Monday, October 9, 2017

2017 Greensboro City Council Elections: the At-Large Incumbents

     The 2017 At Large Greensboro City Council race is a crowded one.  The primary is tomorrow (October 10th) and the large list of candidates will be trimmed to 6 for the November election.  I am of the opinion that all three incumbents, Marikay Abuzuaiter, Mike Barber and Yvonne Johnson will survive the primary without much difficulty.  There are 5 challengers that "could" conceivably make it through depending on "which" voters turn out and "how many".  As with most elections featuring so many candidates I could be surprised but I feel certain that the contenders I believe will advance will be there on Wednesday.  My apologies for not reaching those folks before the primary.

Marikay Abuzuaiter

     Ms. Abuzuaiter lists her occupation as elected official.  She is a former local business owner and her husband is a current local business owner.  Her civic involvement includes Human Relations Committee Chair, International Advisory Committee, Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro and the Greensboro Kiwanas Club.  As of the pre-primary campaign finance report dated 9-29-2017, she has raised $11,357.03.  The majority of her contributions appear to come from local, small business owners with no noticeably large contributions.  Her Facebook page is Marikay Abuzuaiter for Greensboro City Council at Large.
     Ms. Abuzuaiter lists her qualifying experiences as including 3 terms served on City Council, serving on several boards and commissions and her experience as a local small business owner.  She states that Greensboro's greatest obstacle is finding a way to market our assets and projects that include infrastructure and quality of life.  Regarding a living wage she states that she has served on the Economic and Development Committee and supports the 8/80 and 6/60 plans that relate to companies receiving tax considerations for hiring employees at livable wages in economically challenged areas.  She states that Greensboro's most pressing issue is poverty which creates a higher crime rate, health challenges, food insecurities and poor housing.  Ms. Abuzuaiter believes that continuing numerous initiatives by the Greensboro Police Department such as Neighborhood Oriented Policing will assist in improving police/community relations as well as "working together, not apart".
     Ms. Abuzuaiter has been criticized by other local publications as not being "active" enough or not  introducing new ideas or legislation during her time on the council.  Personally, I have come to appreciate her efforts more during the past two years.  I concur with her answers listed above and can attest to her very active civic involvement.  I am thrilled to hear a candidate refer to "infrastructure" as it is an area that has been neglected for several years.  She has demonstrated an ability to not simply follow the crowd on certain issues and has taken some abuse from her constituency for supporting the police.  She is the only incumbent or candidate in any race that I am aware of that has participated in the police department's Citizen Academy and has also participated in ride a longs.  As I have learned, she seems to be more assertive behind the scenes but in my opinion needs to be just as assertive in front.  She may be the least pretentious incumbent of the lot.

Mike Barber

     Mr. Barber is an attorney and the Executive Director of First Tee of the Triad.  His civic involvement includes serving as the Chair of the Family Children Services Annual Giving, Greensboro Sports Commission and is an adjunct professor for Elon University.  As of the pre-primary campaign finance report dated 10-2-2017, he has raised $27,800.72 that includes a $5,000.00 personal loan to his campaign.  He reports $3,100.00 contributed from other political committees.  His Facebook page is Re-Elect Mike Barber.
     Mr. Barber's qualifying experiences include 4 terms as a Greensboro City Council member, 1 term as a Guilford County Commissioner and his "ability to create compromise".  He states that Greensboro's greatest obstacle is "not recognizing that Greensboro has never been better positioned for success".  Regarding a living wage he states that the city must continue to evaluate and market PART and GTA transportation systems in challenged areas.  Mr. Barber feels that Greensboro's most pressing need is public safety as the city feels the effects of crime and drugs as well as improving the school systems effectiveness.  He feels that Greensboro has an "excellent" police department with an effective process for addressing public interaction issues.  He adds that continued community efforts as well as a "rigorous" evaluation of police candidates are also important.
     Mr. Barber originated and supported an across the board raise for working police officers, recognizing the manpower obstacles facing the department regarding a perceived lack of support from the council as well as the fact that the state's 3rd largest city was ranked 11th in salary.  The Greensboro Police Department has not been competitive.  When he speaks out it is usually with conviction.  I wish he would speak out more and I have told him so.  There is no denying that he is the most knowledgeable councilmember regarding state law and how it affects the city and understands that pissing off the General Assembly is a no win situation for a city lagging behind economically.  He is the most experienced "legislator".  Do I agree with him on everything?  No.  However, his presence on the council represents a moderate voice which we have far too few of on this council.

Yvonne Johnson

     Ms. Johnson is the Director of One Step Further.  Her many civic involvements include Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro.  As of the pre-primary campaign finance report dated 10-2-2017, she reports raising $9,185.00 with a carry over from previous elections of $2,043.99.  Her significant contributors include Marty Kotis ($1000), Triad Good Government PAC ($500) and Replacements LTD ($500).  Her Facebook page is Yvonne Johnson City Council at Large.
     Her qualifying experiences are many, including 22 total years as a city council member and serving as Mayor and Mayor Pro-Tem.  She has served on numerous civic committees.  Ms. Johnson states that Greensboro's greatest obstacle is "accepting and embracing our diversity" as well as improving police/community relations and reducing poverty.  She states that a living wage can be accomplished by targeting job training programs in the highest unemployment areas of the city and recruiting businesses that pay a living wage.  She states that Greensboro's most pressing need is to reduce Greensboro's poverty rate of 20% because poverty "breeds crime, drugs, gangs and guns".  In improving police/community relations  she states that continuing neighborhood policies and conducting meetings with police, faith community and neighborhoods working together.
     Ms. Johnson's well deserved reputation of being a calming influence on council is well documented.  Her position of establishing job training centers is one she has spoken of for several elections however, that never seems to be addressed to the point of fruition.  I am impressed that she has referred to one of Greensboro's worst economic indicators (poverty) and acknowledged the actual rate.  She usually carries the majority of the at large vote and her name recognition alone overcomes the need for raising large sums of money.  She may be the one candidate that seems to attract voting support from most parts of the city electorate. 

