A different sort of war

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_D5C5045brianby Brian Clarey

Marty Kotis could not have timed it better if he tried.

The soft opening of his newest Battleground Avenue restaurant, Burger Warfare, dovetailed neatly with the conflagration in the city regarding state Sen. Trudy Wade’s bill filed last week that would radically alter the city council’s election system.

The ramifications — and they are many — are bursting out in Rhino-sized spurts, but the most important detail for this story is that Kotis is against it.

That’s important, because Kotis is one of those few Greensboroans whose opinions seem to matter more than those of the rest of us. Part of it is because he’s startlingly wealthy and freakishly connected — as a member of the UNC Board of Governors, Kotis was in the room when they decided to fire President Tom Ross last month.

And on this stretch of Battleground Avenue upon which he’s stamped his imprimatur, he’s indubitably the king of the hill.

Kotis is also politically active — he caught a lot of flak for his Phil Berger Jr. billboard ads that sullied the avenue during the last election. But not everyone remembers that he made the same sort of effort for Trudy Wade during her 2012 Senate run — $5,239.88 worth of in-kind contributions between he and his wife Ashley that year, along with a first-quarter check for $1,000.

Marty Kotis is in the game. He’s got a seat at the table. He’s connected. Wise. Guy’s got his own lobbyist.

And yet….

“I knew as much as anyone else did until this week,” he says, surrounded by the giant robots and military surplus that give the new burger joint a combative edge. And it seems, just a little bit, like part of his antipathy to the new scheme comes from the insult of not being included in its planning and implementation.

“No,” he says. “I came out against it from the beginning, so I guess they never asked me to be in those rooms.”

By the end of the day they’ll all stop by to pay their respects: Republican state Reps. Jon Hardister and John Blust, the double-bunked Councilwoman Nancy Hoffmann and Mayor Nancy Vaughan. Probably more. None have expressed support for the new plan, which must go through the state House to become law.

Councilman Zack Matheny brings his family in for lunch. And while his toddling daughter skedaddles across the dining room floor, he has just a moment to answer an unasked question.

“I’m with him,” he says, pointing to the newest burger baron of what Kotis is calling Midtown before tending to the more urgent matter.