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 Philip White, 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?
Philip White (PW): Overall, I would give the current Wilmington City Council a letter grade of “C.” My thoughts on this are not based on my personal beliefs, but on various city satisfaction ratings. The city council has scored a 29 percent in the area of “Level of Public Involvement,” a 26 percent on “Maintenance of city streets,” a 26 percent in the area of “Management of traffic flow,” and a 13 percent where “Maintenance of neighborhood streets” are rated. My thoughts on these numbers are that they reflect exactly what I hear while I am out speaking with residents. Which is, that their voices are not being heard or taken into consideration.
e: Why run for Wilmington City Council now?
PW: I have been involved with the NHC Long Term Health Care CAC for almost two years now and have witnessed what I feel to be an actual need for leadership in this city, at a community level. I am a firm believer that when you see a problem, you try your best, to rectify it. So to that point, the time is always now.
e: What issues are most important to you and why?
PW: The opioid epidemic is one of my major concerns. Like many of us, I have far too many friends, that are fighting this battle, and we as a community, have to win this war. Losing is not an option. Simply put, our families, our friends, and our future are depending on us, to help. I am also exceptionally passionate about preserving our Coastline and natural green spaces, through a reduction in development. We are overdeveloped as a city, and as a side effect of this, we are losing the natural beauty that we all moved here to enjoy. I am also focused on increasing affordable housing in the city, as with this increase in development, and housing costs, decent, hardworking people are being forced to move elsewhere. This is unacceptable.
e: What is your position on short-term rentals and B&Bs in historic downtown Wilmington?
PW: I stand firmly with the focus being on financial growth for individuals, as well as this being a “property rights” issue. With that being said, I also respect the property rights of those residents who may live beside an STR, in any of it’s few forms. I am in favor of initially passing limited legislation , with a few restrictions, which would include, not allowing owners to live out of the area. This protects all involved parties. This will allow us to learn from any mistakes, to listen to community and owner input, while stimulating growth. The revenues generated from STR’s stay in our local area, while allowing tourists to experience our wonderful neighborhoods, which encourages return visits. Being 35 years old, I can say that my generation has no desire to stay in a cookie cutter, corporate hotel, while on vacation. We want to experience all that the local community has to offer in the form of architecture, history, restaurants, breweries, beaches… That is why we go on vacation. Not to stay in the same hotel room, in five different cities. STR’s provide that option.
e: What about public transit, such as better bus systems, trains and/or addition of bike lanes across ILM?
PW: With our current population, already pushing our streets to a breaking point, it is absolutely essential that we make a transition to a “choice rider” for the WAVE transit system. As it currently stands, this is not remotely close to being a reality. My own personal experience is, having ridden the bus, more than 40 times over a period of eight years. They are always late or early, they typically only have one stop per hour, the pickup locations are not covered and the only way to purchase a ticket is with cash. If we are going to relieve stress on our infrastructure, we need to work on tech updates, which allow riders to purchase tickets in a multitude of ways. We need to provide shelter from the elements for riders, and we must increase the stop frequency. As a resident who owns a car, why would I stand out in the rain, under an umbrella, for an hour, because the previous bus, was 15 minutes early, when I can simply get in my car and drive to my location?
e: Per GenX, how is Wilmington City Council excelling in leadership throughout this ongoing crisis and how are they lacking?
PW: I do not mean to paint our current city council in a negative light, but I am not certain that they are excelling in any regard to the GenX situation. This crisis, in my opinion, exposed a general lack of leadership. We should have held emergency meetings, to discuss how best to disseminate information to our residents, we should have been providing clean water to our residents as well as meeting with all of our media, to increase public awareness of what we did know. Instead, we got spin from the CFPUA and a lack of leadership from our elected officials. As time has progressed, our officials have been more vocal, in their opinions and resolutions, however to me, that is like a general arriving for a battle on the fifth day.
e: If elected, what actions would you take or pursue to help our community move forward from this issue?
PW: If elected, I will call for the board of the CFPUA to be made up of a majority of individuals who have a background in potable water utilities. People that have the knowledge and experience on how to manage a water supply. As of now, the board is largely made up of attorneys and businessmen. That seems completely counter productive to something like a water utility. I will also call for monthly reports on the chemicals in our drinking water, to be publicly distributed, with all of the raw data, but also presented in a common sense fashion. So that those of us, whom may not have a background in chemistry, are able to understand it, and make our own informed decisions. I am also in favor of looking into the legal aspects of this and pursuing any criminal or civil courses that may be necessary. Clean drinking water is not a privilege, it is a basic American right! Especially, when we are charged so much for it. We should be able to trust, that when we turn on our facets, that it is safe for our children to drink.
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?
PW: As a surfer as well as a scuba diver, I am vehemently opposed to opening up our coast to seismic blasting, as well as any sort of oil exploration. It is a detriment to our ocean, to it’s wildlife and it carries few to no positive aspects for our local area. Being an area that is largely dependent on our ocean for fishing, tourism, as well as for our enjoyment, any “accidents” would be absolutely devastating to our communities as well as our economy. Simply put, there are few to no benefits, and far too much to risk, to even seriously consider this. The city council’s role on this, is to speak with our leaders in Raleigh and Washington, to let them know how we as southern North Carolinians feel about our coastline and to ensure that it is around and vital for generations to come.
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?
PW: I would love to see the city partner further with HOW (Heart of Wilmington), and to take them on as allies in this community and national problem. Also, I would love to gain additional resources for the program A Safe Place for their mission of assisting victims of human trafficking and sexual exploitation. They are a great organization and provide a vital service to our community. Finally, I would love to see the group Walking Tall receive additional resources. Working with economically disadvantaged members of our community, Walking Tall provides a service that is absolutely invaluable, not only to the individuals that it assists, but to Wilmington as a whole.