First there was the “Rumble in the Jungle” and now, on Thursday, Sept. 19 there will be the “Showdown in Downtown.”
No one has been calling it that – but that’s what it could turn out to be due to the dynamics of the situation and the fact that there are a lot of questions the Guilford County commissioners have regarding a request from Downtown Greensboro Inc. (DGI) for Guilford County to contribute $50,000 to help fund a new study of downtown Greensboro’s needs and potential strategies.
The strategic study meant to advance economic development in the heart of Greensboro will cost about $200,000. DGI already has commitments from the City of Greensboro and others totaling about $150,000.
In a somewhat heated and uncomfortable work session last month, DGI President Zack Matheny made the request to the commissioners – hoping for a yes answer then – however, at that meeting, instead, the DGI leader was dressed down by Commissioner Skip Alston for not mentioning the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in the extensive presentation. Alston is a co-founder of the museum and was clearly offended by the omission.
There were other concerns expressed as well at that work session: Commissioner Jeff Phillips was one of several county commissioners who said there were still too many questions about the initiative for the commissioners to vote to approve the request that day. Several commissioners said they wanted to allow time for DGI to answer some of those questions and tighten up the proposal.
Now, the county has set the date for that second presentation. It will be held during the county commissioners Sept. 19 meeting at the Old Guilford County Court House in Greensboro. The discussion will also contain a public hearing in which anyone can speak their mind on the proposal to help give downtown development a new strategic plan. The $50,000 payout from the county – if it happens – would be considered an economic development payment and the board is required by law to hold a public hearing for all funding matters of that sort.
After Matheny made his presentation the first time before the board in mid-August and asked for the $50,000, an irate Alston wasted no time telling Matheny exactly what he thought. Alston said it was unimaginable that Matheny could come before the Board of Commissioners and talk about all the valuable assets of downtown Greensboro and fail to so much as mention the Civil Rights Museum.
“I’m very disappointed,” Alston said harshly at that meeting as Matheny stood there. “You give a 30-minute presentation and you mention not one time the International Civil Rights Museum.”
Alston said on that hot August day that Matheny had paid no notice to the “worldwide publicity” the museum is going to bring next year during the 60th Anniversary of the Sit-Ins, and he added that the museum-induced traffic benefits many businesses every day.
Matheny, who was clearly taken aback by Alston’s comments at that time, said: “I didn’t include a lot of things,” he said. “There’s 99 blocks and there’s a lot of things I could mention that I didn’t.”