Despite the fact that presidential election years turn out the highest numbers of voters, municipal elections have the most direct impact on quality of life. This fact is pretty widely accepted. But even the most educated and engaged among us – most notably a political scientist at an esteemed local university – even they are unlikely to know the people who are running for Wilmington’s City Council.
The last municipal election in 2015 saw a thirteen and a half percent voter turnout rate across the state. Brunswick County showed an impressive 23% turnout that year. Pender County also saw about 22% of registered voters come to the polls. In New Hanover County, the turnout rate was a dismal 10.4%.
In 2013, we saw about 14.5% of voters come to the polls. Brunswick County still did far better than the state – showing an impressive 19%. 22% of Pender County voters came out. New Hanover County saw about 13% of its voters make their voice heard.
Political Scientist Aaron King of the University of North Carolina Wilmington says it’s true that we overlook local races. There is a disconnect between how much local politics matter and how much interest there is. Local government, he says, is the closest elected officials get to their constituents – both geographically and psychologically. While it’s unlikely a constituent can walk into the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. and be heard on the floor, a Wilmington resident can show up to a City Council meeting and sign up to speak.
On this edition of the CoastLine Candidate Interviews, we meet three of the candidates seeking a seat on Wilmington’s City Council.
In the nonpartisan race for Wilmington’s City Council, there are nine people competing for three open seats that carry four-year terms. Two incumbents are hoping for reelection, and one seat is wide open since Earl Sheridan decided not to run again.
Segment 1: Caylan McKay
Caylan McKay is a Staff Accountant at Earney & Company LLP, where he specializes in small business and individual accounting. He lives in downtown Wilmington with his rescue dog, Péa.
He’s participated in local theater since early childhood and he’s taught at Peace Rose Montessori School. He's also produced short films, documentaries, and music videos. He says he was involved in the renovation planning for Greenfield Lake Amphitheatre and worked as an advocate for the Community Arts Center. He has canvassed for Stop Titan, volunteered with Wrightsville Beach Clean Sweep, and is a member of the local NAACP. He serves as treasurer for Cape Fear Ultimate.
Rachel Lewis Hilburn: Caylan McKay, welcome to CoastLine.
Caylan McKay: Thank you so much, Rachel.
RLH: Caylan McKay, nine candidates competing for three open seats, two of the competitors in the race are incumbents, which are historically harder to unseat. Why do you think there is so much competition this year, and what's it about for you?
CM: Well, I think there's a lot of competition in this race because there's a lot of people who are really concerned about Wilmington and have a vision for Wilmington, and that's why I'm running. I'm running because I've seen what Wilmington was, being a lifelong resident. I see what it is currently, and I see what it could be.
RLH: How has it changed over the years?
CM: Well, you know, within any city that's developing and growing, you see a lot of development and development is good and growth is good and people coming into town is good, but managing it is kind of the side that I look at.
RLH: And what do you mean by that? Are you saying there's kind of a tension between development and responsible growth?
CM: Well, you can say tension, but you know, kind of for me, it means that the city should be involved in smart urban development. That's where I am, and I'm running specifically for.
RLH: And how do you think you can lead this city to that smarter urban development? What's missing right now in the picture?
CM: Well, so the way I look, and look at the city as a whole is that -- you know-- the way we're developing. We should be bringing the development to the downtown area, and revitalizing our city center in our post-industrial areas, and really try to work on preserving our green spaces.
RLH: And so when you look at something like Project Grace, which of course is not sitting in front of city council right now, county commissioners will vote on it probably next month, how do you feel about the direction that's going? Project Grace is this redevelopment of the block on Second Street bordered by Chestnut and Grace downtown, where the library currently is.
CM: Right, right. Well like you said, that is a county commissioner issue, and the City Council has very little oversight on it. So I'm speaking as a citizen now. You know, I look at the role of a library and look at the role of the museum, and we do need to do something. But what I'm seeing is that all of this, and all of the different plans is that citizen involvement should be the key point to it. So more citizen input about what they would like from the library since they'll be the ones using it. And the same thing with the museum.
RLH: Do you feel like there has been enough citizen input on this project?
CM: Well, going to the meetings it shows that whether the county commissioners want it or not, there's a lot of citizen input, and I think that input is really good and important. It's how it's being used, and you know whether it's being taken into account.
