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What High Point
voters want, according to Sims, is experience – although that doesn't explain why Whitley, who had been on the City Council twice as long as Sims, came in so far behind Williard, who had no council experience, and Sims. It may explain why some of the candidates who made the City Council itself an issue, claiming the council was leading High Point
into disaster, didn't win.
"As much as people say experience doesn't matter, I think people want someone who is at least experienced in some part of government," she said. "And I think they want people who can articulate what they're feeling and wanting. If you go to the polls, are you going to vote for someone who only sees doom and gloom? I think in this race, there was some of that, and that didn't resonate with the voters."
Sims included in that category rhetoric about high property values in High Point
and about this year's property tax increase, which followed a Guilford County property revaluation.
"When you start talking about property values in High Point
, like we have something to do with that," she said. "When you talk about us having the highest property tax in the state, you can't compare us with Greensboro, which has twice the residents we do, or Asheville, which is sort of a retirement community. I don't think that resonates with voters."
During her campaign, Sims met with many groups, including High Point
First, an influential behind-the-scenes group of businesspeople and opinion makers. She said that, during one such meeting, she told a group that High Point
, as a city, and its business groups, haven't done a good job of selling a coherent view of High Point
to the world.
"You guys are sitting in this room, and you're saying our job is to help economic development, and in a quiet sort of way make sure we should be working with all those little things that make economic development happen, and meanwhile you guys can't get together and decide the story to be told," she said. "Who outside this city's limits knows? That's what matters. That's how you get the buzz that Greensboro is alive and popping. Someone is telling the story. We can't get together and decide on branding ourselves."High Point
faces challenges not only with development, but with redevelopment – one area in which Sims will probably differ from Smothers. Sims has been a stronger supporter of the High Point
City Project, a public-private partnership created by the City Council to redevelop old High Point
With D.H. Griffin proposing a 431-acre business park north of High Point
, competition for funds between supporters of northern development and redevelopment of old High Point
neighborhoods is likely to get heated.
During the mayoral race, Williard at one debate proposed paying for all the City Project proposed redevelopment in eight old High Point
neighborhoods at once – a position from which he rapidly retreated after being attacked by Whitley over what it would cost.
Sims supported both the City Project and Griffin's proposed business park. She said the City Project's goals can only be achieved by short-term and long-term planning for the eight neighborhoods and by attracting private investment to each in turn. She said Griffin's business park is also a matter of long-term planning.
"The way that I see it is, our council is going to have to sit down and really look at all these proposals that are on the table and then prioritize the things we can and can't do," she said. "When we look at the proposed business park out there at I-40, It will be 20 years at least before that has any buzz happening."
The City Council on Nov. 19 voted 7 to 2 to approve the annexation of the 431 acres, effective in May 2013. On the recommendation of Boynton, the City Council did not rezone the land and made the annexation contingent on Griffin getting the property rezoned and a development agreement for it approved by the City Council by March 2013.
Sims was asked if Griffin needed a vote on the project before the election of the new City Council, while he knew he had the votes.
"I don't know if he needed it," she said. "He may have wanted it. It may have been dancing with the devil you know. It may have been a lack of understanding of the project. There are five new members of council. If he came in with this in January, how many councilmembers do you think would have understood this? I don't think his ask or request was unreasonable, given the size and scope of the proposal. If we were talking about 20 or 30 acres, maybe we could have pushed it off into the next council."
Sims said she sympathizes with farm and homeowners near the proposed business park, but that there is no way to stop the urbanization of Guilford County.
"I'll never forget Arnold Koonce, when I came on council, when we did the Westside Development Plan for Davidson County," she said. "Those people were complaining about property being annexed and redevelopment. Arnold Koonce's response was, 'If you don't want to see this development happening, all you have to do is get together, and when the property comes up for sale, buy it, and then you don't have to worry about it.' But these developers can offer a whole lot more money."
At the City Council's reorganization meeting on Thursday, Dec. 6, Sims did away with the City Council's traditional committee system, leaving all meetings controlled by the mayor's gavel. She said she did so because of the lack of experience of many first-time councilmembers. She said she may revisit the issue in a year.
"I don't want this council to come off looking like rubes," she said. "Who, on this council, except Becky and maybe [new Ward 4 Councilmember] Jay [Wagner], could run a planning and zoning meeting? And Becky has told me she doesn't want to chair anything."
Sims said that, as mayor, she may push for a return to four-year, rather than two-year, City Council terms. "I believe it is fundamentally unfair for these people to hold two-year terms," she said. You work a year and you run a year."
Sims said she would not make a priority of reinstating primaries, the lack of which helped her get elected, or to return City Council elections to odd-numbered years. She said that holding them on even-numbered years has driven up turnout.
"I'd say we were closer to 50 percent than the 13 percent we traditionally had deciding elections," she said. "We have people say, 'National issues dominate the election.' I don't think so, because a ton of them voted, and I don't know if they voted so much on issues as for people. I think the reasons for changing our election cycle and process of the elections worked. Probably even with a primary and a general election, it would work, but I disagree that people are not paying attention to what we're doing and what is said. I think they're listening."
Sims' swearing in, at least, drew hundreds of people, many of whom do not regularly come out for High Point
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