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Decision 2013: Charlotte Council District 7

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Decision 2013: City Council District 7 primary

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While Republicans wage a big-money, high-profile race to represent District 6 on the Charlotte City Council, the party primary for District 7 has been quieter.

Three Republicans are hoping to win the Sept. 10 primary, which will give them a large advantage heading into the general election. Republicans far outnumber Democrats in the south Charlotte district, centered on Ballantyne.

Ed Driggs, Jay Privette and Duncan Wilson are competing in the primary. The winner will face Democrat Bakari Burton.

Based on the most recent campaign finance reports, Privette has raised the most money, at $6,245.

Privette, a retired chemical salesman, ran against current District 7 council member Warren Cooksey in the Republican primary in 2011. Privette is critical of Cooksey’s voting record and said he’s the most conservative candidate in the race.

Cooksey is not running for re-election.

“I feel like the representation we’ve had has been more in line with uptown interests,” said Privette, who lives in Ballantyne. “The 7th and 6th districts have provided roughly half of Charlotte’s tax base, but the majority of spending has been for uptown interests.”

Like most Republican candidates running for City Council, Privette is against the recently passed capital improvement program and the streetcar.

Privette open to separation

One issue unique to District 7 is the possibility that much of the district might leave Charlotte and form its municipality, called Providence. Privette said he’s one of the leaders of the a movement to explore splitting from Charlotte.

“I think it’s a viable option that should be kept open,” Privette said.

He said de-annexation is a “point of strength” that District 7 should keep as leverage with the city to get more services.

“If you are outnumbered 9-2 (Democrats versus Republicans), how will you negotiate?” Privette said. “You have to have some strength at which to negotiate.”

Privette said he is firmly against the City Council’s decision to give the Carolina Panthers $87.5 million for stadium improvements. He said he was the only candidate involved in a letter-writing campaign to legislators to stop the deal.

When asked whether he would support the General Assembly’s legislation to create a 13-member commission to run Charlotte Douglas International Airport, Privette said he wants the airport to be privatized.

Driggs: Change course

Driggs is a retired banker and financial analyst who lives in Piper Glen. He narrowly lost the Republican primary last year to Bill James for the County Commission.

Cooksey said he supports Driggs in the primary.

“I have been unhappy with the direction of local government,” Driggs said. “We used to have city fathers who helped make decisions.”

He added that people in his district feel “they have no say.”

“They feel like they are paying a disproportionate share of the cost (of city services),” Driggs said.

Driggs said he would have voted against the CIP. He said there are parts of the capital plan that are worthwhile, but the city’s “kitchen sink” approach was misguided. He also would have funded capital projects only if there wasn’t a property tax increase.

Driggs said he would have voted against the city’s deal to help the Panthers. But he left open the door to the general concept of providing the team financial incentives to remain in Charlotte.

“To say we won’t spend a penny isn’t realistic,” he said.

When asked whether he would support the district forming a new city, Driggs said he is against the idea.

“I am running for Charlotte City Council,” he said. “I won’t advocate the breaking away of a town. But it’s clear people are unhappy.”

He said he would be OK with a study moving forward about how to create a new town, but he said he’s opposed to any split from Charlotte.

He said he would have “vigorously” opposed the General Assembly’s efforts to remove control of the airport from the city. He was upset at how legislators moved forward with the airport legislation by not consulting with the city.

Driggs has raised $5,650.

Newcomer: Area overtaxed

Duncan Wilson, a financial planner who lives near Rea and Colony roads, is making his first run for public office. He said the biggest issue for the district is roads and taxes.

“I think District 7 was way ahead of everyone for a while (in terms of infrastructure), but now things are falling apart,” Wilson said. “There are so many weeds growing in the curbs all over the district, and that’s such a simple fix.”

Wilson said he would have voted against the CIP, the streetcar and the Panthers deal. “We either stand on principle, or we don’t stand at all,” Wilson said about the city’s help for the team. “They are a thriving business. Everyone else has to reinvest (with their own money).”

Wilson said he wouldn’t support the splinter municipality of Providence. “We should focus on making Charlotte better,” he said. But he added that people in his district are “taxed too much for not enough benefit.”

He said he could have supported an authority for Charlotte Douglas “if it were done another way.”

“I don’t understand the urgency about an authority,” Wilson said. “Charlotte has done a fine job of running the airport.”

While Privette has criticized Cooksey, Wilson praises him.

“He’s been absolutely fantastic,” Wilson said. “He’s probably the smartest person on City Council.”

Harrison: 704-358-5160
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