The historic 2017 City Council election dominated the city news for the second half of the year, but the biggest story for Greensboro in 2017 might be an announcement made in 2018 about Randolph County.

In the fall of 2017, it was announced that the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite, which is entirely in Randolph County, was in the running for a planned Toyota-Mazda automobile manufacturing plant. It was hoped at the time that the announcement of the final decision would come before Thanksgiving, and then before Christmas. Now the word is that the announcement is to be made in January.

No one will say that Toyota-Mazda is going to choose the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite. Those who know won’t talk about it. But the indications are that, when it comes, the announcement will be that that Greensboro-Randolph Megasite has been chosen. If that is the case, then a car manufacturer coming to the area will dwarf all the other stories of 2017.

With an estimated 4,000 jobs and thousands more in related industries, it will provide Greensboro with the manufacturing jobs it has been lacking since the demise of the area textile, tobacco and furniture industries.

It is a game changer of such magnitude that the non-announcement ranks right up with the major stories of 2017.

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The 2017 election in Greensboro was historic before it began and became more historic once the votes were counted. It is historic because it is the first time the City Council has been elected to four-year terms. It also had more candidates file – 38 for nine seats – than any previous City Council election.

Eight women and one man were elected, and for the first time ever there is not a single white male on the City Council.

From the beginning it appeared that the election would turn the City Council – which was then made up of eight Democrats and one Republican – further left; and it did.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan easily won reelection over Diane Moffett, who registered to vote in Greensboro for the first time on the same day she filed to run for mayor. Moffett has lived in Jamestown for 12 years and rented an apartment in Greensboro so she could run for mayor, which made it legal but highly unusual.

Six of the eight incumbent councilmembers easily won reelection, but the two most conservative members of the City Council – District 5 City Councilmember Tony Wilkins and At-large City Councilmember Mike Barber – were defeated.

Wilkins had been the only Republican on the City Council and was defeated – in what was considered Greensboro’s most conservative council district – by City Councilmember Tammi Thurm, who was running in her first election.

Barber was defeated by City Councilmember Michelle Kennedy, Greensboro’s first openly gay councilmember.

District 3 Councilmember Justin Outling was easily reelected, making him the only male left on the City Council. Outling is black and the City Council is now made up entirely of minorities. Councilmembers Yvonne Johnson, Marikay Abuzuaiter, Sharon Hightower, Goldie Wells and Nancy Hoffmann all won without much difficulty.

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The crowd at City Council meetings had become more and more raucous at City Council meetings in 2016 and 2017. The culmination came on May 2, 2017, when the crowd took over the council chambers during a meeting after the City Council fled to hide behind a phalanx of police officers and two locked doors in the council offices.

Women in pink hats sat at the dais and, although the video feed of the meeting was cut off, the meeting was live streamed by several people on Facebook. It was a huge embarrassment to the City Council and to the city itself.

At the next meeting Vaughan had three disruptive people removed and things got back to normal in the council chambers for the rest of the year, although more shouting from the audience still takes place than was ever allowed in the past.

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The tale of two new downtown parking decks is a story that began without much fanfare in April but gathered a lot of opposition by the final meeting in December. In April, the City Council, with no discussion, agreed to allocate $4 million – $2 million to design each of the proposed new parking decks.

One is to be built at the intersection of Bellemeade and North Eugene streets by the Carroll Companies, which also owns this newspaper.

The other – which is to be built at East Market and Davie streets, going over February One Place – is headed to court. Both parking decks are designed to have retail on the first floor and hotels built over what will be a city-owned parking deck, and the city in December allocated $60 million for construction – $30 million for each deck.

However, the city ignored an easement owned by Rocky Scarfone across the entire width of the proposed parking deck on East Market to the back door of Cone Denim Entertainment Center. The design of the deck went forward without consulting Scarfone, but, in July, negotiations began with Scarfone about how to settle the easement issue.

In December, when after much discussion the City Council voted to go ahead with construction, Scarfone announced he would sue, so this will be a 2018 story as well.

It has been announced that a Westin Hotel is to be built over the East Market parking deck and, according to unconfirmed reports, an Aloft Hotel over the parking deck on Bellemeade.

The parking deck on Bellemeade has already sparked downtown construction, and a nine-story office building is to be built across the street next to the First National Bank baseball stadium.

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The groundbreaking for the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts was held in April amid some controversy. The bid for the grading work on the site was rejected, delaying all but the ceremonial groundbreaking. But it turned out that Greensboro Coliseum Manager Matt Brown knew what he was doing and, when rebid, the contract came in $1 million lower than the original bid.

The City Council approved the construction contract for the Tanger in December and construction is expected to start this month with the projected opening now set for 2020. It’s a project that began in 2011 and is finally on the homestretch – more good news for downtown Greensboro.

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The City Council effectively raised taxes by over two cents in its 2017-2018 budget without much opposition, because the tax rate wasn’t increased.

