Early voting for the Greensboro City Council primary ends on Saturday, Oct. 7 and the primary is Tuesday, Oct. 10.
The Rhino Times is endorsing candidates in all the Greensboro City Council races. Regardless of where you live in Greensboro, you can vote in your district race, for three candidates in the at-large race and in the mayor’s race.
There are 38 candidates on the ballot, but five candidates in district races dropped out too late to have their names removed from the ballot, so their names are on the ballot but they aren’t running.
In District 4, this means that there are three candidates on the ballot, but since Andrew Belford dropped out, City Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann and Gary Kenton will face off in the general election regardless of the primary totals.
All 15 candidates who filed to run for the three at-large seats are still in the running.
The endorsement is based on far more extensive research than is mentioned in the article, but we did try to give you some pertinent information about each candidate in the race.
If you want more information, most candidates have websites, and the League of Women Voters has a pamphlet available about all the candidates.
The City Council races are nonpartisan, which means in the districts and the mayor’s races the top two vote-getters regardless of political party will face each other in the general election on Nov 7. In the at-large race – where you can vote for three candidates – the top six finishers regardless of party will be on the November ballot.
Democracy Greensboro is mentioned throughout these endorsements. It is a political action committee that was formed by Nelson Johnson and others as a response to the 2016 election. The group came up with a platform for candidates, and at a candidates’ forum in September it graded the candidates on how well they complied with that platform.
Democracy Greensboro is a far-left organization and its platform calls for much more spending by the city on social programs such as housing, food and daycare. It also promotes civilian oversight of the Police Department with subpoena power, which is more power than the Greensboro City Council has.
Mayor Nancy Vaughan in her second term has had some problems. She allowed protestors to disrupt far too many meetings without consequences, and once allowed them to take over the Council Chambers after the City Council, led by Vaughan, left the dais.
Vaughan obviously struggled with how to handle protestors who insisted on disrupting meetings, but since the infamous taking over of the chambers she has had several people removed from the chambers and has controlled the meetings much better. It’s just one of those things, however: If the mayor loses control of the meeting it’s news, but if she controls the meeting it isn’t.
The City Council met secretly on the $126 million bond package for months so that the public meetings were cursory. But evidently the public wasn’t bothered by that because the bonds passed overwhelmingly.
The City Council too many times has jabbed at the North Carolina legislature and that has cost Greensboro state funding and state support. Economic development flows through the state and Greensboro hasn’t received much; to think the two aren’t connected would be naive. But Vaughan of late has been against passing meaningless resolutions that do nothing but make the relationship with the state legislature more difficult.
With a City Council made up of eight Democrats and one Republican and a state legislature that is overwhelmingly Republican, there is bound to be some tension, but having won their case in federal court over the redistricting of Greensboro, Vaughan and the majority on the City Council seem more willing to try and work with the state rather than fight the state.
Vaughan recently said in an interview, “I do think I am more qualified than the other two candidates.”
And Vaughan is right. This is an easy call. Vaughan is far and away the only candidate in the race who voters should consider electing mayor.
Vaughan has had accomplishments.
Greensboro was the first city in the state to equip all of its police officers with body-worn cameras and the first to have a policy on releasing body-worn camera videos. The policy was overridden by a state policy, but taking the initiative to pass it was an accomplishment.
The City Council has kept the tax rate flat; although the revaluation meant that people paid more taxes, at least the rate itself was not increased.
Through bonds and increased fees, the city has provided funding to get the streets and roads back in an acceptable condition.
The Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts is moving forward with a unique funding method that includes over $38 million in private funds and no revenue from the city’s general fund.
Vaughan said she would like to serve one more term to finish fome of the projects she has started and the voters should giver her that opportunity.
Diane Moffett has many of the qualities people look for in a mayor. She is intelligent, a good public speaker, funny and successful.
But she has one huge drawback: She doesn’t live in Greensboro.
I know that Moffett is registered to vote in Greensboro; she changed her registration on the same day she filed to run for mayor – as if she didn’t want to officially live in Greensboro one day longer than absolutely necessary.
She and her husband, Mondre Moffett, both work in Greensboro. She is the senior pastor at Saint James Presbyterian Church and he teaches at NC A&T State University. But when it came time for them to invest in Greensboro and buy a home, they didn’t. They invested and bought a $400,000 house in Jamestown.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with living in Jamestown, unless you want to be the mayor of Greensboro. Property taxes are lower in Jamestown and crime is much lower. There are a lot of good arguments for living in Jamestown, but if you want to run for mayor of Greensboro it seems you should be willing to invest in Greensboro.
