Author: John Hammer

About John Hammer

Here are my most recent posts

Silly Ordinance Needs Revocation

“It’s silly.” “We have an ordinance that makes no sense.” “We’ve got to get this changed. It’s like a broken record.” Three comments from three members of the Greensboro Board of Adjustment (BOA) during its Monday, May 22 meeting talking about the residential front setback zoning ordinance, which is what BOA member Mike Cooke called “silly.” BOA member Mary Skenes said, it “makes no sense” And BOA member Chuck Truby said, “It’s like a broken record.” Setbacks are usually a certain number of feet, for example, a 10-foot side setback for residential zoning. Everyone can understand it. To measure it, all you have to do is find the property line and measure 10 feet back and that’s where it’s legal to build. In the former Greensboro zoning ordinance, the residential front setback was 20 feet. It means you had to build 20 feet back from your front property line. But the Greensboro Planning Department recommended, and the Greensboro City Council passed, a bizarre front setback for single-family residential property that is actually beyond silly. Instead of being a particular distance from the front property line, the setback may be different for every house on the block because it is based on the average setback of the two houses on either side, or for a corner house the two closest houses. Even the city can’t figure it out sometimes; on...

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Council Shows Interest in City Budget

The Greensboro City Council held a budget work session on Tuesday, May 23 where the City Council discussed budget matters in some detail and gave clear direction to the staff. That may not sound like news, but it is. This City Council has in past years shown little interest in the budget. The standard procedure has been for the council to hold a budget meeting where everything but the budget was discussed, and at some point would tell City Manager Jim Westmoreland to produce a budget without a tax increase. Westmoreland would, months later, present a no-tax-increase budget, the City Council would then add a few pet nonprofits to the list of those being funded and pass the budget Tuesday was entirely different. Perhaps it’s because the City Council realizes that this budget includes a 2.1-cent tax increase from the revenue-neutral tax rate, and when taxes are increased in an election year, you’d better be able to explain why they were increased. The tax increase results in a revenue increase in the general fund of over $10 million, or almost 4 percent, which gives the city a lot more money to play with. With money to spend the City Council suddenly became interested in the budget. But the lack of direction to the city staff on budget priorities earlier in the year is coming back to haunt the City...

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New Office Building To Overlook Ballpark

It looks like the center of downtown Greensboro is moving northwest a couple of blocks. Wednesday, May 24, GEMCAP and Carolina Investment Partners announced they are building a nine-story, 112,000-square-foot office building on the northwest corner of North Eugene Street and Bellemeade Avenue. If you’re thinking that’s where the First National Bank Field is, you’re right. This building will be built on the corner where the oversized baseballs and the bench are now. The structure will be built to compliment the baseball stadium with matching brickwork and archways. The ground floor will be retail with a public space leading to the ballpark. Also, the building will have a large common area, with a balcony overlooking the ball field, open to all the tenants. The way the building has been designed, it appears that in a few years people will think it has always been there. Right across Eugene Street from this building, the Carroll Companies, which owns this newspaper, is building Carroll at Bellemeade, with about 300 apartments and a Hyatt Place Hotel on the corner. Across Bellemeade, the City of Greensboro has announced plans to enter into a partnership with the Carroll Companies to build a parking deck, which will also have retail on the first floor, and it has been reported that an Aloft hotel is also planned for that corner. John Martin, managing partner of GEMCAP,...

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Rhino Shorts: May 18, 2017

I can’t remember who was mayor when the City Council first talked about building a skateboard park, and because of a fire at city hall in 1888, those records are not available. If the city had just had a few more buckets perhaps the records could have been saved and we’d know exactly when it was. That’s an exaggeration, but it does go back years, and the site has had more potential locations than I can remember. But Greensboro has built a skate park in Latham Park off Hill Street, and the grand opening is Saturday, May 20 at 4 p.m. ***** The rezoning request for a new Bee Safe Storage facility on Martinsville Road just south of the Lawndale intersection was approved by a unanimous vote of the Zoning Commission on Monday. But it was an unusual hearing in that one and a half people spoke against it. One neighbor listed the usual complaints for a rezoning request, traffic, noise, crime, etc., and then a woman went to the podium to speak against it. After a few minutes the city staff realized she was speaking against a different rezoning request. When the error was pointed out to her, she said she was against this rezoning also, but went back to her seat to save her speech for a rezoning request for land at the intersection of Pisgah Church...

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Under the Hammer: May 18, 2017

The New York Times and The Washington Post served President Donald John Trump a double whammy of scandal this week. According to The NYT, an unnamed associate of former FBI Director James Comey read part of a memo Comey wrote to himself following a meeting Comey had with Trump. The portion of the memo, if you stretch it, could be read to indicate that Trump wanted Comey to halt the investigation of former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn. The source is, of course, anonymous and The NYT reporter didn’t see the memo but was read parts of it over the phone. But even if the memo is real and was read accurately by “the associate,” it’s hardly a smoking gun. According to the article, the meeting between Comey and Trump took place the day after Flynn resigned. Trump reportedly told Comey, “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” According to the mainstream media, this is Trump ordering Comey to halt an investigation. “I hope you can let this go” is ordering Comey to halt an investigation? Or, if you are not someone who desperately wants to do anything possible to undermine the Trump presidency, it could be read as Trump acknowledging that Flynn is a “good guy” who just lost his job and Trump “hopes” that the investigators will not go overboard in the...

