By now you’ve probably read that the Greensboro Zoning Commission by an —8-1 vote – approved a rezoning that paves the way for a Trader Joe’s on the corner of Friendly Avenue and Hobbs Road.
There has been considerable neighborhood opposition to the rezoning, but I can’t help but notice that over last few days there had been at least one N&R letter to the editor supporting Trader Joe’s. The latest from Greensboro resident Randal Romie:
To me, the redesign of the proposed development is very attractive, though I wonder how a 4- to 5-foot-high berm with a 6-foot wall on top fits into a “natural landscape area.” I would suggest that approach only with a lot of new landscaping and a determined effort to protect the root systems of the existing trees.
It seems that the win-win in this situation is that Greensboro gets a Trader Joe’s, and quite possibly, not on the proposed property. While this may be an obvious statement, I know of some, and believe there are many, who are tired of driving to Winston-Salem and Charlotte to shop and save money on healthy products from Trader Joe’s. Wherever — we want Trader Joe’s!
Somehow I have a feeling this is it for this piece of property —should the City Council deny the rezoning at its March 18 meeting, there will be no Trader Joe’s in Greensboro. West Gboro residents will just have to settle for the proposed Walmart grocery down at Quaker Village.
Latest N&R report on controversy surrounding the payout to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum:
City Council members adopted a new rule Tuesday night: no more issuing checks without signed contracts.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan requested that rule following the revelation that the city staff gave the International Civil Rights Center & Museum $750,000 without a signed loan agreement for the money.
“I think this is the first time on City Council that I have voted to legislate common sense,” Councilman Tony Wilkins said.
Meanwhile the city has posted documentation related to the museum’s $1.5m forgivable loan, and it doesn’t look good for former City Manager Denise Turner Roth or City Attorney Mujeeb Shah-Khan. Based on staff emails from October 2013, it’s clear Roth was anxious to cut the first $750,000 installment even without a contract, despite warnings from city finance director Rick Lusk, who signed off only “as long as everyone understands the risk of not having a signed agreement and circumventing the internal control system,” to which Shah-Khan replied “we understand the risks.”
Note in the comments to the N&R write-up former City Council member Tom Phillips –no whack job blogger he—-says:
The city attorney needs to go. This is not the Obama administration. People need to be held accountable and he is clearly the person that screwed this up.
No sign during last night’s meeting that the council was going to hold Shah-Khan responsible for this screw-up —to the contrary they continued to seek his advice over whether or not to execute the contract in question. But whether or not Shah-Khan is held responsible still ignores the bigger picture surrounding the museum — they hold a staggering $20-plus million debt and the money it’s bringing in is a mere drop in the bucket.
According to the presentation before the council on tuesday, the museum “has served approximately 260,000 persons during its 47 months of operation and generated $1,573,000 from admissions” while “retail purchases (books, t-shirts, games, and other gift shop products) totaled $602,000,” making earlier suggestions that buying a coffee mug will help save the museum a total joke.
So Shah-Khan may or may not be held accountable for this debacle, but the museum’s financial problems are overwhelming and –short of simply closing the doors — will be a burden on this city for quite some time. And the public’s patience is wearing thin.
By a 6-3 vote, the High Point City Council approved the Main Street diet study, coming in at a cost of $113k.
Note the HPE lede:
Though they made it clear they aren’t wild about the idea, City Council members gave final approval Monday to have a consulting firm undertake a “street diet” traffic study for a portion of N. Main Street between Parkway and Lexington avenues.
Big part of the problems local governments face these days –councils and commissioners spending money on ideas they’re not wild about.
Huge thread over Greensboro City Council member Tony Wilkins’ Facebook page on the, um, questionable contract between the city and the International Civil Rights Center and museum for the first installment of a $1.5m forgivable loan.
Note that none other than Samuel Spagnola,attorney and former local blogger with a sharp legal mind, says the contract appears to be legal. Spag’s most recent comment:
Lawyers cut and paste boilerplate language all of the time and don’t always catch differences in specific language. It’s quicker to cut and paste than to retype the whole language. Whoever drafted the document should have left the date, month and year blank for the notary to fill in. It seems to be a clerical oversight here.
Of course the man who should really have all the answers is —you guessed it — City Attorney Mujeeb Shah-Khan, who —-according to the N&R — has said only “there was no legal problem with the payment” and that the city “is advancing the ball.” Shah-Kahn owes the public a detailed legal explanation.
