Winston-Salem City Council races starting to heat up

by Keith Barber

On a hot, humid day, James Taylor, 28, appeared before a crowd of approximately 40 supporters at the Ken Carlson Boys & Girls Club in Winston- Salem and asked those in attendance for their support as he seeks to win the Democratic nomination for to represent the city’s Southeast Ward. “A wise man once said you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution,” Taylor said. “I’ve dedicated my life to making a difference.” Taylor, a juvenile justice counselor, said it was only appropriate that he kick off his campaign at the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club since the nonprofit has been such a big part of his life. Taylor said he worked for the Salvation Army after getting his degree in criminal justice. He then outlined his platform in broad strokes — including increased economic development for the Southeast Ward, investment in green energy, and improved communication between the citizens and the city council. Taylor then referred to his youth, and the need for new, progressive ideas in city government. “I don’t look like the people on the council but to get where we’re going, we have to think progressively,” he said. “Everything was designed to pass on to that next generation. We are that next generation. We stand poised to lead.” Taylor’s Obama-like message resonated with his supporters who cheered loudly at different points during his remarks. He told them his goal is public service, not the pursuit of a personal agenda. “It’s not about me. It’s about you,” he said. Six days later, Taylor spoke to attendees at the fifth annual Twin City Texas Pete RibFest at the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds. The biggest challenge for Taylor was finding residents of the Southeast Ward to share his campaign platform with. At one point, Taylor was trying to convince two Kernersville residents to volunteer for his campaign. A short while later, the candidate spoke with a man who had past dealings with Evelyn Terry, the incumbent city councilwoman who represents the Southeast Ward. The man, who asked not to be identified, spoke about an issue of putting in a fire hydrant next to his church in the Southeast Ward. He said he felt disappointed in the lack of support he received from Terry. However, the man said he lives in the city’s North Ward and therefore, could not vote for Taylor. Wayne Patterson, 38, joined Taylor at Rib- Fest on June 12 to speak with voters about his candidacy to represent the city’s North Ward. Patterson, a senior attorney with Patterson & Associates, made his way through the scores of people at the event, introducing himself and informing people of his candidacy for city council. Patterson said the recent news of Winston-Salem Dash owner Billy Prim’s proposal to have the city invest an additional $15.7 million in the downtown ballpark highlighted the city’s lack of support for small businesses. Patterson said if he is elected to city council, he will advocate for a different approach to economic development — an approach that favors small business owners and creates jobs. Patterson said small businesses fuel the economy of the North Ward, and the city needs to come up with a plan to entice small businesses to take out low-interest loans. “We have to be much more lenient with small business loans and not try to put small businesses through a lot of red tape,” Patterson said. “We need to give small business owners the opportunity to apply for loans in a way that’s going to fuel the economy and create jobs now. We can’t wait for next year for a change. We have to have a change right now. That’s our whole campaign slogan — a change right now.” Patterson said another top priority of his campaign is improved public safety, which would include increased interaction between police officers and young people. Also, Patterson said he would like to create a more open, honest dialogue between the city council and constituents in the North Ward. On Friday, Patterson said he spoke with 25 residents and eight different businesses while campaigning in the North Ward. Last month, Nelson Malloy, the longtime representative for the North Ward, announced he would retire when his term expires later this year opening up the race for Democratic hopefuls like Patterson. “Almost everyone out there supported my campaign. They just felt it’s time for a change,” Patterson said. “Right now, the North Ward is frustrated. I know because I have been out there every day. I’ve told them, ‘We can’t change it next year. We have to change it right now.’” Both Taylor and Patterson will face formidable challengers in their respective quests for city council seats. Taylor faces longtime incumbent Terry for the Democratic nomination. Terry boasted her accomplishments during her four years on city council in a press release announcing her intention to run for re-election, including bringing $675,000 in infrastructure improvements to the ward. However, Terry said this campaign is about the future of Winston-Salem and electing a leader with a proven track record of success.