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Mayor Vaughan Takes Control

Tuesday night, May 16, Mayor Nancy Vaughan had another tough City Council meeting, but this one had a much better outcome than the City Council meeting two weeks ago. Vaughan took control, had three people removed from the Council Chambers and, for the rest of the meeting, there were no more outbursts. Two weeks ago I wrote that if Vaughan was unable or unwilling to do her job and run the City Council meetings so that the business of the city could be conducted, then she should resign. This week Vaughan made it clear she intends to run the meeting. She told the people disrupting the meeting she would have them removed one by one if they continued to be disruptive, and she did. After Vaughan had the third person removed, she ordered the security staff and police to remove anyone else who yelled from the audience without her specifically pointing them out. No one else was removed. It made an incredible difference because City Council meetings have been getting out of hand for a while. Two weeks ago when the City Council ran off the dais and left the room to the hooligans who were disrupting the meeting, it was embarrassing for the City Council and for Greensboro. That is not the way the majority of the people of Greensboro want their government run. To her credit, Vaughan...

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Proposed $532 Million City Budget Includes Tax and Water Increases

The people of Greensboro are looking at a tax increase and a water rate increase if the fiscal year 2017-2018 budget proposed by City Manager Jim Westmoreland is approved by the City Council. The budget will go into effect on July 1. It is likely that the City Council will make some tweaks to the $532 million budget, proposed by Westmoreland at the City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 16 in the Council Chambers. But major changes are unlikely judging from this City Council’s attitude toward past budgets. At the work session held in the Plaza Level Conference Room before the City Council meeting, the proposed water rate increase of 3.75 percent for those inside the city limits and a 1 percent increase for residents outside the city was presented to the council. City Councilmember Mike Barber was the first to raise an objection to the idea that people who do not live in the city and do not pay city property taxes would have less of an increase than those who live in the city and do pay property taxes. Barber had support from most of the councilmembers who spoke on the water rate increase. Water Resources Director Steve Drew said that the recommendation represented a change in philosophy toward those living outside the city. Why the philosophy was changing was unclear despite repeated requests for an explanation....

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Senate Cuts Taxes, Raises Teacher Pay

The proposed $22.9 billion North Carolina budget released by the state Senate this week takes advantage of the increased revenue – which is the result of tax cuts that have spurred the state’s economy – to increase spending and further reduce taxes. Both the personal income tax rate and the corporate income tax rate are being cut. Before the Republicans took over the legislature, the Democrats had raised the corporate tax rate so high that it was difficult to recruit businesses to the state. Since the tax rates have been lowered by the Republicans, the state is considered much more business friendly and has had more success recruiting businesses and jobs to North Carolina. The Republicans continue to reduce the personal income tax rate and increase the amount of income that is exempt from state income tax. The tax cuts in this budget total over $1 billion, which means $1 billion more money will be in the pockets of people and companies to spend as they see fit. The state recently announced a budget surplus of over $580 million – the result of these tax cut policies that are bringing both people and business into the state. Taxing more people and businesses at a lower rate is resulting in more, not less, revenue. The mainstream media constantly state that tax cuts have to be paid for by reducing expenditures,...

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Rhino Shorts: May 11, 2017

The Rhino Times will hold its Country Club Schmoozefest on Thursday, May 25 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Starmount Forest Country Club at 1 Sam Sneed Drive. Those who sign in and wear a name tag are welcome to enjoy free hors d’oeuvres and beer and wine (while supplies last). ***** City Councilmember Mike Barber is asking for a significant raise for police officers to be included in this year’s budget. According to a list of salaries of North Carolina police officers, Greensboro, at $49,627, is 11th on the list behind Gastonia, Charlotte, High Point, Winston-Salem, Cary, Raleigh, Salisbury, Kannapolis, Asheville and Concord. It makes sense for Greensboro to be losing police officers to nearby cities that pay more and where the city councils are not making constant judgment calls on their behavior. ***** News & Record Editorial Page Editor Allen Johnson complains in his column Sunday, May 7 that the police body-worn camera video of the arrest of Jose Charles was not made available to the public. He conveniently ignores the fact that Jose Charles was a juvenile when he was arrested, and in this state juvenile court records are sealed. The dominant opinion both on the left and the right is that juveniles deserve protection so that misbehavior as a child doesn’t curse them for life. Johnson from his column doesn’t agree and must believe juvenile...

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Under the Hammer: May 11, 2017

FBI Director Jim Comey was reportedly caught off guard when he was fired by President Donald John Trump. The reports are that when he first heard about it, he thought it was a joke. If that is true then it is simply more proof that he was unfit for the job, or perhaps that he has a tin ear as far as politics is concerned, despite occupying a highly political job. It appeared that during the presidential campaign Comey was trying to ensure that, whoever won the race, he would be fired. Hillary Clinton was furious at him for going over the findings of the FBI investigation in public, a rare if not unprecedented action, and then for announcing he was reopening the investigation when more classified documents were found on the laptop of Huma Abedin’s husband, Anthony Weiner. The mainstream media seem to be making a big deal about how the emails got on Weiner’s laptop. What difference does it make? The classified State Department emails shouldn’t have been anywhere other than on a secure device. Comey made Hillary Clinton mad by revealing so much information about her home brew email server and he made Trump mad by not indicting Hillary Clinton for repeated violations of the laws concerning classified information. What is surprising is not that Comey was fired but that he lasted over 100 days with...

