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Greensboro mayoral candidates face off in debate

Mayoral candidates met Thursday to discuss issues relating to crime, jobs, and race relations.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Candidates running for the office of mayor in the city of Greensboro came together Thursday for a debate at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum.

The four candidates vying for the city's top job are current mayor Nancy Vaughan, current Greensboro city councilman and local attorney Justin Outling, former Guilford County judge Mark Cummings and Eric Robert.

Candidates took on topics from public safety, race relations, crime, jobs, transportation, racial disparities, and police brutality.

Each were asked what they think the city's biggest challenge is right now and what they would do as mayor to fix it. 

"We have to address the root causes of violence and what is happening in our community. Number one," said Vaughan. "And that is a comprehensive approach because it will be looking at housing, policing, community, education, healthcare."

Outling said economic development, housing, and public safety were all challenges. Cummings, like Vaughan, also zeroed in on crime in Greensboro. 

"My first priority as your mayor would be to get this crime problem under control and I have the credibility to do it," said Cummings. “Let’s stop being reactive and let’s start being proactive."

Robert criticized the other three candidates throughout the debate for their "egos" and said he wants to "give the government back to the people."

"We don't really have smart leaders and I think that we have a lot of issues whether you talk about crime, disparity, race relations. It's nothing that just popped up," Robert said. 

Cummings said East Greensboro needs “more focus” and  “the rise in crime needs to get under control.”

RELATED: Greensboro mayoral candidates face off in debate at UNCG

The candidates also discussed Greensboro youth being employed and having adequate access to transportation as well as future job opportunities.

Greensboro Mayor Nancy Vaughan spoke about Greensboro police’s initiative to get teens hired for the summer.

The Greensboro Police Department found 700 open positions for teens to take summer last year.

“These are high touched jobs, they are not just summer jobs, I have been to those job fairs, I know when those kids need transportation…all of that is being looked at from a holistic approach,” Vaughan said.

Greensboro city councilman Justin Outling said he wants voters to focus on “substance and not symbolism” in the next election.

“It is important to understand good intentions do not make our communities safer or more prosperous, you need to understand how to solve problems,” Outling said.

While the candidate did discuss some issues, there were personal attacks between several of them. Cummings criticized both Vaughan and Outling for their time on the city council. 

Outling and Vaughan also went back and forth throughout the night on various issues, including the Mayor leaving a City Council meeting 15 minutes to go see the Elton John concert in Greensboro. Vaughan said the meeting was more than three hours long and the business items were done. The two also disagreed over ethics rules for city government officials. Outling said Vaughan was wrong for hosting a campaign event at the Greensboro Science Center. She said it did not violate ethics policy and she paid full price for the venue. Outling suggested Vaughan "read the policy" to which she replied that she wrote said policy. 

Outling came under fire also from Vaughan and Cummings for his work at Brooks, Pierce, McLendon, Humphrey & Leonard L.L.P. in Greensboro. 

RELATED: Voting in NC: What's on the ballot for the Primary Election on May 17, 2022

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