Moffett has no experience in Greensboro government. She has never served on a board or commission for the City of Greensboro because, as a resident of Jamestown, she has not been eligible to serve.
It is also worth noting that Moffett has not voted in the past two Jamestown municipal elections. It goes without saying that she has never voted in a Greensboro municipal election because she was not eligible to vote, not being a resident of Greensboro.
One of the mayor’s main jobs is economic development, which means recruiting businesses to locate in Greensboro. One of the big sales pitches that Greensboro has going for it is that Greensboro is a great place to live. Business leaders do their homework and they will know that the mayor of Greensboro has a small apartment in Greensboro but also has a very large house in Jamestown. How is Moffett going to convince anyone that they should move to Greensboro and pay Greensboro’s high property tax rate when she has chosen to live in Jamestown with its lower property tax rate?
I don’t mean to imply that there is anything illegal about Moffett running for mayor; she does have a legal residence here for voting purposes and meets all the legal requirements for running for office. But the idea of electing a mayor of Greensboro who has chosen not to live in Greensboro is an insult to the people who do live in Greensboro.
Several weeks after Moffett changed her voter registration to Greensboro, her husband did the same thing. But they have not sold their house in Jamestown and that is where they have lived for the last 12 years. They worked in Greensboro but lived and paid taxes in Jamestown.
Perhaps Moffett will encourage other well-paid professionals to do what she did and work in Greensboro and live in Jamestown, Summerfield, Oak Ridge, Pleasant Garden, Whitsett, Sedalia, Stokesdale, Gibsonville or High Point – anywhere within commuting distance but not in Greensboro.
One of the big issues in this City Council election is crime and the Police Department. Jamestown, where Moffett lives, doesn’t have a police department and, according to a Jamestown resident who is running for mayor of Jamestown and not mayor of Greensboro, Jamestown hasn’t had a single homicide this year. Greensboro has had over 35.
Jamestown doesn’t have a problem recruiting, training and retaining police officers because it doesn’t have any.
Moffett in her professional job as pastor has certainly had to deal with the Greensboro Police Department and the violent crime wave that has hit most cities of any size. But in her personal life she has escaped to Jamestown where neither crime nor police departments are an issue.
If Moffett were serious about wanting to be mayor of Greensboro, wouldn’t she at least have sold her house in Jamestown and bought a house in Greensboro? She and her husband have not. So if she is elected, do you think she will go home to a little apartment in Greensboro or to a five-bedroom, four-bath, 3,700-square-foot home in Jamestown?
The other candidate running is John Brown, who is a registered Republican and has garnered the support of many Republicans, even though this is a non-partisan race.
Brown is slippery.
He posted on his campaign website that Greensboro had bought the News & Record building for $8.9 million. Greensboro, in fact, has not bought the building. When asked about it. Brown said that he was just reporting what he had heard.
When questioned further, he said that City Councilmember Tony Wilkins, “had mentioned that they had bought the building.”
When asked it that were true, he said, “Tony had mentioned that the city could afford it.” He said that the City Council had met several times to discuss buying the building, and being able to afford it.
But his campaign website didn’t say the City Council had talked about it – something that was in the newspaper – but that they had actually bought it.
At the end of the discussion, I had no more idea why he had posted on his campaign website that the city had bought the building than when the discussion started.
Brown on his old campaign website has a half hour or so video of him talking about what a bad idea it is for Greensboro to be building two new parking decks downtown. But when asked about it, Brown said, “I absolutely am not against the parking decks.”
Brown said the city was selling the parking lot between South Elm and South Greene Streets just north of McGee Street; the city is not selling that parking lot.
He also said that the city was selling the parking lot next to the Greensboro Farmers’ Market on Yanceyville Street. The city is not selling that parking lot either.
Brown posted on his Facebook page: “Taxpayers who approved $5 million for the Old Battle forest parking addition in the 2016 Bond referendum should note their funds were redirected to the private parking decks downtown. Old Battle Forest will NOT receive any additional parking from this mayor or council.”
There was no $5 million for an “Old Battle forest parking addition” on the 2016 bond referendum, and the city doesn’t plan to spend any 2016 bond money on the two downtown parking decks, which will be city owned parking decks and not private parking decks.