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Illegal on Tuesday, Legal on Wednesday?

The duplicity of the four members of the Greensboro City Council who held a press conference on Wednesday, May 3 to divulge information about the Jose Charles video is disturbing but not shocking. At the City Council meeting on Tuesday evening, May 2, all members of the City Council – with the exception of Councilmember Yvonne Johnson – had watched as much of the body-worn camera videos of the Charles incident as they needed to make a decision. Johnson was the only councilmember who went into closed session on Wednesday to watch more videos. So eight of the nine members of the City Council knew what their decision was on the Charles case at the City Council meeting on May 2. Charles was arrested near Center City Park on July 4, 2016, after a series of fights broke out in the park. He was 15 at the time. Nelson Johnson and others have raised questions about the arrest and accused the police officers involved of police brutality. At the May 2 meeting, the City Council faced 150 people who were intensely interested in the case. The City Council had made its decision, yet with all of the advocates for Charles in the room, the city councilmembers hid behind the court order that prevented them from making a statement about the videos they had watched. The court ordered the City...

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Council Settles on Costing City Money

The Greensboro City Council made two major mistakes at its meeting on Tuesday, May 2, which are likely to haunt the city for years. First, the City Council allowed Nelson Johnson and his minions to take over a meeting and run the City Council off the dais and into the back room like scared rabbits. Johnson now knows that he has the power to take over a meeting anytime he wants. It effectively takes the power to determine the course of meetings out of the hands of the mayor and hands it over to Johnson. The second mistake is going to, in the long run, cost the taxpayers of Greensboro millions of dollars. The City Council, by a 6-to-3 vote, agreed to pay Dejuan Yourse $95,000 for getting caught by the police after it appeared he was trying to break into his mother’s house. Every person who gets arrested by the Greensboro police can now cry foul, and if they can find a flaw in the way the police handled the arrest the City Council is going to give them money. It was an extremely shortsighted decision to settle the case rather than going to court. The argument was that it was cheaper to pay Yourse $95,000 than it was to spend an estimated $300,000 or $400,000 going to court, where the city might not win. But in the...

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Rhino Shorts: May 4, 2017

Crossover in the state legislature was last week, and a bill sponsored by state Sen. Trudy Wade to take away a state-mandated subsidy of newspapers with paid circulation passed the Senate and will move on to the House. The bill allows required public and legal notices to be placed on government websites instead of forcing governments and attorneys to place those ads in paid-circulation newspapers. In Guilford County, many of those notices are now placed in the Jamestown News, a newspaper with a couple thousand paid subscribers in a county with over 500,000 residents. The odds of any resident seeing the notice in the Jamestown News are miniscule, but it meets the legal requirement because it is a paid-circulation newspaper. Since the Rhino Times is a free newspaper, despite the fact that it has a far greater circulation, it doesn’t meet the legal requirement. The law that would be replaced was written back when paid-circulation newspapers had a far higher percentage of subscribers and there was no television, much less internet. But it was discriminatory against other forms of advertising when it was written and is even more so now. Imagine if instead of putting a public notice advertisement in the Jamestown News, the City of Greensboro mailed a notice to every household in Greensboro. A lot more people would see the notice, but it wouldn’t meet the legal...

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Under the Hammer: May 4, 2017

While president, Barack Obama said, “Elections have consequences.” It turned out he was wrong. The American people went to the polls last November and rejected the policies of Obama. The people elected a Republican president, a Republican House and a Republican Senate. All these Republicans just agreed to a continuing resolution, which is swamp talk for a budget deal. And who is crowing about it? House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. They got exactly what they wanted and the Republicans got nothing. Trump either needs to declare war on Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or get rid of them. I know they are elected by their respective bodies, but if the president of the same party expresses no confidence in them that should get somebody’s attention. In fact, why should Trump deal with Ryan and McConnell at all. If Trump wants to get anything done during his term, he has to deal with Pelosi and Schumer because it’s obvious they are running the show. ***** After 100 days with Trump in the White House, the result is that Trump is governing much like Obama, in that when he wants to get something done he has to do it by executive order. The problem in Washington, as it turns out, is not the president, it is Congress – and appears more...

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Leadership Void Results in Chaos

When an elected official can no longer adequately perform the duties of their job, for whatever reason, it is their responsibility to resign. One of the few actual duties of the mayor of Greensboro is to conduct City Council meetings.   Mayor Nancy Vaughan has proven that she is incapable or unwilling to properly conduct a City Council meeting. It is time for Vaughan to resign as mayor and allow someone who is willing and able to conduct City Council meetings take her place so that the business of the city can be done at public meetings. Vaughan has been repeatedly warned by friend and foe alike that if she did not take control of the City Council meetings they would only get worse. The meeting Tuesday, May 2 was the worst so far, and it was the worst of the thousands of public meetings I have attended. Never before have I seen a meeting devolve into mob rule, where the mob was allowed to take over the meeting room after forcing the elected officials to flee the dais. Months ago, Vaughan allowed former attorney Lewis Pitts and Nelson Johnson to stand in the audience and argue with her, and she then gave in to their demands. She was warned that by allowing those two to shout out from the audience, and legitimizing their actions by engaging in dialogue with...

