A member of the Media Group has composed some opinions on tomorrow’s candidates. This IS NOT an endorsement that has reached consensus within the General Assembly.
Based on our attendance at candidate’s forums, readings of the candidates’ websites, personal conversations, and review of printed material in local periodicals, these are our picks for City Council. We feel, based on the candidates’ positions on economic inequality, local job creation, support for local small business development, records on human relations issues, position on the White Street Landfill, and other issues, that these candidates will best represent the positions of the Occupy Greensboro movement: addressing the gap between wealthy and poor; representing the voters and not the corporations; addressing social injustice; and improving civil rights for all residents of Greensboro.
We aren’t really thrilled with either choice. Fiscal Conservative, former CPA Bill Knight has clearly proven to be in the pocket of developers and social conservatives in North West Greensboro. He has repeatedly represented their interests over those of the 99%. His key position appears to be in opposition of any raise in taxes or water rate hikes to off-set the declining City revenues (tax re-evaluation is next year and it does not look good). Meanwhile, under his watch we have lost first City Manager Mitchell Johnson and now Rashad Young. As a cost-cutting measure, Knight was in favor of re-opening the White Street landfill against the will of the residents of the neighborhood in which it was located.
Robbie Perkins, while a commercial real estate broker and long-time politician in Greensboro, has come down against the landfill and is a proponent of a regional solution to waste. He also favors investment in infrastructure and has supported regional public transportation. His rhetoric reflects the sentiment of many Occupiers’ “We want to try to create the kind of jobs that are going to be a living wage for people because it’s awfully hard to live off of minimum wage. You can’t work enough hours in the day to do that. So we’ve got to create the kind of jobs that are going to pay reasonable money so that you can support your families and keep a little bit for retirement.” (Campaign speech as quoted in Yes! Weekly 10/5/2011)
Donnell ‘D.J.’ Hardy is opposed to the White Street Landfill, for equitable services and infrastructure in his district, and has an interesting idea regarding City sponsored venture capital incubators for innovative local companies. While we don’t think Hardy is a bad candidate, he is up against a formidable challenger. Incumbent T. Diane Bellamy-Small, is one of the few sitting City Council representatives who we want to see back. She is a nonprofit executive, has served on the School Board, and has been active in local politics for a long time. She led the initiative to develop the Interactive Resource Center for homeless persons and long championed an economic parity plan for East Greensboro. She wants to see investment in education and the human capital of Greensboro residents. She says, “we have and have had the opportunity to be greater than we are, if we would stop acting like a small Southern town” (Yes! Weekly 7/25/2011).
According to a 2009 interview, developer and incumbent City Council candidate Jim Kee has “a personal investment of more than $2 million in the district” (Greensboro News and Record 09/10/2009). He opposes the landfill and has emphasized economic development for his area. He supported the RUCO program to improve rental stock in Greensboro. He also states that “the most pressing problem is unemployment” (Yes! Weekly 9/28/2011). His challenger, Clarence Bradley Hunt, a student at NC A&T University, holds similar issues on many of the key issues. Hunt however, has disagreed with Kee over issues regarding the Greensboro Police Department and backs a citizen’s review committee that would have the power to subpoena witnesses. Both we feel have strong positions and research the issues carefully. Hunt is young and shows his inexperience in basing most of his campaign on ad hominem attacks of Kee rather than explaining the differences between his positions. However, we still have reservations that Kee represents the political interests of developers over the common folk.
Jay Ovittore has worked on the Human Relations Commission, oversaw the subcommittee that reported the Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing in Greensboro, and has been a longstanding supporter of the now-suspended Rental Unit Certificate Advisory Board (RUCO). Like Hardy he wants to see incentives given to small entrepreneurs and business owners. He is backed by labor unions, and has worked as a consumer lobbyist. He is strongly aainst contributions from developers and corporations, “The fact that I’m not owned and operated by local real estate developers. I find it unethical that real estate developers donate to some candidates and then come before those same candidates and ask for rezoning favors. It seems like our local politics has become pay to play”(Yes! Weekly 11/08/2011). Zack Matheny, on the other hand, is employed by Bell Properties which builds large luxury apartments. He thinks that the police have had a good relationship with the public. Matheny has had a conflict of interest in the landfill issue as the company he works for has an economic stake in the outcome (News and Record 4/28/2011). He was a supporter of the $12 million Aquatics Center He is also part of the faction (including Knight, Wade, Rakestraw) who moved public speakers from the floor to the end of City Council meeting.