On Monday, Oct. 2, at the Guilford County Republican Party candidates’ forum, Brown said that if there were protestors at a City Council meeting while he was on the dais as mayor, “You won’t see me running in the back. I’ll leap over it and take them out.” It’s worth noting that the people who took over the dais on that evening were women in pink hats. The image of the mayor coming over the dais to take out a group of women in pink hats is one I would rather not see on the national news.
When asked about why he didn’t have signs on Westover Terrace where so many other candidates had signs, he said, “Mary Kotis is scared of me. They are all scared of me.” Kotis owns the property in question on Westover Terrace and is one of Greensboro’s biggest developers.
Brown talks a lot about being a small business owner and about the success of Jessup Services, a contracting company; but he also said, “John Brown doesn’t own any of that business.” He says that it’s his wife’s company and she runs it. He said, “John Brown is an hourly employee.” But he admits he is the one with the contracting licenses. His wife, who he says owns and runs the company, according to Brown has no contracting licenses.
He also doesn’t mention that despite the success of Jessup Services, he and his wife declared personal bankruptcy in 2011. When asked about it he said he was “very, very proud” of deciding to declare personal bankruptcy because it meant that they saved Jessup Services and none of the employees missed a paycheck.
Brown also says that he has lived in Greensboro for 30 years, which isn’t true according to his voting records and the legal documents dealing with the bankruptcy. Brown was registered to vote in Randolph County until 2015, when he changed his registration to Guilford County. The 2011 bankruptcy documents also list the couple’s address as Randolph County.
Brown said that because he worked in Greensboro he considered himself a resident of Greensboro. But because he considered himself a resident of Greensboro doesn’t make him a resident of Greensboro. Where a person legally resides is a matter of record, not of opinion.
Brown talks a lot about being a small business owner and about the success of Jessup Services, which he also says he doesn’t own.
Brown said that he owns 60 percent of Porta-Can & Bottle Inc., which makes round porta-potties and he said that is the only company that he owns.
It takes a while to get Brown to say that when is talking about himself being a small business owner he doesn’t mean Jessup Services.
Brown says that he is against raising taxes and on his website he says there is a secret tax increase that nobody is talking about. When asked what this was, he said it was to pay for the bonds.
But people have talked about it. The City Council has talked about the cost of the bonds. There are plenty of city documents that were handed out at public meetings that list the different tax increases that will be necessary to pay for the bonds depending on when they are issued. It’s no secret.
Brown also thinks the 1,000 acres out at the airport that is now available for development because of the taxiway bridge is a secret. He asked, “Has there been any talk about the land at the airport?”
Brown may have discovered it since he decided to run for mayor, but it has been a major news item for years and discussed at numerous City Council and economic development meetings.
Although Brown said he was in favor of the Greensboro-Randolph megasite, he said that Guilford County, not Greensboro, should be paying to run the water and sewer line to the site, and suggested running the water and sewer lines to Liberty instead of Greensboro and building a sewage treatment plant in Liberty.
Finally, when Brown formed his campaign committee to run for mayor in 2016, he signed a threshold agreement not to raise or spend more than $1,000, which means you don’t have to file any campaign finance reports. When Brown finally filed his campaign finance reports, he had, according to his own reports, spent over $3,500 before withdrawing his threshold agreement.
Brown said he hadn’t understood the threshold agreement but then got it all straightened out.
In the at-large City Council primary, 15 candidates are running and voters can vote for up to three. The six candidates with the most votes in the primary will be on the ballot for the general election on Nov. 7, and the top three will win seats on the City Council. According to tradition, the candidate with the most votes in the general election will be named mayor pro tem.
The City Council needs At-large Councilmember Mike Barber. It takes five votes for the City Council to act and Barber is more often than not the one putting those five votes together.
After serving one term on the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, including a year as chairman, and serving on the City Council for two terms from 2005 to 2009, Barber took a break and widened his horizons by taking his family to Spain for a year. When he came back, rather than continuing his law practice, Barber took the job as president of First Tee of the Triad, which uses golf to teach life skills to youth, particularly economically challenged youth.
Barber accomplishes a lot on a City Council that doesn’t do much. Although he is a Democrat, he is one of the more conservative members of the council and has promised not to vote for a tax increase for the next four years.
Barber can be outspoken, but often stays out of discussions that get off on inconsequential tangents. Barber has been instrumental in keeping the City Council from formally attacking the state legislature every time the legislature does something the council doesn’t like.