     Based on name recognition and past service I expect all three of these incumbents to survive tomorrow's primary vote.  After tomorrow we will have a better idea of which if any challengers may present a threat to unseat one or more.



next: The At Large Challengers






 





   
















           

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

2017 Greensboro City Council Election; District 5

     There are four candidates running for election to the Greensboro City Council this year.  Tony Wilkins is the incumbent and he is being challenged by Tammi Thurm, Lucas Tanner and Sal Leone.  Mr. Wilkins ran unopposed in 2015, however this race appears to be the most competitive of the district races this year. 

Tony Wilkins

     Mr. Wilkins has served on the council for 4 and a half years.  He was appointed to serve the remainder of Trudy Wade's councilman's term in 2012 and has been elected twice.  He is a retired local business owner and operated his business in Greensboro for 30 years.  His civic service experience includes serving on the Board of Directors of Cornerstone Academy and the Board of Directors of Crime Stoppers.  His 35 day Campaign finance report states that he has raised $21,633.62 as of 9-5-2017 with $15,499.20 appearing to have been carried over from his previous campaigns.  His Facebook page is Tony Wilkins.
     Mr. Wilkins significant experience qualifying him for the Council position includes 4 and a half years of council experience as well as serving on the War Memorial Commission for 4 years.  Mr. Wilkins states that Greensboro's greatest obstacle is its' continuing efforts to retain students as residents after we educate and train them.  Regarding a living wage, he supported the "8/80 plan" for Economic Development in challenged areas which is based on 80% tax breaks in the first 8 years under certain conditions to support local business growth.  Mr. Wilkins believes that the council has not effectively marketed this plan to date.  Mr. Wilkins describes Greensboro's most pressing issue as the "pursuit of jobs and economic development".  He states that continued communication will improve police/community relations.
     Mr. Wilkins has been the "lone wolf" consistent conservative on the City council the past several years.  He routinely argues against tax increases and has been somewhat aggressive in demanding answers on questionable fiscal practices.  I agree with him on the need for jobs and economic development.  He is a supporter of the police and fire departments and has been living in Greensboro for most if not all of his life.  He is very familiar with the city and its' history.  In many ways, Mr. Wilkins has fought an uphill battle but he has fought.  In my opinion, I would like to see and hear more "fight".  I have known Mr. Wilkins for at least 35 years and a conservative voice (especially fiscally) needs to be included on this council to balance out the more 'liberal" voices and philosophies.  However, if you are the "one" I believe you have to amplify your positions even louder.  While I recognize the difficulty of that task, sometimes "getting along" with colleagues that have no intention of getting along with you can be less effective in getting the message out.  I would like to see Mr. Wilkins be even more assertive in promoting and defending his positions.

Tammi Thurm

     Ms. Thurm is a first time candidate and works as a Firm Administrator for Hagan, Barrett and Langley, PLLC.  Her civic experience includes serving on the Greensboro Minimum Housing Commission, as the Treasurer of Triad Association of Legal Administrators and as a Board Member of B'Nai Shalom Day School.  Since 4-28-2017, she reports campaign contributions of $27,100.40.  She has received $3,925.00 of these contributions through 9-5-2017 from people residing outside the City of Greensboro including contributions from California, Maryland, Texas, Ohio and Massachusetts.  She has hired a consultant by the name of Quod Librum and has paid them to date $7,000.00.  Ms. Thurm has a large quantity of contributions from the local Jewish community.  Her Facebook page is Vote Thurm. 
     Ms. Thurm states that her experience  during a 30 year career in working for local family businesses in finance and administration qualifies her for this council seat.  She states that Greensboro's greatest obstacle is the loss of local graduating college students as a concern as well as attracting businesses that offer well paying jobs.  Regarding a living wage she advocates that instead of providing "no strings attached" business incentives, that tying incentives for relocating businesses to average minimum salaries as well as "incentivizing the hiring of local workers" should be considered.  Ms. Thurm believes Greensboro's most pressing issue is attracting well paying jobs.  In the area of police/community relations, Ms. Thurm believes in "transparency" and advocates for the release of Body Worn Camera footage and more diversity on the police force.
     I agree with Ms. Thurm on the need for well paying jobs.  I would like to hear more from her on how she would propose attracting those jobs and mandating their compliance regarding "average minimum salaries".  I would also like to hear how she intends to accomplish greater diversity on the police department beyond the efforts the department has historically made and would welcome a conversation with her as to the difficulties regarding this goal.  Ms. Thurm appears to be very organized in her campaign as evidenced by the $7000.00 expenditure for a consultant.

