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The Right Kind of Trouble

by Jeff Sykes

Greensboro’s Ben Holder is known to take a bite out of issues that appear on his radar.

In the past it’s been corner stores selling materials for crack pipes or nefarious massage parlors operating outside of city regulations. Recently he’s tackled a corner store selling drugs and running a gambling ring. He’s even blown up a city employee’s side contract to pressure wash trash trucks after hours. He’s done this by paying attention to the details and being dogged in his pursuit of good governance.

All along, Holder, who’s also known as The Troublemaker due to his wildly popular website of the same name, has focused on housing violations, junked cars and other lax code enforcement that hurts quality of life in many of Greensboro’s neighborhoods.

Because of his reputation for results many wondered why the city didn’t hire him? Wonder no more.

Holder responded to a request for proposal issued in the middle of June and won a contract on June 30 to provide code enforcement services for the city. By submitting his list of recommendations he was paid $2,000 the next day. His contract pays him $45 an hour for up to 20 hours a week, not to exceed $23,400 for the year.

Critics say that’s a pretty good deal for Holder, and have even raised the concern that the city brought Holder back in to the fold to ease his bite, such as was displayed toward City Council member Nancy Hoffman recently after Holder made public that one of her downtown properties was in a state of disrepair.

It’s easy to make that jump of logic, but at a deeper level, if Holder delivers on the promises made in his answer to the RFP, the investment will be a steal.

There is no shortage of deplorable housing conditions in Greensboro, as Holder and others such as the Greensboro Housing Coalition have repeatedly demonstrated. Conditions at the Heritage House at times qualify as inhumane.

Holder will first take on the Heritage House and promises to deliver a report this week on his first round of inspections.

Holder is capable, if brash, but perhaps residents in some of Greensboro’s worst housing stock deserve a champion for once.

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