The Triad’s third-largest city has got to be used its outlier status by now, after decades of unanswered growth in Greensboro and Winston-Salem have left it teetering on the brink of irrelevance.

High Point is the runt of the litter, the last one picked, the cousin who “ain’t right.”

While its siblings to the east and west strive toward some better future — biotech, nanotech, transportation — High Point is mired in a century-old economy based on a biannual event that loses some of its luster every year.

Its defining features are a downtown that exists only for Furniture Market and, across town, the walled garden that is High Point University. It’s a sandwich without too much meat in it.

High Point is growing more slowly than other Triad cities, estimated, adding about 1,100 residents last year. And it’s an accepted truth that most people who live there sate their cultural tastes in Greensboro or Winston-Salem. It’s finest venue, the High Point Theatre, stays dark almost every night of the year. Besides a few genuine standouts, most of the restaurants serve Mexican or Chinese food.

Consider this: In 2013 private donors spent $410,000 on the country’s premiere authority on urban revitalization and innovation, Andrés Duany, and then city council spent the next year talking itself out of enacting any of his initiatives.[pullquote]Besides a few genuine standouts, most of the restaurants serve Mexican or Chinese food. [/pullquote]

But High Point may be the most interesting city in the Triad right now: on the rocks, in the midst of an existential crisis and with a strong cultural and political undercurrent whose time may just have come.

Because there’s also an election looming in High Point, its city council races coinciding with even-year elections, another thing that sets it apart from the other Triad cities — for now. Winston-Salem will switch to even years in 2016.

The High Point slate is buried way at the bottom of the ballot, the candidates attracting just a few hundred voters each. A barroom full of registered voters could have changed the outcome of almost any of the 2012 races.

Surely someone outside the entrenched political structure has noticed that, too.

We’ll find out this week: Filing for High Point City Council races begins on July 7.

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