In this election, talking about working with small businesses has been a popular topic. Barber makes a point of helping businesses navigate through the often arcane and confusing city regulations. This is done behind the scenes and doesn’t make headlines, but, without Barber’s skills, a number of projects now underway would most likely never have made it off the drawing board, or to be more precise, out of the city’s Technical Review Committee.
What would the City Council be without At-large City Councilmember Yvonne Johnson? Johnson was first elected to the City Council in 1993 and has served on the council all but two years since.
Johnson is the first black candidate to win an at-large seat on the City Council, the first black city councilmember to be mayor pro tem, and in 2007 Johnson was elected as Greensboro’s first black mayor. She lost her reelection bid in 2009, which is the only election she has ever lost, but won an at-large City Council seat in 2011 and has been reelected every two years ever since.
Johnson is often the voice of reason on the City Council when the discussion gets heated. She understands the need for rezoning and development if the city is going to grow. Johnson also has a lot of institutional memory, knowing how the City Council dealt with a similar issue in the past, what worked and what didn’t.
Johnson certainly deserves another term. She says this will be her last, but when 2021 comes around she might have other ideas.
At-large City Council candidate Dan Jackson is one of the most conservative candidates running for City Council this year, which considering how far left the field is, makes him fairly moderate in the grand scheme of things.
Jackson, who retired this year from the US Postal Service, has a lot of business experience as a purchasing agent for private corporations and also a lot of experience with the USPS negotiating government contracts. Before he retired, Jackson was negotiating national contracts for the Postal Service, so big numbers don’t scare him.
If he makes it through the primary, he’s going to have to get busy and raise some more money to get through the general election. Like a lot of first-time candidates he is a little naive about how much money it takes to run a competitive campaign in a city of 280,000, but he has raised about $10,000 – more money than a lot of the first-time candidates. The City Council could use another more conservative voice and more business experience. Jackson would be a good addition.
City Councilmember Marikay Abuzuaiter is the closest we have in Greensboro to a Teflon councilmember.
When it was discovered that Abuzuaiter and her husband, Isa, were slumlords with one of the worst records for violations in Greensboro, that would have been the end for some elected officials, but not for Abuzuaiter.
One problem I have with Abuzuaiter is that she votes against nearly every rezoning that has opposition. Since in Greensboro just about every rezoning request of any significance has opposition, it means she is trying to stand in the way of Greensboro’s growth. Cities either grow or shrink – there is no standing still. With the current annexation laws, the main way Greensboro is going to grow is with infill development, and that almost always requires rezoning.
People who are familiar with the rezoning process say that with the current City Council, the best you can hope for is a 7-to-2 vote because Abuzuaiter and Councilmember Sharon Hightower vote against everything. It’s not entirely true, but close.
Abuzuaiter is seen as a liberal member of the current City Council, but that makes her a moderate candidate in this race.
At-large City Council candidate James Ingram is a registered Republican with an interesting story to tell. He says that in 2015, a job opportunity in Charlotte fell through and, because of that, he ended up homeless for a year. He said he was sleeping out on the streets during a tropical storm in October 2015, and that convinced him he needed a place to live, which he then found in June 2016.
He says he can understand the plight of the homeless population in Greensboro because he was homeless. When he filed to run, Ingram was working as a night auditor at the Marriott, but he has left that job and is currently running for office full time. He said that if he was elected he probably would not get an outside job, but live off his City Council salary of $22,000 a year and do some part-time work.
To say the least, an unemployed, formerly homeless person is not what most people think of when they think of a Republican candidate.
Ingram said he believes taxes are too high and he would like to reduce city spending, but he doesn’t know where he would reduce spending because he said he needed more time to study the budget.
People have different motivations for running for office, and Ingram said, “I believe it is Christ calling me to do this.” That is certainly a powerful reason to run and perhaps through running Ingram will work out some of his personal problems like currently being unemployed.
At-large City Council candidate Michelle Kennedy has raised the most money of any challenger in the race. She is the director of the Interactive Resource Center, the day homeless shelter downtown and is a member of the Human Relations Commission. If Kennedy is elected, the homeless will have a vocal advocate on the City Council. Kennedy rated the highest of any at-large candidate on the Democracy Greensboro grading scale, which means she favors spending far more to provide affordable housing and food for all those who request it.
But Kennedy’s actions since becoming a candidate are even more troubling than the liberal spending policies she supports.
When it was suggested by a volunteer who has worked with the homeless for years that the downtown might not be the best place for homeless services, Kennedy not only attacked the idea, but the volunteer.
