10/07/07 — Mayoral hopefuls battling for spots

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Mayoral hopefuls battling for spots

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on October 7, 2007 2:42 AM

Goldsboro voters will decide Tuesday who will battle for the chance to represent them in the mayor's office this fall.

Three candidates will be vying for the two open spots on the ballot.

Voters will decide which two when the polls officially open Tuesday. Early voting -- already in progress -- will end Tuesday as well.

Incumbent Mayor Al King will run for the office again, and this time, he will compete with two opponents in the primary cycle -- D.A. Stuart and G.L. Minchew.

King said his experiece and approach make him different from his opponents.

"Don't put me in a group with the other candidates," he said. "I don't think like them."

One of those areas is his continued determination to keep the city moving forward, he said.

King said he reamins committed to downtown revitalization, city hall renovation and the Paramount Theatre reconstruction.

He added that he has heard some criticism of his and the Goldsboro City Council's decision to use some of city taxpayers' money to pay for improvements to the downtown area. It is a stance he still stands firmly behind.

"I say to those people -- they need to really back up and take a look at what we're paying for," he said. "I always say that there are two things that are necessary in a city -- water and sewer, and I'm not sure if everyone would even agree that we need those. Other than that, nothing is going to be used by 100 percent of the citizens. Not everyone swims, so they don't want a swimming pool. Just because they don't something, it doesn't mean we don't need it as a city."

He said he is pushing on toward what he sees as Goldsboro's bright future -- and added that even he is amazed at the progress that has been made to this point.

"I still think of all that has been done and say, 'Wow,'" King said. "It's been absolutely spectacular. The dedication of the train station, I saw that maybe 10 or 15 years down the road as sort of the last piece of the puzzle, and we will see it done in a few years. It's going to be beyond anything I ever expected."

He believes in what the city is doing, he said, and he hopes others will be able to believe in the revitalization efforts, too.

"There are people who come up, and they will say, 'I don't understand why you're putting all that money into that building. It isn't worth it,'" he said. "What are we supposed to do, bulldoze it? I don't think so."

History has purpose, and he said he wants to keep as much of it in Goldsboro as he can, starting with the old city hall.

"That building has served us for 100 years," King said. "It's things like that. They make me feel I should stick around."

For him, leaving in the middle of a project is difficult.

"We have a lot of irons in the fire, a lot of projects going on," he said. "These projects are long-term, and they have taken lots of planning, thought and commitment."

His decision to run again stems from that commitment to be a force in seeing efforts to foster improvement in the city through to the end.

"If I don't run, I'm turning my back on that, and I won't," he said. "I realized I just can't walk away from this city."

He added that there are problems the city needs to overcome, and violence is one of them.

Gangs and drugs must be dealt with, he added.

"I don't know if our city is better or worse than any other city, but crime is definitely a problem that we are working on," he said. "The police department is catching crooks and putting them in jail. We are catching criminals. There's no doubt about it."

Challenger D.A. Stuart agrees that there are gangs in Goldsboro, but he said, if the police force was up to par on staff numbers, the department wouldn't be stretched as thin -- and there would be more progress in ending the crime problems.

"If we get our police department up to full strength, we can have some officers specifically aimed toward driving down gang crimes," he said. "We are short on police officers, the last time I checked, we were 20 officers down."

All too often, officers go to Wilson or Johnston counties for more money, he added, and Goldsboro is not replacing them as fast as they are leaving.

By giving the officers, and even emergency services personnel, more money, Stuart said he feels the shortage will decrease.

"We need to keep them here by paying them what they are worth," he said. "In order to keep the status quo the way it should be, we need to give them what they deserve."

If elected, he wants to supply police officers and EMS workers with annual cost of living raises and additional merit pay for each specialty certificate they receive.

"We need to take care of our employees first before we can take on more," he said. "We can't even take care of our city first."

Stuart said he disagrees with some of the city's progress.

"They are making it look like they are going in the right direction," he said. "There are some good things that are happening; there are some bad things; and there are some in the middle."

He considers reconstruction of the Paramount Theatre an example of one of those worthwhile endeavors.

"I think the Paramount is a great thing," he said. "I give David Weil great accommodations on what he is doing, and I hope he can continue to do it."

He is afraid that the revitalization downtown might be overkill, he said.

"We have nine multi-million dollar projects that we are doing, and we don't have money to do that," he said. "We are paying a little too much attention to the downtown -- although some attention is necessary -- but our leaders need to realize that residents in other areas in the city are important also. We need to get businesses downtown, but we can't just put everything downtown and forget about everything else. Everything needs to be equal."

If he is elected mayor, Stuart said he plans to take a deep breath and a step back and then "establish a platform of sensible solutions" to the city's problems.

"We need to stop the wasteful spending immediately," he said. "We need to prioritize the funding in programs that truly address the city. We need to drop the annexation -- drop it right cold. We won't get any money back for 40 years. We can't afford it. There is no money in the budget. We need to entice new businesses to come here with the rail line coming in. We can be a hub for industrialization."

Candidate G.L. Minchew said he wants to see the city at its best, too, but he doesn't want to destroy its history.

"The old buildings downtown should be fixed up and can be used," he said. "Naturally, you want to keep everything modernized to keep people in it, but preserve the history."

His real priority is the youths of the city, he said, and he wants to provide them with more activities.

"I think taxpayer money can be aimed toward the youth of the community instead," he said. "The youth needs to be taken care of. They need a good place to go. The Boys and Girls Club is about what they have."

He added that if there are more places where they can go and socialize, teenagers won't have to do it on the streets.

"If you have a place for young people, they will have things to do instead of being involved with crimes, with gangs," he said. "I think the crime stems from a lot of that."

He said his plan, if elected, will not be based on just his own opinions.

"My plan for the city is what everybody wants," he said.

And he admits, he can't do it himself.

"One person can't do it alone," he said. "There has got to be teamwork. You have got to be where everyone trusts each other to do what we need to do."

His priority at the end of the day is people, he said.

"I'm a people type person," he said. "The only thing we can do is all work together. That's it. I think that is what the community needs more of -- working together."