Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Municipal Elections 2023: David Joyner seeks election to Wilmington City Council

Assistant District Attorney David Joyner is running for a seat on the Wilmington City Council. (Courtesy photo)

WILMINGTON — David Joyner is seeking a spot on Wilmington City Council. An assistant district attorney, Joyner is running against six other candidates, two of which are incumbents, for three open positions.

A Democrat, Joyner has never run for a government position but said he is the only candidate who works full time in public safety. He plans to bring his experience in the court system to the city’s conversation about safety and policing.

“I prosecute domestic violence, gun crime, and impaired driving,” Joyner said. “I’m also the prosecutor for our local recovery courts, including the Veterans Treatment Court, which allows low-level offenders with a substance-use disorder to get the treatment, counseling, housing, and employment opportunities they need as they work on their recovery and serve a probationary sentence.”

PCD asked candidates to address issues pertinent to their municipalities, covering issues such as balancing growth and infrastructure, traffic and tourism, parking and climate change impacts.

Joyner’s answers are included in full; responses are edited only for grammar, spelling and clarity.

The paywall has been dropped on candidate questionnaires to help voters make informed decisions ahead of Election Day.

To prepare, here are a few dates for readers to keep in mind:

  • Absentee ballots can be requested through Oct. 31 and must be returned Nov. 7 (or post-marked as such).
  • Registration to vote will be open until Oct. 13; afterward, according to the state board of elections, same-day registration will be available only during one-stop early voting.
  • Early voting begins Oct. 19 and remains open through Nov. 4 (3 p.m.).
  • Election Day polls open Nov. 7, 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

To vote early in New Hanover County, visit the Northeast Library (1241 Military Cutoff Road). From Oct. 28 to Nov. 4, voters can also go to CFCC Health Sciences and Learning Center (415 Second St.), Carolina Beach Town Hall (1121 Lake Park Blvd.) and the NHC Senior Center (2222 S. College Road).

Once early voting closes, voters will need to go to the location listed on their voter registration card, or verified here.

To see a sample ballot for the upcoming election, fill in voter registration info here.

A photo ID is required to cast a ballot in 2023; more information can be found on the state board of elections website.

The candidate’s opinions and statements are not a reflection of Port City Daily.

Port City Daily (PCD): Why run for city council now?

David Joyner (DJ): The time is now to address the impact overdevelopment is having on our environment and infrastructure. Our wetlands and tree canopy can’t wait until the next election. The environment impacts us all, but young voters consistently name it as a top concern. I’ll bring a new generation to the table to lead on this issue. 

Additionally, young adults and young families are searching for a solution to the affordable housing crisis. We’re being pushed out and many are leaving the area entirely to start a family elsewhere. I’ll advocate for increased density through townhomes and row houses while respecting the character of existing neighborhoods. 

Lastly, I’m sick of the nastiness of politics. People can disagree agreeably while standing firm in their beliefs. Public servants should work to resolve conflicts, not create them.

PCD: Name three issues you think are most affecting the city currently and describe how you would work toward tackling them.

DJ: (1) Public safety; (2) transportation; (3) protecting our environment.

I’m the only candidate who works full-time in public safety. We must work to fill the multiple vacancies in the Wilmington Police Department, and that means compensation that competes with the agencies in our region so we can recruit and keep the best officers here in Wilmington. Law enforcement’s focus should continue to be on violent crime and the opioid crisis. 

I believe Wilmington can become a walkable, bikeable city, and that we should put energy into reconnecting us to the statewide passenger train system. In the long run, the rail realignment project can free up track space for a light rail system. We have to be forward-thinking about transit outside of just passenger vehicles if we want to make meaningful improvements to how we get around and what Wilmington will look like ten, twenty, and thirty years from now. 

As an Eagle Scout, caring for our natural resources was cultivated in me from a young age. I’ll stand up to polluters and fight to protect our tree canopy and wetlands.

PCD: Growth in the city continues at a rapid pace — 3.92% since the most recent census of 116,146 in 2020, now at 120,695. Jobs and affordable housing continue to be of top importance to keep people here; how as a city council member do you propose fostering a better balance with both? What will you bring to the table that hasn’t been considered yet?

DJ: My focus for affordable housing is workforce housing: Can our teachers, nurses, and first responders afford to both live and work in Wilmington? Until they can, we don’t have affordable housing. We know we need literally thousands of new units to come online in the region to address the housing crisis. 

I support density that respects the character of existing neighborhoods. This means promoting townhomes and row houses built by local developers who know and live in Wilmington, not massive apartment complexes built by out-of-state developers. 

As for jobs, we have a huge untapped market in bringing the “Greenrush” to Wilmington. We’re uniquely positioned among North Carolina cities to grow in solar and wind as well as thermal and kinetic energy from the Intracoastal. While we look to grow that industry, we must support the businesses already here in order to keep talent and jobs in our community.

PCD: Homelessness has become a growing concern for many residents and local government officials in recent years. Do you support a housing-first approach? How/why? What else would you support to help the less vulnerable populations of our city?