Lucas Tanner

     Mr. Tanner works as a Press Assistant and Feeder.  He reports no civic experiences.  He has reported that he does not intend to raise $1,000.00 in campaign funding and lists no contributions.  His Facebook page is Tanner Lucas.
     Mr. Lucas states that his lack of civic experience is made up for by his "natural leadership skills".  He states that Greensboro's biggest obstacle is bringing good paying manufacturing jobs as well as skilled careers like Honda Jet.  Regarding a living wage he believes that when bringing in these manufacturing jobs we should negotiate with business leaders to give high priority to hiring people within the city.  He also states that these businesses must be located close to public transportation.  He states that Greensboro's most pressing issue is affordable housing and challenging the "continuing high price of home ownership".  Mr. Tanner states that improving police/community relations centers on "pressing to establish a citizens review board to investigate incidents in which officers use force".
     Not many details on how Mr. Tanner would implement any of these positions have been provided.  He is correct when pointing out the lack of manufacturing but this is a point that has been well known in Greensboro since the reduction in operations by Cone Mills and other similar businesses.  Mr. Tanner is also apparently not aware of the existence of "review" boards in Greensboro.
     With virtually no campaign funding, Mr. Tanner is going to be hard pressed to gain a foot hold in a crowded district race.

Sal Leone

     Mr. Leone is a police officer in Thomasville.  His civic experience includes serving on the In School Reading Program as well as the NC Zoo Volunteers.  He has declared that he does not intend to raise $1,000.00 and has long held the position of not raising campaign funds so that he will not present the appearance of being "beholding" to those contributors when making decisions while in office.  His Facebook page is Sal Leone.
     Mr. Leone states that his knowledge of people, crime and social issues in his profession provide his greatest qualifying experience for a city council position.  Mr. Leone states that Greensboro's greatest obstacle is special interest groups and their relationships to council members.  He believes that term limits and campaign reform laws to preclude accepting donations from people the city does business with would eliminate this issue.  Regarding a living wage, Mr. Leone believes that "jobs will come once we have a corrupt free council".  He advocates incentives for "real jobs".  Mr. Leone states that Greensboro's most pressing issue is police/citizen interaction, stating that we "need talks and not a council that plays to the camera".  In the area of police/community relations he advocates transparency.  He believes the public should be offered the chance to view Body Worn Camera footage and that the police department should continue to foster diversity so that they can achieve a force that is representative of the people they serve.
     I have met Mr. Leone and can report that he is passionate about his positions.  Having run for office before, Mr. Leone should be aware (and I believe he is) of the obstacles of running a campaign with no money.  He should also be aware of the obstacles regarding achieving diversity on the police force as well.  I would like to hear more from him on his plan and views regarding the release of Body worn Camera footage.


     Competing with two highly funded candidates will be a daunting task for Mr. Tanner and Mr. Leone.  Campaign forums for the citizens of District 5 in my opinion would be essential for citizens of this district to make an informed decision.  While the two "well funded" candidates have some similar positions, there are enough differences in the two campaigns to differentiate between them.  This race is very important because the balance of the council, while already heavily skewed in one direction, could be adversely affected by the outcome of this race.



next:  At Large Incumbents

       




 
         





    














   

Monday, October 2, 2017

2017 Greensboro City Council Race; District 4

      Greensboro's District 4; perhaps the most confusing district in the city.  Similar to District 3, District 4 contains the largest population of people that earn more than the city's median income, business owners and even active neighborhoods that will organize to "defend their turf".  Yet, with all of these citizens that have been active in local issues and with more business expertise than three quarters of the city combined we get only two candidates.  The incumbent ran unopposed last election even though a significant percentage of District 4's electorate stated a desire to vote for anyone else.  Why the apathy?  As in District 3, local politics has yet to adversely affect them.  And even though the majority of this district is registered Democrat, my observation is that their political philosophy is not "extreme".  Therefore, they vote for Nancy or they stay home.
     There are two candidates for the District 4 Greensboro City council seat.

Nancy Hoffman

     Ms. Hoffman is a three term incumbent.  She is a retired corporate management executive.  She lists her civic involvement as serving on many committees including Co-Chair of the GCAMP, Preservation Greensboro and the Chamber of Commerce Advisory Committee.  As of the 35 day campaign financial report (9-5-2017) she reports raising $61,830.00.  Ms. Hoffman raised approximately $50,000 last election in which she ran unopposed yet still spent money on campaign advertising including at least two large billboards downtown.  The "unusual" detail about Ms. Hoffman's campaign finance reports is that the block to list "occupation" for her individual contributors is largely left blank or listed as "attempted", concealing the sources where her contributions originate.  Still, there are $8,500.00 listed as being contributed by those in the local development and real estate industry.  Ms. Hoffman's Facebook page is Nancy Hoffman.
     Ms. Hoffman's reported qualifications for this seat include 3 terms on Council, her accomplishments and productivity while serving on council, extensive corporate background, non profit board experience and positions on the HRC and Citizens Complaint Board.  She states that Greensboro's greatest obstacle is that the council "has no vision of what we want this city to be therefore no plan to get there and in what time frame".  She states that "she will continue to to take a leadership role" in this area.  Regarding achieving a living wage, she states that the city should offer incentives ONLY to those companies that meet or exceed the county's median income of $45,000.  However, she believes an exception should be made for east Greensboro where the requirement should be 80% ($36,000).  She believes the city's most pressing issue is "infill development and funding for housing".  Ms. Hoffman states that Neighborhood Oriented Policing should be utilized to improve relations with the community and police and that the Police Department should employ people on the force that are trained social workers.
     Her response to the question of "greatest obstacle" is interesting.  This statement is something most folks would hear from a challenger rather than a three term incumbent.  She has been on the council for 6 years effectively meaning that she is a contributor to the "lack of vision" she mentions.  I would like to hear her specify what accomplishments and productivity she is referring to.

