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Archive for September, 2007

Asking the right questions

The Chamber of Commerce is holding a forum for Mount Airy City Council candidates on Oct. 2. It wants folks to submit questions to be posed to the seven office-seekers. The key, as I see it, is specificity — in both the questions and the answers. Too often would-be politicos get away with answers like, “I’m for cutting taxes and improving services.” Sometimes there’s a follow-up. “How?” And again, the response often is, ‘Well, I’d cut out all that gubmint waste.”
Even worse are the candidates who refuse to answer specific questions because they “prefer to wait until I get in office before making those decisions.” Oh, please.
This candidates forum will only be effective in helping voters distinguish among the wannabes if the moderators ignore softball questions and are mindful to press for answers that are specific, not generalizations.
If they do that, the voters will be well served. But if candidates are allowed to simply mouth mindless platitudes, the forum will be a waste of everyone’s time.

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Downtowns: boom or bust?

If there’s one thing our county’s municipal governments seem to share, it’s an ever sharpening focus on downtown development. The projects are promising but still speculative, driven by the notion that a lively Main Street is the rising tide that lifts all boats.
It’s a statewide trend from rural towns to big cities. I type this from a coffee shop in downtown Raleigh, an ongoing experiment in trying to lure back the urban sprawl through heavy aesthetic investment. It shows potential, but right now it’s just a bunch of vacant lots and buildings under construction flanked by pretty landscaping.
Downtown development plans in Mount Airy, Pilot Mountain and Elkin seem a bit better defined. But what’s the potential? If dressed up real nice who will visit and open businesses along our Main Streets? Is it worth the sizable public investment — for the economy, for tourism, for hometown pride? Or is that just money being thrown down the drain? What are some examples of downtown development done right and could the same thing be done here?

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