Posted November 3, 2017
Greensboro News & Record
District representation involves a delicate balancing act.
Ideally, the five Greensboro City Council members who are elected in districts should be especially aware of, and responsive to, the needs of the areas they serve — while bearing in mind the interests of the city as a whole.
Here are our recommendations in each of those five races, in which each winner will serve a four-year term:
Sharon Hightower’s passion sometimes can get the best of her. But it also can bring out the best in her.
For instance, in 2016, she boycotted the graduation ceremony of city firefighter recruits over concerns over the lack of diversity in the class. It was the wrong way to address a valid issue.
Yet, also in 2016, she insisted on seeing the records of a former Greensboro police officer who resigned while being investigated for misconduct. In fact, Hightower has been a consistent voice for transparency on the council, especially where police-community relations are concerned.
Hightower is serving her second term in a district that covers southeast Greensboro but also includes the Greensboro Coliseum Complex and Koury Convention Center. She has advocated for more economic development in the underserved east and has helped secure council funding for the expansion of the Joint School of Nanoscience and Nanoengineering. She pushes relentlessly for access by minority businesses to city contracts. “It’s time for District 1 to get a fair shake,” she says.
Maybe Hightower should give Police Chief Wayne Scott that same kind of “fair shake.” She complains that Scott rarely attends community meetings in her district, but she also admitted she hasn’t invited him. She should make an effort to work with him.
Her opponent, Guilford County Schools intervention specialist Paula Lipscomb-Ritter, is a first-time candidate who strikes us as earnest and engaged. But Hightower’s experience gives her a substantial edge. Even before joining the council, she was deeply involved in her community. She deserves a third term.
Two experienced candidates who know each other well, Goldie Wells and Jim Kee, are vying for the seat previously held by Jamal Fox. Each has previously served in the seat, Kee from 2009 until 2013, and Wells from 2005 to 2009.
Kee, a developer and property manager, touts his business experience. But Wells’ grass-roots leadership and hard work in northeast Greensboro, year in and year out, has been beyond impressive. She was instrumental in bringing a grocery co-op to her community, and is front and center on a number of quality-of-life initiatives. She is widely known, trusted and respected. Kee also worked on the co-op project, but he and Wells disagreed on how best to approach it.
When Fox resigned in June to take a new job in Portland, Ore., Wells was appointed by the council to finish his term. She should remain in that seat for four more years. She’s the clear choice here, a forceful and authentic voice for her constituents.
This is a contest between two young attorneys who differ more in their experience than in their views. Justin Outling, completing his first elected term, has proven himself in a number of roles and should continue a promising political career.
Craig Martin, a first-time candidate, is an assistant public defender whose work exposes him to shortcomings in the justice system and inequities that many people in our city encounter daily. His desire to speak for them is commendable.
Outling practices business litigation but also chaired the city’s Minimum Housing Standards Commission before joining the council in 2015 and has played leadership roles in many community organizations. On the council, he wrote the state’s first policy for police body-worn cameras. He also aims to trim regulations and create a better business environment while supporting policies of inclusion.
Outling stumbled when he supported an action that led to renewing a city contract with United Healthcare, which employs lobbyists from his firm. On a second council vote, he recused himself. He should have been more transparent from the start.
Overall, however, Outling is an asset on the council and for his district.
Given the 67 percent support for Nancy Hoffmann in last month’s primary, one would think she’s a beloved figure in District 4. Yet, some of her critics are fierce. They’re still upset about a commercial rezoning at Hobbs Road and West Friendly Avenue in 2015.
That episode showed Hoffmann’s skills, however. She, more than anyone, pushed developers to improve their proposal until it was widely accepted.
Hoffmann brings experience in business, clear thinking and tenacity to the council. While she has a worthy opponent in community activist Gary Kenton, an early leader in the recycling movement, she has demonstrated her ability to represent the majority of her constituents well.
Tony Wilkins was elected to his second full term without opposition in 2015, but he is tested in this election by Tammi Thurm, a law firm manager and first-time candidate who outworked him before the primary and led the voting. If she wins next week, she’ll be a good addition to the council.
But Wilkins’ defeat would be a loss. He is accessible, responsive and a good advocate for his district. He’s also the only consistently conservative member of the body. A little balance doesn’t hurt, and Wilkins’ friendly relationships with Republican county commissioners and state legislators give him unique value. He deserves another term.