Gary Kenton

     Mr. Kenton is a retired Adjunct Professor and Community Activist.  He lists his civic involvement as serving currently on the Guilford County and Greensboro planning boards.  He is a member of the Board of Directors with the League of Women Voters and a founding member of Democracy Greensboro.  He also states he is involved with Greensboro Operation Transparency.  As of the 35 day campaign finance report, Mr. Kenton has raised $5,880.87 of which $2000 is a loan from himself.  His Facebook page is Gary Kenton for City Council.
     He states that his civic participation qualifies him for council but that his most important qualification is a lifetime of civic activism.  When asked about Greensboro's greatest obstacle, Mr. Kenton wrote: "a traditional orientation to economic development has favored certain kinds of developer initiated projects and precluded a more universal perspective that would focus on smaller scale projects where relatively small investment can yield broader benefits".  To achieve a living wage he supports the Guilford/Randolph megasite to attract larger employers but states more should be done to support small businesses.  He states that Greensboro City Council should move more quickly to mandate businesses establish the $15 minimum wage with exceptions to businesses that demonstrate "hardship".  He describes Greensboro's most pressing issue as "continued attacks by the NC General Assembly on local control".  On improving police/community relations Mr. Kenton supports a citizen's review board with subpoena power and believes recommendations by the Beloved Community Center, Black Lives Matter and Greensboro Transparency are valuable in making Greensboro safer.
     Where to begin?  I would like to hear a translation of Mr. Kenton's "greatest obstacle".  He seems to indicate that supporting small local businesses is the answer then advocates for the megasite.  I would suggest to Mr. Kenton that most of Greensboro's small businesses are suffering "hardship" and that "attacks" by the NCGA are nothing he can control.  Greensboro the city exists at the pleasure of the state.  His support of the review board with subpoena power is pure folly and a great myth in our society.  Civilians are not going to be granted subpoena power (nor should they be) and if they were, how do you enforce it?  Even if you could compel a citizen to show, you cannot compel him to testify.  Activists continue to advocate for this knowing it is not coming nor would it be the least bit effective.

     So there are your choices District 4.  My compliments to the candidates for running.  To those in District 4 who would complain about a lack of options in one of if not the city's wealthiest district, don't bother complaining.  The filing period is the same for everybody.


next: District 5 


   

   












  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

2017 City Council Election District 3

     An incumbent and two first time candidates; that is what the Greensboro District 3 City Council election boils down to in 2017.  At first glance, second glance and every glance this race appears to be over.  An incumbent in a city district already has an advantage in name recognition that usually can only be overcome with another well established city name or a lot of campaign contributions that help get the new name in front of the voting public.  Even then it is a campaign that must start at least a year in advance and must highlight any flaws in the incumbents voting record or possibly professional relationship relative to his seat on the council.  Does this exist in this particular race?  The three candidates are Antuan Marsh, Craig Martin and incumbent Justin Outling.

Justin Outling

     This is Mr. Outling's second election after having been appointed by council to complete Zack Matheny's term after he resigned mid-term 2014.  He is an attorney working for the law firm of Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey and Leonard.  He has reported raising since 7-28-2017's mid-year campaign finance report (including the 35 day report filed this month) $46,600.30.  I don't have to tell you that is "big".  After reading these two reports, significant contributions are a plenty;  $5,200 from real estate sources and developers, $1,500 from Replacements Ltd. and a whopping $15,025 from his co-workers (attorneys) at Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey and Leonard.  As of the 9-5-2017 35 day report, he reports a loan to his campaign from himself of $2,827.18 of which he has repaid himself $1,327.18 leaving a $1,500 balance.  Significant individual contributions include former Mayor Jim Melvin who contributed $500.  His campaign Facebook page is Vote Outling.  
     Mr. Outling lists his civic involvement as serving on several local committees including the Board of Visitors, Downtown Greensboro Parks, Downtown Greenway Oversight, the Metro Planning Organization and the Transportation Advisory Committee.  He cites an example of his experience that qualifies him for a return to council as assisting in formulating the city budget that keeps property taxes at their current effective rate for 2017-18.  He believes Greensboro's greatest obstacle is not recognizing the progress that has been made, using as an example Greensboro's downtown development.  Regarding a living wage he states that Greensboro's commitment to a $15 minimum wage for city employees helps accomplish this goal, as well as modifying Greensboro's "incentive policy" that required a company to pay employees at 100% of the city's median income to 80% will encourage businesses to locate here.  Mr. Outling states that the most pressing issue facing the city is to "eliminate red tape and unnecessary rules that add to the cost of business".  He states that police/community relations can be improved using Neighborhood Oriented Policing and emphasizes events such as National Night Out.
     What I agree with is Mr. Outling's ideas on business "red tape".  It is no secret that Greensboro is currently one of if not the most business unfriendly city in the state.  In the latest Greensboro Trend and Development report, Greensboro's job growth from 2010-2015 was 10% with the category showing the most growth as "other" which was defined as "pet services, transportation, etc."  Durham, a city seemingly cited for comparison for a lot of our local projects, experienced 27% job growth for the same period.  These jobs were reported to be in science research, health and technology.  Which categories sound like career oriented jobs with benefits? 
     What I am concerned about immediately jumps off the campaign finance page.  Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey and Leonard is under city contract.  Real estate and developers dollar contributions also catches one's eye.  While I am not opposed to a "living wage", that calculation for our city is $10.42 an hour.  If you want to commit to paying $15 an hour as an entry rate, then you must accordingly adjust ALL city salaries.  A person riding a lawnmower should not start at entry level fire fighter's pay for example.
     My impression of Mr. Outling's job performance as a city councilman is that he will ask questions regarding finance and is not necessarily an automatic vote along party lines.  His philosophy appears to be more "moderate" than other council members which is a position that usually lends to compromise and agreement.

