It is election time again! as we do annually, encore asked the candidates to answer questions related to their support for our local economy. We are in effect hiring people to manage our money and plan our future. Thus, if we do not ask them to think about and invest in our local economy, we cannot expect them to do it. Over the next few weeks, we will bring readers interviews with many of the candidates. We ask everyone to read carefully and vote critically—but most important, vote on November 8th!
This week encore asked Ronald Sparks, a current city council member, to answer questions about his “Buy Local” consciousness and re-election campaign. Here is how it unfolded.
encore (e): Are you familiar with either the Buy Local ILM movement or the national one?
Ronald Sparks (RS): I am not familiar with “Buy Local ILM,” but I always try to buy local.
e: In our current economic climate, do you feel the movement is important to the Cape Fear region?
RS: It is very important to buy local because it helps our local economy.
e: Is it important for our government and educational institutions (i.e. UNCW, the community colleges and the school system) to source goods from our local or regional area? And do you support policy to reinforce it, if so?
RS: I have always supported buy local in the full spectrum of items that local government buys. Yes, [I support policy], within the laws that the state imposes on us.
e: Do you frequent farmers’ markets? What are your thoughts on the place of agriculture within our local economy?
RS: The farmers’ markets I support vary with what is in the growing season. Local agriculture is not only vital to our local economy but to our health. As you would know, local foods grown in the endowment that you live in are better for you.
e: What percentage of your consumer spending do you dedicate toward locally owned businesses (farms and foods included)? Chain stores and restaurants? Shopping on the Internet?
RS: I buy locally whenever possible. For example when blueberries or strawberries are in season, I refuse to buy from chain stores that do not have local produce.
e: What is your position on film incentives?
RS: I support working with the local and state leaders on appropriate incentives when the return on investment can be demonstrated.
e: What is your position on incentives to attract new businesses to our area?
RS: I have to look at each case. I do not support corporate welfare, but if a company can be helped with infrastructure improvements, I can support that if the return on investment is demonstrated.
e: Do you support any sort of tax breaks or rewards for existing small businesses that provide jobs and pay into the tax base?
RS: Wilmington does not have an income tax, so we are limited in that type of tax break. Companies that plan to provide large numbers of jobs have NC programs available to help, as we can be approached with the plan to see how Wilmington can help.
e: What are your thoughts regarding the collection and remittance of sales tax by large online retailers back to states and eventually municipalities like ours? Should they be forced to comply with sales tax collection?
RS: Online retailers should pay sales taxes. However, Wilmington is suffering under an unbalanced sales tax distribution, where we only get 20 cents of every sales tax dollar paid in Wilmington. [80 cents goes to state] This is unfair to Wilmington due to the fact that 80 percent of all sales tax dollars paid are generated in Wilmington.