Archives

Second try for Abuzuaiter

by Jordan Green

Second try for Abuzuaiter

Marikay Abuzuaiter chatted with reporters in council chambers on a Tuesday night last month, while members of Greensboro City Council prepared to go into closed session. “I came so close last time, I could taste it,” she said. Abuzuaiter has been attending council meetings since April 2007. She ran that year and missed securing one of the at-large seats in the general election by only 623 votes. Abuzuaiter is one of the few candidates who often stays to the end, weathering the minutiae, frayed nerves and occasional humor that can transpire in council meetings that often run six hours or more. As a small business owner who runs a restaurant, a curb market and apartments with her husband, Abuzuaiter was motivated to run the last time around by her opposition to a plan to dramatically increase fees and privilege licenses. The plan had the support of the council until business owners packed council chambers in protest. She still has her eye on onerous fees that place burdens on small-business owners. During a recent visit to her rental property office in south Greensboro, the candidate produced water bills showing that billing and availability fees for water and sewer services ballooned from $18 each in 2005 to $60 each in 2008. She wants to get the fees rolled back — if not to $18, then to a reasonable amount. “It boggles my mind,” Abuzuaiter said. “Usually, things don’t slip past me. Who passed it that it could have increased almost 300 percent without anyone saying anything? I can’t find any action by city council to approve this.” Abuzuaiter has also taken an active role in the city’s diversity and human relations affairs, accepting an appointment by Mayor Yvonne Johnson to co-chair the mayor’s International Advisory Committee, and signing up for Impact Greensboro, a year-long small-group session for emerging leaders to tackle pressing community issues. As a member of the city’s human relations commission, Abuzuaiter helped draft a resolution opposing contracts between local law enforcement agencies and the federal government for immigration enforcement programs set up for any purpose other than deporting the most serious and dangerous criminals. The commission unanimously approved the resolution, but the city council has not taken up a request to approve a similar measure. “I don’t believe that any ethnic group should be targeted,” Abuzuaiter said. “When people have come before the commission to speak, we are trying to get validated incidents. To date, we have not had any validated incidents.” Abuzuaiter’s advocacy for small business owners and diversity has helped her build a strong base of support across the city. She consistently ran strong in majority African- American precincts in east Greensboro in 2007, but she will be competing against incumbents Sandra Anderson Groat and Robbie Perkins, who also enjoy solid support among black voters, and against Nancy Vaughan, a former councilwoman with strong name recognition and a healthy campaign war chest. One position sure to garner support among the city’s east-side residents is Abuzuaiter’s opposition to reopening the White Street Landfill to household waste. One of Abuzuaiter’s adult sons was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma five years ago, and the health concerns of those who live near the landfill resonate with her. “Not one life is worth [the cost savings of reopening] that landfill,” she said. Other positions depart from progressive orthodoxy. An admirer of former police Chief David Wray, Abuzuaiter favors allowing the discrimination claims leveled against the city by black officers to go to trial. She also takes the position that a lot of the stipulations of the proposed Downtown Design & Compatibility Manual “are not very business friendly.”

Share: