And I'm an expert on carrots, remember? (I don't know why the picture displays so poorly.)
Last night Sal Leon and I were having a little discussion about the goings on downtown and Sal and I formed an interesting theory: Well actually its Sal's theory but I'm signing on. What if the plan is for Ben Holder to take the fall should efforts to resolve issues at Heritage House fail?
There are some things that back up this theory.
First off: if you were Jim Westmoreland would you stick your neck out by hiring Ben Holder after what Ben has done to council members Nancy Hoffmann, Jamal Fox and Marikay Abuzuaiter over the course of the last year? Not without some promises from a bunch of city council members that your job would remain safe you wouldn't. Ben turned in Hoffman for code violations on her buildings, ran against Marikay calling her a liar and campaigned against Fox even though Ben and Jamal weren't competing with one another. And while Ben appears to be tight with Mike Barber and Yvonne Johnson he did run against both of them and Marikay last year.
I know politics makes strange bedfellows but just a few months back Ben and Marikay's husband got into a fistfight at a Greensboro City Council meeting because Ben said she was lying about being a confidential informant. I really cannot believe Marikay or Nancy Hoffmann are in bed with Ben even if Ben thinks Hoffmann might be.
So what would you do if you were in Jim Westmoreland's shoes and you were considering hiring a very controversial figure for what might be a very controversial job? You'd put it to a City Council vote so that you wouldn't have to take the blame. But everyone involved knew Ben Holder would never get hired publicly, Marikay Abuzuaiter would never have it and they would never find 5 council members with balls enough to hire Ben in front of the television cameras. Not even Tony Wilkins who I consider the bravest of the lot would dare face Marikay's wrath after what has taken place between Ben Holder and Marikay. And to prove my point, not only was it not voted on but Marikay was quoted as saying:
“This has certainly gone behind council’s back with someone who has stood here and screamed at almost every person on this council,” said Abuzuaiter. “I’m not sure what is going on here, but it does not smell pretty.”
"Abuzuaiter said, “that contract was signed two days prior to anyone finding out about it.”
You see, Holder's first task is to take on Heritage House and while I agree with Jeffery Sykes that Ben will do everything in his power to make his efforts successful this wouldn't be the first city contract designed to fail. Ben is facing overwhelming odds. Not that Ben isn't up for a challenge but when you're being set up by the very people you're working for challenges become the impossible.
For example: from the Rhino:
" Part of the overview includes designing a “Blight Fight” program in which independent contractors can report violations to the city and then – if they are not taken care of by the property owner – the independent contractor who reported them is hired by the city to bring them into compliance."
Go back and read that again. "...the independent contractor who reported them is hired by the city to bring them into compliance." How is Ben Holder going to accomplish that? Is he going to be given broad powers, police powers, the right to subpoena, the right to charge offenders with crimes, the right to take property from the worst offenders? How is Ben Holder going to be able to bring offenders in-line if he isn't given such broad powers usually reserved for governments and if he is given such powers is that not asking for a lawsuit?
And is it even legal to give such broad powers to one person?
Of course the City of Greensboro and the Greensboro City Council will be off the hook because #1. there was no council vote to hire Ben and 2. Ben is a private contractor and is therefore responsible for his own mistakes. Maybe that's why the City Manager allowed Ben to work for 10 days without insurance, doing everything he could do to make sure Ben got the job and no one else did. And if the City does get sued the city council will deny responsibility and let Jim Westmoreland fall with Ben. Or not, according to State law, Jim Westmoreland can't be sued for doing his job so the worst that could happen is that he gets fired. And that requires no less than 5 city council members.
Let's also not forget that Greensboro has a history of deliberately undermining efforts to clean up problem properties and eliminate slumlords. The City of Greensboro previously funded a State lobbyist to help do way with the proven successful RUCO housing standards which would have solved the Heritage House problems altogether. Does that sound like a city that would want Ben to succeed?
And then there's the matter of the contract between Ben and the City of Greensboro: While a 14 page contract is said to have been released to certain media outlets at least one city council member is secretly telling us that the real contract contains 24 pages.
As Sal said to me, 5 members on City Council must be secretly supporting the hiring of Ben Holder, otherwise city staff would have never put their necks on the chopping blocks. My opinion is three of those 5 are Nancy Barakat Vaughan, Mike Barber (who promised Ben a job) and Yvonne Johnson. Now who's the other two?
My money is on Zack Matheny and believe it or not, Nancy Hoffmann who reluctantly got on board as other Council members are holding dirt on her. But you tell us which 5 or more council members you think are setting Ben up to fail.
And Ben, as mad as you may be with me there are secrets about you I have never blogged and never will blog. Roch Smith jr knows them as does David Hoggard and Cara Michelle Forrest. I think you can figure out what I'm talking about. It's nobody's business but your own. I've known them as long as I've known you and never made it public. I plan to keep it that way. There are people out there right now trying to use me and others to ruin you-- I believe you're getting played. Good luck, brother, I think you're about to find out who your friends really are.