She also went after the Replacements Ltd. PAC for not endorsing her as an LGBT candidate, and when the UNCG College Democrats did not endorse her, someone on her campaign reportedly tried to intimidate that group into changing its endorsements.
When Marty Kotis announced that a charter school might be placed in the old Dorothy Bardolph Building, which Kotis now owns, Kennedy attacked the idea because it might inconvenience homeless people who are registered sex offenders and attacked Kotis for having the idea.
The City Council has more than enough divisiveness. It doesn’t need someone whose method of discussing ideas is to attack those who don’t agree with her.
Irving Allen is a community organizer for the Beloved Community Center and is currently the director of the Books and Black Youth program. He is the co-founder of Black Lives Matter- Greensboro, and was active in Democracy Greensboro before he decided to run. He is also a member of the Human Relations Commission. Allen is smart, articulate and represents himself and his beliefs well. He’s a lot of fun to talk to, but his political beliefs are fairly radical as far as the way the city should be run.
He wants to go from disrupting City Council meetings to being on the City Council, and although it would be interesting to see his reaction if others decided to disrupt one of his meetings, he is far to the left of what Greensboro and the City Council needs.
Guilford County Board of Education member T. Diane Bellamy-Small really wants to get back on the City Council. She ran for her old District 1 seat in 2015 and was soundly defeated by District 1 City Councilmember Sharon Hightower. Bellamy-Small had narrowly lost the seat she had held for 10 years to Hightower in 2013. This year Bellamy-Small is running at large.
It is worth noting that Bellamy-Small has been on the school board less than a year and is already trying to get off the school board. If she were elected to the City Council she would have to resign from the school board, or not accept her election to the City Council.
In a strange election, this is one of the more unusual races. Bellamy-Small last year was telling the voters she really wanted to be a school board member and now she is saying, no, she doesn’t.
One would hope that if she doesn’t get elected to the City Council that she wouldn’t run for reelection to the school board, and if she does run in 2020 that she wouldn’t be reelected.
Bellamy-Small is impossible to get along with. When she was on the City Council she often didn’t speak to other city councilmembers and, in closed session, refused to sit at the same table with the rest of the City Council. Since it takes five votes to pass a motion on the City Council, not much that Bellamy-Small proposed was passed.
Bringing Bellamy-Small back to the City Council as an at-large councilmember would be a mistake, and since the majority of voters in her own district twice voted against her, it seems to make sense that the city should follow their lead.
Early in this political season it looked like at-large City Council candidate Dave Wils, a Grimsley High School teacher who spoke at the 2016 Democratic National Convention and has been very active in the Young Democrats, would be a top challenger for an at-large seat; and, who knows, in this crazy race it may turn out that he is. But so far most of the air has been taken out of the race by the far-left candidates and the incumbents who have much more experience campaigning.
Wils is one of the four members of the Human Relations Commission running in the at-large race, and he has raised about $10,000, which in a normal year should be enough to get through the primary. But he appears to be a moderate Democrat running in a race dominated by the radical left.
His campaign slogan, “We all do better when we all do better,” might not be helping him gain any traction in this crowded field.
When at-large City Council candidate M.A. Bakie filed to run, he was a Democrat; now he is a Republican, which is an odd switch to make in the middle of a campaign, even in a nonpartisan race.
Bakie is originally from Sierra Leone and came to the US 17 years ago. He is in the used car and car wash business. He said, “The City Council is not doing a great job of creating jobs.” He is also concerned about the increase in taxes and water rates and about public safety.
He doesn’t appear to have any solutions to those issues and is not running much of a campaign for someone with no name recognition. He doesn’t have any civic involvement to speak of and has never voted in a Greensboro municipal election.
At-large City Council candidate Lindy Perry-Garnette has been the head of the YWCA for seven years and worked in a county government in Virginia for 14 years before that. That means she has something many candidates don’t – relevant experience.
Perry-Garnette is one of the four members of the Greensboro Human Relations Commission who is running in the at-large race. But Perry-Garnette was also a member of the Police Citizens Review Board and was forced to resign for violating a pledge not to reveal anything about the police body-cam video of the Jose Charles arrest, which had become a huge issue. Violating the pledge is one problem, but another is that Perry-Garnette saw the police action as wrong when the City Council did not.
The City Council doesn’t need another member who sees everything the police do as wrong.
Perry-Garnette is also a big supporter of the Democracy Greensboro platform, which includes so much spending on social issues it would bankrupt the city. Following the platform would also destroy the current Police Department, and who knows what would replace it.