This district is one of the most contested and we cannot understand why. A few minutes listening to Rakestraw speak and you can clearly see that anyone would be a better choice. She offended many in the audience of a recent candidate’s forum when she said that Greensboro has no race relations problems. Nancy Hoffman is the only choice in this district. While she does come off a slick corporate head-hunter, has twenty-two years of experience in marketing and management for a number of corporations, and is well accustomed to working with the top 1%, she has established a good track record as Chair of the Greensboro Human Relations Commission and Chair of the Complaint Review Committee. More importantly, she is not Mary Rakestraw who has proven to be in the pocket of real estate developers and in denial about racial division within the City.
Trudy Wade clearly does not represent the will of the people. Along with Rakestraw and Knight , she has set the City back decades in race relations favoring the White Street landfill and again opposing any tax rate increases or improvements to the infrastructure. Jorge Cornell obviously represents the voiceless, the wrongfully accused, and those who are constantly harassed by the police. However, as much as I like Cornell’s affability and agree with his positions on unjust immigration laws and racial profiling by City police, it is hard to look past affiliations and lack of political experience. Time will tell if he is sincere and has the ability to produce viable alliances with other groups around the city.
There is a field of five at-large candidates. We quickly eliminate Chris Lawyer, a physician’s assistant who is inexperienced in politics, has not participated in local civic leadership, is in support of re-opening the White Street Landfill, and is yet another fiscal conservative favoring privatization of such public trusts as the Farmers Curb Market. We can also eliminate incumbent Danny Tompson who also supported the Landfill and keeping the tax rate flat. Nancy Vaughn’s website doesn’t seem to offer much information (it still says “coming soon”). She’s been endorsed by Yes! Weekly and the News and Record and seems to fall on the side of the people most of the time. She is a centrist and not a bad choice, but in terms of representing the 99%, we have better choices.
- Wayne Abraham who has a history of support for improving race relations (Racial Justice and Reconciliation Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina). He also wants more local control and for renters: “RUCO was an excellent program. It reduced our substandard housing by 80 percent, which helped all of us with the value of our own homes. We lost this program because our current city council refused to defend our right to local control.”(Yes! Weekly 08/29/2011). He has backed long-term visions of the community that include a sustainability plan which incentives green building. He also wants speakers from the floor moved back to before meetings. Moreover he supports LGBT Community: “He has also served as a strong advocate for the Greensboro LGBT Community. Wayne was appointed to the Human Relations Commission by the Greensboro City Council and served six years on the commission. During his tenure on the commission, Wayne was instrumental in getting the city of Greensboro to offer domestic partner benefits to its LGBT employees.”(Yes! Weekly 11/2/2011).
- Marikay Abuzuaiter is a small business owner who has been very involved in the international community of Greensboro and she has had a positive impact on the community-at-large. She is against the landfill and for the environmental sustainability. Marikay is the International Advisory Committee Chair as well as past Vice-chair of the Human Relations Commission. She has also been instrumental in making sure that the issues and concerns of our international residents have been brought before our City Council. Moreover, Abuzuaiter is one of us! She has been at many of the Occupy Greensboro events and General Assemblies.
- We liked Yvonne Johnson as mayor and certainly back her as a voice of the people in the 2011 at-large race. She has a long history as a community activist working on issues of social justice, arts, women’s issues, poverty, etc. She is opposed to the White Street Landfill (preferring a high-tech solution that would convert waste into energy – a plan heard to be supported by Ovittore as well), backed the RUCO program, and has proven to favor infrastructure development but also fiscal responsibility. She prefers infill over further urban sprawl and supports affordable housing programs as well as mixed use neighborhood planning.