Greensboro primary election endorsements

by YES! Weekly staff

The official primary election for Greensboro City Council takes place Oct. 6. The primary narrows the field to six candidates at large, and two candidates for each district, before the city heads into the final campaign stretch before Nov. 3. We urge you to exercise the responsibility of citizenship and vote.

In the spirit of encouraging competitive elections, we’re endorsing six at-large candidates and two district candidates — in essence, the candidates whose names we hope end up on the Nov. 3 ballot. There are only two candidates for mayor and District 5, so those candidates are not on the primary ballot. There are good, qualified candidates running this year in the at-large race and the races for districts 1, 2, 3 and 4. We urge you to do your own research. Here are our picks:


Marikay Abuzuaiter is perhaps the most well rounded of the at-large candidates. A small business owner who has given herself a basic education on municipal government through her participation in the Greensboro City Academy and Impact Greensboro. She speaks passionately about shoring up the city’s tax investment by encouraging infill development, and took a courageous stand on the Greensboro Human Relations Commission with her vote to oppose local law enforcement programs that overstep their bounds in deporting undocumented immigrants.

Four candidates under the age of 40 filed for the atlarge seat. We salute them for their moxie and commitment to the city we love. Among them, 33-year-old DJ Hardy is the clearly qualified choice. A biracial family man from southeast Greensboro, Hardy speaks credibly and passionately about ensuring equitable development across the city. As a financial analyst for a High Point chemical company, Hardy is a smart guy with a firm grasp of budgeting who favors reducing taxes. He has spoken candidly about pursuing justice for black officers in the police department who allege that they have been discriminated against, and favors reviewing the gang enforcement unit to determine whether it is operating effectively. Such qualities are rare in one person.

Julie Lapham managed Yvonne Johnson’s successful 2007 campaign for mayor, and has said that racially tinged attacks against Johnson motivated her to run. The mayor would be a more effective leader with another ally on council, and Lapham would be a fine addition. She has spoken thoughtfully about making city government more transparent and ethical, bringing more voices into the decision-making loop, and applying long-range planning to the challenges of regionalism and job creation.

Gary Nixon holds extensive experience as an engineering consultant who has worked closely with municipal governments. He has said, “There’s not a soul on city council who understands capital improvements.” Questions of quality of life and equity often boil down to water and sewer lines, sidewalks and traffic lights in city government, and Nixon’s scientific outlook could only be an asset to the council.

Robbie Perkins is a status quo guy who has demonstrated over his long career in municipal politics that he can adapt to change and work collaboratively for the best interests of the entire city. We applaud him for his affirmative vote on an official resolution of regret about the 1979 Klan-Nazi shootings and for his staunch support of former City Manager Mitchell Johnson. More importantly, we trust Perkins’ vision on the long arc of urban revitalization, including affordable housing, the Southside development and the slow rebirth of the East Market Street corridor.

Nancy Vaughan, whopreviously served two terms on council, once fought Jefferson-PilotCorp. in a rezoning battle, and won. She holds the promise of breakingthrough some of the council’s impasses with a conciliatory approach,and sets good standards for ethical leadership. She speaksknowledgeably about how sprawl stunts mass transit and makes it hard topeople to get to jobs, how it stretches police service; she alsorecognizes from personal experience that infill can be a bitter pillfor neighborhoods to swallow. We trust her to make the best decisionsfor Greensboro.


Dianne Bellamy-Small hasproven to be an authentic representative for District 1 who maintainsexcellent constituent services. Her relentless focus on equity willkeep the district on the path of improvement, and she has built bridgeswith downtown interests such as Action Greensboro that promise newvitality and a new sense of connection with the center city for thedistrict. All five challengers have something to offer, but Daron R. Sellars gets the edge as the youngest candidate andStevens CenteR someonewho promises to cultivate leadership among college students and puttheir talents to use for the betterment of the city. We need successionplanning.


Jim Kee helpedsitting Councilwoman Goldie Wells lead the Concerned Citizens ofNortheast Greensboro, which has two victories under its belt: Closingthe White Street Landfill to household waste and opening the newMcGirt-Horton Library. That’s a track record of leadership. Similarly, Nettie Coad hasprodded the city to improve Ole Asheboro neighborhood, and earnedrespect for her ability to work together with diverse stakeholders on avariety of activist initiatives. We thank candidate Dan Fischer forcontributing novel ideas on green development and youth support to thecampaign.


Zack Matheny has provenhimself a responsive representative to his constituents, who includekey downtown business interests. He helped keep the developer of a newbuilding on South Elm Street at the table, and then went to meet withlongstanding business owners to assuage their concerns about parking.He got the council to pass an ordinance against panhandling, but hadthe courtesy to get input from homeless residents.

Jay Ovittore hasrendered valuable service to the city as chairman of its housingcommittee, where he has watchdog-ed changes to the rental housinginspection program. He also helped defeat a plan by Time-Warner Cableto introduce tiered internet connection pricing, again looking out forthe best interests of the citizens. He works hard and makes himselfaccessible. You can’t ask for more than that. George Hartzman’sproposal to limit campaign contributions from individuals who bringbusiness before the city council merits strong consideration, but helacks the record of service that distinguishes the other twocandidates.


Joel Landau “owns”sustainability, both as a businessman who manages Deep Roots Market andas a policymaker who co-chairs the Greensboro Sustainability Council.He has consistently championed limiting sprawl and enhancingalternative transportation, which Greensboro desperately needs. He hasdemonstrated an ability to work with people from all corners of thecity — a tendency notably lacking in the current representatives of thecity’s three majority-white districts. In short, we love Joel Landau.Honorable mention must go to Mike Martin for outlining a comprehensiveconservative platform and for campaigning hard for the seat. After someanguish, however, we decided to give the number-two pick to Mary Rakestraw. Likeher or not, her views on the ongoing police controversy represent asizeable segment of the District 4 electorate. Many constituents feelthat former police Chief David Wray was unfairly pushed out, and thatformer City Manager Mitchell Johnson grossly mishandled thecontroversy. Rakestraw led the effort to remove Johnson. We hope thatRakestraw and Landau will hold an open and vigorous discussion aboutthis matter so that voters may make an informed decision.