Could Vaughan cruise to term two?

by Jeff Sykes

Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan does what can only be described as a first-rate job of representing and connecting with the city as a whole. At public meetings and high-class business and society functions she represents the pro-growth, dollars and sense electorate with an unquestionable elegance.

She’s been known to frequent hipster coffee house cinemas and engage in cosplay to celebrate the end of a popular television show. This past weekend a popular local radio host pulled her out in front of a crowd of children to dance at an anti-bullying rally at Bennett College held with comedian Mike Epps.

Folks often tag the mayor in Facebook posts, so it’s not hard to keep up with her community activities. People often applaud Vaughan for mixing it up, staying true to her community roots, and for having fun.

That’s one of the main reasons it looks like Vaughan might cruise easily into a second term as Greensboro’s mayor. Unless someone credible steps up to the plate soon “” the filing period begins July 6 “” Vaughan appears hard to beat.

Maybe that’s a good thing. People from all walks of life find it easy to identify with, and to communicate with, the mayor. Her direct, and often times firm, way of answering questions or responding to critics gives her an air of authority. But she’s no bully. In fact, the biggest criticism against Vaughan seems to be that she often lets people have too much leeway to have their say at council meetings.

Others see it as striking a balance. With eight council members representing a variety of interests across the city, how else should the mayor act? No one likes a dictator, and the issues before the council are, after all, public issues that need robust debate.

District 1 council member Sharon Hightower often is noted as the most talkative of the current council. Hightower, serving her first term after ousting T. Dianne Bellamy-Small in 2013, does often laboriously pour over the smallest minutiae contained in an agenda item. But her style is one of curiosity, not mean spirited banter, and seeks to educate the public as to the merits of a proposal. Conservative critics use Hightower as their favorite target when calling for changes to the council such as contained in state Sen. Trudy Wades’s redistricting proposal, SB 36, which is currently stalled in the state house until late next week at the earliest.

But these critics should reserve judgment of Hightower. What if she’s pursuing a line of inquiry for the benefit of her constituents who want to gain a deeper understanding of how government works? To that end, it’s hard to fault Mayor Vaughan for allowing meeting time to be used in this fashion.

It does seem like most of the debate takes place on the right side of the dais, where Hightower is joined by Marikay Abuzuaiter, conservative budget hawk Tony Wilkins and the ever ready to have his say Zack Matheny. This often leaves the more succinct members of council on Vaughan’s left, Mayor Pro-Temp Yvonne Johnson and the jovial Mike Barber, little room to make lengthy speeches. By comparison, the far left of the dais, held down by District 2’s Jamal Fox and District 4’s Nancy Hoffman, seems to be the most efficient side of the council. Hoffman and Fox would definitely win in a contest to see who makes the most impact per word spoken.

Again, Vaughan deserves credit for herding this motley crew toward the goal of good government and increased prosperity for the citizens of Greensboro.

Some of Vaughan’s best moments have come when she’s advocated for the disenfranchised by speaking against regressive legislation coming out of Raleigh, or when she’s stood against the grain by pointing out bad policy and procedures that need to be improved. Her work on the city’s Complaint Review Committee comes to mind, as does her ability to meet behind the scenes with the city’s Ministerial Alliance in order to hear their concerns.

Listening, understanding and then acting on her convictions appear to be Vaughan’s strengths. A leader who listens to the people, as opposed to pursuing a narrow agenda, is a refreshing thing in this day and age of partisan divide.

Somebody may come off the sidelines to run against Vaughan before the end of the filing period. But it doesn’t look like it will be Wilkins. Local conservatives had been urging Wilkins to run, given that he’s sparred with the mayor over her opposition to Republican legislation coming from the state capitol building. Even on his Facebook page this past week there was robust debate, but Wilkins tapped it down.

“The first requirement to run for mayor is you have to want to be mayor,” Wilkins said. “My political ego currently expands to the bound- aries of District 5.” !