Nancy Vaughan talks reelection
I had the chance to talk with Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan yesterday about her platform for reelection. Vaughan is finishing her first term as mayor of the Gate City after having served four terms on city council since 1997. Vaughan handily defeated incumbent Mayor Robbie Perkins in 2013, and most observers feel she will easily win a second term against two little-known candidates.Vaughan was in between appointments when she called Tuesday, with a looming interview with the influential Simkins PAC scheduled for that afternoon. Her father had been inducted into the Guilford Sports Hall of Fame the night before.Vaughan said her campaign will focus on jobs and wage growth, infrastructure, and public safety.”That’s really been the platform for the last couple of years and I think we’ve made some strides,” Vaughan said.In terms of economic development, the mayor said that her focus would be on wage growth as opposed to sheer numbers of positions gained. Vaughan said the city had increased its relationships with economic development partners in the region, including Forsyth and Guilford counties, the City of High Point, and working with the folks in Randolph County to promote the regional megasite.”I think you are seeing a regional approach that you’ve never seen before,” Vaughan said.The benefit to the citizens of Greensboro of such an approach is increased economic viability. The city worked with Forsyth County to pay for airport improvements at PTI. Vaughan has worked with Winston-Salem mayor Allen Joines to address chronic homelessness among veterans. Vaughan mentioned the megasite again and so I asked her what benefit that would bring to Greensboro residents.”It would be an advanced manufacturer that would pay above average wages and benefits and increase supply chain activity that could attract development to the (US) 421 corridor,” Vaughan said. The possibility of recruiting higher paying jobs to the area is part of her economic development focus.”The quality of jobs recruited are more important than the quantity.” Vaughan said. “It’s a shift in what you may have heard in the past, where we just looked at raw numbers.”As for the broader challenges facing Greensboro, Vaughan said that city council has attempted to tackle issues that past mayors and councils have overlooked, such as food insecurity, homelessness, and poverty.”That is something that I am proud of,” Vaughan said. “I think in the past people thought that if we didn’t talk about them that these issues would just go away. As a council, we’ve made a conscious decision to talk about these things.”Vaughan said voters should know that she’s not been afraid to take on big issues, whether it’s the megasite, city assistance to the International Civil Rights Center and Museum, or other issues like police accountability.”They can’t say that I always take the safe way out,” Vaughan said.Vaughan has taken on issues in the background as well. After a community meeting on race relations held this past June, Vaughan has participated in regular meetings with a group of leaders from the city and Guilford County that discusses ways to improve race relations and police accountability. The group plans to launch a monthly series of meetings in November that will provide opportunities to discuss race relations and systemic racism in the community.I asked Vaughan about the criticism some grassroots voices raise over the city’s habit of reimbursing developers for infrastructure improvements. The mayor said that the reimbursement incentives are often for project the city would have eventually paid for, but that the developers can get the work done on an accelerated schedule.”The developments get built, otherwise they will be undeveloped tracts of land across the city,” Vaughan said. “It’s usually areas of the city that need places to shop or for people to go to work and the developer can do it on an accelerated schedule.”The mayor was quick to point out that the incentives are performance based, and that the city verifies that certain requirements are met.”We’re not just writing them a check with no accountability,” she said.Overall, Vaughan said she was “cautiously optimistic” that she will make it out of the Oct. 6 primary where she faces grassroots candidates Sal Leone and Devin King.Early voting for the Oct. 6 primary begins Sept. 24. Greensboro residents may cast early votes at the Guilford County Board of Elections Office at the Old Courthouse on Market Street in Downtown Greensboro.