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Greensboro passes $602 million budget, asks county to pay nearly $1 million for school resource officer costs

GREENSBORO — The Greensboro City Council approved an annual budget with no property tax increase Tuesday night, spending the bulk of the budget debate on police issues.

At the top of the list: Who will pay the cost of putting a Greensboro police officer in each of the city’s middle and high schools?

In this budget, the answer is Guilford County.

The cost to put 17 school resource officers in schools, supervise and equip them is roughly $2 million. Traditionally, the city has picked up about half that cost.

But last week, council members said they’re tired of paying for what is essentially a program of Guilford County Schools and they proposed cutting the city’s part of the program.

The program will remain in the city budget under the proposal submitted Tuesday. But the city will ask Guilford County to increase its contribution from $1 million to nearly $2 million to cover the entire program.

Earlier in the day, Guilford County commissioners stressed that they will do what it takes to maintain the program.

Commissioner Justin Conrad said he had unanimous support from fellow commissioners behind his resolve to keep the program alive with county money if the city followed through on its change in the budget.

“There can be no more important issue than the safety of our kids,” Conrad said.

He said he did not want to get into a situation with the city where each tries to tighten its budget by cutting out items that benefit the other.

After the council unanimously approved the $602 million budget, councilwoman Michelle Kennedy made it clear the SRO money would not be deleted from the budget but moved to serve other needs.

She made a motion, approved in a 9-0 vote, that the money recouped from the county would be split, with half to pay for affordable housing in the city and half to be put into the city’s general fund for expenses.

The budget, which does not call for a tax increase, was trimmed to account for about $7 million in revenue declines from the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

More than $3 million of that decline is from reduced sales tax revenue, which is lower because consumers are buying fewer goods.

But the top issue for council members is what the budget says about the state of spending for the city police department.

Under the new budget, $78 million will be spent on police, 85% of which covers personnel costs, city officials say.

Councilwoman Marikay Abuzuaiter said a threat to cut funding for SROs in schools could threaten other police funding, which covers a host of programs far beyond responses to 911 calls.

For example, she said police provide security for community events and 5K runs, attend National Night Out, train a therapy dog and participate in many other programs that add to the city’s quality of life.

Mayor Nancy Vaughan responded to Abuzuaiter’s unusually long statement by saying, “I don’t think we talked about any of those programs.”

Abuzuaiter, who is an at-large council member, said discussing one cut can lead to others and, if anything, her constituents have asked for more police officers.

“That’s not what black people are asking for,” Councilwoman Sharon Hightower said. She said she is concerned that police are too aggressive in minority neighborhoods and the city needs to talk about that.

Mayor Pro Tem Yvonne Johnson said the city needs to make substantial change in its police department, not make quick cuts to programs without thinking them through.

“I’m not interested in just cutting everything, but I am interested in us getting better,” she said.

Councilwoman Goldie Wells said she is well aware of the charges of racism and police brutality in police departments here and across the United States in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police officers.

“We just need to reform whatever we have,” she said. “We have a new chief. I am looking forward to him doing some things that haven’t been done.”

Hightower added that the programs that Abuzuaiter listed are meaningless without fundamental change in the city’s police department. She said the city’s law enforcement must be built around creating relationships with local residents.

“All those programs you’re talking about, Marikay — they sound good on paper,” Hightower said. “But if we’re not creating relationships, then it’s just a photo op.”

City Council has plenty of time scheduled for discussions of police policy. The council has scheduled a special work session to talk about law enforcement policy at 3:30 on Thursday in a virtual meeting to be live-streamed on the city website.

In other news, the city will begin revamping its financial relationship with Guilford County.

Vaughan and other council members directed City Manager David Parrish to contact County Manager Marty Lawing immediately to set up a committee of council members and commissioners to evaluate every “pending” contract for services between the city and the county.

'A very bizarre time to be retiring': Nancy Doll wraps up 22 years leading UNCG's Weatherspoon Art Museum

GREENSBORO — Nancy Doll couldn’t have imagined that her art museum leadership would end this way.

UNCG’s Weatherspoon Art Museum, which she has directed for 22 years, has been closed since March 18 by the coronavirus pandemic.

So Doll has been working from home, holding staff meetings via video-conferencing. Instead of visiting the museum, fans view its exhibitions and collection online at weatherspoonart.org.

Doll didn’t anticipate how her work would change just months after UNCG announced in November that she would retire July 31.

The university is expected to reopen Aug. 10. That means that the Weatherspoon might not reopen before she departs.

“It’s a very bizarre time to be retiring,” Doll said.

The typical retirement party is out. So Doll’s UNCG colleagues and friends plan unconventional celebrations that maintain social distancing.

At 4 p.m. Saturday, they will hold a drive-by parade at the Spring Garden Street entrance of the Weatherspoon.

They encourage paraders to decorate their cars, bring noisemakers, honk and call out best wishes to Doll, who will stand in front of the Weatherspoon on Spring Garden Street near Tate Street.

