Residential address: West Cone Boulevard (map)
Incumbent or challenger: Challenger
Campaign website or blog: Facebook (link)
Endorsements: Guilford County Community PAC, NC AFL-CIO, Occupy Greensboro Media Group, Triad Central Labor Council and YES! Weekly
Occupation and employer: Sales, GameStop
Previous elective experience (including election campaigns):Candidate for Greensboro City Council in District 3, 2009; candidate for USHouse District 6, 2008; served as vice chair of Guilford County Young Democrats(past)
Civic and volunteer experience (including service on citycommissions and boards): Co-host, "Gigabyte Nation" online radio show; co-director, Communities United for Broadband; paid coordinator, Google Fiber initiative for Greensboro (past); member, Greensboro Human Relations Commission (past), including chairof the Montgomery/Wells Housing Committee (past), and member of Truth and ReconciliationSubcommittee (past)
Education (highest degree attained and name of institution):High school graduate, Paramus High School, Paramus, NJ
Party registration: Unaffiliated (nonpartisan contest)
Where were you born? Bergen County, NJ
When did you move to Greensboro?1989 or 1990
Paid consultants working on campaign: None
Campaign manager: Self
Do you favor or opposereopening the White Street Landfill for household waste, beyond the smallamount of sewer sludge currently accepted? Briefly explain your position.
I strongly oppose reopeningthe White Street Landfill. We need to find a regional solution to our wastedisposal problems. What makes me more irritated is that this issue was at theforefront two years ago at election time and remains at the forefront now withlittle progress to a solution. There has been the idea that if we just open it upfor a few years we can move to a regional solution. I don’t trust it. We do notneed Band-Aids for our city’s problems; we need solutions. And the sooner wefigure out how to move to a regional solution the better. We need decisiveleadership in Greensboro and I will be decisive. If council cannot make up itscollective mind, maybe we should hold a referendum vote of the people to decidethe fate of the White Street Landfill and the surrounding neighborhoods. Eitherway, we need to make a decision and stop running our council like a circus.
Where do you stand on the“strong manager” form of city government and why?
As council is only a parttime position, the “strong manager” form of government is the only solution torunning our city. I do however think that a manager should be held accountableby council, even though he is theoretically their boss. Most of the debate andpolitical rhetoric should be sparred over in briefing sessions. An effectivecity manager should also keep council informed of all city business, so councilcan make informed decisions. This is either not the case now or some members ofthe current council should receive Emmy’s for their performances.
Should the city ofGreensboro place more or less emphasis on maintaining a healthy water and sewerfund to plan for future growth? Why or why not?
The city should put moreemphasis on maintaining and expanding our water and sewer fund. There is an oldsaying in government: “If a city cannot grow, then it dies.” We continue togrow at a good clip and we should prepare ourselves for that futuregrowth. We all like clean,drinkable water. I would also emphasize that good infrastructure of any kindbrings good jobs and we should invest in a future proof city to continue togrow and remain sustainable.
The city’s tax base hasremained flat for the past two years in a row, and the foreclosure crisiscontinues unabated. As a member of city council, how would you balance the needto fund services such as police patrol, fire protection and park maintenancethat citizens care about with the reality that the revenue picture remainsbleak?
It is not an easy crisis tohandle, but I would say that we need to consider how to raise revenues as thecost of everything continues to inflate, but try to protect our taxpayers fromtaxes becoming too burdensome that we cause more foreclosures. I think we needto look at where our revenues come in at and adjust up or down tax ratesaccordingly to create more revenue. One of the problems with the way we havebeen growing through annexations over the past decade or so is that the citynever seems to do the math on new tax revenues to cost of providing services.It isn’t rocket science to figure out that if the cost of services (water,sewer, fire, schools, and police) to annex a new mass of land is more than thenew tax revenue being created by that annexation that someone else is going tobear the burden of those services. I am fine with annexing to grow, but only ifit makes economic sense to do so and will commit to not voting for anannexation without having the raw numbers presented to myself and council tomake an informed decision.
Do you believe that citystaff deserves council support to implement a program to spend federal grantmoney to improve the energy efficiency of residences and businesses, or doesthis program warrant additional oversight from council? Briefly explain yourposition.
I believe that if we wereawarded funds from the federal government to implement an energy efficiencyprogram then we need to do just that. The city manager should oversee council’sreceipt of funds; funds which have to be specifically used for the purpose forwhich they were granted. If we are all saving money on energy costs because ofthis, then we are “all saving money.” Our city staff is worked to the bone andshould absolutely have council’s support.
How would you assess thevalue and effectiveness of Greensboro’s Rental Unit Certificate of Occupancyprogram, which is now prohibited by state law?
