GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – If you live in Greensboro and go to vote for mayor and a new City Council, you also will be asked to check yes or no on a series of five bonds that were placed on the ballot as one referendum.
These bonds, approved by the council earlier this year, are for a total of $135 million that the city would repay over time. They address what council members consider are both needs and opportunities for the city.
But instead of one lump sum, voters are given the option to pick and choose those they prefer. Here are the items for you to consider:
- $14 million to renovate four fire stations.
- $6 million to “improve, secure and maintain” police facilities.
- $15 million to improve sidewalks, streets and bus infrastructure.
- $30 million to buy, build and renovate affordable housing, with a goal of increasing homeownership.
- $70 million to build a joint recreation center/library in East Greensboro and to help expand the Greensboro Science Center.
Both candidates for mayor – incumbent Nancy Vaughan and council member Justin Outling – support the bonds, as do the five of the seven incumbents on the ballot – at least to some extent.
Their challengers are more mixed on support, and two of them – at-large candidate Katie Rossabi and District 4 candidate Thurston Reeder – succinctly oppose the bonds. Incumbent council members Yvonne Johnson (at-large) and Nancy Hoffmann (District 4) and challenger Tony Wilkins (District 5) did not respond to questions from WGHP. Neither did Zack Matheny, who will take over in District 3 after Chip Roth withdrew for health reasons.
“We now have the highest property taxes in the state,” Rossabi said in response to questions from WGHP. “Bonds are loans that the city must pay back. We do not need any more debt on our citizens. … We need to work with the old budget we had and revisit the bonds later when our economy improves.”
Said Reeder: “I will vote against all the bonds. While these may be things that we need to address, first we should look at the budget and get a handle on spending and prioritize our needs.”
Vaughan and Outling, the current representative of District 3, were instrumental, of course, in drafting and approving these bonds.
“Each item was well thought out and necessary,” Vaughan wrote to WGHP. “Affordable housing is my priority, but I will be supporting the other bonds. The Parks & Rec bond, which is for two special projects (the Greensboro Science Center and the proposed Windsor-Chavis-Nocho Community Center), will continue to build upon projects that are uniquely Greensboro.
“The science center is a tourist destination, bringing money into our city, and continues to embody what a successful public/private partnership should be. The police, fire and transportation bonds will help address critical needs.”
Outling also cited Greensboro’s long-term needs for affordable housing. Greensboro has more than 4,000 families in need of affordable housing, a figure that may nearly triple.
But he also said that issues involving public safety, transportation and recreation that “can best be met by giving the city the ability to borrow for projects, which give us long-term benefits. These projects meet needs in those areas and now it is for the public to decide whether to commit the city to this level of borrowing.”
2 key issues
Two reasons the bonds draw support from most candidates for City Council is because they address two longstanding issues: the housing shortcomings and bridging the gaps between West Greensboro and East Greensboro.
In the parks-and-recreation bond, $50 million of the $70 million would go for what officials call “the Windsor-Chavis-Nocho Joint Use Facility,” a combination of a recreation facility and an existing library that creates a community complex. Supporters tout the merger of recreational and educational facilities in one location, near the corner of Benbow Road and West Gate City Boulevard.
Sharon Hightower, the longtime incumbent serving East Greensboro in District 1, said she is for three of the five bonds and that “Parks and Recreation will build a transformative, first-of-its-kind Windsor-Chavis-Nocho Center in underserved East Greensboro.” She also said she supports the housing and fire bonds.
Said Felton Foushee, who is running against Hightower: “Southeast Greensboro is long overdue for this type of investment, and it is my hope that it will enhance the lives of the residents of those communities in close proximity to the site.”
At-large candidate Marikay Abuzuaiter, another incumbent, agreed with them that the parks bond was “a game-changer for East Greensboro, with the proposed Windsor-Chavis-Nocho Joint Use Facility along with the Greensboro Science Center’s Phase 2.”
Said at-large candidate Tracy Furman: “I believe all five bonds are needed and necessary to make the improvements we want. Fire stations need to be brought into the 21st century. Housing needs to be addressed quickly, and the Windsor Rec Center and Vance Chavis Library need this update.”
But Housing was the aspect that most of the candidates considered the most urgent and the most important of the bonds.
“The housing bond is the highest priority,” District 5 incumbent Tammi Thurm said. “We must work to ensure that all our neighbors have a place to call home where they are not cost-burdened. This is a key building block to increasing the quality of life and safety in our community and making Greensboro a safe and welcoming community for all.
“I’m proud of my work on Greensboro’s first permanent supportive housing project, but we have more work to do. I also know how imperative it is to support our public safety work and all other bonds that are on the table.”
Incumbent at-large candidate Hugh Holston said, “Of utmost importance is the Housing bond to help us mitigate the current housing crisis in our community. This bond will help lay the foundation for the influx of new residents welcomed to our area because of job opportunities, educational pursuits, immigration, etc.”
At-large candidate Linda Wilson said she “would have liked to see more funding to go towards housing, as the ability to keep up with the demand for affordable housing opportunities continues to increase.”
Keys to ‘move forward’
Abuzuaiter also touted the importance of the Transportation Bond and the need to address aging firefighting facilities.
“We need these improvements to help keep our ISO1 rating,” she said. “That exemplary rating of our Fire Department helps keep our home insurance rates low.”
Cecile “CC” Crawford, a challenger in District 2, said she was for “quite a number of items on the bond, and wish we could refocus some of the money allotted for less-urgent measures to increase the much-needed affordable housing, pay raises and to add more community-center renovations to the budget.”
Said District 2 incumbent Goldie Wells: “We are fortunate to live in a city that continues to grow and progress. The passing of this bond referendum will ensure that the city continues to move forward.”