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Making Greenville Grow. Up.

When four of Greenville’s six city councilors voted Thursday to increase occupancy limits for unrelated people living in homes of the city’s Tar River-University neighborhood, each – along with the mayor – displayed a blatant disregard for the will of the people.

Despite clear-cut and overwhelming public opposition from city residents, from the Planning and Zoning Commission, from the Neighborhood Advisory Board and from East Carolina University, these four councilors and the mayor opted to put the personal interests of themselves and their political cronies ahead of the best interests of this city.

It’s the kind of decision that makes people think there’s a quid pro quo for campaign contributions.

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IN OUR OPINION

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East Carolina University for years has been fighting to reverse its image as a “party school,” and to join the ranks of the UNC system’s more respected campuses. But through the concerted efforts of Mayor Allen Thomas and Councilor Max Joyner to stop commonsense safety measures and reduce the number of bars downtown (they can try to soften it all they want by calling them “clubs,” but a bar is a bar) – and now, with this latest effort to turn the neighborhood immediately surrounding ECU’s main campus into Party Central – these two elected officials have proved one thing beyond all doubt: Old (school) Pirates never die. They just try to keep the drunken debauchery going.

There is no question that there is big, big fun in tailgating and barbecuing and screaming for the Pirates on a fall Saturday afternoon. (First and ten… PIIIIIIIRRRRRRRRATES!!!! Argggghhh…) But the promotion of an atmosphere of constant inebriated revelry – and the throwing of proven best practices to the wind when it comes to city planning, infrastructure and code enforcement – is something else entirely.

It is, in a word, dumb.

While Thomas’ and Joyner’s reverence for the bygone days of Greenville as the sparsely populated eastern capital of Tobacco Road – and of ECU as the place kids from this part of the state went to delay for a few more years dealing with the real world – is interesting in a put-them-on-the-psychologist’s-couch kind of way, fact is that Greenville (and that ECU) is gone. Transparent efforts to keep the non-stop party alive only do harm to both the school’s and the city’s reputations.

Both men say they want to bring jobs to Greenville. A good start would be to make the city the kind of place that new graduates, trained right here in today’s highly technical fields, want to stay – and to ensure the city’s underprivileged have access to the same first-class education and opportunities.

The climatic, recreational, and cost-of-living arguments in favor of Greenville put it head and shoulders above any number of other locations across the country. But until the city gets serious about how it does business – and that means creating a safe, healthy environment for families with a centerpiece downtown that attracts rather than scares the bejesus out of people after 9 p.m. on a Saturday night – grads will keep taking their new startups elsewhere.

It is interesting indeed that Councilor Kandie Smith, who instinctively opposed raising the occupancy limit when it was first floated earlier this year – did a one-eighty. Equally intriguing is that new at-large Councilor Dennis Mitchell favored it from the start. Both have worked together in human services and have seen firsthand the effects of harmful environments which encourage behaviors which most of us, thankfully, outgrow.

Along with Marion Blackburn and Calvin Mercer, these two councilors could be doing what’s right for Greenville and winning the thanks and support of forward-thinking residents who have made the commitment to bringing our city into the 21st century. That they have opted instead to enable two good ol’ boys’ efforts to preserve a Greenville long dead is both curious and regrettable.

Thursday’s vote surely proved one thing. Growing Greenville out of its terminal adolescence and into the mature, thriving city it is trying to become will require voting out Allen and Max: Greenville’s mannish boys.

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One Response

  1. Last night, I literally saw it as being between landlords and homeowners. Judging from comments in the past, the mayor and Joyner are likely serving special interests. I am unsure about Smith and Mitchel, and confused about Glover.

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