Author: John Hammer

About John Hammer

Here are my most recent posts

Cafe Europa Supporters Come Out in Force to City Council Forum and Get a Nothing Burger

Café Europa has a loyal and passionate following, but the Greensboro City Council doesn’t care. About 40 supporters of Café Europa on North Davie Street attended the Greensboro City Council meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 6, and waved copies of the iconic logo for the restaurant to show their support. Nine speakers and the owner, Jakub Pucilowski, spoke during speakers from the floor. Most talked about how much Café Europa meant to them, saying that it was much more than a restaurant but a community, where weddings were celebrated, memorial services held and the employees were friends. Most expressed confusion...

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Under the Hammer: Feb. 8, 2018

I’m not a big fan of CNN or any of the news networks, including Fox News for that matter. But after the House Intelligence Committee released the memo on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants, I watched CNN because I was curious about how they would spin it. What I found in the coverage right after the memo was released was that CNN didn’t talk much about the memo and what it said. What they wanted to talk about was Robert Mueller’s investigation of President Donald Trump. The memo isn’t about Mueller’s investigation. It is about the FBI acting in a partisan fashion to affect the outcome of a presidential election. That is extremely damning. Imagine if the military used its power to try and affect the outcome of an election. That would be called an attempted coup. Maybe this effort by the FBI doesn’t rise to that level. It certainly wasn’t successful. But the very fact that the FBI used an uncorroborated dossier paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) to spy on the Trump campaign is frightening. If the Steele dossier was going to be used, the FBI had a duty to tell the FISA court where the information came from, and also that the FBI had not been able to corroborate most of it. The mainstream media keep claiming that...

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Under the Hammer: Feb. 1, 2018

A speech that lasts an hour and 20 minutes has a lot of different messages, but it seemed like President Donald J. Trump was reaching out to the Democrats in Congress with an olive branch tied to a sword. Everyone in Washington knows what a good economy does for the party in power, and particularly for the president. It gives them a huge boost. Presidents rarely lose a reelection bid if the economy is doing well. The economy is doing well, which gives Trump a lot of clout. It seemed to me he was telling the Democrats that they could work with him or he would get it done without them. People are going to start seeing more money in their paychecks this month. That doesn’t mean much to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is one of the richest members of the House, but it is going to mean something to a lot of hardworking Americans trying to make ends meet. It’s going to be tough for the Democrats to go out to the American people in the fall and explain that they really don’t need the money that the Republicans sent back to them without a single vote from a Democrat. Then there was the government shutdown over immigration. The Republicans always get blamed for government shutdowns, but somehow or another Trump turned the tables on Senate...

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City as Landlord Finds Many Ways to Turns Its Back on Downtown Mainstay Cafe Europa

The much beloved Café Europa, which has been a mainstay in the Cultural Arts Center on Davie Street for 18 years and the preferred watering hole of many downtown habitués, may exist no longer come May 1. Restaurants go out of business all the time, but the problem Café Europa has is not a lack of business but that its landlord, the City of Greensboro, refused to negotiate a new lease. The reason the city refused to even enter into negotiations for a new lease has little to do with the current owner, Jakub Pucilowski, and a lot to...

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Scarfone’s Request for Injunction Against February One Parking Deck Gets Day in Court

After over six months of negotiations, on Monday, Jan. 29, Rocky Scarfone and the City of Greensboro faced off in court over an easement to the back door of Cone Denim Entertainment Center at 117 S. Elm St. that the Greensboro City Council voted to condemn on Dec. 19. The city’s plans for the property include a public parking deck and a Westin Hotel built over a portion of that deck. It is a complicated deal that required the North Carolina General Assembly to pass a special bill to allow it to go forward. On Monday, Amiel Rossabi, representing...

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Rhino Shorts: Feb. 1, 2018

The NFL rejected an advertisement for the Super Bowl program that says, “Please Stand,” and was sponsored by American Veterans, as being too politically controversial to allow in the program. The Rhino Times is no stranger to controversy or politics, so we decided that our readers would enjoy seeing this highly controversial ad, and the AMVETS kindly sent us a copy. So if you turn to page 4 you can see this politically controversial ad. Unless you find the American flag or standing as politically controversial then its hard to find anything wrong with the ad. It makes you wonder if the AMVETS had simply chosen to run a full page ad of the American flag if the NFL would have also found that too controversial to run. Or what if some group had wanted to run a full page ad of the British, French or Russian flags? Would that have been too controversial? Or is it simply the American flag they find controversial? Certainly they couldn’t find anything controversial about “Please Stand.” It’s extremely polite. **** I had an unexpected honor on Tuesday night at the District 2 Town Hall meeting at Union Square – I was introduced to Joseph McNeil, who was one of the four NC A&T State University students who sat down at the Woolworth’s lunch counter on Feb. 1, 1960 and changed history. I...

