It seems in Greensboro, anything can be made controversial, even locating a charter school downtown.
Evidently, according to at least one candidate for the Greensboro City Council, the downtown should be set aside for homeless sex offenders and a school would interfere with their freedom of movement.
At-large City Council candidate Michelle Kennedy is the director of the Interactive Resource Center (IRC), a facility that provides services for the homeless during the day, but only becomes a night shelter during extremely cold nights in the winter, has raised questions about a proposed charter school locating about a block from the IRC. The old Dorothy Bardolph Building at the corner of Church and Washington streets was purchased from the city in 2016 by Greensboro developer Marty Kotis, who has plans to put a charter school in the building. According to Kennedy, it is not the proper location for a charter school because it may inconvenience registered sex offenders who are homeless and use the IRC.
Reports are that seven registered sex offenders use the IRC as their mailing address. Because registered sex offenders are not allowed near schools, the registered sex offenders who use the IRC might have to detour around the charter school to get to the IRC.
Kennedy has made various and conflicting statements about the proposed charter school, but generally she opposes it.
At-large City Councilmember Mike Barber, who is running for reelection and is therefore running against Kennedy, has weighed in, suggesting that the IRC might not be in the best location for the future of downtown Greensboro and would be better off near the Guilford County Social Services building on Maple Street. Kennedy says the IRC isn’t moving.
The laws restricting registered sex offenders from being near schools is not designed to protect the registered sex offenders from children, as Kennedy seems to imply, but to protect children from registered sex offenders. The law does inconvenience registered sex offenders; it restricts where they can legally live and where they can legally hang out. The purpose is to keep registered sex offenders away from children as much as possible. Children and those caring for children should be allowed to play on a school playground without having to worry about a registered sex offender hanging out on the other side of the fence.
If the charter school does move into the old Bardolph Building, then the registered sex offenders who claim to live at the IRC, although they don’t, may have to make adjustments in their daily schedule. Registered sex offenders have been convicted of molesting children – a crime that most people consider particularly despicable – and according to the laws of this country it is a crime that requires that the ability of registered sex offenders to go where they want be restricted for the protection of children.
It’s turning the law upside down to restrict the activities of children for the convenience of registered sex offenders.
Kotis has said he doesn’t expect the IRC to move, but also that he doesn’t expect the IRC to be able to dictate to him what he does with his building, particularly for the convenience of registered sex offenders.
Kennedy is not alone in her belief that she should be able to determine what other people do with their own property. It happens all the time at rezoning hearings where people don’t like what the property owner plans to do with his property. Often it isn’t that the opponents think the use will be incompatible but simply that they don’t want any change to their neighborhood.
Kennedy is quoted as saying that the IRC owns the IRC building, but according to Guilford County tax records the IRC property is owned by the 407 E. Washington St. LLC. The only member of that LLC is the Community Foundation Real Estate Management Fund Inc. and the manager is Walker Sanders, the president of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro. So, according to the tax records, the Community Foundation not the IRC owns the IRC building, which means if the Community Foundation decided to do something else with the building it could do so.
It seems to me that downtown Greensboro is a great place for a charter school. I remember when the Imani Institute was on Church Street and the kids in the school added some much needed youthful exuberance to the downtown.
Plus, it’s a great place for a school because of all the other amenities that are downtown, like the Greensboro Public Library, the Children’s Museum, the Greensboro History Museum, the International Civil Rights Center & Museum; and then there is LeBauer Park, a wonderful place for young students to take a break during the day, plus all the facilities of the Cultural Arts Center.
A charter school would bring parents downtown who want to stop in and get a quick bite to eat at one of the many eateries, or sit down for a nice meal at a restaurant.
As documented by Downtown Greensboro Inc., the downtown Greensboro needs more residents, and something that would make living downtown more convenient would be a school right in the downtown.
If a choice has to be made between attracting kids, teachers and parents downtown with a charter school or attracting more homeless people downtown with a daytime homeless shelter, the choice for the betterment of the downtown is clear, but it shouldn’t come to that.
The IRC may have to find a way to accommodate its registered sex offender population, but most of the people served by the IRC are not registered sex offenders, they are simply homeless and there is no reason to inconvenience the many for the few.
Several city councilmembers have expressed concern that the city, which funds the IRC, is using tax dollars to provide services to registered sex offenders when that was not the intent of these councilmembers in funding the IRC, so it appears that Kennedy, in raising questions about a charter school, may have created problems with her funding body.