What Greensboro needs right now is Earl Jones back on the City Council.

Some people, or to be more precise anyone with a good memory, might find that statement odd considering the source.

Jones and I disagreed on a lot when he was on the City Council from 1983 to 2001, but I always admired his attitude of cutting to the chase.  Jones was in favor of bypassing the committees, the charettes, the stakeholder meetings, the endless planning, pondering and discussions, taking a vote and moving on.

The example that comes to mind was back in the early ’90s when the City Council was considering beginning each meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance.  It had been discussed a couple of times at meetings.

At one meeting the City Council was once again discussing how to go about making the decision on whether to say the Pledge of Allegiance or not.

It took Jones a little bit of time to catch the topic of the discussion and a few more minutes to get the floor.  But when he was recognized, Jones said – We’re talking about saying the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of every meeting, right? When he got an affirmative he made the motion that the City Council begin every meeting by saying the Pledge of Allegiance.

He got a second and the motion passed 9-0.

And three decades later the City Council still begins each meeting by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

What the City Council really needs right now is someone who can cut to the chase.  The city has the best opportunity to grow that it has had in 50 years.  People forget, but until the Randleman Reservoir started providing water in 2010, Greensboro had a serious water shortage.  Now we have plenty of water, what is considered the best transportation system in the state, and we have industry coming to the area.  However, the most recent big economic wins are industries coming to the area but not to Greensboro.

The city only benefits from the Toyota battery plant and Boom Supersonic if the suppliers of those industries and employees locate in Greensboro because neither Toyota or Boom will pay a dime to Greensboro in taxes.

Currently, the odds of that are not good.  Greensboro has higher taxes than the surrounding jurisdictions and far more bureaucratic red tape.  While the City Council welcomes new industry, the city staff does not.  Plus, Greensboro has a severe housing shortage.  The housing shortage is statewide but high taxes and bureaucratic red tape haven’t helped Greensboro.  Go back 15 years and look at the developers announcing new projects in Greensboro and then look and see where those same developers are announcing new projects today; for a many it’s not Greensboro.  They are still building.  In fact some are building more and larger developments than they were 15 years ago, but they aren’t building in Greensboro.

Major reform is needed at city hall.  The City Council knows this, but there is no one currently on the City Council who is willing to step up and start taking action to solve some of the problems.  It is too late for study committees and stakeholder meetings. By the time recommendations are made, debated and acted on, both Toyota and Boom should be up and running.  The supply chain industries will have chosen their locations and the employees will have found homes and the majority won’t be in Greensboro.

The Rhino Times recently recommended two changes that would move the city down the path toward being more industry friendly and toward alieviating the housing shortage.  One is eliminating parking minimums and the other is allowing people to build granny flats.

These changes are not radical.  Raleigh has already done both.  But they would signal that Greensboro is serious about solving some of its long term issues and would be good first steps.

It would only take two motions to accomplish both of these changes which a number of city councilmembers, off the record, say they support.

With that done, the City Council could start solving some of the more intrenched problems that are scaring small businesses and home builders away.

Where is Earl when you need him?