At-large City Council candidate Jodi Bennett-Bradshaw is a shouter. Maybe it comes from being a schoolteacher, but it certainly isn’t what is needed on the City Council. Shouting slogans like “Black Lives Matter” doesn’t accomplish anything. She is very critical of the way the current City Council conducts business, but having someone on the dais who thinks the way to make a point is to shout won’t help.
Andy Nelson, Sylvine Hill and Tijuana Hayes have all filed threshold certificates certifying that the candidate won’t raise or spend more than $1,000 in the race. Running citywide, particularly in a race with 15 candidates, for less than $1,000 is a recipe for defeat. These candidates have no chance of making it through the primary, and because they are running for office in name only we are not going to waste your time writing about them.
District 1 City Councilmember Sharon Hightower won her seat in 2013 by defeating incumbent Diane Bellamy-Small by 15 votes. In 2015 they had a rematch and Hightower won by over a thousand votes, which means her district must have liked the way they were represented.
This go-round, Republican Devin King, who has effectively dropped out of the race, will be on the ballot – but King hasn’t filed any of the campaign finance reports required of candidates and didn’t even show up for the Republican-only candidates’ forum held by the Guilford County Republican Party on Monday, Oct. 3.
Charles Patton Jr. has officially dropped out but his name will be on the ballot.
That leaves Paula Ritter-Lipscomb, who filed a threshold certification that she would not raise or spend over $1,000 and then withdrew her threshold certification but has no other campaign finance reports on file.
Ritter-Lipscomb, an intervention specialist with Guilford County Schools, has some relevant experience in the community, but the idea of running a successful campaign against a two-term incumbent without spending over $1,000 indicates a level of naivete about politics that seems hard to overcome. The fact that she withdrew the threshold and has not filed the required campaign finance reports puts her in a unique category going into the primary.
Hightower causes a lot of problems on the City Council. She asks the same questions over and over again and receives the same answers. She says she understands that the Minority and Women’s Business Enterprise goals are goals, but tries to insist that the city treat them like quotas.
However, Hightower has spent four years on the City Council and at times is the only person on the dais who seemed to be making sense. The fact that she defeated Bellamy-Small so handily in 2015 is an indication that her district supports her.
It appears that in this unusual year, in this unusual race, Hightower is the best candidate for District 1.
Two political powerhouses are going up against each other in District 2 to fill the seat that was left vacant when Councilmember Jamal Fox resigned from the City Council and moved to Portland, Oregon.
The City Council appointed Goldie Wells as the interim councilmember. Wells had indicated she didn’t plan to run, and that greased the wheels for her appointment because the City Council wouldn’t be giving anyone running an advantage by making them an incumbent.
In fact, another candidate for the District 2 seat, former City Councilmember Jim Kee, spoke in favor of Wells getting the appointment – something he said he wouldn’t have done if he had known she was going to be his opponent.
Up until the moment that Wells filed to run, Kee was the obvious front-runner and Kee is the best choice for the District 2 seat.
Kee was the District 2 councilmember from 2009 to 2013, following Wells who retired in 2009 after serving four years.
Wells said that she didn’t intend to run but wasn’t impressed with the people who had filed, which included Kee.
One difference in the two is that Kee works to get things done, and that usually involves compromise. Wells is more of a fighter who will stand her ground and not give an inch. It may sound good, but an individual councilmember doesn’t have much power, but five councilmembers working together can do anything it’s legal for the City Council to do.
Everybody seems to agree that District 2 needs development and Kee is a developer, which means he knows what developers need and what will attract them.
Kee says that he still thinks his plan for private development of Renaissance Plaza was a better one than having the city partner with Self-Help to renovate the largely abandoned shopping center on Phillips Avenue. Wells was a major force behind partnering with Self Help.
For District 2 and for Greensboro, Kee would be the much better choice. What this City Council doesn’t need is more division.
C.J. Brinson is a community organizer for the Beloved Community Center and a youth pastor at Faith Christian Church, both of which are run by Nelson Johnson. Electing Brinson would in effect be giving Johnson a seat on the City Council. Brinson is also one of the leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement in Greensboro. He was arrested this year at city hall as part of GSO Operation Transparency and its attempt to get the city to release records that the City Council had voted not to release.
Brinson also received a high ranking from the Democracy Greensboro group, yet another organization under the Johnson umbrella.
