Campaign trail: Jim Kee’s kickoff

Jim KeeTavish WarrenJosephus Thompson IIIMarikay AbuzuaiterGoldie WellsYvonne Johnson
Linda Waddell, unidentified, Goldie Wells, Yvonne JohnsonSandra Hughes, Jo Isler, Marikay AbuzuaiterSam Rhodes, Sam Funchess

Jim Kee campaign kickoff, a set on Flickr.

Goldie Wells, the former Greensboro City Council representative for District 2, rose to speak in support of Jim Kee, her successor, at a campaign kickoff this afternoon at the Nussbaum Center for Entrepreneurship.

“Early on in Jim’s beginning on the council we had quite a few head-knockings because our style is so different,” Wells said. “You know, I’m a fighter. He’s the negotiator. So I said, ‘Jim, you’ve got to get the fight in you.’ So I think he has learned a lot on the council. He’s realized you negotiate some things, and some things you just can’t negotiate. So I think he’s ready to go back and fight.”

Kee, who is seeking reelection after serving a freshman term, concurred with his longtime political mentor, and acknowledged that at one time he had been prepared to throw in the towel in a fight that has preoccupied the city with whether to reopen the White Street Landfill in District 2.

“When we started this battle our internal council told us that there was no way that we were going to be able to stop this landfill,” Kee recounted. “So I was kind of dismayed. I was looking to get back in my negotiating mode, because I didn’t feel like we could stop it. Fortunately, I was proven wrong; they were proven wrong. And I’ll tell you: We are going to win. We are going to keep this landfill closed. I promise you that.”

Today’s event was a subdued affair held in a conference room, compared to the candidate’s kickoff two years ago, which took place in a larger reception hall that was also part of the Revolution Mill complex. Notwithstanding the more modest setting, the incumbent candidate’s event was graced by the presence of two high-profile supporters: retired WMFY TV News broadcaster Sandra Hughes and Sam Funchess, the president of the Nussbaum Center.

Yvonne Johnson, a former mayor who lives in District 2, alluded to prodding that Kee has received from Citizens for Economic and Environmental Justice to take a stronger stand on the landfill. Johnson and Wells persuaded Kee to run two years ago.

“Jim has a whole extended family of folk who have tried to support and guide him over these last two years as he is feeling his way with a very difficult group of people,” Johnson said. "Jim — and I think this is an honorable trait — believes in people and tries to negotiate with people. But I think Jim has found out in the past two years that there may be a few people that you just can’t negotiate with.”

Johnson was one of two at-large candidates who attended Kee’s kickoff. The other was Marikay Abuzuaiter. Following Abuzuaiter’s remarks, Johnson chimed in: “It would help Jim if you elected me and Marikay.”

Reviewing his first term, Kee said he was proud of his first vote — to approve bridge financing for the Greensboro Aquatic Center. He went on to say that he was disappointed about several other hallmarks of the council over the past two years: moving speakers from the floor from the beginning to the end of the meeting, a lengthy debate over whether to filter pornography at the public library, statements by Mayor Bill Knight disparaging former police Chief Tim Bellamy, and an unpopular redistricting plan that was ultimately rescinded.

Kee said economic development was his signature issue when he ran two years ago, and told supporters he would have a significant announcement about redevelopment efforts at the Bessemer Shopping Center in the next couple weeks.

While toughening his stance on the landfill and underscoring an optimistic outlook — a judge ruled yesterday that Mayor Pro Tem Nancy Vaughan can vote on the landfill, and she has indicated she will block a motion to reopen it — Kee also reminded his supporters of his moderate political orientation.

He said he voted with the majority to reduce taxes in his first year, and noted that he has stood behind the Greensboro Police Department in the face of an onslaught of impropriety allegations.

“There are those — candidates that are running against me — that do not support the police department,” Kee said. “I fully support the police department. They’ve asked me to dismantle the gang unit. Now, I personally think that we should have a gang unit. You know, they’re saying that the gang unit is harassing the gangs. I call it ‘monitoring.’”

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