Mayor Pro Tem Vi Lyles, a Democrat, and council member Kenny Smith, a Republican, won their party’s primaries on Tuesday and will face each other in November.
Here’s where they stand on four key issues in an Observer survey.
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?
Lyles: My belief is that we need to look at the recent report released on the I-77 project and address those findings with the state. Charlotte’s position is to have managed lanes; however, these projects are state mandated.
Smith: I voted against the I-77 toll project when brought before council in 2016. The Cintra contract places an unfair burden on our citizens in the form of a 50 year non-compete which prohibits the state from building general purpose lanes. As Mayor, I will work the general assembly and NC DOT to deliver Charlotte, the second fastest growing city in the country, the much-needed road capacity we require. Charlotte is a primary economic engine for North Carolina and we cannot afford the current congestion stranglehold on our streets.
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?
Lyles: I believe we need to continue providing scattered sites but we must also be committed to build in every corridor. It is not enough to build density; we must remain innovative in order to meet our needs. That is why I am working every day with our faith and non-profit communities and the private sector to address our needs while also specifically working to identify those families living in hotels to move them into housing.
Smith: Our city is at a crossroads with affordable housing. Current policy has city council committed to dispersing new units more evenly throughout the city and dramatically increasing the number of units. I believe the two are mutually exclusive and therefore I have been a leader in providing new, innovative ideas to solve Charlotte’s affordable housing needs. My plan is simple: create a land trust, expand bonding capacity for affordable housing projects, leverage private and nonprofit investment and prioritize investment and our affordable housing unit goals ahead of Charlotte’s dispersion policy. This problem can be solved but we need a Mayor who will lead on the issue and instead of playing petty politics.
Do you support the city spending $30 million in hotel-motel money for a proposed Major League Soccer stadium?
Lyles: My belief is hospitality funding is best allocated when it expands our ability to attract conventions – the bread and butter of industry. I agree with the planned capital projects funded from the hospitality taxes: Discovery Place, Convention Center expansion and Spectrum Arena. I do not support a Major League Soccer stadium in the current proposal.
Smith: No. I would love to see Charlotte become an MLS city. Our sports teams have brought incredible energy, recognition and investment to our city. However, I do not believe we are in a position to invest these levels of taxpayer funds when our infrastructure is crumbling, crime has spiked and too many Charlotte families are in need. Additionally, we have existing commitments with long-time community partners such as Discovery Place competing for the same pool of resources.
With homicides on the rise, what steps would you take to try to reduce crime? What has the current council NOT done?
Lyles: I believe we need to take a holistic approach to public safety, addressing the larger issues such as lack of housing, inadequate jobs, and increased economic divides. We need to make the force more reflective of our communities and examine the way we are policing. Putting officers in neighborhood hot spots to establish relationships and putting them on walking beats can be determined by using data analytics on our current policing. When we build opportunities, we will improve public safety.
Smith: Crime is on the rise because our Mayor has failed to lead. She set the tone of failed leadership last year and I believe that has significantly contributed to the current spike in crime. We need a mayor who will support our law enforcement, give them the resources they need, and participate in a productive dialogue with people from all corners of our city. Unfortunately, our mayor has been more interested in focusing on the issues of the day in Washington DC than developing a proactive plan to combat crime in Charlotte.