Brinson is willing to sit down to discuss his beliefs and articulates them well. He talks about economic justice, not economic development, and having the city require companies to pay a living wage. Although he thinks something needs to be done to stop the murders and violence in District 2, he said he isn’t sure the answer is the police. He was also against the raise for police officers because it didn’t include other city employees, and he believes the police budget is too high. He said some of the money should be moved from the police to the Parks and Recreation Department because providing more recreation for youth is a better way to reduce crime.
Brinson said that much more needs to be done to ensure that black businesses get more contracts with the city. He said the Minority and Women Business Enterprise program has failed at getting black businesses the share of the city revenue that they deserve.
Felicia Angus and Tim Vincent have withdrawn from the race but their names will be on the ballot.
Greensboro could take a sharp turn to the left with this City Council election, and nowhere is that more evident than in District 3. Councilmember Justin Outling, who is the first Democrat ever elected to represent District 3, is being challenged by two Democrats that line up pretty far on his left.
Outling was appointed to finish the term of Councilmember Zack Matheny when he was hired as president of Downtown Greensboro Inc. in 2015.
Outling then won election in 2015 over a Republican challenger.
This year in this district, which for over 30 years was represented by a Republican, there isn’t a single Republican in the race.
Outling has been a great addition to the City Council. He was instrumental in developing a policy for release of police body-worn camera videos, which was overridden by a more restrictive state law. But it took a great deal of time and political savvy to get the policy passed. Outling was on the minimum housing board before being appointed to the City Council, and as a councilmember changed the way the city deals with the minimum housing code to make repair a much more viable option. It’s the kind of legislation that isn’t very sexy and doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it is improving the housing stock in Greensboro.
Outling is now a partner with the Brooks Pierce law firm, and one of the issues both of his challengers have mentioned is that he voted on the healthcare insurance issue when Brooks Pierce does business with UnitedHealthcare, which was bidding on the contract. However, Outling was following the advice of the city attorney – and something that appears to be overlooked by many who have mentioned this is, as a councilmember, Outling could not recuse himself. His fellow councilmembers would have had to vote to recuse him. So if there is a complaint about how that issue was handled, it is really on the backs of Outling’s fellow councilmembers who had the power to recuse him and did not.
Craig Martin, who is challenging Outling, is a public defender and says that one of the reasons he is running is to further help the people he deals with in court every day.
Martin’s views line up with those of Democracy Greensboro. He received a 4.9 out of 5 grade from the group. It includes such things as providing meals for the poor and homeless. This sounds good, but if the city is going to take over feeding everyone in Greensboro who wants a free meal, the cost will be astronomical, as would providing “adequate housing for all residents.” It sounds good but the cost would require the already high taxes to increase dramatically, which would discourage any new industry from locating in Greensboro and would increase the number of people needing food and housing.
Antuan Marsh is a house painter who specializes in glazes and other custom finishes. He believes the city should raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour, not just for city employees but for every employee in the city. He said the city should offer economic incentives to private companies to help them finance the increased cost.
Marsh didn’t vote in the 2015 City Council primary or election, and lists various marches he has been in as his civic activities.
Payton McGarry is also on the ballot but he dropped out of the race.
It is certainly a sign of the times that two years ago Outling was the first Democrat elected to represent District 3 and, in 2017, he is being challenged by two candidates both on the far left.
District 4 City Councilmember Nancy Hoffmann doesn’t say much at City Council meetings. Unlike some of her fellow councilmembers, she doesn’t speak unless she has something to say, so when she does speak she is making a specific point.
Hoffmann is retired but has an extensive business background, and more experience in private enterprise is something this City Council needs.
When it comes down to it, Hoffmann is willing to cast the difficult vote. She voted in favor of the Hobbs-Friendly rezoning, which was not only in her district but in her neighborhood.
What is entertaining to those who follow politics in Greensboro is that Hoffmann is being challenged from the left. Hoffmann defeated Republican Mary Rakestraw in 2011 to win the seat, so the assumption was that conservatives would try to win the seat back. But conservatives in District 4 are faced with a choice of voting for a moderate, Hoffmann, or a radical leftist, Gary Kenton.
Kenton was one of the founders of Democracy Greensboro and is generally in support of its platform, which makes sense because he helped develop it.
The platform includes such items as not just raising the pay for city employees to $15 an hour but requiring private companies that do business with the city to pay $15 an hour. Companies that receive incentives would also be required to pay $15 an hour.
