Wilmington mayoral candidates dominated by longtime politicians
Two longtime Wilmington politicians are vying for Wilmington town hall.
Harper Peterson, former state senator and mayor of Wilmington, challenges incumbent Bill Saffo for his post.
Saffo is currently serving his sixth term as mayor and was first elected to Wilmington City Council in 2003. Peterson was Mayor of Wilmington from 2001 to 2003. He also served on Wilmington City Council from 1995 to 1999 .
Previous reports:Harper Peterson runs for Wilmington mayor, challenges Bill Saffo
Peterson served a term in the North Carolina State Senate, representing District 9.
This year, the mayor of Wilmington is expected to receive a stipend of $ 19,035.
New Hanover County voters have three options to vote in this year’s municipal election. Residents can vote before polling day by sending a mail ballot or voting during the one-stop-shop or early voting period, which begins October 14 and ends October 30.
Voters can also vote on polling day, which is November 2.
- Age: 72
- Address: 211, rue Orange
- Occupation: Partner in several local businesses
- Family: Married with five children and two grandchildren
- Education: Graduated from University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Member of the Order of the Golden Fleece
- Political affiliation: Democrat
- Age: 61
- Address: 3705A Cour Reston
- Profession: broker
- Family: did not answer
- Education: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington
- Political affiliation: Democrat
What are your goals as mayor and how will you achieve them?
Peterson: The status quo is broken. Accelerated development has overtaken our ability to protect our water resources and our lands, our neighborhoods and our sense of belonging. Wilmington is in the crosshairs of the climate crisis. We face increasingly severe storms that threaten our homes, infrastructure and economy. We have a serious shortage of affordable housing and a subset of residents who are missing out on the prosperity and growth our region enjoys. I will focus my efforts on rewarding responsible growth, building resilience and sustainability in our physical environment and infrastructure. I will create a Department of Environment and Sustainable Development to identify, interpret and communicate environmental challenges and necessary actions. I will create the Cape Fear Youth Conservation Corp to plant and maintain 10,000 native trees over 5 years, learn landscaping and erosion prevention, park maintenance, work with residential weatherization initiatives, help collecting data for local environmental associations and promoting environmental awareness.
Saffo: My goals are to continue to advance Wilmington City Council initiatives. More specifically, I would like to see: Additional support for our police service which combats crime on a daily basis and makes our city safe; the implementation of the new land use planning code, which was created with the help of many citizens and describes what the city will look like over the next 40 years and includes more walking and protection of our environment, including including the canopy of trees; create more affordable housing opportunities by encouraging and working with private developers; and continue to create jobs and employment opportunities for the citizens of our community. I also want to continue to support our cinema grant which has produced hundreds of cinema related jobs in our community. To achieve these goals, I will continue to work as a consensus builder to get things done.
What steps would you take to address and reduce gun violence in Wilmington?
Peterson: The status quo is broken. While I fully support the strong leadership of Wilmington Police Department Chief Donny Williams, his focus on staffing, training, technology and interagency coordination to keep our community safe, we simply cannot stop to get out of gun violence. A lack of investment in our children in underserved neighborhoods has led to this crisis. Research shows that meeting people’s basic needs reduces community violence. Investing in our children from birth – including affordable housing, access to health care, quality nutrition and education, decent-paying jobs – will lead our children to find refuge not in gangs but at school, in the family and in the community. The solution to crime is a strong social safety net in childhood and a paycheck in adulthood. We are fortunate to have adequate financial resources in our community, as well as dozens of nonprofits that are already doing the work. They can help show the way forward.
Saffo: The crime knows no jurisdiction. Through coordination with law enforcement at federal, state and municipal levels, we are joining forces and creating a unified gang task force, investing money in cutting edge technology, increasing our uniform presence in high crime areas, working with the state legislature on a gang injunction law and funding our police department to provide all the tools necessary to protect our community.
What steps will you take to make affordable housing more accessible to residents of Wilmington?
Peterson: We have talked for too long, hampered opportunity after opportunity, and now faced with a spiraling housing costs and dwindling land. Now is the time for concerted public / private action using all the tools at our disposal. We are told that there is a deficit of 10,700 affordable housing units. If we do not address this crisis effectively, working class people will be forced out of our city and we will face the repercussions of worker shortages and increased traffic. My focus will be on the following: 1.a strong land trust mobilizing public and private funds to effectively remove land costs from the equation 2.maximum use of state tax credits for developments affordable, 3.Incentives for new housing at market value projects should include 10% to 20% affordable units, and 4.Establish a living wage so that hardworking people can afford adequate housing without sacrifice family time and basic needs, or work two or three jobs.
Saffo: I have always supported the city’s affordable housing program. Affordable housing is essential to being a great city and this community has been a priority for city council for many years. The council and I have made affordable housing one of our top priorities and made a historic investment in affordable housing to the tune of $ 5.2 million in this year’s budget. These funds will support and expand our affordable housing programs, including the Home Ownership Program and the Home Rehabilitation Incentive Loan program as well as the Rent Assistance Program. In addition, the city has invested $ 17.8 million in affordable housing over the past 10 years.
What approach do you think Wilmington should take when assessing new developments and zoning changes?
Peterson: We must stop throwing gasoline on the growth fire. Rezoning and special purpose applications should not be the norm and must demonstrably demonstrate that such changes will protect surrounding neighborhoods and natural resources. Updating the Land Use Planning Code is a good start. We must continually update these guidelines to deal with the effects of extreme storms and damaging floods and to include infrastructure that will improve walking, cycling and public transport, thereby reducing traffic and pollution. Non-discretionary enforcement of ordinances as well as strict and clear penalties for violations, such as tree felling and runoff pollution, are essential.
Saffo: For the first time in four decades, the city is rewriting its regional planning code. The city code dates back to the 1980s at a time when there were different patterns and practices of land use. Today, Wilmington faces different challenges and the new code addresses them. This new land use planning code was developed over four years and included many contributions from thousands of residents, environmental groups, local businesses and neighborhoods. It reduces sprawl by encouraging redevelopment of vacant land and locates housing closer to retail services, reducing the need to drive on our major highways. The code also prioritizes tree preservation, encourages on-site stormwater management, and locates buildings closer to roads to create a sense of place and improve the ability to walk.
What makes you the best candidate for mayor of Wilmington?
Peterson: The status quo does not work. I am committed to bringing actions and real solutions to the problems that have only been lip service for years. Even if we become a big city, we are still basically a city of neighbors and neighborhoods. I’m not afraid to say “no” to bad development. I will focus on protecting what we have and building what we need as we face the challenges of our new growth and prosperity so that all of Wilmington benefits. I bring a 30 year perspective on the politics and dynamics of the city we love. With so many challenges – COVID-19, climate change, extreme pressures on resilience and sustainability, polluted water – I think we need bold new ideas and fearless decision-making. I’m ready.
Saffo: I am honored to serve as the mayor of this great city. I learned very quickly that to accomplish anything in government, as well as in life, people have to work together. Collaborative efforts, hard work and determination have allowed us to make Wilmington a better place to live. The work is hard and challenging, but I think it is the ultimate gift I can give to my hometown and I want to continue to be your mayor. My resolution is to make this city not only a better city, but the best city. Please help me move Wilmington forward for the next two years. Together, we get things done!
Journalist Emma Dill can be reached at 910-343-2096 or [email protected]