CHARLOTTE — Ahead of the City of Charlotte general election on July 26, Channel 9 is asking candidates contending for mayor and city council why they are the right person for the job.
In an election postponed from 2021 after controversy over district boundaries, incumbent Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles, a Democrat, will face Republican Stephanie de Sarachaga-Bilbao.
Voters will choose between eight candidates vying for at-large positions on the city council, including four Democrats with past experience in the role. Three more races will decide who represents districts 2, 3, and 6.
We sent all candidates a series of questions on key issues in the city. The questions were chosen by Channel 9′s Joe Bruno based on the top issues he sees covering every Charlotte City Council meeting.
- Why should you be elected?
- Should Charlotte City Council expand the single-family zoning designation to allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas not bound by covenants and HOAs?
- From service to future lines, what should Charlotte City Council do to improve transit?
- If $50 million is approved by voters in November, how should the next Charlotte City Council use those funds to tackle the affordable housing crisis?
- How can Charlotte improve public safety for all residents?
Below are the complete, unedited responses of each candidate who chose to participate.
City of Charlotte Mayor
Vi Lyles (D)
Why should you be elected? I have demonstrated my willingness to serve as Mayor by addressing Charlotte’s most necessary and multifaceted programs: affordable housing; jobs that promote upward mobility; and better transportation between home and work. I engage in this work with a deep understanding of the need for engagement and equity for all our residents.
Should Charlotte City Council expand the single family zoning designation to allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas not bound by covenants and HOAs? I think about the demographics of our population–for example, aging in place and multi-generational housing–and for the best use of land, we must have housing choices for every kind of Charlotte family we serve. (Note duplexes are already allowed on corner lots in the current ordinance!)
From service to future lines, what should Charlotte City Council do to improve transit? Implement the Strategic Mobility Plan adopted by Council as the path-to-mobility plan for the entire region.
If $50 million is approved by voters in November, how should the next Charlotte City Council use those funds to tackle the affordable housing crisis? Continue to provide housing for our working poor residents, our residents who are disabled, and our elderly. We should focus more on job training programs, rent subsidies, and allowances for transportation and childcare for residents completing job training. Providing this assistance helps our residents in their hiring process and in moving forward with their lives.
How can Charlotte improve public safety for all residents? Focus on early interventions like the above recommendations, providing programs that allow for crisis intervention and de-escalation programs for young people challenged by violence. We can continue working on neighborhood violence intervention programs, fund law enforcement programs focused on crime prevention, and cooperate with the criminal justice system to provide justice for victims of crime.
Stephanie de Sarachaga-Bilbao (R)
Why should you be elected? I’m in our neighborhoods every day and hear from Charlotteans that they want to safely walk down the street, be safe in their homes, be able to get to and from work in peace, and with the rising cost of food and fuel – the challenges seem endless. My administration will be in the community and responsive to the needs of everyday Charlotteans. Charlotte is a mosaic of peoples, cultures, neighborhoods and ideas, and we must support and protect this. My administration will hit the ground running focused on the people, the problems and the solutions. The people of Charlotte have seen enough bad governmental mis-management to last a lifetime.
When I am mayor I will work to ensure our safety by leading our region in an integrated response. As mayor I will prioritize after school interventions for our most at risk, as well as support after school programs for all. Expanding economic opportunity and multigenerational wealth through tangible supports for all who want access through entrepreneurship. As mayor building our skilled trades will be of the upmost importance. As mayor I will work tirelessly to invigorate our city into the shining example of what a major US city can and should be. Our values of faith, family, community and opportunity will drive us to be a place where we can invest, live and grow. An international destination for fashion and culture. So many people view cities like Nashville and Atlanta as leaders in sports and entertainment. These are such important sectors of our economy and community pride. I will support independent music venues, in combination with NASCAR, NBA, NFL, MLS, world-class venues and music acts, cultural exhibits. Charlotte, under my administration will be known as a destination city for the best sports and entertainment in America.
Should Charlotte City Council expand the single family zoning designation to allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas not bound by covenants and HOAs? Any zoning proposals need to include language to protect homeowners and allow smart growth such as duplexes and triplexes. Giving certainty to developers on how business in the city is to be conducted. Clear bright line rules need to be in place to accomplish this and prevent some of the situations we are seeing in neighborhoods all across the city. There are too many neighborhoods being hurt by current policies and little to no response from the city.
From service to future lines, what should Charlotte City Council do to improve transit? Charlotte is a growing city and Charlotte’s transportation solutions need to be immediately actionable and respectful of both those who work for CATS as well as those who use CATS. As mayor I will advocate for the additions of regular smaller rapid transit options which will not take time to implement and robust crosstown options, which is a necessity for all major cities. We also have to be honest and acknowledge the shortcomings in the management of CATS. There are both administrative and safety concerns. As mayor I will immediately roll up my sleeves and use my two decades of business and finance expertise to put CATS on the path towards being a top tier employer and transportation provider.
If $50 million is approved by voters in November, how should the next Charlotte City Council use those funds to tackle the affordable housing crisis? When I am mayor obtainable housing will be achieved through leadership and partnership. If this is passed, solutions will not be dependent only on this new revenue, nor will the City have to become a sole developer to do it. We are a first choice destination for developers and should be prioritizing those developers with the same values. Giving these funds to local business as much as possible for the purpose of obtainable housing. By doing this we can create obtainable housing immediately in Charlotte. Bonds are debt and with all debt the spending must be accountable and high impact. My experience in finance has taught me that with the oncoming financial crises the best option will be a combination of holding the assets before deployment to grow the principal as much as possible and only deploy funds to immediate transparent actionable items.
How can Charlotte improve public safety for all residents? Public safety is the issue on everyone’s mind. Recent numbers have come out and confirmed, what we all know, that safety is a major issue. It must be prioritized and everything we do as a city must come from ensuring that we are able to be safe on the street, safe in our homes and our children safe at school. Public safety and public health go hand in hand and we must ensure wraparound supports for all Charlotteans. When I am mayor I will work to ensure our safety by leading our region in an integrated response.
