Wednesday, April 17, 2024

2021 Election: Wilmington councilman Clifford Barnett seeks second term

Clifford Barnett (Port City Daily/Courtesy photo)

WILMINGTON –– Clifford Barnett is seeking a second term on the Wilmington City Council.

Port City Daily has sent a questionnaire to every candidate running in municipal elections, which are nonpartisan, and has dropped its paywall on the profiles to help voters make informed decisions ahead of the 2021 election year. (Though, your support of local, independent journalism is appreciated through a monthly subscription. Also, consider signing up for Port City Daily’s free newsletter, Wilmington Wire, to get the headlines delivered to your inbox every morning.)

As a reminder, the early voting period begins Oct. 14, with the registration deadline on Oct. 8. Voters may partake in same-day registration throughout the two-week early voting period, which ends Oct. 30 (check if your registration is active at your current address).

Election Day is Nov. 2.

Barnett’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.

READ MORE: Catch up on all political coverage

Clifford Barnett — Democrat

  • Education:
    • Bachelor’s of science degree, Livingston College, Salisbury, NC, 1977,
    • Masters of divinity degree, Hood Theological Seminary, Salisbury, NC, 1980
    • Doctorate of ministry degree Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pa., 1998
  • Job title: Minister
  • Experience:
    • Former public school educator physical education/coach, 11 years
    • Methodist pastor, 41 years
    • Councilman Wilmington, 4 years
  • Family:
    • Married Waltrina White Barnett, 31 5/6 years
    • Two sons, Clifford Jr. and Walter (wife Nook), one daughter Helen, one in-law, and a grand dog, Andy

Port City Daily (PCD): What is your top priority, if elected a seat on council? How will you address it?
Clifford Barnett (CB): My top priority would be to strengthen the housing affordability here in Wilmington. I would do this by strengthening partnerships with programs, such as Habitat for Humanity, HOP, and Rental Assistance Housing. The Housing Opportunity Program (HOP) assists families in becoming homeowners through classes and financial advice. The Rental Assistance Housing helps families with paying their rent.

PCD: What do you believe is the solution to the affordable housing crisis? Are you supportive of a housing bond? Why or why not?
CB: In addressing the housing crises in Wilmington, I would support a housing bond. This would allow the city to borrow money now to build affordable homes. It will give a quick boost to the housing crisis.

Another solution I would offer to help with the housing crisis is increasing sustainable jobs that pay higher wages. Residents who are gainfully employed in entry level and low wage positions and want to remain a Wilmington resident can pursue better career opportunities with higher wages and better benefits, which will also lower the housing cost burden.

PCD: What about other infrastructure in our city: What needs the most attention in your opinion and how would you address it?
CB: In my opinion, our streets need the most attention in regards to infrastructure. I propose providing resources through our budget that will fund renovating our streets and sidewalks. In addition, we must pay attention to strengthening our local transportation system, stormwater drainage, the Riverwalk, and city parks. I believe that building partnerships with county and state agencies will bring improvements that will benefit the city.

PCD: What kind of environmental protections would you like to see the city focus on and how?
CB: Environmental protections I would like to see the city focus on are:

A. Improving our air quality and reducing green house gas emission. This can be done through the city’s Clean Energy Policy that was recently adopted. This policy will allow the city to reduce future pollution exposure to residents and maintain clean green communities.

B. Protect and expand the urban tree canopy by working with citizens, businesses and nonprofits such as Alliance for Cape Fear to plant more trees throughout the city.

The land development code positively addresses these issues. This code also enhances tree protections and encourages denser development where appropriate.

PCD: Do you think enough is being done to confront gang violence? What else should be done?
CB: Gang violence is a complex problem. As hard as our police department is working to curtail gang violence, more work is needed. The entire community needs to provide assistance to our law enforcement by speaking out and speaking up. We must continue to provide resources to programs that give our children and youth other opportunities. Organizations, such as the Boys and Girls Club, Kids Making It, DREAMS, and Voyage, give our children more options that will deter them from joining gangs.

In addition, I strongly believe in putting more funds and resources in early prevention programs, such as Smart Start and New Hanover County Resiliency Task Force. These two programs will ultimately help children and youth make better choices in their life.

Lastly, we must help our children and youth learn conflict resolution skills and how to use those skills rather than turning to a firearm. I appreciate the work our WPD officers are doing, but this issue will need support from all of us.

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?
CB: While I am opposed to clear-cutting trees for development purposes only, my preference is to protect green spaces. Finally, the land development code has revisions that protect and preserve trees and encourage green spaces, when appropriate.

I think the city so should continue with having open dialogue with citizens concerning clear cutting and over-development. I believe the city should also continue to talk with the development community and state leaders on protecting our environment.

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?
CB: Wilmington is indeed prepared for the predicted increase over the next 20 years. This is why:

The updated land development code and comprehensive plan the council adopted are two important tools to help prepare and respond for the anticipated growth. Both the LDC and comprehensive plan were created with tremendous input from residents to address this challenge. Presently, we are working a 10-year parks, recreation and open space master plan based on the current and future changes in our city.

We must continue to partner with WMPO, NCDOT and other transportation entities to maintain and improve our main transportation corridors as Wilmington continues to not only be a destination for travelers, but also a route for people traveling to other destinations.

PCD: How would you rate Wilmington’s job market? What can the city do to create more sustainable jobs?
CB: I believe we have a strong and growing job market. Yet there is room for improvement.

To create more sustainable jobs, we must attract businesses to our city. Offering incentives that will make employers want to move here and make this their home is important. In addition, partnerships with the school system, the community college, the university, the film industry, small businesses, minority-owned businesses, faith-based groups, and other organizations are needed to influence business owners to bring their families to Wilmington. As a result, jobs will be available for the citizens of Wilmington.

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?
CB: I would like to do further study on social distance before I declare an opinion on it. This new authority, granted to cities and counties by the N.C. General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Cooper in September, will allow people to not be restricted to a restaurant/bar and walk in a designated outdoor area while consuming alcoholic drinks. I think is important to engage the community and seek residents’ input and ideas before I commit to a position on this matter and will look for staff to start that process and present that information to the council.

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?
CB: I am satisfied with the current American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) budget that the staff devised with county, community and other stakeholder input. Presently, there are no new initiatives that I would like to see funded, therefore there would not be any that would be cut.

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Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands
Alexandria Sands is a journalist covering New Hanover County and education. Before Port City Daily, she reported for the award-winning State Port Pilot in Southport. She graduated from UNC Charlotte and wrote for several Charlotte publications while there. When not writing, Williams is most likely in the gym, reading or spending time with her Golden Pyrenees. Reach her at or on Twitter @alexsands_

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