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Politics

2019 Election: Charlotte City Council

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Charlotte City Council is a partisan race, and the field was narrowed down after a primary in September. Five candidates are running for four at-large seats. Districts 2, 4 and 6 are also contested.

AT-LARGE 

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Dimple Ajmera

DIMPLE AJMERA (Incumbent, Democrat)

What distinguishes you?

I am a consistent progressive voice ensuring City Council lifts up every resident of Charlotte no matter their ZIP code. I am an immigrant. I am a fighter. And vote my values, not special interests.

What ways would you encourage CMPD to work with the community to improve police/community relations?

1) Community policing. 2) Continuing to expand our youth programs to create cradle to career opportunities and a culture of respect. 3) Ensuring our officers are competitively paid so the we can continue to recruit and retain the best. 

How would you address the affordable housing crisis in Charlotte?

In my first term, I was proud to stand behind and pass a historic $50 million bond referendum. As one of the country's fastest growing cities, affordable housing will continue to be a pressing issue, especially for our lower-income workforce. I will continue to advocate for expanding access to affordable housing. 

What other quality of life issues do you see facing Charlotte residents and how would you address them?

1) The environment: Statistics prove this is a health issue that disparagingly impacts lower income families and communities. I will continue to work to implement the Strategic Energy Action Plan (SEAP) to reduce CO2 emissions and champion environmental initiatives including protecting tree canopies and green spaces. 2) Public Safety: Continue to work with the CMPD and community partners to help insure safer neighborhoods and schools. 

JULIE EISELT (incumbent, Democrat)

Julie Eiselt
Credit https://www.facebook.com/julie.j.eiselt
Julie Eiselt

What distinguishes you?

At such a pivotal time in Charlotte’s development, we need leaders on Council who understand how the City works and its role in the myriad processes that come together to move the city forward. Having nearly completed my second term on Council, and before that having work substantially with CMPD, the District Attorney’s office, and the City Council on a number of public-safety related initiatives, I have a deep and long-standing familiarity with city government, and a broad base of relationships on which to continue to build in order to form the kind of partnerships that we’ll need to adequately address the challenges the city is now facing. I am fortunate to enjoy a close working relationship with the Mayor, herself a career city administrator, and that partnership with her and my colleagues on Council has helped me facilitate a number of difficult conversations and tough decisions over the previous term.

What ways would you encourage CMPD to work with the community to improve police/community relations?

I created the vision for the JumpStart Microgrant Program to provide funding for neighborhood and grassroot organizations in amounts from $500 to $5000 for them to pilot their own, community-centered efforts to stop and prevent crime. When community members have the tools and the agency to make strides on their own, with the help but not the direction of CMPD and other City departments, the community ownership of crime prevention increases, and the neighborhood becomes more invested in proactive strategies that establish strong foundations for aculture of safety and cooperation. CMPD has been an active partner in this program, and I look forward to them continuing to be present and supportive of these community efforts.

How would you address the affordable housing crisis in Charlotte?

We need more tools than building more affordable housing units. Efficient public transit redefines what and where affordable housing can be. In developing the City’s Comprehensive Vision Plan, we are prioritizing density for mixed-income and multi-use communities along our public transit corridors. And while Charlotte certainly has a long way to go in expanding our affordable housing stock, there are other steps we can take to put current housing within the reach of struggling Charlotteans. The Workforce Development Program helps adults and young people who face significant barriers to employment, as well as connects long-term residents to the tools they need to remain as anchors of their communities. Charlotte can also work to ensure that the kinds of jobs we’re attracting with economic development efforts are those that will employ local residents, rather than import hundreds of positions to the region that are already filled, and only serve to further displace people from their neighborhoods.

What other quality of life issues do you see facing Charlotte residents and how would you address them?

The average one-way trip on a CATS bus takes 90 minutes, and hardworking Charlotteans deserve to have those hours back in their day. Before we can pour additional money into flashy new projects, we need to make sure that the transit systems we already have are working in the ways that they should be. By increasing the number of buses in the City’s fleet and optimizing routes, Charlotte can cut that average time down to 30 minutes, and expand the destinations easily accessible by public transit. This expansion must include better integration with the current and planned light rail corridors to make cross-town movement and access to Uptown and its array of services, jobs, and cultural opportunities more readily available to residents. And any modern transit network must Include safe and accessible pedestrian and bicycle transit options, as well as smart assimilation of new micro-transit technologies.

JOSHUA RICHARDSON (Republican)

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Joshua Richardson

What distinguishes you?