I will advocate for this and that all our first responders (Police, Fire and Medic) are given the necessary resources to do their jobs. Charlotte will be an employer of choice for all first responders and create dynamic recruitment programs now. As mayor I will prioritize after school interventions for our most at risk, as well as expand after school programs for all. Our City’s charter provides the mayor with tools that have not been recently used. We will use the health and safety powers efficiently and I will be in the community with you. I will provide opportunities for our young people so they have another and better choice. I will promote diversion programs. I’ve assisted with violence prevention and interventions in other major cities and intend to replicate evidence based programming. But let me be clear, for those who intend to do harm to our citizens and our City – it will not be tolerated; there is no place for you in this city any longer.
Charlotte City Council At-Large
Dimple Ajmera (D)
Why should you be elected? I am running for re-election because I want to continue to uphold the values instilled in me by my late father. As the daughter of immigrants, I have experienced firsthand the struggles of working families. I went from cleaning hotel rooms in order to pay for college to managing multi-million dollar budgets before I joined the public service.
I have worked tirelessly to bring about achievements in Public Safety, Affordable Housing, the Environment, Women’s Equality, Economic Development, and Infrastructure. My goal is to serve all Charlotteans and strive to be a positive role model for all.
Should Charlotte City Council expand the single family zoning designation to allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas not bound by covenants and HOAs? As part of the 2040 plan that Charlotte City Council approved, it allows duplexes and triplexes to be built in single family zoning to increase the housing stock.
From service to future lines, what should Charlotte City Council do to improve transit? We must address our reliability and effectiveness transit issues before we ask voters for a sales tax increase.
If $50 million is approved by voters in November, how should the next Charlotte City Council use those funds to tackle the affordable housing crisis? The next Charlotte City Council should use $50 million dollars to ensure that we continue to provide affordable housing at all income levels (<30 to >80 Average Median Income).
Additionally, we must ensure that residents have a homeownership opportunity to build generational wealth.
How can Charlotte improve public safety for all residents? As a first-generation Indian-American who has personally experienced racism, sexism, and even death threats, fighting for a safe Charlotte is a top priority. We should continue to work with our CMPD to recruit and retain our best officers.
Unfortunately, our officers are consistently re-arresting the same individuals 50 to 70 times. Our courts need to recognize that many repeat violent offenders are not being held accountable. We owe our community better.
Kyle Luebke (R)
Why should you be elected? I have a proven track record of pragmatic leadership in the Charlotte community. Democratic Councilwoman Victoria Watlington appointed me as the neighborhood representative on the UDO Ordinance Advisory Committee because she trusted my judgement and values to advocate for the residents of Enderly Park. Republican Councilman Tariq Bokhari engaged me to write the Republican LGBTQ+ non-discrimination ordinance because he knew my passion for my community and my desire to see all Charlotteans protected in the city we call home. I have been an active member of the Charlotte LGBTQ+ community as well as have a robust pro-bono practice focusing on tenant and veteran advocacy. Charlotteans are looking for pragmatic, moderate, and effective leaders. Leaders who can rise above the partisan fray, work together alongside colleagues from both sides, and get the hard work done for our City. I would like to be one of those leaders on our City Council.
Should Charlotte City Council expand the single family zoning designation to allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas not bound by covenants and HOAs? Charlotte should be taking a measured and pragmatic approach to changing our zoning laws. Instead of doing that, our current Council has decided to take a sledgehammer to every parcel in the City, without regard to whether infrastructure, our schools, or our transit system can handle the additional development. Instead of changing zoning for the entire City, we should be looking to upzone along high frequency transit routes. That is what other major cities have done in our country, and we should be learning from their experiences.
From service to future lines, what should Charlotte City Council do to improve transit? As a bus rider, this is an incredibly important and personal issue for me. I talk with people all the time who ride our transit system who have missed work because our buses are late or don’t even show up. Our current Council has prioritized projects which appeal to consultants while not investing in improvements that matter to Charlotteans. Specifically, I would like to see two things.
(i) A renewed focus on Bus Rapid Transit routes. Along certain key corridors like Beatties Ford, Central, Graham, Freedom, Park and Providence, no one should have to wait more than 15 minutes for a bus. Reliability is what our riders need and if we want to ensure that people get out of their cars and take the bus, we need to be sure our system is reliable, frequent and fast.
(ii) We need to reform how we approach our Special Transportation Services (STS). Currently, STS will only pick up individuals with visual impairment or physical limitations if they live ¾ of a mile from a bus stop. Large swaths of our community are “transit deserts”, and I personally know people in the visually impaired community who are essentially forced to stay at home because they cannot get transportation. An immediate solution is to expand the service area from ¾ of a mile to at least 2 miles, but we should also be looking at how we can better serve our residents who take advantage of STS services.
If $50 million is approved by voters in November, how should the next Charlotte City Council use those funds to tackle the affordable housing crisis? When I have talked to people in our community who are either experiencing homelessness or teetering on the edge of homelessness, they all describe the desire to have *any* type of housing. It is extremely expensive for housing to be built for this population, which is generally under 30% AMI. That is where the City can impact this population. I would like to see the next $50 million in affordable housing funds go towards shared housing facilities. This is the most cost effective way to build housing for under 30% AMI and get our residents the shelter they need.
How can Charlotte improve public safety for all residents? Our community is struggling with an increase in crime and violence. There have been multiple homicides just this week. We are hundreds of officers short and our communities are feeling the impact. We not only need to ensure that our police force is a place where people want to work but we need to change our pay scale to retain our best officers.
Community involvement is also essential. We need to be supporting non-profits and neighborhood organizations doing the hard work of breaking these cycles of violence. CMPD also needs to be working with communities to encourage gun safety and needs to work with organizations to stress the importance of not leaving firearms in unlocked cars.