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Lawsuit Could Put the Brakes on Construction of February One Parking Deck Downtown

The price of the downtown parking deck at February One Place and Market Street set at $30 million went up Friday, Jan. 19 when Cone Denim Entertainment Club owner Rocky Scarfone filed a lawsuit against the city, which has started proceedings to condemn the easement to the backdoor of the club, an action that Scarfone says will put him out of business. The lawsuit asks for an injunction to stop the city from building the parking deck until the lawsuit is settled, since Scarfone will suffer irreparable harm once the parking deck is built. The lawsuit, filed by Amiel...

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Goldman Sachs Executive’s $1.2 Million Wine Theft Has High Point Connection

Guilford County may become known as the hot wine capital of the country, if by hot you mean stolen. Once again Guilford County wine dealer Wine Liquidators in High Point, run by Ryan Chaland, has, according to sources with knowledge of the case, been found to have purchased bottles of stolen wine worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. With this wine it doesn’t take long to get to the hundreds of thousands mark because one bottle may be worth $25,000. In the latest case, David Solomon, co-president of Goldman Sachs, discovered that about $1.2 million worth of wine was...

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Rhino Shorts: Jan. 25, 2018

Campaign finance reports aren’t due until the end of the week, but former District 5 City Councilmember Tony Wilkins has filed his and it has some startling information. Wilkins had $19,823 left in his campaign account at the end of the election. Wilkins raised a total of $59,418 and spent $39,595. If Wilkins had won you could say that he was being frugal – but he lost. Current District 5 City Councilmember Tammi Thurm won with 2,513 votes to 2,054 for Wilkins. Thurm by comparison raised $36,995 and spent $35,056 and had $1,938 left in her account. So while Wilkins raised $22,423 more than Thurm, he only spent $4,539 more than Thurm did. The combined amount of money raised, over $96,000, may be the most ever raised by two candidates in a district City Council race. ***** Wow. According to an article in a reputable publication, a mathematician at Duke proved that the Republicans drew the congressional districts to favor Republicans. This is simply astounding information. No doubt only a high level mathematician could figure out something everyone in the state already knew. The Republicans have not denied drawing districts to favor Republicans. State Rep. David Lewis, when asked why they drew districts that would give Republicans a 10-to-3 majority over Democrats, said he didn’t think it was possible to come up with a map to elect 11 Republicans....

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Under the Hammer: Jan. 25, 2018

Forget about Dreamers who have been in this country for at least 10 years and aren’t going anywhere. Forget about the bogus government shutdown that dominated the news cycle for days. These are both smoke screens. The real story, the story that has been put on hold for over a week, is the news coming out of the investigation of the FBI. Now there is evidence of a “secret society” in the FBI and the Justice Department. The purpose of the secret society referred to in an email from former top FBI agent Peter Strzok to his mistress FBI attorney Lisa Page was apparently to force President Donald J. Trump out of office. This is a far more important story for the future of our country as a free society than any immigration or funding story. The reason these other stories are so prominent in the news is because the Democrats and the leftwing mainstream media are doing everything in their considerable power to cover-up the FBI story. We know for a fact that people in the FBI were working against Trump. First they were working against the Trump campaign. The FBI was involved in the creation of the Trump dossier. One problem they had was that the dossier went too far. It was shopped around to the media before the election and no reliable news source would touch...

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Concerns Raised About Sex Offenders At IRC

Director of the Interactive Resource Center (IRC) and City Councilmember Michelle Kennedy last fall objected to developer Marty Kotis placing a charter school in the old Dorothy Bardolph Building on the corner of Washington and Church streets downtown. Kennedy said that a number of people who used the IRC were registered sex offenders and it would be a hardship for them since the IRC is right down Washington Street from the Bardolph Building. During that discussion, it was revealed that seven people on the Sex Offender Registry listed the IRC as their address. The number of those using the...

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Under the Hammer: Jan. 18, 2018

It makes sense when you have different political parties in control of the White House and Congress for there to be big battles about spending and threats of a government shutdown. But it makes no sense with Republicans in control of the House, Senate and White House to be talking once again about a government shutdown. The problem according to those in Washington is that Democratic votes are needed in the Senate to get to the 60 votes needed to bring the matter to a vote. What the Republicans could do is eliminate the rules that require 60 votes to do just about anything in the Senate and go to a simple majority. The Democrats did it when they really wanted a bill passed and the Republicans did it for judicial appointments. Bodies are ruled by the majority. It would appear that the main reasons the Republicans won’t make the change is because they fear they will soon be in the minority and because of tradition. The first objection may be a self-fulfilling prophecy. If the Republicans can’t get anything done in the Senate then the voters may decide they might as well elect Democrats. Some of the Republican base is still bent out of shape over the failure of the Republicans to fully repeal Obamacare after running and winning for years by promising such a repeal. Others in...