I am a generation z black conservative. There are no ways differently that I stand out, and I have a very diverse view of our community. I bring youth, and a non political view of our city. I am not some one brought or paid for by the usual political machines which means my entire focus is the people. 

What ways would you encourage CMPD to work with the community to improve police/community relations?

We need to ensure all divisions have a plan and resources to work in the community to reduce crime. Educating citizens and ensuring we are meeting with them is key to addressing our issues. Also, promoting officers that have a community interest and want to work on the street level. 

How would you address the affordable housing crisis in Charlotte?

We need to work on action to reduce the market rate at the local level. If our price of rent continues to drive upward it will be ever chasing the market to bring rent back into line. We need to purchase some properties to provide competition, and reform our CHA payments so the people in the most need are getting served along with encouraging companies to do better through contracts. 

What other quality of life issues do you see facing Charlotte residents and how would you address them?

Our code enforcement needs reform, we need to ensure a diverse job market, and the civic/educational assets need investments. We need to ensure we have a comprehensive city that has networks for growth of people and they have environmentally safe and equitable place to live in. We also need to work on zoning to address our traffic and often over crowing or lack of development issues. 

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Braxton Winston

BRAXTON WINSTON (incumbent, Democrat)

What distinguishes you?

I was born into a family that maintains a strong belief in the importance of public and civil service. I have a broad education background that is founded in strong public schooling as well as the expanded opportunities of private institutions. I come from a blue collar work background with experience in the non-profit world.

I prioritize exploring new models of engagement for communities who have historically been left out of the Charlotte decision-making process. I believe it is important to have an educated and informed citizenry to amplify and uplift voices from Charlotte’s most challenged communities.

What ways would you encourage CMPD to work with the community to improve police/community relations?

There are two buckets to look at: law-enforcement & crime prevention. CMPD is the City's door into our criminal justice system. They tell me that the system is broken because it is made up of different organizations that have competing interests. We need to do all that we can to create a new system based on restorative justice. The most important thing City Council can do is focus on enacting policy that aims to prevent crime. We know that crime is a function of the same policies that created Charlotte's wedge of affluence surrounded by a crescent of marginalized populations. We need to continue to work on long-term policies that disrupt the cycles of violence that grow out of systemic inequities. We must get to the root of our current source of violence which can largely be attributed to domestic disputes and the inability for individuals that often know each other to resolve petty conflicts without resorting to violence. The city must continue to lead in building our county-wide effort of family justice center(s) and change the paradigm for the way we offer help to survivors of domestic violence. We must continue to find innovative ways to support individuals and organizations who are doing work on the ground in our communities like we have done over the past two years with our micro-grant program. 

How would you address the affordable housing crisis in Charlotte?

The City should continue to build public-private partnerships in developing housing deals. Combining Housing Trust Fund Dollars with Charlotte Housing Opportunity Investment Fund dollars has leveraged public investment in ratios that some said was impossible just a few years ago. If we continue to combine public investment with market solutions, we will find ways to reduce costs of labor, increase access to transportation options, and locate housing near job centers amongst other barriers to affordability. 

What other quality of life issues do you see facing Charlotte residents and how would you address them?

The City needs to continue to prioritize investing in transportation infrastructure. Modernizing our street networks, bus lines, rail networks, and making sure neighborhoods are more walkable will spur economic development in the short and long term. I will continue to push for a strategy that guides staff to make decisions for Charlotte through an equity lens.

I will continue to advocate for changes within the way our organization (The City) handles business so we are better serving the people of Charlotte.

I will prioritize digital inclusion for all Charlotte residents. Through public-private partnerships we can transform Charlotte public spaces into internet-connected hotspots igniting entrepreneurship and creativity.

We have to maintain our commitment and adopt cross-cutting policies that guide our city to a carbon-free future.

JAMES 'SMUGGIE' MITCHELL (incumbent, Democrat) 
Awaiting reply. 

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DISTRICT 1

Larken Egleston
City of Charlotte
Larken Egleston

LARKEN EGLESTON (incumbent, Democrat, unopposed)

What distinguishes you?

It's been nearly two years since I was first elected by the residents of District 1, and the challenges we've faced since then have been immense. I've fought for more affordable housing, pushed for adaptive reuse projects to preserve our history while continuing development, championed green programs throughout the city, fought to have the Cross Charlotte Trail funded through our district, and stood up to protect women's reproductive rights. But I've also worked to get stop signs installed to protect pedestrians near Uptown, had petty fines for small businesses advertising on sandwich boards waived, and halted development projects that would've created more problems in our district's flood plains. We're moving the needle on the biggest issues, but I'm also working tirelessly to make sure the small things that matter get attention too.