David Merrill (R)
Why should you be elected? I am a reasonable and responsible person that wants to bring back a sense of good governance and accountability to the Council. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. For too long Charlotte has voted the same way, for the same candidates, running on those same issues. For most of the last decade, one party has had a 9-2 majority on the city council with the ability to enact any changes that they wanted. In this election, candidates on both sides of the aisle have been running on a platform of public safety, affordable housing, economic mobility, and public transportation. Today many of those issues feel worse than they have ever been. In the past few weeks, we’re seen shootings and stabbings at CTC. We’re seeing a 7-year-old and 1-year-old being shot. Housing has never been less affordable or attainable than it is today. Charlotte is ranked last for economic mobility and CATS is having such a hard time getting people to show up for work, that they are tweeting how many drivers don’t show up every day. This all comes down to leadership. It is time for a change.
Is your life better today than it was 4 years ago? How about 8 years ago? Answer me with your vote. If you are happy with what is going on in our City, keep doing what you have been doing. If you are tired of politicians pandering for your vote only to disappear until the next election, if you think that it is time for the City Council to stop scratching the surface and make a meaningful, long-lasting change, then this July please vote for a clean slate. Please, visit my website (votemerrill.com), connect with me on social media, and vote for David Merrill for Charlotte City Council At-Large on or by July 26.
Should Charlotte City Council expand the single family zoning designation to allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas not bound by covenants and HOAs? Not via the UDO. What people don’t seem to realize is that this is not going to impact “the wedge” in South Charlotte. This is going to impact “the crescent.” Having a global and unified development ordinance for the entire city isn’t the right solution. This may help improve inventory, but it will severely worsen gentrification in our most at-risk communities. I’ve spoken with people in Grier Heights and Wesley Heights, in Trinity Park, South Park, and Enderly Park. You cannot develop the Far East Communities in the same way that you develop Derita, Ballantyne, or Seversille – my West Charlotte neighborhood. What makes Plaza Midwood a fun place to live, work, play, and worship is completely different from why people move to Steele Creek. Development needs to be local, neighborhood, or community coalition specific and led by each district representative based on the needs of each community.
From service to future lines, what should Charlotte City Council do to improve transit? First and foremost, we need to protect our transit drivers and listen to what are their concerns. We should address those concerns and renegotiate their contracts to be something that we can all live with. From what I’m told, for every assault on a driver that we hear about, many more occur that are never publicly reported.
We should continue to develop our rail as a long-term solution for mass transit, but we must first fulfill our responsibility of bussing the city to work. While Kyle Luebke and I choose to take public transit, we also have the option of taking personal vehicles as needed. This is not an option for many who depend on CATS to get from home to work and back. An entire sector of our community that depends on transit is the least likely to have flexible schedules that are forgiving of tardiness and absences related to buses showing up late or not at all. We need more frequent bus service; it should not take people over an hour to get to work within our City. We need to partner with our developers to include green spaces and transit stops with shade, shelters, and sidewalks as they are building new apartments and commercial developments throughout Charlotte. This has the opportunity to improve the future of what transit will look like in our City. Finally, we should look to technology for efficient, electric, and potentially autonomous transportation as we move towards a more mobile city.
If $50 million is approved by voters in November, how should the next Charlotte City Council use those funds to tackle the affordable housing crisis? The city’s approach to housing is not working. We need to stop scratching the surface and make a meaningful impact in helping to provide housing that is both affordable and attainable for all Charlotte residents.
First, we need more inspectors. Regardless of if we are talking about those who can conduct subsidized rental housing inspections like Section-8 or new construction inspections, we have too few people spread far too thin and it is impacting many aspects of housing.
When it comes to rentals, the goal of subsidized housing should be to provide a step along the path to homeownership. Not all who travel the path will choose to continue to the end but that should alter not our goal. Subsidized housing should come with vocational training for all household members able to work, over 16 years of age, who are able, not already in school or working. We must also revisit our subsidized programs. Various programs may fall under the authority of multiple agencies complicating leasing, constricting application options and processing, delaying payments, and making if very difficult for housing providers to want to accept vouchers.
When it comes to homeownership, we should continue working with HUD, the NC General Assembly, and our own Housing & Human Services departments to expand our Down Payment Assistance Program, Aging in Place, Homestead Act, and Circuit Breaker programs. We’ve made these programs difficult to apply for, placed constraints that don’t reflect the current markets, and failed to produce the desired outcome of these programs. These programs are not failures but they need to be adjusted to reflect the modern needs of Charlotte.
How can Charlotte improve public safety for all residents? We need new leadership on the City Council. First, city leaders must publicly show respect and support for our law enforcement and fire-fighting professionals. Too many first responders, both police and fire, have told me they have no support from the city. That is why so many have already left their respective jobs fields. These first responders feel that the Council has turned their backs on them, offering little to no support. Police officers and firefighters are asking for dignity, respect, and a voice but have none. How can we hope to recruit and retain the best candidates when the current Council is tweeting incendiary remarks about our first responders and neither the Mayor, City Council, City Manager, nor City Attorney will respond to emails from the Firefighters Association?
Second, we need to make CMPD and CFD employers of choice for anyone that wishes to serve in these fields. We shouldn’t have to be offering retention bonuses, we should have more applicants than open positions. We should have well-trained professionals hoping that a position opens in Charlotte so they can move here to become a part of the best trained, most well respected, and professional departments in the region. In order for this pipeline of talent to come to fruition, we need CMPD and CFD to become employers of choice with good leadership, public support, professional development, opportunities for career advancement, and competitive compensation (pay and benefits).
Third, we return to community policing. This won’t be possible with the number of police offers currently serving our City. I’ve been told that at times, as few as 8 officers are working in the Uptown and South End area, and as few as 6 officers are working in the Steele Creek area. We need more officers. We need to end mandatory overtime, training, and court dates on days off and give our first responders the time they need to unwind with their families. When our first responders are unappreciated, overworked, under-trained, understaffed, and just worn out, they are prone to mistakes. That’s not safe for anyone.
