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Greene Fields….because things Grow Best in the Sunlight!

Working together, we can bring sunlight to some of those hazy areas of Greensboro and Guilford County government* so we can understand where our money is going, then direct it to work for us!

All budgets involve priorities and sacrifice. You can’t have everything on your personal wish list and our commissioners can’t have everything on their wish lists either. Or can they? What is being sacrificed to pay for our commissioners’ pet projects? Let’s let the sunlight in, pool our resources & see where it takes us!

Don’t forget that sunlight is the best disinfectant! Please use the resources on this website to better educate yourself and feel free to share your thoughts!

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Contributors:
mjsunshine is a stay at home mom. g4greene is a small business owner and NC native.  Both currently reside in Greensboro.

*Also the NC state government and federal government as issues arise.

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8 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by David Bartone on October 22, 2009 at 3:23 pm

    I am a new small business owner too and am probably far more conservative than you. I support the Natural Science Center bond wholeheartedly. The small businesses of Greensboro and our citizenship need a high quality, educational and economically impacting venue like the Science Center. Read Dr. Brod’s economic study on their bond website. The Center is run by moms and dads who took over museum operations from the city 20 years ago thus saving taxpayers over $20M. The city owns the land and buildings but now has private citizens doing all the work and pulling in private support. Translation, there is less government involvement and more private control. This is why as a conservative I think the Science Center should be proudly supported and transcend politics. Over the last 20 years, according to Dr. Brod’s study, they have brought in about $10M per year in positive impact. That is $200M today. If there new facility gets built, that will grow to $20M per year and 400M over the next 20 years. You are not looking at the full objective and subjective picture. Economic growth for a municipality means having quality family oriented and wholesome venues. Plus, since you use the center as much as you claim, you have already had your $5.84 per year tax impact paid back through your tickets or membership. Please do not be so partisan on this. If the money was going to a silly government pet project, I would agree with you. This money is going to a 53 year old city icon with a great track record and a brighter future. Lighten up.

    Reply

    • Posted by mjsunshine on October 22, 2009 at 4:13 pm

      It is interesting that you point out that “moms and dads…took over museum operations from the city 20 years ago.” Interesting. Why did they do that? I wasn’t here, so don’t know, although my understanding is that the NSC was founded by the Junior League which is private, right? “The city owns the land and buildings but now has private citizens doing all the work and pulling in private support.” I do think it is interesting that the city owns the land/buildings. You can bet that the NSC would not be paying taxes on them anyway as a nonprofit, however.
      This also comes to a point which I left out which is that, currently, the NSC is privately run. If the city dumps $20 million into it, don’t you think that taxpayers are going to want to have a say in how it is operated? The way the city is being run currently, I am da*n sure that the NSC is much better off not being managed by the city!!!
      Again, please note that I said that projects that are “worthwhile” are not automatically entitled to government support. Why should someone else be forced to pay for something that I think is important? Additionally, the bond would be $5.84 per year per $100,000 house valuation. There are plenty here in town valued higher than that. And how is being opposed to all bonds partisan?

      Reply

      • Posted by David Bartone on October 23, 2009 at 6:15 am

        What is partisan is hating all bond without looking at the facts and merits of what the bonds will achieve. You automatically assume that bonds are tax and spend liberal tools. Many times they are. Even the most conservative on city council said yes to the NSC bonds. The Center was founded by the Junior League. They relinquished operations to the city in the early 1960’s according to what the folks at the Science center told me. The city formed a public-private partnership with the non-profit 20 years ago. That saved tax-payers $1M a year for 20 years. The non-profit matches every city dollar 2 to 1, a 200% return on the city’s investment. Private sector forces are at work here and that is why I support them 100%. Yes, each homeowner will pay a little more if the bonds pass, but then counter that with their tourism-based tax impact infusing $20M a year back into the Greensboro economy every single year. On top of that, all citizens qualify for admission and membership discounts that pay back every dime of individual spending. So, the city saves money and gets a better museum/zoo/aquarium, tax-payers can get their money back by using the facility, it will generate $20M a year in local revenue, it will help brand and market Greensboro as a great place to live and build a business, it provides wholesome educational fun for kids and families and private sector forces are driving the train. Opposition to this is simply blind and partisan. Not everything government does is bad. Please credit, highlight and promote it when they take smart steps like the privatization of formerly government run entities. And, give credit to the moms and dads who have taken it upon themselves to make Greensboro a better place to live and are saving the taxpayers money. Instead of whining, you should step up to the values you proclaim and become a supporter, advocate and volunteer for an organization that exemplifies conservative and community ethic.

