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Moderator the Rev. Frank Thomas, left, asks questions to mayoral candidates Carlvena Foster and Jay Wagner during Thursday's candidate forum hosted by Business High Point-Chamber of Commerce.
HIGH POINT — Contenders for High Point mayor and City Council have a lot to say about violent crime, but are they divided on the question of what to do about it?
That was one issue raised at a candidate forum Thursday night hosted by Business High Point-Chamber of Commerce.
“The biggest issue I think people are talking about tonight is violence in our streets and how we’re going to deal with that,” said Mayor Jay Wagner. “In some ways, the nature of our violence has changed. We’re dealing with seemingly random drive-bys and this sort of thing that, if you’ve got a person who just wants to pick up a gun and fight it out, it’s really hard to stop that.”
Guilford County Commissioner Carlvena Foster, who’s challenging Wagner in the Nov. 5 election, stopped short of criticizing the council’s current anti-violence policies, but said that, as a person of color who lives near high-crime areas, she has a different perspective on the problem.
“I think gun violence is the big difference (between the candidates) in this race. These (shootings) are all caused by needs in the community,” Foster said. “People want to think they’re all gang and drug-related. Most of them are, but a lot of them are not. Some are domestic. Some are just street fights. Some are retaliation. So you have to be close to the problem.”
One new idea for combatting violence offered by at-large council challenger Tyrone Johnson was to establish police substations in high-crime areas.
Incumbents seeking reelection defended the city’s current approach.
“We're doing a good job when it comes to recidivism, with (High Point Community Against Violence). The police department is doing a good job, because when you look at their arrest rates, they are being proactive,” said Councilman Chris Williams.
One of the few specific proposals for change was made by Foster, who vowed to establish a minority- and women-owned business enterprises coordinator position in city government to help MWBE firms land city contracts.
At-large challenger Patrick Harman proposed having the city partner with community development nonprofits that offer small business startup loans.
“Just from talking to a lot of folks, particularly people of color, access to capital is a barrier,” he said.
Other questions asked by moderator the Rev. Frank Thomas touched on whether BB&T Point stadium has succeeded as a “catalyst project” that will drive downtown development.
“Yes, I think it’s succeeded. I know there’s lots of empty seats at the games,” said Councilwoman Monica Peters.
She and other incumbents pointed out that developers have announced about $150 million worth of projects around the stadium.
“(Game attendance) was not the goal of the catalyst. The goal is hotels, condominiums, just the excitement in this town created by the catalyst project,” said Councilman Wesley Hudson.
Several incumbents and challengers mentioned the need to implement route and hours-of-operation expansions of city buses, which were approved three years ago, but which city officials say hasn’t been done because of a driver shortage.
“We’ve got jobs and development in Ward 5,” said Councilman Victor Jones. “We need employees to fill those jobs. I would love to see people in different areas of the city have better transportation, because it does no good if we’ve got all these great things going on and they have no way to get there.”
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