I think that Charlotte Fire does a great job with community interaction. My neighbors and I frequently walk our dogs near a local fire department and find firefighters sitting at a picnic table in front of their station talking with people in the community. I would love to see that we have enough police officers so that they can get out of their vehicles, walk the communities where they work, and connect with the people they serve. I would love to have more of our youth experience their first interactions with police officers be throwing a ball, making a purchase from a neighborhood lemonade stand, or helping to fix a bike.
When we have leadership that cares about the community, respects and supports our first responders, encourages professional development, and implements community interactions, our public safety will drastically improve.
James Mitchell (D)
Why should you be elected? I think my leadership style of being a collaborative public official could be an asset to our City. As we address our transit system, we will need a collaborative approach to get support from the General Assembly. Addressing our affordable housing crisis we need to collaborative with Mecklenburg County, and all our affordable housing stakeholders. To improve our small business community, we need to collaborative with our financial industry to address access to capital, and collaborative with our minority business to increase their participation with City contracts. I think my track record of accomplishments that makes our city a better place is what our citizens need from their public officials for example, Northlake Mall, Truist Knights baseball Stadium, Metro Police Station, Park at Oaklawn, Seigel Point, Rosa Park Transit Center, CIAA basketball tournament, Charlotte Business INClusion program, Women Business Center, Black Enterprise Entrepreneur Conference, Eastland mall site, and September 3, 2022 (Duke Mayo HBCU football Classic NC A&T vs NCCU).
Should Charlotte City Council expand the single family zoning designation to allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas not bound by covenants and HOAs? No, I do not support expanding the single-family zoning designation to all duplexes and triplexes.
From service to future lines, what should Charlotte City Council do to improve transit? First, we need to perform a SWOT analysis on which future lines (Red Line, Silver Line, Blue Line Extensions, and Streetcar expansion): improves ridership, gains General Assembly support, receives Federal grants, and is cost-effective. Then conduct Town Hall meetings throughout our city to receive feedback from our citizens.
If $50 million is approved by voters in November, how should the next Charlotte City Council use those funds to tackle the affordable housing crisis? Increase our Housing Trust Fund, increase down payment assistance for single-family affordable homes. And fund a new program called “At Home” which can be model like the Section 8 voucher program. The “At Home” program will be for citizens 60% to 80% AMI (area median income) to purchase home built with City funds.
How can Charlotte improve public safety for all residents? We need to improve our relationships between our neighborhoods and our public officers. We need to fund police officers (SRO) for our middle and high schools. And require neighborhoods to have a Crime Watch program in order to receive Neighborhoods Matching grants. Increase funding for non-profit organizations that are committed to reduce violent behavior. Increase funding for de-escalation training for our police officers and recruit more police officers to fill the 100 open vacancies.
Charlie Mulligan (R)
Why should you be elected? I’m a lifetime Charlottean, and I believe we have everything it takes to become a world-class city. The issue is that we lack a vision for how to get there. But I have one- and having been here my whole life, I have a good idea of the strengths and weaknesses we have here. I believe Charlotte can be 1.) Thriving 2.) Multicultural and 3.) Southern. We have plenty of resources here, but not the willpower to really provide them to people who COULD thrive if they had the opportunity. We need to stop only promoting things that always look the same- more breweries, more taco places, more luxury apartments- but also allows us to showcase everything else our people have to offer. And let’s stay connected to our soul- why do we keep knocking down everything that makes us unique to build whatever people in other places like?
Should Charlotte City Council expand the single family zoning designation to allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas not bound by covenants and HOAs? Not in the entire city. We should preserve single-family only zoning in low-income areas to funnel density into areas that can support it.
From service to future lines, what should Charlotte City Council do to improve transit? It’s all about the transit that working people actually use! Our bus system is a catastrophe. However, if we took just a fraction of the proposed cost of the Silver Line, we could really create a point-to-point bus system that is the envy of the SE. Let’s do that.
If $50 million is approved by voters in November, how should the next Charlotte City Council use those funds to tackle the affordable housing crisis? Support. Home. Ownership. We act like the only solution is to commit ourselves to decades of subsidized rent payments! How about we provide more down-payment assistance with borrowers? Or partner with local financial institutions to actually purchase inventory and hold it for current residents, and then allow them to rent to own.
How can Charlotte improve public safety for all residents? To reduce crime, fortunately, we have a straight-foward solution- CMPD can be a great police force, but we have effectively told them that we don’t support them. Morale is low, and we are 600 officers short. LEOs chose not to pursue minor crimes or 50/50 situations because they know they will be the first people to be thrown under the bus by the city. Day 1 myself and my GOP colleagues change that. I’m not a “law and order” candidate- I got my start in politics as a criminal justice reformer- we just need to enforce the laws we do have
Carrie Olinski (R)
Why should you be elected? I view this position as a public service to help my community, not as a stepping stone to another position. I am not a career politician. I am a mother who wants to make this city a better place for all of our children. The surge in crime and frustrated organizations are evidence of the current council’s mishandlings of the city. As a City Councilwoman, I will fight to improve upon these issues and many more. My medical background has shown me the importance of communication across departments and given me the experience of coordinating medical professionals as we work together to treat a patient. This type of communication and collaboration is imperative to the City Council and the bodies of government it works with so closely. My holistic and data-driven approach to problem-solving is exactly what this city needs. I am ready to think outside the box and do everything I can to make Charlotte a safer, healthier, and more balanced place to live and work.
Should Charlotte City Council expand the single family zoning designation to allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas not bound by covenants and HOAs? This is the most contentious part of the UDO. And, I am not in favor of it. The city is made up of about 70% of single-family zoning. We need to have anti-gentrification programs and strategies in place prior to restructuring city-wide zonings otherwise we will be in a worse situation. Gentrification will speed up along with other negatives like housing market changes, changes to quality of life, and more. Council needs to stop being reactive and be proactive in their strategies and approaches. Eliminating single family zoning is not the answer.
