October 25, 2012Greensboro Mayor Robbie Perkins is holding an east Greensboro summit Monday, Oct. 29 in the Dudley High School Auditorium to address economic development in east Greensboro.
The format for the evening will involve a speech by Perkins followed by an opportunity for audience members to ask questions.
District 1 Councilmember Dianne Bellamy-Small and District 2 Councilmember Jim Kee are also scheduled to make brief remarks.
According to Perkins there will also be a 15-minute presentation from real estate consultant Michael Tabb of Red Rock Global on the $90,000 Greensboro parity study he conducted at the urging of Bellamy-Small. The parity study sought to show that east Greensboro could support retail.
According to Assistant City Manager Andy Scott, the push for the summit came from Perkins, former Greensboro councilmember and chair of Citizens for Economic and Environmental Justice (CEEJ) Goldie Wells and Ralph Johnson of the Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro.
Wells said that CEEJ requested the summit when Perkins attended their August meeting, to give the mayor an opportunity to address residents about economic development in Districts 1 and 2, although she said she hoped residents would come from around the city.
"We have a food desert over here," Wells said. "We have a lack of stores over here, a lack of restaurants over here, a lack of jobs over here."
Wells said she hoped to hear about development, including incentives to draw private businesses to east Greensboro.
"People think that we just want the city to hand out things to us, but we don't. We need some assistance to help ourselves," Wells said. Wells said she thought there were some projects the city had initiated for east Greensboro, and that the summit would be a good opportunity for a broad audience to hear about them.
Wells also talked about how east Greensboro had been waiting 20 years for the construction of the Nealtown connector, and there is a feeling that the proposed Greensboro performing arts center (PAC) had taken over the conversation this year. "That kind of didn't sit too well with us," she said. During her four years on the City Council Wells did not get the connector built.
Former Mayor and At-large City Councilmember Yvonne Johnson, who lives in District 2, said the summit would probably be a good thing. She said that east Greensboro had suffered, and that is probably why it was chosen as a focus.
At-large Greensboro City Councilmember Nancy Vaughan said the residents of east Greensboro may feel pushed aside by the mayor's enthusiasm for the proposed PAC.
However, Vaughan said she felt that the idea that the mayor was neglecting east Greensboro was unfounded, and that she had seen him attend several meetings in east Greensboro, including a meeting of CEEJ.
District 5 Councilmember Trudy Wade took a more critical view of the summit. She said she feels Perkins has been concentrating on certain areas of the city to the neglect of others.
Wade pointed out that in the most recent capital expenditures report, expenditures were lowest in her district, at $57 million.
Expenditures were highest in District 2, which receive $215 million, while District 3 came in second with $127 million and District 1 came in third at $93 million.
"I'd like for him to also be concerned with the south, west and north parts of Greensboro," Wade said. She said she felt the mayor had been concentrating too much on east Greensboro and downtown, particularly on the controversial PAC.
Wade also said that residents and business along High Point Road had been asking for assistance for years and very little had been done. "I think we should address those problems; they've been waiting forever," she said.
Perkins denies the contention that he is paying too much attention to certain areas of the city. "It's silly to posit as an 'us and them' issue when I don't turn down too many speaking engagements," he said.
Perkins also said, "I do spend quite a bit of time talking in other areas of town."
When asked why Perkins was holding a summit for east Greensboro, District 3 Councilmember Zack Matheny said, "Well, because that's the group that's yelling at him."
Matheny brought up the possibility of organizing a District 3 summit himself. He also said that since the Greensboro Neighborhood Congress had hosted a forum for at large councilmembers, he would consider pursuing a similar forum for the district members, but said, "I don't know if anybody wants to hear from us."
District 4 Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann spoke positively of the summit and said she felt that it was an appropriate way for the mayor to engage with concerned citizens.
She said that there is a "need and responsibility" for councilmembers to respond to groups that request them to hear their concerns.