Candidates stake out platformsPublished 8:02pm Friday, October 25, 2013
During a candidates forum Thursday night, seven of the eight candidates for seats on the five-member Washington City Council made their cases as to why they should be elected.
Councilman Richard Brooks, who is seeking re-election did not attend the forum, sponsored by the Beaufort County Republican Club.
“We need a new City Council. We need a new City Council with new members and new ideas. If you keep electing the same people, expect the same results,” said political newcomer Ty Carter. “Let’s get some new blood, some new ideas and some fresh and motivated people on City Council. I hope that I have I given you a small part of what I can convey, what I can bring to the City Council.”
Carter said he would like to see Beaufort County’s new jail, if built, possibly be located somewhere in the city’s extraterritorial jurisdiction instead of being located at the existing jail’s location.
“I know I’m new to politics, but I’m not new to understanding the problems and the opportunities that the City of Washington provides. If you do the honor of electing me, I will not let you down,” said Larry Beeman, another political newcomer.
As for a new county jail, Beeman questioned whether an improved jail rather than a new jail is the better option, especially for taxpayers. Beeman also said he believes the county should help financially support Brown Library, used by many county residents who are not city residents, and city-affiliated recreation programs as it provides funding for recreation programs operated by some towns in the county.
Councilman Doug Mercer told the audience he wants voters to support candidates who share their values. Mercer reminded the audience about his fiscal conservatism. He talked about how he has been a part of the effort to reduce the transfer from the electric fund to the city’s general fund. That transfer used to be more than $1 million, but now it’s just below $500,000, with a goal of eliminated that annual transfer, he said.
“I have long been an advocate of pay as you go. That’s the way I run my household, and I suspect it’s the way you run your household,” Mercer said.
Mercer said he would prefer to see a new jail remain in the city.
Lloyd May cited his career experiences with budgets and cutting costs as something that would translate well if he is elected to the council. May also said he’s concerned with crime in the city and letting the public know about crime-fighting efforts.
“I think the (crime) stats need to be out there. I think we need to monitor community policing,” he said.
“Who’s going to be a good steward of your money? I want to use my experience in the private sector to make sure we get all the costs down that we can. I’ve made a career out of cost savings. I’m good with budgets,” May said. “The city needs to continue to improve. I’m not saying we’re doing a bad job. We need to take what we’ve done and improve it.”
Council member William Pitt said his experience on several legislative committees and his involvement as a N.C. League of Municipalities board member would serve him and other Washington residents well because it exposes him to trending issues in the state, many of which affect the city. Pitt challenged as many city voters as possible to vote in the election.
“The reason that voting is so important in municipal elections is we are immediate, we are swift and we are measured in our actions,” Pitt said.
Alluding to an earlier statement about lack of residents’ participation in city government, Pitt said, “It doesn’t make very much sense that we are spending $62 million of your money and you say it’s OK. … That $62 million buys you a lot — it really does. It buys you 24-hour police protection. It buys you 24-hour fire and EMS protection. It buys you an electrical department that guarantees to do one thing, one task — when the power goes out, get it back on. Because if the meter’s not turning, we’re not making any money and you’re probably not doing any business.”
As for a new jail in the county, Pitt said a referendum should be conducted to see if county taxpayers are willing to pay for a new jail.
Councilman Bobby Roberson called for more participation in city government by city residents, especially in how the city spends money.
“As you can imagine, our budget for the City of Washington is over $60 million. By the time we that we go through the budget process, we need to get a jumpstart on that process. Subsequently, the night we adopt the budget, guess how many folks we have at the meeting? Less than 10 people. What that does is it sends a message to some politicians about how they can change it as soon as the ink is dry on the budget. We don’t need that kind of process.”
Roberson said his vision for the city includes reducing the number of rules and regulations that residents and businesses now must follow. Roberson said he supports smaller government as long as that government has a focus on public safety.
Roberson supports building a new jail, if needed, in the city.
Former council member Gil Davis said he wants city government to be more cost-efficient and focus on areas of blight throughout the city. The city and county must do a better job working with each other to better meet the needs of their residents. Davis noted that city residents also are county residents and should be treated as other county residents are treated.
Davis said the city must run its electric department more efficiently to help reduce electric rates. The city explore any option that could help it reduce the debt it has had for more than 30 years for being a member of the N.C. Eastern Municipal Power Agency. (About 30 percent of an average electric bill in the city goes to pay off that debt.)
Davis supports creating a “one-stop” shop for people and companies seeking to open shops and larger businesses in the city. Some people have complained the city’s permitting process takes too long, he said. The city needs a streamlined, user-friendly process to expedite development, Davis said.
The general election is Nov. 5, but early voting is in process through Nov. 2.
Candidates stake out platforms