WILMINGTON –– Philip White is taking a second shot at Wilmington City Council. In 2017, as a first-time candidate, he received close to 5% of the votes.
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Election Day is Nov. 2.
White’s stances on local issues are discussed below. Port City Daily has included all responses in full, and only edited responses for grammatical and spelling errors.
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Philip White — Democrat
- Education: I am a graduate of Whiteville High School. I attended East Carolina University after high school but did not graduate. I am currently enrolled at CFCC as a “non-traditional student” and then will most likely attend UNCW.
- Job title: For the past several years, I have worked as a business analyst; however, with the COVID-19 pandemic, I have taken some time off, and am working on establishing a local niche market business related to shoe care.
- Experience: I currently serve on the New Hanover County Parks Conservancy Board of Directors and have in the past served on the NHC Long Term Healthcare Community Action Committee, as well as the young executives board of A Safe Place. I am also a certified SMART Recovery facilitator, working with other people in recovery from addiction to help them find the same peace that I have had for many years.
- Family: I am lucky enough to be able to spend my time with the love of my life, Cramer Vaughan, and our three fur babies, Hendrix, Freya, and Tabitha Too Shoos.
Port City Daily (PCD): What is your top priority, if elected a seat on council? How will you address it?
Philip White (PW): Simply put, I do not have a single “top priority.” I believe that this council must hit the ground running in a multitude of ways. I believe that the old days of individual council members having singular priorities and projects are behind us. Our area is facing unprecedented growth, an addiction crisis that is out of control, a complete lack of affordable housing, and a job market that is quickly leaving so many of our residents behind.
If I had to choose a single priority, it would be to make certain that every aspect of our growth and diversification is looked at through a lens of joint success. Wilmington is a great city that has so much to offer, but there are so many people who live here who have been left behind and left out of that success. They feel like their voices are not being heard — that their hard work and sacrifice aren’t of value. I am running to make sure that these people feel like they have a voice in how their city is run.
PCD: What do you believe is the solution to the affordable housing crisis? Are you supportive of a housing bond? Why or why not?
PW: I do not believe that there is a singular “silver bullet” that is going to solve the affordable housing crisis. I see the terms “workforce housing” and “affordable housing” thrown around a lot, and I do not think that they are interchangeable. “Workforce housing” is housing for those who make too much to qualify for traditional low-income assistance, but who do not make enough to afford to continue to live in our city. These are our police officers, our firemen, our teachers, and a huge percentage of the residents of our city.
“Affordable housing” is essentially nonexistent in our city, as that term is used to describe a governmental metric. For a home to be considered “affordable,” your total expenses associated with your home cannot exceed 30% of your total income. These options are few and far between in our city. What is “affordable” to me might not be affordable to others.
I believe that, as a city, we must utilize every resource at our disposal, in order to increase the number of residents in our city who can live in an “affordable” home. This might be done through workforce housing, along with a housing bond, as well as holding developers and politicians accountable for adding actual value to our communities. I believe that we must utilize every tool to achieve this task.
PCD: What about other infrastructure in our city: What needs the most attention in your opinion and how would you address it?
PW: Our roads need a lot of work in this city — no one can argue against that. That is absolutely one of my top priorities. However, I believe that the key focuses of our infrastructure need to be around public transit (WAVE), on getting a covered bus stop at each pickup location, and not simply in affluent neighborhoods where no one rides the bus.
We also must as a city get serious about being far more walkable. We have far too many pedestrians hit by automobiles in this city. If elected, I will work to increase our monitored crosswalks, to connect our sidewalks to increase walkability, to create trails, and to make our city a much more vibrant, walkable place to live.
PCD: What kind of environmental protections would you like to see the city focus on and how?
PW: As a city we must do everything in our power to reduce flooding. Hurricane Florence reminded us all of one thing: that we live on a peninsula and that we cannot keep paving over every square inch of dirt. The city must do everything possible to increase permeable road and parking solutions to reduce stormwater runoff. I am also looking into the “carbon credit” programs that have been so successful in other states, to see how we could utilize them here in North Carolina to not only preserve our remaining green spaces, but to increase green space. I believe that as an area, we must all be vocal about preserving our natural wetlands. I am adamantly opposed to development across the river on Eagles Island and will work doing everything in my power to preserve that area. I would very much like to see our city go to a goal of preparation and mitigation when it comes to climate change and hurricanes, as opposed to the way that we handle it now, which is simply rebuilding.
PCD: Do you think enough is being done to confront gang violence? What else should be done?
PW: As long as there is gang violence in our city, I don’t believe that anyone can seriously say that we are doing enough to combat it. However, in order to solve the problem, we must look at the origins of it. Gangs are attractive to young people because they offer a seemingly brighter future than what they are facing in their own realities. As a city, we must of course prosecute violent gang offenders, but I also believe that we need to take a look at the structural issues that exist in our city that make gangs so attractive to these young people. Their existence is proof of our failure as a city. They are a living and breathing representation of the inequities that exist here, of ‘the haves” and “the have nots.” Until we are able to create a more equitable city, we will always have this problem.