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Rhino Shorts: Jan. 18, 2018

I’m doubling down on my complaints about traffic lights in Greensboro. While most people wisely stayed home on Wednesday, some of us had to work, which meant driving around in the snow. There was almost no traffic, but the traffic lights in Greensboro were on the same settings as if it had been a normal day. It’s dangerous to stop on snow and ice. And sometimes it’s impossible to get started going up a hill on ice. The lights should have been on flash with yellow for the thoroughfares and red for the side streets. Traffic lights also bunch...

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Close But No Toyota

It was sad news that the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite was not chosen for the Toyota-Mazda plant. It would have provided the manufacturing jobs that Greensboro needs. Nobody would talk about it on the record, but off the record, up until this week, the feeling was that the Toyota-Mazda had chosen Greensboro and was waiting to make the announcement. Tuesday night, Jan. 9, when asked, Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan said she didn’t want to talk about it. Wednesday, after the announcement was official, Vaughan explained, “I didn’t want to concede if there was any chance we might get it.” Vaughan said it was the supply chain that did the Greensboro-Randolph megasite in. Alabama already has three automobile manufacturing plants, so the supply chain for auto manufacturing is in place. And since North Carolina doesn’t have a car manufacturing plant, we don’t have the supply chain for one. So, in the end, North Carolina didn’t get an auto plant because we don’t have an auto plant. Who knew that automobile plants were like automobile dealerships and they all like to be in one place. Vaughan said that making it to the finals on this selection process puts the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite, not just on the national map, but on the world map for anyone who is looking for an advanced manufacturing location. She added that after the attempt at the Boeing plant, “we...

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Federal Judges Continue Push To Take Over Legislatures Redistricting Duties

It appears the federal courts are attempting to overturn the North Carolina Constitution and take the right of redistricting away from the state legislature so that the federal court itself can do the redistricting. On Tuesday, Jan. 9, it was announced that a panel made up of three federal judges had ruled the redrawn North Carolina congressional districts illegal because of political gerrymandering. In the past, the courts have upheld the right of the majority party to redistrict to benefit the candidates from that party. A case is currently before the US Supreme Court where a similar ruling by...

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Rhino Shorts: Jan. 11, 2018

Cartoonist Bill Lunsford is joining the Rhino herd (which as I just learned is also called a crash) this week and will be providing weekly cartoons that will run on the page facing Under the Hammer. His cartoons will be about both national and local issues. We hope to have a healthy mix of each. The late Geof Brooks was the Rhino cartoonist from 1992 until he unexpectedly died of a heart attack last February, but in one of those oddities of life, Geof introduced us to Bill. Geof was taking a class in cartooning from Bill at Randolph...

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Under the Hammer: Jan. 11, 2018

The liberal media talks about Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients as if enforcing the laws of this country is wrong. President Barack Obama was in office for eight years, and for months he had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate and a majority in the House. The Democrats could have passed any immigration reform bill they wanted and the Republicans would have been unable to stop it. Obama and the Democrats didn’t pass any meaningful immigration legislation. What did they do about the Dreamers when they had complete control of the government? Nothing. This whole DACA mess was caused by Obama because he put in a temporary measure that gave these young people a special status for a limited amount of time. It is always more difficult to take a privilege away from people than it is to have never given it. DACA went into effect in 2012; before that the young people now protected by DACA were no different from any other illegal immigrants. But if the Republicans don’t renew this special status given to them by Obama on a temporary basis, then, according to the liberal media, they are evil and uncaring. If that is true, wasn’t Obama evil and uncaring for not making sure they received their special status on a permanent basis? Why didn’t Obama give the DACA recipients a path to citizenship...

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Rhino Shorts: Jan. 4, 2018

OK, I drive a car with a big V8. I used every aerosol can I could find, even when forced to buy them at discount stores when regular stores quit carrying them. Charcoal grills, outdoor fire pits, indoor fireplaces, if it’s not 80 degrees on the weekend I’m burning something. I do this because I have been promised that it will cause global warming. I like warm weather and if it were a few degrees warmer every day I’d be a little happier. But despite all of my hard work to bring about global warming, the temperatures over the New Year’s holiday never got above freezing. This is the South, for goodness sake. It’s supposed to be hot in the summer and cool to cold in the winter, but not frigid. We’re supposed to have a couple of cold days a year where it drops into the low 20s or teens, but warms up to 50 or so during the day. If this global warming doesn’t kick in soon I’m going to give up and buy a Prius. ***** I agree with just about everyone in the area, with the exception of the seven members of the Central North Carolina Airport Authority, that the new name for the airport is terrible. But we can call the airport anything we want. The official name is the CNCIA, but I don’t...

