6 Democrats, 1 Republican vying for open Charlotte City Council seat in District 4

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Six Democrats and one Republican are seeking the Charlotte City Council seat for District 4, a section of the city seeing new development, but facing questions about how new strip malls, drive-thru restaurants and apartment complexes are impacting residents’ quality of life and the area’s identity.

Incumbent City Council member Greg Phipps announced that he is not seeking re-election after serving three two-year terms since 2013.

District 4 is home to more than 116,000 people and includes UNC Charlotte, University Research Park and a stretch of Interstate 485 that that has helped turn old farmland into new stores and apartments. Some residents complain the new development is not the walkable, pedestrian-friendly construction they were promised and is indistinguishable from other suburban areas.

Where is it?

The district is divided by Interstate 85 and is bounded by The Plaza to the north, Old Concord Road to the south, Old Statesville Road to the west and the city limits to the east.

Who votes?

There are nearly 81,000 registered voters in the district and more than half — about 44,000 — are Democrats. The next biggest group is unaffiliated voters. About 11,000 registered voters identify as Republicans. African Americans comprise the largest number of constituents and registered voters in the area.

About the candidates

Richmond Baker

Richmond Bake_fitted.jpeg

Baker, 48, who has lived in Charlotte for 20 years, is a Air Force veteran and a computer scientist/engineer for Microsoft. He has not previously held public office. Baker said among the most pressing issues facing the city is the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department’s struggles to recruit and retain officers.

He says Charlotte’s public safety is a risk because CMPD’s staffing isn’t keeping pace with the city’s rapid population growth.

Gabe Cartagena

Gabe Cartagena
Gabe Cartagena

Cartagena, 21, who has lived in Charlotte for three years, is a bartender who holds a bachelor’s degree in political science. He has not previously held public office. Cartagena says if elected, he would advocate for more community-based policing to help make the city safer. He said the city should offer incentives for officers to live in the neighborhoods they patrol.

He has also said he would push for more affordable housing for workers who make lower wages.

Charlene Henderson

Charlene Henderson
Charlene Henderson is a Democratic candidate for District 4 member of the Charlotte City Council. The primary is on September 10, 2019. The general election is November 5, 2019. Charlene Henderson

Henderson, 51, who was born and raised in Charlotte, has not previously held public office, but been active in Charlotte’s political and civic circles. A business owner, Henderson is a former executive committee member for the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, an influential group that promotes candidates and causes. She also is former vice chair of the Mecklenburg County Women’s Advisory Board, a 15-member board appointed by county commissioners to advocate for women’s well-being.

Renee Perkins Johnson

Renee Perkins Johnson
Renee Perkins Johnson is a Democratic candidate for District 4 member of the Charlotte City Council. The primary is on September 10, 2019. The general election is November 5, 2019. Renee Perkins Johnson

Perkins Johnson, 52, who has lived in Charlotte for four years, is CEO of Triumph Services, which provides services to survivors of trauma, with a focus on people who have suffered brain injuries. A former licensed Realtor, Perkins Johnson said the city can create incentives for builders and landlords to create more affordable housing. She officials could also form “engagement teams” of government leaders, neighbors and legal professionals to seek solutions to the problem.

Charles Robinson

Charles Robinson
Charles Robsinson is a candidate for District 4 member of Charlotte City Council. The primary is on September 10, 2019. The general election is on November 5, 2019.

Robinson, 48, a Charlotte native, is a licensed notary public and founder and CEO of One Time Inc., a community group that focuses on helping youth. He is, perhaps, best known for coordinating with grass-root organizations across the city and annual efforts to get backpacks and other school supplies to children.

Robinson said city leaders need to engage grass-root organizations to help reduce crime. He said city officials have made progress, but remain “somewhat disconnected” from neighborhoods that experience the worst violence.

Sean Thompson

Sean Thompson
Sean Thompson is a Democratic candidate for District 4 member of the Charlotte City Council. The primary is on September 10, 2019. The general election is November 5, 2019. Sean Thompson

Thompson, 34, who has lived in Charlotte for 16 years, works as an insurance agent. He has never held public office, but has been active in politics for years. Thompson says he has been a Democratic Party field organizer, a member of the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, among other groups.

If elected, Thompson said he would host a youth summit to help address a rise in homicides in Charlotte. He also said the city should explore using land around the Lynx Blue Line extension for affordable housing.

Brandon Pierce

Brandon Pierce
Brandon Pierce Brandon Pierce is a Republican candidate for District 4 member of the Charlotte City Council. The primary is on September 10, 2019. The general election is November 5, 2019.

Pierce, 26, who has lived in Charlotte for 10 years, is a culture, engagement and stewardship specialist for Coca Cola Consolidated. As the lone Republican in the race, he faces no competitors in the primary and will automatically get a spot in November’s general election.

Pierce said the city should create more affordable housing by fostering more home-ownership opportunities instead of focusing on building new units.

Candidate Q & A

With homicide and other violent crime on the rise, what steps would you take to try to reduce crime?

Baker: “Our public safety is at risk because we do not have enough officers. We have a “broken windows Theory” type of situation. Where if a person sees a place with a broken window once and then again weeks or months later, they determine that no one cares for this area and anything is allowed. We have all seen residents speeding, running red lights, and littering without consequences. The criminal element among us see this as their broken windows and as a green light to committing further crimes. “

Cartagena: “I am stressing our need to implement a more community-focused style of policing. Every community in Charlotte should be as safe on a day to day basis as UNC Charlotte’s campus. We should provide incentives to our officers for them to live in the communities in which they serve. We should also provide further incentive for applicants to have backgrounds in social work.”

Henderson: “Establish collaborative partnerships with CMPD, PTA, churches, and community organizations to form an I formation sharing network to educate and empower the community about unknown resources. The current council has not made it a priority to focus on repeat offenders who CMPD has identified as most dangerous to our community. The city council needs to prioritize resources to at risk teens and children.”

Perkins Johnson: “Ensuring that CMPD has the staff and tools to effectively patrol high crime areas through community policing. Additional street lights & surveillance cameras in high crime areas. My approach would be unique due to my background in Human Services. I would collaborate with county & local agencies to develop programming that focuses on the underlying problems in the community and rehabilitation.”

Robinson: “Community Engagement is vital in reducing crime. We must empower those grassroots non-profit organizations that have sustainable programs. Identifying groups that have strong connections to those communities that are experiencing acts of violent crimes and homicide is a key component to addressing the issue. It is also necessary to repair broken bridges between our community police officers and the residents that they serve.”

Thompson: “I would engage the Charlotte community by holding a youth summit to discuss the reasons for the increase in violence.”

Pierce: “The first step is community engagement in helping our youth realize that we can not resort to guns to solves disputes. From a policy standpoint we will double down on the microgrants to help fund nonprofits already doing this. A second approach is the recruitment of more officers, especially individuals who look like the community. This can be done by funding higher salaries in the budget while also investing more money into monthly crisis intervention training then ever before. Lastly, we have to continue to provide the community alternative avenues to crime.”