Defund DGI

Greensboro’s elected officials should defund Downtown Greensboro Inc. in the next budget cycle and apply that money directly to projects that enhance the viability of downtown as an eclectic center of commerce and entertainment.

DGI is currently a sad state of affairs.

The last two presidents have been run off, but not before taking with them payouts of financial resources that did not serve the organization’s stated purpose. In fact, an argument could be made that any personnel costs associated with DGI are duplicative of existing positions either in city hall or the private sector.

What purpose does DGI serve, except to employ a handful of people and provide soap opera like drama for board members and the city’s bloggerati?

Even worse, the board, and executive staff, appear to be feckless in the face of one or two personalities who dominate the organization behind the scenes.

Take for example the parklets issue raised by former DGI President Jason Cannon last spring. Cannon said DGI would work with downtown business to provide a handful of outdoor seating areas, European cafe style areas that would enhance individual business and the overall context of downtown.

This project worked its way through DGI staff and into negotiations with potential businesses, in coordination with city staff members. Local university faculty and students were engaged to design the small parks. Countless hours of time and energy went into the concept.

But the movement was scuttled last month when one board member, herself a downtown property owner, criticized the program. The opposition of one powerful figure was enough to rattle DGI’s interim leadership and the program died. The businesses involved, and the staff and volunteers who worked on the concept, left hanging in the void of leadership.

This is but a synecdoche of the larger failure of DGI to serve a meaningful purpose for the future vibrancy of Greensboro. !

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