There’s a beauty of a city council election brewing in High Point, with several seats guaranteed to have new occupants — including the mayor’s — and the cachet of an odd-year race, which means candidates won’t get lost in a massive state election ballot.
And it’s easy to understand. The High Point City Council election can right now be boiled down to a single issue: the new ballpark project, which is either a magic bullet towards a more prosperous High Point or the first brick on a path that leads to economic ruin for the Furniture City.
As we’ve noted in this space, the ballpark plan hit its first major obstacle when the Guilford County Commission balked at the proposed loss of extra tax revenues from the district and raised questions about the financing. The pro-ballpark faction, led by High Point University President Nido Qubein, fired back by exceeding their fundraising goal and creating heavyweight alliances with Greensboro developer Roy Carroll and Blue Ridge Companies, who both signed on to developments in the ballpark’s footprint.
On Monday night, the lame-duck council heard from residents on both sides of the issue before passing a resolution to approve a new financing structure, one which obligates the city with a 20-year, $30 million loan, which sounds like a big deal until it’s weighed against the total city budget, about $375 million.
On Thursday, the ball bounces back to the county commission, none of whom are up for re-election this year — but that doesn’t mean its members aren’t engaged in their own political calculus, weighing input from citizens against their contributors and constituencies.
Big ballpark projects can be funny things — Greensboro’s ballpark process back in 2003-04 drew so much pushback — much of it from the Rhino Times, which, ironically, Roy Carroll now owns — that the issue went to a voter referendum.
Now, as the area around Greensboro’s ballpark teems with development — much of that coming from Carroll’s massive hotel project along Eugene Street — it’s difficult to find anyone willing to admit they were against the new stadium back when it was in the planning stages.