Monday, February 16, 2015

Greensboro City Council Could Learn From Guilford County Commissioners

This morning, as I read Bill Heasley's enlightened article, New Zeniths in Central Planning: Thirty Years of Downtown Greensboro Failure, Empty Industrial Parks and now the Mega Site, I look to the future because of something that happened just last night.

No, the ineffective Greensboro City Council didn't all suddenly disappear from the face of the earth, they didn't even leave town. I doubt we could ever be so lucky. But another local governing board showed me they are capable of being much more responsive to ordinary citizens than my 15 years of dealing with various Greensboro City Council members has ever been.

Last night after reading Guilford County Prison Farm to stop farming I sent an e-mail to one of our Guilford County Commissioners along with a link to the article:

" If the County can teach prisoners all these things then why not use the farm to do the same for the rest of us?"

A few minutes later I heard back from the County Commissioner:

 "Actually that has some merit. Let me think in it.

Wonder if A&T would help?"

This morning I got another e-mail from the County Commissioner:

 "Spoke with (name redacted by me) about this this AM.  He is going to mention this to some folks.  I think the idea caught him by surprise but the more I discussed it with him he seemed to like it.  He was definitely open.

He said the Sheriff would like to see the property remain rural/agricultural and this would fit that bill.  He also mentioned that he didn’t think the neighbors would object, although we may have to run some country boys with cane polls off J.  I mentioned a potential partnership with A&;T and he seemed to like that idea as well.  He was going to run the idea by a few folks and get back to me."

I suggested he and I get cane poles and join the country boys fishing there as good fishing holes in Guilford County are getting hard to come by.  

According to the News & Record:

“The potential benefits just simply don’t justify the man-power and maintenance costs any longer,” said Jeff Phillips, the vice chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, who proposed the closure at a two-day retreat earlier this month. “To me, it was a common-sense decision.”

 The 806-acre farm has operated in eastern Guilford County since 1935, with Sheriff BJ Barnes at the helm since 1997. In the past, inmates ran the farm, learning marketable skills — woodworking, upholstery, plant-tending and crops maintenance, among other things — that could boost their chances of finding work after serving their jail terms.

But prisoner activity on the farm has dwindled in recent years, largely because of indecision from the commissioners regarding the future of the facility. Before budget season each year, Barnes approaches the board to discuss the farm. Each year, its future has remained in doubt.

Because of that, he said, fewer prisoners are directed to serve time there, which forces deputies to maintain the land."

My thoughts: The highest paid farm workers earn far less than deputies so unless the goal really is to sell the farm looks like one would hire and train farm workers instead. Groups like  P.L.A.C.E.-Public Lands for Agricultural & Community Enrichment are already working to save the farm, this seems to fit right in.

The Commissioner's idea to bring NC A&T University on board seems like the right thing to do though he and I have been having problems finding out who to talk to at A&T. Finding anyone there is like a maze.

I'm thrilled that I can reach not 1 but 2 Guilford County Commissioners in less than 12 hours and that both are open to ideas that came from the bottom up instead of the top down. There is so much that could be done with the Guilford County Farm while still remaining a farm and the technological revolution of the agricultural industry remains in its infancy. Greensboro, Guilford County and the Triad could become a net exporter of food instead of a net importer with an entire industrial base built around the technology required to keep it all going.

But not if we sell off every inch of farm land to pave over into megasites for auto plants that will never come here.

Who are the 2 County Commissioners? You'll find out soon enough. The Greensboro City Council would do well to learn from this.