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.
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.
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.
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