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Ward, Smith, Glover earn council endorsements

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Uriah Ward

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Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Daily Reflector today begins its endorsements of candidates for the Greenville City Council. The endorsements are based on in-depth interviews held with the candidates through October at the newspaper offices as well and regular reporting on and observation of the council and the candidates. Today’s column focuses on the race for Districts 3, 2 and 1.

District 3

The two candidates for the District 3 seat on the council both present themselves as polite, honest, professional, bright and thoughtful young men who have worked hard to educate themselves on the issues the city will face over the next two years and beyond.

From all information available, they appear to be qualified and prepared for the job and more than willing to listen to and learn from constituents, city staff and more experienced elected officials with whom they would be governing.

Both promise that they will carefully consider concerns of residents in the district and the city as a whole and would modify previously held notions if it became clear the public’s best interest lay elsewhere.

Like nearly all of the candidates we interviewed, Will Bell and Uriah Ward said they would focus on improving public safety and transportation infrastructure, concerns that are paramount in District 3, which includes the 10th Street corridor and neighborhoods in the Tar River and university areas.

The area too often sees students mugged on their way home from a visit to the downtown clubs, parties have too often gone from fun to unruly, and pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists have too often been injured or killed because of carelessness and speed — traffic deaths on 10th Street east of Greenville Boulevard prompted the council in 2016 to develop a partnership with N.C. DOT to erect more medians, crosswalks, barriers and other safety measures along 10th from Oxford Road all the way to Cotanche Street.

Whomever voters elect, this is a project that the council must see through soon, and the District 3 representative should lead the charge.

While Bell and Ward say they will advocate for many of the same causes, differences between the two clearly arise during conversation that should make it easy for voters to pick one or the other depending on the voters’ views on governance.

Bell, 24, is an unapologetic, self-described “free market guy.” The approach has worked well for him. He got a job selling liquor not long after he started college and now owns a house at 24. He will be a conservative budget manager who fixes sink holes on the greenway before voting to expand the system: “You gotta fix your own house before you fix your neighbor’s house,” he said.

His approach carries through when discussing development. He believes that the market — supply and demand — should guide what sort of housing developers build in the city, for instance. The city should stay out of such decisions, he said. He would not have supported city’s final purchase of the Imperial Tobacco site, he said. “I personally don’t think the city should be trying to play Realtor and make real estate deals,” he said.

We applaud Bell’s industriousness, his thrift and a dose of laissez faire economics — and we know that a good number of Greenville residents agree with Bell — but we feel that government representative of all people should have a bit more of a guiding hand, especially as Greenville continues to see unparalleled growth.

Ward, 27, a social studies teacher, also appreciates that the city must stretch a dollar. But he said the impact that building has on flooding routinely experienced in the city is among several examples of why the council must carefully consider development projects that come before it.

He added that council must be concerned about the impact so many four-bedroom, four-bathroom student housing complexes have on other properties in the city and the difficulty involved in converting them to more traditional housing when they no longer draw students.

While he agrees with Bell that roads and trails must be maintained, he is adamant that the city give equal weight to expanding the greenway system and completing the city’s streets with sidewalks and bike paths. He has the added vision that with careful planning there will be revenue enough as the city grows to address maintenance and expansion, and that the latter will in turn promote further growth.

We feel that Ward’s willingness to scrutinize development, his embrace and celebration of transformational projects like an interconnected greenway and his understanding that constituents will demand a measured approach make him the better candidate for District 3.

District 2 and 1

District 2 incumbent Rose Glover is running unopposed, and the Reflector did not invite her for an interview so staff could focus on contested seats. Glover remains a strong advocate for her district, but the lack of opposition is disappointing considering the challenges faced by west Greenville and the changes coming to it quickly. We hope more voices will rise to carry forth a chorus of perspectives and ideas as Glover embarks on her 10th term and her 19th year on the council.

In District 1, Kandie Smith, who was appointed in July to fill the unexpired term of Mayor Allen Thomas, is running for her old seat against newcomer Micah Lockhart, who did not participate in the endorsement interviews and has been largely absent from the campaign trail. District 2 also deserves more strong voices in the campaign, but Smith is a strong leader, will continue to be great council member and would have made an excellent candidate for mayor. She said she chose to run for he old seat so she can consider a run for state House in 2018. We expect we will see Smith again on these pages next year.

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