NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Democrat Travis Robinson is looking to gain one of two seats open on the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners in the 2022 election.
Port City Daily has sent a questionnaire to every candidate running in local elections in the tri-county region. The paywall is also dropped on profiles to help voters make informed decisions ahead of casting their ballots.
As a reminder, the early voting period runs from Apr. 28 to May 14. The voter registration deadline is Apr. 22. Voters may partake in same-day registration throughout the two-week early voting period (check if your registration is active at your current address).
Primary Election Day is May 17. Voters will choose which candidates from their registered party they want to move forward in the formal election. Those who are registered as unaffiliated can choose which party’s primary they want to vote in.
Robinson’s stances on issues are discussed below. All answers are included in full and the candidate’s opinions and statements are not a reflection of Port City Daily. Responses are edited only for grammar, spelling and clarity.
Port City Daily (PCD): What is your top priority and how would you address it?
TR: I actually have two and they are affordable housing and workforce development.
Affordable housing: Continue to work with the City of Wilmington to engage public and private partnerships to provide the investment needed to allow for a percentage of houses or apartments for lower income families to be able to work and live in New Hanover County.
Make sure housing vouchers and rental assistance programs are funded, and when able increase that funding to help families live and raise their children under a roof, and hopefully get a house with a yard down the road.
Workforce development: I would address it by working with CFCC, UNCW and other area educational facilities to provide opportunities for training in the following trades due to immediate and future needs: HVAC technicians plumbers, carpenters and more within the film industry.
[I would] build on the film partnership of North Carolina as we have a vibrant film industry here and just like other listed jobs, there is a demand and need for planning for those who will do these jobs as others retire or leave the business. There are already programs for truck drivers and electrical line workers as to the success already in this effort.
PCD: What improvements need to be made to public transportation in New Hanover County?
TR: We need to have a realignment of our rail system to allow for the freight carrying trains to easily access the state ports and companion facilities.
We need to make sure that current and future development projects complete the necessary road or highway connections to allow for the safe passage, as well as the increase volume of vehicles traveling on them.
We need to adjust the routes and schedules for more public use (ridership) within the Wave Transit System, as there are a lot of families who have members working and oftentimes only have one vehicle that can be used.
We need to look into a rail system that allows for people to travel to some of our major cities instead of driving on our highway system, cutting down on congestion and time. This will additionally allow for folks to enjoy the scenery on the way and engage in conversations when appropriate with others on these trips.
PCD: Should a quarter-cent sales tax increase pass for Wave, and would you support a resolution to levy the tax beginning in 2023? If it doesn’t pass, what’s the next best course of action?
TR: Yes. If the quarter-cent sales tax referendum passes by county voters, we could look at adopting a resolution to levy the tax with our 2023-2024 budget.
If not, county management and staff should seek out other funding sources within the line items of our budget, federal government monies, such as American Rescue Plan, state funding that could send money our way for specific use.
PCD: What are your thoughts on the affordable housing crisis in New Hanover County? Is $15 million over five years adequate? How should that money be leveraged?
TR: Population has increased tenfold and our infrastructure and building is playing catch up for the last few years to date.
- Continue with the city council and county commissioners working together to enable their combined resources to address this problem head on. The American Rescue Plan has allowed for the paying of rent and mortgage assistance to eligible citizens.
- Donation of properties to nonprofits for restoration and occupancy within a reasonable mortgage for citizens.
- More solutions such as the donation of 14 acres in the Wrightsboro area for building and development of affordable workforce housing.
[$15 million] is a good start without having to levy any new taxes on our residents. Most of the monies that are coming from the interest of the escrow accounts from the sale of NHRMC to Novant.
The newly formed New Hanover Community Endowment Inc. has expressed interest in affordable housing as one of its priorities. City and county government reaching out to them and having monies that are available to be able to get more bang for the buck as they say. Developers and builders getting more low income tax credits.
PCD: What else needs to be done?
TR: Look at vacant or unkempt properties of existing communities by providing grants, density bonuses to developers and/or builders.
Change of single use to mixed use developments, where appropriate.
Look at commercial and other properties in both the city and county, and see what their potential is for rehab, redevelopment. Former businesses and commercial properties that are no longer occupied.
PCD: New Hanover County is creating an anti-violence department and spending millions each year to launch it. What are your thoughts on the action plan?
