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.
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.
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.
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