Greensboro’s City Council has some obvious growing pains to work out, as evidenced by last week’s divisive work session.
Tension over backroom dealings and public jockeying for the spotlight boiled over during a work session Aug. 4, with voices being raised, members talking over each other, and one freshman member questioning the mayor’s integrity.
Spats like that are not good for the city’s image. But if a more respectful majority emerges from the fire, perhaps good things will come.
Too often the working majority of Mayor Nancy Vaughan and council members Barber, Hoffman, Matheny and Johnson appear to have worked things out behind closed doors and want to move on to the next issue. The functional minority – an odd mixture of the lone conservative on the council, Wilkins, and arguably three of its most liberal in Hightower, Abuzuaiter and Fox – are too talented to be ignored, and too dedicated to the interests they serve to sit idly by.
Vaughan has done a good job of giving the functional minority plenty of room to be heard. And for their part, some of the newer members should focus more on doing their home work and due diligence before bringing random questions about property transactions and contractual procedures to public meetings. Both sides could benefit from more attention to detail and the basics of courtesy.
But the public rifts on the council illustrate the rifts in the city itself. Developer interests cannot continue to ramrod high profit real estate deals through council, nor can construction magnates continue to come to the public trough for five and six figure cash incentives, while Greensboro ranks as one of the cities with the highest growth in the poverty rate in the last decade.
At some point someone has to acknowledge the disconnect between spending $30 million on a performing arts center while no less than four people are sleeping on the concrete benches outside the Melvin Municipal Building following a late-night council meeting. !
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