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Public-Private Parking Deck Gets City Go

The City Council did conduct some business on Tuesday night, May 2, before fleeing the Council Chambers to get away from a disruptive audience. After calling the meeting to order, Mayor Nancy Vaughan said that the council was going to reverse the order of the agenda and finish the short business agenda before the public comment period. Normally the public comment period is held after ceremonial resolutions and before the business agenda, but with 23 people signed up to speak, and a short agenda, it made sense to reverse the order. The main item on the agenda was to enter into a Downtown Development Agreement with CHI Greensboro LLC, to design and build a public-private parking deck of about 1,050 spaces at the southwest corner of Bellemeade and North Eugene streets on property owned by the Carroll Companies, which also owns this newspaper. The site is across Bellemeade from the First National Bank Field baseball stadium and catty-corner from the Carroll at Bellemeade hotel and apartment complex currently under construction by the Carroll Companies. Roy Carroll had earlier announced an intention to build a multistory mixed use building on that site, which would include a parking deck, but no announcement was made about the plans for the site other than to allow the city to negotiate a contract to design and build a parking facility. The council agenda notes...

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Mayor & Co. React

A semi-impromptu press conference was held Wednesday, May 3, shortly after 3 p.m., outside the Council Chambers by Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Councilmembers Marikay Abuzuaiter, Nancy Hoffmann and Justin Outling. Vaughan read a prepared statement about the body-worn camera video of the arrest of Jose Charles on July 4, 2016. The other councilmembers said they agreed with the statement and answered questions from the members of the media who had found out about the press conference, although there was no official notification. Vaughan said, “In view of the premature end of our City Council meeting last night, we wanted...

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Unruly Mob 1, City Council 0

The Tuesday, May 2 City Council meeting was a sad night for Greensboro and a humiliating night for the City Council. The City Council was forced to leave the dais by an unruly crowd, and councilmembers only returned after the chambers had been cleared – and they then hurriedly adjourned the meeting. This City Council talks a lot about economic development and jobs. Every economic developer for a rival city has probably already emailed videos of that meeting to any corporation considering locating in Greensboro. If there are classes on how to conduct a public meeting, a video of this meeting will be used as an example of what not to do. The City Council faced a Council Chambers filled with angry and unruly people upset about the multiple criminal charges filed against Jose Charles, a 15-year-old who was arrested July 4, 2016 near Center City Park. Many elected bodies face angry and unruly crowds at their meetings. Few elected bodies do what the City Council did under the lack of leadership provided by Mayor Nancy Vaughan. When faced with an unruly crowd, this council turned and ran out the back door like chickens being chased by a fox, not even taking the time to vote on the motion to recess the meeting. The City Council Chambers is a place where the business of the people of Greensboro –...

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Under the Hammer: April 27, 2017

President Donald John Trump will have completed his first 100 days in office on Saturday, April 29, but reporters have been writing about that milestone since almost his first day in office. The mainstream media are trying their best to convince Trump supporters that Trump hasn’t kept his campaign promises. So far Trump supporters, who paid absolutely no attention to the mainstream media during the election, are keeping to that practice, but that doesn’t stop the mainstream media from trying. Trump has accomplished an enormous amount. They say when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you have to do is to stop digging. Former President Barack Obama had eight years to dig a hole, and the good news is the digging has stopped and Trump has started the process of climbing out of the hole. That in itself is a considerable achievement. One thing that has to be considered when judging Trump’s first 100 days is that, in essence, the American people elected a third-party candidate to the presidency. I don’t mean Trump is not a Republican, because he is. Bbut the Republican Party hierarchy didn’t support him. Trump had no base in the mainstream Republican Party. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan didn’t support Trump. No, he did support Trump, but then he didn’t support Trump, and then, as I remember it, on election night...

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Under the Hammer: April 20, 2017

The whole thing about people associated with President Donald John Trump working with Russians reminds me of the political candidate who said his opponent should be disqualified because it was a well-kept secret that the man was a sexagenarian. It’s not what you say but how you say it. There is nothing wrong with working with Russians. At one time in this country it was considered a plus to have good relations with Russians. Democratic Party saint John Kennedy sat down in the same room with Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev and it was considered at the time to be good for the US. Hillary Clinton had the famous fiasco where she tried to “reset” relations with the Russians. (If someone on her staff had looked up the Russian word for “reset,” it might have worked a little better.) Even the man the mainstream media hate nearly as much as Trump, Ronald Reagan, met with Mikhail Gorbachev and that was considered good for the country. Really, the way the mainstream media write about Trump supporters meeting with Russians, you would think it was illegal or at least immoral. It’s astounding that the mainstream media have gotten away with it for so long. ***** It seems the world has gone mad, or at least the mainstream media’s hate for Trump has turned them into lunatics. In the Kansas election to replace...