What ways would you encourage CMPD to work with the community to improve police/community relations?

The current Council is, but must continue, prioritizing filling vacancies in CMPD, increasing Crisis Intervention/Mental Health Awareness training, and educating young people (young men in particular) on conflict resolution. While the long-term solution to crime will be creating opportunity for everyone in our community through education and good jobs, we must also address the critical safety needs we face in the present.

How would you address the affordable housing crisis in Charlotte?

During my current term on council, we have made big strides on changing the way our city is addressing the affordable housing crisis. We have greatly accelerated our progress on both building new affordable units and preserving existing affordable units. We have also created an "Aging in Place” program to prevent displacement of low-income, senior homeowners. We must continue this momentum going into the next term. 

What other quality of life issues do you see facing Charlotte residents and how would you address them?

Transportation – During my time on council we have opened another portion of our light-rail system, changed our bus system to decrease ride times for most of our riders, increased spending on infrastructure to improve safety for pedestrians and cyclists and moved forward in the planning process for our next light rail line – the Silver Line from Matthews to the airport and Gaston County. With the rapid growth our city is experiencing, we must continue to be proactive in building out our public transit system so people have safe, reliable ways to move around our city.

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DISTRICT 2

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Jacob Robinson

JACOB ROBINSON (Republican)

What distinguishes you?

I am passionate about bringing real change to District 2 through the power of private/public partnership. Our mission is to connect District 2 with opportunity. We’re on this mission because some of the most foundational elements of everyday life that exist in many other parts of Charlotte simply do not exist in District 2. These are things like access to fresh and affordable food, reliable and quick transportation, and quality affordable housing. I will work to change that. As a conservative I believe in low taxes and a balanced budget. I also believe that we have a duty to care for the most vulnerable in our community and that all children deserve an equal shot at life. Simply put I believe in compassionate conservatism.

What ways would you encourage CMPD to work with the community to improve police/community relations?

CMPD must continue to pursue and expand its community policing efforts. This includes efforts like Cops and Barbers which have been a large success. Community policing can change the way a generation interacts with and views the police, but it takes time to pay large dividends. In the meantime, we must continue to build trust within the community. Police must be trained in de-escalation and use of force. Every time we have questionable police involved shooting, trust from the public is eroded. Finally, in the interest of public safety we must hire more police and pay them a competitive wage. Safety for our community members is critical and we cannot fulfill that obligation with an underpaid and understaffed police force.

How would you address the affordable housing crisis in Charlotte?

The affordable housing crisis in Charlotte can partially be solved through private/public funding initiatives. We’ve seen the success of this over the years with major corporations pledging money to build affordable housing. Having money to build affordable housing doesn’t do much if we don’t have a re-zoning process that works swiftly to free up land for development. We must streamline our re-zoning process. Finally, we must use the mechanisms we have at our city’s disposal to encourage the creation of mixed-use and mixed-income housing. 

What other quality of life issues do you see facing Charlotte residents and how would you address them?

Public transportation infrastructure is one of the largest issues facing Charlotte, especially in District 2. Quick and affordable transportation solutions allow individuals who are normally confined to specific zip codes the ability to work and live in different parts of Charlotte. The average bus ride in Charlotte is currently 90 minutes. This is not acceptable. If we are going to grow into an international city, we must continue to build our network of light rail that is supplemented by bus. Other quality of life issues specific to District 2 include the fact that many of our community members live in food deserts. As a city we must fight this and provide solutions to our community members that give them access to grocery stores.

MALCOLM GRAHAM (Democrat)

Awaiting reply.

 

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DISTRICT 3

VICTORIA WATLINGTON (Democrat, unopposed)

​Awaiting reply.

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DISTRICT 4

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Renee' Perkins Johnson

RENEE' PERKINS JOHNSON (Democrat)

What distinguishes you?

My public service experience. I have 30 years’ experience in serving others, including 16 years in providing housing solutions for homeless women and/or families seeking affordable and transitional housing. Additionally, as a former licensed Realtor, I also understand real estate and development. So I'm able to balance the appreciation for market growth, while advocating for those who may be negatively affected by it. Currently, I serve as CEO of Triumph Services, a Non-Profit advocacy organization, that provides services and resources for survivors of trauma, including but not limited to brain injury.

What ways would you encourage CMPD to work with the community to improve police/community relations?