RLH: Another really knotty question that is before city council members is what to do with short-term rentals. This has been a topic that we've covered on Coastline a couple of times. Incredibly controversial and complicated. Where do you think that policy should go? And I have to say Jez, Milo, and Tucks wanted to ask you specifically about that. What are your thoughts on how we progress in the shadow, they say, of preference and tradition?
CM: So I believe in smart, well-thought out, statistic-driven policies and regulation. I think that short-term rentals definitely have a place in Wilmington, but I believe that the people that should be in charge of making those rules are the people that it affects directly. So I support a Citizens Advisory Committee, or a short-term tax task force to really create a policy and regulation that works for Wilmington because we can look at other cities and what they've done. But, I feel like for Wilmington, we are a specific area that needs to tackle it with what works for us. Furthermore, the North Carolina legislature has reduced and removed a lot of the power that municipalities and citizens have. So I feel that if we can't come together and make a policy that works for our citizens, for all of our citizens, then North Carolina is going to come in and make this decision for us. And, if they do that, then I think everyone loses.
RLH: Can you toss out any specifics about how you would like to see this short-term rental policy shaped? Because one of the things that makes that so difficult is that people who are directly affected on both sides have completely divergent views of how that should shake out.
CM: So I mean that comes along with the citizens’ task force about for short-term rentals, and it's getting those people that have different points of view to be in the room together and to talk and create that dialogue. We all obviously need to have regulation. It's important to be able to monitor whether-- you know -- that we're getting the tax revenue appropriately so that our area can use that tax revenue for things like the beautification of downtown. I mean that's one of the things that it can be used for. So, but, the first step is getting those people into a room together and getting them speaking and getting them planning.
RLH: If you won a seat, Caylan McKay, this would be your first time holding public office, is that right?
CM: That's correct. Yes ma'am.
RLH: Why now? You have a full-time job, a full life. How would you handle being a city council member?
CM: Well, I do have a full time job, and I'm very fortunate that the office that I work at is very, very big and keen on work-life balance. And, when I approached them about this they said, one of the questions was, you know, what do I need to do, take a leave of absence? And they said, no this is part of your life. You have a calling for this. You feel the need to do this. So we absolutely support you. So that, I think, is really special in itself, and in as far as, you know, why now? I think if not now, when, is what comes to mind. You know we were expected to grow exponentially in monitoring that growth so that our citizens that live here now as well as the citizens that are coming here have, you know, jobs and places they can afford to live.
RLH: So let's fast forward then four years. Let's say you're elected. You're completing your first term. What has happened? What's different about Wilmington, specifically?
CM: Well, in an ideal world, we have a comprehensive short-term rental plan that's working and evolving with our citizens in our community. We have changed the narrative of what affordable housing is. And, we've changed the narrative of opioid abuse and opiate addiction.
RLH: What is the narrative of affordable housing that needs to change? We've heard a lot about that recently, thanks partly to Paul D'Angelo of the Affordable Housing Coalition. He's done a lot of work to kind of get that issue out in the forefront. But with all the summits and all the public discussions about it, where are we, and where do we need to go?
CM: So I think the first step is continuing with the fact that affordable housing isn't public housing; it's housing that our teachers, our firefighters, our police officers, and our hospitality workers who are, you know, a big part of our economy. They have a place to live, and have a place they can afford to live. More importantly, because if they can't afford to live here, they'll either live somewhere else and spend their tax dollars there, or they'll live here, and they'll experience scarcity, and people that experience scarcity are more likely to commit crimes.
RLH: We talked a little earlier about the fact that Project Grace--for instance-- is not in front of city council. That's going to be a county commission vote. There are a lot of issues that local citizens are concerned about, offshore drilling, the exploration of alternative forms of energy; what's happening with the water supply, GenX, and other chemical compounds that are unregulated. These things don't necessarily wind up on the desks of city council members, but city council members are the closest elected officials to the people here. So what role would a city council person play in some of those issues that aren't necessarily regulated by that body?
CM: Well, taking the stance of being proactive -- not reactive. So preparing for those changes and preparing for these issues and making sure that we have it, we have something on the docket for it. Now, obviously the city council can't make the decision whether or not we're drilling offshore, but we can make our voice known, and we can make sure our citizens' voices are being talked to for to our representatives. You know being an advocate.
RLH: How do you do that?
