Before I wrote this column, I read over the best practices and guidelines for conducting an intervention, because, this week, that’s essentially what this column is: It’s an intervention for the City of Greensboro and its leadership – a wake up call if you will.
This is something the city, which is clearly in a state of deep denial, has needed to hear for quite some time now – but it’s something no one feels comfortable sharing with those in charge.
Just as the books and webpages about interventions suggest, I’m trying to come at the city’s leadership from a position of love.
Those same guidelines also call for conducting the intervention in a secure, private place where the subject feels safe. However, since I’m holding this intervention in a column, I can’t quite figure out how to do that, and, if you are a City of Greensboro leader, please just try to think of this current edition of the Rhino Times as a very safe and loving place where you are surrounded by friends.
Now, the City of Greensboro has been in denial for a long time about the fact that it has a problem – so this isn’t going to be easy for anyone.
One clear indication of the level of that denial is the city’s reaction to its most recent major blow: VF taking its global headquarters and heading west. After the announcement, most of the city’s leaders were on TV and in print talking about how this wasn’t actually even a bad thing because VF would also bring some other new jobs to Greensboro to replace those that left.
I saw one city official who even said on the news, “One good thing is that we are going to be able to keep the name ‘Jeansboro.’”
We can – really? We can keep the name? That name? Well, sell my clothes I’m going to heaven; but I still think I’d rather keep all those $200k-a-year jobs instead.
Listen, the only people VF’s departure is good news for are the people who are shopping for homes in Irving Park.
VF heading for Denver is just the latest sign that Greensboro needs to seek help in a major way. One blow should have made this evident years ago: When we went to the Jeff Pilot building one day and Jeff had suddenly packed up all his stuff and left; and the only thing that remained was a note that thanked us for the great years together and stated that it was something about him, not us, that led to the breakup.
Now, VF’s new corporate statement provides us a valuable clue to Greensboro’s problem. It states, “Relocating these brands along with select VF leaders at a shared headquarters at the base of the Rocky Mountains will better enable us to collaborate across brands and functions, unlock innovation and business opportunities, attract and retain talent, and connect with our consumers.”
Do you see what VF did there? They created a list of four reasons and put the real reason third out of the four to ease the blow. It’s like when a woman is leaving you and you keep insisting that she give you a reason why. She’ll eventually give you an answer of four reasons with the real one buried in the third spot.
“Well, we’ve been growing apart, I’m more committed to my career than before, you’re no good in bed and my life priorities have changed.”
She’s leaving you because you are no good in bed. Sorry, but that’s the way it is.
And VF is leaving because, in Denver, it can attract all the talented, hip, cool people it wants to hire, unlike here.
But we must dig deeper. Why is this? Greensboro is a great place and, really, what does Denver have that we don’t have? OK, legal weed; I’ll give you that one. But what else? OK, OK, great mountains, sure.
But none of that is the real reason people would rather be in Denver than in Greensboro. Think about it; Greensboro has great clubs, concerts and entertainment, a great youth sports community and tons of universities, a low crime rate, a thriving downtown, very nice people, and the traffic here isn’t horrific like it is in Charlotte or Atlanta. Plus, if you really want weed here you can get it and I don’t think they actually do anything to you if they catch you with it on you.
So exactly what is our problem?
I will tell you …
It’s low self-esteem.
Despite everything that Greensboro has going for it, the city just can’t get its head on right. Like an addict, deep down, the city doesn’t like itself. As a city, we keep putting ourselves down. We keep kicking ourselves like someone whose mental tape is playing the message over and over again that he’ll never amount to anything.
The city has had a hard life: Our neighbors Charlotte and Raleigh have flourished while we have gone largely unloved; the past has been rife with tension, violence and racial issues; and our beloved and dependable textiles left us for a place where they don’t even speak English. It has all taken a big toll on our self-confidence.
Just to take one example of our mindset, the last time I had to cover a Greensboro City Council meeting, practically the whole thing was about whether the city should apologize for what happened in the Klan-Nazi shootings of 1979. Should we mark it with a sign? Should we call it “a massacre” or “a shooting”?
Listen, I was born in Greensboro and have basically lived here my entire life and I am soooooo tired of hearing about that one thing. Yes, 40 years ago some crazy evil people shot some people here. But does that have to be a defining event of the city for all time? Should we really publicly harp on that over and over again? Greensboro, as a city, spends more time publically agonizing about its problems of the past than any other place in the world.
In most cities, they actually try to minimize their public discourse about all the negatives things that have happened there. It’s the same way that a real estate agent doesn’t spend a lot of time talking about the bizarre double homicide that occurred in the house he’s showing you.
But, in this city, no matter what the problem is or was, we focus on it incessantly and have 10 committees sit around talking about it until the end of time. All the books on depression and addiction say you shouldn’t spend time constantly ruminating about your past mistakes and harping on your problems – but Greensboro does that with abandon. For instance, apparently the next 40 years are going to be spent talking incessantly about how the city has a lot of beggars. That’s also not a terrifically positive narrative for either us or for prospective corporate citizens that might try to be with us.
On so many issues, the whole city is like a time travel machine stuck on reverse. Or perhaps it’s more like a car that, in place of a windshield, only has a giant rear view mirror.
Greensboro, if you were a person on Facebook who constantly posted all these negative things about yourself, you would never get a girlfriend, everyone would de-friend you and the authorities would probably have you committed for at least a week of suicide watch.
So let me say it again: Greensboro, you are a fine city; there is nothing wrong with you.
The only thing wrong with you is in your head. It is this ingrained belief that your losses, failures and inadequacies of your past define you.
Yes, Greensboro, you’ve made some mistakes – everyone has – but it’s time to let those go.
We all love you, Greensboro, and others will too if you can just change your mindset. It is 2018 – nearly 2019 – and it’s time for the city to move out of the past.
Greensboro, I know none of this is fun to hear. But someone needs to say it, and there are some things I really want to stress to you as I do tell you …
One, I love you and that’s the whole reason I’m saying any of this in the first place. Because I care about you and only want the best for you.
Two, I’m really worried about you. If you don’t change your destructive behavior things could get really bad.
And, three, and finally, know that I am here for you and know that treatment works.
Remember, the first step is the hardest and a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
Oh, and today is the first day of the rest of your life.