by Sam Hieb
The Rhino’s John Hammer follows the Greensboro City Council’s email spat over city contract hires. One of those hires under scrutiny is local blogger Ben Holder, who was hired at a rate of $45 per hour “to help neighborhood improvement efforts.”
But there’s another deal on the table: former Guilford County planning and economic development director Rob Benicini, who would contract to “help the City Council develop some kind of comprehensive economic development plan.”
The plan to hire Bencini drew questions from council member Sharon Hightower:
Hightower responded, “Is this Bob Bencini who is running for the Mayor of High Point? If so, bad decision, we don’t need to be in the middle of politics in another city. Where did this recommendation come from? Who made this decision? What in the world is our problem?
No that would be Guilford County Board of Commissioners chair Bill Bencini, who indeed is making a run for HP mayor. I would hope a Greensboro City Council member would be more well-versed in local politics in order not to make such a mistake for the whole to see, but oh well.
The bigger problem is Rob Bencini is friends with fellow council member Mike Barber, going back to Barber’s days as a county commissioner. Another problem is Bencini’s brief —45-day— tenure as economic development director down in Washington County. Hammer says “there is a story there, but the folks in Eastern North Carolina have been tight-lipped and unwilling to talk to a newspaper named after a large, herbivorous, thick-skinned perissodactyl.”
But there’s one more issue —as Bencini has carved out a career as a consultant, he has written several op-eds giving his views on economic development, and they don’t necessarily jibe with the way the city thinks these days.
In a front-page N&R article late last year, Bencini said Gboro has experienced “a migration from pretty reasonable economic development practices to one that is led by sheer desperation,” which means that “every time someone suggests they want to do something, especially downtown, the check book opens up…”
Bencini also wrote there are times when “regionalism does a city wrong, and anybody who has followed Mike Barber’s political career knows he’s a big regionalism guy.
So should Bencini get the contract, it will be interesting to see what he produces and if it’s what the City Council wants to hear. Either way —as John Hammer put it –it’s nice to have friends in government.