Because the property in Guilford County had been revalued for 2017, a revenue-neutral tax rate would have been two cents lower than the current rate, which is the highest property tax rate of any comparable city in the state.

So the city received an additional $5 million in revenue but the actual tax rate remained the same. The mainstream media mainly reported that there was no tax rate increase and the City Council got away with a stealth tax increase.

The City Council also raised water rates in the 2017 budget, so living in Greensboro got more expensive, but the tax increase and the water rate increase didn’t appear to be big issues in the City Council election.

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It looked like 2017 was going to be a good one for Dejuan Yourse, who was arrested in 2016 while he was sitting on the front porch of his mother’s house for suspected breaking and entering. After the police body-cam videos of Yourse’s arrest were released to the public there was a lot of controversy about the arrest and, in May, Yourse received a payment of $95,000 from the city.

In July, Yourse was back in court facing 12 counts, including several charges for assault on a female. In December, Yourse was convicted and sentenced to eight-and-a-half years in prison.

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District 2 City Councilmember Jamal Fox first announced he wouldn’t run for reelection and then he announced he was resigning from the City Council.

Fox, who had been an active and involved member of the City Council, resigned to move to Portland, Oregon – the home of the woman who is now his wife.

The City Council appointed former City Councilmember Goldie Wells to finish out the last couple months of Fox’s term and then Wells won election to a four-year term of her own in November.

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A story that popped up out of the blue in July was that Lake Jeanette and Buffalo Lake were being sold to private developers. Most people seemed to think that the lakes were owned by the City of Greensboro, but they had been built by Cone Mills to provide water to its textile mills. When the International Textile Group (ITG) bought Cone, it also acquired the lakes, and selling the lakes was not some kind of devious plot but simply a corporation turning some surplus property into cash.

Folks had all sorts of dire predictions that the new owners would drain the lakes and develop the land, or allow jet skis on Lake Jeanette, but the lakes sold and so far they look pretty much as they have for years.

In a related story, ITG announced that in December it would close down the White Oak plant, and what at one time was the largest denim plant in the world would no longer produce denim.

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There were numerous articles during the year about the Downtown Greenway, which may become Greensboro’s longest ever construction project.

The Downtown Greenway was first planned in 2001, and less than a mile of the four-mile sidewalk around the downtown is now complete.

The city held several planning sessions for input on the design of the Greenway in 2017. Not having the Greenway built is difficult to explain, but not having it designed after 16 years on the drawing board is bizarre.

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The News & Record announced that it would stop printing in Greensboro, making 2017 the first year in over a century when at least one daily newspaper wasn’t printed in Greensboro.

The newspaper also announced that its building and land on East Market Street was going up for sale. It was reported that the city was going to buy the land, and one mayoral candidate even reported that the city had bought the land, but at the end of 2017, the much diminished N&R staff was still operating out of its office on East Market and the newspaper was being printed in Winston-Salem.

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Another year has ended with Greene Street continuing to have an inexplicable traffic pattern. It is two-way on the north and south and one-way going south in the middle.

Since at least 2007, the city has been trying to make the street two-way for its entire length and has failed. Maybe 2018 will be the year that two-way traffic will come to Greene Street, but don’t hold your breath.

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Because of state law sponsored by state Sen. Trudy Wade, Greensboro may be able to stop buying expensive newspaper ads to advertise public hearings on extending water lines and a host of other similar topics.

The law to end the monopoly that paid circulation newspapers have on legally required advertising was passed by the legislature and then vetoed by Gov. Roy Cooper.

A revised law, which set up a pilot program for Guilford County, was then passed by the legislature; and since local bills do not require the governor’s signature, it became law.

The law is there but the Guilford County Board of Commissioners have to set up the county website so that the legally required ads from Greensboro and other governments can be placed there for $10, rather than the hundreds of dollars charged by paid-circulation newspapers. The ads will be free for Guilford County so it will save even more money.

Greensboro will be free to continue to advertise in paid-circulation newspapers if it chooses, but won’t be required to by law. Greensboro could even choose to advertise in free circulation newspapers if it so chose.

The Guilford County commissioners are expected to approve the new website this month, which will also be able to accept legally required advertising from attorneys.

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Another state legislature story that involves Greensboro is the redistricting for state representatives and senators, which has been held up in federal court for years.

The state Senate and House districts in Greensboro were redrawn by a special master hired by the courts last fall. This month the courts will decide whether to accept the new districts they had drawn or allow the state legislature to draw the districts as is set forth in the state constitution.

Filing for state offices for the 2018 elections is in February, so time is running out. In Greensboro people still don’t know what district they are in, which might not be a huge problem for voters, but for people planning to run it is.

When the court finally makes a ruling, it will almost certainly be appealed by the state, which means it may be February before any decision is made on the districts for the 2018 election.

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No round up of the news in 2017 in the Rhino Times would be complete without noting that Geof Brooks, who had been drawing cartoons for the Rhino Times since 1992, died of a heart attack at age 52 on Feb. 7.