Antuan Marsh

     Mr. Marsh lists his occupation as Interior Artist.  He has indicated on his campaign organizational form filed with the Guilford County Board of elections that he does not intend to raise more than $1000 and subsequently has filed no reports (not required if you do not plan on raising more than $1000).  His Facebook campaign page is Antuan Marsh for Greensboro City Council District 3.
     Mr. Marsh lists his civic involvement as marching with Reverend Barber in the Moral March.  He also cites his participation in the Women's Rights march in Raleigh and the marches for Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown here in Greensboro.  He lists his qualifying experiences to be endorsing the Affordable Care Act petition allowing Barack Obama to secure passage.  He describes Greensboro's greatest obstacle as "overcoming the divide that is manifested through the lack of effort to deem what is unacceptable, unacceptable".  Regarding a living wage, his solution is to make economically challenged areas more attractable by upgrading store fronts, landscapes and home exteriors.  He also states that he would take the lead in bringing clean energy and solar power which would bring $15 an hour jobs to Greensboro.  He describes Greensboro's most pressing issue as "the beginning stages or authoritarianism from the White House and NC General Assembly that will trickle down to municipalities.  Mr. Marsh's stated solution to police/community relations is to "establish a relationship without the badge and gun".
     With virtually no money and no name recognition, it will be very hard for Mr. Marsh to make it past the primary much less unseat a well funded incumbent.  I would like to see more details of his ideas especially pertaining more to local issues and less to state and federal issues.  I would also like to hear how he proposes to pay for property renovations.

Craig Martin

     Mr. Martin is an attorney that works for the Guilford County Public Defenders Office.  As of 9-5-2017, he reports raising $1,867.17.  Most of this money is from local attorneys with one donation from the Reverend Cardes Brown for $50.  His campaign Facebook page is Consider Craig.
     Mr. Martin's civic involvement involves serving in groups related to his profession; the Greensboro Criminal Defense Lawyers, Greensboro Bar Association and Public Defenders Committee on Racial Equality.  Regarding experience that qualifies him for city council he states "my experience as a public defender qualifies me".  He states that Greensboro's greatest obstacle is to make Greensboro an innovative and attractive place to live for all citizens and to develop a vision for sustainable economic development.  Regarding a living wage, Mr. Martin states that we should "ask why there are economically challenged areas and acknowledge they exist".  Another solution he provides is to "make sure everyone has access to high quality education".  Mr. Martin states that the key to improving police/community relations is to improve trust as well as those relations.
     Again, a low budget campaign is a difficult way to unseat an incumbent.  I would like to hear not only more details as to how Mr. Martin proposes to accomplish his positions but exactly what his positions are.  Frankly, there is very little substance or details to any of his stated ideas.  If he survives the primary, he needs to present some plans and details as to how he would be "different" and also present some qualifications other than being a public defender.

     One final note.  This particular district contains some of the more visible and active citizens in Greensboro.  My biggest concern is that no one within this district was willing to step forward and present a viable alternative.  If ever there was an example of voter apathy, this district seems to be it.


next: District 4



     




     







 








         

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

2017 City Council Election District 2

     I live in District 2.  My section of District 2 is in the far northeast corner of the city.  For the past several years Jamal Fox needed directions to find us for every new election.  To say the residents of our community are a bit "disenfranchised" would be an understatement.  This election in some parts may have been already decided.  Jamal Fox recommended Tim Vincent to fill out his term when he resigned.  The council instead appointed former council member Goldie Wells who stated she had no plans to run.  Mr. Vincent filed.  Ms. Wells decided to also file.  Mr. Vincent appears to have "compliantly" withdrawn.  Old guard still in place.  Still, the race for this seat is being contested by three candidates.

Goldie Wells

     Ms. Wells is a retired Educational Administrator.  She is a former Greensboro City Council member and a member of several civic organizations that include the NAACP, League of Women Voters and the Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro.  As of the 35 day campaign finance filing period (9-5-2017) she has reported raising $2,645 with a significant $500 contribution from Reverend Otis Lockett Jr.  Ms. Wells has contributed to date $125 of her own money.
     Ms. Wells states that her experience as a former council member and her experience in community leadership are her most important assets.  She believes that racial divide is Greensboro's most significant obstacle.  She states that the best way to accomplish a "living wage" in Greensboro is to attract big development and large companies that bring jobs and advance development.  She believes the most pressing issue facing council is city growth.  Regarding community/police relations, she advocates for identifying the causes of a "deep seated problem" and the underlying issues that cause it.
     I would like to hear more from Ms. Wells as to how she proposes to address these issues.  Jobs have been an issue for years in Greensboro.  Development has not.  It is the "type" of development that is the problem.  I also would like to hear how she would suggest attracting "big companies".  Her statement of "identifying underlying issues" that caused a "deep seated" problem in police relations is also an issue I would like to hear more about, especially if she is objective when identifying those causes.