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For Whom the Toll Tolls

I usually don’t think much about toll roads when I’m on vacation. I stop, pay the toll and go on my way. OK, maybe I complain a little about the cost, but that’s about it. But this year when the Muse and I were traveling in Portugal we became somewhat obsessed with toll roads. Well, not with the roads themselves but with trying to pay the tolls. Since then I’ve spent some time on the internet and I’ve found we are not alone in being utterly flummoxed by the new toll roads in Portugal, where the only convenient way to pay the toll is by having a transponder on your car. We had rented a car without a transponder because we have gotten in the habit of turning down all the extras they try to add on to increase the rental fee. Admittedly, we should have paid more attention, particularly when the rental agent, who really was trying to help us out, showed us a photo of the toll roads he was talking about. At the time I wondered what he was doing; did he think we had never seen a toll road? But he was right – we had never seen toll roads like these, and without the photo we might have been even more confused than we were, which was pretty darn confused. The toll roads, as...

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Under the Hammer: Jan. 4, 2018

It has been almost a year since Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States, and none of the dire predictions made by the Democrats and the mainstream media have come to pass. Remember back during the campaign when the mainstream media were predicting that Trump would have to step aside and Vice President Mike Pence would run in his place? Even after the election some were predicting that Trump would never be allowed to take the oath of office. Since then, the demise of the Trump administration has been predicted repeatedly by liberal pundits and conservative never-Trumpers. New York Times columnist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman predicted a “worldwide recession with no end in sight” shortly after Trump was elected. But the opposite has happened. The stock market has hit 71 all time highs and the Dow has risen over 6,000 points since Trump was elected and may hit 25,000 before Trump’s first year in office is complete. Unemployment is down and some people are saying that the economy is at full employment, meaning those who want jobs have jobs. The world is not at war as many predicted, but it appears the war in Iraq and Syria is over and ISIS has been crushed – not by former President Barack Obama, whose “lead from behind” policies allowed ISIS to conquer...

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Rhino Shorts: Dec. 28, 2017

Happy 2018. This is the last Rhino Times of 2017, which seems incredible. One thing I’ve learned putting out a weekly publication for more than 25 years is that a weekly deadline makes time fly. Last week I had to look up an article I had written earlier in the year. I thought I wrote it in October, but it turned out it was August. Later this week I’ll sit down with all 52 papers we have produced this year to do a review, and I will annoy everyone in the office by calling out a story and saying, “Guess when we covered that?” I do know that the City Council primary was Oct. 10 and the general election on Nov. 7, but otherwise it’s always confusing. ***** Some people expected Rocky Scarfone and his attorney Amiel Rossabi to have already filed a lawsuit against the city over the parking deck that the city plans to build on East Market and Davie streets, which will eliminate Scarfone’s easement to the back door of Cone Denim Entertainment Center. But that lawsuit has not been filed because the courts are closed for Christmas. Court reopens on Jan. 2 and Rossabi has already sent a letter to the city asking that all correspondence in the city’s possession about the planned parking deck be preserved, which is a good indication that the lawsuit...

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Under the Hammer: Dec. 28, 2017

President Donald John Trump and the Republicans did it. They passed a major tax reform bill without a single Democratic vote in the House or Senate. That fact is pretty amazing; not a single Democrat elected to serve in the House or the Senate thinks that the government taking less money from its citizens is a good idea. That’s incredible. I hope the Democrats run in 2018 on a platform to raise taxes. It makes sense for a majority of Democrats to vote against a Republican initiative, but doesn’t it seem like one of the hundreds of Democrats in the House and Senate would see cutting taxes as a good thing? The mainstream media have spent much of the fall writing about how the Democrats are going to take back the House in 2018. But people rarely vote against their pocketbooks, and, according to independent analysts, about 80 percent of taxpayers are receiving a tax cut. In North Carolina the average taxpayer will pay about $600 less in federal taxes in 2018. You can bet that $600 is going straight back into the economy. People are likely to spend a little more money rather than put that $600 into a savings account. It’s not enough to change anyone’s lifestyle, but it is enough to eat a few more meals out, go on a trip or buy someone a nicer...

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Rhino Shorts: Dec. 21, 2017

It seems like Tex and Shirley’s Family Restaurant has always been on Pembroke Road in Friendly Shopping Center serving breakfast, but it won’t be much longer. Tex and Shirley’s is moving, and the last day at its current location is Sunday, Dec. 24. So if you’re just dying for some Tex and Shirley’s pancakes, you might want to get over there before Christmas. ***** Maybe the name will grow on me, but Central North Carolina International Airport is not very appealing. I agree that Piedmont Triad International Airport was not a good name, but it’s hard to see how the new name is much of an improvement. The good news is that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) code will not change. It will remain GSO. Take that Winston-Salem and High Point. What would be truly great for the airport would be more flights at lower rates. And really, who refers to an airport by its name? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say they were flying out of Douglas, which is the name of the Charlotte Airport. Do people say, “Oh no, I have to change planes at Hartsfield-Jackson.” – the name of the airport in Atlanta? In cities with more than one airport, Kennedy or LaGuardia in New York, the name is used, but it’s going to be a while before the Piedmont Triad has another...

