The Greensboro City Council was “Shocked, shocked, I tell you” to find out on Tuesday night, Jan. 4, that the city staff had ignored the needs and concerns of small business owners when making the decision to close North Eugene Street for three months.
But the truth is, what happened to the businesses on Eugene Street is par for the course. The Greensboro Department of Transportation (GDOT) held a meeting with the business owners on the 300 and 400 block of N. Eugene Street where the city planned to do some work that might involve closing the street.
The business owners had a number of questions and concerns. The representatives of GDOT said they would get back to them and they would be involved in the decision making process about how the street work would move forward.
But nobody from the city got back to the business owners. The next thing they heard from the city was that the street in front of their businesses would be closed for three months with the issues about access and parking unresolved.
This is not unusual but is the way the City of Greensboro, and particularly GDOT, has done business for years. Public meetings are supposedly held for input, but in reality the decisions have already been made and it doesn’t matter what the public’s opinion of those decisions are because the project is moving forward as GDOT planned.
One publication labeled them as “faux public hearings.” They look like public hearings, city staff listens, comments are written down and then the project moves forward without any alterations, or in this case without obvious issues being resolved.
But this is just one example. People who work in many cities in the state and region say Greensboro is the most difficult place to do business, period. The corporate culture at dity hall is to say no. It is not to help businesses find a solution, but to find something wrong and say, “You can’t do that.”
And what I’ve learned firsthand is that it isn’t enough to get approval from one city official and proceed because another city official may come along and un-approve it.
A real Pollyanna might think that now that the City Council has shockingly discovered this one instance where the needs of small businesses were ignored that one or two councilmembers might decide to delve a little deeper. If they do, what they will discover is that this is not an isolated incident. This is the way the City of Greensboro – the city they are responsible for running – does business.
In the past there have been city councilmembers who would intervene on behalf of business owners just trying to make a living in Greensboro, but sadly that isn’t the case on the present City Council.
However, it is possible that help is on the way. The new city manager is from Charlotte and Charlotte didn’t get where it is today by being the most difficult place to do business in the state. Perhaps Tai Jaiyeoba will bring a can-do attitude to Greensboro and change the corporate culture at city hall.