      • Posted by mjsunshine on October 23, 2009 at 10:41 am

        You are implying that I do not support the NSC because I am opposed to their forcing taxpayers to pay for their bond and improvements. Frankly, I find that offensive. I don’t have to agree with everything they do to be supportive of them. The idea that to be supportive of a person or institution you have to agree with every position that person/group takes is ludicrous.
        I reiterate: how is it “partisan” for me to be opposed to all bonds? I’m opposed to all of them, no matter who proposes them. It seems clear that you did not really focus on my post where I say that I am opposed to bonds even when the underlying projects are “worthwhile”. When municipalities stop abusing the trust that citizens are placing in them when they pass bonds, perhaps I can support them. You say that you don’t think this is going to be a “tax and spend” policy, but have any of those council members who support the NSC bond promised to find a way to cut the city budget to pay for it without a tax increase?
        Additionally, I don’t really trust any of the figures you cite — least of all the economic impact numbers. As an economist with some up-close knowledge of the generation of economic impact numbers, I can assure you that there is not any “hard science” involved in them and usually the people writing those reports know what type of result they are expected to come up with. You also said this: “The city formed a public-private partnership with the non-profit 20 years ago. That saved tax-payers $1M a year for 20 years. The non-profit matches every city dollar 2 to 1, a 200% return on the city’s investment.” which doesn’t really make any sense to me at all. Are you saying the NSC has had a static operating budget of $1M a year for the last 20 years? That doesn’t make any sense. Additionally, you didn’t respond to my question about future city involvement in the operations of the NSC. Do you really think the citizens of GSO will allow the city to hand over $20 million from a bond issue and not meddle in how it is spent? I find that idea pretty incredible.

      • Posted by David Bartone on October 23, 2009 at 12:28 pm

        So, I guess you are calling UNCG’s Department of Economic Research and Development unscientific? There is a lot of ego in that statement. Perhaps you should call Dr. Brod yourself and actually discuss his work before making such unsubstantiated statements. Demeaning the man and his career by saying that you do not believe in such data yet you do not refute his data with facts sound like a tactic of the left to me. I also struggle with you believing that the center is “worthwhile.” In your own words you say that you love it and use, yet you know that tax money partly supports it. You love and support it because it offers great family opportunities yet you are against the premise (some tax support) that allows it to be a great place for you and your family to learn and enjoy. You contradict yourself in your arguments. I then have to assume that if the bond passes and they build all that great stuff, that you will stand by your convictions (which are fair and your opinion) and refuse to take advantage of what the bonds might help build. You see where I am going with this? You can hate and not support bonds. That is your right and God bless you for it. But, to then take advantage of what the bonds provide you is hypocritical. Unlike police, fire and other services, you have the choice not to support a place like the Science Center, yet you do. Their new zoo was funded about 50% with a bond that passed for $3+ million ten years ago. They got it accredited are involved in endangered species breeding programs, have rescued abused animals, etc. They exist because some tax support gives them a foundation on which to grow and secure private sector support. I am sorry, that is smart government to relinquish control, save money and let the private sector take root. That is pure conservatism. I believe Reagan was one of the first to really push and advocate for public-private partnerships. He was open minded to this methodology as a smart and viable way for government to limit power and control. I love the Science Center and am so impressed with what seem like constant changes and enhancements out there. They drive those positive changes for our kids and through expanding private support. I honestly do respect that you hate bonds, but as an investor, I see the return on the Science Center project as far far exceeding the twelve dollars (one dollar a month) that I will pay and then get back through discounts when I use their facility.

