Author: John Hammer

About John Hammer

Here are my most recent posts

News & Record Property Reportedly Under Contract

The News & Record building at 200 E. Market St. owned by BH Media Group, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., which has been for sale since September 2017, is reportedly under contract to Greg Dillon, the president of Dillon Development Partners headquartered in Frederick, Maryland. Dillon is also a partner in the downtown Westin Hotel-February One Place parking deck project that is being built as a public-private partnership with the City of Greensboro. The Westin Hotel-February One Place parking deck is being built directly across Davie Street from the News & Record property, which has been the home...

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Under the Hammer: May 17, 2018

So the FBI had a spy inside the Trump for president campaign. It seems all the big time journalists know who it is but aren’t telling. Rush Limbaugh says he knows the name but it isn’t one that would mean anything to most people. It really doesn’t matter what the name is, if the FBI did in fact have a spy in the Trump campaign then the FBI needs to be cleaned out from top to bottom. If the guys at the top believe that spying on a presidential campaign is the job of the FBI then we need to get rid of anyone who took part or knew about that decision, and the next level under them as well. Even those who were not at the top but participated need to go because they don’t understand the role of the FBI and the danger of having federal agencies insert themselves into the election process. We cannot have free and fair elections in this country if the FBI is involved in political campaigns. If the FBI had a spy in the Trump campaign then the people of this country need to know when that spy was engaged by the FBI and when he started spying on the campaign. The FBI has said that the investigation into the Trump campaign began after a drunken conversation between George Papadopoulos, an unpaid...

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Panhandlees Hold Key to Problem

There is a solution to the panhandling problem that plagues downtown businesses that doesn’t involve arresting people, new laws or any government intervention at all. This is a problem that can be solved completely by the people involved: the panhandler and the panhandlee. People, many of them homeless, panhandle because people give them money. Some reportedly make more money panhandling than they could make working at a regular job. Plus, panhandlers get to set their own hours. No one yells at them if they’re late for work, leave early or don’t come in at all. It reportedly is a steady source of income with nothing taken out for taxes and you get paid in cash. Once a panhandler has made enough for a day, he or she can quit and do whatever they want for the rest of the day. But the key is that panhandlers are out asking for money because it is profitable. There is no upfront investment, so everything they take in is profit. So if you want to see the end of panhandling, stop giving to people who ask you for money on the sidewalk or by the side of the road. If you want to help them, donate money to one of the many charitable organizations in Greensboro who work with those in need: Urban Ministries, The Salvation Army and the Interactive Resource Center...

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Carroll Companies, Greensboro Reopen Eugene Street Parking Deck Negotiations

The saga of the two proposed downtown parking decks continues. As far as the proposed parking deck on the corner of North Eugene and Bellemeade streets across from the ball park on land owned by the Carroll Companies (which also own this newspaper) is concerned, when Mayor Nancy Vaughan called Roy Carroll on Monday, April 23 and said the city was walking away from the negotiating table and was going to build a deck across the street, that wasn’t entirely true. Carroll and the city are back at the table and met last week to discuss how to move...

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City Council Can’t Get Past Aggressive Panhandling Issue

The Greensboro City Council spent over two hours discussing the solicitation ordinance it had passed in April and about 20 minutes on the 2018-2019 budget at the regular meeting on Tuesday, May 15. It’s a good indication of where this City Council’s priorities are – and they aren’t on taxes, water rates or the budget that has an effect on all 290,000 residents of the city. The City Council eventually passed the new ordinance outlawing aggressive solicitation, but it was by a 5-to-4 vote, which means the ordinance will have to be passed by the City Council again before...

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Courthouse Tradition Not Dead Yet

A long-standing Guilford County election tradition is not dead yet, but Tuesday night it looked like it was close. In the past candidates, campaign staff, families, friends and media all crowded into the Commissioners Meeting Room at the Old Guilford County Court House to watch the election returns posted. Years ago it was required if you wanted to see the returns as soon as they came in. Television and radio would report the returns as they were posted, but there was no way to sit at home and watch the actual returns as they came in. At that time...

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Retraction and Correction of Republican State House District 59 Endorsements

The Rhino Times is retracting and correcting the portion of the article with the headline “Get Your May 8 Primary Endorsements Here” beginning on page 6 of the Thursday, May 3 edition and continuing on page 48 under the subhead “Republican Primary NC House – District 59.” The new article corrects inadvertent errors in the May 3 article that were made due to voluminous documents covering the numerous lawsuits over a number of years regarding the Southeastern Eye Center and related business entities. We apologize for the errors and regret any difficulties they may have caused.   NC House...