CM: Well, if GenX can show us anything, it's about using our voices, and making sure that the North Carolina legislator who has the power to make those things come to fruition know how we feel in this part of the state.
RLH: What went wrong with GenX?
CM: Well, you know, there's a multitude of things that went wrong with GenX. But, you know, the regulation of the chemical itself is one thing, but you know it's not that you have to regulate. It's that you have to have policies in place that require something as simple as requiring what a company is making -- what is their byproduct of that? And then, how are they disposing of it, would be, it would have been very efficient and would help a lot with the GenX situation on the river.
RLH: We've heard a lot of public discussion lately about the treatment of Confederate monuments and statues in town, and of course, that's another very controversial issue. Some see it as the expression of white supremacy in the public square. Others say this is legitimate Wilmington history and people related to those folks are here. What would you do? And of course we know it's a state issue but barring that, how do you think those monuments should be treated?
CM: You know that's, I believe that we should absolutely have statues, but where we have them is the issue at hand, so I don't necessarily think they should be there. Museums would be a great spot for them. But, you know, again that is a state issue, which brings me back to --you know -- why the state will make these decisions for us. So we have to come together as a community -- as Wilmington, as New Hanover County, to make them understand what's important to us.
RLH: At this point, a preponderance of city council members live in the downtown area. Does that create a representation issue for people living in other parts of Wilmington?
CM: Well, I think that the Wilmington city council does an excellent job of trying to represent all of Wilmington, but I will say that, you know, when you do come into an area, you have to, you have to experience that area. So it's important for our representatives to utilize Wilmington -- to be around old Wilmington, and I take the bus. And I've been taking the bus as much as I possibly can as part of this campaign, so that I can experience what it is.
RLH: You have a car?
CM: I have a car, yes, ma'am. But I'm also part of the generation that is relying less and less on cars. I, personally, cannot wait until I can give up my car. So you know that means we should probably be thinking about that as well.
RLH: Caylan McKay, thank you so much for being with us today.
CM: Thank you so much, Rachel.
Segment 2 - Philip White
Philip White works as a manager for Mattress Firm. He says he was born and raised in Whiteville – which is less than 50 miles west of Wilmington. He says he wants to put “Community” back into the economy.
RLH: Philip White, welcome to Coastline.
Philip White: Thank you very much, Rachel.
RLH: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do for a living?
PW: I'm a manager for the company, Mattress Firm. We have nine stores in the area. We're the largest mattress retailer in the world. I was serving as a business analyst. But I've transitioned over to a management role.
RLH: And why do you want to run for city council and serve on city council? That's a tough thing to do, as we know, with a full time job.
PW: Oh, it absolutely is. My desire to serve, I think comes from about two years ago. I got on the New Hanover County long-term health care board. It's something that has kind of changed my life. I saw how there was a need for leadership. I saw how there is a group of people who just, to put it essentially, just aren't being represented, and no one else was doing it. So I felt like I had to step up and take that spot.
RLH: Who is not being represented?
PW: Well, in my opinion, I would say roughly 90 to 100 thousand residents of Wilmington. It's one thing that I keep coming across. Meeting with people, going to different meetings is, in my opinion, the vast majority of Wilmington feel like our current city council has their minds made up about a certain issue, whatever it may be, prior to even holding meetings. And then the meetings are held, their opinions rarely, if ever change. And that's just what's unacceptable in my book.
RLH: So you feel like there isn't a great deal of transparency and public dialogue around some of the issues facing Wilmington City Council?
PW: Oh, absolutely. I mean if you look at the numbers that are outlined when it comes to how the citizens feel that they're allowed to interact with their city council; our current city council has a rating of twenty nine percent. In the 2018 budget, their goal is to bring that up to 32 percent. You know we don't know a single company or corporation that would consider a 29 percent customer satisfaction to be acceptable.
RLH: Tell me again what that number is?
PW: That pertains to the 2018 budget. It's the exact breakdown is openness, and I forget the exact breakdown to it. I can get it to you, though.
RLH: And how was this number, who came up with this number or was this an outside poll? I'm not sure what you're referring to.
PW: OK, the city every year, to my knowledge, goes to a group to get different numbers, different percentages, not 100 percent certain who that group is, but it is outlined in the 2018 fiscal budget. Like I said, along with, I know they have approximately a 42 percent approval when it comes to the roads. However, they have a 12 percent.
RLH: When you say approval, you're talking about job approval as in congressional rankings?
PW: No, no they speak to the general populace -- citizens of Wilmington.
RLH: About the issues, the specific issues? I see what you're saying -- and quantify the number of citizens that agree with that number? OK.
How long have you been interested in local politics? You said it was sort of recent that you started to get a feeling that not everyone was represented. Can you pinpoint when that really started for you?
PW: Oh, absolutely. I would say as a child I've always had just the lifelong love of politics, not only at a federal level because that's where we tend to see more of our grandiose stars. But even at a local level, it's, you know, in my opinion, a lot easier to make a positive change at a local level. And that's where I'd like to work.
RLH: We have an e-mail from Robert Parr: “Sea level rise is accelerating high tide flooding in Wilmington. A proposed development on the Cape Fear River across from Wilmington may be sited on Battleship Road. The only road into that development, Battleship Road, floods with saline water 60 times each year -- will flood more in the future. Battleship Road and Water Street were originally designed for a different sea level, which no longer exists. Your comments,” he says.
PW: My comments are -- I mean, obviously, I agree with you. I think Wilmington is in a unique position. Of course, we want to keep growing and keep developing. However, we have to ask ourselves, at what cost? With our wetlands, with our river, we're literally surrounded by water on both sides. When we destroy these areas just on a whim, and for profit, we have to look at what we're destroying them for in the long run. We are literally, you know, Hurricane Alley. So with constant flooding and stuff, are we causing a problem for ourselves just so that someone could put a penny in his pocket? That's something that I'm not a big fan of. Maintaining green spaces, natural environments, we're one of, literally, the only places on the entire earth where the Venus Flytrap is indigenous. Those are resources that we have to, not even for ourselves, but for our children and grandchildren, that we have to protect. In my opinion, that's not even an option.
RLH: Short-term rentals, a source of tremendous controversy in the city, and the city has been doing research on hammering out a policy for at least a couple of years. Some stakeholders say stricter standards have to be applied before homes can be rented out on a short-term basis. Others say these rentals are a critical part of Wilmington's tourism industry, and they shouldn't be limited. If you're elected to city council, how would you want to see that policy get shaped?
PW: And, Rachel, you're absolutely correct. This has been a point of contention amongst different members of our community for quite some time. In my opinion, for too long. I've been very vocal about my opinion when it comes to STRs. I am a big advocate of property rights, and I'm also a big advocate of what's good for the goose is good for the gander. What I find interesting is when this whole dialogue started there was pretty much an outright thing about banning STRs. As for the city, the argument was made, it was horrible for affordable housing. That argument was disproved. And now the argument is being made, OK everywhere except for the historic areas of downtown. I know that to give you an example, Airbnb has partnered with the NAACP to try to reach out to African-Americans to bring them into the fold of STRs because that's currently a group that is not being represented and is not able to take advantage of that situation. I'm really interested to see how that works out and to partner with both of those groups to try to develop that community. But, in my opinion, we need to allow STRs with very few restrictions, initially.
I am, unless there is illicit behavior going on in someone's backyard, I don't know why we should be legislating it. I think that we should license it minimally, establish legislation to protect, not only the property rights of the renters, but also the property rights of the people that are neighbors and that live in the community. We need to do, like I said, minimally so that we can see where we need to tweak things so that we can move forward and go back to building a sense of community.
RLH: That's been a really tough nut to crack. And when you talk about property rights some people would argue, I bought this house in the downtown historic district, for example, and I don't expect to see different people in and out on my neighborhood street. I bought in a residential neighborhood. I want to live in a residential neighborhood. Are those property rights, too?
PW: Oh, absolutely. I mean, and that's something, like I said, this is going to always be a back and forth because these people that lived there absolutely have a valid argument on that side as well. But what we have to look at is not growth for just growth’s sake but what can growth offer us. I think with any business that we're bringing, again, there should be a few things that we're asking. One, are you going to be able to provide careers, not just jobs, but careers for the people of our community? And, what do you have to contribute to our, you know, beautiful environment to our city? And I think STRs offer tourists and families just an option that you can't get when you're staying in some cookie-cutter hotel. You get to experience the beauty and everything that we take for granted, which is why tourists keep coming back.
RLH: We have an e-mail. This anonymous writer says, “I would like to know your opinion on the food desert in and around downtown Wilmington. Is there anything for Wilmington city council members to do about that?”
PW: Absolutely. Thank you for the question. Wilmington has a few food deserts. Sadly, one downtown of course, and then we have another food desert off of the area of Princess. What I would like to see happen would be offering whatever it takes, tax incentives and the sort of thing, to local investors, not nameless corporations, but local investors to come in and establish, whether it's just a small grocery store to provide jobs for the local economy, keeping that money in our local economy but also growing the area. Because if you look at economic studies typically businesses grow around grocery stores, things like that. That's how you start populating an area and start developing businesses.
RLH: We have an email from Mike. He says, “I live downtown. I walk my dog almost every day and am asked for money from a homeless person every single day. In my opinion, this is devastating to the tourist industry. WECT recently did a special on flying a sign that showed some, if not most, are not actually homeless. There's a church on Market Street that feeds the underprivileged, I believe on Wednesday or Thursday. There's trash all over the neighborhood. What are your solutions to this issue?”
PW: Once again, thank you for your question. Now my solutions, just like so many complex issues, there is not one simple, good answer to this. We need to, first of all, establish the sources of these different things. So many of our homeless, indigent, economically disadvantaged individuals sadly are suffering from opioid addiction, heroin addiction and are in a rough place. If that is their particular situation, then we need to address that in a completely different way, obviously, than we would someone who for lack of a better word, is just lazy and doesn't want to find a job and is panhandling.
As far as panhandling in those situations, I believe that those people should be ticketed. They should be, you know, held to the fullest extent of the law. But when it comes to other situations, whether it be a homeless veteran or someone that's addicted to drugs, those situations need to be handled on a case-by-case basis, if we're going to actually try to improve the lives of these individuals. There is no broad- based answer that's going to solve everyone's problem.
RLH: Navid asks, “What's your opinion on the state of bike and transit infrastructure, especially in light of the recent fatalities on 17th Street?”
PW: We don't have nearly enough bike trails in the city. I'll say that just hands-down. I do a fair amount of biking, and we just don't have enough. What I would suggest is, first of all, going back to that 2018 budget, the city is, going to mess up their exact terminology because I don't have it in front of me. But the goal for the city as far as transportation is to transfer the WAVE ridership from a need-based ridership to a voluntary ridership.
RLH: Choice, right? Right. That's been the nut to crack. How do you do that?
PW: Well, speaking with people that work at WAVE, the first step, not to impugn our current city council members, would be for them to actually ride on our bus system, to speak to the people that have to ride there. What's going wrong? What can we do better? What resources do you need? To speak with them, we're going to need approximately about another two million dollars in revenue. Most of our buses have or are close to passing their prime, and we need to have approximately pickups of every 15 to 20 minutes with another influx of, we're saying around, 40 to 50,000 people on our congested highways. That's just not feasible. We're going to have to make that transition to a choice rider. I mean, that's going to be one of the only things that's available.
RLH: So just a minute or so left -- so people can understand the lens through which you view the role of city government -- describe what you think the role of city government is. Is it doing the basics like funding infrastructure, public safety, or is it more than that?
PW: Well, I mean, I think it's everything you just described but more so than that I think the role of a leader at a local level is to be not only a cheerleader for the city to its residents but to be a cheerleader for its citizens.
RLH: And Philip White, that's all the time we have. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Segment 3 - Hollis Briggs, Jr.
Hollis Briggs, Jr. is a self-described lifelong Wilmingtonian. His father was the first African-American person to run for Wilmington Town Constable in 1966.
Since 1999, Hollis Briggs has served as the director of the city’s Martin Luther King Jr. committee, and he organizes the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade. He was appointed to the USS North Carolina Battleship Commission by Governor Mike Easley and served from 2006 to 2013. In 2014, Hollis he served on the Transportation Bond advisory committee. Last year, he worked to pass the Parks and Recreation Bond to improve Wilmington’s parks and natural areas.
He also volunteers at Saint Phillip AME Church.
RLH: Hollis Briggs Jr., welcome to CoastLine.
Hollis Briggs Jr.: Thanks for having me.
RLH: Hollis Briggs, you ran two years ago in 2015 when there were eight candidates seeking one of three open seats. You came in fifth out of the eight. What did you learn during that process, and why are you running again this year?
