This November, voters will choose from eight candidates to fill three open seats on Wilmington City Council. At the candidate forum hosted by Residents of Old Wilmington and the Downtown Business Alliance, the candidates discussed local transportation issues.
Alvin Rogers has served on the Wilmington Planning Commission. He remembers when Oleander Drive was just a two lane road, and he thinks transportation has become a problem throughout Wilmington.
Alvin Rogers: "Independence does need to be extended. As far as elevated over Market Street, I think that has potential. They had talked about an elevated roadway down through there, and I have problems with it, but with the problems we have on Market Street, I think the overpass would be good."
John Presswood, a real estate agent, serves on the City’s Board of Adjustment. He supports the extension of Independence Blvd, with an overpass running above Market Street.
John Presswood: "The reason why I do is because the state’s willing to pay for it. If the city has to pay for a road similar to that, then it may not get done for another 20 or 30 years, and I think we need to complete the road. It’s 1.7 miles from the Covil Avenue section to basically connect Independence Blvd to Martin Luther King. It needs to be connected. We need to get traffic moving through here. I don't think tourists are going to stop coming here, and I don't want them to, so we need to make this smooth. We need to have another North-South directional road."
Paul Lawler is an accountant who serves on the City's Comprehensive Plan committee.
Paul Lawler: "I do not support that superstructure on Covil Avenue. This gets back to the question of how we treat our neighborhoods. Expanding that would divide that neighborhood. I lived in Chicago for a while, and I was not too far from the Kennedy Expressway. Even though that was open, you could walk under it, it divided the two sides. They were very separate neighborhoods on either side of that expressway. Putting this big road there would divide that neighborhood. We don’t need that. I think there’s much better uses for that 150 million dollars."
Margaret Haynes was first appointed to Wilmington City Council in 2009. She now serves as Mayor Pro-Tem and says the best hope of relieving traffic congestion is moving the rail line.
Margaret Haynes: "Maybe if, down the road, in a few years, we could get the train moved, that train track moved to 421, which would not be going through any residential areas, it would be going through an industrial area, that might help significantly with the truck traffic coming out of the Port."
Deb Hays is a Wilmington Housing Authority Commissioner. She currently serves on the Steering Committee for the City of Wilmington Comprehensive Plan.
Deb Hays: "It’s about connectivity. It's about walkability. It’s about, it's about livability and making our seniors and all of our residents able to function. One of those ideas was taking the old rail line that goes around the city, that will turn that into a trolley line and also have some green space."
Frank Madonna, a Navy veteran, retired to Wilmington after working in the telecommunications industry. He responds to a question from a concerned citizen:
Citizen: "How are we going to handle the already congested roads that we have currently?"
Frank Madonna: "I have no idea."
Jon Evans: "Thank you."
Frank Madonna: "Actually, that’s one of the reasons why I’m running. You know, there a number of projects that are in front of the council and that have been approved by the council that really make me scratch my head. One of them is Middle Sound Loop and 17, where there’s a five minute delay on the light there now and now we’re going to put another big shopping center in there."
Current councilmember Neil Anderson, who is also running, was absent from the forum.
At a recent candidate forum hosted by Residents of Old Wilmington and the Downtown Business Alliance, one council hopeful proposed changes to the city’s budget.
Hollis Briggs, Jr. is the regional marketing director and field investigator for the Kellum Law Firm. He also serves on the Battleship Commission and Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Committee. He says less city funding should go towards the Wilmington Police Department. Instead of targeting gang violence, he proposes reallocating the money for recreational activities and centers.
Hollis Briggs, Jr.: "I think that we are not spending the money properly on our children, and we’re preparing them for prison, rather than preparing them for some recreation activities. So we’re a little low on that."
Briggs says he also wants the city to focus more funds toward bringing industry to Wilmington. He says high tech jobs are good, but industry will serve the city better.