With just a week to go until Election Day, the two
candidates for Fayetteville mayor faced off in a forum Tuesday night.
It was the first forum in which the candidates did not share
the stage with city council candidates.
At times Val Applewhite and Nat Robertson agreed on points. Both
said they understand improving the city will mean they need to form coalitions
with others in city government and with members of the community. They also
agreed that reducing crime in Fayetteville is a priority.
Applewhite said a grassroots and community approach to
underlying social issues would contribute to crime reduction. She said she
would like to bring together citizens regularly to discuss ideas they think
would work. In addition to those feedback groups she said she'd like to
increase mentoring programs and possibly keep recreation centers open until
midnight on weekends. She said the extended hours would give young people an
organized and positive place to go instead of getting into trouble.
Robertson said he liked the idea of putting mobile police
command posts in crime "hot spots." He said the idea worked when he previously
served on city council, and he thinks it could work again. Robertson explained the
mobile units would stay in a problem area for a few days or a few weeks. He
also said he sees the role of mayor as someone who gives the police chief leeway
to make crime fighting decisions and then holds the chief accountable for
Applewhite seemed to work toward a personal connection with
the audience, and at least three times she connected well enough to receive applause
during her comments. Several times she mentioned her feelings that citizens
need more input in government.
"I don't think government should come in and tell you what
your community should look like," Applewhite said as she spoke about Murchison
Road redevelopment. "Hear your vision and helping to achieve that vision – that's
my role as mayor."
Robertson took a practical approach to his comments. Several
times he emphasized the need for economic development. He specifically spoke
out against the city's Unified Development Ordinance, which was adopted in
2011. He believes the ordinance restricts the ability of businesses to expand.
"We've got to revisit this, and we've got to do it quickly,"
Robertson said. "This is what's standing in the way of economic development in
the city, and it's affecting development everywhere."
The forum is expected to be the last time both candidates
will be together to discuss city issues before the election on November 5.
Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon.More>>
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Question, comment or news tip? The WNCN main desk is happy to take your call and direct you to the appropriate department. Our station phone number is:919-836-1717 Our address is:1205 Front St. Raleigh, N.C.