HB: I’m running again because I want to serve the people of Wilmington, North Carolina and as a city council member. The 2015 race -- I don't think I was quite organized enough. And also it rained from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day, and I didn't emphasize on the early voting. This time, I'm going to emphasize more on early voting. So in case there's a bad weather day on Election Day, we'll have that covered. But when I stood in the rain for 12 hours in 2015, we came up just a little short.
RLH: Was that your first run at public office?
HB: No, it was not. In 2008, I ran for the House of Representatives District 18 and Sandra Spaulding Hughes was a Democratic person that ran also, and she won that one.
RLH: And when you look at the fire in your belly that brings you to the race for Wilmington city council, specifically, what is it? I mean, you talk about serving the people and representing the people, but are there specific issues that you say, I need to lead that particular issue?
HB: Yes, there are several issues that I think that I would do better representing the people of Wilmington than maybe some other candidates. Number one, I'm from Wilmington, and I'm from the Bottom neighborhood. And my family has owned the house over there for 55 years now.
RLH: For those listeners who aren't familiar with the Bottom, where is that?
HB: The Bottom is an area in Wilmington, North Carolina that's between Market Street and Castle Street and Seventh Street and 17th Street, and that area is about, it's just a low lying area. And that's how it got the name the Bottom, is not a negative thing, it is just like Carolina Heights. But if you know the history of the areas we're going to, you'll see that it's not negative. It's just an area of town. And when I moved back to Wilmington, the city of Wilmington asked me to start the neighborhood organization again that had been going on for several years. And my mother was on that committee back in the days, so she says you're starting something again that we've already had gone on. So, I renamed it to the Bottom Neighborhood Empowerment Association, because I wanted to empower the people of Wilmington in that area to be able to ask the critical questions, and get the right resources they need to get things done.
RLH: Why is it harder for, say, people in that neighborhood to get resources or to have a voice than people in other parts of Wilmington?
HB: I think they really don't know what question to ask whom, and as a matter of fact, when we started that neighborhood organization, the city of Wilmington made some small magnets, and it had a list of all of those resources that the city offered to people. There's about a thousand of them we passed out, those magnets, and people still have it on their refrigerators now about storm water. If you see something that you shouldn't see, call the right numbers to get things done, because I think some people just don't know who to call.
RLH: We have a question from B who writes, "What could you do to break the social economic wall that we have in our community? I work for a small business here in Wilmington, located in a highly wealthy saturated part of town, working in the medical field. Our offices sees all types of economic classes, often witness from all classes, the social wall that Wilmington has. What can be done to bring us together as a community, and break this huge diversity of social classes that we have here?"
HB: That's a tough question. Because that wall has been up for a long time, and you can chip at that wall, but to take it down, it's going to be a different story.
RLH: What is the wall? Describe it.
HB: So the wall is, I would say, the racial divide that has engulfed the city of Wilmington, and its efforts to move forward beyond it. You have to realize now even that schools are segregated. So, you know, you know you break down the wall by learning each others’, how each other feel. But if you segregate children, if you segregate the schools, and children in elementary school aren't able to get to know black kids, and black kids aren't able to get to know white kids. So that's the start of the wall right there. So now, instead of trying to break down, what I think is, is that we're building it higher. That is one reason. Another thing is the job availability for African-Americans is slim. A lot of people don't have skill sets. Back in back in the early 70s in high school, when I was in high school, we had vocational school. So you built a program for kids that weren't able to go to college so they can have a skill set, and learn how to continue their life, you know, with good paying jobs. Well, that now has gone, and they're talking about bringing it back. But we've lost two generations of children because they graduate from high school with nothing to do.
RLH: They are bringing that back?
HB: Here they are. They are bringing, the vocation program is coming back. So that is something that would be great. But, back to that wall, is something that you're really going to have a chip at. And everybody's got to chip at the wall, not just some people.
RLH: What are some of the ways that people are chipping at the wall? I mean you mentioned desegregation of schools as one way to chip away at the wall. What about things like, do you see Confederate monuments and statues taking up public spaces in town as part of the wall, or is that a separate issue?
HB: The monuments and statues really don't play that much into the being of the wall. I think it's the mentality of the people, because even if you take down a monument or statue the people's mentality will remain the same. It's not going to change anything. As a matter of fact, you're probably most likely make it worse.
RLH: You're talking about white racists -- that mentality not changing.
