Elections

Charlotte’s at-large City Council candidates give their views on 4 key issues

Staff reports

DEMOCRATS

Dimple Ajmera

Age: 30

Education: Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from the University of Southern California.

Professional experience: Certified Public Accountant. Change Manager at TIAA CREF, Multiple Investment Manager at Yardi Systems and Lead Tax Consultant at Deloitte & Touche.

Previous public offices held: Twice appointed to the Board of Commissioners of the Charlotte Housing Authority (CHA). Appointed to the Charlotte City Council District 5 in January of 2017.

Family: Mother, brother and Sister in California.

Website: www.dimpleajmera.com

The N.C. Department of Transportation is planning to build express lanes on I-77 south, U.S. 74 and I-485. Should those projects continue?

Let us evaluate the contracts, plans and time tables for each of the projects so that 20 years from now our transportation infrastructure is effective and fully serving the needs of what will be a greatly expanded city and metropolitan area. We can have no more short-sighted transportation projects. We must immediately tackle our current infrastructure problems and accelerate projects that alleviate our serious traffic congestion. Currently in my District - I am excited that the widening of Independence Blvd from Wallace Lane to I-485 has been expedited. The construction phase of this project was originally scheduled to begin in 2022, but it will now begin a year earlier, in 2021. At this time this project is proposed to be complete by 2025. By October 2017, the current construction from Albemarle Road to Wallace Lane will be completed. In Spring 2018, the conversion of the Independence Blvd Busway will begin. That construction is currently scheduled to last 15-18 months. When the current construction project (U-209B) and the Busway Conversion (U-5526A) projects are complete, we will have one Express Lane in each direction from Wallace Lane to Albemarle Road. We will also have a single reversible Express Lane from Albemarle Road to I-277.

For years, a City Council priority was to disperse affordable housing throughout the city, to prevent it from being clustered together. The city has moved away from that policy in an attempt to build more housing quickly. Is that a good idea?

Affordable housing opportunities must be dispersed throughout Charlotte and all sections of Charlotte must be treated equally and fairly. During my time on the Charlotte Housing Authority I passionately advocated for affordable and workforce housing throughout the city. I’m currently working on a project that will bring jobs, infrastructure improvements and neighborhood stability to the former Eastland Mall site in East Charlotte. We must focus citywide on developing affordable, “Workforce Housing” along transportation routes and close to economic opportunities.

Do you support the city spending $30 million in hotel-motel money for a proposed Major League Soccer stadium?

Simply, No.

With homicides on the rise, what steps would you take to try to reduce crime? What has the current council NOT done?

We must have real Community Outreach and Constant Communication between the men and women of law enforcement and our community, neighborhood and civic leaders. We must clear up any misconceptions, misunderstandings and misinformation in our communities by using effective “Community Policing”. Citizens need to understand and respect what and why police officers do on a daily basis and understand how important effective law enforcement and citywide public safety programs are to our quality of life and the long term future of Charlotte. Partnership and Trust from Neighborhood, County, City, State and Federal leadership is essential. We must continue to fully support our Citizens Review Board and be firm in regards to Body Cam usage rules. We must strategically position our public safety resources where they can be the most effective in reducing crime. If additional training and equipment is deemed necessary by our Police Chief then we must commit to do so. We must also work to understand the atmosphere that leads to criminal actively. Lack of Early Childhood health and educational resources and lack of citywide economic opportunities along with recurring pockets of drug addiction must be vigorously understood , addressed and mitigated. We are all in this together !

Jesse J. Boyd

Age: 23

Education: College

Professional experience: U.S. Army

Family: Branson (dog)

Website: www.boyd4citycouncil.com

The N.C. Department of Transportation is planning to build express lanes on I-77 south, U.S. 74 and I-485. Should those projects continue?

Yes because we have spent money to start it. Therefore we need to finish it.

For years, a City Council priority was to disperse affordable housing throughout the city, to prevent it from being clustered together. The city has moved away from that policy in an attempt to build more housing quickly. Is that a good idea?

