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 you interviews with many of the candidates. We ask you to read carefully and vote critically—but most importantly, vote! The first candidate to respond to our questionnaire is Joshua Fulton. Here is some insight into his views on Wilmington and serving on our city council.
encore: Are you familiar with either the Buy Local ILM movement or the national movement?
JF: Yes, I know people emphasize that across the nation, but I was not particularly aware of the local movement.
e: In our current economic climate, do you feel Buy Local is important to the Cape Fear region?
JF: Buying locally can be good, just like buying non-locally can be good. A locally produced good already has the advantage of lower transportation costs over non-locally produced goods. Even with that advantage, if someone chooses a good produced out of state, it means they’re either happier with its quality or its cost, two very good reasons to buy something. I don’t support subsidies to give one company an advantage over another.
e: How does your platform support small business, entrepreneurs and Buy Local?
JF: The number one factor correlated with job, population and real income growth is a low tax burden. We have the fifth highest tax burden of the largest 33 NC cities. It’s no wonder that our unemployment is up—and higher than the country as a whole. I also want to simplify the permitting process and reduce zoning restrictions, especially [ones] that artificially hamper the growth of mixed-use development. [In 2003] downtown Anaheim, California, implemented the zoning ideas that I advocate. In 2005, they had a third more new businesses started than in the year before.
e: Is it important for our government and educational institutions (UNCW, community colleges, school system) to source from our local or regional area?
JF: Possibly. R3 was a local start-up the county hired to manage its incinerator; the entire affair was a fiasco. Clearly, the R3 episode shows us that we shouldn’t “go local” in every case.
e: Do you frequent farmers’ markets, and what are your thoughts on the place of agriculture within our local economy?
JF: Yes. Granted, I’m usually handing out fliers for my campaign, but I still enjoy [the farmers’ market] and buy things there. Agriculture is essential, but we should not subsidize farming.
New Zealand ended farm subsidies and output increased, net incomes rose and prices for staples like milk are among the lowest in the world. Additionally, most of the farm subsidies in America go to mega-farms, which only reduces competition.
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?
JF: I really have no idea what the break down is, because I do go to stores like Tidal Creek and frequent a lot of restaurants; although, I have no idea of how many of those are truly locally owned. I do go to Walmart, and save money there like the millions of people who shop there on a regular basis. The money I save makes it easier to pay my bills, and would make it easier to start a business if I ever chose to.
e: What is your position on film incentives?
JF: I don’t like any sort of incentives, and that includes film incentives. Michigan had the most generous incentives of any state in the nation, and it ended up costing them over $100 million. We could easily get in a war for the most lavish film subsidies. All the government should do is provide a low tax burden and good infrastructure. That is the most we can, or should, do to incentivize production of anything.
e: What is your position on incentives to attract new businesses to our area?
F: The most important incentives we can give a company to come to our area are: a low tax burden, safe streets, well-performing schools, a highly trained workforce and the ability to easily expand if necessary.
e: Do you support any sort of tax breaks or rewards for existing small businesses that provide jobs and pay into the tax base?
JF: I support a low tax burden, but I do not support “rewards.” Wouldn’t just about every company both “provide jobs and pay into the tax base?” We should lower taxes on them, just like we should lower on everyday people.
It seems like this varying of the tax rate based on how much they pay into the city coffers or how “valuable” they are to the local community is a sure road to cronyism. On my website www.fultonforcitycouncil.com, I lay out a concrete plan for how to reduce our tax burden.
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?
JF: It’s always seemed odd to me that online retailers don’t have to pay the same sales tax as everyone else. It seems like everyone should be paying the same rate that their state sets. However, my focus is almost always on lowering tax rates, not on raising them.