It’s not quite the Hatfields and the McCoys yet, but it does look like Guilford County has a feud on its hands, between Guilford County Commissioner Skip Alston and Downtown Greensboro Inc. President Zack Matheny.
The rift between the two men has become highly evident in the recent process in which Matheny asked for, and got, $50,000 to help Downtown Greensboro Inc. pay for a $200,000 strategic study meant to enhance economic development in downtown.
At the Thursday, Sept. 19 meeting of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, there were a whole lot of uncomfortable moments between the two as Alston chastised Matheny, who tried to remain stoic but clearly was holding back an urge to respond in kind.
Almost exactly one month earlier, at a Board of Commissioners work session in a smaller room before a smaller crowd, Alston had absolutely raked Matheny over the coals for, among other things, failing to mention, in a 30-minute presentation, the importance of downtown’s International Civil Rights Center and Museum, a museum that Alston co-founded.
At the Sept. 19 commissioners meeting, Alston continued to reprimand Matheny, who responded often with “Yes, sir,” and “No, sir,” since Matheny was still no doubt hoping for Alston’s vote.
Alston said that in a recent financial statement, Downtown Greensboro had $688,000 in recent year-to-year carryover money and the foundation behind the organization had more than $309,000 carryover.
“So that’s almost a million dollars that you had carryover – so the question is, why do you need another $50,000 from taxpayers if you’ve got a million dollars that you didn’t spend?”
Alston answered for Matheny: “Because you figure you got five Republican votes on this board – and you talked with them and you feel comfortable making the ask because it’s easy money.”
“I think they would take that as an insult,” Matheny responded.
Matheny added, “I don’t know who I’ve got,” and he also said that Alston’s inquiry was “a great question.” He said that the group just paid $174,000 to put on the NC Folk Festival, said they relied on interest to help fund things, and said his group must have a reserve just like the county and just like other non-profits.
Alston was also highly critical of the fact that Downtown Greensboro had already begun working on the study without knowing if Guilford County would help fund it. Alston said that, if Downtown Greensboro really needed the county’s help to pay for the study, then it was fiscally irresponsible to start the study without that funding.
“I don’t put my car in the shop without figuring out how to pay for it,” Alston said, adding that it suggested that Downtown Greensboro didn’t really need the money.
Several times, a restrained Matheny said things like “I can see your point of view,” and, “I can understand where you are coming from,” but he clearly wasn’t saying everything that was on his mind that night.
In the end, Matheny got the $50,000 for his organization on a 6-to-3 vote with Alston and two other Democrats on the board voting no.