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Under the Hammer: May 3, 2016

According to news reports, special prosecutor Bob Mueller has threatened to subpoena President Donald Trump if he doesn’t agree to be questioned by Mueller. If it comes down to that, I hope that Trump refuses and takes the case to the Supreme Court. Mueller was appointed special prosecutor, not supreme dictator. If he has found evidence of illegal collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, he should put his cards on the table and Trump can decide whether or not to answer his inquiries. If this is simply a fishing expedition, which is what it appears to be, then Trump should refuse and let the Supreme Court decide whether or not a special prosecutor has unlimited power. Mueller doesn’t appear to have any evidence of illegal collusion by the Trump campaign and is now after Trump for obstruction of justice based on illegally leaked classified memos by Mueller’s good friend fired FBI Director Jim Comey. What this boils down to is the classic disgruntled former employee attempting to get back at his old boss. It’s nothing new. It happens in every business with more than a couple of employees. What makes this different is that the disgruntled former employee has a cadre of powerful friends such as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed his friend Mueller to investigate the firing of their mutual friend Comey. For...

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Rhino Shorts: May 3, 2018

News & Record editorial page editor Steven Doyle had a column in the paper on Wednesday, April 25, that made me wonder what planet he is living on, because it’s not planet Earth. The funny thing is that I agree with Doyle’s premise: Sean Hannity is not a journalist and neither are most of the people you see on network news. But then Doyle goes on to explain what makes a person a journalist, and I have no idea where he got this stuff. Doyle states, “Reporters are bound by law and process to seek both sides of a perspective, even if that opposing perspective is thin or unavailable.” No, they aren’t. There is no such law, nor could there be because reporters are protected by the First Amendment. The idea that a reporter could be arrested for not presenting both sides of a story fairly is laughable. He also states, “Journalists disclose our conflicts annually, through formal internal processes that require us to document any area in which our income might be derived from and personal relationships with those we might cover. Journalists are required to delineate stocks holdings, spousal employment and other nuances of relationships.” No, they aren’t.   Some companies might require that, but you can’t say that journalists are because they aren’t. There is no governing body over journalists that has a database of conflicts of...

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Councilmembers Question Mayor Vaughan’s Cancellation of Carroll Companies Parking Deck Deal

Here is an aspect that seems to have been overlooked in the hoopla following Mayor Nancy Vaughan’s Monday, April 23 call to Roy Carroll to inform him that the negotiations were over to build a city-owned parking deck on his property at the corner of Bellemeade and Eugene streets in downtown Greensboro. Vaughan, as mayor, doesn’t have the authority to cancel a deal approved by a vote of the Greensboro City Council, or at least that’s what a number of city councilmembers think. The Greensboro City Council held a work session, a closed session and a regular business meeting...

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Get Your May 8 Primary Endorsements Here

Usually by this time in the cycle, there is some buzz about the upcoming election. In a presidential election year most people, by the week before the primary, just want it to be over so that the political commercials, which they know by heart, will stop running every 30 seconds on television. However, 2018 is not one of those years. This is one of the quietest elections in years. It’s an off year, so there are no national races and the only statewide race is for a Supreme Court justice with no primary. But we have made our endorsements...

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City Backs Out of Carroll Companies Parking Deck

Monday, April 23, Carroll Companies owner Roy Carroll received a call from Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan informing him that the deal to build the parking deck at Bellemeade and Eugene streets was off and that the city would build a parking deck on Commerce Place instead.  Carroll, who owns this newspaper, said, “I was about as shocked as I could be to receive the mayor’s call yesterday that they were going to a plan B.” He added, “We stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars as a result of the city’s departure from good faith negotiations over the...

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City Caves to Scarfone, Westin Hotel Parking Deck Now a Go

You can fight city hall and win. Cone Denim Entertainment Center owner Rocky Scarfone just proved it by agreeing to settle his lawsuit against the city for $735,000, plus a wider unobstructed easement, plus some land and concessions the city evidently threw in to sweeten the deal. In addition, to make the deal work, the city agreed to pay Limelight nightclub $150,000 for its rights to the easement plus $35,000 in attorney fees. So the cost to the city to buy the easement – which the City Council earlier voted to condemn and purchase for $55,000 – cost the...

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City Council Reforms Panhandling Laws, Passes Local Preference Policy

Tuesday night was a doozy of a Greensboro City Council meeting and it was City Manager Jim Westmoreland’s last before he retires April 30. Westmoreland received two standing ovations at the beginning of the April 24 meeting when he was presented with a seal to the city from Mayor Nancy Vaughan and after he spoke. Westmoreland made a few remarks, mainly thanking everyone and talking about what a privilege it has been to be a Greensboro city employee for 18 years and city manager for four. He also talked about how proud he was to be the city manager...

