’ve had way too much coffee, and that makes me jittery.

Style note: I’m obviously no grammarian, but I’ve been antsy about the apostrophe all afternoon: The most common way to form a possessive in English is with apostrophe and s: “a hard day’s night.” After a plural noun ending in s, put just an apostrophe: “two hours’ work” (i.e., “the work of two hours”).

So the fact that I lost only one hour tells me the apostrophe is placed correctly. Someone let me know if I’m wrong.

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Forsyth County loses prayer ruling

TheWinston-Salem Journal reports:

A federal judge ruled yesterday that the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners is violating the U.S. Constitution by allowing sectarian prayers before board meetings.

Now the commissioners must decide whether to appeal.

Judge James A. Beaty Jr. of U.S. District Court ordered the county to stop having prayers under its current policy, which allows clergy to pray in any manner before board meetings on a first-come, first-served basis. Since the policy was set in March 2007 most prayers have made reference to Jesus.

Next up —U.S. Court of Appeals, should commissioners decide to appeal.

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Re: Alston’s apology

Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston apologizes to Greensboro City Council members for strong-arming them over the proposed taxpayer-financed downtown hotel.

All good, I guess, especially as the city prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the of the historic sit-ins. But this statement jumped off my computer screen:

“If I had it to do all over again, I would probably work more behind the scenes rather than being up front,” Alston said. “Because of my perceived influence, if I’m up front with someone the way I would be if I was not an elected official, then that’s looked at as me trying to use my position to influence people.”

Let’s see —- Alston mysteriously recuses himself from the Dec. 10 commissioners meeting where the vote on the federal recovery zone bonds were held (his buddy Billy Yow said Alston didn’t really recuse himself — he just walked out of the room). A mere five days later, the City Council holds the infamous vote to sign on for the bond program, but they still thought the proposed hotel project would be on the corner of Lee and South Elm streets. Two weeks later, we learn that the hotel site had suddenly shifted to Davie Street, with Alston identified as the broker.

All that sounds pretty ‘behind the scenes’ to me. Like everything else surrounding this deal, never be surprised with what you read.

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High-speed rail: You can’t eat just one

Antiplanner weighs in on President Obama’s high-speed rail plan, which would send a cool $520m North Carolina’s way:

Obama proposes to “freeze government spending for three years.” Yet he is also going to Florida to announce which states are getting funds for high-speed rail. (Ironically, Florida is the state that decided not to build high-speed rail because the environmental impact statement it wrote for the project concluded that the environmental costs would be greater than the benefits.)

High-speed rail is like a Lay’s potato chip: once you get started, you can’t stop, so the $8 billion Obama is giving away today is only the down payment on the down payment of the total bill. In other words, despite giving lip service to reducing deficits, Obama’s real policy is pork-barrel as usual.

I realize I’m hard on PART, but I give director Brent McKinney credit for saying that ridership between Guilford and Forsyth does not justify the expense of high speed rail in the Triad —yet. I’ll also note that conservative transportation experts like Antiplanner would certainly rather see local governments invest in regional bus service than high-speed rail.

That said, I still haven’t seen a PART bus with more than one person on it.

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Why are hotel supporters so touchy?

Backing off from the Skip Alston-Deena Hayes dramatics surrounding the proposed downtown Greensboro hotel, the N&R’s Joe Killian writes a supposedly run-of-the mill article on the Guilford County bond authority’s meeting with hotel supporters.

Relatively routine, right? Wrong. For starters, private hoteliers Mike Weaver and Dennis Quaintance showed up to keep an eye on things. That’s when the sparks flew.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Can’t believe I’m saying it, much less thinking it

Knowing how I feel about HUD, you can imagine it wasn’t much comfort to learn that Secretary Shaun Donovan was chosen to sit out President Obama’s State of the Union Speech in case a calamity struck the Capitol.

Fortunately, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also missed the speech while she was traveling in London, so she would come in and take over should everyone else get wiped out.

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