Florence Gatten’s question and answer

During Tuesday night’s T&R vote, several members of our City Council took the opportunity to explain their positions in great detail.  The N&R has made all nine Council member’s comments available online in mp3 audio format. Simply check the size of the available files to discern who had the most to say (Mayor Holliday @ 3.2MB) or the least to say (Councilman Vaughan @ 212 kB) when their turn came

Additionally, the fine folks at the N&R have provided us with the audio files of Rev. Nelson Johnson’s comments before council as well as Councilwoman Burroughs-White’s surprise motion, which includes a reading of the carefully worded resolution that, if adopted, would have accomplished little.  The discussion following Claudette’s motion should be required listening material for every Greensboro citizen.

Even though the comments, statements and pronouncements by our Council were brimming with impassioned pleas to either ignore or embrace the GT&R process, Councilwoman Gatten’s indictments of the T&R process from her seat at the dais stand out.  She started out by stating her opinion that the “basic assumptions” upon which the T&R folks are basing their work, “are patently false” and things pretty much went down hill from there.  The N&R’s Allen Johnson characterized Gatten’s statements as being, “…especially pointed, almost contemptuous”.  And I have to agree.  But…

Gatten asked some important questions within her comments (mp3).  She pointed out that our local media “has ignored asking basic questions” of the T&R folks in a “rush to embrace this project“.  Her questions began 6min 10sec into her remarks and they really ought to be answered in the interest of full transparency.

  • Who’s funding this?
  • How much?  $300,000.00?… $600,000,00?
  • Who is the (ed: I think she said) Enders Foundation in New York? (ed note: Commenters say it is the Andrus Family Fund
  • How is the money being spent?
  • Who is profiting?
  • Why is the money coming from out of state?  Possibly as much as 80%.
  • Why are no local foundations funding this?
  • What exactly is restorative justice beyond technical jargon beloved of sociologists……?
  • What is the rationale for expending vital resources in this cause when there are so many worthy causes in our community that cry out for funding and attention?

The above questions not withstanding, much of the balance of Gatten’s comments suggested a real disdain for all things related to the T&R ‘process’.  Her disdain seemed to reach a tipping point during a subsequent exchange between her and a very nervous NC A&T political science student who took to the podium during the ‘speakers from the floor’ portion of Tuesdy’s meeting.

It was obvious that this guy was testing his public speaking legs for the first time and his comments were a bit disjointed.  When he finished, Councilwoman Bellamy-Small lauded his efforts at getting involved in civic affairs.  Councilwoman Gatten took a different tack, however… she laid him out.

In typical Florence-I’ll-be-your-mother-Gatten style (which I, too, have been a victim of), she let this black student know what she thought he should be trying to get out of his involvement with the T&R process.  Instead of thanking him for getting involved in the community, she chose to belittle him in a very public manner, she then flashed one of her trademark smiles as if to soften the blows she had dished out.  It didn’t work.  Not knowing how to respond to such motherly grilling from this white councilwoman, the black student simply retreated to his seat.  It was an embarrasing and telling moment for me.

Gatten lamented during later comments how she regretted that none of the above questions were answered by speakers from the T&R Project.  They might have been if she had directed them to some of the substantial firepower that lined up to address the Council.  Gatten had ample opportunity to direct her ire and questions toward the likes of Nelson Johnson or Z. Hollar, but instead she picked on a child.


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