Stung by firing, some High Pointers want a new city council

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Members of High Point City Council heard a presentation by an Asheville consultant this afternoon on the economic benefits of nurturing pedestrian-friendly, infill development by slowing down traffic.

The study completed by Joe Minicozzi, entitled “How We Measure the City: The Dollars and Sense of Development,” sought to quantify the economic impact should the city pursue a master plan for the Uptowne neighborhood produced by the preeminent new urbanist Andres Duany. Both Minicozzi and Duany’s studies were financed through private funds raised by City Project, a nonprofit whose mission is promoting downtown growth. The nonprofit answers to an independent board but the salary of its executive director, Wendy Fuscoe, has been paid by the city.

Following the presentation, Fuscoe went out to find coffee for Minicozzi as her guest gave a media interview. Next on the city council’s agenda was a presentation of the fiscal year 2014-15 budget. Later, Fuscoe and Minicozzi reconvened across the street at the High Point Theatre, where the consultant gave his presentation to the general public.

In the meantime, the city council voted 7-2 to eliminate Fuscoe’s job and dissolve City Project — ending an initiative five years in the making.

Councilman Jay Wagner, who represents Ward 4, and at-large Councilman Britt Moore cast the two no votes.

“As soon as the vote was taken I got up and left,” Wagner announced to about 40 people attending Minicozzi’s talk at High Point Theatre. “What I’m telling you is if you want to see this happen, you need a new council because the folks who are there are not going to make this happen. They’re not interested in this. They think that we can do Bandaid approaches, that we don’t need to do anything transformational. They don’t buy into the projects that we’ve seen. They don’t believe Duany. I’m telling you: If you want to see change in this town, if you want to see this happen and you want to see a long-term better future for our city, you need to elect a new council.”

After the vote, Councilwoman Becky Smothers dismissed any notion that public policy — through traffic engineering, zoning changes or streetcaping — should play a role in revitalizing the core city.

“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity,” she said in an interview. “It just has to be done by the private sector.”

Councilwoman Judy Mendenhall, like Smothers a former mayor expressed skepticism, saying she would have to see the full report and examine Minicozzi’s sources before commenting.

“It’s time for a revolt,” Aaron Clinard, a local lawyer who serves on the board of directors of City Project, told the crowd at High Point Theatre. “I don’t like using that word, but right now our city council is dysfunctional.”

Seated in the audience, Jo Godfrey shouted, “Moral Monday!” One man in the audience — mostly in the range of 45-65-years-old — said High Point citizens need to go to Raleigh to seek legislative change to do away with the ward method of electing city council representatives. Another said he was texting a message to council members: “I’m embarrassed by your actions tonight. You’re killing this town.”

Filing opens for the mayor and all members of city council on July 7. High Point, alone among the three Triad cities, elects its city council on even years without a primary.

After the program concluded, Fuscoe embraced Wagner.

“That’s a cheap shot,” she said. “They knew we were going to be over here.”

She added, “To me, it’s kind of a backhanded compliment. If I was sitting on my butt not getting anything accomplished they wouldn’t have fired me.”

Godfrey said she wished she had gotten involved earlier.

“Our children were born and raised here,” she said. “I was with my daughter the other day. She’s about 40. She said, ‘What’s happened to High Point? It looks awful.’ If we can go to Raleigh to protest we can do it here.”

Read more about this in Wednesday’s print edition of Triad City Beat.

  • Guest

    Should have been done a long time ago. City Project should have had an open ear to the citizens and not their own personal agenda of having a shopping/restaurant/nightlife district near where most of them live.

  • Angel Schroeder

    After seeing the presentation last night, as well as Peter Freeman’s charts at the Duany presentation last time around, I am ashamed of High Point’s leadership. They are gleefully watching the city’s property values and tax revenue plummet while doing nothing to stop it. A revitalized Uptowne will bring in tax revenues that help the entire city and even Guilford County, without further millage increases or cuts in services. Just because a few developers (who could be LOCAL) stand to make a profit, we axe the whole thing? This is petty bull$h!t. Throw the bums out! Thanks, Jordan Green, for covering this. Obviously, the HPE went to press before the news of the City Project’s de-funding.

