Incumbent Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines and JoAnne Allen, his challenger, have faced off for mayor only once, when Allen mounted a losing write-in effort against Joines in the fall of 2016.
But the pair have faced off multiple times at meetings of the Winston-Salem City Council, where Allen would speak during the public comment period and denounce Joines and the rest of the members of the council.
Allen’s charge: That the council, and Joines have misgoverned the city, working for the benefit of Wake Forest University and other moneyed interests to the detriment of city residents.
“Most people call it a conflict (of interest),” Allen said, referring to the hats Joines wears as mayor and as leader of the Winston-Salem Alliance. “I don’t call it a conflict, I call it corruption.”
Joines is president of the alliance, a nonprofit economic development group that was formed in 2000 by the then-chief executive of Wachovia along with other high-powered local corporate leaders. Joines also leads the Millennium Fund, formed in 2002 to raise $45 million, mostly from corporate sources, for downtown redevelopment.
Both groups have extensively aided economic development here in a variety of ways, helping with the creation of the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, BB&T Ballpark, the recruitment of a Dell computer plant and the creation of business parks.
Joines has always said that everything he does with the nonprofit groups is above-board and free of conflict of interest. He says Allen’s charges of corruption are “absolutely ridiculous.”
“We said we would never ask the city for any money, which we have not,” Joines said. “We have been a resource to move the city forward. The alliance assembled the land for the baseball stadium and turned it over to the city at no cost.”
Joines and Allen are vying for the Democratic nomination for mayor on March 3. The winner faces off with Republican Kris McCann, who’s unopposed at the primary stage.
Joines, who has been mayor since 2001, said he’s been asked why he wants to continue in a position he’s held going on 20 years.
“I’m as excited today as I was in 2001,” Joines said. “I get to the office every day and look forward to doing projects. I bring the same level of energy to this term as my first.”
Creating jobs, reducing homelessness and reducing the city’s poverty rate are the items he ticks off first as he thinks about a new term. On all three fronts, Joines said, there’s been good news. The metro area last year posted higher job-growth numbers than Charlotte and Raleigh. Survey of the poverty rate have shown a downward trend.
Recently, Joines announced a privately funded effort to make sure high school graduates who can’t afford it can attend Forsyth Technical Community College. In 2015, Joines announced a “Poverty Thought Force” to come up with ideas to combat poverty. That resulted in the creation of The Partnership for Prosperity, a non-profit formed to bring the ideas to life.
“On the affordable housing piece of it, we have a need to create 15,000 units in the next eight years,” Joines said. “We have created the Affordable Housing Coalition, and that group is moving ahead with developing specific plans to do that.
Safety from violent crime is another concern Joines said he is working on going into what he hopes will be a new term.
“We have got to work on the violent crime involving gun violence in the community,” Joines said, adding that a gunshot-detection system approved by the city will give police an additional tool.
Allen said that the city has little to show for all the money spent on economic development and other initiatives.
Noting that Joines makes a “six-figure salary,” ($180,796 in annual salary according to financial documents, plus $24,500 in other benefits), Allen said that while too many city residents are in poverty, the city has paid out millions to the Innovation Quarter, ballpark and other entities that the Alliance has also supported.
“If you are not putting the welfare of the people first, you are not making good decisions,” Allen said. “That money we have wasted could have been used better. Until we bring jobs here, we are always going to have poverty, unemployment and homelessness.”
Allen said one of the first things she would do as mayor is call for an audit of all city departments. Although the city does do an annual audit, Allen said she wants something that will go into greater depth.
“If I put more money into economic development and that is not where it is needed, then we are starting wrong,” Allen said. “We have to audit the departments and see where the money is going and what the end results are of wherever it is going. Once we do that, we will be able to say, ‘This is what we have to do.’ We have to do a reassessment and make sure the money down to the last penny is being used the right way.”
Although Allen has criticized economic development incentives, she said she is not against them in principal. Every situation is different, she said, but Allen believes the city has consistently made bad choices on giving out incentives to companies that don’t follow through.
Joines noted that he gives his annual salary as mayor — currently $23,400 — to non-profit causes working in the city. Since his term began, he said, he’s given $250,000 that way.
Joines has run well-financed campaigns ever since winning the office of mayor for the first time in 2001, when he crushed then-incumbent Mayor Jack Cavanagh by racking up 78 percent of the vote.
Unopposed in 2005 and 2009, Joines garnered 88% of the vote in the 2013 Democratic primary against challenger Gardenia Henley, then won 84% of the vote that fall against Republican James Knox.
In 2016, Joines received 94% of the vote in the general election, while Allen, mounting a write-in campaign, scored 3% of the vote.
This time around, Allen said she is endorsing some other candidates as she believes the entire council needs changing. Allen has endorsed Carolyn Highsmith in the South Ward Democratic primary, Eunice Campbell in the North Ward Democratic primary, and Phil Carter in the East Ward Democratic primary.