Gary Kenton, a retired communications professor and former special education teacher, has been eyeing a run for Greensboro City Council for several months, with the intention of pushing the council in a more progressive direction.
On Sunday, Kenton announced that he’s running for the District 4 seat currently occupied by Councilwoman Nancy Hoffmann.
Kenton has been active with Democracy Greensboro, a group that is developing a progressive platform as a bar to measure candidates against. He’s played an active role in police accountability campaigns, which is part of Democracy Greensboro’s platform. As part of GSO Operation Transparency, Kenton was among seven people arrested in January in an act of collective civil disobedience while demanding access to the Greensboro Police Department’s internal investigative file on DeJuan Yourse, a resident who was tackled and punched without provocation by a police officer.
“I wanted to make sure there was a candidate that would be strongly upholding the platform that Democracy Greensboro has developed,” Kenton said. “I like the platform; it’s one that expresses the priorities of the people who live here, not just the candidates. Democracy Greensboro has not endorsed anybody because they are committed to the platform…. In the meantime, the filing period is open, so I thought I needed to declare.”
Hoffmann filed on Friday, the first day of filing. Joe Schuler, a UNCG student, has also announced plans to run, but has yet to file.
Kenton said he respects Schuler, while adding that Hoffmann “deserves more solid opposition.”
“On all the issues I consider most important, she is almost completely silent,” Kenton said.
Kenton said the current council’s focus on investment in the Randolph County mega-site and a downtown parking deck is “a failed model,” adding that council should emphasize support for small businesses instead, with a preference for East Market Street over West Market Street.
Kenton also faulted the current council for not allocating more money for the housing bond — part of the 2016 bond package — and promoting it to voters.
“I thought the housing piece should have been the centerpiece,” Kenton said. “And I didn’t hear anyone on council supporting it full-throatedly, certainly not Nancy.
He said police accountability is also a top priority for him
“I recognize that right now Raleigh presents a very big problem and that city council is rightfully concerned about retaliation,” he said. “I still think city council has an opportunity to do something. We should say, ‘Our citizens paid a lot of money for these [police] body cameras, and the state should pay back the city if the citizens can’t see the footage.’
“For people in my neighborhood, there isn’t a lot of concern about the police, but on the east side there is a lot of concern,” Kenton added. “Operation Transparency hasn’t attacked the police, but tried to make the police department better. We need to address police training, and the timelines of who gets to see police body camera video and when. It all comes under the category of accountability.”
Reached by phone on Sunday, Nancy Hoffmann said she “always welcomes the opportunity to talk about substantive issues.”
“By any measurement or metric, we have made substantial progress in the past six years,” the incumbent candidate said. “I really want to maintain that trajectory. I want to support existing businesses and promote the creation of new businesses through support for entrepreneurs. The two most important things for economic development… are the availability of a skilled workforce and a great place to live. These are the two places I’ve committed to work on.
“I’m going to have a laser-like focus on workforce development; job creation; good, safe affordable housing and quality of life,” she continued. “I think I’ve provided real leadership on the council. We have really moved the needle quite a distance. I want to continue to be on that cusp.”
Kenton served on the Guilford County Soil & Water Board before moving to New York to study communications. In 2013, he was elected to the Rhinebeck Village Board of Trustees in the Hudson River valley of New York State. Kenton said he understands how to demonstrate effective leadership, particularly when it comes to standing up against bullying by the state General Assembly. He added that the council should seek input from citizens, and then, with their support, take a stand.
“I’m a realist, and I would say to the citizens: ‘There may be some consequences,’” he said. “What’s happening in Raleigh and Washington is very dangerous, but we can’t sacrifice our commitment to democracy. I think the citizens will support that.”
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