RLH: What about a little boy who is a little boy of color, let's say he's African-American, walking by that monument in the town where he grows up, what do you tell him about what that monument means?
HB: I wouldn't tell him anything.
RLH: And so you don't think there's any kind of negative impact on that?
HB: It's the way you spin the story. And, when I was a kid, I used to see the monument sort of statues, and my mother would just say, that's a statue of so-and-so. She never got into any particulars about why it was there, and who erected it. So I was an adult until I found out the significance of the whole statues and monuments because when I lived in Atlanta, they had statues and monuments there too, but it wasn't of the same culture of people.
RLH: So when you did figure out what those monuments meant, what did you think?
HB: I just thought that it was something that shouldn't be. But the state of North Carolina legislature has taken over, and they've passed a bill to protect them, and the city has no say so over it. So with the legislature, you know...
RLH: That's right. It's out of the hands of Wilmington's…
RLH: So let's talk about that for a second because there are so many issues facing the citizens of Wilmington. Things that people are concerned about, that aren't necessarily regulated by Wilmington city council members, or you know, policy isn't shaped there, but that's still a place that people want to go and say hey, for instance, I'm concerned about Gen-X and the water. Or, I do want to see us explore offshore drilling here off the coast of North Carolina or I don't. But so, what is your role then if you win a seat on city council? What is your role with those kinds of issues?
HB: In all sincerity, there isn't but so many things that you would be able to do as a city councilman or as a representative of the people of Wilmington. Unless you have to lobby the legislators, and let them know how you feel, because the people will tell you, and then you have to translate that to the representatives. Right now, the representatives in the legislature is a majority of Republicans, and I don't think they really want to hear anything about that. So I think, right now, this particular period in time you'd just be spinning your wheels in the dirt.
RLH: John from Wilmington, welcome to CoastLine, you're on the air.
John: Thank you for having me on, and taking this approach with your answers today. I have a question about a lot of talk about petty crime and gang issues. What are your thoughts on that?
RLH: Thanks for your question.
HB: It is said, there is a lawlessness problem in Wilmington with the teens. And as you spoke earlier; I did work on the parks and recreation bond. I helped to steer it through. So let's go back, let's go back to parks and recreation. I don't think there's adequate parks and recreation programming in place to help kids with their idle minds and the time to steer them away from lawlessness. So, I would like to see the city of Wilmington invest in children. If we want them to do the right thing, then we're going to have to make their time valuable. You know, right now, there's a there's a plan to build two brand new gymnasiums: one in Maides Park and one at the ML King Center or William E. Murphy sports complex, it was renamed. So I think we need to work on that, and I think we need to start break grounding on those immediately, so we can start having programming for kids, something for kids to do, and there won't be lawlessness.
RLH: The last question, WAVE transit, we know that Wilmington has been a major funder of WAVE transit, although this also gets funding from the county and the state and I think federal, but Wilmington has kind of been the base of that support. Do you think it's important to increase the base of choice riders on WAVE transit, or do you think that right now Wilmington should be funding that service at just the minimal level to meet the requirements?
HB: No, I think what we should do it to the maximum, and I think the county should pitch in as well, and it should be an equal partnership. Public transportation in Wilmington is poor at best. Everybody complains about there being traffic on the streets, but nobody wants to park their cars and ride the bus. And I think WAVE transit or the Public Transportation Authority needs to make riding the bus more attractive to more people, have more park and rides, something to alleviate the headache of the traffic in the mornings and in the evening times. A lot of people have three or four cars in their homes, and they drive all three or four cars downtown every day. I think WAVE transit needs to work on trying to make the route better and the timing better. So it's going to take a lot more funding, and I think the city and the county should have an equal partnership in funding the transportation system.
RLH: In your bio, on your website you spend a paragraph talking about your work within the Democratic Party, including working on the campaigns of Julia Bozeman and Susie Hamilton. In this nonpartisan race, what role does your Democratic affiliation play? And, is this race just nonpartisan in name?
HB: No, it's nonpartisan. It is not just a name; it is actually nonpartisan. But I am running for city council, and I am a Democrat. But I don't let that influence what I am doing for the city of Wilmington, or what I would do if I'm a member of city council. I have a lot of Republican friends as well and a lot of Republican support in my run for city council, so it is actually nonpartisan.
RLH: And that's this edition of CoastLine. Thanks so much Hollis Briggs Jr.
HB: Thanks for having me.