RUCO was a model for therest of the country to use. This program helped us drive out slumlords anddrive up property values. It wasn’t all that costly to run and it is a shamethat the local real-estate developers and landlords went to Raleigh to fight tohave RUCO and other programs like it banned. All so they didn’t have to make necessaryrepairs to the properties they own, just to meet the minimum safety standardsfor a habitable property. It seems to me that safe housing shouldn’t be aluxury only if you can afford it; it should be a guarantee when you rent inthis city. As your next District 3 councilman, I will go to Raleigh and try andget this horrible intrusion into our local government changed or repealed.
How should the impasse overmanagement and operation of the Greensboro Farmers Curb Market be resolved?
This whole mess at the farmersmarket is a shame. I take no greater pleasure than going to the curb market andpicking up locally grown, fresh fruits and vegetables and meats and fish. Ithelps our local economy and it is fresher and healthier for you. As the parksand recreation department has oversight of the farmers curb market, they needto bring both sides to the table, negotiate a solution and then present it to councilwith both sides being happy in the end. No one will get everything they wantand no one should walk away empty handed, but we should be able to work out asolution.
What, if anything, should bedone to resolve racial tensions, and to enhance professionalism, integrity andfairness within the Greensboro Police Department?
First off, we need moreofficers on the beat. I campaigned on this issue last election and my opponentsaid we didn’t need more officers. Right after the last election, outgoingpolice chief Tim Bellamy said we needed another district and more officers. Thestress and pressure put on an overworked police department takes its tolls onmorale, professionalism and creates incidents that should and could otherwisebe avoided.
Being understaffed alsocreates a whack-a-mole solution to our problems. This doesn’t work. We moreresources to New Irving Park because of a rash of break-ins and the criminalsmove to Kirkwood or another part of the city. We move resources to that problemand they go back to New Irving Park. We need a fully-staffed GPD to be fullyprotected from the harms to our city that will continue to make the front pageand taint our city’s appearance and reputation.
I understand that the GPDand most police departments have an internal affairs department (ours isgrossly understaffed), but an external review of improprieties within the GPDwould be more effective in rooting out a few possible bad seeds and repairingthe image and trust of the department. Any operation that is up and running andinvestigating itself is likely to find in favor of its own over another 99 outof 100 times. I believe we need to investigate going down this path.
What would you change aboutGreensboro’s land use patterns if the decision were yours to make? Pleaseanswer the question in terms of places people live, work and shop, in terms ofthe modes of transportation people use to get from point to point and thevitality of neighborhoods and commercial corridors?
The way we have developedGreensboro over decades has moved the service industry workers and blue collarworkers out to the suburbs of our city and the executives more towards ourinner city. It is nice that we have high-end living in downtown, but thereversal of how logic would hold up has pushed the worker bees out of the hiveand moved several queen bees in. This creates transportation costs andnightmares for those who already have less means to afford to commute. Firefightersand teachers are being pushed further from their work destinations and CEOsand executives closer to the core. We need to address this for future growth and try and reverse thispattern to something that makes sense.
I would also be moreattentive to annexations. We have grown through sprawl over the past 20 yearsand the numbers don’t always add up. If we are to annex land, it should beconnected to our city (no islands outside the limits to call our own) and itshould make fiscal sense as I said above. The cost of services to annex intoour city should never outweigh the tax revenue brought back in to the city bythe annexation.
What is Greensboro’sgreatest asset? What is Greensboro’s most pressing problem?
Our colleges are ourgreatest asset. We are and have been a college town for a very long time. Asmuch as the developers and the folks at DGI don’t want us to be a college town,we are simply just that. We do a horrible job at retaining the brain power who graduate from our schoolshere in Greensboro up and leave for a lack of jobs and go to markets better setup to serve them. We all saw how many people from all walks of life jumped onthe Google Fiber train that I took the lead on. It was and is a clear sign ofwhich direction the people of this city want to go in. They want high-tech jobsand opportunities to grow and develop new concepts and ideas, ideas that areborn, nurtured and fostered out of our colleges and universities.
Our most pressing problemsare the White Street landfill and creating a viable Greensboro for jobrecruitment. That said, I would like to address a problem created by myopponent. With the addition of my opponent’s teen curfew to our ordinances, weare sending a negative message to our youth. Teens were not the cause of any ofthe incidents at nightclubs throughout our city, and I challenge anyone to showme concrete evidence that they were. We should be encouraging folks to visit ourgreat mix of restaurants and businesses downtown, no matter what their age is,without them having to look at a watch to see if they may get in trouble forspending their money at our businesses or being social at the many attractionsdowntown has to offer. It was an awfully big government move, by a supposedlysmall-government guy.
Articles about this candidate:
YES! endorsements (link)
2011 general election voter guide (link)
Taxes and spending: Where Greensboro City Council candidates stand (link)
Candidate profile: Jay Ovittore (link)
City council candidate snubs real estate interest questionnaires (link)
Greensboro mayoral race expands (link)