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N&R Kicks Wade When She’s Down

If the News & Record were a reputable business, the publisher would call state Sen. Trudy Wade and apologize. But the N&R is not reputable. It doesn’t correct its mistakes and has shown little regard for common decency or the truth. Even in today’s world, when someone has had a tragedy in their life, like the death of a family member, you allow them some time to grieve and to get back into the swing of things – even if you disagree with their political positions. Saturday, April 8, Sen. Wade’s father, Joseph Herman Wade, died. On Thursday, April 13, News & Record reporter Kate Queram attacked Wade in an article in the News & Record and made light of the fact that Wade was not in her office in Raleigh on Tuesday, April 11. According to Queram, Wade was not in her office on Tuesday, April 11 for an appointment with some High Point University students. The implication was that she was purposefully avoiding the scheduled meeting with the students. But Wade’s father’s funeral was Tuesday, April 11. Even in the rough and tumble world of politics, it is understandable by most for someone not to be in their office on the day of their father’s funeral. But Queram not only attacked Wade, she attacked Wade with lies. The article states that a couple of High Point University...

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Under the Hammer: April 13, 2017

President Donald John Trump tweeted that his campaign was “wiretapped” by President Barack Obama’s administration. The mainstream media, the Democrats and even a bunch of Republicans said Trump was paranoid and wrong. In non-tweet terms, where there is no limit on the number of characters, it was explained that, by “wiretapped,” Trump meant electronic surveillance. The word from the authorities who are supposed to know this kind of thing was that there were no Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants for Trump or his campaign. Now, according to The Washington Post, which is hardly a Trump supporter, the FBI did get a FISA warrant to monitor Carter Page, an advisor to the Trump campaign. It has also been revealed that Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice had Trump campaign staffers unmasked when they were intercepted talking to foreigners. It is legal for the US government to listen in on foreign communications, but when an American citizen’s communications are intercepted the identity of the American is supposed to be masked and only referred to as Citizen 1, Citizen 2 and so forth. This was not done if the citizen happened to work for Trump. So we now know the Obama administration did get a FISA warrant to listen to one Trump advisor and unmasked the other members of the Trump campaign when they were speaking to Russians and possibly people...

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Stop Saying Yes to Pie in the Sky

Greensboro behaves like a hare when in reality we should act like a tortoise. It seems the city leaps from one fake pie in the sky idea to the next while other cities in North Carolina keep plugging along and catching up. Say Yes is only the latest grand scheme that was going solve all the problems in public education and result in new industries flocking to Guilford County. But it appears to be the latest in a long line of too-good-to-be-true schemes. Greensboro was going to attract Major League Baseball to the area. After all the hoopla died down, the reality was that this area had been used as a patsy so that the owners of the Minnesota Twins could get a better stadium deal in Minnesota. Even if the special restaurant tax referendum had passed, the area would have been left with a new tax and no Major League Baseball. There was the Heart of the Triad (HOT). Greensboro was going to work with Guilford County, Winston-Salem, Kernersville, Oak Ridge, and Forsyth County to turn the area around Colfax into a mecca for new industry. Have you heard anything about HOT lately? FedEx was going to come in here and transform the area; if we would build them a new runway, the economic impact was estimated at $4 billion. The battle over building a new runway for...

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Rhino Shorts: April 13, 2017

The Rhino Times will hold its April Showers Schmoozefest on Thursday, April 27 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Blue Agave Mexican Bar & Grill at 3900 Battleground Ave. Those who sign in and wear a name tag are welcome to enjoy free hors d’oeuvres and beer and wine (while supplies last). ***** Many of us are wondering how long it will be until Greensboro no longer has a daily newspaper but a daily edition of some kind of regional newspaper based in Winston-Salem. That day, in all but the name of the paper, may already be here. Monday’s News & Record had three articles on the front page. One was about Rockingham County written by a N&R reporter. The paper’s fascination with every little thing happening in Rockingham County is bizarre. The N&R couldn’t spare a reporter to attend the meetings last week of the Greensboro City Council or the Guilford County Board of Commissioners but could assign a reporter to cover Rockingham County. Maybe the regional newspaper won’t be based in Winston-Salem but in Reidsville. The other two stories were from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, another newspaper owned by Warren Buffett. Those stories were about the 10th anniversary of the shooting at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, and one was written by a reporter who was fired a week ago, so it was written some time before that –...

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Rhino Shorts: April 6, 2017

Congratulations to the Carolina Tar Heels on winning the NCAA men’s basketball championship. It was an ugly game but Carolina played a great last minute. I do wish the referees had let the teams play. Maybe they would have found some rhythm and it would have been a better game. Then again, the right team won, so I think the refs did a great job. I’m a Dookie, but both my parents and two of my grandparents went to Carolina, so unlike some Duke fans I have no trouble pulling for Carolina as long as they’re not playing Duke. And even if you are an ABC (Anybody But Carolina) fan, you have to admit it’s good for the ACC to win another national championship. ***** The News & Record reported that it reduced its workforce by 36 this week. I’ve heard nine people in the newsroom lost their jobs. The question people have been asking is, how long will it be before Warren Buffett decides that he doesn’t need separate newspapers in Winston-Salem and Greensboro and moves the operation to Winston-Salem. With these layoffs it appears sooner than most people thought. At the Tuesday night City Council meeting, the News & Record didn’t send a reporter and didn’t bother to write anything about the meeting in the Wednesday paper. This same paper, which apparently couldn’t afford to cover local...

