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 Deb Hays, 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?
Deb Hays (DH): B/B-
Until you sit in their seats, I don’t believe you can fully understand the magnitude of what they have to deal with on a daily basis. My experience as the chair of the Planning Commission has given me the opportunity to understand working with the public and listening to their issues and concerns; vital components for a strong and effective city council member. Overall, the city council is working hard but there is always room for improvement.
e: Why run for Wilmington City Council now?
DH: We live in a vibrant city. Do we have challenges … absolutely, what thriving community does not have issues and areas for improvement? The city is growing and reaching a critical point in its vision and plan for the future. Leaders need to be aware and on the forefront to insure proper and appropriate planning is adhered to and our quality of life is protected. I have spent many years in public service to our community and believe that I am prepared with the knowledge, experience, and proven dedication needed to be on City Council. My purpose is to continue moving our city forward while maintaining the integrity of our neighborhoods, protecting our delicate ecosystems and environment, providing for parks and open green space, with protective and thoughtful growth, while meeting the needs of all our citizens. As a leader, I am fully engaged, experienced, knowledgeable, and committed to ensuring Wilmington’s future for all citizens.
e: What issues are most important to you and why?
DH: Traffic/transportation issues, quality and quantity of jobs/pay scale, safety concerns/opioid epidemic, clean water/air/environment, and affordable/workforce housing continue to concern our citizens. These are what our citizens have stated as their issues, so they are my goals.
I take the responsibility seriously of enhancing and preserving that which makes Wilmington unique while providing for our citizens’ needs. We live in an exceptional city that continues to attract new residents. We are growing and are responsible to our current and long standing citizens as well. We must look for creative options that add to the beauty and character of our city; plan wisely while enhancing our quality of life and protecting neighborhoods and private property rights for all citizens in all areas.
e: What is your position on short-term rentals and B&Bs in historic downtown Wilmington?
DH: The current Short Term Rentals (STRs) proposed ordinance is currently in review with the Planning Commission; it is city wide and encompasses both residential and commercial districts. The Planning Commission recently held a work session; we voted to wave the rules of procedure and allow for public comment to openly hear from the citizens for the first time on this subject. It was equally divided between Pros and Cons on the draft ordinance. This is a complex issue with private property rights on both sides of the residential discussion; the integrity of neighborhoods needs to be preserved while the rights of all homeowners be kept in consideration. The ordinance must be workable and enforceable with citizens input from both sides. This will take communication, cooperation, and compromise.
e: What about public transit, such as better bus systems, trains and/or addition of bike lanes across ILM?
DH: We must be creative in looking for future opportunities to reduce vehicle usage: making our city more walkable, bike-able and pedestrian friendly; multi-facet transportation options with reliable, clean, and serviceable transit; build complete streets that are pedestrian friendly; and maximize connectivity by providing areas of supportive services adjacent to or surrounding our neighborhoods. This gives an alternative access of walking or biking (or stopping on the way home) rather than getting back into the car and making another trip to the store. All the while maintaining the integrity of the neighborhood.
e: Per GenX, how is Wilmington City Council excelling in leadership throughout this ongoing crisis and how are they lacking?
DH: City Council is the voice of its citizens and a conduit of communication to our state and national elected officials; their purpose is to initiate action and promote change for positive progress, especially on this critical issue. They have worked hard to strongly express the needs of the citizens and demand that we have clean water. They have been forceful in their efforts and are staying on course.
e: If elected, what actions would you take or pursue to help our community move forward from this issue?
DH: We must work together with local, state and national officials to insure that our drinking water source is clean and clear of contaminates. This is an on-going, constantly changing, and challenging directive that is essential to our quality of life. Continuous testing and research on new contaminates is an implementation must. We are at the end of the Cape Fear River, everything that goes into it upstream comes down to us so it is imperative that we work together, with all levels of government, other communities, public and private entities to insure our water is of the highest quality. Set the politics aside and work together for the greater good of the citizens.
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?
DH: I am not in favor of offshore drilling on the East Coast for a variety of reasons; we are in hurricane alley and the effects of a hurricane on an oil rig are disastrous. There is a wide variety of conflicting documentation available that supports both pros and cons of offshore drilling. But one truth holds certain, the east coast is not protected from hurricanes and they are much stronger offshore than after they pass through the gulf stream. An oil rig could not withstand the recent bevy of hurricanes that have formed off the East Coast. City Council has twice unanimously passed a resolution against off-shore drilling.
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?
DH: Wilmington is fortunate to have an incredible volunteer community and our non-profit organizations are beyond compare. We absolutely need to engage and continue to reach out to these organizations for the expertise and knowledge base in helping to work through our most challenging issues. Coastal Horizons and Cape Fear River Watch are two that immediate come to mind for their stellar efforts and track records in tackling and resolving these kind of issues.