Economics drives District 2 candidate forumBy Yasmine Regester, Staff Writer / August 11, 2017
And then there were three.
Five candidates filed to run for the District 2 seat and as of August 3, two candidates, Felicia Angus and Tim Vincent, announced they would be withdrawing from the race.
On August 3, District 2 candidates were invited to meet and greet the community at the Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro meeting at Peeler Recreation Center. Not held like a traditional forum, each of the remaining candidates, CJ Brinson, Goldie Wells and Jim Kee were each given time to give an opening statement and then five minutes to answer questions from meeting attendees.
While the topic of economic empowerment led the forum, candidates also addressed housing, crime, and police-community relations.“I’m trying to reach the most marginalized in our community. District 2 is in a state of crisis, a state of crime, and in a state of underdevelopment. I plan to resist, demand and fight that all lives in our district be affirmed,” said candidate CJ Brinson, a Black Lives Matter organizer.
A few residents said they had never seen Brinson’s face before in the community and questioned his support of the district. A former community organizer for Beloved Community Center, Brinson listed his recent activities with Operation GSO Transparency, a grassroots organization that calls for police accountability. The group has been active in the Dejuan Yourse and Jose Charles police altercation cases. Brinson has also worked with local barber, Gene Blackmon to host meetings to address community violence. Brinson has also been a member of the Renaissance Community Co-op grocery store for the last two years.
Wells said she was glad a young person like Brinson was entering the political arena.
“I’m so glad a young person like CJ is involved because it’s about getting all people involved. When I first ran for office, I came out because I was gung ho and wanted to see change but I realized I was just one person,” said Wells about her first dive into the political pool.
Wells served on council from 2005-2009, and was recently unanimously selected by the City Council to fill the unexpired term of District 2 Council member Jamal Fox, who resigned in July. She added that it is her experience that will help her to be able to work well with everyone across the board.
“I can’t make promises to change council because there are eight other people. But I do promise that I’ll be faithful to this community as I have been since ’98 when we first formed the Concerned Citizens of Northeast Greensboro,” Wells said.
Under her leadership, the group fought for eight years for the new McGirt-Horton Public Library on Phillips Avenue. Wells also helped form and led the Citizens for Economic and Environmental Justice (CEEJ), which fought the reopening of the White Street Landfill and helped steer the development of the Renaissance Community Co-op.Jim Kee, a developer and former city council member from 2009-2013, led with the need for economic development as a driver to address the district’s economic and social justice issues.
“I’m running for the citizens. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and I consider District 2 to be the weakest link. We need economic development,” said Kee who highlighted his collaboration with two minority businesses to help them secure city contracts. The two Greensboro-based companies were, The United Maintenance Group for the city’s loose-leaf collection, and Enpulse Energy Conservation, a company hired to measure the methane gas at the White Street Landfill to be converted into energy.
“If people have money in their pockets they don’t want to steal. We’re the third largest city in North Carolina and we’re behind in economic development. If you serve on council, you have to have a vision for the whole city. We have to have a representative that will go out and get the business, not just wait for it to come,” he said.
Brinson’s take is that the city does economic development wrong, using the current renovations at Revolution Mill on Yanceyville Street as an example.
“No longer should we do development that benefits corporations and leaves the community behind,” he said. “In my estimation, Revolution Mill was not a good plan. So many people in that community are going to be dispossessed because they won’t be able to keep up with the tax base,” said Brinson, suggesting a more community centered approach.
“Corporations come in that don’t hire our people that live in the communities. I support development that will be community centered. The city has to do a better job so that we have jobs in place that those living in the community can keep in line with property values,” he added.
Wells, called the Revolution Mill construction the biggest development Greensboro has going on right now, saying that just because someone may not want to patronize the business, does not mean it wasn’t a good plan.“When we talk about the ills in District 2 we also need to talk about the good things,” said Wells pointing out that also under construction in District 2 is the Nealtown Connector, a Printworks restaurant, and 200 apartment units, where two-thirds will be affordable housing.
Calling District 2 ‘racially identifiable’ by its landscape, she is also concerned with the appearance of the district and said she will encourage developers to plant at least one tree when building single family homes.
At the meeting, residents expressed their concerns that only certain parts of District 2 regularly receives access to economic development opportunities, leaving the rest of the community behind.
District 2 is the second largest district in Greensboro, reaching north bordering most of Lake Townsend and along U.S. 29 to the South near the intersection of Wendover Avenue and Burlington Road. District boundaries then follow East Market Street to downtown Greensboro and the western border follows North Church Street. District 2 also includes several satellite annexation areas both east and west of US 29.
In such a diverse district, Brinson stated that even crime can be addressed through economic justice. Brinson suggested methods used in other cities to reduce crime such as workforce programs, apprenticeship programs and community interveners that can treat violence as a health issue as opposed to criminalizing those who are impoverished in the community.
“You need someone who can address the urgency of the time to address these issues. I’m scared for my children to have interactions with the police,” said Brinson. “We can’t continue to believe that more police will stop crime. We have to hold our police accountable.”
Kee said he agreed with Brinson’s stance that police interaction with the community should be addressed, touting more police initiated community programs.
“Public safety is important and the interaction between police department and African American community. The police department has to initiate it. I plan to talk about what the community concerns are and be a voice for the people. Everyone deserves respect,” said Kee. “We have to make sure we are addressing that because we had a major situation in 1979 and we don’t want a reoccurrence of that. I want to make sure that your kids are safe, my kids and my grandkids.”
Wells also attributed crime in the community to an economic issue, lamenting that 13 out of the 23 homicides reported in Greensboro this year happened in District 2.
“Economics is our problem. We don’t have jobs. What happens to our young men aged 16-25? Everybody didn’t go to college that’s in Greensboro. But people can do construction jobs and make good money. We have to be open-minded to developers so somebody can start building and bring jobs that pay decent [wages],” she said, “I want to work with people to get solutions, get in there and work with people to get what we need.”
Primary Elections are October 10, where the top two finishers will go forward to the General Election on November 7.