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Under the Hammer: Dec. 21, 2017

Some people are calling for President Donald John Trump to fire Special Prosecutor Bob Mueller, and even though Mueller is giving the mainstream media plenty of opportunities to attack Trump, firing him would be the wrong move. Sometimes the best move is to give someone plenty of rope so they can hang themselves. Mueller has been investigating since May and he hasn’t found any evidence of the Trump campaign colluding with Russia that he is supposed to be investigating. Mueller has uncovered evidence of the Clinton campaign colluding with Russians – if paying people for salacious information about your opponent is collusion. And he has also found some evidence of the FBI colluding with the Russians and the Clinton campaign. If Mueller is supposed to follow this investigation wherever it leads then he should be investigating Hillary Clinton and the FBI. The text message from FBI agent Peter Strzok about needing an “insurance policy” if Trump is elected is evidence that a crime may have been committed; it isn’t proof but it is evidence. If Mueller is doing his job, he is investigating that evidence of a crime. If he hasn’t found any evidence of Trump colluding with the Russians in six months, there isn’t much chance he’s going to find it in eight months or a year. Trump says that Mueller can’t find anything because there isn’t anything...

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Snow Shoveling Could Boost NC Economy

Yankees – or perhaps to be politically correct I should say people who have moved here from northern states – make fun of the way we deal with snow in the South. And perhaps rightly so. At the first mention that there might be snow, people around here run to the grocery store and buy as much bread and milk as they can carry. Then if there are more than two flakes the schools close and a lot of people stay home from work because they don’t drive on white roads. I don’t understand the bread and milk myself, but – since we get more ice than snow – staying off the roads does make sense. But there are some things I don’t understand about men who have moved south from the frozen North. It appears they love to shovel snow, and I don’t see the appeal. Golf is not my favorite game but I understand the attraction and even admit being hooked on the game for a while. But shoveling snow – where is the fun in that? When those first flakes are falling, kids get their sleds out, hoping that enough snow will stick to give them a few runs down the hill before it turns to slush, and men from up north get out their trusty snow shovels, no doubt handed down to them by their...

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City Council Likely to Approve Tanger Construction Contract

If things go according to plan, on Jan. 8, the final stage of a project that began as an idea thrown out by then Greensboro Mayor Robbie Perkins at a City Council retreat in January 2011 could begin. The City Council is supposed to vote on the contract for construction of the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts next Tuesday, Dec. 19. The low bid on the contract was made by T.A. Loving for $56 million, which is considerably lower than some councilmembers were expecting. If the City Council accepts the bid, the schedule calls for construction to...

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Rhino Shorts: Dec. 14, 2017

Depending on how much you like snow, last week we either dodged a bullet or missed a great opportunity. Saturday the snow was beautiful but the temperature stayed just high enough to keep much from sticking. A couple of degrees colder and we would have had a real snowman, sledding snow, but all we got was the view. I’ll have to check with the woolly worms again because a day of snow in early December, even if it doesn’t stick, seems to indicate a cold winter. ***** At least the Senate election in Alabama is finally over. I can’t imagine how overwhelmed the people of Alabama must be, because even here, where nobody could vote, the coverage appeared to be nonstop. I hope Doug Jones does a good job for his constituents. When he signed up to run, it seemed it was only a question of what Republican would beat him in the general election, but anything can happen in politics, and often it does. ***** The City Council has been pretty quiet for the last few months, which is not unusual in an election year. The councilmembers were understandably distracted by the election. But the first regular meeting of the new council on Tuesday, Dec. 19 is gearing up to be a humdinger. The approval of funding for the two new downtown parking decks is on the agenda....

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Under the Hammer: Dec. 14, 2017

There a lot of different ways to look at the win by Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama, in what has been a safe Republican Senate seat for over two decades. But my take is that you had the Washington swamp take on President Donald John Trump and the swamp won. Look at where the stories about Roy Moore being some kind of weird sexual predator originated – The Washington Post. It was hardball politics. And where do they play hardball politics? In Washington. Remember back when the Republicans were impeaching Bill Clinton? Speaker Newt Gingrich had to step down because at the time he was having an affair with the woman who is now his wife. The second choice for speaker was Bob Livingston, who it was discovered had an affair, and many other Republican members of the House had their infidelities exposed. Does anyone think those stories were unearthed by coincidence? It’s the way the game is played in Washington. Past sins are forgotten as long as you follow the rules. Lately, even for Washington insiders, things have gotten out of hand with accusations. But nobody liked Sen. Al Franken and some folks saw a chance to take him out. I think this election was the swamp – both Republicans and Democrats – sending a message to Trump and his supporters that in Washington they play hardball, and...

