Thursday, June 13, 2024

Election 2017: Wilmington City Council candidate Charlie Rivenbark

Charlie Rivenbark
Charlie Rivenbark

Editors note: Port City Daily reached out to all nine Wilmington City Council candidates for responses to the same eight questions. A full list of the candidates, with links, is available at the end of this article.

With all the growth happening in the City of Wilmington and the announcement of new major developments, what do you think is the best way to accommodate the new residents, without paving over every bit of green space in the city?

This is where common sense growth is needed. Where cities in various parts of our country are struggling and in some cases, dying, Wilmington is thriving and is expected to see continued growth. With the help from the public, the Comprehensive Land Use Plan provides the footprint for our future. As our new neighbors move in, they bring an increase to our tax base, keeping all our taxes low. Mixed use neighborhoods will provide areas within our city for people to live, work, shop and play and eliminating the need to drive cross town for goods and services. The city has strict requirements that insure trees and green spaces are incorporated in these projects. Possessing a thorough understanding of our land codes, I am able to identify smart growth projects. In 1993, I along with fellow council member Laura Padgett introduced the resolution establishing the Tree Commission. Wilmington has been a Tree City since 2002 and it is my plan to continue that designation.

How can the City of Wilmington help alleviate traffic concerns, specifically on major roadways that are already overburdened?

Growing up in Wilmington, I can tell you first-hand how the traffic has changed. I also work here and on a daily basis, face the same challenges as other rush hour commuters. As a member of The Wilmington Planning Organization, the regional transportation planning agency, we work with NCDOT to plan, design and execute roadway, bikeped, public transportation, and airport projects. Identified improvements to College Road, Carolina Beach Road, installing multi-use paths on Middle Sound Loop Road, Peachtree Avenue and North College Road are just some of the solutions. When I’m with my colleagues of the Transportation Advisory Committee, I make sure to discuss the concerns and suggestions that residents bring to my attention.

What are your goals you hope to achieve if elected to office?

I plan to continue to work with the staff and the citizens in crafting the Land Development ordinances to meld with the Comprehensive Land Use Plan that was recently adopted. I am also determined to see an elevated pedestrian walkway across S. College Road in the vicinity of UNCW to ensure public safety. I will continue to push for major transportation projects in our division and most importantly, cleaning up the Cape Fear River, the source of the majority of our drinking water.

What are your three biggest concerns with the City of Wilmington, and how do you plan to address them?

Ensuring that we have safe clean drinking water now and in the future.

I will continue to support CFPUA to provide them with the necessary tools and funding to rid our water supply of harmful contaminants. I also will pursue any means available to us to prosecute the companies and individuals who dump dangerous substances into the Cape Fear River.

Affordable and workforce housing.

I will work to implement the recommendations from the Joint Workforce and Affordable Housing Ad Hoc Committee, which were submitted to City Council in the spring of 2017. Some of those recommendations are: revise city and county land use ordinances to add or improve accessory dwelling unit, and density and height requirements and regulations. Also, utilize synthetic Tax Increment Financing (TIF) as a means to support the development of housing that is affordable. Conduct a housing study and a statically valid opinion survey. These are just a few of the report’s recommendations.

The opioid abuse crisis.

We all, the city, the county, state and federal legislatures, must work together to provide the treatments necessary to get addicted people free from the chains of addiction. Running parallel to that is the course of action to bring the major distributors of the opioids from the doctors, to the pharmacies and hospitals under control and force accountability on them. And equally important is to take the drug dealers off our streets and put them in prison. I believe that the city is actively pursuing all three of prongs of this war on this epidemic and like other cities, have much more to do.

What is your opinion on the opioid epidemic? How can city leaders not only address the issue (because it has been talked about at length) but take some sort of action against the crisis? 

Like most cities, we have a significant problem with opioid abuse and we are responding.

In July 2016, the city hosted the first summit in the area bringing together key stakeholders from the medical, social services and law enforcement community. In October 2016, we followed that up with a roundtable discussion which was the next step to focus on legislative policies and goals. That table included our legislative delegates with the NC General Assembly. At that meeting, it was stated that this is a public health problem and help is needed at both the state and federal level. The NC Harm Reduction Coalition, based in Raleigh, has an office here in Wilmington and provides programs and services such as overdose prevention clinic, naloxone access, syringe exchange programs and partnerships with local law enforcement. This community problem impacts all of us and is not just a government or police issue.

A collaborative effort including members of the court system, the medical field, schools, the religious community as well as in the home with family members is needed. It troubles me to see so many people struggling with this addiction.

What do you do professionally, would there be any conflict of interest with you serving the City of Wilmington? 

I have been in the commercial real estate business since 2001, brokering leases on small to large retail and office space. From time to time, I sell a tract of land and have represented clients who purchased land. During my 16 years on council, I have recused myself from discussing or voting on items where my employer was involved. I believe this has happened three or four times. When I served on council in the 90s, I was in the restaurant business and had to recuse myself once when an item came up that concerned my landlord.

What previous experience do you have in serving the public if any?

I began serving the public in my teenage years with the United States Army and am happy to say that I have spent much of my adult life serving the public in some capacity. For six years, I served as President with the Cape Fear Gospel Rescue Mission; after many years of volunteering with the NC Azalea Festival on various committees, I became an Officer in 2001 and President of the festival in 2007; over 20 years as a volunteer reader in various elementary schools; eight years of service at the St. James homeless shelter until it closed; 12 years on the adult steering committee with The Young Life program; member of the Greater Wilmington Sports Hall of Fame; member of Wilmington Central Rotary Club; and many years as volunteer caretaker of Bellevue Cemetery.

Wilmington is my birthplace, it is my family’s birthplace, and I plan to serve the citizens of Wilmington for as long as I am able.

Given the concerns with Gen X, do you think it is time to reevaluate how the CFPUA Board is appointed?

As customers of CFPUA ourselves, council as well as CFPUA board members are concerned with supplying safe drinking water and eliminating GenX as well as any other potentially hazardous chemicals. It is important to know that the only authority that regulates what goes in our water for the entire country is the Environmental Protection Agency. Prior to CFPUA, both the city and the county were in the water and sewer business, and if you lived here, you will recall the sewer spills plaguing our area as hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of projects were needed for outdated infrastructure.

Safe drinking water is not a “party” issue and therefore, in 2007 CFPUA was formed with an appointed board of directors made up of 11 members. Of those 11 members, two are members of City Council and two are New Hanover County Commissioners. The remaining members are from the private sector of the community, providing public service. All members serve on staggering terms and I would encourage anyone wishing to serve to apply. The meetings are open to the public and provide an opportunity for citizens to hear firsthand the issues before CFPUA. They are also quite informative. The CFPUA’s current operating budget is $79,518,671.00 and we consistently operate and expand our system with fewer spills at lower budget than the county’s and city’s water and sewer systems prior to consolidation. CFPUA has reduced sewer overflows by 80 percent. I can provide further statistics of a similar nature upon request.

You can find the full list of Wilmington City Council candidate interview below:

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