by Sam Hieb
I’ll give the N&R credit —I think a lot of people agree that it’s time for a stop stop, rethink and reset on Greensboro’s controversial $30 million downtown parking deck that would service a proposed Westin Hotel, especially in light of City Manager Jim Westmoreland’s retirement coinciding with questions about his “analysis” of Gboro’s downtown parking needs:
When Jim Westmoreland retires as city manager on April 30, the shadow of a very expensive and yet-to-be-built downtown parking deck will loom large over his legacy.
That’s too bad for a man who has served the city well for 18 years. But Westmoreland has brought much of this on himself with a lack of clarity on the details of this project.
For instance, there’s Westmoreland’s squishy account of what he has said versus what he meant to say about what has turned out to be a nonexistent parking study. Westmoreland wrote in a News & Record op-ed on Nov. 14 that “demand for the new decks was validated last year by a Department of Transportation analysis.” Then he walked that back to say there was no new parking study … just a review of a 2010 parking study that he says still applies eight years later. Westmoreland also cited as one rationale for the deck new Lincoln Financial jobs that the company will not confirm.
….Why the desperate rush to get this done? Why not tap the brakes and do this right? As Mayor Nancy Vaughan well knows, there’s a precedent for such a reset. In 2012, she and a fellow council member questioned the financial model of the downtown performing arts center. We noted in an editorial at the time: “They’ve been labeled in some corners as blasphemers, naysayers and maybe even a few nouns that are unprintable in a family newspaper.” But Vaughan said she was asking hard questions only to ensure the arts center’s success. “… We’ve got to make sure we have the money to support it,” she said.
Unfortunately the editorial misses the point: Westmoreland’s departure means Mayor Vaughan and City Attorney Tom Carruthers will press ahead with the project with even more determination, vociferously fighting the lawsuit filed by the next-door Cone Denim Entertainment venue in the process.
I may be giving Jim Westmoreland too much credit here, but —emphasis on but– if there is a cool head in this gang, it’s him. And he will be outta there come April 30.