Publisher’s Pen: House Candidates Forum Leaves Hollow Feeling

Everyone knows that I am a great defender of the Chamber of Commerce. So when our newspaper was invited to participate in moderating the June 30 Fayetteville Municipal Candidates Forum at the Crown Coliseum with CityView TODAY and the Fayetteville Observer, I was thrilled. The House Governmental Affairs Committee hosted the forum under the leadership of Eva Henderson, and Gary Rogers moderated the event. The event was well attended by all incumbents and challengers seeking elected City Council positions for the nine districts and the mayor’s office. Only District 9 candidate Deno Hondras was absent due to an out-of-town appointment. The turnout of concerned citizens, estimated at 70, was disappointing given that this was the last forum before the July 7 early vote.

I was delighted to be part of this information exercise. However, I was equally disappointed with the result when finished. It left me with a hollow feeling about the future of our community. Undoubtedly, the candidates readily identified and acknowledged the needs of the Fayetteville community and the concerns of its citizens. Homelessness, crime and homicide rates, the need for affordable housing, better paying jobs, the desire to attract more industry, improve our image and have a cleaner, more beautiful. But collectively, and with few exceptions, after listening to the positions of the incumbents, they have confirmed what I and many others suspected, they are mostly about maintaining their roles within their districts and have little knowledge or of concern for the needs of the cumulative 210,000 citizens. This became evident when I reviewed my notes, which revealed that this sentiment was a pattern among incumbents from mayor down. When Mayor Mitch Colvin was asked about the Fayetteville homeless encampments on Gillespie Street and the four downtown encampments encompassing three blocks between Rowan and Hay streets, he instinctively referred the issue to the Department of North Carolina Transportation. Colvin said this city council has done more for homelessness in the last term than in 25 years. I don’t remember homelessness being an epidemic problem 25 years ago. In fact, the situation has only gotten worse under this administration.

As I listened to the mayor and the nine incumbents answer questions about homelessness, crime, general community safety, out of control traffic, lack of police accountability, and the shameful amount of litter and garbage in our city, it became clear that their main priority was to safeguard and secure their positions. They radiated little interest, empathy, or knowledge of the needs of the entire Fayetteville community. Evidence of this has surfaced with the incumbent’s backlash over the viability of term limits. And again, regarding the ongoing referendum that will appear on the November ballot to change the structure of the nine districts/mayors of Fayetteville. This structure allows a resident only two out of ten votes to determine Fayetteville’s leadership from four possible seats and five districts plus the mayor. This change would give all Fayetteville residents six out of ten votes to determine local leadership. Six votes to two! You might think, “what’s not to love about that?”

I will end by saying that everyone must look to the future. Go to the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce website and view the Forum video. All is said. The future of Fayetteville is now! Voting begins on July 7, and I’ll make this prediction hoping and praying it doesn’t turn into a sad and disappointing epitaph. “Fayetteville will finally get the kind of leadership it deserves.”
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