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 Clifford D. Barnett Sr., 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?
Clifford Barnett (CB): I would give them a B.
The council has been seen to work together and has been a progressive group in moving the city forward. That said, growth and development have hit a new pace and too much agreement is not helpful in discussions of how much and how fast development should take place. I worry that the current council is not respecting the quality of life of Wilmington’s current citizens in a rush to grow. There is also not a balance of new jobs to provide salaries for the amount of housing and the strain on our roads is getting much worse.
e: Why run for City Council now?
CB: I think the city has reached a critical point in its growth. We are now well over 100,000 in population. We continue as a regional hub, but in a region that also has seen rapid growth. I believe if we do not address quality of life, equal opportunity and the opioid crisis now, it will become much harder and more expensive. We could wind up being a much less attractive, livable city. I think my experience will be helpful at this time.
e: What issues are most important to you and why?
CB: Improving opportunity for all to address the uneven impact of Wilmington’s growth, crime and drug use, especially the opioid crisis, job-training, preservation of green space and natural resources, affordable and available housing, transportation—especially with increasing congestion.
e: What is your position on short-term rentals and the B&Bs in historic downtown Wilmington?
CB: This is an issue that I will have to study further but I do understand the concern about private property rights and the use of private property. But that works both ways and the preservation of historic neighborhoods is and has been critical to Wilmington’s attraction and tourist industry. If short-term rentals are allowed to impact the residential and historic quality of our downtown neighborhoods, they will deteriorate. I would probably favor some restrictions on short-term rentals but would like to see some allowance for them.
e: What about public transit, such as better bus systems, trains and/or addition of bike lanes across ILM?
CB: I wholeheartedly support public transit, biking and walking trails like the Cross City Trail and feel it is critical that the city continue to fund WAVE and additional trails. It is one way, probably the cheapest, to get better use from our roads and ease congestion. I also support the city working to get passenger rail service to connect us to the rest of the state and the eastern U.S. I support the realignment of the rail for freight and the creation of a new streetcar/trolley route.
e: Per GenX, how is Wilmington City Council excelling in leadership throughout this ongoing crisis and how are they lacking?
CB: I think the city council has done nearly as much as they can. I would like to see their voices be louder and I will make sure mine is. But legally and legislatively, the council has limited capacity to influence the issue since CFPUA was created. It is also a state issue and that is where the legal ability to do something lies. We can only speak louder and more often.
e: If elected, what actions would you take or pursue to help our community move forward from this issue?
CB: As discussed above, as a council member, I will speak out loudly and often to try to convince the state and DEQ to address the problem with sufficient funds and oversight. If reasonable, I would support the city joining a lawsuit against Chemours on behalf of our citizens. I would look to the city attorney on this issue as well as other council members’ position.
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 economic resource?
CB: The Wilmington City Council and other local coastal governments have clearly expressed more than once, their opposition to oil exploration off our coast. I wholeheartedly support those efforts and oppose oil exploration off our coast. I support more environmentally friendly sources of energy.
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?
CB: I believe the city has been very active in supporting and working with local organizations who are addressing the major issues. The current budget shows over $750,000 in support for these types of agencies. I would support the city continuing and increasing support for agencies that meet my concerns, such as LINC, Historic Wilmington Foundation, Cape Fear Housing Land Trust, Community Boys and Girls Club, Wilmington Area Rebuilding Ministry, other contracts/ grants/subsidies, Kids Making It, and Southside Community Development.