Robbie Perkins, at-large candidate
Residential address: 1612 St. Andrews Road, 27408
Incumbent or challenger? Incumbent
Campaign website or blog: www.robbieperkins.com
Occupation and employer: President, NAI Piedmont Triad
Previous elective experience (including election campaigns): Served on city council 1993-2005, 2007-present
Civic and volunteer experience (including service on city commissions and boards): President of the board of directors for One Step Further; board of trustees, Bennett College; board of trustees, Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation; member, Greensboro Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization Transportation Advisory Committee; member, Heart of the Triad Steering Committee
Education (highest degree attained and name of institution): Master of business administration, Duke University
Party registration: Republican (nonpartisan contest)
What is the city and state of your birth? Richmond, Va.
What year did you move here? 1979
Paid consultants working on your campaign: None
Your campaign manager: Ross Harris
Your treasurer: Self
Remarks from Sept. 22 candidate forum:
Yes. Since 1993, I’ve served on the city council all but two years. I thought I retired in 2005, but I got a nudge from our mayor. And she said, "I’m going to run for mayor, and I’d like for you to come back and help me." So I’ve been trying to help Yvonne Johnson for two years. Greensboro’s been hit in the gut, like every place in the country. And right now we’ve got to focus on things that have meaning for our citizens: Number one, jobs; and number two, crime. We’ve got to create jobs in our community. Right now, the unemployment rate in Guilford County is over 11 percent. That’s unacceptable. We got hit in 2000 when they took the manufacturing jobs overseas. We missed out on the last growth surge. We’ve got to catch this one right. We’ve got FedEx and HondaJet. We’ve got all kinds of emerging businesses along High Point Road. We’ve got to make a difference so that we catch the wave and turn our economy around in this city.
Do you support continued funding for the Greensboro Police Department gang enforcement unit? Why or why not?
Yes, I support the police gang unit. I also support the overall direction that our police department is taking. I was very concerned three or four years ago with all of the situations in the police department, but I think that clearly we have it going in the right direction in Greensboro. We recently did a $254,000 study of the department. It gave 137 different recommendations for changes in the department. And all of those that could be made without breaking the bank, have been made. Chief Bellamy is a strong leader and he has surrounded himself with a team that has done a dramatically better job of being inclusive and meeting the needs of our entire community instead of one section of town.
Why did you oppose firing City Manager Mitch Johnson?
Mitchell Johnson took a strong stand for trying to do the right thing for this community, and I didn’t see any reason to fire a man that stood for principle. The council — I think the members of the county commission that were elected came over with a goal of firing Mitch Johnson because he decided to investigate alleged mistreatment of African-American officers of the police department. He did what he thought was right, and he eventually got fired for it. I stood by him because I thought the man did a good job, and I thought that he was not treated fairly in terms of his review by the council. He was set up to a point where he couldn’t serve any longer. I do agree that it’s time to move on, and support our new manager, Rashad Young. He is coming to us from Dayton, Ohio, and he is an outstanding person, an outstanding leader, and I hope that the entire city council and the city of Greensboro can rally behind him to move this city forward.
A recent assessment of the current state of human relations found that the residents thought Greensboro "feels like five cities, not one city" and is a segregated city where there are historical issues that have not been dealt with, that influence where people live. In your opinion, does Greensboro have a problem with housing segregation?
When I started on council as a District 3 representative in northwest Greensboro the minority population in northwest Greensboro in District 3 was six-and-a-half percent. Today, that population in District 3 approaches 20 percent. So I think that in itself answers the question. We’ve had a lot of great things happen in Greensboro. One of those, over the past 15 years, has been housing. I think Greensboro put its money into housing, and really took a situation in our city and turned it from a problem into a real strength. Because I think if you drive around Greensboro versus driving in other large cities this size you’ll see that the housing stock in Greensboro is in surprisingly good shape. And that’s because of the investment that the citizens of this city and the city council implemented wisely that investment in our housing stock.
Do you feel the city should have a public campaign fund so that candidates who are less wealthy and less well connected can still afford to consider public service?
No. And I believe that if a candidate has an adequate foundation in the community and has built a reputation in Greensboro as someone who is a qualified council candidate, then they will get the resources, both monetary and endorsement support that’s necessary to get them elected. And I think this could go both ways. Because I think that the money deal has been overplayed. And one of the great examples of that is Barack Obama’s election as president of the United States. Had there been a level playing field in that case, millions of people would have been denied the opportunity to participate in that process. His energy and enthusiasm, the way he ran his campaign was the reason he got such an outpouring of public financial support. So I’m not sure we would want to fundamentally limit that type of success.
The complaint review committee investigates complaints against police officers. Would you be in favor of giving this citizen panel subpoena authority to interview witnesses? Why or why not?
Right now the city council and the human relations commission has been working on a citizens review board concept that does not involve subpoena power. And I think that’s the right thing to do right now. Ten years ago I think the city council turned down the concept of a citizens review board on a 6-3 vote, and it was a racially divided vote. But I believe that our acceptance of this current policy change and the ability for the human relations commission and the police department to agree 100 percent on the validity of this process and to work together to make it work goes a great deal towards curing a lot of the problems, both on the police standpoint and on the citizens’ trust standpoint, so I’m willing to give this new citizens review board a try, see how it works, and see how effectively the police and the community can work together to rid ourselves of the complaints. Or to make sure the complaints are adequately addressed, actually.
Would you be in favor of reopening the White Street Landfill to household waste?
You know, I spent about two hours this afternoon at a city council briefing, and the White Street Landfill was the second item that we discussed. And I can tell you this: I don’t like the tenor of that discussion and the way it’s being framed in this community. This issue has torn the guts out of this city. The city council made a decision — Ms. [Nancy] Vaughan was a part of it, and I was a part of it — to not open the White Street Landfill to municipal solid waste. And it wasn’t based solely on the numbers. It was based on the fact that it was the right thing to do for this community. And folks, we’re getting hit by distortions of facts, and there isn’t anyone that can tell you the facts of what it really would cost to reopen that landfill versus what we’re doing today. The only solution for White Street, and the city of Greensboro, and the Piedmont Triad is for us to engage our legislators, come up with a regional solution. And the city manager of the city of Winston-Salem last week said he would welcome the opportunity to work with Rashad Young and Strib Boynton down in High Point and others to form a regional solution for solid waste. You don’t want to dump it in anyone’s backyard. We’ve got to take care of this responsibly ourselves.
The number-one issue we’ve got in the community right now is jobs, and we’ve got to attack that in a strategic fashion. We’ve got to attack that as a region. Greensboro’s a city of 255,000 people, but if we look at the region that we’re in, we’re a million people. Do we want to be between San Bernardino and Peoria, Illinois? Or do we want to position ourselves between Nashville, Tennessee and Austin, Texas? If we position ourselves as a region, then we look like Austin, Texas and Nashville, Tennessee. We’ve got to take and devote all of our resources to making sure that we have adequate infrastructure, so that when the companies look at this part of the country and want to relocate here that we are prepared to bring them into Greensboro.
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