What a $100 million bond proposal looks like in Greensboro

by Jeff Sykes

There was a detailed report in a local conservative newspaper recently that raised the specter of secret city meetings to plot a $100-plus million dollar bond package on the November ballot. I asked a couple council members for a copy of the bond list, to no avail, but was able to get the spreadsheet rather quickly from staff, which was refreshing since I have two records requests that haven’t been filled in nearly four months. But that’s another story. The bond package is a cornucopia of city projects and is broken into critical ($101m), mid-range ($47.5m) and long-range categories ($46m). The total package comes to $195 million.A few that stand out at first glance are: $6 million for Downtown Greenway Phase 4 (including Ole Asheboro connector). This was interesting because the greenway project has twice recently been unable to attract a competitive bid for projects at hand. The current greenway is an original stretch from Spring Garden to Gate City and a short stretch of extended sidewalk alongside an apartment complex on Smith Street. Why this project is not further along or attracting competitive bids is an interesting set of circumstances. The private sector acts as if they are responsible for the project and there is great confusion among the public as to who is in charge. Who is to be held accountable for the project’s exorbitant cost and lack of progress? Another eye catcher is a $20 million bond for Downtown Streetscape Improvements. As Rhino Editor John Hammer points out, the bonds can be described as for one purpose and then used as council sees fit. A $20 million slush fund for special projects downtown would be an incredible tool at the disposal of a politically nebulous organization like Downtown Greensboro Inc.Some $25 million in housing projects should set local conservatives into orbit as should another $5 million for the South Elm Redevelopment (Union Square), which is yet another public-private partnership that the business community loves to claim credit for while the taxpayers foot the bill.The full list is available here. It will be interesting to see if robust debate develops regarding this plan or if a tuned-out public that recently reelected several city council members with greater than 80 percent of the vote merely shrugs again.