Politics & Government

Southeast Charlotte voters will choose among 3 council candidates – and 3 parties

He’s trying to get elected to City Council from southeast Charlotte, but Republican Tariq Bokhari wants people to know he’d be accessible no matter where they live.

That’s why he held up a sheet with his personal cellphone number before an audience of the Black Political Caucus.

Bokhari is running in District 6, which stretches from Myers Park to N.C. 51 and covers much of southeast Charlotte from South Boulevard on the west to East Independence Boulevard. It’s one of two districts that reliably elect Republicans, and it claims one of the only two Republicans on the 11-member council.

Democrat Sam Grundman and Libertarian Jeff Scott are challenging him for the seat now held by Kenny Smith, the GOP candidate for mayor.

Grundman, 32, is a Greensboro native who has lived in Charlotte for seven months. He’s a web developer for Bank of America. With degrees in math and physics, he’s a self-described problem-solver who says he’d bring his analytical skills to council.

He wants to make the city more walkable – he calls that his passion – encourage the use of public transportation and work for more urban zoning.

“I see a chance to help make the city what I hope people want it to be,” he says.

Scott, 60, chairs the county’s Libertarian Party. He’s trying to sell the third-party option and encourages voters to “think outside the box.”

“People are pretty frustrated with both major parties,” says Scott, a consultant with TIAA. “My pitch really to the people in south Charlotte is you’re going to be frustrated with progressive liberal values coming down the line, and Republicans aren’t going to save you.”

Bokhari, 37, is making his third run for council. He’s co-founder of a start-up called Aggressant, which focuses on financial technology. That experience, he says, could help the city navigate a changing landscape of business processes and technology.

Though a conservative Republican, he grew up in a household that depended on food stamps. He says that, plus his brown skin and name from his Pakistani-born father, helps him relate to a lot of people.

“It takes that kind of empathy to understand some of the problems,” he told the Black Political Caucus.

Here’s what the candidates have said about key issues:

▪ Planned toll projects including south Interstate 77:

Bokhari: “Given the community anger we are seeing in North Mecklenburg, I would be hesitant to support moving forward until every voice is heard and their issues are addressed.”

Scott: “I support improving transportation by using real market prices to charge for use. As we get closer to a high-tech, user-paid fee system, consumers of roads will be less frustrated.

Grundman: “We cannot afford to continue to pay for roads with tax money alone. The federal gas tax has not been raised since 1993. … (If) we don’t want to pay for more roads, we need to start building our cities for people, for walking and public transit.”

▪ Affordable housing:

Bokhari: “The locational policy of dispersing affordable housing encumbered the free market, and as a result has slowed down the creation of affordable housing.”

Scott: “The city should not be involved in development subsidies except where they must deal with housing emergencies, for people in a chronically difficult situations, or retaining public safety workers. … Housing for lower income families should be funded through private capital…”

Grundman: “Our city is most prosperous and strongest when we have housing of all income levels mixed together across the city. Giving more people the opportunity to live within walking distance of their jobs, or connected with public transit, is a great way to begin to make our city more affordable.”

▪ Crime:

Bokhari: “The rising homicide trend is my top priority. I would work to partner across council, staff and CMPD to ensure they have funding to hire the number of officers they need, to get the tools and training they require to be effective, and to build relationships (with neighborhood) influencers.”

Scott: “Public safety is number one and I would direct resources toward violent crime and property crime, less to victimless crimes such as marijuana and documentation status. I was robbed recently, and I understand the burden must also fall on residents to be more attuned to the facts and police advice.”

Grundman: “The long-term solution is to provide better education and provide more economic opportunities.”

Jim Morrill: 704-358-5059, @jimmorrill