Crime, housing, jobs and September’s police shooting were on the agenda Thursday night when candidates for Charlotte City Council met for a forum sponsored by the Black Political Caucus.
The forum drew nearly 200 people to east Charlotte’s Weeping Willow AME Zion Church, and came a little over a week before the official July 7 start of filing for mayor and council.
Interest already appears high for the election, which features a hotly contested mayoral race and a council race in which at least three of the 11 seats will be open.
Caucus Chair Colette Forrest set the tone opening Thursday’s forum. She alluded to September’s police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott and this month’s killing of Charlotte barber David Lindsay, who this became the city’s 47th homicide of 2017.
“If you can’t vote for yourself, vote for them,” she said. “They’re not going to be voting this year.”
Two candidates in west Charlotte’s District 3 were asked if the Scott shooting made council members more aggressive in dealing with issues such as affordable housing.
Democratic incumbent LaWana Mayfield it “helped light a fire under some (council members).” Republican rival Daniel Herrara said “it shouldn’t take a tragedy” to take action.
At-large candidates were asked about the city’s handling of the aftermath of the September shooting, which brought angry protesters into uptown streets.
“What we experienced in September was a supreme lack of leadership in all levels of government,” said Democrat Braxton Winston II, who helped lead protests. “Leaders in Charlotte should have been out in the community answering questions the night Keith Lamont Scott was killed.”
Incumbent Democrat James “Smuggie” Mitchell said, “We did not have a solution in September 2016.”
“Charlotte was crying that night for a solution and we did not provide it,” he said. “And I apologize, Charlotte, for letting you down.”
Candidates also talked about the Citizens Review Board, which this week determined that there was “substantial evidence of error” in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s finding that the fatal shooting was justified.
Republican at-large candidate John Powell said he was encouraged by the fact that the board had the courage to stand up and do what they did. Democrat Dimple Ajmera, a current district member who plans to run at-large, said she wants to ensure that the board is as diverse as the city.
Several candidates were asked if City Council has done enough for African Americans.
“I want to answer that with a resounding ‘No’,” said District 2 Democrat Justin Harlow. “We need the African Americans to go just as hard as the LGBT community has.”
And Ajmera said, “We need to stop subsidizing rich white guys.”
“We need to start investing in the African American community and in small businesses,” she said.
Candidates who failed to attend an organizational meeting were not allowed to take part in the forum. Others who attended included:
▪ At-large: Jesse Boyd and Ryan McGill.
▪ District 1: Democrats Patsy Kinsey and Larken Egleston.
▪ District 2: Democrats J’Tanya Adams, Eric Erickson and Micheal McLean.
▪ District 4: Democrats Greg Phipps, incumbent, Damiko Faulkner and Pricilla Johnson
▪ District 5: Democats Matt Newton and Gary Young.
▪ District 6: Sam Grundman.