Yes! endorsements

by Brian Clarey and Jordan Green


— Robbie Perkins

The mayor of Greensboro gets one vote that counts no more or less than any other council member. The role is supervisory — the mayor sets the agenda and runs the council meetings. He’s a quarterback. A leader. And though he gets just a single vote, he is expected to guide the council through the most pressing issues the city faces.

We quickly narrowed our list down to sitting at-large Councilman Robbie Perkins and former at-large Councilman Tom Phillips. Challengers Chris Phillips, who was formerly homeless, and Bradford Cone, who is the only registered Democrat in the race, have good ideas but are still unformed as political leaders. And current Mayor Bill Knight has basically been incommunicado with our paper since he took office two years ago; he ditched our candidate interview request as well as the News & Record’s news and editorial board interview invitations, and has been conspicuously absent thus far in forums and debates. Let’s be real: There is no way this guy would get our endorsement on pure principle, regardless of his votes and views, many of which we also disagree with. We could do a lot worse than elect Tom Phillips as mayor. He understands the issues and the mechanisms of municipal government. He is on the right side of the landfill debate, and seems to make sound decisions, albeit with a decidedly fiscally conservative bent. He’s not conservative enough for many GOP voters this time around — not a big concern to us but it will cost him a few votes that will likely go into Knight’s column.

A bigger problem for him is his competitor, Robbie Perkins.

Perkins has been in the game a long time, and he is easily the best politician of anyone running this year. He has con- nections in state and federal government as well as county and city associations that reach into every neighborhood and demographic. Some deride Perkins’ deal-making prowess by saying that his fingers are constantly chapped from trying to see which way the wind is blowing, but we don’t see politi- cal awareness, necessarily, as a negative.

Fact is, Perkins understands Greensboro like few other citizens — where it’s come from, where it’s headed, its geography and economic currents, its role in the state’s evo- lution. He’s got his hands in land use, transportation, educa- tion, regionalism, urban planning… plus he placed third

overall in this year’s Run for the Greenway. And Perkins has vision. He spoke to us about economic growth in the east after the urban loop comes in, sensible and long-term water and sewer developments, the signifi- cance of the Piedmont Triad Regional Airport and the High Point Road corridor.

“In 50 years,” he said to us, “I want those guys to look back [on what we put in p[lace] and say, ‘Man, those guys were smart.’” For these reasons and more, Robbie Perkins gets the nod.


— Wayne Abraham, Cyndy Hayworth, Nancy Vaughan

The current leadership of the council, which has undertaken an ill-conceived effort to reopen the White Street Landfill based on faulty and suspect motives and turned a deaf ear to the concerns of citizens, deserves to be repudiated at the polls. Greensboro needs practical, forward-thinking leadership, and council members who will engage in an open, deliberative process to make the best decisions for all constituencies across the city. That means listening, diligent research, mutual respect and a generous spirit of give and take.

To be clear, the city council needs a dramatic course correction. There are five candidates with strong qualifications, demonstrated commitment and solid track records of service to the community. If there were five at-large seats available, we would probably include Yvonne Johnson and Marikay Abuzuaiter in our endorsement slate. But with Nancy Vaughan, Cyndy Hayworth and Wayne Abraham, voters have an opportunity to move past some of the petty rivalries and old patterns that have frustrated progress in our city.

Nancy Vaughan has displayed admirable moxie in fighting to keep the landfill closed. She hasn’t always made the right decisions, but she’s humble enough to own up to mistakes and make amends. Such was the case when she voted in favor of a blatantly gerrymandered redistricting plan without adequate public review. In response to a public outcry, Vaughan announced two days later that she would make a motion to reconsider. In our business we deal with elected officials who dodge uncomfortable questions and sometimes fail to return phone calls. Not only does Vaughan return calls, she often calls us first.

She’s a political moderate who is interested in making government more efficient. She has also forged a strong relationship with the Interactive Resource Center, and has come to embrace the value proposition of helping homeless people get back on their feet and become productive members of society again.

In short, Vaughan is a thoughtful policymaker who demonstrates openness and honesty in her communications, and actively forges relationships with a wide array of constituencies. You can ask for no more in an at-large representative.

