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Write-in candidates vie for seats on Winston-Salem City Council.
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Write-in candidates vie for seats on Winston-Salem City Council.

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The ballot can fool you.

At first glance, it seems as though Southeast Ward is the only one of the Winston-Salem City Council's eight seats that is up for grabs, with incumbent Democrat James Taylor facing a challenge from Libertarian Wesley Longsdorf.

But you would be wrong.

Two candidates not on the ballot are waging write-in campaigns, which means that in three of the eight contests there is competition for votes.

The candidates running unopposed are D.D. Adams (Democrat, North Ward), Robert Clark (Republican, West Ward), John Larson (Democrat, South Ward), Jeff MacIntosh (Democrat, Northwest Ward) and Kevin Mundy (Democrat, Southwest Ward).

East Ward

East Ward Democrat Annette Scippio faces a write-in challenge from Michael Banner, while Northeast Ward Democrat Barbara Hanes Burke faces a write-in challenge from Paula McCoy.

Scippio, appointed to replace departing council member Derwin Montgomery in 2018, is making her first bid to gain her seat by election.  

As someone who grew up in the city, Scippio said, she brings both a historical perspective and the knowledge of many of the current challenges facing her ward.

"I know what we have done — the good, the bad and the ugly in the past," Scippio said. "But we have lots of potential to be a great city in the future."

Scippio said her ward is more diverse than people think. It includes areas that struggle with dilapidated housing and joblessness and suburban areas near Kernersville.

"One of the things I want us to do as a council is initiate a visioning session for our city so that residents can talk about what they see as the vision," she said. "If we want to have peaceful and walkable neighborhoods, it has to be for every neighborhood in the city."

Scippio said neighborhood revitalization studies are in the works for the Dreamland Park and Columbia Heights neighborhoods. One of the biggest challenges some neighborhoods face is the number of properties that come up for demolition because of lack of repairs. 

Banner tried to get onto the fall ballot as an unaffiliated candidate, but his petition fell short of the required number of signatures.

Banner advocates both defunding and "depowering" the police, saying that the city needs to adopt policies that are "preventative rather than punitive."

"I think we are being criminalized for our poverty," Banner said. "Instead of devoting so much money to bolstering the police budget, that money could have been put toward building equity in the community."

Banner said he knows that the police won't be abolished, but said current procedures are "overcriminalizing" the community.

"The whole city is doing some type of criminal activity, but when it comes to our communities we are being very scrutinized."

The city has property it owns in East Ward that could be used for intensive gardening so that people have healthier food, Banner said. That way, instead of people standing in line at a food pantry or soup kitchen, people could visit a farmer's market right up the street.

Banner said landlords who let properties run down in East Ward should have to pay an extra tax that would restore money to the community. Banner said he is a representative of a group called BBRRAAPP: Black and Brown Revolutionary RootZ Agricultural Arts Political Party. 

Northeast Ward

Despite multiple attempts to contact her, Barbara Hanes Burke did not return a call in time for this story.

Burke is the on-ballot candidate for the Northeast Ward seat. She is the daughter-in-law of Vivian Burke, who held the seat representing Northeast Ward on the city council until her death in May. 

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Paula McCoy is running a vigorous write-in campaign and said the Northeast seat on the council "doesn't belong to a name."

"I think we need to listen to the people who are impacted by the issues we have right now," McCoy said. "I have experience in doing that. I have been out here in the community. I know a lot of people have never seen Mrs. (Barbara) Burke in the community. This seat that we are vying for does not belong to a family. It should not be passed down like somebody's legacy. It has to be a role where we have someone with experienced leadership and can bring about some real change."

Barbara Burke did say during her run in last March's Democratic primary that she was not running on her name or her connection with Vivian Burke.

Having been elected to the local school board in 2018, Burke said she had decided that she could have a "broader impact on the community where I was born and raised" by serving on the council.

In her campaign materials, Burke talks about safety, economic development, jobs, education and equitable access to resources as her areas of focus. She said that in 2019, she spoke against limiting the ability of citizens to speak at school board meetings.

Burke has also talked about being able to make sure, as a council member, that the schools in Northeast Ward are good schools.

To McCoy, that sounds like "if her area of expertise is in education, she is in a great role now and that is the role in which she should serve."

McCoy said the Northeast Ward needs investment and an improvement in appearance that have gone unattended too long.

McCoy said solutions to the ward's problems lie in moving away from confrontational tactics and toward "unity and not division.

"We need to make this an active side of town where people will want to invest," she said. "We need to focus on affordable housing. We are in a food desert. There are issues of health care and economic development."

"I have had the good fortune of having experience in all those areas," McCoy said. McCoy is the former executive director of Neighbors for Better Neighborhood, a group that focuses on community development.

Southeast Ward

Meanwhile, in the Southeast Ward, Wesley Longsdorf said he's running in part because people deserve a choice. Without his presence on the ballot, incumbent Democratic Council Member James Taylor would be unopposed.

"There was nobody else running," Longsdorf said. "You can't have democracy without a choice. That was my initial reason for running. Since then, I have been exploring some of the issues that are affecting my ward: Crime is really high ... I am all about job creation. I think my ward has not had a lot of development activity. We need to let the free market work."

One way the council can do that, he said, is to reduce or eliminate the fees and licensing costs that stand in between a start-up business owner and the start of a small business.

Longsdorf said Hispanic businesses in particular could take off if his idea were put into play. 

Southeast Ward also needs to have more home ownership, he said, especially among Black residents. Closing that gap would "create more pride in the community and more respect for each other," he said, and should improve educational outcomes in the ward as well.

Longsdorf doesn't believe that anti-crime efforts should be focused on drugs, since as a Libertarian he does not believe that drug use should be illegal as long as it is not harming anyone. But Longsdorf doesn't go for the "defunding police" philosophy either, saying that a police presence makes the community feel safer.

"One of my platforms is social justice reform," Longsdorf said. "We need to help the community to understand that the police are there to serve us and that respect goes both ways."

Taylor could not be reached for this story, but in his campaign literature he stresses job creation, economic development, public safety and communication.

Taylor, who has chaired the city's Public Safety Committee in his role as council member, points out that during his term the city gained a district police office in the ward to improve police response time.

Taylor came under some criticism recently when he invited people who had been protesting against the police to come to the council and express their views. During one meeting, Scippio challenged Taylor to voice support for the police — which Taylor promptly did.

Taylor has been an advocate of programs to help ex-offenders who are trying to navigate their way after getting out of prison. 

In his campaign flyer, Taylor talks about the success of job creation through the recruitment of Caterpillar, Herbalife and others, and claims the creation of 1,600 jobs in the ward. Taylor says the ward has also seen $60 million in infrastructure improvements and economic development, including development of Quarry Park and improvements at Salem Lake.

Taylor said he has also done a good job communicating with residents and keeping them updated about city and ward concerns.

336-727-7369 

@wyoungWSJ

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