Charlotte City Council District 7 covers one of the most affluent parts of the city, including Ballantyne and other neighborhoods south of Pineville-Matthews Road.
Republican Ed Driggs, first elected in 2013, is seeking his third term in the Republican-leaning district. He’s being challenged by Democrat Sharon Roberts, a former journalist and now a marketing consultant at LPL Financial in Fort Mill.
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Driggs, 68, is retired after spending his career in finance. He said the biggest need for District 7 is more money for infrastructure, like roads and sidewalks. During council meetings, Driggs often complains that the city’s more than $800 million capital improvement program has almost no money for the district.
“Our biggest issue continues to be development and the lack of infrastructure to support all the buildings being built here,” Driggs said. “There has been no money in the CIP for my district. That’s been my principle issue.”
Driggs said it’s OK that the city is spending most of the money in the CIP in low-income areas that are struggling.
“It’s appropriate that you spend it where the biggest needs are,” he said. “But there has to be come recognition that there are needs here too. I need some more sidewalks. I need some old farm roads to be widened. It wouldn’t take a huge amount of money.”
Driggs voted against the city’s expanded nondiscrimination ordinance for the LGBT community, which led to House Bill 2. During the controversy, he said he believed national organizations like the Washington-based Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, were using Charlotte as a “battlefield” in the national debate over LGBT rights.
“I want to see the city get back to nuts and bolts,” he said. “We have spent a lot of time being distracted by an extended emphasis on social issues.”
Driggs recently proposed the city spend more money on affordable housing, by using hotel/motel tax dollars on a renovation project for Bojangles’ Coliseum. He said that would free up $18 million the city could have spent on housing.
In 2014, Driggs voted against a rezoning to allow a new low-income apartment complex in Weddington Road.
Roberts, 54, is running for office for the first time.
“I haven’t been involved in politics before,” she said. “Charlotte seems like it’s at a pivotal point in terms of growth and development. I thought it would be a good time to get involved. We don’t want to be Atlanta.”
Like Driggs, she said managing growth is critical for the next District 7 representative.
She said she wants the Charlotte Department of Transportation to look at new ways for managing traffic, like one-way streets and so-called Super Streets that limit the number of traffic lights by making motorists make U-turns.
Roberts also questioned whether it’s smart to allow high-density development in the suburbs, like the new Waverly development on Providence Road south of Interstate 485. The idea behind a mixed-use development is that people can live where they work and shop, but Roberts said she’s afraid people will still be using their cars to commute.
“In uptown it makes a lot of sense to do that kind of development,” she said. “We need to be careful about putting too much of that in the suburbs.”
Roberts said it’s important for people “to find some common ground.” She said people should be making “good reasoned decisions based on what we are doing instead of focusing on our personal ideology.”
On LGBT legal protections, Roberts said it’s important the city shows “we won’t tolerate discrimination or injustice.”
“We are all equal and deserve equal treatment – that’s a given,” she said.
But she said the city’s decision to expand the nondiscrimination ordinance might have been handled better, so as not to lead to HB2 and economic boycotts of the state.
“Knowing what I know now, if I had been there, I’m not sure where I would have fallen (on the issue),” she said. “I’m not sure if what the City Council did was the best way to present that.”