by Mike Parks
While a lot of the attention in the Mecklenburg County Commission at-large race is falling on the long list of Democrat candidates – 12 in all – the Republican and Libertarian candidates in the race are hoping to make some serious changes in the board’s direction come November.
There’s four Republican candidates on the ballot for May’s primary, and only three can go on to the general election. The race’s one Libertarian, Jason Bateman, doesn’t have to worry about the May 8 vote and already has his sights set on the fall. For the four, November might be a chance to reshape the commission’s image when it comes to issues near and dear to their hearts like property revaluation, taxes and the future of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
“At the top of my list is fiscal accountability and the need to be really careful where we spend our money and for what,” Michael Hobbs said. He’s been thinking about running for county commission for 15 years, and decided now’s the time to do something about it. “The people who get tax money should be accountable to the tax payers. I would support an independent audit of every group that gets taxpayer money because I feel there’s got to be some waste and abuse. I think there’s money there that we could be spending for more important things.”
Hobbs, who now lives near south Charlotte’s Beverly Crest, spent part of his childhood in Section 8 housing, getting by on food stamps and government assistance. College was never an option for him.
“I feel like I am a product of America… what you can do and what you can accomplish despite your challenges,” Hobbs said. “I didn’t assume there was a continuous lifeline for me. I feel like we should help those who really need help, but I don’t feel we should enable those who could do more for themselves but chose not to.”
As for CMS, Hobbs said it’s time to stop throwing “money at the same problem and getting the same results.” He says the county should fund more vocational-based education and “get these kids a trade.”
“I think most people want to work and provide for themselves, and I think if we give these kids who aren’t going to college a chance to work, they’ll contribute to the tax base and reduce how much taxpayers have to support them.”
Find more on Hobbs at his website, www.electmichaelhobbs.com.
James Peterson is concerned about what impact the county’s property revaluation process might be having on homeowners who already are in a bind thanks to the economy and high unemployment.
“I think we need to look at it a little bit more in a responsible way,” Peterson said of the process, which has many in south Mecklenburg County frustrated. “It’s having an impact on quite a few people in the city. With all the unemployment that’s going on, we need to utilize some of the resources we have on hand for accurate revaluations.”
Peterson says the county needs to do more to help residents get a job by focusing less on getting large companies to move into Mecklenburg. “I think there’s a great opportunity here to start promoting some of the small businesses and entrepreneurs,” he said. “The area is great about helping out the bigger companies, get them established. But we need to get people more involved in the smaller level and remove some of the roadblocks stopping them.”
Peterson believes by doing that the county commission will in turn be helping out the local charity groups already stretched to their breaking point by need. “They’re fighting for money to stay alive just like everyone else.”
Peterson grew up in Charlotte, and attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Queens University of Charlotte. He says he’ll be talking with people and trying to figure out what their biggest concerns are right now for the commission to tackle. He’s in the process of building a website, but in the meantime the candidate can be reached at email@example.com.
Ask Wayne Powers why he’s running for county commission, and his answer is simple: “Go outside and look around.”
“You can see what’s going on,” Powers said. “The county is broke, taxes are going up, homes are being reaccessed and some people are having to take out loans to pay the extra taxes even though they could never sell their home at the accessed rates.”
Powers has been speaking out against the problems he sees in the county, either through opinion pieces for local media or on air with WBT 1110 AM. Now he wants to take his voice to a seat on the commission.
“We have a spending problem, and you don’t solve problems by spending money,” Powers said. “We have to bribe people to come here to give us jobs. We should be building a business-friendly environment where companies are dying to come here and compete… let’s trim some of the red tape and encourage (businesses) to come in and build and create new assets where we currently have big parking lots with tumbleweeds blowing through.”
Powers said he’d be capable of reaching across the aisle in a divided commission to bring people together and accomplish what he feels needs to be done. “We tend to have an us-and-them mentality in local government,” he said. “Lots of finger pointing. Why are we being so divisive? These problems affect everyone.”
Powers is in the process of getting his website, www.electwaynepowers.com, up. In the meantime the candidate can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Bateman would like to become the only Libertarian on the county commission. “I have a really good opportunity to sell a third way for people in Mecklenburg County.”
“Lots of people identify themselves as socially progressive and fiscally conservative,” Bateman said, “so a lot of times when people vote … they feel like they have to hold their nose and pick one over the other.”
Bateman wants to study how money is spent at CMS, saying the school district “clearly gets the lion’s share” and the county “needs to look at how efficiently we spend on schools.” Bateman is in favor of studying a school voucher system where parents would get a check for the money spent per student in the district and could then decide where to send their kids.
“They could take that money to any school they saw fit and spend that money on a school of their choice,” Bateman said. “And school administrators would be released from the bureaucracy so they could do things differently.”
Bateman is against any talks of city-county consolidation, and in favor of Ballantyne splitting off to become its own town. Bateman is working on a website, www.electjasonbateman.com, but in the meantime people can email the candidate at email@example.com.
Republican candidate Angelique Diaz Landry did not return repeated requests for comment on this story.