There once was a Greensboro newspaper called the Rhinoceros Times, a pugnacious little weekly that grew from a barroom newsletter to something that, for a time, wielded real influence.
You can sometimes hear old-timers at the more storied bars downtown talk about the stories the paper used to break, the issues they used to frame, the people they used to smear.
That paper went out of business, but a beast by the same name was jolted to life by Greensboro developer Roy Carroll, a modern day Dr. Frankenstein who inflated the orange pachyderm with cash, slapped the visage on a monster truck and a yacht and, recently, hired a fellow human being to parade around in a rhino suit.
There’s a picture of this person on the front page of last week’s Rhino, along with the headline: “It’s what everyone is talking about.”
As with most Rhino headlines, it’s misleading. They’re not talking about the guy in the Rhino suit — though there are certainly some questions that need to be answered there — but instead about a plan hatched by the newspaper and its millionaire owner, who has made no secret of his willingness to lord his outsized influence over the rest of us.
The plan involves cutting the nine-member city council down to seven by eliminating two at-large posts, doubling the two-year terms and cutting new districts that no doubt will favor those with political leanings sympathetic to the Rhino.
It was first floated in the Rhino on Nov. 13 with a similarly misleading headline: “Council may see big changes” — insinuating that this change is surely going to come. It was then repeated by Carroll at a Greensboro Merchant’s Association meeting. And now state Sen. Trudy Wade, a former councilwoman, says she’s considering making the change part of the municipal legislative package without a vote from council or the electorate.
To longtime Rhino watchers, this sort of self-fulfilling prophecy is nothing new. It’s the same formula they used to muddy the waters of the Greensboro police scandal, throw shade during the White Street Landfill fiasco and reframe the history of the the Bill Knight administration.
But they’re right about one thing: People are talking about it — but what they’re saying is, “What do these guys take us for?”