Greensboro’s ‘historic’ City Council election

It seems somewhat overblown to describe Greensboro’s upcoming City Council election as ‘historic,’ and indeed
Rhino Times editor John Hammer says as much in the lede to this week’s column before going on to make the case.

Make no mistake, Gboro will have an overwhelmingly liberal council no matter the outcome. Two men, however, can hold the line —District 5 representative Tony Wilkins, who trailed his challenger in the October primary—and at-large member Mike Barber, who tied with newcomer Michelle Kennedy for the third at-large slot. Grimsley High School teacher Dave Wils came in a not-so-distant fourth, so they represent Barber’s main competition.

Mind you Barber can be a bit of a rah-rah guy, but but more often than not he provides the other voice of reason on the council. But as Hammer notes, the contrast between Barber and his opponents could not be more dramatic:

…Barber knows how to get things done. Barber served as a Guilford County commissioner and chair of the Board of Guilford County commissioners back when the board was controlled by Democrats, and he is in his second tour as a city councilmember. During those years as an elected official he has learned how to get things done, and on the City Council that means putting five votes together. A councilmember can have the greatest idea in the world but it will never be anything but an idea without five votes.

Greensboro simply cannot afford to provide everyone in the city with a home they can afford. It can’t afford to feed everyone in the city that wants or needs food. And it cannot afford to provide a transportation system that takes people wherever they want to go when they want to go there. These are promises being made by the other at-large candidates, and while they sound good, such programs will kill any chance Greensboro has at bringing in the new jobs that will provide a means for people to improve their own lifestyles by working, not by giving them handouts.

At forums both Kennedy and Wils talk about new bus routes and transportation systems as if they are free. Bus transportation is not expensive to the riders, but it is extremely expensive for the city. Providing crosstown routes and new services sounds great, but the city will either have to cut services somewhere else or raise taxes.

At a recent candidates’ forum Kennedy—according to the News & Record—advocated for a city “office of equity,” where the head “must have the power to make changes.” Exactly what Greensboro needs—-not.

I’ve lived here in Greensboro 30 years and still find it to be an affordable, clean, safe, friendly place. Still I scratch my head and wonder if it’s because of the City Council or in spite of the City Council. And I’m not sure what it says about a city when the best we can hope for in a supposedly “historic” election is maintaining the mediocre (at best) status quo.

Sam Hieb / Contributing Editor

Sam Hieb is freelance journalist from Greensboro, North Carolina. He is a contributing editor for Carolina Journal and for Piedmont Publius, a blog that focuses on political a...