Laughing at Us, Not with Us

(Last Updated On: May 11, 2011)

by Brian Clarey

Laughing at us, not with us


Maybe this isn’t important. Maybe no one in Greensboro cares about public perception of our city government; maybe people here have no regard for what our neighbors and fellow North Carolinians think and say about our city, the third largest in the state. Maybe, to some, our reputation outside our borders does not matter one whit.

But even if you don’t care what others think of our city, its people and our governing body, you should know: They are laughing at us.

District 1 Councilwoman Dianne Bellamy-Small said it out loud during Tuesday night’s marathon eight-hour city council meeting:

“This council has become the laughingstock of North Carolina,” she said. “I serve on the North Carolina League of Municipalities. And they ask, ‘What are you all doing?’”

But even if you don’t care what others think of our city, its people and our governing body, you should know: They are laughing at us.

It is worth noting that Bellamy-Small may be one of the personalities on council people from elsewhere find so amusing.

They laugh because we are still feeling the effects of a police scandal that took 10 years to unravel — to no one’s satisfaction except perhaps Greensboro police Officer Scott “Scooter” Sanders who beat a felony rap in the only trial to come out of the whole sordid affair.

They laugh because the solution we have come up with to handle the shameful amount of garbage we generate is to dump it in a poor, black section of town just four miles from our urban center, the most prized real estate in the city.

They laugh because District 5 Councilwoman Mary Rakestraw said that she discovered a redistricting plan that was left anonymously on her doorstep, like a foundling, and immediately put this anonymously authored plan up for a vote.

They laugh at the bickering, name-calling, grandstanding and posturing that happens both on the dais and before it, our inability to adhere to Robert’s Rules of Order in our official meetings, our inequitable distribution of resources, our uncanny ability to inject race or politics into every, and our equally remarkable inability to recognize the validity of opposing points of view.

And sometimes we, too, laugh at our city council that at times seems more like a family of step-siblings cobbled together by multiple regrettable marriages. We laugh even as our dialogue is crippled by vitriol and short-sightedness.

But as amusing as the antics of this cast of characters are, we must not forget the overriding fact: The Greensboro City Council is us. We elected them; they represent our interests, district by district and citywide. They are the embodiment of the citizenry. Like it or not, we are all Dianne Bellamy-Small and Mary Rakestraw and everyone in between.

To paraphrase a legendary comic-strip character, we have seen the punch line, and it is us.

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