By continued support of CMPD Leadership and their current Community Engagement initiatives. I would sit down with Officers and with the community to listen to their concerns, encourage transparency by all, and bridge any gaps. Work is already being done by CMPD to improve community relations, thus it is Council's duty to remove barriers and create policies that enable them to optimally serve the community.

How would you address the affordable housing crisis in Charlotte?

By advocating for additional public funding, corporate collaboration and landlord/developer involvement. I would also support creative incentives for developers and landlords that provide equitable housing solutions.

What other quality of life issues do you see facing Charlotte residents and how would you address them?

District 4 is one of the fastest growing areas in the Nation. Consequently, traffic, transportation, infrastructure, and public & pedestrian safety are all quality of life issues in our District. The lack of upward mobility and quality education are also challenges in the City. In order to resolve these issues, I plan to bring my experience in problem solving and public policy to work collaboratively with Council, Developers, Community Leaders, Residents and Subject Matter Experts in order to develop informed and creative solutions that will benefit our City. 

BRANDON PIERCE (Republican)

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Brandon Pierce

What distinguishes you?

I have been involved in the community and in politics on both sides for a long time and the one thing I realized is Charlotte has a lot of politicians but not a lot of policy makers. I think the way to uplift our community is through policy not politics. I have a vision with tangible solutions to match.

What ways would you encourage CMPD to work with the community to improve police/community relations?
1. We have to attract and retain more officers. It's no secret that we have a shortage in officers. But what does not often get mentioned is the negative consequences of having a shortage in officers such as training, focus, productivity and more. Our budget should reflect a nation leader in terms of pay and benefits for our officers.

  1. After doing the above, we are now in a position to lobby for monthly (yes I said monthly) Crisis Intervention Training for our officers to make sure that they are proficient in de-escalation tactics.
  2. I believe that once we have adequately staffed our Police Department we now have to deploy them differently. I think the community and officers are both at their best when our officers are members of the community and connected. We can achieve this by focusing on foot patrol officers.
  3. I support subpoena power for the Citizens Review Board.

How would you address the affordable housing crisis in Charlotte?
1. We have to get innovative with our zoning. Right now a lot of our land especially in my district is in such a restrictive form of zoning that there is really no sound options for affordable housing. In order to address this we need to ensure that in the UDO we invest in community land trusts and stay away from restrictive zoning.

  1. We have to support diverse price point housing. Affordable housing has really been used as a buzz word in 2019. What we really need is housing at every price point. This can be attained by investing more in mixed developments and continually utilizing public private partnership.
  2. With a close to 30,000 shortage in units needed we know we can't build our way out of affordable housing so instead of focusing on how to bring the cost of homes down, we need to start looking at how to bring our citizens wages up.
  3. Charlotte families don't dream of making it to low-income apartments. They dream about owning their own home and building wealth. If places like New York can invest in ownership amongst apartment and condo residents, Charlotte needs to as well.

What other quality of life issues do you see facing Charlotte residents and how would you address them?
The biggest issue is creating sustainable communities. And sustainability is not just an eco-friendly buzzword. A sustainable Charlotte is one that secures the elements of opportunity from generation to generation — safe transportation, a clean environment, and jobs. I think the most important of these is economic opportunity. Our city’s current development boom is not lifting everyone at the same pace. Charlotte is too often a tale of two cities, and it’s time for that story to end. We can achieve this by:

  1. Returning the City Council’s focus to getting jobs for people in all parts of town and from all walks of life.
  2. Setting an example in city government by promoting employment among young people to help them build workforce skills and encourage private sector employers to hire at-risk youth. This solves an economic mobility issues as well as a public safety issue.
  3. I advocate that we support private-sector innovation in clean energy and environmental sustainability. This can be done by easing zoning rules or offering tax credits to developers choosing to invest in solar energy or other environmentally friendly options. And also investing in environmental initiatives like the “Innovation Barn” partnership with Envision Charlotte and UNC-Charlotte.

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DISTRICT 5

MATT NEWTON (Democrat, unopposed)

Awaiting reply.

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DISTRICT 6

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Gina Navarette

GINA NAVARRETE (Democrat)

What distinguishes you?

I believe that HOW WE GROW as a city is as important as HOW FAST WE GROW, and that city planning and development decisions we make today will have a profound impact on our future. We need to approach development and growth in an economic and environmentally sustainable manner and attract a variety of companies that bring a range of skilled and semi-skilled jobs. We must be prepared to provide a well-trained workforce by using CPCC, one of the top community colleges in the country. I will encourage development using environmentally sound policies.