TR: The outreach and inclusion of community mediators will help build a trust with those who are contacting affected youth. I learned over a 32-year law-enforcement career that cooperation and solutions begin with trust.
Elements through the sheriff’s office has been a great program for outreach and support of our troubled youth in efforts to keep them from getting into violence and on a bad path to start out with. The expansion of this will allow for juveniles or youth who have been on the waitlist — and not receiving guidance or help — to be seen and receive services they need in order to be productive and change their course of direction in life.
Being an owner/member of the Northside Food Co-Op. I have seen firsthand the need for this store to help serve this actual food dessert. The city and county’s commitment will help in it being a reality sooner than later.
The conducting of training for threat assessments and increasing the school resource officers in schools that do not currently have one assigned is very important to the visibility and safety of all occupants of these properties. The personal contact and professional relationships will be very beneficial as time goes on.
PCD: In what ways does New Hanover County need to manage population growth?
TR: Encourage development where infrastructure is already in place.
Ensure that the elements of the Combined Land Use Plan is reviewed to assist in determining what zoning is right or if any changes are needed.
Encourage development that allows for more walking, biking and use of public transportation.
PCD: Are there new ideas you would bring to the table?
TR: Hopefully, a new face and perspective will allow me to think outside of the box and work with other commissioners and government officials to get what needs to be done for our citizens.
PCD: How well do you think the county balances development with “livability” (i.e. moderated traffic, preserved green space, etc.)?
TR: All of these factors are considered when determining any zoning request. We hope that the many projects for road improvements with the Division 3 DOT Office can further allow easing of traffic in our small county. The addition of more buses to the public transportation lines will help cut down on some of the vehicle traffic, specifically shuttles. County Ordinances direct for the protection of trees, greenspace and of traffic volume and access with new development.
PCD: What role do commissioners need to play in protecting the local environment and coasts?
TR: Ensure that the corporations doing business in our county and possibly region are held accountable for any run off or contamination that they may cause.
Continue to hold Chemours responsible for the conditions and their responsibility within consent order inspect wells and build that containment wall for protection of our area and environment.
Ensure that treated water is released into our rivers and streams.
Continue to support the committees that are monitoring and funding our port, waterway and river improvements, which support our shipping and tourism in our coastal waterways.
Make sure our beach renourishment projects are monitored and funded to serve local industry, such as commercial and charter fishing, recreational boating and to additionally mitigate the continued threat of storms and flooding on our coast.
PCD: What do you think of the county’s supplemental funding for the school district?
TR: I think that with the retention of teachers to educate our children should remain a top priority. We should adjust the salaries to recognize the education and certifications that they have and maintain a higher qualified educator within our school system teaching our children. I understand that this also assists in funding for capital projects and equipment.
PCD: What do you think of the current tax rates? How would you balance taxes with identifying funding for top-of-mind issues?
TR: The current rate is 47.50 cents per $100 valuation of property. It is currently below the fiscal tax rate of 55.50 cents per $100. It allowed for an increase in teachers supplement in our upcoming budget.
[We should] determine what issues no longer require one-time funding and see where other funding sources are such as grants, moving line items around to reduce and transfer monies. Try to treat this money as our own in a home budget, and know what monies we have and how much and what we can spend it on.
PCD: Is there an additional issue or issues that need to be addressed during your term, should you win?
TR: Unsheltered population (Homeless) — We need to see with the recent addition of an ambassador from WDI that is connecting and reaching out to those who are in that circumstance at this point in their life. We need to make sure there are facilities for mental health, substance abuse that have beds for getting the help that they need. We need to make sure there are adequate facilities that allow for them to sleep, maintain personal hygiene and generally network with community resources to offer and have the help that they need no matter their circumstances.
Traffic congestion — We need to work with our municipalities and the state on upcoming projects that will lighten the burden of traffic volume on some of our major arteries within the county. The design of the roads and the actual volume of vehicles crossing is a great concern during all times of the day. There are also commuting times that have the highest volume and we need to see how we can relieve some of that be it ride share, park ride, future HOV-High Occupancy Vehicle Lanes or increased numbers of public transit buses to get the riders back out to their vehicle at park ride locations.
Workforce development — Funding of programs that train in jobs that are in high demand in our region — electricians, plumbers, HVAC Technicians and auto mechanics to name a few.
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