Yes it is. Because we have affordable housing throughout the many districts we have.

Do you support the city spending $30 million in hotel-motel money for a proposed Major League Soccer stadium?

Not at this time. If we could look at this situation down the road yes. We have issues that are much greater than a Soccer Stadium.

With homicides on the rise, what steps would you take to try to reduce crime? What has the current council NOT done?

We need to go into these high risk neighborhoods and work with the children and families. We can also teach neighborhood leaders de-escalation skills. The current council has not been having Town Hall meetings in their different districts

Julie Eiselt

Education: Undergrad: Indiana University. BA: Spanish, Minor: French, Business / Masters: American Graduate School of International Management: Masters of International Management

Professional experience: Most of my career was spent in International Banking in Latin America and Eastern Europe with predecessors of the current Bank of America. In addition, I was the International Treasury Director for a Fortune 500 manufacturing company.

Previous public offices held (if any): I am in my first term on the Charlotte City Council

Family: Husband Tom, 3 children: Jack (22) Joe (20) Kate (18)

Website: www.JulieEiselt.com

The N.C. Department of Transportation is planning to build express lanes on I-77 south, U.S. 74 and I-485. Should those projects continue?

To answer that I would need to know what would replace these express lanes, whether the state would plan on funding a replacement plan, how far back in the queue it would set us for state and federal funding, and who would absorb the cancellation penalties if these projects were not allowed to continue. Each project has different considerations and are at different points in the planning/construction cycle. However if it were decided that one project were to be cancelled and not the others, it also could jeopardize funding for the remainder of other projects. These projects take into consideration the transit needs of the region for the next 30-50 years, not the next five. So any solution that would replace the current projects needs to address those needs. Not the needs of today.

For years, a City Council priority was to disperse affordable housing throughout the city, to prevent it from being clustered together. The city has moved away from that policy in an attempt to build more housing quickly. Is that a good idea?

It is a balancing act, especially given the restrictions of state law. I favor a return to dispersed affordable housing throughout the city. Clustering housing at a certain income level, in particular low income levels, concentrates poverty and reduces the options families have for their children to go to quality schools. Clustered housing exacerbates the segregation issue we are fighting to reverse in Charlotte. That said, it is always a financial proposition for the developer who builds the affordable housing stock. If the numbers don’t pencil out, a developer isn’t going to build. So we need to decide; do we pass on a project that adds critically-needed units if the location is too close to other similarly-priced units? Or, do we add to the desperately needed inventory? While it is a balancing act, we must be more intentional about working with developers with land in more affluent areas, to disperse housing in all parts of Charlotte, even if it means building fewer units. It we do not, we will never break the cycle of systemic segregation.

Do you support the city spending $30 million in hotel-motel money for a proposed Major League Soccer stadium?

No. The current stadium plan is purely a financial transaction and offers no community commitment by way of making investments in youth programming or in disenfranchised parts of the city. If we are to spend substantial public money - regardless of the source - I believe there should be an economic development contribution that will outlast a professional sports team that can pick up and leave for a wealthier market, once it becomes financially valuable to do so. If the stadium were to go on N. Tryon or another low income part of town that needs an economic boost, then I would consider using the hotel-motel dollars to provide infrastructure, and some construction capital.

With homicides on the rise, what steps would you take to try to reduce crime? What has the current council NOT done?

As a current member of council, I can say that we have given CMPD all the officers they can currently train and absorb. More boots on the ground, especially in high crime areas, are critical - but it’s not the only answer. And in fact, the more officers in service, the greater the burden on the court system and DA’s office which may actually exacerbate the problem for those going through the system. (The Meck County DA’s office handles around 10,000 felony cases annually by only 58 ADAs). Most of the murders are being committed by people that know each other, and by former offenders. The problem must be addressed from a holistic point of view that considers the impact an under-funded and inefficient court system has on crime. To be sure, this has been done before: The 2005 Homicide Task Force and the 2008 Criminal Justice Task Force made some high-priority recommendations that were never implemented. The council could push harder for the city and the county, and our state representatives to work together to have a fresh look at these recommendations which would among other things, address the elimination of Family Courts, Drug Courts (The County now pays for this) and other mental health and family crisis interventions that had proven to be successful in stopping the cycle of crime.

