NHC Commissioner Candidates reveal positions on a publicly-funded ballpark at Candidate Forum

Sep 26, 2012

Economic development was the focus at last night’s forum for New Hanover County Commission candidates.

The forum was held at the WHQR Gallery and hosted by the Cape Fear Economic Development Council. WHQR’s Sara Wood reports candidates were asked about an issue the current commission has kept quiet about --- baseball.

For the past year, baseball’s been one of Wilmington’s main focuses.  But New Hanover County has kept mum about the potential riverfront stadium.  Star News reporter Tricia Vance asked county commission candidates how they felt about the stadium and whether or not the county should have some skin in the game. 

Current commission Vice Chairman Jonathan Barfield didn’t say if he’d support a publicly-funded stadium. But he says after seeing the effects of the Bulls on downtown Durham, it would be a perfect way to lower the tax base and stimulate job growth in the county.

“In every dollar that we spend in county government, it’s taxpayer money.  I hear people talk about taxpayer money all the time, it’s all taxpayer money. We don’t get money from our sales, we use taxpayer money to do what we do in county government.  And this is part of economic development.  And companies are looking for assets or things for their employees to do when they come to a community."

Republican Candidate Woody White says while the county can’t say no to everything, he does not support the stadium.  He says the government has to get back to the basics.

“And government doesn’t exist to build sporting facilities in my opinion.  We have to deliver safe and clean water, we have to protect our citizens with firemen and police officers.  We have to do the basic social services that we know why government exists.” 

Democratic candidate Robert Murray believes bringing baseball to the region would be good for the economy, but not if it’s publicly-funded. 

“I fully support a baseball field, I have enjoyed baseball all my life, I have played baseball all my life. I think it should be privately-funded. I don’t think it should be built on the taxpayer’s back.”

Three Republicans and three Democrats are running for the three open seats on the commission.  Voters will decide in November who will fill those seats.