January 24, 2013Both the Greensboro City Council and the Guilford County Board of Commissioners are led by Republicans, but, oddly enough, by liberal Republicans. Greensboro Mayor Robbie Perkins is a registered Republican, but his stances are to the left of many Democrats.
Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Linda Shaw is a Republican who was once the secretary of the Republican National Committee, but a couple of years ago she was made vice chairman of the Board of Commissioners by former Chairman of the Board Skip Alston. Shaw apparently fell under Alston's spell at that time and supported his policies when he was chairman, and she has continued to support them now that he is no longer on the board. In fact, based on the actions the Board of Commissioners have taken with Shaw as chairman, Alston might as well be wielding the gavel himself.
On both elected bodies you have Republicans at the top, but they are promoting policies more often associated with Democrats. Shaw voted for raises for some of the top county employees who had been illegally given raises by the county manager and assistant county manager while Alston was chairman. Shaw then voted to promote the assistant county manager responsible for the illegal raises to acting county manager and gave her a big raise and bonus. Shaw has also cast the deciding vote in favor of an economic incentive and appointed Alston to a powerful position on an essential county committee, the Board of Health.
Shaw has been chairman for less than two months, but in that time she has repeatedly chosen to support liberal policies over conservative policies. However, Shaw will have
to work pretty hard during her year as chairman to out liberal Mayor Perkins.
Perkins ran on the platform of jobs, jobs, jobs. But since he has been mayor his focus has been on getting public money to build a downtown performing arts center – not a real conservative effort or one that has much to do with jobs. One estimate is that if the Perkins music hall is ever built, it will provide 59 jobs. Since the project will cost over $60 million, that's over $1 million a job.
But Perkins has embarked on other initiatives that have even less to do with jobs. Perhaps his goal is to make certain no one thinks that because he is a Republican he has a conservative bone in his body. Recently Perkins wrote an editorial column that ran in the News & Record in opposition to requiring people to have identification in order to vote. Passing a law requiring voter identification is at the top of the list of initiatives that the newly elected Republican General Assembly is going to take up, and every indication is that a voter identification bill will pass early in the 2013 session and be signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory.
Perhaps that's why McCrory didn't have Perkins introduce him when he made his stop in Greensboro on his inaugural tour of the state.
In any case, whether or not the state legislature passes a voter identification bill is not going to have much effect on jobs in Greensboro and is not an issue that the Greensboro City Council has the authority to do anything about other than moan and complain. Greensboro doesn't even have an elections department and couldn't hold an election if it wanted to, since it is not authorized to hold elections by the state. Guilford County has that authority in Greensboro.
But Perkins, who said he was going to focus on jobs, also voted for a resolution opposing the marriage amendment, which passed overwhelmingly last May. Evidently the people of North Carolina didn't care what Perkins or the Greensboro City Council thought of the sanctity of marriage; they decided that marriage in this state is between one man and one woman. It's an issue the City Council has no control over and has nothing to do with jobs or the economy.
Then the City Council also decided to pass an ordinance that made the restrictions against carrying concealed weapons in Greensboro parks as restrictive as the state allows. Again, it is hard to see how restricting those legally carrying concealed weapons is going to bring jobs to Greensboro, but this is an election year so perhaps Perkins will get out and explain how his public stance on voter identification, the marriage amendment and concealed carry have brought more jobs to Greensboro.
He should add in there how the City Council wasting an entire year and spending over $250,000 to try and trick the people into supporting a performing arts center downtown has done anything for jobs.
The current plan being promoted to pay for the performing arts center, in part with increased parking revenue, would kill much of the current nightlife downtown because people would have to pay up to $10 for parking in the parking decks at night. Parking is free in the decks if you enter between 6 and 9 p.m., and $2 after 9 p.m. The plan allows people coming downtown to enjoy the restaurants to park for free. The $2 charge is supposed to help quell some of the rowdy behavior in the decks by the late night crowd. If people coming to eat downtown have to pay anywhere close to $10 to park in the decks as is being discussed that's going to cost a lot of jobs, because it will take a toll on downtown restaurants.
One of the huge differences in Mayor Perkins and Chairman Shaw is that no one expected Perkins to behave like a conservative. Some years ago when Perkins decided he wanted to be mayor, he took a much more liberal path on the Greensboro City Council and, during the reign of Mayor Bill Knight, a fellow Republican, Perkins led the opposition.
Republicans in Guilford County and in Raleigh were excited about the Republican takeover of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners. However, unless Shaw has a change of heart, it looks like the liberal polices of Alston have at least a 5-to-4 advantage over the conservatives.
What's even worse is that Shaw, because she is a Republican and is highly respected in the Republican Party, has apparently drawn the three new Republican commissioners into some bad votes. As a newbie, if you have an experienced commissioner who is supposed to be on your side telling you that you need to vote a certain way, it is difficult not to take their advice.
It appeared that at the last commissioners meeting the new Republican commissioners – Hank Henning, Alan Branson and Jeff Phillips – are starting to figure out that Shaw is a Republican but not a conservative. Shaw voted for two economic incentives, the three new Republicans voted against both.
It should be an interesting year with both the City Council and the Guilford County Board of Commissioners run by liberal Republicans.
On the upside, maybe since Perkins and Shaw seem to have a lot in common, the city and county will mend some fences.
The downside is that liberals like to raise taxes.