From service to future lines, what should Charlotte City Council do to improve transit? We need RELIABLE public transportation which is the opposite of what we have. Buses need to run at least every 30 mins (if not 15 or 20 mins) not every 2 hours (or even not at all). Without an efficient transportation system to handle the population growth of Charlotte we will limit economic growth. We need considerations for improved accessibility, safety, and availability. Lastly, our bus stops need coverage from the elements. Women, children, and the elderly especially need protection from the weather elements or a resting spot while they wait for these buses that take too long to arrive. I know this doesn’t pertain to all the stops but a lot of them don’t even have a seat to sit while waiting for the bus. There are local plastic and recycling groups that are making benches from recycled plastics (for example, the Derita neighborhood is collecting plastics to create a bench). We could use this method and it could be a way to be “green” as well as solve a problem.
If $50 million is approved by voters in November, how should the next Charlotte City Council use those funds to tackle the affordable housing crisis? City Council has already provided $50M multiple times but it hasn’t allowed us to make any headway. We need to continue to build where we can by supporting organizations like Habitat for Humanity and others. Also, support the current housing issue with rental assistance. As a long-term goal or use of the money, we need to start investing in people. We should invest some of the money into organizations already training people to reach livable wages through workforce development and equip or assist residents to stay in their homes. We need to be forward thinking of each step for future homeownership as well as dealing with the immediate crisis at hand.
How can Charlotte improve public safety for all residents? Violent crime is up in Charlotte. Why? We are nearly 600 police officers short. Without the coverage, crimes of all categories, especially violent crimes are prevalent. We see this issue with dispatchers, fire, and although not covered by city council, prosecutors are short staffed. The relationship with police (and first responders) has been affected because they feel unheard and disrespected by our current city council. I will be an advocate for them. Council needs to really put their focus on promoting and hiring first responders. We need to make Charlotte a preferred employer so we can attain and retain officers and other first responders. Safety should be the main priority for the Council.
LaWana Slack-Mayfield (D)
Why should you be elected? I have a proven track record of accountability, accessibility with community members and our business community. When I served previously I choose to do so full-time although Council is a part-time pay position to ensure I was able to attend not only to attend the Council business meetings, I also attended as many community meetings I could to ensure all voices & issues were identified. Working across the party lines locally, statewide & nationally kept D-3 growing while also keeping the community abreast on how policy changes could impact residents quality of life. I know that my Voting Record showed my commitment and love of our city.
Should Charlotte City Council expand the single family zoning designation to allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas not bound by covenants and HOAs? The premise of expanding the definition of single-family to anything other than a single dwelling is an oxymoron at the core. There is space to allow duplexes & triplexes I do not support changing interpretation to benefit a short term goal that could have generational negative impact.
From service to future lines, what should Charlotte City Council do to improve transit? Charlotte has faced great distress the last week or so due to drivers taking coordinated time off. We need to first speak with the union organizers & negotiate around their requests to get our buses back in regular rotation. We also need to pull out the previous community-led transportation recommendations to review which were implemented & which can/should be implemented for future transit needs.
If $50 million is approved by voters in November, how should the next Charlotte City Council use those funds to tackle the affordable housing crisis? Funding should be divided to include the purchase of single-family homes with the first right of refusal going to families that have completed one of the City-funded housing programs. Funding should be allocated to expanding the “Aging in place program”, allocation to maintaining housing accessibility & affordability for current NOAH Charlotte residents, and connecting transportation to neighborhoods
How can Charlotte improve public safety for all residents? This is a bigger question & more complex answer than can be responded to in this questionaire. The first part is to fully engage the current violence distrupters like Team Tru Blue & Center 360 which both have been working with Charlotte youth for years on shoe string budget while new unproven programs have been funded based off relationship vs community impact. City staff, Council & CMPD need to actually listen to the community & I would like to see the return of “Community Policing” model Former Chief Monroe and implemented for District 3 prior to him retiring from CMPD.
Braxton Winston II (D)
Why should you be elected? I have a goal of developing a city that is more equitable, accessible and interconnected. The Charlotte community has been working to change the direction of the historical inequities that have defined our growth. I believe good governance and leadership from our Council-Manager form of government is integral to achieving our goals. I continue to believe it is this generation of Charlotteans who will craft & execute the plan to make the Queen City the equitable, accessible and interconnected city that we each deserve to eat, work & play in.
Should Charlotte City Council expand the single family zoning designation to allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas not bound by covenants and HOAs? Yes.
From service to future lines, what should Charlotte City Council do to improve transit? We must fully implement the updated 2030 plan for public mass transit, especially enhancing east-west connectivity to fully serve middle and low income working populations. We must intersect this with the implementation of our Comprehensive 2040 plan to augment our built environment to better connect first/last mile options. Innovative public-private-partnerships will be integral in solving first/last mile challenges. Our investments in transit and transportation must be intersected with technology investments that will make Charlotte the most digitally equitable big city in America.
If $50 million is approved by voters in November, how should the next Charlotte City Council use those funds to tackle the affordable housing crisis? We need to continue to use the housing trust fund like a swiss army knife. Since we raised the pot to $50 million we have, combined it with private funding to increase the leverage of public dollars, we have expanded into the preservation of NOAH properties, and we have expanded to fund the development of affordable housing for purchase. I would like our next council to create a policy that uses the HTF to acquire land/property that can supply a municipal land trust. Land trust models can be used to provide permanent affordability for housing while providing an appreciating asset for tax payers.
How can Charlotte improve public safety for all residents? The continued implementation of the SAFE Charlotte plan will focus on the creation of response models that provide our residents with the help they need at times of crisis. Too many times people call 911 for mental health emergencies, interpersonal conflicts, and social service issues. While CMPD must respond there is often little they can do if the calls for service don’t rise to the level of criminality. The issues at the heart of those calls fester once CMPD leaves and often eventually rise to levels of criminality with tragic consequences. New response models that provide our communities with the services they need can interrupt these cycles of violence.