As a neuropsychologist in private practice for over a decade, I know what it’s like to run a small business. As a mental health clinician, I advocated for patients with insurance companies and worked with legislators for mental-health parity. As the co-president of the Charlotte Women’s March, I understand the needs in our city and know how to advocate for marginalized communities. Building consensus & finding solutions has been a big part of my professional life. I will be accessible and listen to ALL District 6 constituents. I am committed to forging problem-solving partnerships with all parts of city, county and state government on your behalf.

What ways would you encourage CMPD to work with the community to improve police/community relations?

Police/Community relations are complex; they involve issues of race, poverty, mental health, and safety (for the public and officers). I believe there should be 3 basic tenets to any improvement in police/community relationships; transparency, mutual respect, and community safety.

  1. Transparency– Policies and how information is shared to the public needs to be communicated clearly, and plans should be shared with trusted community partners. Making demographic data (race, gender, and ethnicity) of both detained individuals and police officers involved should be easily accessible to the public.
  2. Mutual respect– can occur when police officers reflect their communities, thus, we must strive to have a gender, racial, and culturally diverse police force. CMPD should also reach out to grassroots organizations already working in the community so they have a collaborative approach to reaching out to out-risk youth.
  3. Community safety– involves officer training. I will expand and continue to invest in programs such as The Crisis Intervention Team. Being better equipped at assessing/responding to people in a mental health crisis makes officers and the public safer. Implicit bias training as well as increase stress-and-fear training are also crucial as they decrease the number of reaction errors and thus, improves overall safety.

How would you address the affordable housing crisis in Charlotte?

Despite millions of dollars on bonds passed, we continue to be nowhere close to resolving a deficit of 34,000 low-income housing units. This crisis does not exist in a vacuum. Stagnant wages, population growth, and rising property taxes exacerbate the problem. A third of Charlotte households spend more than 30% of their income on housing, leaving these families struggling to pay for other essentials. Thus, jobs that pay livable wages are efficient and affordable transportation to get to those jobs are crucial.

We must continue to use public and private funding to encourage developers to build new and renovate existing affordable housing. We must provide short-term aid to families in crisis. Without short-term assistance, displaced families like residents of Lake Arbor Apartments face potential homelessness.

We must also protect residents of older neighborhoods from increasing taxes due to gentrification. These communities must remain affordable for those residents. Assistance with property taxes for elderly and fixed-income residents in one way to mitigate gentrification.

Finally, City Council must allow sufficient time for input before approving projects, especially from those in need of affordable housing. Working together, we can make Charlotte a city where residents of all income levels can afford to live. 

What other quality of life issues do you see facing Charlotte residents and how would you address them?

Challenges affecting quality of life issues for many of our residents include:

  1. Food deserts continue to be a significant problem in Charlotte. One possible solution is to provide incentives to large chains that open stores in needed areas. Smaller privately-owned stores can also be encouraged into these areas using micro-loans. Public and privately raised funds can facilitate community gardens, possibly incorporating into schools and making children – specially the younger ones – become more accustomed to incorporating fruits/vegetables in their daily diet.
  2. Charlotte needs more accessible parks, especially parks that are within walking distance from residents’ homes. Again, public and privately raised funds could increase the number of parks in our city, improving health and overall quality of life.
  3. It takes the average bus rider in Charlotte 90 minutes to commute to work. This is not sustainable long term, and it significantly impacts a person’s quality of life on a daily basis. I am committed to continue to invest in efficient and affordable mass transit as well as providing walkable areas with green spaces. Mass transit will need to accommodate a multi-modal system that is easily used and accessible, and that it includes pedestrian friendly streets and safe bicycle lanes.

TARIQ SCOTT BOKHARI (incumbent, Republican)

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Credit https://www.facebook.com/tariq.s.bokhari
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https://www.facebook.com/tariq.s.bokhari
Tariq Scott Bokhari

What distinguishes you?

A track record of executing behind the scenes and getting results. Staying true to my principles while working across the aisle professionally.

What ways would you encourage CMPD to work with the community to improve police/community relations?

I’d continue to promote the great bridging the divide forums we have been doing for the last year. And I focus more on conflict resolution. 

How would you address the affordable housing crisis in Charlotte?

We’ve already done a significant amount of work, but we need to be more creative with how we deploy the housing trust dollars. What’s more, we need to focus on workforce development. That will make for sustainable change in upward mobility. 

What other quality of life issues do you see facing Charlotte residents and how would you address them?

Traffic is out of control, and our homicide rate is very bad. We need to get back to these basics and solve for them.

 

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DISTRICT 7

ED DRIGGS (incumbent, Republican, unopposed)
Awaiting reply.

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