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New City Council Doesn’t Waste Time And Wades Into Potentially Hot Water

The new Greensboro City Council was sworn in on Tuesday, Dec. 5, among a multitude of thank yous and a major change in the way the City Council does business. Mayor Nancy Vaughan and the eight councilmembers who were elected to four-year terms must be feeling confident because at their first meeting they took away people’s right to speak on non-agenda items at two of the three City Council meetings each month. The speakers from the floor on non-agenda items segment of the meetings, usually referred to as “speakers from the floor,” has been highly controversial in the past....

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Manning to Challenge Budd for Congress

The 2017 election has barely ended and already the 2018 election is getting underway. Tuesday, Dec. 5, the newly elected Greensboro City Council was sworn in and Wednesday, Dec. 6, Democrat Kathy Manning announced she would be running against Republican 13th District Congressman Ted Budd. It appears it won’t be a pretty campaign. Before Manning officially made her announcement, the Ted Budd campaign posted an ad on its website titled “The Real Kathy Manning” Budd’s ad reads, “Kathy Manning is an establishment Democrat who’s worked for decades alongside far-left Democrats including Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer, John Edwards...

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Under the Hammer: Dec. 7, 2017

Just another indication of the bias of National Public Radio (NPR). A reporter on Monday was talking about what was, at the time, speculation that President Donald John Trump would reduce the size of the Bears Ears National Monument, which Trump later did. President Barack Obama created the massive federally protected area shortly before leaving office. It was controversial because millions of acres were taken out of circulation. And what made this NPR report so interesting was that the reporter noted that Obama had created the massive national monument but he said there was some question as to whether Trump could reduce the size or not. Really, let’s play fair. Obama was a Democratic president and Trump is a Republican president, but a president who is a Democrat does not have more or less power than a president who is a Republican. If Obama had the power to do something then Trump has the power to undo it. It’s the same with legislative bodies. If the legislature under the Democrats did something then the legislature under the Republicans can undo it, and vice versa. It’s similar to the argument often made that the US Senate can’t do this or that because it would violate the Byrd Rule or any other rule that the Senate has made. First of all, as far as the Byrd Rule goes, it doesn’t seem...

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Rhino Shorts: Dec. 7, 2017

Yvonne Johnson – who has served on the City Council since 1993 except for two years – as usual was surrounded by children and grandchildren when she took the oath of office on Tuesday night, and then she received a surprise. Former City Councilmember and former state Sen. Don Vaughan presented Johnson with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine – North Carolina’s highest civilian honor awarded to her by Gov. Roy Cooper. Now Johnson has the right and privilege to offer the Long Leaf Pine toast any time she chooses. “Here’s to the land of the Long Leaf Pine, The summer land where the sun doth shine, Where the weak grow strong and the strong grow great Here’s to ‘down home,’ the Old North State.” ***** At least one new City Councilmember received a gift when she walked into her new office at city hall. District 5 City Councilmember Tammi Thurm said that former District 5 Councilmember Tony Wilkins left her a new bottle of Pepto-Bismol and a new bottle of Tums for her as a gift. ***** Greensboro is holding an open house on the plans for the two new downtown parking decks from 4 to 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 12 at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum at 134 S. Elm St. The parking decks represent a new venture for the City of Greensboro....

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Under the Hammer: Nov. 30, 2017

Some people, including most journalists, work better under deadline pressure. Other people freeze up under pressure and can’t make a decision. In the next month we will find out which group the Republicans in the Senate fit into. The first deadline is Dec. 8, when the government supposedly runs out of money and shuts down without the approval to borrow more money. This has continued to the point of absurdity. It would seem the idea was that if Congress had to authorize new borrowing that it might encourage Congress to reduce spending. If that was the idea it hasn’t worked. For the last couple of decades, it has just meant that Congress would fight and argue for a few weeks and then vote to borrow more money because Congress cannot get its spending under control. So, by Dec. 8, Congress has to vote to borrow more money and it would be highly embarrassing for the Republicans if they shut down the government because they can’t agree among themselves. It might actually result in some sanity being infused into the entire system where Congress would stop spending so much money. It’s one of those cases where most sane people agree that Congress cannot continue to spend as much as a trillion dollars more than it has in revenue each year forever, but nobody seems to have the will to make...

