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Bond endorsements reveal newspaper’s hypocrisy

by Ogi Overman

Indulge me for a moment, because this is a subject dear to my heart. Oh, it doesn’t rank up there with nullifying habeas corpus (which we’ll get to next week), but it is a localized act of wanton hypocrisy that only adds to my theory that this city has, just as this country, either taken a wrong fork or wandered from the path completely. It doesn’t compare with the nausea and unease caused by our recent coronation of a dictator, but it does validate a point I made just a couple of weeks ago in this space that Greensboro does not honor and revere its past.

And if the local gazette is an accurate reflection of Our Town, we’re not only off the path but hopelessly lost in the forest. For they are clearly a bunch of Harper Valley hypocrites; now the question remains: Are the rest of us?

I refer you to the Newts & Rectum’s bond endorsements of two weeks ago. It was not the way I wanted to start off my Sunday morning. While I did agree with several of them, two of the five that they gave a thumbs-down to were, shall we say, curious. The two, War Memorial Stadium and the Historical Museum, were no-brainers to anyone who has a sense of place and time for this small corner of the universe.

Someone, David Hoggard perhaps, needs to do a little research into the paper’s editorial stance during the drive to build the new downtown ballpark. It will not take long to expose them as hypocrites, which is why their opposition to renovating the old ballyard is so perplexing. Time after time, day after day, the paper assured the citizenry, not just the Aycock neighborhood but all of us, that War Memorial would not be neglected once a new park was built. They promised that it would remain a viable venue for amateur baseball as well as other events. They guaranteed that it would be spruced up and remain a living tribute to Guilford County’s World War I dead. You could look it up.

But it is one thing to lay bare your own duplicity, quite another to make all the rest of us liars. If this particular bond fails then every city leader, every pundit, every supporter of the referendum that allowed First Horizon to be built will have some ‘splainin’ to do.

It so happened that during the first part of the campaign for the new stadium I was editing the Greater Greensboro Observer, and in the latter stages hosting a daily radio show, “Our Town.” I was privileged to interview and get on record many of the civic leaders who were working for the new stadium – from Jim Melvin, Keith Holliday, Susan Schwarz, Dick Grubar, Marc Bush on down – and to a man and woman they agreed that the Aycock neighborhood’s fears that the old ballfield would fall into neglect and disrepair were unfounded. And, of course, I passed along those pledges of reassurance to my vast army of 17 readers and listeners, which makes me out a hypocrite as well. And, brothers and sisters, if I don’t like being called a hypocrite, how do you think Melvin and Holliday feel about it?

I didn’t, however, just interview those with whom I agreed on the issue. I became friends with David Hoggard, who was leading the Aycock charge in a noble attempt to keep the Bats (now Grasshoppers) in the neighborhood. Putting myself in his shoes, I’d have done the same thing. And now, if this bond fails, he will have every right in the world to say I told you so.

Folks, renovating War Memorial Stadium was part of the deal. Dadburnit (as Wilt Browning would say), we promised, we gave our word. And now the local daily is telling us to renege on that promise. They’re telling us that preserving one of the most significant symbols of our past is not worth the $2.86 a year it would cost us.

And if that weren’t grievous enough, they’re also telling us that our Historical Museum is not worthy of taxpayer support, that it should be upgraded and modernized solely with private funds. This comes, mind you, when we are supposedly gearing up for our bicentennial in 2008, a time when we should be celebrating and cherishing our past.

All this reminds me of the Andy episode when they were going to make a movie in Mayberry and the townfolk decided the old oak tree in the middle of town needed to be cut down. Had Andy and the filmmaker not stepped in and shown Mayor Pike and the rest the error of their ways, this living symbol of their ancestry and heritage would have been lost forever.

Same with the ballpark, same with the museum.

Ogi may be reached at ogiman100@yahoo.com, heard Tuesdays at 9:30 am on “The Dusty Dunn Show” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen on “Triad Today” Fridays at 6:30 am on ABC 45 and Sundays at 10 pm on WMYV 48.

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