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Rhino Shorts: April 26, 2018

The April Schmoozefest is Thursday, April 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Loaded Grape at 2915 Battleground Ave. Free snacks, beer and wine will be provided to all
business professionals who sign in and wear a name tag while supplies last. **** The Guilford County Board of Commissioners and Board of Education are currently having a study done of building needs for Guilford County Schools. The tornado coming through east Greensboro resulted in three elementary schools being closed for the rest of the year and the entire student bodies of those schools have been sent to three other elementary schools. What is startling is that none of the three elementary schools that will take on an entire school of new students for the rest of the year will technically be overcrowded. So three elementary schools in the east Greensboro area can each take on an additional entire Guilford County school without reaching capacity. Judging from that, it appears the study may find that Guilford County has an excess of classroom space but isn’t making good use of it. **** The City Council held a work session on the 2018-2019 budget on Tuesday. The council heard presentations on the tax rate, which the city is going to try to keep flat; water and sewer rates, which the city plans to increase; improving the hazardous waste program; and participatory budgeting. It’s...

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Under the Hammer: April 26, 2018

Reading the Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights, is a pretty scary practice these days. Even strict constructionist don’t seem to actually believe that the rights guaranteed to Americans in the Bill of Rights should be followed today. The Second Amendment says, “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” But that right is infringed all over the place: background checks, pistol permits, restrictions on the kinds of guns Americans can own. The left wants more restrictions, but even the right accepts the current infringements. But that’s an easy one. What about the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise there of.” How is not allowing people to pray in public places like schools not prohibiting the “free exercise there of”? No one according to this amendment should ever be forced to pray, but neither should anyone be forced not to pray. The government forces people not to pray all the time. Amendment III, that soldiers cannot be quartered in private homes, is one that the government still follows. But Amendment IV, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.” Is it unreasonable to search someone because they are attending a City Council meeting, or have to...

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Tale of Two Parking Decks

The two new parking decks planned for downtown Greensboro have taken a bizarre twist. According to the most recent information, the Westin Hotel-February One Place parking deck looks like it’s a go and The Carroll Companies parking deck at Bellemeade and North Eugene streets will not be built. According to sources close to the City Council, although it is not on the Tuesday, April 24 agenda, a deal to settle the lawsuit filed by Cone Denim Entertainment Center owner Rocky Scarfone against the City of Greensboro has been reached and may be added to the agenda. Scarfone will reportedly...

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Heated Republican State House Primary: Mark McDaniel and Jon Hardister

Early voting opens Thursday, April 19 for the May 8 primary. So far most of the races have been pretty quiet. There are no statewide races on the primary ballot. On the Republican ballot, the only countywide race is for sheriff, where Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes is being challenged by Steve Parr. The Democrats have been fired up since their big losses in 2016, and it is reflected in the primary where there are a total of three countywide races and primaries in both the 6th and 13th congressional districts. One race where the candidates are making some...

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City’s Cafe Europa Story Has Some Holes

The good news is that Cafe Europa will be staying right where it is – in the city-owned Cultural Center building on Davie Street. The bad news is that the city wasn’t completely honest about why Jakub Pucilowski, who owns the restaurant, had to go through a request for proposal (RFP) process, which opened the lease up to anyone who wanted to bid on it. I was told that putting leases out for an RFP when they expire was the current policy of the city. The example given was the Gillespie Park grill. When that lease and the renewals...

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Localized Tornado Disrupts Entire City

In all the news coverage of the severe thunderstorms and tornados that caused so much damage in east Greensboro late Sunday afternoon, I haven’t seen anything about the damage to the White Street Landfill. Somebody asked me how a landfill could be damaged, particularly a closed landfill. But although the White Street Landfill is closed to municipal solid waste – what most of us call garbage – it is where the city takes yard waste, like limbs and downed trees, and construction debris. So along with everything else the city had to do on Monday, April 16, it had...