DJ: I support a housing-first approach to homelessness because I’ve seen directly that it works. As the prosecutor for our local recovery courts, I’m on the team that gets low-level offenders with a substance-use disorder onto a probationary sentence and into treatment and addiction counseling. For many of these folks, getting off the streets is the first step to stability. Whether it’s a sober-living halfway house or a small apartment through permanent supportive housing, this first step sets folks up for success in their recovery, in their physical health, and in their chances of getting and keeping a job — and our program holds them accountable to meeting certain benchmarks in recovery. 

Substance-use disorder and homelessness aren’t always co-occurring. Some of our neighbors are homeless because of a temporary setback which, left unchecked, could spiral into chronic homelessness. Supportive housing offers the stability to recalibrate and regain firmer financial footing so they’re no longer at risk moving forward.

PCD: The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge is reaching its end-of-life and funding has yet to be allocated toward its replacement. What have officials gotten wrong and right in expediting the process? What would you do that is different? Also, do you support a toll and any of the options on the table for its replacement? Explain.

DJ: I am fundamentally opposed to a toll for private passenger vehicles on the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge or its successor. The bridge is part of the state highway system, into which we all already pay taxes at the gas pump (40.5 cents per gallon!). A toll would be a double tax on Wilmingtonians and southeastern North Carolinians, and it would be the first instance in N.C. where a toll was added to an existing roadway. 

Wilmington City Council appoints two members to the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization; they must work together with leaders from 10 other local governments in the region to improve the bridge’s score with the State Transportation Improvement Program in order to get us on the shortlist of projects NCDOT will undertake in the next decade. 

Important to me is that the bridge includes a rail component to reroute freight and cargo rail out of downtown Wilmington; this will make our roads safer with fewer rail crossings and free up track space for future projects.

PCD: With sea-level rise continuing to increase and affect low-lying areas, such as downtown Wilmington, flood resilience and preventing natural disaster scenarios is a necessity in a hurricane-prone zone. What more would you suggest is implemented to protect the coastline, including the Cape Fear River banks?

DJ: 97% of homes in Wilmington are reportedly at risk of insurance rate hikes or nonrenewal due to flooding or wind danger. Downtown is situated just 36 feet above sea level, and we know that by conservative estimates, the sea level will rise at least 10 inches in the next 30 years. Conservation organizations already estimate a rise in mean water level if the harbor of the Port of Wilmington is deepened. 

City councilors should center policy decisions on environmental impact and should prioritize improvements to our stormwater system. That system flows directly into the Cape Fear; I’m grateful for the work of organizations like Cape Fear River Watch to clean our waterways and urban streams, and the installation of LittaTraps to catch waste before it reaches the river.

PCD: Where do you stand on Cape Fear River growth — for instance, extending the Riverwalk under the Isabel Holmes Bridge and redeveloping the industrial area on the northern waterfront? Do you support building on the western banks of the Cape Fear River? Why or why not?

DJ: Our Riverwalk is one of the best parts of downtown and an important attraction. I support expanding it in both directions, so long as it’s done with community input and we don’t write a blank check to out of state developers. I believe the northern riverfront is an area appropriate for growth; our aspirations for affordable housing and multi-use projects — especially a grocery store — belong in this area which currently contains a lot of gray space. 

Any projects on the western banks of the Cape Fear should respect the cultural significance of that area to the Gullah Geechee and comply with environmental standards; otherwise, it would be a nonstarter for me.

PCD: Did you support the city’s recent purchase of the Thermo Fisher building in downtown Wilmington? What should be done with the two tracts of land that came with the purchase? Should it benefit taxpayers?

DJ: I support centralizing city government into a smaller footprint to better serve Wilmingtonians. Current councilors promote the acquisition as a once-in-a-lifetime deal but have yet to sign a lease agreement with any tenant other than Thermo Fisher. I question the wisdom of purchasing such a large space with no tenants ready to lease, nor expected buyers for the sale of property the city currently occupies.

If we voted today, I would vote for the city to occupy the lowest floors. I remain open to seeing the final figures for retrofitting lower floors compared to leases for higher floors. 

The additional tracks of land should be used as part of what had previously been known as the Gateway Project; space on the northern end of the Riverwalk which can be used for affordable housing and multi-use projects, such as a grocery store. City council recently rejected moving forward with that project, declining to even apply for gap financing from the New Hanover Community Endowment.

PCD: Some residents have accused the city council of only representing a select few in the community, rather than the needs of all. Do you agree with this sentiment? Explain. What would you do in a leadership position to represent more equitably?

DJ: The child abusers I prosecute don’t ask their victims whether they’re a Republican or a Democrat. The drunk drivers I prosecute don’t selfishly get behind the wheel just in certain neighborhoods. The defendants with substance-use disorder I work with in our recovery courts weren’t asked by the people selling them poison about their politics. 

As an at-large city councilor, I’ll fight for all of Wilmington. That means seeking feedback in every neighborhood, working with folks with differing views, owning my decisions, and promoting transparent government.

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