Sharon Hightower (i)
Sharon Hightower took the mantle of District 1 in 2013 when she defeated incumbent Dianne Bellamy-Small by a mere dozen votes, raising a coalition based on grassroots credentials and dissatisfaction with the Bellamy-Small’s [abrasive?] governing style.
In this first term she found her footing on efforts for affordable housing and development in east Greensboro, for which a plan was formally approved in April.
Hightower voted for the city’s final loan payment to the International Civil Rights Center & Museum and has been advocating that the city remains hands-off when it comes to the operation of facility. She took a position against renovating the Cascade Saloon on Elm Street.
She’s differed from her predecessor in both temperament and style, which is where most of the daylight between the two exists.
Before losing to Hightower, Dianne Bellamy-Small served five terms in Greensboro’s District 1, defeating Belvin Jessup in 2003. Earl Jones, who went on to serve in the NC House, previously held the seat.
Jones, who co-founded the International Civil Rights Center & Museum that Bellamy-Small has said should become financially independent, will likely not be endorsing her.
Most constituents in District 1 remember their former councilwoman as a strong fighter who successfully beat back efforts to reopen the White Street Landfill and championed rental-unit inspections. Or they might remember her as the one who refused to move out of the corner office, survived a recall election and wouldn’t take a polygraph when a confidential document was leaked to the press.
Small’s style at council meetings could be disruptive and confrontational. And though she earned a reputation as being difficult with the press, she seems to have come around. Since losing in 2013, Bellamy-Small ran unsuccessfully for the Guilford County Commissioners.
Jamal Fox (i)
First elected two years ago, Jamal Fox is now just 27 — the youngest member of city council. His initial campaign focused on a variety of needs for the northeastern, majority black district, including transportation issues, the Renaissance Community Co-op and shopping center and greater student involvement in city government.
He’s had some accomplishments on those fronts, including major progress for the shopping center and the creation of a college commission with full participation of the city’s higher-ed institutions. And there is some economic development in the district — most of it still in the early stages and some of it still just an idea — that Fox points to as evidence of progress.
But other things are moving more slowly. Sidewalk construction, long a frustrating subject for some District 2 residents, will begin soon but will take several years. There’s some progress to point to on the Downtown Greenway, namely related to artist selection for a cornerstone piece rather than where the path itself comes through the district. And when it comes to the bus system, there’s nothing new to be proud of.
Fox has helped push forward some road-connectivity projects, he said, which will improve access and increase opportunities for economic development but which don’t get to the core issue of public transit for the district. But in less than two years, and coupled with progress via several initiatives including a raised wage for city employees that Fox supported, he believes it’s a strong start to build on.
Challenger Thessa Pickett, who is self employed, emphasizes her grassroots credentials and social-justice mindset first. She’s tied to activist groups like Black Lives Matter and the Queer People of Color Collective, but also to the city’s committees for things like the Commission on the Status of Women.
Pickett charges that Fox has been absent when it comes to important issues facing the majority black residents of District 2, either by not showing up for community meetings or declining to take a strong public stance on a variety of topics, including policing and racial profiling [isn’t this the same issue, or have other institutional actors involved in racial profiling been called out?]
If elected, Pickett said her service wouldn’t be about her stances on the issues. Instead her positions would be driven by feedback from grassroots groups and constituents, she said. She has said she would work diligently to address the needs of the chronically homeless, among others.
The current city council has made the right decision on several key issues, to be sure, Pickett said, but the credit belongs to the network of residents who pressured council to do the right thing. She describes her bid for office — this is her first time running — as an extension of that bottom-up power.