The City Council waited until the very end of the Tuesday, June 4 meeting to hold the public hearing required by state law on the 2019-2020 budget.
Some might expect the public hearing on the budget to get top billing, but not in this case. The Council meeting started with four resolutions, one of them to recognize June as “Homeownership Month.”
A presentation on the Greensboro/Guilford County Tourism Development Authority was related to the budget because the budget for the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) is a part of the City of Greensboro budget and it did provide some comic relief.
Henri Fourrier, president of the CVB, noted in his presentation that the economic impact of tourism in the area amounted to $1.4 billion a year.
Councilmember Sharon Hightower was convinced that the CVB’s budget was $1.4 billion and wanted some of that money. It took a while to straighten out her confusion. Hightower didn’t want to give up her new found pot of money.
Then the City Council held it’s town hall meeting where speakers are invited to speak for five minutes on any topic they choose. The same four or five people who have been demanding that Police Chief Wayne Scott be fired, gave the same speeches they have been giving for months.
A number of speakers spoke about how the Greensboro Transit Authority paratransit service known as SCAT had become much worse, with longer waits, rude drivers and long rides.
Dealing with the Greensboro Beautiful Issue took some time and there were more complaints about the Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise program.
At 7:56 the City Council took a half an hour break to eat supper.
When the Council returned at 8:26 all but the hardy few had departed which left eight speakers on the budget, the 3 cent tax hike and the new $2.50 recycling fee for a total of $11.1 in new revenue.
But only one speaker mentioned any of those issues and that was almost as an aside.
There were several city workers who advocated not for higher wages, but for the city to implement an employee salary step plan. Under the current system city employees are eligible for merit raises every year. This budget includes funding for average merit raises of 3 percent. Some employees would understandably prefer not to be given raises based on merit, but based on how many years they have been employed.
Beth McKee-Huger spoke about the need to do a better job of forcing landlords to repair substandard housing.
But she also noted that the goal of the Human Relations Department was to conciliate seven complaints during the year which was an increase from two in a previous year. But Huger said, “Think of the amount of discrimination in our community, I hope that we can do better than that.”
Another speaker echoed Huger’s complaints about the lack of safe affordable housing.
One speaker asked that the Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise department report directly to the city manager.
Hester Petty who had already spoken once about the police department, this time spoke about the recycling fee the people would have to pay compared to the money the city is handing out for parking decks to benefit downtown developers.
Dave Hampsten talked about the need for more bicycle and pedestrian friendly streets.
And that was it for the public hearing.
One might expect the mayor or a councilmember to offer a public explanation of why the city needed $11.1 million in new revenue, but during the time for council comments the main topic was safe affordable housing and making property owners who hadn’t repaired substandard housing in a reasonable amount of time pay hefty fines.
Vaughan said she would like the council to consider making minimum housing code violations criminal offenses.