On Tuesday, Weatherspoon friends gathered on Zoom to listen as Ron Platt, the museum’s former curator of exhibitions, interviewed Doll.

All week, they shared their memories on social media using the hashtag #ThankYouNancy22.

It all honors Doll’s accomplishments at the Weatherspoon, a museum housing a permanent collection about 6,500 works of contemporary and modern art.

“Her work and successes have added immeasurably to the arts landscape of Greensboro,” said Lynn Wooten, former board president.

Doll appreciates the celebrations and the praise.

But she says it’s time for a change. Although she declines to reveal her age, “Twenty-two years was a long time,” she said.

Doll said she will miss seeing her staff of 12 full-time and two part-timers, board members, docents and patrons as frequently.

And no longer will she be able to take a quick break from administrative work by wandering into a gallery to admire the art.

Founded in 1941 by Gregory Ivy, first head of the Art Department at Woman’s College (now UNCG), the Weatherspoon has grown from a university teaching gallery to a fully professional museum nationally recognized for its collections and exhibitions.

From its inception, the museum has focused on building a permanent collection of modern and contemporary art, now considered one of the best in the Southeast.

Its collection is known globally, indicated by the growing number of loan requests it receives from major museums.

That collection now includes major artists Alexander Calder, Elizabeth Catlett, Nick Cave, Enrique Martínez Celaya, Enrique Chagoya, Willem de Kooning, Eva Hesse, Robert Rauschenberg, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei.

Other highlights include the Dillard Collection of Art on Paper, the Etta and Claribel Cone Collection, and the Lenoir C. Wright Collection of Japanese Prints.

Its crown jewel: Willem de Kooning’s “Woman” painting, although Doll points out that it was acquired in 1954, well before her arrival.

The painting is now in storage.

“It would be nice to leave her up all the time, but it cramps the style of other collection exhibitions,” Doll said with a chuckle.

She also has raised money from individuals, corporations and foundations to advance the museum’s work.

Doll arrived at the Weatherspoon in August 1998 from Santa Barbara, Calif., where she was executive director of the Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum.

The Weatherspoon attendeance was much smaller than it is now.

Working with the curatorial staff, Doll led the charge to diversify collections, exhibitions and programs to include more artists of color and women.

With that diversification, the audience diversified, too. Non-student attendance has grown steadily, reaching more than 38,000 annual visitors who view the art for free.

“I am proud of that fact that we have been able to engage a more diverse audience,” she said. “That’s good for both the campus and community.”

She has seen similar trends among museums in general.

“I have seen museums become much more engaged with their communities — more socially and culturally responsible, more diverse not only in their offerings but across the board in staffing, and more responsible to both their parent institutions if they happen to be a university art museum, and to the communities that they reside in,” she said.

Doll’s work and influence has extended well beyond the walls of the current building that opened in 1989.

She’s become a familiar, artistically-dressed presence in the local arts scene. She has served on boards that include the Downtown Greenway, Elsewhere living museum and artist residency and the Public Art Endowment of the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro.

“If you want people to come to you, you also have to go to them,” Doll said. “If you want people to support you, you need to support them.”

So how did Doll end up as a museum administrator?

A Chicago native, Doll studied art at Mundelein College, a private, independent, Roman Catholic women’s school. It’s now part of Loyola University Chicago.

She thought about being an artist, until a trip to Europe during her last semester.

There, she was hooked by viewing such works as Sandro Botticelli’s famous paintings at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, crucifixes by Giotto and Cimabue, and Rembrandt’s painting “The Night Watch.”

“I always loved art history, but seeing the work in person made a huge difference,” she said. When she returned to graduate work at the University of Iowa, she switches her studies from studio art to art history.

Before arriving at the Weatherspoon, she served as curator of 20th century art at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, director of Gallery Eleven and curator of the University Art Collection at Tufts University in Massachusetts, and director of the Thorne-Sagendorph Art Gallery at Keene State College in New Hampshire.

Upon arriving in Greensboro, she took a drive on Elm Street downtown. “There was wonderful architecture down there,” she said. “But it was so deserted.”

She learned a lot during that first year at the Weatherspoon, she said. The curators had taken other jobs, and Doll had to hire more and plan an exhibition for the large McDowell Gallery.

So she invited guest curators from Los Angeles, Houston and Miami to select five artists whose work they admired. “People really loved it,” Doll said.

Doll is proud that, over the years, the Weatherspoon has shown the early work of several artists whose prominence has grown since.

Among them: painter Amy Sillman; Diana Al-Hadid, who creates sculptures, installations, and drawings using common materials; and Trenton Doyle Hancock, who makes prints, videos, drawings, sculptures, individual performances and collaged felt paintings.

The city’s arts scene has become more active, too. Downtown buildings have been revitalized.

“And I think more artists have stayed here.”

Artist and patron Beatrice Schall is among those who praise Doll.

