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« PDF | Main | What Edwards accomplished »

Jan 31, 2008


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Jeffrey Sykes

*An important aspect of a boondoggle, as opposed to a project that simply fails, is the eventual realization by its operators that it is never going to work, long before it is finally shut down. This is not the same thing as simply fraud, where the proponents know in advance that their idea has no merit.*


I nominate Ed Cone to be the chairman of the committee to be formed for the task of finding and securing the private funding necessary to make the Civil Rights Museum an operating reality.

Who wants to be in charge of the committee to form a new board of directors to supervise the operation of the museum?


What is the projected cost for this project?

Do you think the taxpayer should cover any portion?

Could the goal be served by setting aside more space at the Greensboro museum to host this topic?

If the $15 mill rumor was accurate, then it sounds high to me.

I agree that the Greensboro Four are real heroes.


I agree it needs to get done. But two things... maybe three OK... four... add one!

I would have preferred Greensboro Civil Rights Museum

Skip and Earl are a problem for me. But no longer a deal breaker

Can we quit pretending thousands of people from all over the world would flood Gso with tourist dollars.

The less public money the better. Zero would be nice but matching funds, etc wouldnt kill me.

Then can we get a pool?

Doug H

"Do you think the taxpayer should cover any portion?"

I don't remember...has any local tax money been used to date? I remember a bond that didn't pass, but that's all.

But then I am old, and my memory...

What was I talking about?


It seems obvious that the lack of financial transparency is the biggest problem people have with donating to this project. No one likes to feel that his contribution is either thrown into a money pit or used to pad the six-figure salary of the director of a museum THAT DOESN'T EXIST.

I fully realize that the water issue is a big problem. I've worked on the HVAC side of readying a museum, and I know the challenges presented by controlling climate and humidity in an unstable environment. I don't believe anyone would be upset by extra costs and delays caused by people who want to make sure priceless artifacts aren't damaged or destroyed.

However, if the directors of this museum genuinely care about raising private funds (and setting a completion date), it seems as though they would make all of the financial statistics readily and easily available to the public at large (read: potential donors). Otherwise, it feels less like making a donation and more like passing a bag of loot with a big dollar sign on it to someone wearing a bandit mask and a stripy shirt.

Jeffrey Sykes


*In other business, the council also voted to give $750,000 in federal grants to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. The money will be distributed over three years and won't be funded by local property tax money.*

Buried half-way down in a story Nov. 21. Maybe that's why you don't remember. They money is coming from a grant intended for low-income housing.

Ed Cone

Financial transparency is a must for this or any similar project. This project has work to do in that area.

I'm with Mick: I'm not going to let personalities be a dealbreaker for me on this thing.

Bob, I think they already have a fundraising committee, and I'm impressed by some of the folks on their board. That said, I am serious in my offer to help.


Was in FedEx HQ last year this time and noted a full scale replica of the famed lunch counter with the 4 key figures represented on display in one of their building lobbies. What took place here so long ago and in FedEx's newest hub city is clearly important to FedEx. Perhaps someone should bang on a Mr. Ron Wong's door there in Memphis to see if FedEx would increase their support and help deliver this project to glory.

But please Ed, Apollo astronauts are so way cooler.

Ed Cone

I'm pretty happy with the astronaut analogy. Obviously rocket ships have a certain excitement and glamor that's tough to match, but the GSO Four were brave and pioneering, too, and the work they did and the way they did it was of epic importance. I was humbled to be in the same room with them.

Joe Wilson

One . The proposed museum already has a pool in the basement ,so that's out of the way .
Two. I'm humbled to be in the same room with you Ed.
Three. Public funds...not! it has been said more than once by the voters.

The exhibit materials from this day in history are currently housed in a permanent home and likely never will be returned to Greensboro. Why can't this effort be memorialized in the Greensboro Historical Museum with all the other important events and other heroes that have contributed to making this a place you can be proud to be a citizen of ? I'm just asking ...

It seems a museum would be a better place than a leaky old deteriorating building to put millions of dollars worth of artifacts,that is what we are spending the money on right? artifacts?

