November 9, 2017

Break Up The Allen Joines Machine!

On Tuesday municipal elections were held in Guilford County. There were some interesting developments in the  Greensboro and High Point races.

This is a non-election year in Winston. But it wouldn’t matter that much if Winston had its municipal elections on Tuesday. Winston’s City Council elections aren’t very competitive.

All the incumbent members of the W-S City Council that sought re-election in 2016, won in 2016, most without any credible opposition. Our councilmembers have their wards locked down.

Mayor Joines could probably carry out Donald Trump’s hyperbole and actually “shoot somebody” and still get re-elected.

Mayor Joines has been in office since 2001. He is now the longest-serving mayor in Winston-Salem’s history. He’s been called “untouchable” by the Winston-Salem Journal. Joines hasn’t had a seriously contested race since he first defeated Mayor Jack Cavanaugh in 2000.

In the over a decade and a half that Allen Joines has served concurrently as head of the W-S Alliance and Mayor of the City of Winston-Salem he has built a network of allies in the city’s public, private and non-profit sectors.

Basically, anyone who is anyone in Winston is somehow connected to Allen Joines through the W-S Alliance or a variety of other non-profits and business development groups that Joines is connected to.

Most people in Winston don’t know or don’t care that their Mayor gets his six-figure salary, not from the people of Winston, but from the richest group of people in Winston-the Winston-Salem Alliance.

But the appearance of impropriety isn’t lost on JoAnne Allen. Allen is Mayor Joines’ fiercest critic. She consistently speaks out during the public comment period of city council meetings. She’s even ran against Joines.

Like an Old Testament prophet, JoAnn Allen appears to be destined to be ignored, perhaps at the city’s own peril. I think it’s time that local residents take her criticisms of Mayor Joines Inc. seriously.

For too long, conflicts of interests in Winston have been ignored. Winston has a historically been a company town. For decades the real center of power in Winston was on the top floor of the Reynolds Building. That’s where all the important decisions were made.

City Hall just rubber stamped decisions made by Reynolds and the city’s other major employers. Even when Reynolds employed a significant percentage of the city’s workers, this was still an undemocratic way to run a city. The workers of Local 22 rebelled against that arrangement in the 1940s and for a time got the better of Papa Reynolds.

Allen Joines-as head of the W-S Alliance and the mayor of our city is engaged in a structural conflict of interest. No one person can impartially represent the interests of the city’s residents and its business class (who are paying his salary).

His double-dealing during the construction of BB&T Ballpark is just the tip of the iceberg. I bet if anyone at the Winston-Salem Journal probed the record they would find all sorts of conflicts of interest, and great and small (and perhaps some criminal activity) have occurred during Allen Joines’ 15, going on 16 years in office.

There is no dividing line between the public good and private profits in Winston. Mayor Joines is at this point in his long tenure in office, the most powerful individual in Winston since R.J. Reynolds.

But when R.J. Reynolds walked down the streets of Winston in the 1910s, everyone knew that Winston was Dick Reynolds’ town. By contrast, few people in Winston seem to be aware of Allen Joines web of influence and the depths of his power.

It’s certainly fair to say that nothing of importance happens today in Winston unless it goes through Allen Joines. You could also say that some things that need to happen in Winston aren’t happening because of Allen Joines.

When exactly is the Mayor going to implement the recommendations from his much hyped and long-delayed Poverty Thoughtforce?

We need to break up the Joines political machine. Joines has revitalized Downtown Winston, and he’s enriched his friends in the Alliance, but Joines has done precious little for other impoverished parts of the city.

It’s time for a new order in Winston-Salem. We need to embrace open government and participatory democracy. Let the corporations and the real estate interests fend for themselves. The city should be funding co-ops instead of subsidizing corporations and universities that have vast amounts of money in reserve.

A better, more democratic, less segregated, and less impoverished Winston-Salem is possible.

 

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