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City Council Shakes Things Up By Deciding To Discuss Taxes, Bonds

Property tax increase or no property tax increase – the City Council will decide on Tuesday, April 18. At the City Council meeting on Tuesday, April 4, City Councilmember Justin Outling made a motion that the council hold a public hearing and decide on April 18 whether or not to raise taxes to pay for the bonds. The motion passed unanimously. This is a wide departure from the way this City Council has done business, which is to argue at great length about the little stuff and leave the big decisions like the budget, bonds and taxes up to staff. The City Council held a work session in the Plaza Level Conference Room beginning at 3:45 p.m. before the council meeting that was scheduled for 5:30, but started after 6 p.m. The work session was set up for the city staff to explain how the bond money would be spent. The city currently has bond money available from the 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2016 bond referendums. The 2006 bond money has to be spent this year because the authorization for bonds is limited to 10 years. What happened was unexpected. City Finance Director Rick Lusk said that simply to spend the 2006 and 2008 bond money would require a tax increase and more of a tax increase if some of the 2016 bonds were sold. The plan presented to...

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Under the Hammer: April 6, 2017

Is it any wonder that President Barack Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice was the one responsible for the underhanded, improper and possibly illegal surveillance of President Donald John Trump and his campaign team last year after Trump won the Republican presidential nomination? Rice, when she was ambassador to the United Nations for Obama, was the one they picked to go out and tell bold-faced lies about the attack on two US compounds in Benghazi, Libya. The lies were absurd. The American people were supposed to believe that the 13-hour attack on the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency compounds were not terrorist attacks but were the result of a spontaneous mob. The White House knew this wasn’t true when the attacks were happening, but it has been impossible to explain why Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Obama didn’t send any help to the men defending the compounds – four of whom, including the US Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens, were killed during the attacks. According to Rice, there was no terrorist attack. A mob upset about a YouTube video spontaneously attacked first the State Department compound and then the CIA compound. This spontaneous mob had machine guns and mortars and well-organized attacks. It was an absurd lie and Obama had to find someone willing to go on the talk shows and tell it. Rice did. The...

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Council Gets a Win in Redistricting

To no one’s surprise, federal District Court Judge Catherine Eagles ruled in favor of the City of Greensboro in its lawsuit against the Guilford County Board of Elections over the Greensboro redistricting law passed by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2015. This means that unless the legislature goes back and passes a new Greensboro redistricting bill that would meet the standards set by the court, which seems highly unlikely, the 2017 Greensboro City Council elections will be based on the same system it currently has, with three councilmembers elected at large, five councilmembers elected from districts and the mayor elected at large. Greensboro has spent over $250,000 on this lawsuit. It would have been a hard case for the city to lose because there was no opposition. The North Carolina attorney general – who at the time was Roy Cooper, now governor – declined to defend the state, even though it is the job of the attorney general to defend the state in court. The legislature could have intervened in the case but did not. At one point there was a group of citizens, led by former Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston and former City Councilmember and former state Rep. Earl Jones, that asked for and was granted permission to intervene on behalf of the state, but that group decided against pursuing the case. If Greensboro had lost...

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Gov. Cooper Outfoxed on HB2

The Republicans in Raleigh were celebrating after the House Bill 2 (HB2) repeal because they got a much better deal when Gov. Roy Cooper signed House Bill 142 (HB142) than they thought possible. If you want to know who won that battle, just look at where the demonstrators were after the deal to repeal HB2 was announced. The protestors were in front of the governor’s mansion, not the legislative building. Nobody is going to go on the record about what happened behind the scenes – so don’t look for any quotes – but what happened was that North Carolina’s President Pro Tem of the Senate Phil Berger and Speaker of the House Tim Moore gave Cooper a lesson in hardball politics. Cooper made an offer to Berger and Moore that Cooper didn’t think they would ever accept. Cooper’s plan was for the Republican leadership to reject the offer and then Cooper could talk about how he had made a great offer and the Republicans were intransigent. Berger and Moore, however, went to work lining up votes to accept Cooper’s offer, and last Tuesday, March 28, they held a press conference that was supposed to be to announce the issue had been settled. However, Cooper wasn’t prepared to accept his own offer and claimed he didn’t make it. One of the first rules of politics is that if you’re going...

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Rhino Shorts: March 30, 2017

One of the biggest fables foisted on the people of Greensboro is the Downtown Greenway, which has now been in development for over 15 years and so far less than a mile of the four-mile Greenway is open. A tweet went out from the Downtown Greenway this week that reads: “Walk. Ride. Explore. Connect. The Downtown Greenway is bridging neighborhoods with a great urban trail. You can connect with old friends & make new ones.” That is simply not true. What it should say is that someday in the future you will be able to walk, ride, explore and connect. And that some day the Downtown Greenway will bridge neighborhoods. It’s not doing it now. The two portions of the Greenway that are open aren’t even connected. And the Greenway, despite what you read elsewhere, will not be completed anytime in the near or perhaps the foreseeable future. A key portion of the Greenway will be built along the Atlantic & Yadkin railroad tracks. The Atlantic & Yadkin still owns those tracks, although the tracks are no longer used. The Greenway can’t be built until the tracks are abandoned, the city takes possession, somebody removes the railroad tracks and builds the Greenway. Nobody knows how long that might take. When I asked about a possible timetable for the tracks being abandoned and the city taking possession, I was told...