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Under the Hammer: April 19, 2018

Finally something all Americans can agree on: Former Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta said that former FBI Director Jim Comey was an idiot, “an honest idiot but … an idiot” in an interview on CNN. Trump supporters have no use for Comey, so if Hillary Clinton supporters have no use for him either, maybe the entire country can agree that Comey was a horrible FBI director who deserved to get fired. President Donald Trump has gotten himself in a bad spot by not making the right decisions as president-elect and now it’s nearly impossible to go back and fix them. Trump should have fired Comey on Jan. 20, and it seems likely that at least some of his advisors made that recommendation. He was trying to appear above the fray and wasn’t going to hold Comey responsible for his impossible-to-defend decision not to run an actual investigation of the Hillary Clinton email scandal. Then Trump doubled down on his mistake by allowing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to recuse himself from a pivotal issue for the Trump presidency – the investigation into Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. Trump should have known that Sessions was going to recuse himself. If he didn’t, he should have immediately gotten rid of Sessions for not being honest with him during his interviews. Trump was and appears to still be tremendously naive about...

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Rhino Shorts: April 19, 2018

Preservation Greensboro Julian Price House Tour Tours of the Julian Price House in Fisher Park continue through Sunday, April 29. The general admission tours are $35 each and a guided tour is $75. To find out more, go to https://preservationgreensboro.org/hillside/. The April Schmoozefest is Thursday, April 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Loaded Grape at 2915 Battleground Ave. Free snacks, beer and wine will be provided to all
business professionals who sign in and wear a name tag while supplies last. ***** Here’s some good news for Greensboro residents: Because of the severe storms and tornado on Sunday, the...

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City Council Mini Work Session Gets in the Weeds over Boards and Commissions

The Greensboro City Council opened its small group meetings or mini-work sessions to the public and held its first mini work session on Tuesday, April 10.   The meeting was to discuss boards and commissions appointed by the City Council, about as mundane a topic as imaginable. With all that is going on in Greensboro right now, spending one of its rare work sessions on boards and commissions is an odd choice. Both parking deck projects much ballyhooed by the City Council as moving the downtown forward are in limbo. There is no signed contract to begin work on either...

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Counsultant Says City Legally Discriminates

I have never been a big fan of the Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise program, mainly because I have always said that it was designed to discriminate against people who look like me. City Councilmembers and city staff have not agreed and often told me it was not designed to discriminate against anyone. So it was somewhat refreshing to hear the report by Rodney Strong of Griffin & Strong on the recently completed MWBE disparity study prepared for the City of Greensboro because he made no bones about the program being a program that discriminates. The report was given at the City Council work session held in the Council Chambers last week. As Strong noted, MWBE programs are legal discrimination. The federal courts have ruled that because of discrimination and disparity in awarding contracts it is legal to discriminate in favor of those who have been discriminated against. It seems obvious that if a program gives special privileges based on race and gender that it discriminates, but local officials don’t like to admit that the program discriminates in favor of minorities and females and against white males. The purpose of the disparity study is to prove that there is disparity in the way Greensboro does business, which provides the legal justification for Greensboro to encourage discrimination in favor of minorities and women. The disparity study, of course, proved that...

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Under the Hammer: April 12, 2018

It’s hard to believe the Facebook scandal is a scandal at all. How did people think that Facebook came to be worth over $50 billion dollars allowing anybody to post nearly anything for free? Did they think that if they posted something about a lost dog and suddenly had ads appearing about dog care, dog food and invisible fences that it was an accident? When the campaign of former President Barack Obama bragged about using Facebook data to target voters, it was hailed as the campaign of the future. When Republicans do the same thing, it’s cause for a congressional investigation. Why is Congress investigating a company for allowing Republicans to do what Democrats had already bragged about doing and there was no investigation? Obama last ran in 2012 – almost six years ago – when his team gathered vast amount of data about Facebook users. Then four years later, the Trump campaign did something similar. So in the four years between the Obama campaign and the Trump campaign, Facebook didn’t bother to fix the problem. Or perhaps Facebook didn’t see it as a problem when it was used by Democrats and it only became a problem that required Mark Zuckerberg to put on a suit and go to Washington to apologize because Republicans had figured out how to do the same thing. What seems incredible is people actually...

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Rhino Shorts: April 12, 2018

It turns out old politicians never go away, they just go out to lunch with each other.   Former City Councilmembers Tony Wilkins and Mike Barber had lunch Tuesday and posted this photo on my Facebook page. It received over 30 comments and most of them were pretty nice. Fortunately, Facebook didn’t realize that they had been the two most conservative members of the City Council or it would have probably been blocked. ***** The April Schmoozefest is Thursday, April 26 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Loaded Grape at 2915 Battleground Ave. Free snacks, beer and wine will be...

