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Zack Matheny’s campaign ad

Heard the 6th Congressional District candidate and Greensboro City Council member’s radio ad in the car; here’s his TV ad.

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New Dash stadium lease

Winston-Salem City Council unanimously approves a new financing deal for BB&T Ballpark, home of the Class-A Dash:

Under the deal’s provisions, the White Sox will pay $8 million to buy into the team. The new money will be used to pay off outstanding team loans as well as paying down part of a short-term $15 million construction loan that the team secured in 2009.

The team will use $2 million to reduce that debt to $13 million. The city will then pay off the short-term loan with new long-term financing. The team will pay the city $1.8 million annually, with the amount gradually increasing over 25 years to pay off that $13 million loan, plus $18 million in loans provided earlier.

The deal retains the city ownership of the ballpark, since the team’s $15 million construction loan had used the city-owned stadium as collateral.

While it’s a good thing that the stadium will no longer be collateralized, it’s uncertain how much the city will profit form the new deal. The earlier spin was the city would make $4 million(!) over the course of the deal, but now city officials are backing off that projection:

Although some city leaders had said recently that the city could actually net $4 million over the 25-year term of the new deal, Lisa Saunders, the city’s chief financial officer, sought to downplay that chance in a conversation last week.

“The $4 million is part of our projection, but the debt is a floating-rate debt,” Saunders said. “There are some projections about what the rate might be, but we don’t know what it might be for the next 25 years. The city’s intent was to break even and not make money one way or the other.”

…City Manager Lee Garrity said in an email that he sent to council members on Friday that under the existing agreement with the Dash, the city was projected to net about $1 million over 25 years – although Garrity, like Saunders, couched the figure in uncertainty by saying that too depended on actual interest rates.

“The city is not trying to make money off the team,” Garrity said.

Take into consideration the maintenance of the stadium over the course of 25 years, it seems to me that that city if anything will be losing money.

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Gboro officially in the saloon business

N&R report on the City of Greensboro’s official takeover of the Cascade Saloon via eminent domain holds out hope that the crumbling building “may get a new lease on life.”

But the report doesn’t mention that in addition to bids for a new roof and a “stabilization system,” the city will also take bids to demolish the building and grade the site. Brace yourselves, preservationists —that’s a very real scenario.

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Journal thinks buskers are cool

Winston-Salem Journal editorializes on downtown street performers:

Street performers, or “buskers,” usually possess talent and enthusiasm. As Sexton put it, such street musicians add character and variety to the urban tapestry in every city in America. Running across one can be an uplifting surprise; generally they’re cheerful and they’re not nags about money, preferring their open guitar cases to serve as tip jars. But their hours and volume – not to mention location – should be reasonable.

Not exactly a hip characterization of hipsters from Journal editorial writers—either a) they’re just now discovering buskers or b) they think we haven’t discovered buskers and need to prepare us should we encounter one while wandering the streets in downtown Winston-Salem. And of course what does the Journal support to help make peace with downtown residents complaining about the noise? You guessed it –a busker’s license.

This is just another problem with the New Urbanist vision where everyone masses together yet remain uniquely themselves.

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Welcome to journalism, professor

Pretty funny letter to the editor in the N&R:

On March 23, the News & Record published article titled “The Law and Voter Turnout” under my name. The article was derived from a piece posted on the UNC School of Government website two-and-a-half weeks earlier. In the version published by the newspaper, the News & Record chose to omit significant portions of the original, rewrite other parts, and substitute its own graphics. Those changes were made without my knowledge or permission.

Michael Crowell

Chapel Hill

The writer is a professor of public law and government at the UNC School of Government. His article was shortened because of the late addition of a quarter-page ad in the Ideas section.

I searched ‘Michael Crowell op-eds’ and all I got was the aforementioned article, which leads me to believe he’s not used to working with newspapers. In which case, welcome to journalism, professor.

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Civil rights museum fundraising tanking for years

Says who? Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan, when asked about the International Civil Rights Museum’s e-mail to black journalists which claims that City Council member Zack Matheny has hampered fundraising:

Said Mayor Nancy Vaughan: “It was not a smart thing to do.”

“The civil rights museum is making it harder to support them every time we turn around.”

She also disputed the charge that Matheny had hurt the museum’s fundraising by criticizing it to benefit his congressional campaign. “Their fundraising has been tanking for years,” she said.

Ouch. Will be interesting to if any national media parachute in and how they would spin this issue. The museum’s transparent alright when they can control the message. Interesting how they talk about how transparent they’ve been with the city, yet they don’t want the city to publish it on their Web site. If it’s good enough for the city to see, it should be good enough for the public to see. At least you’d think.

Bonus observation: I don’t know if it’s good or bad for the museum that last Tuesday’s City Council meeting ran too long, postponing council’s “planned discussion” until Monday at 1:30, when the majority of the world is out earning a living.

