Candidates often say, “This is the most important election of our lifetime.” Which makes me think this may be the most important election of your lifetime for you, but not for me.
However, the 2017 Greensboro City Council election is historic, and more important than most.
The City Council terms for the first time are four years, which means if the voters believe they made a mistake, they don’t have the option of correcting that mistake in two years. The next City Council election will be in 2021, which sounds like a long way away.
Greensboro is poised for a period of long overdue growth. Other cities in North Carolina have experienced far more growth than Greensboro in the past 10 years, but currently Greensboro has everything in place to take off, and what the city desperately needs is an engine to fuel that growth – and that means jobs.
In this election, Greensboro can either choose to continue on the path we are on, which has a good chance of attracting the kind of industry Greensboro needs to provide that growth, or Greensboro can take a sharp turn to the left, which means taxes will skyrocket and industry will look elsewhere.
Going forward, Greensboro needs At-large City Councilmember Mike Barber for four more years.
The long term makes the reelection of Barber even more of a necessity for the future of Greensboro. Barber is the glue that holds this City Council together.
Barber doesn’t object to being the front man for an issue like giving police officers and firefighters raises, but much of what Barber does is behind the scenes, where someone else gets the credit, and that’s OK with Barber also.
When former City Councilmember Jamal Fox needed votes for an initiative, he went to Barber. On the other end of the political spectrum, when the lone Republican on the City Council Tony Wilkins needs votes, he goes to Barber.
The reason is Barber knows how to get things done. Barber served as a Guilford County commissioner and chair of the Board of Guilford County commissioners back when the board was controlled by Democrats, and he is in his second tour as a city councilmember. During those years as an elected official he has learned how to get things done, and on the City Council that means putting five votes together. A councilmember can have the greatest idea in the world but it will never be anything but an idea without five votes.
When he was a county commissioner, Barber put together the deal that resulted in what is now First National Bank Field. It seems to have largely been forgotten, but the Guilford County social services building was on the site where the Grasshoppers stadium now stands, and in order for Guilford County to give up the land, the Bryan Foundation built the county a new social services building on Maple Street. It was far more complicated than simply a land purchase, and Barber was instrumental in putting the deal together.
Barber also played a major role as a city councilmember in getting the Greensboro Aquatic Center (GAC) approved.
Both First National Bank Field, which has resulted in major new development in an area of the city that was going downhill, and the GAC, which has been attracting national swimming meets, are considered major selling points for the city. Both are there today because Barber put the votes together to get them done.
Barber is also the go-to guy for businesses that are having problems with the extreme regulation enforcement practiced by the city staff. Greensboro is known as one of the most difficult cities in North Carolina for businesses to operate in, and the city needs someone to bring the city staff and business owners together to work out the issues in a manner that doesn’t chase the business owners away or to court.
You might call it business mediation or a commonsense approach to regulations, but Greensboro needs someone who can and will mediate the disputes. It’s doesn’t get any publicity but the people who are building and providing jobs in this city know they can call on Barber when they have a problem at city hall.
We are in desperate need of new jobs in Greensboro. The closing of the White Oak plant is further proof that the old manufacturers for which Greensboro was known are gone and need to be replaced. Barber, as an at-large councilmember, represents the entire city and is needed to facilitate bringing in new industry.
The other choice in this election is to take a sharp turn to the left. If either at-large candidate Michelle Kennedy or Dave Wils should get elected, their focus will not be on new industries and jobs, but on social programs that cost the city a fortune and don’t produce any new revenue. The only possible way to pay for some of the social programs being promoted by Kennedy and Wils is to raise taxes on the people who are already paying the highest property tax rate of any comparable city in the state.
Barber has pledged not to vote for a tax increase for the next four years. It’s a pledge the entire City Council should make, because higher taxes will not only kill the chance of attracting new industry, it will cause the companies and people who are here to start looking elsewhere.
Greensboro simply cannot afford to provide everyone in the city with a home they can afford. It can’t afford to feed everyone in the city that wants or needs food. And it cannot afford to provide a transportation system that takes people wherever they want to go when they want to go there. These are promises being made by the other at-large candidates, and while they sound good, such programs will kill any chance Greensboro has at bringing in the new jobs that will provide a means for people to improve their own lifestyles by working, not by giving them handouts.
Both Kennedy and Wils say that when an industry is considering coming to Greensboro, the City Council should determine where they locate and what they pay their workers. It may sound good, but no industry has to come to Greensboro, and if those are the conditions then those industries considering Greensboro will simply locate in another jurisdiction where they get to pick their own location and determine what they pay their workers.
Greensboro needs good jobs, but the way to bring them here is not to put even more restrictions on industries planning to locate in Greensboro. Barber knows this but, from what they have said, his opponents don’t seem to realize this is an issue.
At forums both Kennedy and Wils talk about new bus routes and transportation systems as if they are free. Bus transportation is not expensive to the riders, but it is extremely expensive for the city. Providing crosstown routes and new services sounds great, but the city will either have to cut services somewhere else or raise taxes.
Most people in Greensboro don’t ride buses, they drive, and streets and parking are far more important to most of Greensboro’s citizens than buses.
Kennedy says she wants to represent the homeless population on the City Council. Certainly the homeless should not be ignored, but neither should the other 275,000 people in the city, many of whom are property owners paying the taxes to provide services to the homeless.
Greensboro doesn’t need to take a sharp turn left in this election. It is a time for Greensboro to continue on its current course, which will lead to jobs and growth, and to do that Greensboro needs Barber on the City Council.