Trying to attract industry and good jobs to Greensboro by telling prospective industries what they have to pay their workers doesn’t work, because there are plenty of cities where companies will be welcomed and can pay what they can afford, not what some city councilmembers with no business experience decide they should pay.
Kenton feels so strongly about police issues that he insisted on being arrested with a group from GSO Operation Transparency at city hall in January. Seven people were arrested – six are in their 20s and Kenton was 66 at the time.
Perhaps it’s ageist of me to say this, but for a 66-year-old to think that the best way to solve problems is to go to the city manager’s office and shout until he gets arrested seems more like someone trying to relive their youth than someone trying to accomplish a goal.
Although there is another name on the ballot, Andrew Belford, he has dropped out of the race and both Hoffmann and Kenton will face each other again in the general election.
The District 5 primary is what would in many years be considered a normal race, but this year it is exceptional because two Democrats and two Republicans are running.
District 5 City Councilmember Tony Wilkins is the only Republican on the City Council and often casts the lone vote against spending money unnecessarily or taking positions that end up hurting the city. Wilkins is a needed voice on the City Council.
Wilkins has become known for asking simple questions that have major effects.
He, for instance, asked to see a copy of the contract the city had with the International Civil Rights Center and Museum (ICRCM) to loan it $1.5 million. It turned out that Wilkins couldn’t have a copy because no contract existed, which brought about a change in city policy.
It was also his relentless questioning that revealed there is no written record of why the city has not paid the legal fees of former Police Chief David Wray. It’s a decision the city has already spent over $500,000 defending in court and, if Wilkins cannot convince four fellow councilmembers to agree to settle the case, the city may spend as much or more continuing to defend in court.
Wilkins is also the only councilmember to shake loose some of the ridiculous spending on Participatory Budgeting projects. Wilkins was incensed that in his district’s $20,000 was going to be spent on two outdoor chess tables. He managed to line up the votes to take $10,000 and award it to a project to feed the needy in Greensboro, which Wilkins said was a much better use than a game table.
Wilkins was instrumental in having the City Council agree not to raise the tax rate this year, something that was in the works.
District 5 City Council candidate Tammi Thurm, unlike the other two challengers in the race, is a serious candidate. As of August 31, she had raised over $27,000. Her biggest obstacles to getting elected are the conservative nature of District 5 and the popularity of Wilkins.
Thurm is a smart candidate and knows she is a Democrat running in the most conservative district in the city.
Even though it is the most conservative district – it elected state Sen. Trudy Wade before electing Wilkins – 55 percent of the voters are registered Democrats, which gives Thurm a reasonable shot at winning.
Thurm’s disagreements with Wilkins seem to be nuanced in the campaign, but if she is elected she can be expected to line up with the other eight Democrats on the City Council, and without Wilkins there won’t be that constant pull to a more conservative position.
Also at times her disagreements with Wilkins are more evident. Thurm received the highest recommendation of any candidate from Democracy Greensboro, which is about as far left as an organization can be and indicates that like many political candidates she tailors her comments to the audience. Democracy Greensboro is in favor of housing and feeding all the people of Greensboro, which would either bust the budget or require a significant tax increase. It is also in favor of an establishing independent oversight of the Police Department with full subpoena power, power the City Council doesn’t have and can’t give.
Thurm talks about the need to attract industry and jobs, but Democracy Greensboro is in favor of requiring businesses that contract with the city or receive incentives from the city to pay a minimum wage of $15 an hour. Telling businesses what they can pay their workers is not a good recipe for attracting industry and jobs.
It will be shocking if Thurm and Wilkins don’t wind up facing each other in the general election.
One of the very few Republicans running in this election is Tanner Lucas, who is running in District 5 against the only Republican on the City Council. Lucas hasn’t done much, hasn’t said much and signed a threshold agreement not to raise or spend more than $1,000, which pretty much guarantees a loss.
Sal Leone also filed to run in District 5. Leone loves to file to run. He is currently a registered Democrat, but he has in the past run as a Republican. Leone is philosophically opposed to raising campaign money. He won’t accept even a small donation and he doesn’t spend much of his own money.
Here is some free advice for Leone. He should have yard signs printed up that say “Vote for Sal Leone” and then he could use them whether he is running for state senator, state representative, City Council or any other office.
Leone is a Thomasville police officer, which it seems would cause him big problems if he ever did win a race and had to serve, but the chances of that happening this year are as remote as when he has run the last four times.
Some people with time on their hands fish or play golf, Leone runs for office.