Wayne Abraham holds a long track record of service to the community. He’s smart and thoughtful. He’s a successful business owner and one who displays compassion for the least of these. He knows how to work with people to get things done. Abraham may not be a household name in Greensboro politics like Yvonne Johnson, but no less than former mayors Keith Holliday and Carolyn Allen have recognized his strengths.

Abraham co-founded Triad Health Project in the mid-1980s. He worked for years behind the scenes to prod the city manager’s office to implement domestic partnership benefits for city employees. He chaired the citizens review board, part of his responsibilities as chair of the human relations commission.

Finally, Abraham is a visionary — a quality in short supply on council in recent years — with innovative ideas for making Greensboro a better city. He’s one of the few candidates talking about enhancing public transportation, adopting the Sustainability Action Plan and putting cityowned land to use as community gardens to meet local food needs.

Cyndy Hayworth came relatively late to her position of opposing the reopening of the White Street Landfill, but she arrived at the right position and she persuasively articulates why the landfill is bad for Greensboro. Some might read in her initial neutrality a lack of conviction, but it actually reflects a quality that recommends her for leadership.

Hayworth comes across as open-minded, as someone who takes the time to research decisions and as someone who talks to a wide range of people to gauged the broad implications of her actions. That’s a positive: If you have too many people on council with hardened positions, you end up with scorched-earth outcomes that are lose-lose propositions for everyone. And her diligence has been demonstrated as a member of the zoning commission — she’s now the chair — where she tells voters she has visited every subject property to get a sense of how redevelopment will affect the surrounding neighborhood. It follows that such sensitivity to residents’ qualityof-life concerns would lead the candidate to oppose the reopening of the landfill.

Hayworth has taken strong stands for preserving the integrity of established neighborhoods and for making sure Greensboro has an ample reserve fund for infrastructure investment so the city can compete effectively for jobs.

We also look to her for transactional leadership: She might be the kind of person who would see the value of a community garden program, but would ask the tough questions about cost to taxpayers and accountability, so that the ultimate outcome is even better than before. We also may not agree with her on every position — her opposition to council’s 2009 expression of regret for the Klan-Nazi killings is a case in point — but that’s okay. As long as leaders demonstrate thoughtfulness in their deliberations and explain their decisions, that meets our requirements.


— Jim Kee

The District 2 campaign has been perhaps the most lively of the contested district races. Challengers C. Bradley Hunt II and Dan Fischer are to be commended for enriching the race. Hunt is an impressive, young man with strong potential who has proven his ability to defend bold and well-researched positions. He offers an appealing alternative to voters, particularly on issues of police accountability. Fischer is a thoughtful and committed community member who has some interesting ideas.

Ultimately, we have to endorse the incumbent, Jim Kee. First, a caveat: Kee has acknowledged that he made a tactical misstep in efforts to block the reopening of the White Street Landfill, which is located in District 2. Community activists rather than their elected representative provided the decisive leadership in this fight.

Now, on to the good stuff: Kee understands roadway connectivity, economic development and how the two are related to the landfill. He holds a long track record of service to the community, not incidentally, including leadership to close the landfill 10 years ago. He handles himself with finesse and a common touch. The council needs more like him:

elected representatives who are principled, but work to find common ground to advance common goals for the city.


— Nancy Hoffmann

When we say we are looking for change on council, one of the places we’re targeting is District 4, where for the last two years Mary Rakestraw has been operating in lockstep with her faction without regard for her constituents nor, in our opinion, the greater good of the city. We barely agree with Rakestraw on anything, though we do commend her for coming into the YES! Weekly offices, essentially hostile political territory, to make her case in her endorsement interview.

Which leaves us with Tony Collins and Nancy Hoffmann.

Collins is a solid candidate: a contractor with some big projects under his belt who understands business and real estate without seeming to be beholden to industry. Plus he’s sharp and affable, and says he’s willing to listen to all viewpoints before casting votes.

Collins’ biggest problem is that he’s running against Nancy Hoffmann, who comes with genuine public-service bona fides as chair of the human relations commission with some time on the complaint review committee. Plus she is an urbane, intellectual, business-savvy humanitarian who brings a wealth of realworld experience to council.

Hoffmann holds solid positions on the issues in an election season where some of the candidates don’t even know what the issues are: land use, sustainability, public safety and civility on council chief among them.

Not only do we endorse Nancy Hoffmann for District 4, we would endorse her for just about anything.