“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

The famous quote from Ronald Reagan appears once again to be accurate in the Hamburger Square portion of South Elm Street just north of the McGee Street intersection, where the city has placed a row of jersey barriers.

At the urging of the City Council, the city said that restaurants would be able to use portions of the public right-of-way for additional seating during the coronavirus restrictions, as long as it could be done safely and didn’t block the flow of vehicles or pedestrians.

The current Phase 2 restrictions limit restaurants to 50 percent of their official occupancy, plus tables have to be at least six feet apart, which often results in lowering the actual number to well less than 50 percent. The additional outdoor seating is supposed to help restaurants, which were closed for in-person dining during Phase 1, get closer to that 50 percent maximum.

Natty Greene’s, Gray’s Tavern and the Green Bean requested that permission, which since the government is involved requires filling out a stack of forms and getting approval from police, fire, building inspections and field operations. It’s no small feat.

They were granted permission by the city to place tables and chairs on the sidewalk in front of their businesses and in a portion of the street normally reserved for parking.

But to do so, the city in its wisdom decided to line the area with concrete jersey barriers. A concrete jersey barrier is just about as ugly as anything man has devised, but what is even uglier is a damaged concrete jersey barrier with rusty rebar sticking out of broken concrete. The city used some of those also.

Fortunately, most of the plywood and particleboard covering windows and doors in the downtown area have been removed and the downtown is starting to look like the downtown again. Placing a row of jersey barriers on one of the main streets of Greensboro doesn’t help the city look like it’s getting back to normal.

The Greensboro City Council spends a lot of time talking about ways to make the downtown area more attractive and appealing. In all of those discussions, it’s safe to say that not one councilmember has ever said what the city needed to make the downtown look better are more jersey barriers sitting out in the street.

Certainly, some method of delineating the area without using jersey barriers could be devised and would be devised if someone on the City Council took an interest.