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One vision for Guilford from below

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We’ve watched from the sidelines with interest as Greensboro’s daily newspaper of record has advanced its “One Guilford, One Vision” discussion at a symposium at High Point University and subsequently in its editorial pages.

As a general proposition, we think it’s a laudable initiative. The county’s two cities, Greensboro and High Point, draw their workforce from the same educational institutions.

If High Point stumbles from the diminished stature of its furniture market, Greensboro will feel the downward tug. And the two cities need to develop a coordinated economic development strategy instead of trying to steal companies away from each other with corporate incentives. Besides, when it comes to strained race relations and an eroding manufacturing base, Greensboro is not in a whole lot better shape than High Point.

What’s annoying about the News & Record’s effort is how predictably it falls into the longstanding habit in Guilford County of convening elites to prescribe a vision for our future. Not only does it reflect a paternalistic and anti-democratic instinct in our county’s civic DNA, it’s impractical: Businesses in Guilford haven’t had a great track record of success, while common people have shown a genius for resourcefulness.

Case in point: N&R Editorial Writer Doug Clark highlights High Point Regional Health System CEO Jeff Miller’s “golf” diplomacy with Moses Cone Health System CEO Tim Rice.

“It’s good news for Guilford County when the leaders of Greensboro and High Point’s mega-medical centers are teeing off with each other rather than at each other,” Clark wrote recently.

Actually, it’s absurd that the two companies, which have been engaged in a turf battle, consider that they are their respective cities’ largest private employers, and residents of the county are criminally underinsured when it comes to health coverage.

Leadership is not the first word that comes to mind.

Both cities have a deep pool of leaders to draw from at their base. They’re humble and effective, oriented towards service, and usually but not always motivated by religious faith. While we don’t know High Point well enough to suggest who might be recruited from the furniture capital, we can offer a long list of seasoned community leaders from Greensboro.

In no particular order, we nominate:

• Ed Whitfield, a peace activist, volunteer and scholar on black education;

• Terrina Picarello, president of the Guilford County Council of PTAs, and someone actively forging links between east-side black parents and suburban white parents;

• Joel Landau, a voice for conservation, infill development and public transit on the Greensboro Board of Planning;

• Cara Michele Forrest, a blogger whose advocacy of homeless people is informed firsthand by her street outreach efforts;

• Ralph Speas, a secular substance-abuse

counselor and blues archivist; and

• Donalja James, a spoken word, hip-hop and R&B host who speaks publicly about the issue of domestic violence.

There are about a dozen more whose names and descriptors won’t fit this space. You can generate your own list.

Engage them. Listen to them. Make use of their talents.

Or die – as great cities, that is.

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