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Districts 1 and 5: Kinsey, Autry face challengers

The Democratic primary for Charlotte City Council District 1 features an odd political alignment.

Patsy Kinsey, who has held the seat for 10 years, stepped down in July to become mayor after Anthony Foxx resigned to become U.S. Secretary of Transportation. Kinsey isn’t running for mayor in this year’s election, and is instead seeking to regain her seat.

She is running against Art Cardenas, who works in information services for Carolinas Healthcare Systems. This is Cardenas’s first run for public office.

The primary is Tuesday. There are no other candidates in the race.

In her short stint as the city’s second female mayor, Kinsey has been one of the city’s lead voices in its efforts to keep control of Charlotte Douglas International Airport. The Republican-controlled General Assembly created a commission to run the airport, and Kinsey has pushed back vigorously against that effort.

Before being appointed mayor by her colleagues on City Council, Kinsey was a Foxx ally.

She was a steady supporter of building a streetcar extension, and she supported the capital improvement program in 2012 when it failed to pass and again this year when council approved it. She also worked with city staff members and council members to extend benefits to partners of same-sex couples. That change went into effect in January.

“I’m a strong neighborhood advocate,” Kinsey said. “I have supported and worked to keep our neighborhoods in District 1.”

One of Kinsey’s pet issues is historic preservation. She often speaks on the dais about the need for the city to save its old buildings.

“Being a native Charlottean, I am very bullish on our history,” Kinsey said. “I’m very proud I had a role in saving the Carolina Theatre. I feel the same way about the mills in NoDa.”

District 1 stretches from the Sedgefield neighborhood in the south, through uptown, and along Central Avenue.

Cardenas said he is running because “some of the decisions that have been taken by the council have not been too smart.”

He said the city needs a more comprehensive long-term transportation plan. He said transportation is the biggest issue facing District 1.

Cardenas said he isn’t in favor of raising the sales tax to pay for unfunded transit taxes, and he said the city should look at cutting current expenses to pay for projects. He said he would have voted against the streetcar because he favors an east-west light-rail line instead.

District 5

In District 5, first-time council member John Autry is facing Mitchell “Aerobo Cop” Smith-Bey, a former police officer who is a personal trainer.

District 5 covers much of east Charlotte.

Autry worked closely with Foxx, and supported the CIP and the streetcar. He successfully lobbied colleagues to purchase the closed Eastland Mall in August 2012 for $13.2 million; the city is currently negotiating with movie producer Bert Hesse for a public-private partnership to convert the mall into movie studios.

“That was a unanimous vote,” Autry said about Eastland. “It made me proud.”

Autry said he believes the eastside is improving.

“I would have to say that the perception of east Charlotte is improving,” he said. “Look at Central Avenue – it’s booming. And that’s because of the immigrant community who came in and took advantage of depressed prices and created the American entrepreneurial dream.”

Smith-Bey created the “Aerobo Cop” character as part of a TV show for kids’ fitness that airs on Channel 16, the Government channel. He declined to take questions from the Observer Friday.

Harrison: 704-358-5160
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