City council candidates answer questions about city budget during public forum

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City Council Candidate forum
Seven of the eight city council candidates answered questions from forum moderator and WECT news anchor Jon Evans. Photo by: James Mieczkowski

During the first city council candidate forum on Thursday night, the seven attending candidates were all asked to respond to questions ranging from concerns over public safety, roads and transportation, and the proposed municipal service district, among other things. However one series of questions every candidate was required to answer is the following: How would you adjust the city’s budget? What would you add, and what would you delete?

They had one minute to answer; here are the candidates’ responses.

Alvin Rogers: The city has what I consider at times obstacles in development with existing properties the city. Some properties won’t be developed because it hasn’t been “brought up to code” even though the facility has been working fine for generations, and I think this needs to be looked at. As far as the budget itself, I’d have to look into it and spend more time than I have for specifics.

John Presswood: I think we need more jobs, and I think we need to increase the revenue here. I think we could do that with high-tech jobs because there are some high-tech companies here I think we ignore. We need to continue to add the services these companies need such as high speed broadband internet, at least in our downtown area so we can recruit high-tech business to do research and development there.

That would lead to job growth and development, which would increase revenue and then we wouldn’t be looking at deleting as much from the budget. I think the city needs to grow and our incomes need to grow; let’s not have to cut services.

Frank Madonna: I would add a small economic development group that would be held accountable in a quantitative way through bringing prospects and business to the city and we could measure performance. I think that should be done by looking at the area as a metropolitan area, I think Pender, Brunswick and New Hanover Counties should be working together on that because it gives them more strength in terms of attracting the business they need, along with dealing with state government.

So I would be looking to stimulate economic development. I agree that jobs are really the most important thing Wilmington needs— everything else is already here.

Paul Lawler: It’s a matter of taking the money and programs we have right now and making them work better. For example, the Downtown Parking Advisory Committee (DPAC) noted that the money DPAC was using for marketing was not being used very effectively. So DPAC proposed that money go to programs such as Wilmington Downtown Incorporated, and they now have the “Bring it Downtown Campaign,” using existing money in a better way. It also allows that money to work closer with private money so we have a much larger effort – not just what the city is doing.

The rest of it is being very clear in council’s direction toward its staff. We need to make sure council is directing staff clearly about what is needed so we have a real team effort in what the city does. We need to report more efficiently within the city and also the county with what we’re doing in government.

Margaret Haynes: You know we’re blessed that Sterling Cheatham brings some real skills to the table as the City Manager and for budgeting. Even when we went in a terrible economic downtown we came out better than almost any other community we were aware of. We did adjust the budget, and I think we can do more of this, in an effort to reduce teenage violence. We did that by leveraging the money and giving more money to many of the non-profit programs that are already in effect and being run by the citizens.

That’s a really great way to use taxpayers’ money and give it to organizations like Kids Making It, Dreams, and other organizations and have them provide the programs. I think economic development is a no-brainer and we’ve got to work regionally to do that.

Deb Hays: Well I have to agree with Mrs. Haynes – I was going to talk also about leveraging money with non-profits, especially Kids Making It, which is an organization near and dear to my heart. In addition, the first defense against crime is a job and then having a clean city.

So it’s not necessarily about finding more money, it’s about finding the right money to put in the right places to make our city clean. This will give an appearance there is low crime, and that the city cares, and that we are moving forward. Also by leveraging money to non-profits it makes for a great community atmosphere where everybody has a stake in the city and we’re moving forward.

Hollis B. Briggs Jr.: I would like to see the Wilmington City Council give so much money to the Wilmington Police Department, so much money for gang violence. I would like to see them reallocate some of that money toward recreation activities and possibly more recreation centers. I do not think we’re spending the money properly on our children. We’re preparing them for prison, rather than recreational activities.

I would love to see the city also try and get more industry into Wilmington. High tech jobs are good, but I think industry will serve the city a whole lot better. I think adding an ambassador program will also help because I have seen these programs used by other cities in the past, and I’ve seen them work. Also I think we should try and spend some money to help create vocational studies for children so they can use their hands while learning a job.

Related Story:

City council candidates at public forum Thursday night

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James Mieczkowski is a news reporter for Port City Daily. He can be reached at james.m@portcitydaily.com On Twitter: @mieczkowskiPCD