Politics & Government

After unrest, City Council District 4 faces lingering distrust

City Council District 4 sweeps across northeast Charlotte from Hidden Valley to Cabarrus County. It’s home to UNC Charlotte, sprawling subdivisions and new developments along the Blue Line extension.

Last fall it was also the epicenter of unrest that began with the September police shooting of Keith Lamont Scott at an apartment complex on Old Concord Road.

The shooting and the protests that followed form a backdrop to this year’s city council campaign.

Incumbent council member Greg Phipps faces three Democratic challengers in a district where 54 percent of voters are Democrats and nearly half are African-American. There are no Republicans running.

Here are the four candidates:

▪ Damiko Faulkner: The pastor of Ben Salem Presbyterian Church in east Charlotte, Faulkner joined other community leaders at a news conference after the Scott shooting. They called for release of the police videos of the shooting.

“I definitely believe the community, the public, deserves the right to see the videos,” he told reporters at the time.

Faulkner, 39, ran for Mecklenburg commissioner last year and lost the at-large primary. He said he wants to work for community safety, more jobs and job training.

“I want to make sure that the resources and access to those resources are spread equally to all our citizens,” he says.

Faukner is a Charlotte native with a master’s of divinity from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He’s married and the father of a 2-year-old son.

Damiko Faulkner

▪ Priscilla Johnson: A retired flight attendant, Johnson, 68, is making her first bid for office.

She doesn’t believe the city is doing enough to address the issues raised after the Scott shooting.

In a letter to the Observer last October, she wrote, “We need consistency and commitments honored, especially after the debacle that followed Keith Lamont Scott’s killing. Otherwise, mistrust will erode further. The question for Charlotte City Council: Can Charlotte tolerate a city divided by race or social economics?”

Priscilla Johnson
Priscilla Johnson Courtesy of Priscilla Johnson

Of the council, Johnson says, “They’re doing the best they can with what they have, but I don’t think they think outside the box a lot.”

Johnson is married and the mother of one. She attended Queens University of Charlotte and Central Piedmont Community College.

▪ Greg Phipps: Phipps, 64, is running for a third term. A retired federal bank examiner, he served on the planning commission before being appointed to council in 2005 to fill an unexpired term.

After the Scott shooting, Phipps joined other community leaders in appealing for calm.

Greg Phipps
Incumbent District 4 councilman Greg Phipps Observer file photo rlahser@charlotteobserver.com

“It really crystallized and brought home a lot of frustrations with officer-involved shootings and the conditions people felt they were dealing with on a daily basis,” he says, adding that it also sparked the council to move forward with an agenda that includes economic opportunity and affordable housing.

Phipps says he’s trying to work on those issues and build trust between city officials and African-Americans as well as the district’s growing Hispanic population.

“I do recognize it’s not like an overnight thing, but I think we’re taking steps to move in that direction,” he says. “Though it many not be as fast as people like, I think we’re moving in the right direction.”

Phipps, a native of Richmond, Va., is married and the father of three grown children.

▪ Wil Russell:At 39, Russell is an assistant project manager with Rogers Construction. He ran for council once before, finishing second to Phipps in a four-person primary.

He remembers driving by Keith Scott’s apartment complex the night of the shooting and seeing the crowds and blue lights.

“I wasn’t happy with the city’s response,” he says. “I felt the didn’t even attempt to address the issue.”

Wil russell
Wil Russell Courtesy of Wil Russell

In addition to jobs, housing and expanded economic mobility, he says the city should do more to address the underlying distrust.

“The first thing we’ve got to do is start rebuilding trust between our community and our police force,” he says. “The community also needs training along with the police force. It has to be be done jointly.”

Russell lives in Highland Creek with his wife and son.

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill