Neighborhoods meet, question their candidates

How to fund dilapidated sidewalks, new developments and better use of south Charlotte taxes are key issues that may decide who will be the next to represent District 6 on Charlotte City Council this fall.

Residents, area leaders and other city council candidates packed the Sharon United Methodist Church gymnasium Tuesday night, Aug. 20, for a City Council District 6 candidate forum, sponsored by the Barclay Downs and Deering Oaks homeowner associations. District 6 covers the SouthPark area of south Charlotte, and currently is represented by Republican Andy Dulin, who is not seeking re-election.

Four Republican candidates – Ken Lindholm, Kate Payerle, James Peterson and Kenny Smith – are vying for the seat, and only one will make it to the ballot in November. No Democratic candidates filed for the seat, meaning the Republican primary winner will likely fill the seat. The primary vote, Sept. 10, will narrow the race down to one or two candidates. A second primary vote will take place Oct. 8, if necessary, until one candidate has the majority of votes.

For the forum, residents submitted questions, and HOA leaders narrowed the list down to five. Of major concern were issues with cut-through traffic and cost of improving pedestrian safety, redevelopment in SouthPark, a fair city-wide distribution of tax dollars and the current state of Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

“These guys that are running – they care,” one local resident said. “But right now, we have a majority of Democrats (on city council) that are just spending money to be spending money. If we can save some money, then let’s do it.”

“We need to make decisions based on long-term,” Ken Lindholm responded, a mindset and goal all four candidates expressed Tuesday night. Candidates also expressed interest in adding more communication and focusing on individual neighborhoods, something area residents see as an important tool to ensure District 6 won’t be overlooked in the future.

Residents Miriam Martin and Wilna Eury attend every city council meeting they can, they said. Both are frustrated with the direction of taxpayer money in and out of District 6. While local improvements to infrastructure are a must, Martin said candidates also should look into the topic of affordable housing. Concerned that developers keep bringing high-end projects to the SouthPark area for young professionals, she says the community has a need for other demographic communities, too, while some areas, such as Fairview Road, should be tapped out of new development.

For Eury, she wants a candidate who will listen to local concerns and fight for District 6, she said.

“Like with sidewalks – if the community wants it, city council will put it where they want whether residents like it or not,” Eury said. “They listen, but they don’t listen. The District 6 representative should have more interaction with the neighborhoods because, right now, there are a lot of inequities and fairness of what things are done.”

Spending tax dollars in a fair manner was a key topic Tuesday night, an issue that had all candidates in agreement that District 6 has many infrastructure problems. Some candidates suggested looking for money and partnerships in the private sector to ensure better infrastructure, but at the end of the day, city council has a responsibility to meet the needs of all Charlotte residents.

“Our taxes have been taken and spent somewhere else,” James Peterson said. Kenny Smith added current council has given too much attention to funding for the streetcar project, purchasing Eastland Mall and the Carolina Panthers stadium.

“There is no question District 6 is what we call a ‘donor district,’” Kate Payerle said. “It is the job of the representative… that, if there is a fiscally sensible worthwhile project, to make sure you get it. I am not going to advocate to spend a bunch of money on projects in District 6 just because it’s fair. I won’t do it in east or west, and I won’t do it here.”

Candidates also discussed and were in agreement that revisions to the city’s small area plan approved in 2000 is in dire need of updates. The plan, which is currently in use, was designed as a five- to 10-year plan.

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