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What’s So Green About the Greenway

For months I have watched a small portion of the Downtown Greenway take shape, and since it has opened, I decided to take a walk down the portion of the Greenway that runs along Fisher Avenue from Greene Street to Eugene Street. I don’t know what I expected, but considering how long it had taken the city to build this portion of the Greenway, I think I was expecting marching bands, maybe a moving sidewalk or outdoor cafes full of beautiful people drinking exotic drinks, but what I found was a wide sidewalk where a regular sidewalk had been. The truth is that the Downtown Greenway has great marketing but falls short on delivery. How could anyone be opposed to something called “Greenway”? It’s the only sidewalk in Greensboro with a full-time employee devoted to marketing, and the marketing has been amazingly successful. But marketing aside, the Greenway is a wider-than-usual sidewalk. The project began in 2001, and now, 16 years later, less than a mile of the four-mile wider-than-usual sidewalk project is complete. But don’t let the lack of progress fool you, because the Greenway project is still costing a bundle. The latest estimates are that the total cost of this four-mile wider-than-usual sidewalk around the downtown will be $36 million – or $9 million a mile – to widen the sidewalk. Except because this is a government...

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Rhino Shorts: Nov. 30, 2017

The Greensboro Department of Transportation is holding a workshop from 4 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 7 on what to do about Old Battleground Avenue and Cotswald Terrace, an area that has become a mess since the construction of the Outer Loop closed Cotswald Avenue and cut off Old Battleground. Why is this being held now, instead of six months or a year ago? The Outer Loop has been on the books for decades. Cotswald Avenue was constructed as a temporary road because the city knew it would be closed once the Outer Loop was built, so why wasn’t a plan developed before the road was closed and traffic became a problem? A note to those attending: This drop in session is known in some circles as divide and conquer. People look at the options and speak individually with government representatives rather than getting a chance to get together as they would at a public hearing held at one time with everyone interested in one room. This way the city staff gets to present its solution to attendees one on one, and those who don’t agree might never learn that there are many others who agree with them and not with the city staff. ***** Progress North Carolina has sent an invitation to state legislators to attend a town hall meeting on Thursday, Nov. 30 at Temple Emanuel...

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Rhino Shorts: Nov. 23, 2017

Participatory Budgeting – a way for the City Council to give away more money, as if it needed another way – had a huge problem in its first year of operation: People didn’t participate. Less than 100 votes were needed to spend money on some projects. But the clever folks at Participatory Budgeting have found a way to increase the number of voters and make it appear more people are freely participating in this government giveaway. If the voters won’t come to them, they will go to the voters. In the latest attempt to get people to participate, Participatory Budgeting has gone to select high schools, and there they have a captive audience. Students are trained to do what they are told to do. If they are told to vote for a project, they vote for a project. This is a brilliant move to make it look like people are choosing to participate in Participatory Budgeting. Here is another idea to increase participation: Why not go to the Guilford County Jail? It is a captive audience. The folks in there don’t have much to do. They are all over 14 years old, which is the requirement for Participatory Budgeting, though it is not actually enforced. There are many places in town with captive audiences – maybe not as captive as the jail, but where people would be glad for...

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Halt Pretense and Go Pro

Remember back when professional athletes were banned from the Olympics because the Olympics was for amateurs? People said that if the Olympics were opened to professional athletes it would ruin the spirit of the games. But the Olympics was opened to professional athletes and the spirit seems to be much the same. Back when professional athletes were supposedly barred, it meant that many Olympic athletes had to pretend that they were amateurs. Sometimes athletes would get caught and that caused big scandals, but many athletes took payments of some kind under the table and everyone pretended that they were amateurs with no visible means of support. Some countries provided government jobs for athletes that allowed them as much time as they needed to train, but technically they had government jobs so that was acceptable. People said that allowing professional athletes to compete would ruin the Olympics but in fact admitting that many athletes were professionals made the Olympics better because people weren’t forced to lie or hide their incomes. It also allowed the athletes to benefit financially from their years of training. That is what should be done with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Many players in the revenue producing sports get paid – not openly, but they still get paid. Why not admit these players are professionals and be done with the pretense? It didn’t ruin the...

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Under the Hammer: Nov. 23, 2017

I was reading the latest spin from the liberal press and they are quoting some “nonpartisan” group about the tax reform that found that it will cause famine, plagues and swarms of insects to infest the US. Well, not exactly, but if these “nonpartisan” folks thought anyone would believe it, they would float it out there. It is interesting that according to the mainstream media there are only two kinds of groups – nonpartisan and conservative. Just like when liberal became a bad word and even the most liberal politician became a moderate, now there seems to be no liberal think tanks; according to the mainstream media there are only conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation and nonpartisan groups like everyone else. The idea that any of these groups is nonpartisan is like believing that The New York Times and The Washington Post report the news from an unbiased perspective. The New York Times admitted after the election of Donald John Trump that it had allowed its reporters covering the presidential election to put their opinions in what were supposed to be news articles. But even though The New York Times editor admitted allowing opinion in his news pages, people still defend The New York Times as being unbiased. People understand exactly what Trump is saying when he accuses the major media outlets of fake news. The hundreds of...