We have too many guns in our community. We need to continue to work with our partners in the County and State to approach gun violence as a public health crisis. This will expand the tools at our disposal to deal with the impacts of gun violence before they rise to the level of criminality that CMPD deals with.
Charlotte City Council Districts
Dante Anderson won the Democratic Primary Election in May and no Republicans are running for the seat.
Malcolm Graham (D)
Why should you be elected? I should be re-elected because I have a proven track record for getting things done for the Charlotte community at the state and local levels. Not only have I bought much needed economic development opportunities to district 2 but also provided leadership for the council by serving as chairman the affordable housing, economic development & redistricting committees during the past term.
Should Charlotte City Council expand the single family zoning designation to allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas not bound by covenants and HOAs? I support the 2040 comprehensive plan and the work that we are doing regarding the UDO. The vision is to increase and improve housing diversity by allowing duplexes and triplexes in all the neighborhood 1 place type and provide flexibility in creation of housing within existing neighborhoods.
From service to future lines, what should Charlotte City Council do to improve transit? We must have a regional approach to transportation planning and active involvement from neighboring towns and state law makers in the decision-making process. I would like to conduct an efficiency audit regarding our bus service and operation.
If $50 million is approved by voters in November, how should the next Charlotte City Council use those funds to tackle the affordable housing crisis? If the affordable housing bonds are passed, we should invest more in NOAHs, purchase more land for affordable housing along future transit lines, partner with affordable housing developers.
How can Charlotte improve public safety for all residents? More investment in the Cure Violence Program along the Corridors of Opportunity footprint.
Mary Lineberger Barnett (R)
Why should you be elected? First and foremost, I believe that elected representatives work for the people who elected them. Never the other way around. For the citizens who live in District Two, I pledge that I will represent you with a conservative and people-first approach. We have too much government oversight and involvement with our daily lives. I believe that Charlotte City Council should be working in tandem with what the citizens want or need, and not what the government “thinks” we need. I will work to identify where wasted tax dollars are being placed and reappropriate them to programs that our citizens are demanding to work better, like stronger policing from CMPD for safer neighborhoods and fair affordable housing that is realistically feasible to include all that need it. Our current City leadership has a vision of Charlotte that is leaps and bounds ahead of where we are, and I want to represent District Two citizens to have a voice that is actively involved rather than an afterthought. For this large city to grow responsibly, I want to amplify the voices of District Two so these citizens are a part of our City’s overall growth plan, not apart from it.
Should Charlotte City Council expand the single family zoning designation to allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas not bound by covenants and HOAs? I am opposed to the deleterious sections of the 2040 Plan, especially the removal of Single-Family Zoning. The citizens in the areas without HOA’s will be pushed out and left behind. I believe this program will not address the very populations that it was intended to help. These vibrant and special communities of Charlotte need our resources to help them grow their neighborhoods from the inside-out. There is no need to break up communities, neighborhoods and houses where generations have lived for many years. I want to work with these neighborhood homeowners and renters to help build housing programs so they can thrive where they have lived for lifetimes.
From service to future lines, what should Charlotte City Council do to improve transit? Transportation needs from the City are regressing with the rapid rise of our populations. And the current trajectory of our City will leave behind many populations and communities that rely on public transportation. I want to address this from within these communities to satisfactorily create transportation-safe zones and reliable schedules that smaller cities like Portland, OR, have. And I will push to protect our CATS drivers from any harm from bad actors that see them as easy targets of abuse and violence. It’s not about what city government wants or needs, it’s all about what our citizens need.
If $50 million is approved by voters in November, how should the next Charlotte City Council use those funds to tackle the affordable housing crisis? First, we need to learn from these residents what their specific housing needs are. We don’t need City government telling people where they can live. At the same time, what do these citizens want or need to help them create higher living wages to enhance the quality of life in their communities? I do like the idea of using citizen-approved funding to collaborate with private builders to employ our citizens, educate them in trade or vocational programs and help them learn skillsets that benefit their community. Why is $50 million the magic number? If we have close to 9,000+ citizens waiting to receive housing or housing vouchers, that sends a big signal that a financial band aid will not be the solution. It will take communication, open discussion, and fair assessments with the citizens needing the services.
How can Charlotte improve public safety for all residents? First, I will find the wasteful spending inside the City Council annual budget and push to reallocate more dollars and resources to CMPD and Chief Johnny Jennings as quickly as possible. I 100% support increasing the overall funding to CMPD for stronger efforts at retention and recruiting of CMPD officers. Meeting the rise in crime and violent crime requires more officers and resources, and I support Chief Jennings in building and sustaining a police force that is commensurate with the world-class vision that Charlotte City leaders want to have. But we need the best officers in our police force and then we need to retain them. It will take money. And I know that all the citizens who love Charlotte as much as I do will never want Charlotte to rank in violent crime like Chicago, New York and Baltimore. Committing to a solid growth plan of recruiting and retaining officers will help the vision of Charlotte stay in step with the “smaller town” feelings of living here while still portraying a safer and crime-intolerant city on the rise.
Victoria Watlington (D)
Why should you be elected? I ran for office two years ago to carry the West Blvd Corridor Playbook through implementation, after having led its development as the land use committee chair for the Coalition. Beyond the Blvd, people across the district rallied around four key areas: community-led planning, affordable housing, transportation, and economic mobility. We’ve made significant strides in these areas, and we have great momentum to continue the work, with the residents in the driver seat. Given we are already in the midst of this term, with the budget process complete, we need stable, experienced leadership as we come out of a turbulent season in our city.
Should Charlotte City Council expand the single family zoning designation to allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas not bound by covenants and HOAs? Not everywhere. As has been demonstrated in Milwaukee and other cities around the nation who have implemented this change, these policies accelerate gentrification specifically in historically disadvantaged areas, do nothing to curb affordable housing, and exacerbate the wealth gap. Affordable home ownership remains elusive for first-time buyers. At this point, touting such policies without neighborhood-specific strategies is at best woefully ignorant, and at worst, intentionally dishonest. Let’s stop peeing on residents’ legs and telling them it’s raining. We can do better.
