Two of the three candidates seeking the Ward 2 Position 1 seat on the Fayetteville City Council participated in a candidate forum Tuesday night.
Current alderman and vice mayor Mark Kinion faced off against challenger Robert Patton in front of about a dozen people in an hour-long question-and-answer-style forum moderated by Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce president Steve Clark. A third candidate in Ward 2 – Joshua Crawford – was not in attendance.
Voter registration for the Nov. 4 general election runs through Oct. 6. Early voting begins Oct. 20.
Here’s how the candidates addressed some of the issues posed by attendees Tuesday night.
Ward meetings and accessibility
Ward 2 resident Dustin Seaton, who is listed as the media contact for Patton’s campaign, asked how the candidates would make themselves available to constituents if elected.
Alderman Kinion said he is accessible by phone and email, and regularly responds to and interacts with constituents.
“We live in an age of technology,” said Kinion. “I am available always, and that is how people primarily communicate with me and I do get back with them.”
Kinion said regular meetings in Ward 2 have not been well attended in the past, but if residents requested a ward meeting to discuss a specific issue, he would host a meeting.
Patton said accessibility has been key to his career as a physician.
“I pride myself on being not only accessible, but approachable,” Patton said, and added he’d like to see regular meetings return to Ward 2.
Noise ordinance and Bikes, Blues & BBQ
Local resident Marvin Hilton asked about motorcycles, and whether the candidates thought they should get special exemptions from the city’s noise ordinance. He also asked about enforcement of the ordinance.
Kinion said there is a noise ordinance in place in Fayetteville, and that the law is complaint driven. Enforcement, he said, is possible only if someone is there to measure the decibels.
He said motorcycles should not be given special treatment in regards to the noise ordinance.
Patton agreed and said be believes there is inconsistency in enforcement, especially during the annual Bikes, Blues & BBQ rally.
“I was in town for (the rally) this year,” he said. “Ninety decibels of noise is the pain threshold, and there were a couple of times (during the rally) I had pain in my ears.”
Patton said he’d like to take a closer look at the economic impact of the rally.
Kinion said despite some of the inconveniences of the rally, the good outweighs the bad.
“It is uncomfortable,” he said. “I live down there, and I do see that it has benefit to the community, even despite all of its inconvenience.”
“But, it’s here,” he said. “What are we going to do? Pass a law that says you can’t do this festival that so many charities are getting income from?”
One resident asked Patton what he would bring to the council that’s different from what his opponent offers.
Patton cited the controversial ordinance that would have banned smoking in Fayetteville bars as one area where he would have done things differently.
“I did not believe that this city should carve out areas where people can smoke knowing what a terrifically damaging public heath issue it is,” Patton said.
Kinion was one of three Fayetteville alderman to vote against the smoking ban, a measure that fell one vote short of the six needed to pass.
He defended his vote, and said he was concerned with the impact the ban could’ve had on local businesses.
“Most of these bars are in Ward 2, and I did a great deal of research with the owners of the businesses,” Kinion said. “They felt like it would inhibit them as business managers.”
The candidates were asked what could be done to attract businesses to several vacant properties along College Avenue.
Patton said builders have no incentive to develop along College Avenue, and that he believes it’s easier for businesses to set up in dilapidated buildings than to create new developments.
He also said he’s concerned about the lack of walkability in the area.
“The fact is, you can’t walk north down College Avenue safely,” said Patton.
Kinion said the city has a plan in place for College Avenue.
“We are working on this,” he said. “We started the Midtown Association, and that is going to expand into an identity. It’s going to join the downtown to the uptown, and give the opportunity for growth.”
He said the next stretch to be improved – from North to Sycamore streets – has some topographical and infrastructural challenges, but he’s confident the improvements will happen, and that they will help the struggling section of town.
“I am very optimistic about it,” he said. “I think that we will see changes that are positive in that area.”
Civil Rights Administrator ordinance
Fayetteville resident Tom Kennedy asked the candidates about their position on the controversial Civil Rights Administrator ordinance.
Kinion, who voted for the ordinance, said he stands by his position.
“I did support it,” Kinion said. “I believe it took political courage to do that.”
Patton didn’t specifically say he was against the ordinance, but did call it “a mess” in an anecdote about a conversation with a constituent.
“I don’t want people discriminated against,” said Patton. “But I read (the ordinance) as a lawyer, and it was ambivalent, and it was too broad.