Claire Green Fallon

Age: 83

Education: New York University, Queens College, New York and New York School of Interior Design

Professional experience: CEO North side School,

Previous public offices held (if any): Experienced City Council At Large (3 terms) Protem of Community Board 9, New York, Director of Community Relations Deputy Majority Leader of NY State, Charlotte Planning Commission, Member of Housing Trust, Founder of North East Coalition, President of Legacy At David Lake Home Association, President of Holliswood, NY Home Association, Trustee Bishop Battle Greater Enrichment Program, Trustee of Blumenthal Theatre

Family: Hilary Fallon Scott - daughter and Randall Scott, son in Law, T. Jonathan Fallon - Son, Lauren Angle - Daughter, 4 grandchildren - Harrison Angle, Sarah Angle, Fallon Scott and Cole Scott

The N.C. Department of Transportation is planning to build express lanes on I-77 south, U.S. 74 and I-485. Should those projects continue?

No these projects should be the responsibility of the state

For years, a City Council priority was to disperse affordable housing throughout the city, to prevent it from being clustered together. The city has moved away from that policy in an attempt to build more housing quickly. Is that a good idea?

No, it should be evenly distributed throughout the city in fairness.

Do you support the city spending $30 million in hotel-motel money for a proposed Major League Soccer stadium?

No, the money is fungible and can be used to hire more police.

With homicides on the rise, what steps would you take to try to reduce crime? What has the current council NOT done?

More community policing, more police. The council has not kept up with the growth of the city.

Ryan McGill

Age: 41

Education: Bachelor’s of Arts in International Affairs from University of Nevada, Master’s of Science in Leadership from Northeastern University

Professional experience: 4 years of service in the US Navy as a 2nd Class Diver, 8 years of service in the US Marine Corps as a Captain and CH-46E Helicopter Pilot (served 3 tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom), 3 years (currently serving) in the NC Army National Guard as a Chief Warrant Officer 2 and Blackhawk Helicopter Pilot, currently acting as a Residential Construction Project Manager for Charlotte-Based small business builder, Ethic.

Previous public offices held (if any): None

Family: Mother (Lillian), Father (Rick), and Brother (Chris) in Nevada

Website: www.voteryanmcgill.com

The N.C. Department of Transportation is planning to build express lanes on I-77 south, U.S. 74 and I-485. Should those projects continue?

Yes, we desperately need expansion of our roads and need additional lane expansion, improved exits, etc. That said, the term “express” is being used synonymously to describe “toll” roads in many outlets and I am not in favor of funds going to private companies for profit in the area of roads. In this context, I am not in support of privatizing the roads and having Charlotteans pay toll fares to companies that take our funds away from our city and state. Foreign-based companies should not profit from our drivers.

For years, a City Council priority was to disperse affordable housing throughout the city, to prevent it from being clustered together. The city has moved away from that policy in an attempt to build more housing quickly. Is that a good idea?

We are so far behind in our city’s commitment to achieve enough affordable housing units. It is never a good idea to consolidate people of the same socio-economic background. Public Housing of the previous decades was an example of how this does not work well for the residents and for our neighborhoods. This does not mean we don’t need to aggressively address our housing shortage crisis. We need to continue to find “outside of the box” solutions to solve our affordable housing units and can look to other growing cities’ success stories to aid us in solving this problem.

Do you support the city spending $30 million in hotel-motel money for a proposed Major League Soccer stadium?

This topic needs more study and analysis. We need a data-driven analysis to further evaluate MLS soccer and the city of Charlotte. Let’s evaluate the successes of how MLS soccer has worked well in other cities. While I do want to see MLS Soccer in Charlotte, the construct of the agreement needs to be a win-win for all sides.

With homicides on the rise, what steps would you take to try to reduce crime? What has the current council NOT done?

I want to lead a tough, needed conversation. We as leaders must do the “heavy-lifting” to bring everyone together. Increased communication and engagement between residents of our communities and neighborhood police officers is valuable. There is tough work to do. The current city council has fallen short in bringing people together. We must have a healthier relationship between our police force and our citizens, neighborhood leaders, & community organizers. As long as there is division and an environment of mistrust, everyone loses.

James “Smuggie” Mitchell

Age: 55

Education: Proud graduate of West Charlotte High School, North Carolina Central University Bachelors of Business Administration, 1985

Professional experience: Business Development Manager, JE Dunn

Previous public offices held (if any): City Council District 2- 1999-2013, City Council At Large 2015- Present

Family: I am married to former astronaut Joan Higginbotham. My oldest daughter is a rising junior at North Carolina A&T and my youngest daughter is a rising senior at North Mecklenburg High School.

Website: www.votejamesmitchell.com

The N.C. Department of Transportation is planning to build express lanes on I-77 south, U.S. 74 and I-485. Should those projects continue?

Express lanes have been very successful in Charlotte and I believe that as the city expands the expanded use of express lanes will be beneficial.

For years, a City Council priority was to disperse affordable housing throughout the city, to prevent it from being clustered together. The city has moved away from that policy in an attempt to build more housing quickly. Is that a good idea?

No. I am a strong advocate that affordable housing should be a shared responsibility throughout our city. Heavy concentrations of affordable housing have caused some districts to feel like they are a dumping ground for affordable housing and made the citizens who benefit from affordable housing feel unwanted. Spreading affordable housing throughout the city makes sure our schools and communities reflect the diversity of Charlotte.

Do you support the city spending $30 million in hotel-motel money for a proposed Major League Soccer stadium?

Major League Soccer fits the demographics of the city. We have had multiple exhibition games and those show that the city enjoys soccer and that it can be successful. The hotel motel tax money is the appropriate funding source for this project. I think that at the appropriate location a $30 million investment can be a catalyst for economic development, help rebrand an area, and provide great job opportunities for our citizens.

With homicides on the rise, what steps would you take to try to reduce crime? What has the current council NOT done?

It’s important to look at the circumstances that led to these homicides. We need to work with CMPD to provide preventative measures and integrate the police into our communities and work with neighborhood crime watches. We need to ensure that all citizens are comfortable working with police in an effort to prevent crime. We can do better at placing student resource officers in schools. I’ll be the first to admit that the current council has not done enough to increase the dialogue between the police and citizens and I will lead efforts in the future to rectify this.

Braxton Winston II

Age: 34

Education: New York City Public Schools through eighth grade; Prep 9 Contingent X, Phillips Academy-Andover ’01; Davidson College ’07

Professional experience: Current: International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) stagehand/grip, Charlotte Hornets cameraman Prior: Providence Day School lacrosse/football assistant coach; Total Event Production rental manager

Previous public offices held (if any):

Family: Wife Sheena, son Braxton III, daughters Shyanne and Brooklyn

Website: www.votebraxton.com

The N.C. Department of Transportation is planning to build express lanes on I-77 south, U.S. 74 and I-485. Should those projects continue?

We need comprehensive transportation infrastructure that includes roads, rails, bus lines and walkable spaces to both alleviate traffic congestion and spark economic development. We won’t solve our transportation issues a lane at a time or by building half a rail line per decade.

For years, a City Council priority was to disperse affordable housing throughout the city, to prevent it from being clustered together. The city has moved away from that policy in an attempt to build more housing quickly. Is that a good idea?

Charlotte City Council should focus on developing mixed-income, multi-use communities that allow residents to work and close to where they live. We must create a city where market-rate homes and affordable housing units blend with nearby jobs and services. We also need to provide more ownership opportunities to lower-income and working families.

Do you support the city spending $30 million in hotel-motel money for a proposed Major League Soccer stadium?

