January 03, 2013
January 17: The High Point City Council, many of whose members claimed to loathe economic incentives for private companies, voted unanimously to offer Solstas Lab Partners, which is already headquartered in High Point, $500,000 to add a promised 500 new jobs in High Point. One requirement of the agreement between the city and Solstas was that the company must start admitting that it is actually in High Point. Solstas had a Greensboro address.
January 24: Longtime High Point City Councilmember Latimer Alexander joined Greensboro City Councilmember Trudy Wade and Libby Hill Seafood Restaurants President and CEO Justin Conrad as an announced candidate for the District 27 North Carolina Senate seat.
February 9: High Point City Councilmembers Mike Pugh and Foster Douglas failed in their attempt, at the City Council retreat, to get the City Council to reconsider the appointment by High Point City Manager Strib Boynton of Deputy Police Chief Marty Sumner to replace Police Chief Jim Fealy.
February 20: High Point City Councilmember Bernita Sims presented the City Council with a list of the John Coltrane International Jazz and Blues Festival's funding sources and expenses, prepared by the CPA firm Odom & Co. Sims provided the list in part because of criticism of the City Council giving the festival $32,000 for marketing and advertising. The firm checked the math on the figures it was provided but had no independent way of knowing what money was taken in or spent.
February 28: High Point Police Chief Jim Fealy retired after a nine-year tenure during which High Point became a national model for community policing.
March 1: Marty Sumner was sworn in as High Point's new police chief.
March 13: The Davidson County Board of Commissioners voted 6 to 0 to petition the North Carolina General Assembly for a local act to prevent High Point from annexing property in Davidson County. The unanimous vote was the result of long-simmering disputes between the two over High Point's increasing annexation in Davidson County.
March 19: The City Council passed the following resolution: "The City Council acknowledges receipt of a check for $5,000 from the Friends of John Coltrane toward the repayment of the $32,000 advanced to the Friends in April of 2011 for promotion and advertising of the inaugural event held in September 2011." If the councilmembers thought that would end the complaints about the festival, they were wrong.
March 25: The High Point City Project brought architect Andrés Duany, a founding partner of Miami-based Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. and a founding member of the Congress for the New Urbanism, to High Point, where he spoke to officials, business groups and the public and critiqued High Point's development patterns. Duany's speeches were humorous but all-out assaults on city planners, environmentalists, architects, bureaucrats, road and highway designers and even High Point itself.
April 2: The council voted to spend up to $340,000 to attract the shell of a company – Stanley Furniture Co. – to move its headquarters to North Hamilton Street, bringing just 42 jobs to downtown High Point. That was about $8,000 a job, far more than High Point had paid other companies.
April 16: Stanley Furniture announced it would move its headquarters to 200 N. Hamilton St. The company's total take in taxpayer-funded incentives was $751,000, including $340,000 from High Point, $76,000 from Guilford County and $335,000 from the One North Carolina Fund. That was $17,880 per job.
April 21: The Guilford County Board of Education started the process of naming the media center at Oak Hill Elementary School in High Point after the late Gina Jacobs, a beloved and game-changing volunteer at the school and a well-known civic leader and volunteer throughout High Point. High Point school board members Ed Price and Carlvena Foster proposed renaming the entire school after Jacobs, which hasn't happened yet.
May 1: Boynton promoted High Point Assistant City Attorney JoAnne Carlyle to city attorney, replacing former City Attorney Fred Baggett. Carlyle, who was hired as assistant city attorney in 2008, got an increase in pay from $120,256 to $140,000. Boynton retained Baggett on a consulting contract at $68,040 a year.
May 9: High Point Mayor Becky Smothers announced that she would not seek reelection as mayor in 2012.
May 14: The Council voted unanimously to give Ralph Lauren Corp. up to $2 million in economic incentives to add jobs among three company facilities already in High Point – two at 4100 Beechwood Dr. in Piedmont Centre, and a fulfillment center for the ralphlauren.com internet sales site at 201 North Pendleton St.
May 24: City Manager Strib Boynton proposed a 2012-2013 budget that included an increase of the property tax rate by 2.34 cents, an increase in the electric rate by 5 percent and a 2 percent pay raise for city employees.
June 18: The City Council voted 5 to 4 to give High Point city employees a 1.5 percent pay raise. The $328 million 2012-2013 budget the City Council approved – a million dollars more than Boynton proposed – also included a property tax rate increase of 1.3 cents to 67.5 cents per $100 in valuation.
June 21: City Councilmember A.B. Henley became the center of a conflict-of-interest dispute that had fermented for months within High Point city government. The dispute was over Henley soliciting business from Ralph Lauren Corp., which gets economic incentives, requests property rezoning and otherwise has issues come up before the City Council on a regular basis.
The dispute grew severe enough that both Boynton and Smothers intervened, telling Henley that he had to stop seeking business from Ralph Lauren Corp. And City Attorney JoAnne Carlyle advised Henley to recuse himself from votes involving the company.
The dispute – kept quiet and handled between Henley, Boynton, Smothers and Carlyle – began in January 2012, and culminated in an angry May 10, 2012 email from Henley to Smothers, the other eight councilmembers, Boynton, Carlyle and former City Attorney Fred Baggett defending his actions and stating his determination to keep doing business as he had always done.
June 28: The Rhino Times reported that, in 2011, a company associated with Henley twice tried to win contracts with the City of High Point. High Point officials said they considered the company's attempts to do business with the city a conflict of interest for Henley and prevented them. Henley said he was an absentee owner of the company and did not know it did business with the city.
July 9: Boynton appointed a new High Point fire chief: Rick McIntyre, formerly fire chief of Jacksonville, North Carolina.
July 18: Ending months of speculation, Smothers filed to run for one of the two at-large seats on the City Council.
July 20: A flurry of registrations in the last few days of the filing period brought the total number of High Point City Council candidates to 25, including five mayoral candidates and five candidates for the two at-large seats. Henley did not run for reelection....continued on page 2