Wednesday, February 25, 2015

East Market Street Pipe Dreams

I sat through the City Council business meeting yesterday. Councilman Mike Barber wasn't in attendance and Councilwoman Nancy Hoffmann appeared to sleep through most of the meeting.

George Hartzman explained how city employees could add thousands to their retirement funds without increasing taxes by cutting out middle men and buying their retirement plans directly from the same folks the middle men buy the accounts from but it really appeared as if Tony Wilkins and Zack Matheny were the only ones on Council who really understood what Mr Hartzman was talking about. Councilman Wilkins expressed much concern (some will say I'm being overly nice) about the fact that no one was brought in from the City's current plan administrator to answer questions. Seems they've now wasted 4 meetings without calling in anyone from the other side.

In walking out with Mr Hartzman at the end of the meeting I could tell my friend was pretty bummed that Council and Staff had not yet taken the time to understand these things but later in the day George had let it roll off his back and was ready to fight again. I wish I could recover so quickly.

The folks from East Market Street Development Corporation gave their presentation. As Councilwoman Marikay Abuzuaiter-- who wasn't sleeping-- pointed out: EMSDC had simply redone their previous presentations from the last 3 years and were asking for more money for the things they had yet to make any progress on what-so-ever.

Usually these presentations include the organizations recent successes but EMSDC presented no examples of their recent successes. As a matter of fact: EMSDC presented no examples of any successes at all-- ever. They talked about how bad East Market Street looks but showed pictures from other cities.

EMSDC seems to want to act as a master developer and home owners association all rolled into one talking about things like making the facades along East Market all look alike and wanting City money to do so. In my mind I kept picturing a 3 mile long strip mall where everything looks the same and the expression "can of worms" came to mind. I can't speak for all of east Greensboro but personally, the last thing I want is 3 miles of sameness.

East Market Street Development Corporation seems fixated on developing the 13 acres where the post office used to stand on East Market St but as Councilwoman Yvonne Johnson pointed out and this writer has long known, the owners of the property, the United House of Prayer for All, have no intentions of selling the property-- ever.

You see, while Councilwoman Johnson didn't express it, the church bought that property with the long term goal of building a bigger church there someday. And apparently they ain't hurting for money. Personally I think it's a waste of property that could be put to better uses but the church owns it and the church will damn sure do with it what they please and who am I to say different?

But EMSDC wants money from the City of Greensboro to develop property that can't be sold. Go figure, right? My guess is EMSDC simply wants money just to continue to exist.

Of course, probably the dumbest thing I heard came from Councilman Zack Matheny who suggested that the City set up East Market Street Development Corporation as a taxing authority and establish a Business Improvement District as was done with Downtown Greensboro Incorporated thereby imposing an extra tax on all the property owners. This includes the poor residential property owners Mr Matheny apparently doesn't know exist in Greensboro-- especially within the areas controlled by EMSDC.

This was especially ironic as EMSDC expressed a desire to begin doing business under an assumed name and take control of all of east Greensboro. That's right: Zack Matheny suggested taxing Greensboro's poorest residents at a higher rate than we tax the rich.

You see, they talk about development, retail, jobs, tax revenue... but no one actually has any idea how to do anything and no one knows enough to get out of the way. And when someone like George Hartzman stands before them and explains how to actually do something...  

Ever wonder why old trains had cow catchers on them despite the fact that the trains could be seen and heard from miles away and rarely ran faster than 30 miles per hour? Now you know.