Jim Kee

     Mr. Kee is a Developer, Builder and also is involved in Property Management.  He lists his experiences as former Greensboro Council member and serves on several civic organizations including the Board of Adjustments, Human Relations Commission and Co-Chair of the Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro.  As of 8-31-2017, he has reported raising $1,600 in campaign funds with cash on hand of $559.09.  He does not have any individual contributions listed in the on line report.
     Mr. Kee identifies Greensboro's biggest obstacle as "not maximizing the talent Greensboro has".  He states that achieving a living wage can be accomplished by designating all of east Greensboro as an "empowerment zone" allowing state and federal funding for economic development.  He states that tax incentives would be granted for companies that locate and operate in east Greensboro.  Mr. Kee states that Greensboro's most pressing issues are jobs, expanding the tax base and Greensboro Police Departments relations.  He states that improving police relations can be accomplished by establishing police/community groups and providing economic incentives for neighborhoods that reduce crime.
     I would like to hear more about the details of the "empowerment zone" and also where the funds for neighborhood incentives for reducing crime would come from.  Participatory budget?

CJ Brinson

     Mr. Brinson lists his occupation as Minister and Community Organizer.  As of 9-5-2017, he reports raising $730 with contributions from 3 individuals.  He is a member of the Community Partners Board.  The experience he possesses that he believes would be beneficial in service on Greensboro city Council is his focus on social issues and police brutality.  He states that Greensboro's greatest obstacle is the city's failure "to face the past and accept the Truth and Reconciliation report".  He believes the way to achieve a living wage in Greensboro is to move away from big development and stop public sector jobs from privatization.  Mr. Brinson says that Greensboro's most pressing need is jobs, training and wages.  Mr. Brinson believes that the relationship with the police department would improve if "70% of the police department wasn't white and 70% of the police department wasn't hired from outside the city".
     Mr. Brinson and I share some common acquaintances including Lamar Gibson from the Transparency group.  I was able to meet and speak with Mr. Brinson briefly last evening at our neighborhood forum.  He was polite and after sharing some small talk we briefly communicated about a few police issues.  Mr. Brinson started our conversation by voluntarily admitting that he was a "big social justice person".  We spoke briefly about the work of the Community Partners Board and their beliefs.  He considers Lindy Perry-Garnette as "being courageous" in violating her signed "confidentiality agreement" stating that he believed it was the right thing to do.  When confronted (mildly) about some of the agitators that associates with his group (one in particular) as causing credibility issues when parading out front, he defended them (especially the one) as being worthy of forgiveness.  Mr. Brinson appears to believe the Greensboro Police Department is corrupt, mentioning the Jose Charles case as evidence.  When asked about "complete" transparency and the demands for it regarding the Dejuan Yourse case not including the demand to release the Body Worn Camera video of Yourse's mother profusely thanking the police for stopping her son from breaking in AGAIN, the subject was changed.
     I believe Mr. Brinson to be a man devoted to his beliefs and a pleasant person to talk to.  I am concerned about the sources that he has received his perceived "facts" from.  Candidly, I do not believe Mr. Brinson is a supporter of the police department and that social justice is the centerpiece of his campaign.  He did ask me what I believed "common ground" would be to agree but we were not able to discuss that at length.  I would welcome further conversation with him to help him understand police issues, especially the need to recruit outside the city as well as the issues in trying to attain the percentage representation he desires in police officer diversity.  His platform can be read at cjbrinson.org.  His campaign Facebook page is "Movement Campaign for C.J. Brinson".  He associates with the Beloved Community Center.  He is actively advocating for At Large candidate Irving Allen (also a BCC member) and on at least one campaign poster advocating for "radical leadership, radical change".  Simply put, Mr. Brinson has publicized his intentions and stances possibly more than any other candidate.  Voters do not have to look hard to see his platform.
     What I would like to hear more about from Mr. Brinson are his solutions or plans to achieve these platform goals?  I also have concerns with some of his relationships with people that could lead him astray or portray a negative public view of his campaign.


next:  District 3
     
   






  

     









    

Friday, September 22, 2017

2017 Greensboro City Council Election

     Two years ago this was me; attempting to run a grassroots campaign with little funding.  The experience was positive (except for the outcome) and I met a lot of new people in Greensboro that I have maintained relationships with since.  I got to know the candidates with whom I had not interacted with before and got to know the ones I had interacted with even better.  Though I had knowledge pertaining to specific aspects of our city government I quickly learned that I did not possess the facts and information that I truly needed to counteract specific claims made by incumbents.  The experience was very educational.
     Though I still have some political aspirations, I realized that City Council is probably not in the cards for me.  The biggest and most important reason is that like so many folks, I am relocating outside the city limits before the next term is up.  Middle school issues for my son has forced that on me.  However, I have remained involved and it is killing me not to be able to participate in candidate forums now that my "education" is more complete.  My support for the men and women of the Greensboro Police Department in specific and city employees in general has not waned.  99% of my life has revolved around this city and being silent and not at least attempting to provide some positive insight for local voters is the only way I can provide help.
     With this in mind, I have decided to cover in this blog each of the candidates running for City Council.  I will not provide endorsements as I feel each and every voter is an adult and can weigh the facts for themselves.  I reserve the right as an author to ask questions of each reader to ponder.  The goal is to present each reader with facts for consideration so that you may determine which candidate most commonly reflects your beliefs and concerns.
     Incumbents may point to their resumes and indeed they have both advantage and disadvantage of having a documented voting record.  New candidates have the advantage of attacking those records but the disadvantage of actually knowing how the city operates or being privileged to information discussed behind the scenes.
     Every candidate is going to say "we need jobs".  How do we produce them?  Most candidates are going to discuss police issues, real or sensationalized.  What is their solution or their proof of the existence.  What experience do each possess in actual knowledge of police training, skills and job traits that they can actually intelligently discuss these issues, real or perceived.
     What we need to hear is solutions, plans, and the direction that the city needs to take to alleviate the dire economic concerns most in this city are living through day to day.  We all know the numbers; .1% growth last year, highest poverty rate, highest property taxes, highest unemployment rate, least new business friendly city, less than 50% home ownership, millennial population down 9% since 2010, a dangerously understaffed police department and a median income lagging FAR behind the other cities in North Carolina our size, all numbers coming from the city's own Trend and Development report.
      In providing information on each candidate, I will reference the published League of Women Voters questionnaire and the answers given to certain questions.  For incumbents I will also refer to known positions, voting records and actions observed will they have been in office.  Today, we begin with District One.