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Rhino Shorts: April 5, 2018

The Julian Price House in Fisher Park – which was already famous and made much more famous when an episode of Hoarders was filmed there – will be open for tours in April. Julian Price was the president of Jefferson Standard Life Insurance Co. and was the father-in-law of the now much more famous Joe Bryan. The general admission tours are $35 each and a guided tour is $75. To find out what days are available for what tour, go to https://preservationgreensboro.org/hillside/. ***** Politics is nothing if not political. There was an unusually large crowd at the Guilford County Republican Party Executive Committee meeting on Monday, April 2, at Republican headquarters on High Point Road. The reason for the crowd was an election – but not that election. The Guilford County Republican Party elected Tina Forsberg as the new vice chair of the party. She ran against former Greensboro mayoral candidate John Brown and won by a two-to-one margin. However, in elections like this it all depends on who shows up to vote. Last month at the Guilford County Republican Party Convention, the party voted to grant a waiver to Party Chairman Troy Lawson, who has filed to run for the District 57 seat in the North Carolina House. Party rules call for a chairman to resign if he or she files to run for office. One of the...

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Under the Hammer: April 5, 2018

According to the mainstream media, the Republicans are toast in the 2018 elections, the Democrats are going to sweep into majorities in the House and Senate, impeach Donald Trump and everyone in the world will be smarter, happier and better looking with Trump no longer in the White House. But there is a fly in the mainstream media ointment –the American people, not the mainstream media, make the ultimate political decisions. Trump’s approval ratings have climbed to over 50 percent and he has done this in a most unusual way for a politician: Trump is keeping his campaign promises. Presidents before Trump have whined and complained about the unfair trade practices of China and other countries but have been too timid to do anything about them. Trump doesn’t have a timid bone in his body and he has started a trade feud. At this point the amount of trade involved is far too small to call it a trade war. A trade feud for the US is good because no other country wants to be in the position of not being able to compete in the world’s largest economy. What Trump is requesting from other countries seems fair. It’s basically – we will treat your products the way you treat ours. What Trump says that he is not going to do is allow another country to place higher tariffs...

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Greensboro City Council Town Hall Meeting: Guns, Parking and Panhandling

The City Council chambers were full for the monthly City Council town hall meeting, with the main topic supposed to be gun control; but also on the agenda was a resolution recognizing April 28 as Marty Sheets Day. It turned out that about half the main seating area was filled, not with gun lovers or haters, but with friends and family of Sheets, who died in May 2015 and is best known as a Special Olympian. Sheets, who had Down syndrome, participated in the first Special Olympics in 1968 where he was presented with a gold medal by Eunice...

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Elm Street Business Gets Parking Deck Easement Settlement from City and It’s Not Rocky Scarfone

The Greensboro City Council agreed to a settlement on an easement dispute over the February One Place parking deck and Westin Hotel project. Unfortunately, it was not the easement dispute that is holding up the project. Tuesday, April 3, after much discussion on whether to vote or not, the City Council voted 7 to 1, with 1 recusal, in favor of entering into an agreement with Peters Holding Co., which has an easement across the parking lot where the new parking deck and hotel is to be built. Councilmember Sharon Hightower voted against the motion and Councilmember Justin Outling...

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Good News About Small Group Council Meetings

Mayor Nancy Vaughan says she is going to make the City Council more transparent, which, as she said, is “good news.” The City Council has for years done most of its business in small group meetings. These are meetings of less than five city councilmembers, and since there is not a majority of the City Council present the meetings technically don’t fall under the North Carolina open meetings law. All but the first and the final two discussions of the $126 million bond referendum in 2016 were held in small group meetings. The only information about those meetings available...

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Wide Streets Provide Lots of Options for $25 Million Streetscaping in Downtown Greensboro

I don’t think we are supposed to call what is being planned for the downtown area streetscaping, because the idea is to do much more than that. But streetscaping is what this has always been called in the past so maybe this should be super streetscaping. What is being considered is far different than anything that has been done in Greensboro. At a visioning meeting held by the City of Greensboro and MIG, the consultants for the project, on Tuesday, March 27, some of the ideas that MIG is considering were presented. One factor that makes downtown Greensboro ripe...

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Under the Hammer: March 29, 2018

Last week Congress passed a $1.3 trillion budget and President Donald J. Trump signed the bill that is over 2,000 pages long into law. Congress was given less than 24 hours to read it, so nobody actually knew what was in the bill when they voted for it. It’s an extreme case but it seems to be the way more and more legislation is done. The leadership says vote for it and enough on both sides of the aisle do for it to pass. Because of the ridiculous rules for the Senate, even though the Republicans have a mathematical majority, Republicans can’t pass a bill without Democratic support. Trump called for the Senate to change the rules to a simple majority as the Democrats did for judges when President Barack Obama wanted to get a bunch of extreme leftists appointed to the federal bench. Why the Republicans have not followed suit and expanded that to everything is a mystery that can perhaps be explained by the fact that the Republican Party is not called the stupid party without reason. Both 6th District Congressman Mark Walker and 13th District Congressman Ted Budd voted against the omnibus spending bill, which was appropriately named because it is an enormous spending bill – the second largest ever passed by Congress. Even Obama only had one spending bill that was larger. So much for...

