by Sam Hieb
I read with interest UNCG professor David Wharton’s comment on the DGI-City Council dustup over at Ed Cone’s blog. Wharton writes:
But there is no Knox White on our council, and council is not willing to empower some other authority to execute a coherent vision in the teeth of pressure from entrenched real estate interests.
Instead, they beat up on Ed Wolverton. It could be that there has been a lot of back-channel communications between the council and DGI that I don’t know about, but to me it looks like grandstanding.
Knox White is the mayor of Greenville, which Gboro leaders regard as the “standard for mid-sized city turnarounds in the Southeast.” Then there’s Chattanooga (a city that the professor knows well):
Chattanooga, another famously successful southeastern downtown, had a long-serving, visionary city planner in charge of downtown development, and he not only brought in a lot of great projects, political leaders let him exercise veto power over inappropriate development.
I for one am not comfortable with giving a city planner veto power. As for beating up on Ed Wolverton, it is a bit mysterious, because he knows better than to bite the hand that feeds him. By the same token, Wolverton was bringing ideas recycled from Wichita. Is that what Greensboro really wants?
Fair enough, Wharton praises Know White as a “conservative Republican” who has “kept taxes low” while finding “creative ways to fund projects,” although the Biz Journal’s article on Action Greensboro’s visit to Greenville cites the fact that tax increment financing has been in place in South Carolina for years. That’s what they’re pushing here to help fund the downtown performing arts center.
The groupthink in municipal government blows me away, whether it’s performing arts centers or ballparks or downtown research universities or bike sharing plans or rooftop vegetation or trolley cars or food trucks. Cities desperately trying to set themselves apart, yet recycling the same ideas.