The Candidates; Sharon Hightower (incumbent), Devin King, Paula Ritter-Lipscomb

Sharon Hightower

     Ms. Hightower has served multiple terms.  She lists her employment as being a Real Estate Paralegal.  She is involved in several community organizations including the NAACP and Citizens for Economic and Environmental Justice.  As of her last published campaign finance report dated January 2017, she has $34.00 cash on hand.  As of the September 5th required filing report date she has reported no new contributions.
     Ms. Hightower's experience on Council and service in community organizations should give her an advantage in knowing what community issues are.  She does speak out on issues during council meetings and gives the appearance of one who advocates for her community.  Ms. Hightower states that the greatest obstacle facing Greensboro is "racial profiling".  She advocates for "higher incentives" for businesses to locate and relocate to Greensboro with the codicil that they be required to hire and locate in specific areas.  She believes that Greensboro's most pressing issue is to find a major industry to locate in the new mega site.  She states that the police need to deal with "their racial bias" and be more transparent.
     Ms. Hightower's experience on council should enable her to provide more details in what she would propose to accomplish these goals.  Ms. Hightower has also been the recipient of what is supposed to be confidential personnel information discussed in administrative meetings from a source within the Greensboro Police Department.  She has also stated in Council meetings regarding to bids for city services that she does not care who gets the contracts "as long as they're black".
     Ms. Hightower's record is absolutely not supportive of our Police Department.

Devin King

     Mr. King did not participate in the questionnaire.  My personal knowledge of Mr. King is that he does care about the direction the city is going financially and about the plight of joblessness in east Greensboro.  Mr. King is perhaps the most ridiculed candidate in Greensboro because of his conservative views.  He has been somewhat scapegoated even to the point of being publicly ridiculed as an "Uncle Tom".  This is not Mr. King's first run at public office however he has not yet been elected to serve.  He is passionate about his positions and has been open to mentorship both within his community as well as city wide.  He has raised no money for campaign purposes to date and reported that he does not intend to raise more than $1,000.
     Given his previous experience in running for public office, I would like to see a more detailed and advertized description of his views and plans to enact the changes he advocates.

Paula Ritter-Lipscomb

     Ms. Ritter-Lipscomb is an Interactive Specialist with the Guilford County Schools.  She points to her work experience as being valuable in her pursuit of public office.  She also is active in community organizations including the NAACP and was awarded the Police Chief's Award for organizing the Citizens Youth Council for Leadership Enrichment.  Ms. Ritter-Lipscomb describes Greensboro's greatest obstacle as "jobs" and believes the police department should hire more "diversely".  She has reported no campaign money raised though she has rescinded her intended threshold for raising more than $1,000.
     I would like to hear more details from Ms. Ritter-Lipscomb on her plans to accomplish more jobs, especially in east Greensboro.  Though "diversity" percentages have long been a topic of discussion within the Greensboro Police Department, I would welcome a discussion with her to assist her in understanding the obstacles in achieving that goal.
     It appears that Ms. Hightower does not see the need in raising a lot of funds for this election.  Her name recognition and support from local opportunistic antagonists will more than likely overcome any negative community job performance issues and she is apparently counting on that.  Unless Mr. King and Ms. Ritter-Lipscomb can somehow get their message to the community with absolutely zero media assistance, it is unlikely that their lack of funding can overcome those forces that are favorable to Ms. Hightower.


next:  District 2          
     
     

             

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Return of the Rant; 2017 local elections

