02/15/12 — Short-sighted: Save money, but do so intelligently, with eye to future

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Short-sighted: Save money, but do so intelligently, with eye to future

Perhaps it is the fact that so many city residents are still numb -- and vocal -- over the ill-advised decision to purchase a building simply on the off-chance that it could be turned into an Air Force Museum.

Or maybe it is the city's new public information officer, or a myriad of other less-than-timely decisions that have caused many to question the direction the city is taking.

Maybe they just wanted their phones to stop ringing.

But the City Council vote Tuesday not to apply for a grant to launch a large-scale project in downtown Goldsboro was a mistake.

Let's look at the basics: The city applies for funding that would allow a great amount of the work to be done -- including the entire street and a number of other projects, including the train depot, designed to attract business and visitors downtown. And it would be paid for with only about $700,000 more than was being proposed to do one block of Center Street.

What is the downside? More work for less money and the chance to launch a real revitalization effort that might result in a new direction that will actually bring business and investment downtown?

One could kind of understand why council members would be gun shy. Several of them have been concerned about what has seemed like illogical spending and debt service.

There is nothing wrong with them trying to put a stop to what they see as another water spout in the dam.

But representing your city responsibly also means you have to know when the time has come to spend money to save money in the long run.

Truth is, the council and city management in the past have earned the lack of trust of the citizenry. There have been more than a few decisions that have left residents scratching their heads and hiding their wallets.

This is one that is worth considering.

And there is, of course, the white elephant in the room -- the holly trees.

It seems hard to believe that there is not a compromise here, that there might not be a chance the city could find a way to create a holly grove of the trees somewhere or that there might be another way to keep at least some of the trees.

But to those who are focused on the trees -- here is a thought: Would you rather have a failing downtown and holly trees or a place with possibilities that will keep the city thriving and healthy?

It is something to weigh heavily as we make decisions about what steps to take to position Goldsboro for the future.

This grant vote needs to be revisited -- with watchdog limits attached and the understanding that there will have to be concessions elsewhere.

And transparency is critical -- when the application is made and later if the city is lucky enough to get the funding. No back door contracts, no side deals and no monkey business. Upfront spending and an accounting of where the money is going and who will get it or benefit from it.

But the first step is taking a chance.

Published in Editorials on February 15, 2012 10:35 AM