Ed Cone

I believe that the Civil Rights movement and Greensboro's role in it rate a separate facility, and the historic building on Elm Street is a great place for it. GSO's small historical museum serves a more general purpose.

One of the things that makes this project expensive is that the museum is being built to very high standards because of its relationship to the Smithsonian, which will allow it to display objects from that collection.

I still believe what I wrote in 2000 when opposing bond funding for the museum, that the standard for public funding should be high, and that includes a degree of transparency I have not yet seen from this project.

Perhaps a warmer embrace of the project by its hometown would help make that level of transparency a reality, whether or not public funding is the goal.

Jim Rosenberg

Instead of asking the stupid and circular question, "does the Museum deserve public funds?", the City Council should actually govern and establish criteria and a process for considering projects seeking public funds. Greensboro seems to govern by anecdote. We should have long ago developed a process for this involving submission of a defined document which calls for financial reporting and controls and projects impact in terms of tourism, employment, and other economic and cultural factors. In addition to framing the issue properly, buttoning down the process will establish a baseline and track record which will build reliable data for future decisions.


Jim, that same issue was raised when I was covering City Hall in 1989-90, and it seems as if not a whole lot has changed.

I would add to your list a mandatory, rigorous and transparent auditing requirement, to, if not prevent, then at least to mitigate the damage from any future Project Homesteads.

Jim Rosenberg

That's what I find so infuriating, Lex. This is municipal government, not Summer Stock. How about a Mary J. Blige rule? No more drama, or at least less. While Florence Gatten was out on the Plaza like Eva Peron wasting our time and money with a pointless Call To Arms against her colleague, she could have been developing standards for evaluation and oversight of public projects. For instance, let's just take two high-drama events that cost the City a lot of time, money, and angst. I wonder if after all of that, any real work was actually done or even attempted: 1) In light of the fiasco with the Wray lockout, has a new policy been considered and enacted which clearly sets out the procedure for future cases? 2) In light of the leak of the RMA report and subsequent lie detector tests, has a new policy regarding identification, distribution, and tracking of confidential documents been enacted? That's just the first two that came to my mind, and maybe the answer is yes -- but the question is does anyone even try to fix this stuff?

David Wharton

Jim, much as I admire your dedication to clear processes and evaluations, I don't think your proposals have much chance of making things better.

First of all, the city and the county already do have evaluation standards for grants and their oversight. Grant requests and current grantees are evaluated by staff, and the reports are forwarded to the political bodies, which then proceed to evaluate them on a largely political basis.

Project Homestead is a good example of this. HCD repeatedly told city council that PH was not in compliance with existing standards and procedures, and Michael King repeatedly went around staff to avoid audits and to acquire more grants.

Even the grant procedures themselves become politically controversial. John Hammer to this day believes that HCD was trying to hold PH to a higher auditing standard than State or Federal regulations required, while others believe that PH was not held to a high enough standard.

I totally agree with you that having clear standards for evaluation and oversight of such expenditures would be a Very Good Thing if we could get everybody to adhere to them in a dispassionate and non-partisan way.

But the political reality is, and always will be, that the standards themselves are often politically fraught, and the political temptations and pressures to get around them are too strong for most politicians to resist.


Jim, if you ever run for city council, I'm moving into Greensboro just so I can vote for you.



If all of the rules are in place that should provide total transparency then what corrective actions do you think need to be taken to avoid a repeat of PH?



"....and the political temptations and pressures to get around them are too strong for most politicians to resist."

Hence, "business as usual".


Wharton said: "John Hammer to this day believes that HCD was trying to hold PH to a higher auditing standard than State or Federal regulations required..."

David, the limited documents Sam, Joe and I have received in response to our alarming* public records request have mostly been emails among city staff regarding the scope of auditing PH. Reading those, I would characterize HCD's efforts as striving to perform audits to a standard that State and Federal regulations allowed.

* As described by former mayor Keith Holliday

David Wharton

Roch, I agree with you and with HCD -- insofar as I'm qualified to make a judgement. I haven't seen the documentation.

But John thinks differently.


The distinction, about which Hammer may not be wrong, seems to be between what was required and what was allowed. I'm not sure exactly what was required, but there was some discussion about whether what the city wanted to audit was in its purview.

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