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February One Parking Deck Attracts Detractors

The News & Record has never been one to let the facts get in its way, and it is in the midst of an all-out campaign against the proposed new parking deck and Westin Hotel complex on February One Place because the city can’t prove to the satisfaction of the N&R that a new parking deck is needed downtown. Actually, the parking deck will go over February One Place and, unlike the N&R continues to report, it is one parking deck, not two connected by a walkway. State Sen. Trudy Wade and state Rep. Jon Hardister pushed a bill through the General Assembly that made building one parking deck over the street connecting the property owned by two entities possible. If it were really two parking decks, as the N&R reports, then there was no need for the new state law allowing the city to build one parking deck on two pieces of property. The parking deck will essentially turn February One Place into a tunnel. The N&R has for some reason turned against this parking deck. Editorial Page Editor Allen Johnson even wrote a column about how being against the parking deck doesn’t make him a “naysayer.” It appears naysayer is a term reserved for people who oppose projects that Johnson favors, but not for Johnson when he opposes a project others favor. The city threw a huge...

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Rhino Shorts: March 29, 2018

The next Schmoozefest is Thursday, March 29 from 6 to 8 p.m. at
the Community Theatre of Greensboro at
520 S. Elm St. There is plenty of parking at the Railyard, which can be entered from Barnhardt or Lewis streets. The entrance to the Schmoozefest is off the alley next to the theater. Free snacks, beer and wine will be provided to all
business professionals who sign in and get a name tag while supplies last. ***** With Greensboro in the hunt for a new city manager, there are some danger signals out there. Riverside, California, a city of about 320,000 – which puts it in the same small city category as Greensboro with over 280,000 in population – is paying its city manager $471,000 a year. Since it seems everything in this country starts in California and moves east, in Greensboro we can expect to more than double the city manager’s salary, which is currently right at $200,000, in the not too distant future. ***** Downtown Greensboro needs more public bathrooms. This conclusion is the result of an exhaustive study I have been working on for the past six months. It’s actually not that exhaustive, but it is fairly constant. The old Investors Title Insurance Building at the end of our alley is being renovated and, by the way, is going to be a great addition to the downtown. The glass...

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Trump Tax Cut Creates Economic Opportunities for East Greensboro

The federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – which according to the mainstream media primarily benefits those with high incomes – has a provision to create opportunity zones in low-income census tracts. City Councilmember Justin Outling discovered this little publicized program on a trip to Washington, DC, and is anxious to get portions of Greensboro on the list of areas that will qualify for these special tax incentives. The governor of each state has been charged with designating 25 percent of the low-income census tracts in the state as opportunity zones where tax breaks for investors will be available....

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Publix Gets Warm Welcome and Large Incentives from Council

No city councilmember came down from the dais to give the folks from Publix Super Markets a big welcoming hug, but considering how effusive their remarks were it wouldn’t have been surprising if one did. At the Greensboro City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 20, in the Council Chambers, Publix asked for between $14.6 and $17.7 million in incentives, plus $3 million for water and sewer to build a 1.8 million-square-foot plant that will employ over 1,000 people at an average salary of over $42,000. Each city councilmember and Mayor Nancy Vaughan spoke about Publix in glowing terms. The...

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Rhino Shorts: March 22, 2018

The next Schmoozefest is Thursday, March 29 from 6 to 8 p.m. at
the Community Theatre of Greensboro at
520 S. Elm St. Free snacks, beer and wine will be provided to all
business professionals who sign in and get a name tag while supplies last. ***** When I started covering local government there was no security. I don’t remember when Greensboro started having security guards at the meetings but I believe it was after 9/11. For years before that there was one undercover police officer who attended meetings. They weren’t very undercover because they always sat in the same seat. Now City Council meetings are staffed by security guards and police officers. If there is any indication that there will be protestors at the meeting, there is also a special police team sitting in their black combat style uniforms downstairs. Times change. The question people should be asking is not whether or not schools should have security, but why don’t they all have security. Then again, if you have law enforcement like the deputy in Parkland, Florida, who stayed safely outside the school with his gun drawn while students and teachers were being shot inside, you might as well not have any. ***** Orson Scott Card’s column on pronunciation, or mispronunciations that are becoming common, reminded me of a student I had in Lisbon who had taught himself to read English....