No

With homicides on the rise, what steps would you take to try to reduce crime? What has the current council NOT done?

More officers and resources would allow CMPD to expand their efforts, which I am committed to supporting. Approaching crime reduction from the standpoint of public health is a growing trend, according to the National League of Cities. Focusing on treatment for mental illness and drug addiction lessens the danger to, and workload of, our law enforcement officers, and leads to crime reduction. I will work to include these approaches in Charlotte. Given that the increase in Charlotte murder rates is a result of crimes of passion, reducing homicides is more challenging. It is clear, however, that these murders are contained to certain parts of the city. I will work with CMPD to see how the C.O.P. Volunteers program could recruit from these areas to work with residents on conflict resolution and de-escalation. The current council has not provided adequate funding for CMPD to retain officers who are leaving for higher pay in other jurisdictions, or leaving law enforcement for higher-paying jobs overall. CMPD can grow in manpower only when they retain officers and bring on new ones. I will push for the increase they need and be aggressive in getting voters behind what it takes to come up with the funding to do so.

REPUBLICANS

Parker Cains

Education: B.S. Marketing - Virginia Tech 2007

Professional experience: Sales director at Katalyst, IT Consulting since 2008

Previous public offices held (if any): N/A

Family: Devon Cains (Wife), Hunter Cains (Daughter), Madeline and Ron Cains (Parents)

Website: www.ParkerCains.com

The N.C. Department of Transportation is planning to build express lanes on I-77 south, U.S. 74 and I-485. Should those projects continue?

Yes. But it should be done differently than the current I-77 Project. We need to focus on local business supporting the initiative and choose providers that can focus on reinvesting into the community.

For years, a City Council priority was to disperse affordable housing throughout the city, to prevent it from being clustered together. The city has moved away from that policy in an attempt to build more housing quickly. Is that a good idea?

Affordable housing is a complex issue. I agree that it should be dispersed. I also think Charlotte City Council should focus on other programs and partner with private organizations that are offering rent assistance. A better public/private partnership could take the affordable housing crisis a long way. Our current CLTCC has focused on quick, which means they must be missing quality or good service (according to the triangle of customer service!)

Do you support the city spending $30 million in hotel-motel money for a proposed Major League Soccer stadium?

No. If it were a good investment then there would be more private partners. If the Smiths were offering a profit sharing model and ownership for the city, then we could evaluate the investment from a different perspective. But if that were the case, I think other investors would have stepped up.

With homicides on the rise, what steps would you take to try to reduce crime? What has the current council NOT done?

City Council is too focused on reactive leadership rather than offering solutions. CLTCC can do very little to affect the increase in crime except what they have done, which is approve more officers in the budget. The biggest thing they have NOT done is support our police officers in a manner that makes it an appealing job. Working in policing is as difficult as it’s ever been with body cameras and I believe that we need to treat officers as we do civilians “Innocent until proven guilty”. Right now society is assuming that any incident with an officer is the officer’s fault and our current leadership has done nothing to breed trust between the community and our public servants. In any capacity. We need to create trust in our community, not breed dissension.

John K. Powell, Jr.

Age: 58

Education: BSBA Appalachian State University

Professional experience: State Certified General Real Estate Appraiser, Real Estate Broker In Charge, Commercial Renovation and Revitalization in conjunction with The City of Charlotte Neighborhood & Business Services

Previous public offices held (if any): Zoning Board of Adjustment, North Carolina Manufactured Housing Association Board, Member of the GOP 9th Congressional Executive Committee

Family: Married, grown children

Website: www.VoteJohnPowell.org

The N.C. Department of Transportation is planning to build express lanes on I-77 south, U.S. 74 and I-485. Should those projects continue?

The contents of the contracts should be evaluated first. Transportation, and our infrastructure, are a lifeline in the interstate commerce. Our focus should be on repair and maintain those vital lifelines. Let us focus on the Metropolitan Transportation Plan (MTP), which is updated every four years, allowing the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRTPO) the opportunity to incorporate the most recent data, identify any changes in factors affecting travel demand, and modify policies, programs or projects based on the most recent information and conditions.

