Well, that was a disappointment.
First, before the meeting, not one of the four council members I wrote on August 11 — Bell, Creech, Johnson, and Morgan — responded with as much as an acknowledgment of receipt. Needless to say, none moved for any of the actions requested.
Second, the New South Associates presentation was rather less … robust than I expected. I did appreciate the modified recommendations, which I’ll detail once I get my hands on the actual report, but included a comprehensive cemetery management plan to ensure that future leaders know exactly what exists at the site and what has been done there.
Third, the utter lack of engagement by council, whose members asked exactly two questions. Bell wanted to know what pages the recommendations are on. Evans wanted to know what “cmbs” means (which tells me he didn’t read the report he got in April) and what thirty centimeters is in inches. Nobody else cracked their lips. To be fair, it was not until New South Associates’ representative had begun to speak that Rebecca Agner and another city employee actually trooped in to hand out copies of the updated version of the report to council members. City attorney Jim Cauley, in trying to execute some kind of flex, pointedly asked New South when they had provided the City the report, seeming to imply that it was hot off the press. New South flatly countered with a date four days prior to the meeting — Monday, August 14. (And thus Cauley violated the first rule of cross-examination — don’t ask questions you don’t know the answer to.) Once again, a city staffer got the report and sat it on it until the absolute last minute before giving it to council, turning last night’s presentation into pure performance. What was the point of bringing New South all the way from Greensboro if the city wasn’t going to give council a chance to study and develop questions? Though all seven councilmembers have had the original version since April, and this one is not radically different in content, withholding the updated report smells bad. Still, they needn’t have read the report to ask questions like, “Specifically, how does one install a fence under these conditions?” “Is digging up the parking lot a good idea?” “Should we be concerned about the graves in the public right-of-way?” “How can we mark the graves?”
Fourth — and the good part — come *clap* through *clap* Lane Street Project! Although I couldn’t watch them — Wilson shuts off cameras during public comment — kudos to the citizens who stepped to the mic to give voice to the desires of the descendant community. As Briggs Sherwood said, “We are here to claim our ancestors, to redeem our past. Hallelujah, what an opportunity!”