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Greensboro Local Preference Policy Presentation Provokes Contentious Debate Among Councilmembers

The City of Greensboro may start giving preference to businesses located in Guilford County when awarding certain contracts. The plan is the brainchild of City Councilmembers Justin Outling and Tammi Thurm. When they suggested at the City Council’s afternoon work session on Tuesday, March 20 that the City Council consider the local preference policy, they were attacked by Councilmembers Sharon Hightower and Goldie Wells. Outling said he had made the suggestion several times and had been told that state law prevented cities from giving a preference in awarding contracts to local companies. However, Outling, who is an attorney with...

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Under the Hammer: March 22, 2018

Why should the special prosecutor be completely unsupervised and have an open ended investigation? Wouldn’t it make more sense if the special prosecutor’s role was more narrowly defined and he answered to someone outside the investigation who could keep him on task? So if, after say 10 months, the special prosecutor had brought in a bunch of people to try and get them to rat out others in the organization and failed at that, he could be given a date to wrap up the investigation. If Robert Mueller is not given some kind of deadline, in 2024, when President Donald Trump is finishing up his second term, Mueller will still be raiding people’s homes in the middle of the night with guns drawn to get evidence that in 2016 a suspected Trump supporter went to see a Russian movie and spilled popcorn all over the seat beside them – sending a clear message to their Russian handlers either that they are really messy or that they had information to pass along. Mueller’s investigation after 10 months has already gone far afield from his task of finding evidence of illegal collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. ***** Now that former FBI Deputy Director Andy McCabe has been fired, it might be a good idea to reveal why. The inspector general recommended his firing and Attorney General Jeff Sessions...

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Under the Hammer: March 15, 2018

The House Intelligence Committee has completed its investigation into collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government and will issue a report saying that it found no evidence of collusion. They did find evidence that some meetings were held by Trump campaign officials that should not have been held, but not of collusion. The ranking Democrat on the committee, Rep. Adam Schiff, says they didn’t interview enough people and the 300,000 documents they reviewed were not enough, but, when asked, Schiff can’t point to any proof of collusion that the committee uncovered. It appears that Schiff, an extremely partisan Democrat, is in the same camp with special prosecutor Bob Mueller – who is supposedly nonpartisan – in believing that if they look under enough rocks eventually they are going to find something. The committee did find proof that the Hillary Clinton campaign was working with Russians to get dirt on Donald Trump and paid Russians to provide that dirt, but the mainstream media, Democrats and Mueller are not interested in the Clinton campaign colluding with Russians, only the Trump campaign. The whole thing has been a colossal waste of time and money. If this all started, as they are now saying, because Trump campaign volunteer George Papadopoulos got drunk and started spouting off to an Australian diplomat closely linked to the Clintons about how important he was to...

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Rhino Shorts: March 15, 2018

The next Schmoozefest is Thursday, March 22 from 6 to 8 p.m. at
the Community Theatre of Greensboro at
520 S. Elm St. Free snacks, beer and wine will be provided to all
business professionals who sign in and get a name tag while supplies last. ***** It looks like the plan for the mess the city created when is closed Cotswold Avenue is going to be somewhat alleviated by putting a roundabout at the intersection of Old Battleground Road and Cotswold Terrace. The question city councilmembers should be asking is, why is the Greensboro Department of Transportation (GDOT) reacting to the outrage of residents in that area after the road has been closed. When Cotswold Avenue was built 20 years ago, GDOT knew it was a temporary road. As the Outer Loop moved closer, GDOT knew it was going to be closed and the traffic through the neighborhood it was built to alleviate would be back, but worse because of the development in the area. So why wasn’t anything planned? Why is the city reacting when it knew this problem was coming and something would have to be done? The only unknown was the exact date that Cotswold Avenue would be closed. There was never any doubt that it would be closed, and an approximate date has been known for years. ***** North Carolina temporary license plates have, in large print,...

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Publix Distribution Center May Mean 1,000 New Jobs for Greensboro

Greensboro may soon be getting 1,000 “very well paying jobs,” according to Mayor Nancy Vaughan. Publix Super Markets Inc. is considering a site on Birch Creek Road near US 70 for a new 1.8-million-square-foot distribution center. According to a public notice advertisement for the City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 20, the City Council will hold a public hearing on granting up to $17.7 million in economic incentives to Publix in addition to spending about $3 million to extend water and sewer to the site. Vaughan said the city was expecting to get some help from the state on...

