After battling for six hours at the end of the night the score was Wade 2, Perkins 0.
The Greensboro City Council meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 4 in the council chambers was the last for City Councilmember and state Senator-elect Trudy Wade, and she went out with a couple of hard fought victories under her belt.
The back-story of this City Council has been the battle between the council's most conservative member, Wade, and one of its more liberal members, Mayor Robbie Perkins.
Wade's election to the North Carolina state Senate in November caused one of the showdowns. Tony Wilkins, by a 5-to-4 vote, was elected to replace Wade on the council.
Wade has to resign as the District 5 councilmember before she is sworn in as a state senator in January, and the current City Council, including Wade, had to pick her successor. Wade had made it known that she was supporting Wilkins to take her seat. Usually the outgoing elected official would be given some deference in choosing a successor. Also, like electing a chairman, if there is any way to do it unanimously both sides win. In this case Perkins was supporting anyone but Wilkins. According to councilmembers, Perkins ran through a raft of candidates, looking for someone who could garner five votes and defeat Wilkins. Councilmembers said that Perkins wanted someone who would vote to support his new performing arts center, which appears to be his main goal as mayor.
Both Councilmembers Zack Matheny and Nancy Vaughan worked to line up votes for Wilkins, but he still won by the barest of margins. Voting for Wilkins were Councilmembers Wade, Matheny, Vaughan, Jim Kee and Marikay Abuzuaiter. Voting against Wilkins were Perkins and Councilmembers Yvonne Johnson, Dianne Bellamy-Small and Nancy Hoffmann.
Some mayors would have asked for a revote so the official vote would be unanimous. Perkins did not.
Before the vote, all four candidates for the appointment were given a chance to speak to the council. Wilkins went first, followed by McArthur Davis, Dottie Salerno, and Jean Brown.
Councilmembers were allowed to ask candidates questions after they spoke, or at any time a question popped into their heads. Johnson asked all the candidates where they stood on the White Street Landfill. They all said that they would not try to reopen the landfill.
Hoffmann made a point of the fact that Wilkins had not graduated from college.
And then came the all out racial attack by Bellamy-Small. The word was that Perkins and others who didn't support Wilkins had been searching for some dirt and found some things on Wilkins' blog that they thought would hurt him. What Bellamy-Small presented were two caricatures from Wilkins' blog, one of her and one of former City Councilmember Goldie Wells. Bellamy-Small said that it was racist for Wilkins to put caricatures of her and Wells on his blog.
Both the caricature of Wells and of Bellamy-Small have them talking out of both sides of their mouths, and it is not well done. Wilkins is clearly not an artist and these caricatures are photos that have been altered.
After Bellamy-Small said her piece, Perkins said, "The picture speaks more than the words on the page. I will not support a candidate who has done that on a blog. I think it is highly inappropriate. I'm going to say that because I think it's the right thing to say."
Perkins and Bellamy-Small led people to believe that Wilkins had done caricatures of only black women. If that were the case it would be hard to explain but that isn't the case at all.
There are in fact at least 17 caricatures on Wilkins' blog site. You might expect Perkins to complain about the caricature of him putting his foot in his mouth. It's not well done, or pretty, but it does get the point across. Or more offensive is the one of Perkins with a Hitler haircut and mustache, or perhaps Perkins in a woman's cheerleader's uniform with "MITCH" on his shirt, but Perkins didn't mention those.
There is a caricature of former Councilmember Sandy Carmany speaking out of both sides of her mouth that is extremely similar to the ones of Wells and Bellamy-Small and makes the same point. In others Ryan Shell has a Pinocchio nose and silly hat, Kay Hagan is the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz, Nancy Vaughan is a mermaid, and Wade, former Mayor Bill Knight, former Councilmember Danny Thompson and former Councilmember Mary Rakestraw are in choir robes.
According to Perkins, Bellamy-Small and Hoffmann, Wilkins making caricatures of black elected officials is wrong, but they had no complaints at all about him making caricatures of white elected officials.
Johnson, however, said before the meeting that she had pledged her vote on the first round to someone else but if it went to a second round then she was going to vote for Wilkins. So she must not have been too offended by the caricatures.
Both Vaughan and Zack Matheny were extremely disturbed that Perkins would stoop to that level to try and win. They both said that Perkins knew about all of the other caricatures and was willing to try to deceive the public about Wilkins.
Matheny said, "Robbie tried to split the council and split the city on race and that's not mayoral. That's wrong. It shows you what Robbie will stoop to and it's just not right."
What may have cost Perkins that vote and what is going to haunt him for at least a few more weeks, and maybe the rest of this term, were statements he made in the News & Record about leadership. If you watch City Council meetings, listen for councilmembers using the term "leadership," because it is a dig at Perkins who, when asked, "Are you the leader of this group?" is quoted in the News & Record as saying, "There is no question. I try to give other council members opportunities to lead on various issues, but I think I am definitely trying to drive a pro-business agenda, a pro-job agenda."
The fact that Perkins thinks he is doling out leadership roles to his fellow elected officials didn't sit well with councilmembers, three of whom were also elected at large.
Perkins also lost the vote on his pet project, the Greensboro Performing Arts Center (GPAC). Wade made a motion to put bonds for the performing arts center on the ballot in November 2013, and Wade's motion passed by a 7-to-2 vote, with Hoffmann and Bellamy-Small voting against letting the people have a voice in whether or not to spend $40 million in city funds on a performing arts center.
Poor Hoffmann didn't get the memo from Perkins on how to vote. So Hoffmann voted against allowing people the opportunity to vote on bonds for the performing arts center. Whoever is going to be running against her in District 4 next year has a great campaign issue. As an elected official, how can she justify not wanting to hear from the people? Bellamy-Small also voted against allowing people to vote on issuing bonds for the proposed GPAC. Maybe it will work against her at election time, but it's doubtful. Bellamy-Small has been the worst member of the City Council for years, and District 1 keeps sending her back.
After the vote Perkins noted that anyone who voted on the prevailing side could bring the matter up for reconsideration, which could give the council a chance to vote on the motion again. So if at any moment in the next two meetings Perkins believes the stars have aligned and he has a majority who are going to vote against giving the people a voice in deciding whether to build the performing arts center or not, then it will come up for a vote.
Perkins and company love to talk about how open and transparent the Greensboro Performing Arts Center Task Force has been. It is the least open process for any public project in at least the last 20 years.
The rule in journalism is to follow the money. The GPAC Task Force is run by the Community Foundation, which is not a government entity and does not have to release information about the finances of the task force like the city would. For instance, the one full-time job in this entire endeavor is held by Ross Harris, who was Perkins' campaign manager. It would be interesting to know just how much Harris is being paid for this job that Perkins created for her, but that information is not public because the Community Foundation, unlike the city government, is not subject to the public records laws of North Carolina.
It looks like there is a very good chance that bonds for this project will be on the ballot in November, and if that is the case the proponents would be wise to open their books as soon as possible because it's going to be really hard to get the people of Greensboro to vote for a pig in a poke.