     Two years ago it was me; running a very grassroots campaign for City Council at Large.  My decision to run was one I had been pondering for several years but the final decision to file was an 11th hour decision.  I learned a lot in that short campaign about Greensboro's political scene and also about both partisan sides in what is designed to be a non partisan city council.  We all know that is not the case in reality.  We all know Greensboro is and has always been a "blue city".  Everyone knows which side each candidate falls on; no secrets there.  We all know that local election apathy exists in large quantities in Greensboro; due in part to odd year elections, in part to cronyism and in part to a startling lack of media coverage, especially by the local electronic media.  It would not take much effort to point out that local secondary publications such as the Rhino Times, Triad Weekly and Yes Weekly do far more to cover local elections and politics than the primary newspaper does.  If the local primary media (News and Record, WFMY News 2 for example) are not offering more than very cursory coverage, how can a local candidate make any headway versus the established cronies who have campaign coffers filled with local developers money?
     WFMY News 2 is especially negligent in covering these important elections.  Two years ago the only electronic media representative that contacted me was WGHP Fox 8.  I received a phone call the night of the election asking where they could reach me in the event I won my election.  Sad.  In an age where print media is struggling to stay financially solvent due to declining subscriptions, most folks turn on their local channels to get what local news they receive.  Granted, most viewers in Greensboro are primarily only interested in the weather but they do at least tune in.  What they get is state news, national news and local fluff.  The reason that this is detrimental to our city is that the cronies have access to the airwaves to bloviate their "all is well" messages and are NEVER asked about or held accountable for their failings.  If the local TV stations aren't covering local elections and actually seeking out "new" candidates to share their views, how are local citizens going to make informed opinions about their options?  Greensboro citizens have talked about "change" for several years.  Many are disgusted to the point of "no hope" and those who can leave are.  Compare the demographic changes to our city the past 35 years.  Read the city's own Trends and Development reports since 1980.  The statistics are startling.  Yet Greensboro citizens are either in a politically induced coma or they simply like being led around by their noses and allow local cronies or opportunistic antagonists to tell them HOW to vote.
     Do the politically "elite" run the show here?  You betcha!  And here's a news flash for you; they don't all live in Old Irving Park.  Members of the "club" come from all corners of our city and the worst ones prey on lower income citizens.  The local Pulpit Forum controls a large part of the east Greensboro voting block simply by telling its' parishioners "who" to vote for; not "why" to vote for them just "who".  It works too.  Joblessness and poverty continues to grip east Greensboro yet the same old promises that we hear every campaign season are still the rallying cries though rarely do you here anything about them after the election is over.  Whether it's work training centers, affordable housing or job creation, east side voters fall for the same old shtick only to see the same old nothing.  Instead they are creatively diverted to issues in the State General Assembly or social issues, some warranted but many not so.
     In an interview with News and Record columnists Allen Johnson and Doug Clark during the 2015 election, I was asked by Mr. Clark if I felt as if I were running against a "team effort" by the incumbents.  My immediate answer was a resounding YES!  When the new candidates go to the political forums sponsored by varying groups in our city, you will hear things from the incumbents  like "our current council works together better than any council we have ever had".  You will hear it from EVERY incumbent candidate.  They want to keep the club together.  What is more apparent is that the movers and shakers in Greensboro (i.e. the developers) all agree with them.  One such developer who is a registered Republican, donated to every incumbent campaign in 2015 except for Mike Barber's; that's 7 Democrats and one Republican.  Now why else would he do that unless he was "happy" with how the sitting council was benefiting his business?  And he is not the only one.  Who is making money downtown?  Who stands to gain from saturating the city with retail businesses that produce little to no career jobs that have benefits?  When the movers and shakers are loading up local incumbent campaign funds with tens of thousands of dollars, how do new candidates get their messages, ideas and more importantly the failed resumes of incumbents to the voting public?  Without in depth, impartial and fair media coverage, the answer is they don't.
     These local forums are also a chance to see the incumbents exercise their best "team" ability; diversion.  During the last campaign I consistently brought up Greensboro's depressing economic numbers.  They have not changed the past 2 years.  Greensboro is last compared to cities our size or even smaller in several economic categories; poverty, new job creation, tax rate, new businesses, unemployment to name a few.  What's more, the Trends and Development report published by the city annually confirms these numbers.  Greensboro's home ownership rate is 50% or less now.  Where are the property tax revenues coming from?  Did your water rates go up?  Property taxes?  Since 1980, those who can afford to move usually do.  Students from our many colleges and universities are no longer staying because there are no jobs or careers.  High school graduates are going off to college and not returning.  The millennial population in Greensboro has declined 9% since 2010.  Mass job producing businesses find Greensboro as an "unfriendly" place to locate.  The Mayor trumpeted Honda Jet as a city success in 2015; how many residents of east Greensboro or Greensboro in general was hired by Honda Jet?  How many of their "relocated employees" moved into the city?
     Yet when I would point out these economic numbers, the incumbents did not challenge me on them.  They simply changed the topic to other issues, mainly NC General Assembly bills in which they had zero control.  They did not want to talk about their record of lack of achievement.
     This year there was a noticeable increase in candidates filing for city office.  Several have already packed it in.  Want to know who is in the club?   Look no further than Jamal Fox's replacement for example.  Mr. Fox backed Tim Vincent as a replacement to fill out his term.  The council chose Goldie Wells, a long time political figure in the city.  Mr. Vincent filed to run for election in District 2 as Ms. Wells supposedly had no intention of running.  Ms. Wells switched her position and filed; Mr. Vincent compliantly withdrew.  Wonder who the east side elite club members are endorsing?
     To oust an incumbent in this city, you either have to start raising money and support years in advance or gain the approval of the club elite.  You somehow have to identify the pitiful 11% of the city's population that bothers to vote, then hope the club elite have not sufficiently mobilized their voting block.  Then to be effective you have to hope that scenario manifests itself at least in five races.  That has happened once that I can recall the past several years.  What is even worse is that some of the candidates running are frighteningly worse than some of the incumbents.  Without the perfect storm, Greensboro's city council will not get one iota better.  Unfortunately, with some of the candidates running it could get a whole lot worse. Social issues will continue to dominate council business meetings further deteriorating and undermining any possible improvements and special interests will continue to dominate decisions.  Now that we have moved to four year terms, Greensboro's rate of decay will accelerate.
     Greensboro is not only in need of new leadership and ideas, it is in need of any leadership or ideas.  It is my hope and prayer that the Greensboro electorate will heed the call for significant action and change.  It is my belief that they will not.
     Drug addicts often have to hit rock bottom before they can actually get help.  Greensboro is an "addicted city".  Like Detroit, it is headed for rock bottom.  If the chain of bad electoral decisions is not broken soon, it is just a matter of time before Greensboro founders.  We are "circling the drain" with no plug in sight.