November elections are just around the corner and there are nine candidates vying for Wilmington City Council seats. encore reached out to each candidate to learn more about their reasons for running and their stance on local issues from short-term rentals and economic development, to public health and environmental preservation.
Meet current City Councilman Charlie Rivenbark, candidate for Wilmington City Council.
encore (e): If you could give Wilmington City Council a letter grade for performance, what would it be and why?
Charlie Rivenbark (CR): The citizens tell us every two or three years what is important to them and how they would like their tax dollars spent through our Citizen’s Survey. Our latest survey was conducted in the spring of 2017 and the results are impressive. They showed us that we continue to improve in a majority of services and that residents feel the city is spending the right amount of their tax dollars on most city services.
The progress the city has made is unprecedented. Our crime rates are falling to historic lows, the resurgence of our downtown is electric, and the amount of outside investment is phenomenal. Our citizen’s tell us that our services in police, fire and trash and recycling are among their highest areas of satisfaction. Our citizens have asked for transportation and infrastructure improvements and we listened. We have a five-year, $41 million infrastructure improvement plan that focuses on street repairs and paving. The 2014 Transportation Bond includes walking/biking trails and sidewalks to help get cars off the roads as well as road projects to address safety and congestion. We support efforts to re-align the freight rail and Cape Fear crossing along with expanding the citywide Cross City Trail. All this while keeping our tax rate affordable.
Where I think we could do better for our citizens are in the areas of affordable and workforce housing. I am also a proponent of beefing up our code enforcement. As a result, I would grade council’s performance at B+ because there is always room to do better.
e: Why re-run for Wilmington City Council now?
CR: I have served on City Council for 16 years and like before there are certain projects and issues that I have great interest in that I want to see through to completion. The land Development codes, further implementation of the cross city trail, my responsibilities with the Wilmington Metropolitan Planning Organization, the River Place development on Water Street and the full implementation of the parks bond projects. Also I love serving my city in this capacity.
e: What issues are most important to you and why?
CR: Ensuring that we have safe clean drinking water now and in the future. I will continue to support CFPUA to provide them with the necessary tools and funding to rid our water supply of harmful contaminants. I also will pursue any means available to us to prosecute the companies and individuals who dump dangerous substances into the Cape Fear River.
Affordable and workforce housing. I will work to implement the recommendations from the Joint Workforce and Affordable Housing Ad Hoc Committee, which were submitted to City Council in the spring of 2017. Some of those recommendations are: revise city and county land use ordinances to add or improve accessory dwelling unit, and density and height requirements and regulations. Also, utilize synthetic Tax Increment Financing (TIF) as a means to support the development of housing that is affordable. Conduct a housing study and a statically valid opinion survey. These are just a few of the report’s recommendations.
The opioid abuse crisis. We all, the city, the county, state and federal legislatures, must work together to provide the treatments necessary to get addicted people free from the chains of addiction. Running parallel to that is the course of action to bring the major distributors of the opioids from the doctors, to the pharmacies and hospitals under control and force accountability on them. And equally important is to take the drug dealers off our streets and put them in prison. I believe that the city is actively pursuing all three of prongs of this war on this epidemic and like other cities, have much more to do.
e: What is your position on short-term rentals and B&Bs in historic downtown Wilmington?
CR: The historic district is one of our city’s jewels. It draws people here to live as well as visitors to tour. And as such, this issue has many complexities. Listening to residents, I don’t believe that short-term rentals, where the owner is present in the home (homestay), causes much heartburn among the neighborhood. It’s the whole house rentals that seems to be problematic with the homeowners. In an effort to take this into consideration, Council has been engaged with City staff in the long process of gathering input from residents as well as other communities faced with the same dilemma. Concerns such as property rights, spacing, and a mechanism to accurately police this industry are all being identified. The information gathered from our public hearings, work sessions, survey’s etc. will provide us the basic framework to draft an amendment for the city’s Land Development Code. It is important to remember that this code can, and most likely, will evolve overtime and be modified as needed.
e: What about public transit, such as better bus systems, trains and/or addition of bike lanes across ILM?
CR: Growing up in Wilmington, I can tell you first-hand how the traffic has changed. I also work here and on a daily basis, face the same challenges as other rush hour commuters. As a member of the Wilmington Planning Organization, the regional transportation planning agency, we work with NCDOT to plan, design and execute roadway, bike-ped, public transportation, and airport projects. Identified improvements to College Road, Carolina Beach Road, installing multi-use paths on Middle Sound Loop Road, Peachtree Avenue and North College Road are just some of the solutions. When I’m with my colleagues of the Transportation Advisory Committee, I make sure to discuss the concerns and suggestions that residents bring to my attention.
e: Per GenX, how is Wilmington City Council excelling in leadership throughout this ongoing crisis and how are they lacking?
CR: I believe that the city is doing all the right things. With CFPUA operating under a NC General Statue it is fairly independent of the city and county. The city passed a resolution in support of the CFPUA in their ongoing action as it regards the NCDEQ, the U.S. EPA and their legal proceedings against Chemours/DuPont. I don’t believe that there is anything further that the city can do at this time.
e: If re-elected, what actions would you take or pursue to help our community move forward from this issue?
CR: As a member of the CFPUA board, I will continue to be aggressive in our dealings with the GenX issue that will ultimately insure that we are completely confident that our finished water is safe and plentiful.
e: Oil exploration continues to be pushed by some state leaders—where do you stand on this issue and what is Wilmington City Council’s role in protecting our community’s most vital environmental and economic resource?
CR: I, personally, brought forward a resolution in 2013 before city council stating the city’s opposition to and off shore drilling off North Carolina’s coast. We recently brought forth a similar resolution to let the Trump administration know of our strong opposition to any off shore drilling. The city has always paid the lion’s share in beach renourishment funds and will continue to do so.
e: Are there community nonprofits, groups or other organizations Wilmington City Council could or should be working with in order to tackle some of the major issues our city faces today (opioid epidemic, GenX, clean air/water, etc.)? If so, who and why?
CR: It is my belief that the city is engaged as needed with non- profits and other governmental as well as other non-governmental agencies. We hear from all of them and have a very fair process for funding and working with.