Note on the contract that “Piedmont Triad Film Commission” is crossed out and International Civil Rights Museum is written in. Reminds of the MASH episode where Henry Blake wants to requisition a pizza oven and the quartermaster tells him to use the standard form, just cross out “machine gun” and write in “pizza.”
Not sure where this goes, but the fact that we’re drawing analogies between a our city government and a sitcom —albeit one of my favorites —speaks volumes as it is.
That is if you call no signed contract for the first installment of the $1.5m forgivable loan a snafu:
When the city wrote the International Civil Rights Center and Museum a $750,000 check last year, it didn’t yet have a signed loan agreement with the museum.
That revelation came to light Friday, after Councilman Tony Wilkins requested a copy of the contract with the museum from City Manager Jim Westmoreland and discovered it was not signed.
The city gave the museum the first half of $1.5 million in forgivable loans in October to help prop up the financially failing organization.
“I just can’t imagine issuing a check for three quarters of a million dollars without a contract,” Wilkins said.
N&R reminds us “(t)his is the second time in as many weeks that council members were caught unaware by the way city staff handled the agreement with the museum” —- last week we—and the City Council— learned city staff had granted the museum an extension on the deadline to turn over its 2012 audits —a condition of the forgivable loan.
Wilkins suggested the City Council reach out to former City Manager Denise Turner Roth to find out what’s going on, while City Attorney Mujeeb Shah-Khan is saying there’s nothing the city can legally do to claw back the $750k. Stay tuned.
I attended the meeting where the Guilford County Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution authorizing Superintendent Mo Green to seek a declaratory judgment action against the state law eliminating teacher tenure.
I didn’t see any teachers crying once the vote was posted, but the applause was deafening and there were more than a few high fives. But I couldn’t help but wonder —as does the N&R’s Doug Clark — what if the judge does not rule in the board’s favor—-in other words, what he does not conclude that tenure is not teachers’ “property as that term is understood in the context of their rights under the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of North Carolina”?
I asked Chairman Alan Duncan and Vice Chairman Amos Quick this morning whether they could assure Guilford County teachers that the plan won’t take effect. They could not. Quick just promised to fight as hard as possible. I believe he and other board members are doing that.
Anyone who’s been paying attention lately knows one thing about the court system— no one can predict which way a judge will rule. I know the teachers at least appreciated the board’s strong stand supporting them, but the reality is this battle is far from over.
Trend running through Forsyth County news:
18 patients exposed to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease at Forsyth Medical Center;
Forsyth County Sheriff’s department has only eight cars on patrol at one time, but now has 88 new high-powered rifles after commissioners sign off on the Tommy gun swap.
Greensboro’s International Civil Rights Center & Museum finally turns its 2012 audit over to city officials and —surprise — the museum is losing money:
The city required the audit as a condition of loaning $750,000 to the museum last year. According to the News & Record’s reading of the audit, city officials will learn little that the City Council didn’t already know when it authorized the loan.
The audit paints a picture familiar to museum watchers: In 2012, it struggled to find donors and ticket-buyers even as it spent thousands to get them.
…City spokesman Donnie Turlington said its internal audit department is reviewing the audit — with “more than just the ‘read it and give it a blessing’ approach.”
The department should finish the review by midweek, he said. Then, the council will get the information.
Then what will the council do?
Honestly hadn’t thought of it like that, but the Washington Blade points it out in an interview with the state representative and 12th District Congressional candidate:
Marcus Brandon has a chance to make history.
If he wins his bid to represent North Carolina’s 12th congressional district in the U.S. House, he could become the first openly gay black person elected to Congress.
Brandon, 39, says that distinction would be “really significant” because black people within the LGBT community tend to suffer most in terms of discrimination, but he asks potential supporters to look at his full body of work as the reason to back his candidacy.
“I tell people don’t vote for me because I’m gay, [but] because I passed more bills than anybody in the race,” Brandon said. “And so, we’re about effectiveness. So, for people to see my work, it really makes it a much more powerful conversation to say, ‘You know what, we really don’t care about his sexuality; we’re just glad he put 10 new schools in our district.’”
Brandon is not the only gay black candidate running for Congress — there’s also Steve Dunwood, a Michigan candidate who’s seeking to represent Detroit in the House.
Fundraising reports show Brandon is out front, outraising state Rep. Alma Adams and her hats.