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Mayoral forum moments

by Jordan Green

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Four candidates for mayor of Greensboro — Robbie Perkins, Tom Phillips, Bradford Cone and Tom Phillips — took questions in the Haywood Duke Room at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church during a lunch-hour candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters of the Piedmont Triad last week. A fifth candidate, incumbent Bill Knight did not attend, but sent a note explaining that he was skipping the forum because the league is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the city council to block the reopening of the White Street Landfill. That didn’t stop Perkins, who currently serves as an at-large member of council, from showing up.

Wonk points

Perkins: “The waste-to-energy concept is more expensive than burying the trash in the ground in North Carolina because land is not that expensive in this state,” the candidate said. “The waste-to-energy concepts are being pioneered in New York City and Los Angeles right now with pilot programs. They have large R&D budgets…. Right now, if a small city like Greensboro made that choice, it would be like deciding to buy a Betamax or VHS.”

someone who should know

“Regionalism is not easy,” said Tom Phillips, who has served on the board of the regional water authority for two decades. “It takes a lot of work. And one of the things that you really have to do is respect the politics of your neighbors.”

Major in communication

Tom Phillips: “Well, I think communication is the important thing,” he said. “And we haven’t had much of that. We haven’t had communication between council members. The mayor’s role is to be talking to council members all the time. We haven’t had communication with the media. When they call, you need to return their phone calls. That hasn’t been happening. And most importantly, you need to have a lot of communication with the public.”

economic development idea

Tom Phillips: “I then want to sit down with the economic development folks to really find out what it is they’re doing. And one of the things I’d like to do as mayor is maybe start out by going back to the last 10, 15, 20 companies that have come to Greensboro, and find out what it was that put Greensboro on their radar, and then what made them decide to come to find out whether we had anything to do with it or not.”

‘Dry powder’

Perkins: “When you go out to Lake Townsend and you have a diver tap on the dam and the rod that he’s using to tap on the dam goes in 18 inches and you’ve got a $40 million expense, you’d better have a little dry powder in your account to make the replacement of that dam.”

citizens redistricting

Two candidates said they would support the creation of a citizens commission to lead the city’s next redistricting process. “Yes, it’s a good idea,” Cone said, while Chris Phillips, responded, “I would say yes.” Tom Phillips said he wouldn’t have a problem with it, but when he served on the body through 2007 council generally stayed out of the way and let staff handle it. Perkins talked about how much the recent process has been mishandled but didn’t answer the question directly.

Police accountability

Cone: “What we need to do is make sure the police understand the implications of the actions they take,” the candidate said. “We also have to make sure they communicate with the communities so that we can alleviate the problem or the perception of a problem. And we also need to investigate if there is racial discrimination because we can’t allow that in the police department or anywhere in the city.”

Counterintuitive

Chris Phillips: “I would be in full support of the attorney reporting to the city manager, and the city manager holding the attorney accountable,” Phillips said. “That’s one of the things that I have to worry about in my job working in retail. I’m held accountable for what I do in my department. And I have to agree with Mr. Cone: It keeps the city council from micromanagement, so the attorney should report to the city manager, yes.”

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