Winston-Salem City Council Endorsements

by YES! Staff

This election was largely decided in the primary considering that voter registration in most wards skews heavily Democratic. In two wards, the winners were actually chosen in the primary because one or another party did not field candidates. Democrat Derwin Montgomery will represent the East Ward and Republican Robert Clark will retain his seat in the West Ward barring successful write-in campaigns.

We encourage everyone to vote regardless of how little excitement the election is generating. Yes, it’s true that voter apathy can allow candidates who don’t represent the broader interests of their ward to sneak in, so a measure of vigilance is always in order. More importantly, the victors should win their seats with more than 10,000 votes so that more than a fraction of the electorate can hold them accountable for their performance in office.

MAYOR — ALLEN JOINES We took a stand with Allen Joines in the Democratic primary against a gadfly challenger. Our primary choices largely reflected an endorsement of the current team, of which Joines is capable ambassador who both incorporates the various interests of his coalition and projects an image of confidence and progress. The current council has shepherded the revitalization of downtown, focused on economic development and job creation and worked to coax modest reinvestment into outlying commercial areas. We’re not inclined to recommend changes by calling for the substitution of Republican candidates, who in most cases would take the council in a radically different direction. We can’t afford the distraction.

Joines’ Republican challenger, James Lee Knox, represents everything that is parochial and reactionary about Winston-Salem. No way.

NORTHWEST WARD — JEFF MACINTOSH The Northwest Ward race features two extremely well qualified candidates seeking to replace Democrat Wanda Merschel, a skillful budget writer who deserves the city’s thanks for her service. The Northwest Ward is the most closely divided in party registration, and neither Democrat Jeff MacIntosh nor Republican Lida Hayes Calvert are far from the center. For that reason, either would do an excellent job of representing the ward.

As Republicans go, Calvert is a near-perfect candidate: a small business owner with a solid resume of civic voluntarism who has identified cost savings for the city. She celebrates diversity, maintains strong relationships with Democrats on the current council and personally supports the arts. In at least three other ward races, we would easily endorse her over incumbent Democrats.

Calvert has the misfortune of running against Jeff MacIntosh, a commercial real estate broker who is one of the most forward thinking candidates in any race for city council. He understands development, the importance of keeping downtown vibrant and is willing to consider big transformative projects such as the Urban Circulator, while insisting that they prove their return on investment. What puts him over the top is MacIntosh’s recognition that being the “lowest cost producer of services” is not enough for Winston- Salem to attract investment, and that intangibles such as cycling, food, craft brewing and music attract talent and make the city a place where young people want to stay.

NORTHEAST WARD — KEITH KING Some of us were still in diapers when Vivian Burke was first elected to the Northeast Ward. In the Democratic primary, we called for change, reasoning that new leadership “would help build stronger citizen engagement to enable more accountable leadership.”

Burke prevailed in that contest, and the matter would seem to be settled; we can’t consider an inexperienced Republican candidate whose conservative views don’t reflect the majority of the electorate. But then an unaffiliated candidate took the initiative to collect a sufficient number of signatures to get his name on the ballot. Enter Keith King.

King’s charge that constituents have trouble getting in touch with their representative resonates with our criticism and experience. His service on the Winston-Salem Transit Authority board burnishs his credentials.

King’s platform of public safety, jobs and economic development is boilerplate and his dismissal of the Urban Circulator as being akin to the Wells Fargo trolley comes across as uninformed. King might need to be challenged to take some bolder stances, but in the meantime his accessibility makes him a welcome improvement over the current representative.

NORTH WARD — DENISE D. ADAMS We disagreed with Democratic incumbent Denise D. Adams’ vote against a resolution to file an amicus brief in a federal court appeal for habeas corpus by Kalvin Michael Smith, and the councilwoman’s advocacy for her ward often seems conflicted between the urbanism of tomorrow and the parochialism of the past. The singular achievement of her first term was a new ordinance to allow neighborhoods to petition to ban front-yard parking. Adams has called for a redirection of focus away from downtown in her reelection campaign, and pledges that if elected to serve a second term she “will be very aggressive about economic development.”

Oddly, Adams was one of two Democratic incumbents spared a primary. That’s too bad, because a primary would have likely forced her to sharpen her vision and hone her ideas.

Patricia Kleinmaier, the Republican candidate, deserves credit for running an energetic campaign, but her reflexive opposition to spending of almost any sort — whether for the expansion of transit, small business loans, grants to nonprofits or economic incentives — is out of sync with the majority Democratic constituency in this ward.

SOUTHWEST WARD — DAN BESSE Progressive, thoughtful and level headed, Democratic incumbent Dan Besse successfully pushed for funding to allow Winston-Salem Transit Authority to provide Sunday bus service. He brings funds for sidewalks and crosswalks back to his ward, and his constituents appreciate his stand against the Republican-controlled state legislature’s imposition of concealed weapons in municipal parks. Republican Donald T. Shaw, a plumbing-supply business owner who seems to only know the word “No,” doesn’t give us much to work with.

SOUTH WARD — MOLLY LEIGHT Molly Leight aligns well with the overall vision of progressive growth embraced by the Joines coalition. We supported her primary opponent, but the Democratic voters of the South Ward thought differently. Leight is responsive to her constituents, particularly in politically active neighborhoods such as Washington Park. Nathan Jones hasn’t returned any of our calls during this campaign, and we don’t know enough about him to consider his candidacy.

SOUTHEAST WARD — JAMES TAYLOR Since taking office four years ago, James Taylor has distinguished himself for his constituent outreach by periodically hosting community meetings. He takes care to find out what his constituents want and does his best to vote in accord with their wishes. In that spirit, he took the lead to get council to pass a resolution expressing opposition to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Aside from a name on the ballot — Mike Hunger — the incumbent has no opposition.