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Closer look at Guilford County’s DSS mess

The Rhino’s Scott Yost writes-up Guilford County’s Department of Social Services debacle is a must read. It’s lengthy but a must-read—Yost lays it out the whole sordid affair pretty well.

Bottom line is former director Robert Williams either a) had absolutely no idea how food applications were backlogged; b) knew exactly how many applications were backlogged and was trying cover his arse in front of county commissioners and DSS board; or —last but not least —a combination of both:

When asked why, in February, he had reported that there were just a handful of remaining backlogged applications after a concerted effort to address delinquency, he pointed out that those numbers he gave the commissioners were from the state. Of course, as the state makes clear, the numbers in that state report were provided by the Guilford County DSS.

..When Williams was asked what day he found out the number was actually 8,100, he said, “I don’t remember exactly, but by Monday [March 24].”

Before that moment, sometime last week, Williams said, he believed it was 3,100 in Guilford County, and, he added, the county was still attempting to address that backlog on its own.

“Being real honest, we didn’t think is was 8,100,” he said. “We thought it was more like 3,000. At 3,000, we could have handled it. I was telling the board 3,000, we can handle this.”

Commissioner Ray Trapp –who also serves on the DSS board –said “that now he feels embarrassed that he praised DSS.” Politicians don’t like being sold out by staff; just ask former Greensboro city attorney Mujeeb Shah-Khan. Trapp has taken on this issue; he should diligently pursue answers to the many questions surrounding this mess.

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Where was the N&R?

OK, I was going to let this go, but turns out I’m not the only one to notice this interesting tidbit in the N&R’s write-up of the heated discussion between the Greensboro City Council and International Civil Rights Museum leaders:

It got off to a bad start when a reporter from the Rhino Times showed up — the News & Record wasn’t in attendance — launching museum officials and council members into a debate about whether the meeting was public.

I was going to assume that the N&R was late to the meeting –just as they were apparently late to Department of Social Services board meeting that resulted in director Robert Williams’ resignation:

About 10 minutes after the board went into closed session, a woman arrived at the door and taped a piece of paper over the door window of the small conference room to keep anyone from seeing inside the room. The closed session was held on the third floor of the building.

Shortly before 9 a.m., Guilford County Security Director Jeff Fowler told the Rhino Times reporter – the only reporter there – to move farther away from the door since the Rhino was “within earshot.”

Admittedly the Rhino wasn’t on top of the county’s food stamp backlog—- usually when you read a big county government story in the N&R on Friday or Saturday you read it first in Thursday’s Rhino. And it is possible the reporters were simply late to the meetings — no reason to rush, since they do go on forever. But once again it looks like our local paper of record has ceded reporting of two hot-button issues to the local weekly. Yes, it may seem like I go out of my way to criticize the N&R, but most of the time opportunites just drop into my lap.

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Guilford food stamp backlog resolved; DSS director resigns

Guilford County Department of Social Services Director Robert Williams resigned Monday morning during a three-hour closed session by the DSS board. The meeting was called in the wake of Guilford’s food stamp backlog, which employees worked over the weekend to resolve, costing the county thousands of dollars in overtime pay.

The Rhino reports:

About 10 minutes after the board went into closed session, a woman arrived at the door and taped a piece of paper over the door window of the small conference room to keep anyone from seeing inside the room. The closed session was held on the third floor of the building.

Shortly before 9 a.m., Guilford County Security Director Jeff Fowler told the Rhino Times reporter – the only reporter there – to move farther away from the door since the Rhino was “within earshot.”

At some point between 9 a.m. and 9:50 a.m., Williams must have gone into the room, because at 9:50 a.m., Williams left the room carrying a briefcase. He got on an elevator.

At 10:06 a.m., a board member came out of the closed session and told a social services employee to call security.

She made an announcement over the DSS public address system: “Security, please report to the third floor; security, please report to the third floor.”

Question is what happens next —the Rhino earlier reported that the Board of Commissioners is considering combining DSS and the Department of Public Health “into one giant Guilford County department of human services that would have a budget of over $100 million and about 990 employees.”

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W-S $175m bond

Winston-Salem Journal reports City Council members are reaching a consensus on a $175m bond package:

City administrators recently showed council members scenarios for bond packages that totaled $125 million and $200 million, including $17.5 million in improvements to Benton Convention Center that would not be taken to the public for a vote.

…The bonds will be grouped by category for the voters to approve or disapprove. Under the consensus proposal, voters would be asked to decide on bonds totaling $157.5 million, with the $17.5 million in convention center improvements added to that to bring the total to $175 million.

The bond proposal would include $35 million for community and economic development, $31 million for public safety, $30.85 million for recreation and $60.65 million for transportation.

The city hopes to have a final package for the ballot by May.

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