Sunday, March 26, 2023

Election 2021: Jonathan Uzcategui is vying for a Wilmington City Council seat

Jonathan Uzcategui is hoping to secure one of three Wilmington City Council seats in the Nov. 2 municipal election. (Port City Daily/Courtesy photo)

WILMINGTON — Jonathan Uzcategui is vying for one of three open seats on 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.)

READ MORE: Catch up on all political coverage

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.

Uzcategui’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.

Jonathan Uzcategui — Republican

  • Education: Graduated high school in Caracas Venezuela
  • Job Title: Small business owner of a Restaurant, Gym and Food Truck
  • Experience: Entrepreneur
  • Family: I am a father of three and a husband

Port City Daily (PCD): What is your top priority, if elected a seat on council? How will you address it?
Jonathan Uzcategui (JU): My top priority is law and order. Without a stable and functioning law enforcement, we will not have safe communities to address important issues, such as our infrastructure and struggling small businesses. I also feel that elected representatives need to listen to their constituents and address concerns within our community. After interacting with a lot of people in the community, I have found that the majority do not understand the function of city council, and that it is the legislature on the local level making laws that affect them on a daily basis.

PCD: What do you believe is the solution to the affordable housing crisis? Are you supportive of a housing bond? Why or why not?
JU: The affordable housing crisis should not be in the hands of the government. Just look around the city and you can see one project after the next in disrepair. More government money is not the answer. We need to start looking into projects like Eden Village, First Fruits Ministries, and Vigilant Hope. Create ownership and responsibility in housing to educate and graduate those in need out of private initiatives.

PCD: What about other infrastructure in our city: What needs the most attention in your opinion and how would you address it?
JU: We need to work in conjunction with the county to put pressure on the NCDOT to ask the federal government for help in these issues. For far too long our streets have been ignored, making quiet neighborhoods cut-throughs streets. Rather than address the major thoroughfares of our city, we try to send drivers through neighborhoods to alleviate the stress and overcrowding. This causes speeding, reckless driving and dissatisfaction all around.

PCD: What kind of environmental protections would you like to see the city focus on and how?
JU: We need to protect our green zones and tree canopy that is quickly disappearing. Our welcome sign says “Tree City,” but where are the trees? We also have a huge problem with flooding. There have been recent articles about how ground water is consumed by trees, but we continue to strip away every tree and shrub. Doesn’t the absence of trees contribute to flooding? These are the questions we need to be addressing.

PCD: Do you think enough is being done to confront gang violence? What else should be done?
JU: No. Our police departments have suffered from being defunded and are in a deficit of officers. We need to have a well-funded and trained police force to address crime and gang violence. We also need a better retention program to keep the officers that go through the academy in our city. Our police officers are not being paid enough, in return they graduate the academy and go find jobs outside the city that have better pay.

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?
JU: We are destroying our environment and our infrastructure by over building and allowing developers to strip the land, in return for planting a couple of saplings. Rather than having permits to cut selected “approved” trees, we should have incentives to keep the trees and build within the beautiful old trees we have. The fines given to developers for over cutting are not enough — and by that time it’s too late, the trees are already gone.

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?
JU: Our city has not been prepared for the influx of growth it has seen, so it is not prepared for the future. Our roads cannot withstand the volume of traffic we currently have, and greater volume would be destructive. Our infrastructure goes hand in hand with our road system, which also is not prepared for the future, and if we do not have incentives to wise growth and traffic management, what little green zones and tree canopy we have left will be destroyed.

PCD: How would you rate Wilmington’s job market? What can the city do to create more sustainable jobs?
JU: Government does not create jobs. For far too long the city has made it too difficult to run a business. Taxes, permits, inspections, oversight, and favoritism have cause undue burdens on our entrepreneurs. Look at all the taxes and regulations. If there is something not necessary, remove it. If it’s outdated, update it. City council is good at approving new burdens for small businesses without consideration of lifting inappropriate ones. Small businesses are the backbone of the city, without these businesses there are no jobs.  

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?
JU: What would be the reason for establishing a social district? Before passing any ordinance, we need to fully understand how other social districts have worked, what are the benefits and what are the concerns. Will there be a higher rate of public intoxication? Will there be increased costs of cleaning the districts? What will be the demands on an already overburdened and under-funded police department to patrol the areas? Who pays for these patrols? Are there taxes on the businesses to pay for extra signage necessary for enforcement, permits to be included in the district and all the other necessary infrastructure items. We have a lot of issues in our city, and this is not a top priority.

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?
JU: The city does not need to come up with new spending plans and needs to be focused on lowering taxes. These funds need to be applied toward existing programs wherever they can, to free up monies to be used to offset the huge increases in property tax bills that were approved in June. We need to look for ways to cut waste to be able to return monies to local taxpayers. Our citizens work hard to pay their taxes and should not have been hit with a big tax hike as they have been this year. Government needs to manage its funds just like our citizens.

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Shea Carver
Shea Carver
Shea Carver is the editor in chief at Port City Daily. A UNCW alumna, Shea worked in the print media business in Wilmington for 22 years before joining the PCD team in October 2020. She specializes in arts coverage — music, film, literature, theatre — the dining scene, and can often be tapped on where to go, what to do and who to see in Wilmington. When she isn’t hanging with her pup, Shadow Wolf, tending the garden or spinning vinyl, she’s attending concerts and live theater.

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