Up & Coming Weekly

November 01, 2022

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 12 of 24

12 UCW NOVEMBER 2 - 8, 2022 WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM Election important to Fayetteville's future by ELAINE BRYANT HAYES Fayetteville faces one of the most important elections in its history on Nov. 8. is time it is not about any candi- date. It's about the city's future and the place it will be for our children and grandchildren to find good jobs and be willing to stay here. Voting Yes to the Fayetteville Charter Amendment will convert four of our current nine single-member districts to at-large, resulting in every Fayetteville citizen having six people to vote for versus the current two. ere would still be five single-mem- ber districts. For the past 20 years, we have been struggling with a city council struc- ture that rewards council members for thinking about the few hundred people in their gerrymandered district who voted for them, and too often ignoring the greater needs of the city. Our murder rates are at an all-time high, and the homeless are filling our city streets. Still, our council spends valuable time considering implement- ing a self-serving retirement plan for city council members to pay them $6,000 a year for life. We are better than that. Nine of North Carolina's largest cities have at-large members as part of their structure. Other local govern- ments in Cumberland County have at- large members, including the County Commission, the Board of Educa- tion, and the towns of Spring Lake and Hope Mills. None of those local governments are even considering converting to single-member districts. Does our recent history make us think that Fayetteville's city govern- ment has it all figured out and the rest of the state and our county are wrong? A balanced structure that focuses on both district issues and the big picture is a far better structure for a city coun- cil. Fayetteville had at-large members as part of its structure until 2000. We find ourselves falling behind the rest of the peer cities in the state, com- peting for our children's future. Over the last ten years, Fayetteville grew by 4% compared to other peer cities that grew four times as much. 20% of the people in our city live in poverty — 40% higher than those same peer cities. Our crime index is 38% higher than those same peer cities. We are better than that. Perhaps the most disturbing part of this has been the allegations of racism unfairly introduced by those opposing the change. Supporters of Vote Yes Fayetteville continue to be labeled as racists, even though there are 38% more registered Black voters than white Voters in Fayetteville. Vote Yes supporters, Black members of the city council, and other Black citizens who support the effort continue to be verbally attacked, even though our community for years has elected Black candidates in at-large seats, including the Mayor of Fayetteville, the Cumberland County Sheriff, Clerk of Court and members of the Board of Education and County Commission. Race-baiting is the act of intention- ally encouraging racism or anger about issues relating to race, often to get a political advantage. And it has to stop. We are better than that. ere probably is no better example of a city council structure that does not represent all of the city than the council's effort to keep the Vote Yes Charter Amendment from being placed on the ballot. Even though state law requires that citizens be allowed to vote on their structure of government once they have collected 5,000 signatures, the city council voted multiple times not to place the item on the ballot. In fact, they spent an estimated $50,000 of your taxpayer dollars to fight against your right to vote on this important issue. It is easy to vote against citizens' interests when they cannot hold you accountable at the ballot box. We are better than that. You can make a difference on Nov. 8 by voting Yes to the Fayetteville Char- ter Amendment. We need more representation, not less. Diverse city with shared values, goals needs more representation by WADE FOWLER e Fayetteville community has been on an interesting journey over the last 18 months with the initiative to amend the city's charter by convert- ing our current nine single-member districts to a combination of five single-member and four at-large seats. e net effect would be that voters would have six people on council rep- resenting them versus the current two. On its face, the question seems simple — more representation or less? Does Fayetteville want to join with every major city in North Carolina, as well as the other local governments in Cumberland County, who have deter- mined that a combination of at-large and single-member seats represent the most effective and representative form of local government? One of the major objections being made against the charter change is that the desire for change is racially motivated to reduce minority repre- sentation on the council. e belief is that whites want to exert undue influence on the council. at simply is not true. An objective look at the facts show this Vote Yes Fayetteville initiative is based on the reality of where our city finds itself today after decades of demographic changes here. A few examples show this clearly to anyone willing to look at the facts. In Fayetteville today, Black voters outnumber white voters by over 38% with Black voters representing 45.2% of the registered voters and white vot- ers representing 32.7%. A look at voter turnout in recent elections shows that Blacks and whites vote in the same percentages. In the recent July 2022 City Council election, Black turnout of 13.6% was about the same as white turnout of 13.8%. Neighborhoods which were racially segregated in the past are not any longer. We are truly a very diverse city with shared values and needs that are not dependent on race. is diversity is just an indicator of us truly being an All-America City and should be celebrated, not ignored. Qualified candidates of all races have success in raising campaign do- nations. Mayor Colvin raised $134,000 in the last election, Sheriff Wright raised $118,000 and County Commis- sioner Charles Evans raised $87,000 in his recent congressional race. Our community continues to elect qualified candidates of all races. Two of our last four mayors have been Black. Our Sheriff, Clerk of Court and multiple judges have won at- large seats in Cumberland County. Of the current five at-large seats on the County Commission and School Board, three of them are held by Black candidates. Statistics show that communities with at-large representatives have faster growth, less criminal activity and less poverty than communities without such representation. A co- hesive and more responsive govern- ment improves quality of life for all its citizens. e recent census shows our growth is not keeping pace with our peer cities that have it. Our poverty rates and crime rates are higher while voter turnout and the opportunity for good jobs are both lower. ese peer cities are the ones we compete with for the type of jobs that can help make Fayetteville a place our children can come home to. If we want to compete for better jobs and a higher quality of life, then we must have a structure more like the ones used by the rest of the state. e structure used by our peer cities, the ones we compete with every day, the ones that are growing faster, are safer and are providing a higher quality of life for their citizens. At the end of the day, after all the political rhetoric, voters are left with the simple choice. Do you want our city to move forward and have better quality of life? Do you want a more cohesive and responsive city govern- ment? Do you want six people on city council representing your interests or just the current two? COVER ELAINE BRYANT HAYES COMMENTS? editor@upandcom- ingweekly.com. 910-484-6200. WADE FOWLER COMMENTS? editor@upandcomingweekly. com. 910-484-6200.

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