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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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