11/01/07 — Two who want to lead Goldsboro share thoughts on future, each other

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Two who want to lead Goldsboro share thoughts on future, each other

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on November 1, 2007 2:11 PM

Two men want to lead Goldsboro for the next four years.

One is an incumbent, while the other is a new challenger.

And already, fireworks have begun.

Mayoral candidate D.A. Stuart believes he is the man for the job.

He said incumbent Mayor Al King is thinking more about retirement than his city seat, ready to fly around the world with his son, drive fast cars and golf.

King said that retirement is an idea he will consider someday, but that he can't give up a city he loves serving for a few trips around the globe.

And King said he resents the implication by Stuart, which he says was taken out of context from articles done in The News-Argus about his time in office and plans for the future.

"I have no intention, no intention, if elected to resign this office," King said.

Recent progress in Goldsboro and some exciting new projects in the works, as well as the rapport he has with city leaders and employees, are what will keep him in the mayor's office if residents decide they want him to stay.

And if Stuart thinks otherwise, he is wrong, King said.

"Anyone that thinks I would walk out on these people is out of their ever-loving mind," he said. "If you know me, there's no question. Read my lips: 'I don't play with this job. This is for real.'"

King said he was flabbergasted that some would believe he would just up and leave -- or that he was not committed to serving as Goldsboro's mayor.

"Some people make things up, but I'm here because I have a commitment," he said.

And that commitment, along with determination, will make him succeed even when people tell him he can't, he added.

"What motivates me more than anything is when people say, 'You can't do that,'" King said. "That makes me want to work harder, always has. As a matter of fact, four years from now, it's entirely possible that my name will be on the ballot again."

For Stuart, he said he knew he wanted to run for the office four years ago.

That desire was reinforced, he said, when he started talking to residents about how they thought the city was progressing.

Many, Stuart said, said it was going in the wrong direction.

He decided to work to fix that perception.

"It's like the Panasonic commercial with the people playing golf, and they can't see the ball," he said. "I can see it. Let me in there. I can find the ball for you."

He sticks by the comments he has made about his outlook on the city.

"I have a tendency to step on people's toes," he said. "I like to shoot from the hip. I don't consider myself throwing mud. I've done the research. I have not put anything in writing that I don't sincerely believe."

That means he sticks by what he has said about King, he said.

"People do need to get their facts straight. It's just what facts are they looking at. I'm very confident in what I'm saying," Stuart said.

Both candidates are striving to make the city better, and although their destination is the same, they have two completely different sets of directions to get there.

King's top three concerns for the city are water, the downtown area and community involvement.

The reason water is his top priority is because it is a necessity.

"If we don't have water, we don't have a city," he said. "And the problems that we are having with the drought are not going away. It's going to be with us for a long time."

Once the water situation is taken care of, the next step is to continue to follow the downtown master plan, King said.

"Some people think that we have paid too much attention to downtown," he said. "Well, guess what, the downtown area needed attention. It hasn't been getting it for years. The downtown is the heart and soul of your city. If your downtown dies, your city dies."

But the City Council has not just focused all of its efforts on the downtown area, King said.

"We can multitask, and that's what we have been doing," he said, adding that other areas have been helped by the council's efforts.

One of those is the Central Heights community, he said. Residents there joined together to ask for help from the city to clean up their neighborhood.

"We met with them a few times," King said. "They gave us a list of things that they needed done, and we helped them. We repaired roads, put up lights. I tell people that the difficult we do immediately. The impossible takes a little longer."

Not every community will have the success that the Central Heights community has had, he said, but if each does half as much as they did, the whole city would be better off.

King expects that an increase in community involvement will lead to a decrease in crime.

To stop crime altogether, he said people have to stop committing crimes, and to stop that criminal activity, the police department needs help.

And yes, he admits, there are many crimes daily, but "there are a lot of criminals being caught every day, too."

Gangs have increased, but there has been more of an effort and attention given to gang activity and identification of who they are and what they do, King said.

"Law enforcement knows more now about the gangs. They have gang specialists who know their graffiti and know their colors," he said "It is a problem we've really got to watch, and we are. Crime will always be in the forefront.

"It's not going away, but it happens everywhere. We aren't alone."

The police are busy, he said, as evidenced by hundreds of pages of police reports he receives frequently.

"I get reports that show the criminals they are catching," he said. "I can take my hat off to them. They are doing their jobs."

The secret ingredient to the recipe of ending crime is getting more people involved.

"It takes a community to help a community," he said. "People are identifying and reporting problems and suspicious activity."

King knows that people are sometimes scared to report illegal activity, and they should be, he said.

"Criminals can be vicious. But, they need to know they have someone other than the police to come to. And that's us, the city government. We will not divulge their names. They will be protected. This system is working. We've just got to do more of that."