      • Posted by mjsunshine on October 23, 2009 at 1:55 pm

        1. Economic impact studies are, basically, just projections, which are based on economic assumptions. Lots and lots of assumptions that are fed into an econometric model that tries to determine how some “important variables” interact and what the “impact” of a given activity will be. Anything that involves that many estimates is not really “hard science”, do you think? I suppose it depends on how you define “hard science”. My definition would probably include things that are actually measurable. There’s no ego in that statement. Ego would be: “I can come up with GOOD economic impact studies!” But no one can really come up with anything that is more than just guesses fed into mathematical models which are themselves based on a lot of assumptions and so none of them are really very good. They are certainly not precise. What do you think of stadium bonds? Have you seen the economic impact studies they use to justify those? Have you read the studies on what really happens later? I have.
        2. Refusing to go to a new (government-funded) aquarium at the NSC because I am opposed to the bond issue would be like cutting off my nose to spite my face, not in any way hypocritical or contradictory. Refusing to go would just be childish.
        3. The city is going to take out the bonds. How much control do you really think the NSC is going to have over how they are spent? Do you think there will be no government oversight? But then shouldn’t there be since it will be public funds?
        4. You have already admitted there will be a tax increase, which is probably why you didn’t answer my previous question about whether any council members have promised to cut the budget to fund the new bond.
        5. Do you think it is hypocritical to, say, support the NSC bond but be opposed to the “natatorium” or the Woolworth’s Museum? Why not?
        Anyway, it’s apparent that you had your mind made up already. As I mentioned in my post, even if the NSC has great plans for the $20 million, it’s a lot of money to ask for from taxpayers, especially in a bad economy and they seem to be run pretty well right now without a lot of government interference, more of which is sure to come if the bond passes. If the project is so great, they can pay for it privately. If all of their potential donors are tapped out from the last expansion, the bad economy, etc, then that says something about the advisability of passing yet another bond and pushing the expense onto the taxpayers.

      • Posted by David Bartone on October 23, 2009 at 4:42 pm

        Okay, this will be my last response since we are clearly not changing each others minds. As far as cutting taxes, I doubt the city will. But, it is important to note that those city officials who are advocates for cutting taxes voted yes for this bond. Conservative candidates running for city office are in favor of the bond per my meeting with them at one of the local forums. Bill Knight, a new friend, is in favor of the bond. Not one candidate is coming out against what they know is a good community move. They know the tax impact (return) will help draw revenue that will in turn help keep local revenues strong. Of course Dr. Brod’s calculations are based on a systematic program, but one that is readily accepted as a national standard for making these assumptions. More importantly, unlike the swim center and Civil Rights Museum which are new projects, the Science Center has a track record of accountability, success and transparency that does give it greater credibility when being judged as to the worthiness of bonding. As to your point about the Science Center making it on their own and raising all their dollars privately, aside from ride-based amusement parks, please give me an example of a zoo or science museum that is 100% on their own. I have been a board member with facilities in three in different states and have studied the operations of such attractions for two decades. What Greensboro’s center is doing is about as independent and self-reliant as I have seen. If they did not remain unique and dynamic as an attraction, I am guessing you would not spend your money there. Public service is a big part of what they do and I place that service in the same league as schools, police and fire protection. All of them help make a community whole and attractive to incoming families and businesses. Again, every tax issue needs to be examined on its own merits. To your point about a bad economy, this is the absolute right time to build attractions and infrastructure that will yield a long-term return. Investing and diversifying your portfolio works on a broader city scale too, especially if those investments have a strong track-record of growth and accountability. Clearly, you think Dr. Brod’s study is worthless, but even if it were 50% correct, the money and return would still out perform the initial 20M impact in a very short time frame. But, clearly we are getting nowhere. I agree with you on many other of your blog updates. I just think you are dead wrong on this one especially as someone who fully utilizes the services and programs that the Science Center provides. That does not compute in my brain.

      • Posted by mjsunshine on October 27, 2009 at 11:05 am

        I actually didn’t think Dr Brod’s study is “worthless” although since looking at the NSC website and the pdf of the “analysis” I have decided that the information presented does not allow anyone to make a comparison between what would happen if the bond were vs. were not passed (see my post on the issue if you are interested in my thoughts on the matter).

        You say “I just think you are dead wrong on this one especially as someone who fully utilizes the services and programs that the Science Center provides. That does not compute in my brain.” Among many of the points I have made and reasons for not supporting the bond, one of the most important is that I don’t think it is right to require taxpayers to pay for a private museum such as this one. Why should my neighbors subsidize my use of the NSC??

        Because that is what this bond boils down to. Anyone who votes “YES” is saying “I think everyone else should be required to financially support the NSC.” Well, I’m a pretty strong libertarian, and I just can’t agree with that.

        Governments are formed by the people, in my opinion, to manage things that are next to impossible to do privately — generally things where you have a serious free-rider problem, like national defense. Governments are NOT formed to take money from hard-working citizens and use it to fund museums, stadiums, symphonies, etc. No matter how “nice” they are.

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