Folksy candidate tells it like it is

by Jordan Green

Joseph Rahenkamp, a perennial can- didate for Greensboro City Council and Guilford County Commission, may not have a track record of winning elections, but he does know how to coax a laugh from an audience.

Rahenkamp was seated onstage with fellow District 4 candidates Joel Landau and Mike Martin for a candidate forum at the Greensboro Historical Museum in early September when he proposed that the state lottery give away 90 percent of its tak ings. That way, he reasoned, people would have more incentive to play, and the lottery would increase its revenues over the long term.

“Life’s a gamble,” he said, gesturing towards a bottle of water on the table. “You start to drink this water; you don’t know what’s in it.”

Rahenkamp has been running for city council since 1997, and at least since 1999 has never won a primary or managed to place better than next to last. The retired Greensboro firefighter doesn’t raise money or have a noticeable presence with signs, but he returns reporters’ phone calls and shows up for forums.

Desire for popularity isn’t a major part of Rahenkamp’s psychological profile. Responding to a question at the forum about how he would demonstrate accountability to constituents, Rahenkamp said, “We’ll, they’ve got my phone number. I’ll answer any questions. I’ll be glad to talk to you. You may not want to hear what I’ve got to say. I won’t blow smoke at you. I’ll be just as honest as I know to be.”

In this election cycle, there has been some complaints within the electorate about noise and disruption from completion of the Urban Loop around the northern half of Greensboro.

A proponent of progress, Rahenkamp does not share those sentiments. “Ones of you got your opinions about these roads, that’s your business,” he said.

“You’ve got some people, if they had their way, 29 never would have been built. Wendover’d never been built. Forty would never been built. It would be nothing but a little pig patch in Greensboro. Y’all want to hang me, that’s fine.”

He favors maintaining property taxes at their current rate, or reducing them, and shares the view of the current District 4 representative, Mike Barber, that the city could save $9 million by reopening the White Street Landfill to household waste.

“I want to encourage people to be able to make it,” Rahenkamp said. “If anything, you want to reduce taxes; you don’t want to raise ’em. That’s what stomps business or stomps anything else into the ground…. You know the old saying is, ‘You kill the chicken that lays the golden eggs, there is no more golden eggs.’” He sympathizes with the homeless, but advocates that they be placed in work camps. “They give you a uniform, they feed you, provide for your medical attention and take care of you, work you,” he said. “When two weeks is up if you’ve got a job or want to go on, well, good.”

Rahenkamp’s most novel proposition might be to create a position for a police commissioner and a fire commissioner.

“You got to run for it, every two years, every four years,” he said. “And you don’t like what’s going on, you can change the guard. I don’t care how good your fire department is, your police department or anything. You can always make improvements. I can give you a whole lot. I worked for the fire department for 41 years. And there’s some things that’s not right. It’s not right all the way through the city. And I disagree with it.”