Schall belongs to the museum’s Contemporary Collectors Group, which meets with Weatherspoon speakers and travels within the state and internationally to see art.

Doll’s friendships in the art world have given the group access to private collections, Schall said.

Lynn Wooten said he became involved with the Weatherspoon when Doll asked him to help shape an event. He went on to serve on its board and as board president.

“Her inviting me into the Weatherspoon really led me to see things around me differently — to stop, look, ponder and appreciate things visually,” Wooten said. “And that really has been a life-changing gift.”

“Nancy is leaving enormous shoes to fill,” Wooten said.

During August, the shoes will be filled temporarily by Ann Grimaldi, museum education curator.

Then on Sept. 1, Juliette Bianco will take Doll’s place.

Bianco is deputy director of Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, where she has worked since 1998.

In her current role, which she has held since 2013, Bianco runs the Hood’s operations and oversaw a $50 million museum renovation and expansion.

Weatherspoon visitors will see more changes because of COVID-19 when the museum reopens.

“A lot of people in the field are talking about, ‘What will a post-COVID museum be like?’ ” Doll said. “Most people agree they will continue to do more online programming and strive to make that as accessible as possible.”

Visitors will notice hand sanitizer dispensers, and acrylic screens installed at desks.

Although admission will remain free, visitors will be scheduled to arrive at specific times. The number of people in each gallery will be limited. They will go through galleries in a particular direction, and remain six feet apart.

The exhibition “To The Hoop,” which explores basketball’s intersection with contemporary art and culture, has been extended through November. The Cone Legacy Show will remain through August.

Doll, meanwhile, has plans for her retirement.

She hopes to return to traveling after the pandemic. Japan and India are on her want-to-see list.

She has plans for an exhibition or two that she would likely propose elsewhere.

She’s writing a catalog essay for an exhibition by California artist and friend Marie Schoeff.

Doll also has an idea for a book.

But she isn’t sharing details.

Downtown recovery fund caps payouts at $3,000 and draws fire from some Greensboro council members over details

GREENSBORO — More than two weeks after downtown demonstrations turned destructive, the Greensboro City Council passed a $250,000 program to help damaged businesses rebuild.

But before it was approved, the simple proposal opened a sometimes angry debate about community equity, nonprofit management and the way funding requests are presented to council members.

The plan, approved 8-1 Tuesday night, will provide up to $3,000 for a business that suffered damage during protests the nights of May 30-31 after some people turned destructive, breaking windows and setting fires, mostly in downtown. The protests followed the May 25 death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police.

About 50 businesses were damaged, city officials said Tuesday, including several in other parts of the city. The most notable was a fire that destroyed a Mattress Firm store on Lawndale Drive, causing an estimated $835,000 in damage.

But the recovery program, simple though it seemed, drew criticism from several council members.

Councilwoman Sharon Hightower spoke first, questioning why Downtown Greensboro Inc. was chosen as the agency to supervise the program, saying that few downtown businesses are minority owned and that concentrating on property damage sends the wrong message when protests were about human rights.

“I’m still disturbed that we jumped on this so fast. It still looks like we’re focusing on property,” she said. “Most businesses downtown, they’ve got insurance.”

Councilman Justin Outling echoed some of Hightower’s concerns and said he was disappointed that the plan presented to council did not have more details about how money would be distributed and how businesses would be qualified, especially if they have insurance.

One issue Councilwoman Michelle Kennedy raised: Who would pay for the roughly $25,000 administrative cost for the program? Sarah Healy, DGI’s director of operations, said the agency’s board has agreed to donate the money that can be used to pay for a program administrator.

Councilwoman Nancy Hoffmann said the need for the program is urgent, given that many businesses haven’t rebuilt yet, and that this program is no different than many others the city funds.

Others said that while companies have insurance, they are often discouraged from making claims because their premiums might rise or their coverage get dropped.

“In times like this we’ve just got to move forward,” Councilwoman Goldie Wells said. “We don’t have time to worry about things like this.”

Mayor Nancy Vaughan said whenever downtown comes up and it comes to funding, “we seem to just give them a hard time.”

“I think DGI has been a good steward of funds,” she said. “They do an awful lot of fundraising.”

Hightower said, however, that council has been hard on other programs that benefit her district in east Greensboro and that there’s nothing wrong with questioning details.

“We have beat stuff to death,” she said. “Why is it everybody’s up in arms that you ask questions? I’m not a ‘Kumbaya’ person. I don’t go along with everything.”

Hightower voted against the measure, but Outling, who supported it, was just as critical of what he considered sketchy details of the proposal.

“It’s important not to confuse the issues,” he said. “Our standards should not be that the staff just proposes and we give away money without any supporting detail. Ultimately, we should support the program for all the reasons outlined by Councilwoman Hoffmann. But our standards should be much higher. At the end of the day it’s community dollars, not our dollars.”

An interesting article in today's newspaper