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Greensboro City Council Seeks to Cancel Gun and Knife Show but Pesky State Law Gets in the Way

The Greensboro City Council has plenty on its plate right now. City Manager Jim Westmoreland is retiring next month. The budget has to be passed by the end of June, which means devising a budget without the steady hand of Westmoreland on the wheel. Then there is a possibility of 1,000 new jobs – which are the City Council’s to lose – and a lawsuit over the new parking deck and hotel complex planned for February One Place, not to mention $126 million in bonds passed in 2016 waiting for direction from the council on how the money should...

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Greensboro City Council March 6 Meeting

Council Encourages Mind-Numbing Repetition   Boring is the best way to describe the Greensboro City Council meeting on Tuesday, March 6. This was the third monthly town hall meeting where the City Council has had no agenda other than listening to speakers. One difference in this meeting was that Mayor Nancy Vaughan seemed determined to solve the problems of the speakers who appeared before the City Council and – unlike other meetings where speakers are directed not to simply repeat what other speakers on the same topic have said – Vaughan allowed speakers to repeat over and over again...

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High Point City Investments Move Forward, Greensboro Dawdles

A tale of two cities and two city projects: Early in 2011, Greensboro Mayor Robbie Perkins said that the new performing arts center should be built downtown and should be a public-private partnership. He said the private sector could raise about $10 million to pay the extra cost of building the performing arts center downtown rather than at the Greensboro Coliseum. In 2012. plans were publicized for a performing arts center to be built where LeBauer Park is today, but the public didn’t like the plans and the decision was made that there wasn’t enough land available at that...

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Downtown Greensboro Parking Deck Construction on Hold, But Not Demolition

The February One Place city parking deck and Westin Hotel complex is still on hold. Superior Court Judge Andy Cromer said he would likely make a decision on a request by Rocky Scarfone for a temporary restraining order (TRO) by Feb. 16, but no decision has been announced as of March 7. The lawsuit is over an easement to the back door of Cone Denim Entertainment Center, which owner Scarfone says he needs to stay in business. The City of Greensboro agreed not to start construction on the parking deck until after a decision on the request for a...

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Under the Hammer: March 8, 2018

Trump lost his chief economic advisor, Gary Cohn, to his call for tariffs. People who don’t like Trump lament the loss of Cohn, but it didn’t appear that Cohn and Trump were in much agreement on economic policies anyway, so it was only a matter of time before he left. It’s not a bad idea to have someone who disagrees with your policies as an advisor, and it proves that Trump doesn’t want to surround himself with yes men. Other countries have tariffs or use other economic devices that act like tariffs. It seems to make sense, if the US wants to bring back its own manufacturing, to put tariffs on goods from other nations. We are the world’s biggest customer, so we do have some bargaining power. Trump has always said that he was going to protect American manufacturers from foreign competition. What is amazing is that Trump continues to keep his campaign promises. The liberal mainstream media act shocked every time Trump makes a move to keep another campaign promise. After over a year in office they have yet to figure out that Trump is not a politician. He didn’t run all over the country talking about what he was going to do if elected just to win. He went all over the country talking about what he was going to do because, once elected, that is...

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Rhino Shorts: March 8, 2018

The Natural Resources Defense Council is running full-page newspaper ads, radio commercials and ads on the web against District 27 state Sen. Trudy Wade. That’s politics, and Wade – who is an up-and-coming leader in the Republican state Senate – is considered a good target. But the ads imply that the drinking water in Greensboro is contaminated. This simply isn’t true. Greensboro has some of the cleanest water in the state. The ad also faults Wade for requesting that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) help the state with its water issues. Some North Carolina cities do have significant contaminants in their water, so doesn’t it make sense to ask for help from the EPA. Maybe the City Council should buy some ads that say “Greensboro has great water and plenty of it.” We can and should brag about the quality of the water in Greensboro. ***** Here is great idea for the state government, which has about $2 billion in its rainy day fund. The state doesn’t need $2 billion in the bank, and while that money should not be used for operating expenses, it would make sense to use some of it for a one-time expense. The North Carolina Court System really needs an updated computer system. A couple of years ago they quit chiseling messages into stone, but they aren’t far from that. This is 2018. Something...

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Greensboro City Manager Jim Westmoreland to Retire

Greensboro City Manager Jim Westmoreland, who has been city manager since 2014, announced his retirement Friday, March 2 effective April 30. Westmoreland came to work for the city as a transportation planner in 1996 and was named Greensboro Department of Transportation director in 1999, a job he held until 2008 when he was promoted to assistant city manager for economic development. He left the city in 2009 to become deputy director for transit for the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and then worked for Stantec Consulting Inc. In 2012, he came back to Greensboro as the deputy city...

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