From service to future lines, what should Charlotte City Council do to improve transit? First, we have to wake up to the reality that everybody is not traveling into Uptown. Second, we have to recognize that many who are headed to Center City are driving from outside of the county. Congratulations, we are officially a regional metro! Let’s start acting like it. Let’s strengthen our partnerships with surrounding towns and counties, listen to what they need, and help them get it, including helping to recruit jobs in their communities. As they say, if you can’t bring Mohammed to the mountain, bring the mountain to Mohammed. We’ve got to get serious about creating employment and neighborhood centers around the Charlotte-metro, so people can live near where they work. Safe, reliable, service is important for people who use transit, so we need to invest in better networks. However, we can improve our public transportation system and many people still will not ride, because the bus isn’t going where they are headed (or they have to make several stops to drop off kids, visit friends, or pick up groceries). Instead of trying to convince life-long drivers to become riders (and then asking them to pay for services they will never use that don’t alleviate their transportation concerns), we need to provide options along transit for new and existing residents who choose to live in no-car-necessary neighborhoods.
If $50 million is approved by voters in November, how should the next Charlotte City Council use those funds to tackle the affordable housing crisis? HOMEOWNERSHIP (better down-payment assistance, backing private lending products that compete in a cash market, land acquisition, as examples). Our city is being bought up by corporate investors at a record pace. We can’t talk about economic mobility, great schools, and safe neighborhoods without fighting tooth and nail for people to have an opportunity to stake their claim in this city. People should get to share in this city’s prosperity, and not be under threat of being pushed out at the next rent increase. It’s ridiculous. We can’t continue to increase density through large multi-family development, and then scratch our heads as to why we can’t recruit police officers, educators, firefighters, etc. Newsflash–they can’t afford to buy and raise a family in this city, and we are choosing every day to continue down this path, eroding small single-family neighborhoods and calling it progress.
How can Charlotte improve public safety for all residents? Expand neighborhood matching grants to connect neighbors to other neighbors. Enforce code violations to prevent slumlords from creating environments conducive to crime. Enforce lease restrictions in public housing–if you are not on the lease, you cannot live here. Help the DA lobby the state for more funding to hire prosecutors. Invest in evidence-based mentoring and mental health models specifically for young black men (looking at you, Mecklenburg County). Help first-responders buy homes (and preserve attractive neighborhoods).
James H. Bowers (R)
Why should you be elected? I have lived in Charlotte for over 35 years and many things have changed in Charlotte. One of the most glaring changes is that there is a high level of what I call “low-level lawlessness”. When I’m elected my platform will be centered on being a “servant to the people” and not wanting to be served by the people.
Should Charlotte City Council expand the single family zoning designation to allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas not bound by covenants and HOAs? By just expanding these additional designations Charlotte may lose its neighborhood cultural characteristics. And without question the community must weigh in on their concerns. My job is to represent the people in my District
From service to future lines, what should Charlotte City Council do to improve transit? The only thing City Council can do is provide funding. It’s incumbent of City Council to have the right leadership in those positions which manage those expectations. Within the per view of City Council is obtaining funding and applying their decisions that best reflect the future interests of our Charlotte city residents. One of the primary reasons that I’m running is the fact that Charlotte residents and bus drivers don’t feel safe. What I would do as a Councilmember is support the increase police department personnel to provide additional coverage of our neighborhoods and transit system to give residents a knowing that my decisions will always be centered around the need to make Charlotte a better place for all..
If $50 million is approved by voters in November, how should the next Charlotte City Council use those funds to tackle the affordable housing crisis? First of all, its a good start. I believe a solution for using these additional funds would be to increase the number associates and training in the various housing assistance agencies like Dreamkey Partners, Charlotte Housing Partnership, etc.
How can Charlotte improve public safety for all residents? It starts with the leaders on our City Council. I’ve come to understand that Charlotte has too few police and too few currently in our academy. I understand that Charlotte City Council has allocated funds for up to 2,400 police officers but currently has only 1,500 for a city of close to a million people. Subsequently, one my solutions for public safety would be to increase our funding for the police department and associated agencies by up to 20%.
Incumbent Renee Perkins Johnson won the Democratic Primary Election in May and no Republicans are running for the seat.
Marjorie Molina won the Democratic Primary Election in May and no Republicans are running for the seat.
Stephanie Hand (D)
Why should you be elected? In my discussions with residents throughout Charlotte, I’ve heard time and time again that people are sick and tired of the polarization and lack of civility that defines our political process these days as a moderate who is able to reach across the aisle and work with both Democrats and Republicans, my presence on the council will help to alleviate the polarization and bring more civility to our decision making process. If we are to solve Charlotte’s biggest issues, whether it’s affordable housing, transit, or economic development, we will need to engage in respectful debate with one another and work to find common ground. I am the candidate best suited to make that happen.
Should Charlotte City Council expand the single family zoning designation to allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas not bound by covenants and HOAs? Charlotte is experiencing unprecedented growth. There will be 400,000 people moving to Charlotte in the next two decades and we’ve got to provide more housing and more housing types to accommodate that group so as to mitigate pressure on pricing. That said, the language in the UDO does not abolish single family zoning. The current zoning category with even the least density in single-family housing (R3) still allows duplexes and triplexes on corners. The UDO expands opportunities to allow for duplexes and triplexes in primarily single-family home districts (and quadplexes if there is a rent-restricted unit in it). However for the most part the building footprint cannot be bigger than what a house footprint could be. This provides for more types of housing at market rate in neighborhoods which can than accommodate older neighbors or empty-nesters that may want to downsize but stay in the neighborhood. It provides a smaller footprint unit which becomes more affordable for some. Overall it provides for more housing types which is needed in our community. Examples of this can be seen throughout Myers Park and Dilworth. However the vast majority of land in Charlotte will still have single family housing. Of course, it is important to have accountability measures in place to ensure all our communities that do not have HOA’s and covenants protections are equipped to know their rights for development on their property, in their communities, specifically in communities with older citizens and low economic resources.