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Under the Hammer: March 30, 2017

The Republican Party failed miserably at repealing Obamacare, something the Republicans have been saying they would do since it passed without a single Republican vote in 2010. It looks like the Republicans in the Senate still have the chance to show that they are interested in governing and not completely involved in arguing with each other about whether an egg should be cracked at the small end or the large end. The Democrats in the Senate say they are going to filibuster President Donald John Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch. If the Democrats do, it means they are breaking the unwritten rules of the Senate. Few presidential Supreme Court appointments would be passed by the Senate if senators filibustered nominees because they didn’t agree with their political views. What the Senate has traditionally done is allowed the president to make Supreme Court appointments as long as they meet the legal qualifications. Gorsuch, who was approved unanimously by the Senate for his current position on the Court of Appeals, has the legal qualifications to be a Supreme Court Justice. However, the Democrats don’t agree with his political views and, perhaps more importantly, really don’t like the man who nominated him. If the Senate Democrats are willing to set aside longstanding Senate protocol and filibuster Gorsuch, then the Republicans are well within their rights to remove the opportunity to filibuster...

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Council Overreacts to Email

If you want to know how dysfunctional the Greensboro City Council is, all you have to do is look at how the it handled the recent vote to approve a resolution to spend $2 million to build two new soccer fields at the Bryan Park soccer complex. The City Council had voted unanimously to go forward with the expansion over a year ago, as well as supporting it on March 7, when a presentation was made at a City Council work session by Pete Polonsky, the executive director of the Greensboro United Soccer Association (GUSA). The City Council expressed such overwhelming support that councilmembers asked if they couldn’t go ahead and vote to approve it at the work session. (The council can legally vote at a work session but usually the council doesn’t take votes except at meetings in the Council Chambers.) When councilmembers were discouraged from voting, several asked if the item couldn’t be added to the agenda for the regular meeting later that evening in the Council Chambers. There where two things that held that up. One was that the resolution had not been written and city staff asked for time to prepare it, and two, Councilmember Sharon Hightower wanted to discuss the matter in more detail – not for any particular reason. Hightower usually wants to discuss everything in more detail. So the vote on the...

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No HB2 Blackmail

I don’t like to see my state blackmailed and I don’t like ultimatums much either, so I hope that the state legislature doesn’t cave in to the obvious blackmail attempt by the NCAA and the ACC. The ultimatum was “do something by noon on Thursday, March 30,” and it appears there isn’t much chance of meeting that deadline. I didn’t vote for the NCAA or the ACC to run North Carolina and I’d rather the representatives and senators who were elected by the people of North Carolina decide what laws the state needs and doesn’t need rather than have athletic conferences make political decisions for the people of the state. If the NCAA and the ACC win this battle, what’s next? Might they decide that taxes in the state are too low and boycott the state for a tax hike? Could they decide that the districts in North Carolina have been unfairly drawn and boycott North Carolina until the legislature has drawn new districts? Maybe our anti-littering laws are not strong enough or our drunk driving laws are too strict. If the NCAA and ACC are successful in getting the state to repeal one law, why should they stop there? I’m sure there are other laws in the state that the NCAA and ACC would like to see changed. Also, the NCAA and the ACC don’t treat transgender athletes...

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Under the Hammer: March 23, 2017

President Donald John Trump may be able to do it – certainly no one else could – and he’ll have to fight Congress tooth and nail to get it done, but at least it’s within the realm of possibility. The “what” is reducing the size of the federal government. Through the years the Democrats have been in favor of rapid growth of the federal government and the Republicans, even Ronald Reagan, have favored a slower growth rate. What no one has attempted is actually reducing the size of government. The fierce political battle in Washington has always been about the rate of growth, not growth versus shrinkage. The Great Recession would have been an obvious time to reduce the size of the government. Americans were making far less money than they had been, industries – the ones that remained in business – were struggling and tax revenues were down. It would have made sense for the federal government to also reduce its footprint on the economy so that more money could go into the private sector. But the opposite happened. Instead of reducing the size of the government, President Barack Obama in 2009 spent $1 trillion in borrowed money in a failed attempt to stimulate the economy. The national debt didn’t double under Obama by accident. If you believe government is the answer, then it makes perfect sense to...

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Rhino Shorts: March 23, 2017

The First Rhino Times Schmoozefest of Spring is Thursday, March 23 from 6 to 8 p.m. at Fresh. Local. Good. at 433 Spring Garden St. It will be in the Morehead Foundry, the first multiplex dining facility in Greensboro. Beer, wine and hors d’oeuvres will be served gratis to those who sign in and wear a name tag. ***** It appears Gov. Roy Cooper is starting to find out just how powerful the governor of North Carolina is not. The state House overrode Cooper’s veto of a bill to make judicial races partisan on Wednesday. The Senate is scheduled to follow on Thursday. What Cooper is going to learn the hard way is that the governor, if he works with the legislature, can get things accomplished. If he chooses to work against the legislature and be completely disingenuous about his own behavior, as Cooper has done with House Bill 2, then the governor gets to cut ribbons and make speeches while the legislature makes laws. ***** Here’s a radical idea for Greensboro, not for the rest of the civilized world. If there really is an affordable housing shortage in Greensboro, why not allow single-family homes to have an ancillary dwelling on their lot? This is commonplace in many places. In Greensboro you can only build another dwelling unit if you have a pool and add a pool house or...

