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Candidates field questions during NAACP forum


Residents had the opportunity Sunday afternoon to hear from candidates running for mayor and the Fayetteville City Council during a forum sponsored by the Fayetteville branch of the NAACP.

 About 60 people attended the event in the Pate Room of the Headquarters Library on Maiden Lane.

 The program included Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin and challenger Freddie Delacruz; District 1 incumbent Kathy Jensen; District 2 challenger Tyrone Williams; District 3 challenger Mario Benavente; District 4 incumbent D.J. Haire and challenger Thomas C. Green; District 5 challenger Fred G. LaChance; District 6 candidates Derrick Thompson and Peter Pappas; District 7 incumbent Larry Wright; District 8 challenger Michael Pinkston; and District 9 incumbent Yvonne Kinston.

 Absent from the forum were District 1 challenger Alex Rodriguez; District 2 incumbent Shakeyla Ingram; District 3 incumbent Antonio Jones; District 5 incumbent Johnny Dawkins; District 7 challenger Brenda McNair; District 8 incumbent Courtney Banks-McLaughlin; and District 9 challenger Deno Hondros.

Chris Davis, who represents District 6, did not file for reelection to his council seat.

Candidates were asked about a number of issues, including the revitalization of Murchison Road and the value of diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace.

The Fayetteville city election is July 26. The mayor and all nine council seats are on the ballot.

“It’s a pleasure to see how the room is filled,” Jimmy Buxton, president of the Fayetteville branch of the NAACP, said before the forum got underway.

Mayoral candidates

Colvin, who is serving his second term as mayor, has been on the City Council since 2013. The Fayetteville native and E.E. Smith High School graduate said the city, like the nation as a whole, stands at a critical time.

“It’s important that we have experience, temperament and resolve to endure whatever comes our way …,” he said.

Delacruz has lived in the area since 1975. He is a retired Army lieutenant colonel who served 32 years in the service. He said he decided to run for mayor after seeing “the direction the city was going.’’

“After I retired from the military,” he said, “I saw the different things that were happening and decided I could make a difference, and I want to help the city move forward.”

Each of the mayoral candidates responded to an audience question asking why they should be elected.

“I believe that results matter,” Colvin said. “We may not see eye to eye on everything, but I have seen the results of progress since I’ve been elected mayor. We’ve added over 3,500 jobs, for the first time ever we’ve had a global company invest in our community within a 12-month period, we’ve spent record amounts investing in streets, infrastructure and sidewalks. Companies are starting to come to Fayetteville.

“And we’re starting to rebrand ourselves to tell a positive story versus the story planted over the years as a Fayette-Nam community," he said.

Delacruz said he believes he is the best candidate because his top priority as mayor would be to make sure the Police Department “has enough police to do the job and keep the citizens of Fayetteville secure. Right now we have large vacancies of police officers.”

Delacruz said, as mayor, he promises he would do everything in his power to ensure that they fill the open police positions in the department. 

“This is a sad situation when you look at how many people are being murdered in Fayetteville now,’’ he said. “Just look at what’s going on with crime.’’

Colvin said there is a 7% vacancy in the Police Department. Those are funded positions, he said. “There’s a national shortage of police officers in America because of the recent turn of events.”

He said 7% is one of the lowest gaps in the state.

The two also were asked if they would object to the Community Police Advisory Board being disbanded and a police review board being established in its place. The question referenced the January shooting death of Jason Walker by an off-duty sheriff’s deputy. A special prosecutor who reviewed the case announced in April that the deputy would not be charged.

“I personally said tragically, I thought the party who committed that should be arrested and the court system should have been used to determine guilt or innocence," Colvin said. "That didn’t happen. It was not a decision from the City Council. … I believe in accountability. I voted three times over the last several years for a review board."

Colvin said the city needs to have a comprehensive approach. But arresting and shooting and violently enforcing the law is not going to be the answer, he said.

Delacruz agreed with Colvin, saying, “I would never advocate for a police officer to do harm to an innocent citizen. In my mind, that was a no-shoot situation.’’

He said he believed the deputy should have been taken into custody at the time of the shooting.

The Fayetteville Police Department turned the case over to the State Bureau of Investigation, which looked into the shooting.

Council candidates

The City Council candidates made opening remarks — largely introducing themselves — and then fielded questions from emcee Amanda Williams.

The candidates all agreed that consensus must be built within the community and on the City Council to make good on election promises.

“Compromise is as American as apple pie,” said Peter Pappas, who is running for the District 6 seat. “Working together is not a second thought to me.”

Fred G. LaChance said he was in favor of bringing back town meetings. “I haven’t heard from anybody,” he said. “We do things without asking people. That’s got to stop.”

The audience posed a question about the rejuvenation of Murchison Road and what the city could do to improve business development along the corridor using current resources and without displacing low-income residents.

Michael Pinkston, who is running for the District 8 seat, said the businesses along Murchison Road need to be looked at individually. “We’ve got to help them because they’re good businessmen and women,’’ he said. “It’s going to take a dedicated team to go business to business.”

Kathy Jensen, the District 1 incumbent, said, “We are finally getting the resources we need to get those things done. … We are working through it.”

Tyrone Williams, a former councilman who is running in District 2, said the reason was due to a lack of motorists who use that gateway into the city. “We need to attract more motorists,” he said. “We have to look at things differently. We’ve got to look at things smart.”

District 4 candidate Thomas Green said it comes down to security. He said police patrols need to be increased in the area. 

“We need to make people feel safe,” he said.

D.J. Haire, who is running again to represent District 4, mentioned several projects taking place on Murchison Road, including the Murchison Choice Neighborhood that plants ambassadors in the area and a $2 million investment in the Martin Luther King Jr. Park. And he said the council has invested $355,000 in businesses that seek to improve.

Derrick Thompson, a candidate in District 6, said he believes that all of Fayetteville needs to be improved, not just the Murchison Road corridor. “We don’t want to eliminate any area that’s attractive to the city of Fayetteville,” he said.

“Poverty is a big problem in Fayetteville and Cumberland County,’’ said Larry Wright, who is seeking reelection in District 7. “When you look at poverty, it reflects on every other area of community. … We feel like Murchison Road has been left out for many, many years.”

Candidates also were asked about the importance of diversity, inclusion and equity in the workplace and what they would say to police officers or other employees who don’t see value in training on that issue.

“This is important because decisions are being made,’’ said Yvonne Kinston, who is seeking reelection in District 9. “We may not realize those issues, those concerns are there. When you’re speaking to a police officer or with an individual, you don’t know their history. This gives us an opportunity to address that. To be able to attack that. … ”

The audience also asked about keeping millennials in the area.

Mario Benavente, a candidate for District 3, said when he served as chairman of the city’s Millenium Advisory Commission, he didn’t find the council receptive to the group’s ideas.

“They'll say they want millennials; they'll say that they want them here,’’ he said. “But they won't do anything to help us get ahead. I'm running for City Council because I know there are a lot of hurdles to overcome. That the majority of the City Council are either retired, don't have a career, don't have children in their homes. By that, I mean the children are no longer in the home.

"That's what I care about — the legacy of this city.’’

Michael Futch covers Fayetteville and education for CityView TODAY. He can be reached at mfutch@cityviewnc.com. Have a news tip? Email news@CityViewTODAY.com.

Fayetteville, mayor, City Council, election, NAACP, candidate forum