For years, a City Council priority was to disperse affordable housing throughout the city, to prevent it from being clustered together. The city has moved away from that policy in an attempt to build more housing quickly. Is that a good idea?

Never smart to act hastily or clustering housing within one or two areas of our city. Develop and define a plan, then implement. The affordable housing problem is a direct correlation with our place as 50th of 50 cities polled for upward mobility. Let us consider encouraging job creation by focusing on an economic driver - public safety. A safe city, a safe Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) attracts businesses of all sizes (large corporations to sole proprietors) to relocate, and hire our local citizens, as well as provide internships and pathways for our high school and college students to learn and become successful.

Do you support the city spending $30 million in hotel-motel money for a proposed Major League Soccer stadium?

As long as no general fund monies are pulled to accommodate this and compromising true priorities like affordable housing or public safety, I would not oppose it. Two weeks ago the City Council had the legal basis and presence of mind to consider using Tourism Dollars for the improvement of the connector between Bojangles’ Coliseum and Ovens Auditorium, keeping the “allocated monies” in the general fund to help fund the cost of keeping the promise made to Charlotteans with the Letter of Commitment. It was a sad day to see a stadium is more important than homes - and promises made to Charlotteans.

With homicides on the rise, what steps would you take to try to reduce crime? What has the current council NOT done?

Lobby the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) for more Assistant District Attorneys to try and convict these criminals. City council focus should be supporting CMPD by paying our officers. Think of this as a business economics or management solution. I want to keep the officers we have trained. I do not want to spend our resources, only for these well-trained and well-prepared officers to work in neighboring communities where they can earn more money. If they leave, then the cost to hire new and retrain new officers becomes more expensive that simply paying the officers. It is protecting our tax dollars as a ROI (return on investment), and a vote of confidence to our officers that we stand with them.

Libertarian

Steven J. DiFiore

Age: 33

Education: Bachelor Degree in Political Science from UNCC

Professional experience: I’m currently employed as an Commercial Lighting Rep.

Previous public offices held (if any): None

Website: stevenforcitycouncil.org

The N.C. Department of Transportation is planning to build express lanes on I-77 south, U.S. 74 and I-485. Should those projects continue?

Current capital investment projects should continue as planned. The city government has a responsibility to partner in good faith with the State Government to expand and improve our public infrastructure.

For years, a City Council priority was to disperse affordable housing throughout the city, to prevent it from being clustered together. The city has moved away from that policy in an attempt to build more housing quickly. Is that a good idea?

The clustering of low income housing is a demonstrably bad policy as it leads to concentrations of poverty that only serve to make it more difficult for individuals to climb the economic ladder. A better policy would be to streamline the permitting process, and other zoning decisions making it easier for developers to provide additional housing in our booming market. In addition to current public programs, the city government can partner with neighborhood trusts, charitable foundations, and philanthropic sponsors to help meet the housing needs of lower income families.

Do you support the city spending $30 million in hotel-motel money for a proposed Major League Soccer stadium?

No. I do not support the use of public money for private endeavors. I am in favor of offering property tax rebates to MLS as a means to encourage development at the site of the old Eastland Mall. In this way the city can foster needed economic development without additional expense to the taxpayer.

With homicides on the rise, what steps would you take to try to reduce crime? What has the current council NOT done?

Prioritizing efforts on curbing violent and related crimes will help to ensure more effective use of our city’s law enforcement resources. Victimless crimes such as petty marijuana possession and immigration status ought to be at the very bottom of the priority list if they are even a priority at all. In addition to this, more resources for police training and compensation commensurate with the demands of the job will help to ensure CMPD attracts and retains quality officers. The city council has not focused enough on economic development for ALL areas of Charlotte. Historically, prosperous cities have lower crime rates and there is every reason to think this precedent applies to the Queen City as well.

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