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Aiming to Doff Beer Cap

I knew Bill Sherrill was expanding his Red Oak Brewery along I-85/I-40 in Whitsett, but since Sherrill always seems to building something I didn’t pay too much attention to it, until I went out there this week and walked around the property. Sherrill says when it’s done he’ll have about $40 million invested in it. He’s building a beer hall, which is a distinctive building that looks like an old red barn with half the roof raised up (see cover), a cannery, an art museum and a pretty elaborate bridge to get from the beer hall to the museum. It will also have fountains, pools, waterfalls, streams and, he claims, water that’s on fire – something I really want to see. To pay for all of this, Sherrill has to sell a lot of beer, which is one reason state Rep. Jon Hardister was out there taking it all in. Hardister said he planned to file a bill this week in the state House to raise the cap on how much beer a brewery can sell before it has to hand its distribution off to a wholesaler. The current cap for self-distributing is 25,000 barrels of beer a year. Which means if a brewery sells more than 25,000 barrels of beer, by state law they cannot sell directly to retailers but have to hire a beer wholesaler to handle...

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Under the Hammer: March 16, 2017

The proposed healthcare plan now working its way through Congress looks like a good start toward the repeal of Obamacare. The huge difference to me – which doesn’t seem to get reported on much – is that Americans won’t be required to buy health insurance. I disagreed with the US Supreme Court on that one, which is my right as an American regardless of whether I have a law degree or not. I don’t see any way the federal government has the right to force Americans to purchase a product that they don’t want. Another point that the mainstream media don’t seem willing to report is that, even with the penalties, millions of Americans chose not to buy health insurance under Obamacare. From what I’ve read, the bill does need some changes. People should have more freedom in what kind of health insurance they can buy, and if a person wants to simply have catastrophic healthcare insurance, there shouldn’t be any impediments to that. One of the plethora of problems with Obamacare was that it couldn’t be amended. Obamacare passed without a single Republican vote in the House or Senate – so much for the Democrats wanting to be bipartisan. By the time Obamacare passed, Obama had lost one seat in the Senate, and since Obama had pushed the Republicans completely aside to get the bill passed, the Republicans...

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25,000 Barrels of Beer on the Wall

The Rhino Times welcomes the News & Record into the club of those in support of allowing breweries some of the freedom that most other businesses have. For over 10 years, the Rhino Times has supported raising the cap on how much beer a brewery can produce and self-distribute. Maybe if a few more media outlets get on board this law can be fixed. The law is absurd. It puts a limit of 25,000 barrels a year on how much beer a brewery can produce and distribute without using a beer wholesaler or distributor. If you use a distributor then there is no limit on how much beer a brewery can produce. Can you imagine if this type of law was applied to other businesses? For example, if it applied to the newspaper industry, a newspaper would be allowed to deliver its own papers up to 25,000, but if a newspaper distributed more than 25,000 papers it would have to hire another company to deliver them. Or a farmer would be able to sell sell 10,000 bushels of produce at a farmers market, but if he sold more than 10,000 bushels, by law he would have to sell his produce to a wholesaler. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s a business decision that the business owner should be allowed to make What it proves is the extent of political...

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State of Gov. Cooper’s State

Gov. Roy Cooper gave his State of the State address on Monday, March 13 in the legislative building in Raleigh. He smiled a lot, but it’s hard to believe he was enjoying himself. Both the state House and Senate have veto-proof Republican majorities and there was very little applause from the Republican legislators. Cooper said he wanted to work with the legislature, but he has already filed three lawsuits trying to use the courts to overturn action the legislature has taken. Suing people doesn’t usually lead to cooperation. As state attorney general, Cooper also refused to defend some of the laws passed by the Republican legislature when they were challenged in court, even though that was his job. To top it off, there is the whole House Bill 2, “the bathroom bill,” issue. In particular, Cooper ordered the Democrats to vote against the repeal legislation that was before the legislature in a special session in December when Cooper was governor-elect but hadn’t been sworn into office. To say there is a lack of trust between the governor and the Republican-led legislature would be an understatement, and Cooper didn’t help his cause by coming to the floor of the House smiling like a possum and saying things the legislator knew weren’t true. Cooper said that if the legislature passed a straight repeal of HB2 he would sign it the same...

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Rhino Shorts: March 16, 2017

Here is one that is just unbelievable to me. A bill has passed the state Senate to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to limit the state income tax rate to 5.5 percent. Only two of the 16 Democratic senators voted for it. Who is in favor of higher taxes? I guess the answer is the Democrats, but most people I know would like to pay lower taxes and this bill doesn’t actually do anything except give the voters of the state the opportunity to make that decision. One survey showed that the state income tax cap is supported by 68 percent of North Carolina voters. When the Democrats were in charge of the state and raised the state income tax to over 8 percent, business recruitment and job growth stagnated. When the Republicans lowered the income tax rate, which is currently at 5.5 percent, the economy took off. Maybe Democrats believe that is just a coincidence. What I don’t understand is that if Democrats think the tax rate should be higher, why don’t they send more money to the government? The government does accept donations, so if Democrats think the state tax rate should be 10 percent, why not just pay 10 percent to the state government? If all the Democrats in favor of higher taxes would donate more of their money to the government, then the...

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