The success of that system takes everyone, and the more people, the better, he said.

"We all have to do our share including us as a city government, and I think we've done that," he said.

Goldsboro's growth is also high on King's list, and the best way to help the city grow is through annexation, he said.

"I'm a believer of annexation. North Carolina is a believer of it. Businesses are believers," he said. "When Wal-Mart was built, they and people who owned property around it came to us and asked to be annexed. If annexation is so bad, why would people continue to come to the city to ask to be in the city limits?"

King said he believes annexation is a positive step because it allows those who do not live inside the city limits to use its services. If one person is paying for the services, then all of the people who use the services should pay, too.

"I use this saying, 'Don't sit on our porch because we may just invite you in,'" he said. "If people don't want to be annexed, then they should move. I'm not going to back off of this one bit."

He just wants to make sure Goldsboro doesn't grow too much too fast, he said.

King said he will continue to lead the city the way he always has.

"It's simple. If it isn't good for the city, I don't do it. Once I make my mind up on that, it's easy," he said.

King's opponent has a different opinion on how the city should be run.

"I'm a little discouraged with the way the City Council has been run," he said. "It's not about them. It's about Goldsboro."

His first priority, if elected, would be to increase law enforcement personnel and to add more specialized training.

If there are more policemen, there will, in turn, be less criminals, he said.

"We've had, what, our seventh shooting since April?" he said. "This is unacceptable. We are like 12 down from last year in violent crimes, but that's not good."

There needs to be a number of officers involved with gang prevention forces, and all of the officers need to earn increased salaries and receive merit pay, Stuart said.

"We need to give them the money they deserve," he said.

Stuart agrees with King that police are not the only ones who can stop crime. Citizen involvement is also a necessary step in the right direction.

"If you see something suspicious, call it in, even if it is a false alarm," he said.

Problem is, to him, the dispatch system is unorganized.

"The dispatchers are under one authority, and that's not under the sheriff's authority," he said. "It's under the county's authority. The sheriff needs to have control over the dispatchers and so do the police."

He said that there needs to be a full-time staff at the dispatch center because "we have a full-time crime situation in Goldsboro," he said. And the dispatchers also need to be properly trained and have law enforcement backgrounds, he added.

A former police officer, Stuart said he has called in suspicious activity before, giving the dispatcher the codes that officers use for crimes.

"They didn't even know what I was talking about," he said. "I was trying to tell them what was happening, and they wanted to ask me questions that had nothing to do with that."

He said they had a period of four minutes to get police officers to the scene before the criminals would leave, but because of the dispatchers not being properly trained, they didn't realize that time was an issue.

"While I was talking to them, a few minutes lapsed, and then when they told the police officers, they didn't allow for that time lapse," he said.

If more officers were hired and specially trained, the community got involved and the dispatch system was more organized, then, he said, crime would take a hit.

"In a few years, I'm hoping to see a city where our citizens can walk down the street without fear or trepidation," he said.

Once crime is reduced, Stuart said, if elected, he would step back and take a deep breath to see what the city actually needed.

"We need to set priorities," he said. "We need to take care of Goldsboro. We need to worry about inside the city limits and take care of what we have first."

Stuart said that, to do that, he wants to stop forced annexation.

"People have said that if the city doesn't grow, it will die," he said. "If you force feed it, it will die also and become disfigured and have ugly stretch marks."

He said that the city needs to grow inwardly as well as outwardly, and crime has a lot to do with that.

"If the crime rate goes down, then people will be asking us to come in," he said. "That will be the healthy way for people to be annexed into the city."

Stuart agrees with King that the downtown area should get attention, but, he said, it should not receive all of it.

"Don't put all your eggs in one basket," he said. "It takes multitasking to make all of the areas in the city grow. It's like twirling plates on sticks -- once you get one going, then you can move on to another. And then if it starts running down, you twirl it again to keep it going."

He believes that, yes, growth is good, but in moderation.

"Everyone just needs to be treated fairly, and that includes every neighborhood," he said.

And all houses around the area should be saved, he said.

"There are 200 plus structures in the condemnation and demolition phases," he said. "They are not all historic, but I think we need to save them all. Now, some are too far gone, but people can still go in and salvage pieces of the house instead of just tearing the whole thing down."

There are organizations that would be happy to restore these houses, he said.

"We need to find organizations like Habitat for Humanity that can work with the city to restore houses and get people into them," he said. "If we get more families in here, crime will go down, too. And the single, unemployed people, take these people and give them jobs so they have some self-esteem. They could even work on these houses."

Demolition of these houses wastes money, he said, and both the house and the money can be saved.

"I'm against wasteful spending," he said. "If the people don't want it, don't do it."

Stuart said his platform is the good of Goldsboro.

"The people know what they want," he said. "You just need to stay in touch with the people."