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Rhino Shorts: Nov. 16, 2017

Wrangler headquarters has been in Greensboro for years, but now we’re getting something a bit more interesting. Wrangler is going to put a pop up store in the old Miller Furniture Building at 314 S. Elm St. The store will open on Dec. 1 and the plan is for it to be open two months. But if it works out that could be a lot longer. Wrangler sells jeans practically everywhere, but it only has two actual stores – one in Denver and one in Dallas. This could be the third. There will be a lot of specialty jeans and items that won’t be sold anywhere else in the area. Rumor has it that Downtown Greensboro Inc. President Zack Matheny was so enthusiastic about the new opportunity that he was seen mopping the floors in the old Miller Furniture Building, which has been closed for 10 years. ***** The word is that the Toyota-Mazda automobile plant site selectors have narrowed their choices to two states – North Carolina and Alabama. Even if North Carolina is chosen, it doesn’t mean it will be the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite. There are four megasites in North Carolina, but some say that Greensboro-Randolph is the front-runner. But whether the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite is chosen by Toyota-Mazda or not, it’s a great sign to be in the running. That means the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite is on the radar...

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Under the Hammer: Nov. 16, 2017

I am tired of reading that the proposed tax cuts will mostly benefit the rich.   Yes, they will. The tax cuts can’t benefit the poor because they don’t pay taxes. Any meaningful tax cut has to benefit the rich. The top 1 percent of income earners in the US pay 38 percent of the taxes; the top 10 percent pay 70 percent of the taxes. If the goal of a tax cut is to put more money back into the private sector then the rich have to get a significant tax cut. If taxes were completely eliminated for 90 percent of the population, that would only cut revenue by 30 percent. The other thing that the mainstream media ignore is that the rich pay the taxes they agree to pay. They aren’t filling out the EZ form and taking the standard deduction. They have teams of accountants and lawyers figuring out how they can pay less in taxes. There are ways for rich people to reduce their taxes that aren’t available to the rest of us. The rich also have far more control over their income than the middle class. They don’t simply get a paycheck with all the deductions taken out; they have all kinds of deferred payments, stock options and the like that allow them to pay less in taxes. ***** Special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s whole investigation...

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Special Master Into Double Bunking

The new redistricting plan for the North Carolina state House and state Senate districts in Guilford County – drawn by the special master appointed by the federal court – have been released. The plan was drawn without consideration for incumbents and may be amended before being submitted to the federal court Dec. 1. Courts are not supposed to be partisan but in this case having lines drawn in a nonpartisan fashion is extremely partisan. One of the huge advantages to being the majority party is that the majority party gets to draw the districts to its own advantage. So for over 100 years the Democrats in North Carolina got to draw the districts to help Democrats get elected, but in 2010, when the Republicans won a majority in districts drawn by the Democrats, the federal courts decided that the Republicans couldn’t draw legal districts. The issue is far more complicated than is presented by the mainstream media because the mainstream media usually report that the federal courts have found that the districts were racially gerrymandered. What the mainstream media don’t usually report is that the US Department of Justice requires North Carolina to racially gerrymander the districts. The state is required to draw a certain number of black majority districts to facilitate electing black representatives and senators. So race has to be a factor in drawing the districts because,...

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City Voting Patterns Less Polarized

The voter turnout for the City Council election last week was about 15 percent, which is terrible and sounds even worse if you say that 85 percent of the voters stayed home. What drives turnout in most election years is the top of the ticket. In this case that would be the mayor’s race, and Mayor Nancy Vaughan won with over 67 percent of the vote over Diane Moffett, a political newcomer who moved to Greensboro the same day she filed to run. There never seemed to be much doubt that Vaughan would win, and without an exciting mayor’s race a lot of voters stayed home. The most interesting part of the returns was the votes that Vaughan received in east Greensboro. As usual the map detailing who won each precinct looked like Greensboro had been sliced right along the line between east and west. But in looking at the precinct returns, Vaughan didn’t win any precincts but she did get a lot of votes in east Greensboro. One question that remains in the mayor’s race is, now that Moffett lost her bid to be mayor of Greensboro, will she sell her house in Jamestown and actually move to Greensboro or will she give up her apartment on North Elm Street and go back to living full time in Jamestown. I’m betting on the latter. The at-large race turned...

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Parking Decks Shuffled Off City Council Agenda

The two new parking decks and hotels planned for downtown Greensboro hit another snag at the Tuesday, Nov. 14 Greensboro City Council meeting. Three of the items concerning the parking decks, priced at $28 million each, were removed from the agenda. As late as Monday morning, Nov. 13, it appeared that the items would be voted on by the City Council. But negotiations with Rocky Scarfone, who owns the Cone Denim Entertainment Center on South Elm Street, which has two easements across the property where the proposed parking deck is to be built, are not complete. The city paid...

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