  • Lisa Depoe Duke

    I couldn’t disagree more, @JDHARRIS . Based on what I saw of some of the plans, one
    project was to revamp the library to make it more of a gathering place for the evenings and weekends. If you look at a map of High Point, this could not be more centralized and inviting to include *all* neighborhoods. You either did not hear about this part of the plan or do not care and if the latter, tsk tsk for making impressions that only the elite wanted entertainment exclusive of others. This article should not be in the Triad City Beat, it should be in the obituaries. SHAME ON YOU High Point “leadership” for looking out only for yourselves and the sleepy town you apparently want High Point to remain as long as you are alive. You may not think it’s so bad to attend the country club and hit a few balls and take the boat out on the weekends 3 seasons a year but some of us aspire to be more. What happens when you pass of a ripe old age and your children and your grandchildren have long EVACUATED because the schools stink, the lifestyle is BORING, they can’t get a fair price for their real estate? Oh, and by the way, furniture market will not stay in perpetuity either. The town will be a ghost town and like Duany said, High Point will be the DETROIT of the South. If we want High Point to stand the test of time, we need to take action NOW, not a generation or two from now when even more buildings and houses get boarded up.

    • Guest

      Hello Lisa, I am looking at a map right now of the city and I see the North Main and the North Side of town filled with shops, restaurants, car dealerships, bars etc. Now am looking at that same map and lets move to the South part of Main Street I see empty store fronts, closed restaurants, etc. Now lets move a little further South into the industrial district. Empty warehouses and factories all over the place. High Point used to have a huge tax base thanks to all of those now empty buildings. In order to do and sustain what you are talking about you need money and lot’s of it. You need balance in your city right now there is no balance.

      • Lisa Depoe Duke

        I’m confused. So based on your first comment combined with your second comment, you, on the contrary, think the interesting improvements should happen on the north side where all the rich people live or not happen at all. Got it.
        Edited to say: The North side of town is not filled with shops and bars etc. Liberty Steakhouse and the new Belk does not “filled” make. There is little to choose from, even in the north side, when it comes to those of us who want interesting things to do. Personally, I don’t consider Olive Garden and Buffalo Wild Wings good entertainment. You show your ignorance of the entire project when you speak. Educate yourself on what Duany, a professional, suggested; let us know how you can do it better because of your expertise, and then maybe you won’t sound so silly.

        • Guest

          So Lisa I am so silly that I actually wrote Mr. Duany to ask him a few questions. Being the gentleman he is, he wrote me back. I asked him about how long a street needs to be to qualify under his plan. I also asked him if he was told about the southern end of town and how depressed that area has become. Here is what he wrote back:

          The half-mile pedestrian shed occurs when the destination is a transit stop. Otherwise the quarter-mile is normal. This is empirical evidence and varies of course with the person.
          I was assigned to work in the specific uptown area, and told to stay out of every other area–which apparently–already had plans. Is that not so? I do think that that southern area that you mentioned – the one with warehouses–would be much more promising for redevelopment than the area that I was assigned. But I didn’t even know about it. I should have been more disobedient..We have already submitted our master plan. If we were to look at that area we would have to start with a new development plan for that southern area which would incur more costs.

          Andres Duany
          DPZ FAIA CNU SC

          If you would like to write him his email is on his company webpage. I am sure he will write you back and while your at it mention to him that you don’t consider Olive Garden and Buffalo Wild Wings good entertainment. Perhaps Mr. Duany can design something just for you that you would consider good entertainment. Have a great night !!

  • John Turpin

    The city of High Point continues its conscious march toward decay. Yes, council members, you are leaving an indelible mark. History will not be kind to you.

  • witcheywoman

    Amazing or is it? High Point is much more diverse than it was 10 years ago yet it seems that the consensus to ignore that fact is where the problems lies and with not wanting anything different. There is NOTHING to do here for the younger people. Nothing for them to want to stay here for even the weekend much less for the long term. If I remember correctly the High Point Festival COULD have been an annual event drawing crowds from all over but NO… that didn’t suit the city fathers as it was too much trouble! Let’s see, you can go to High Point Lake or the damn but you can’t swim there ever though you can boat or fish… Honestly, there are plenty of areas where people can go outside of High Point and have lots more fun for young, the older folks and families. And then let’s talk about the nightlife.. every time there is an event or if there is a popular club, you can count on the HP Police to be sitting in waiting to arrest as many as possible just as they leave a parking lot. What is that about? Captive entertainment with benefits for the city? Come on High Point! It’s time to step through the door into a new era. I don’t believe the Library can ever become the hub of entertainment and the nighttime or weekend destination, ever! The Furniture Market will not support you forever.

    • Lisa Depoe Duke

      Amen! I think you hit the nail on the head about the “fathers”. Unless we revolt and take control of this, we’ve got at least another generation of this stagnation to deal with. Although I agree about your comment regarding the library, I felt at least it would be start, similar to Greesnboro’s Center City Park: family friendly and beautiful.