JamesTaylor, a juvenile court counselor, announced he plans to challengeWinston-salem city councilwoman evelyn Terry in the Democratic primaryto represent the southeast Ward during a campaign kickoff rally at theken carlson Boys and Girls club in Winston-salem on June 6. (photo bykeith T. Barber)

“My focus moving forward with re-election is toattract new 21 st century jobs — jobs that are knowledge based, usinggreen technology and techniques,” Terry said. Terry said she createdthe first weatherization program in the city’s history and played a keyrole in the city receiving a $1 million grant from the US Department ofEnergy “that became a model for the state of North Carolina for lowincome energy conservation.” Terry said the race for theSoutheast Ward will be won by “the one with wisdom and a willingness tochange with purpose” and all that matters is positive action andresults. Patterson also faces a tough Democratic challenger inDee Dee Adams, who recently announced she will run for Malloy’s seat inthe North Ward. A political veteran, Adams ran for NC House in 1990 butlost to Warren P. Odom by just over 100 votes. Adams current serves asthe Democratic Party’s first vice-chair for the 5th CongressionalDistrict. She said the top two planks of her campaign platform arepublic safety and annexation issues. Adams expressedconfidence in Winston- Salem Police Chief Scott Cunningham and hisability to transform the culture within the department. She said ittook a change in leadership at the top to bring reform to theWinston-Salem PD. “With the hiring of Chief Cunningham, Winston-Salemis driving to be a police department that is fair and just ineverything they do,” she said. “He’s shown he’s a listener and he wantsto do the right thing.” If elected to city council, Adams saidshe would advocate an annexation procedure that gives residents agreater voice in the process.

“Youmust include all parties and bring them to the table. You have to sellit like a new product,” she said. “You have to give them a reason to bepart of the family.” Annexation is one of the top issues forJohn Hopkins, a Republican candidate for the North Ward. Hopkins, aresident of the Wedgewood subdivision of Pfafftown, said the currentprocess of annexation “is rigged for cities to win,” and citizens don’thave a voice in the process. The Wedgewood subdivision was annexed bythe city in 2003. Economic incentive packages, such as the one offeredto Dell and the one for the downtown ballpark are another big issue forHopkins. “When you have these economic incentive packages,you’re opening yourself up to the possibility of being taken advantageof,” Hopkins said. If elected to city council, Hopkins said he wouldadvocate creating economic growth by creating a good businessenvironment of lower taxes and better city services. Hopkins said thecurrent dilemma the city faces regarding the downtown ballpark — thefact that it appears it will have to invest an additional $15.7 millionof taxpayer dollars to complete the stadium — symbolizes a governmentthat didn’t think through the process. “This baseball team isnothing more than a business and their new stadium is nothing but abusiness expansion plan,” Hopkins said. “How many private businesses doyou know that get their expansions funded by taxpayer dollars? I have areal problem with taxpayers funding private companies. Liberal orconser

vative,if you’re going to spend government funds, you’ve got to spend itwisely.” Mayor Allen Joines announced last month that he will seek athird term in office. Joines said economic development would serve asthe cornerstone of his 2009 campaign. “We’re going to beannouncing a new economic development plan that will create 30,000 jobsin the next 10 to 12 years,” Joines said. “We’re going to push for thecommunity to get behind that and for Winston to regain stature of beinga top metro area by maintaining that level of job creation.” Joineshas worked for the city in some capacity since 1971. He said experiencein government is critical to future success at this point in history. “Ihave the ability to build collaborations. I’ve worked hard to supportthe business community and the neighborhoods over my entire career,” hesaid. Earlier this month, council members Dan Besse, Robert Clark,Molly Leight and Vivian Burke announced their intention to run forre-election. Wanda Merschel said she would make an officialannouncement regarding her plans in the weeks to come. Besse saidpublic safety is his top priority as he seeks his third term on thecouncil. His second priority is creating good economic opportunitiesfor everyone in the community by improving the transportationinfrastructure. “In the longer run, I think a regional lightrail system will help the economies of Winston-Salem and Greensboro,but in the meantime, the bus system needs improvement and pedestrianand cycling infrastructure must be improved,” he said. Besse’s thirdpriority is improving the quality of life for all Winston-Salemresidents. Clean air and water, the protection of trees andthe maintenance of public parks are a public health issue, Besse said.“If someone says trees don’t matter, they just don’t get it,” he added. Besse, 54, acknowledged he might face a young Republicanchallenger in the November general election, but age shouldn’t be anissue. “Your chronological age is not the chief issue. It’syour level of involvement in the community,” he said. “If your onlyselling point is you’re young, that’s not good.”