From service to future lines, what should Charlotte City Council do to improve transit? Before all else, we need to fix the problems with the current delivery of transit service so that it is consistent and timely service for our citizens who ride Charlotte citywide transportation, especially for bus riders. The Council should focus on how to expand CATS services to meet the growing needs of the customer, work with leaders to resolve the bus driver call out crisis through policy evaluation, revising the contingency plan, evaluation of pay scales, recruitment of employees (acknowledging the fact of the nationwide employee shortages) and working with the employees to resolve the employee call out crisis. Our city transportation system has to be reliable and on-time for our citizens. I also acknowledge that the light rail is an important piece in the enhancement of our transit system. We must continuously evaluate innovative transportation options that meet the needs of today’s and future riders, by working with community leaders, and the brilliant minds at our universities; University of NC Charlotte, Queens College, Johnson C Smith University and Central Piedmont Community College to work with the city to discover cost effective, innovative transportation options that produce strong customer’s satisfaction, high employee satisfaction, timely routes, an interconnected transportation system infrastructure, and a city budget that aides in the continuous growth and quality of life for our citizens through transit.
If $50 million is approved by voters in November, how should the next Charlotte City Council use those funds to tackle the affordable housing crisis? In my opinion the best utilization of these funds is to focus on purchasing naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH) and spend the money to renovate those units. The purchase of existing properties is more cost effective than purchasing land and building new priorities. It is also important within this work, to build an infrastructure for wrap-around services such as job training, mentorship, and other such programs, for persons in the bottom 30% of the income bracket, to address our citywide upward mobility crisis. In addition, home ownership is an asset that aides in generational wealth and using the Housing Trust Fund to create more For-Sale opportunities is critical to help tackle the housing crisis in the community. We can be a model city for upward mobility-affordable housing if we become more creative in the use of our public dollars.
How can Charlotte improve public safety for all residents? We need to work with and develop partnerships with CMPD, the District Attorney’s office, faith communities, neighborhoods, and community organizations to solve public safety issues. We all desire safe communities where we live, work, play and worship. It will take all of us, to collectively address and solve the existing safety concerns in our communities. And that includes more attention to issues like speeding, petty theft, drag racing and other nuisances that disturb quality of life. I have had the opportunity to ask some of the officers in District- 6, if they live in our communities. I was told, they couldn’t afford housing. There is something to be said about a choice, to live in the communities you serve, that needs to be part of the discussion.
Tariq Bokhari (R)
Why should you be elected? This City is almost entirely represented by Democrats. We need at least a little balance. Beyond that, I have some unique skills serving on this council – from recruiting companies to having a tech futurist skillset. Charlotte has an amazing opportunity to be one of the world’s great cities in the next 10 years. We are in such a unique position, and I see every day how so many other cities wish they were in our spot. But I also see every day how we squander our opportunity. We continue to fail doing the basics: running bus systems, supporting our police department and bringing down crime, etc. We also fail in our strategic decisions: we don’t invest in our infrastructure and roads while we chase pipe dreams of light rail and trolleys, we throw money at affordable housing like it’s the goal while we ignore the fact it’s only a tool in the broader mission of sustainable upward mobility. So I could sit here and tell you all the things I’d do to get us back to the business of preparing our city for a glorious future… but I’ve fought to do that for the last 5 years and many of my colleagues are more interested in pandering to small groups of activists. So that’s why I put together a slate of first-time candidates that you can learn about at SummerIsComingCLT.com. We have a shared vision, and if you take a few minutes to look into it, I think you might just be interested in trying something new.
Should Charlotte City Council expand the single family zoning designation to allow duplexes and triplexes to be built in areas not bound by covenants and HOAs? Absolutely not. I have been sounding the alarm on this aspect of the UDO for almost 2 years. Despite my pleas, they refused to perform the proper economic impact analysis of what this will do to affordability of housing. I’ve long feared it could lead to material gentrification and displacement, particularly in East and West Charlotte, and now we are beginning to see those effects materializing in Minneapolis, who abolished single family zoning 4 years ago.
From service to future lines, what should Charlotte City Council do to improve transit? The future of moving people in Charlotte will have more to do with reimagined road networks, autonomous vehicles, and IoT. Our leaders continue to completely ignore any of that, and instead focus on the same, tired light rail and streetcar strategies, just changing the name of the strategy every couple years. Meanwhile voters are stuck in congestion, wondering where their tax money is actually going, and wondering why we can’t even operate our bus system. We need to overhaul CATS, and redesign a new strategic transportation plan focusing on what the world will actually look like in 30 years.
If $50 million is approved by voters in November, how should the next Charlotte City Council use those funds to tackle the affordable housing crisis? The Council keeps throwing money at this issue while they watch it getting worse and worse. I have watched them for 5 years fail to understand that they aren’t solving for affordable housing, rather using it as one of many tools to solve for upward mobility. We must use that lens as we connect jobs with workforce training, housing, transportation, food, clothing, childcare, case workers, and all wraparound services that enable truly sustainable outcomes.
How can Charlotte improve public safety for all residents? We can start by not throwing our police department under the bus as they pander to a small number of activists. CMPD morale, recruitment and retention levels are as bad as I’ve ever seen them. We should establish a culture and approach where our first responders view us as THE place to work. We also need to get serious about violent crime, so repeat offenders don’t keep ending up back on the streets hours after terrorizing them. That’s a good start.
Incumbent Ed Driggs, a Republican, faced no primary challenge and no Democrats are running for the seat.
Polls are open election day 6:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.
(WATCH BELOW: ‘There’s no winging it’: Meck Co. Board of Elections shows the preparation process for the primary)
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