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
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.
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.
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