D1 incumbent has loyal constituents

by Jordan Green

D1 incumbent has loyal constituents

District 1 Councilwoman Dianne Bellamy-Small has survived a recall election and a bruising battle with the Greensboro City Council’s conservative faction over the firing of City Manager Mitchell Johnson, whom the councilwoman backed.

Despite the fact that she’s fending off five challengers in this year’s municipal election, Bellamy-Small is widely considered within her southeast Greensboro district to be someone who energetically attends to constituent concerns, does her homework and charts an independent course. And most importantly to her supporters, the councilwoman has won District 1 some respect.

“There’s a definite racial divide in Greensboro,” said Cassandra Rogers, a Dudley Heights resident who was appointed to the city’s zoning commission by Bellamy- Small. “Sometimes we feel like stepchildren and we might get the last piece of bread, but she has made it very much apparent that District 1 counts, and that we are economically viable. I think it’s in no small measure because of her influence that we have Gateway Gardens and the Gateway research campus coming in.”

Also running for the District 1 seat are Ben Holder, Luther T. Falls Jr., Charles Coffey, Daron R. Sellars and Jeramy Reid.

“One of the big reasons that I’m running is to bring about the parity,” Bellamy- Small said, “basically to take on established Greensboro to say, ‘We need to start putting infrastructure in east Greensboro that allows us to grow and develop the way that west Greensboro has.’” Since her first election in 2003, Bellamy-Small has emphasized equitable services and development in District 1.

“I was president of our neighborhood association in Dudley Heights, and we were discussing some issues for District 1,” Rogers recalled. “Some cars were racing up and down the street, and Dianne said, ‘That shouldn’t be.’ And so she called whatever appropriate parties, and they immediately responded.”

Bellamy-Small requested an analysis of capital improvement expenditures across the city over the past 20 years sorted by district. Staff found that District 1, which has the highest black population, ranked last.

“As we have grown to the northwest and the west, we’ve put more parks and rec, more fire stations, more roads, more water and sewer in those areas,” interim Assistant City Manager Andy Scott said. “A question might arise from that: Should your infrastructure not only follow growth, but encourage growth? That is the question Dianne is raising.

First elected in 2003, Bellamy-Small is seeking a fourth term on council. “I’m at the table now as a seasoned member of the council who understands how to go after those dollars, and I’m going to ask for them,” the candidate said. “Just the maturity process and understanding how to work the system to the advantage of constituents is what I’m doing.

“It takes awhile to grow up in this business,” she added with a laugh, “and I think I’m probably in my twenties now.”

Among Bellamy-Small’s accomplishments is a daytime resource center for the city’s homeless residents. She began discussing the concept in January 2008, assembled a group of pastors and service providers to develop a plan, and persuaded her fellow council members to appropriate $200,000 for the effort. Almost exactly a year later, the Interactive Resource Center was open on Bessemer Street and serving clients.

Bellamy-Small recalled that initially she convened a meeting of service providers, who argued that the plan would be too expensive. She opened the second meeting to all comers, after which committees were formed to undertake the work.

“I was just the cowpoke that was supposed to rope the cow and pull him to barn,” she said. “Now, how y’all decide to deal with that cow is up to you. Because I’m a possibility thinker. And however I can connect our people to empower them to help get government to do what they already want to do….”