We cannot arrest our way out of this problem. We know that now. Trying that has left us as a country with more of our citizens incarcerated than any other country on earth. So, the question then becomes do we just keep doing the same thing, and ruining countless lives, as politicians and elected officials simply because it has a few good taglines “Tough on Crime,” “Law and Order,” or do we pull on our boots and begin to do the hard work, which will actually solve the problem. I choose the latter.
PCD: Residents often raise concerns about clear-cutting and overdevelopment. What is your response when hearing this sentiment? How should the city respond to these complaints?
PW: These complaints are based in reality. They are the truth. So much of our city has been deforested and developed. I would respond to these complaints by saying they are 100% correct. We as a city must do everything in our power to encourage development, not on what remaining forested land we have, but on existing property. We must encourage “redevelopment,” and do it with the stipulations that permeable paving and road solutions be used whenever possible. We need to be working in the direction of decreasing stormwater runoff with development, not increasing it.
I agree with people who feel this way. We are blessed to live in the only place on earth where the Venus flytrap is indigenous. It can feel like there are those in our city who will not be happy until the last Venus flytrap has been paved over. I will fight against that with everything in my power.
PCD: Is our city prepared for the influx of growth that’s being predicted over the next 20 years? What are the top priorities you think must be addressed to prepare for the population increase?
PW: Put simply, NO — I do not believe that we are. We all saw our property values go up with our last tax assessment. This was due to the pricing increases of homes, due to the lack of available stock. It is supply and demand. We do not have the supply today, so as our population increases, our problems will only increase without action.
We do need more housing, but I believe that this development must be done on currently developed properties, (think the old Kmart parking lot), that it must be done in a way that increases affordable housing, as well as workforce housing, and it must be done in a way that preserves the natural elements of the surrounding environment and communities. We cannot continue to simply gentrify historically Black neighborhoods, and to price families out of their own homes.
PCD: How would you rate Wilmington’s job market? What can the city do to create more sustainable jobs?
PW: I would give our local job market a C. As a city we have a lot of very high paying positions. That is a plus and we want to see that. However, we also have a huge percentage of our residents who work in the service industry. I worked in restaurants for well over a decade and besides cropping tobacco when I was a teenager, it is the most difficult job that I have ever had. We have so many workers in our city who work multiple jobs, who put in 89 or 90 hours a week, and still cannot afford to live here. That is proof that our job market is not where it needs to be. My focus is on locally owned, small businesses. I believe that entrepreneurship is the bedrock of any local economy.
As a city, we should be developing our small businesses, offering them tax incentives, and educating them on how to grow and become more successful. I have a three-stage plan, which will work to increase our small business sector, which will create more sustainable jobs, which will increase all aspects of our local economy. We must keep our current businesses from going under because of Covid-19; this involves spending money from the American Rescue Plan.
Next, I would like to work with local organizations and CFCC to educate our business owners and entrepreneurs on the basics of operating a business that so many entrepreneurs simply do not know. I see it everywhere: People who are excellent at cutting hair, or whatever their business is, but they do not have the basic business knowledge to help them be truly successful — simple things, like the benefits of filing your business as an LLC to protect your private assets.
Lastly, I believe that we should give tax incentives to local small businesses who agree to pay a living wage and to complete this training. In order to have a better local job market, we must have a diverse job market, but also one that allows all workers to earn enough to live.
PCD: Would you approve an ordinance establishing a social district in downtown Wilmington? Why or why not? What provisions would you advocate for within the district?
PW: I think that this would be a good addition to our city and I am excited to see the plans for it; however, my decision would be entirely based off of the effects that it may have on the surrounding neighborhoods and communities, and how our residents feel about it. Any provisions which I would advocate for would be based off of its proposed location and the input of the residents of Wilmington.
PCD: What changes, if any, would you make to the city’s current spending strategy for its $26 million in American Rescue Plan funds? Is there an initiative you would like to see funded? If so, which expenditure would you cut in its place?
PW: Overall, I think that the city has done a good job dispensing this money. I would have however liked to have seen more go to the areas of addiction and treatment. The city put aside $100,000 for treatment programs. This may sound like a lot, but as a person in Recovery myself, who has spent the past several years working with other alcoholics and addicts to help them find the same peace that I have found as well as I work to improve our treatment options here locally, I can tell you that isn’t going to go very far at all.
A treatment center located right here in Wilmington charges roughly $16,000 for a single person to go through a 28-day program. Sadly, I was not able to find the help that I needed here in Wilmington when I was trying to find the assistance that I so desperately needed. I was fortunate enough to have amazing health insurance which allowed me to go to a top-rated facility in California. They charged my insurance over $160,000 for a 90-day program.
So, as I have said, I am appreciative of the $100,000 from these funds; however, at best, it would cover treatment at this facility in Wilmington for six people, and it would barely cover half of the cost that was paid by my insurance. If we are serious about working to help our residents struggling with addiction, then it is going to take a serious commitment, and I just do not see $100,000 as that.
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