MATTHEWS – Kress Query underscored the importance of this year’s election, noting how Matthews has been represented by two mayors over the past 26 years: Jim Taylor and Lee Myers.
Paul Bailey and Larry Whitley hope to make their own mark on town. Each has mounted a campaign to become mayor and both took part in the Matthews Chamber of Commerce’s candidate forum Oct. 19 at the Levine Senior Center.
Each had 90 seconds to answer four randomly drawn questions from the chamber, Matthews-Mint Hill Weekly and attendees. Summaries of their answers are as follows.
What is the biggest problem facing Matthews and how do you begin to solve it?
“I think the biggest problem facing us is traffic through the middle of downtown Matthews,” Bailey said, noting the John Street widening has caused a lot of concern among residents.
Bailey doesn’t want to see downtown ruined. He wants to keep the area walkable.
He thinks the community should work with NCDOT to arrive at a solution the town is happy with.
What can leaders do to gain and sustain trust between the public and the police department?
Whitley recalled his experiences as a member o the N.C. Highway Patrol. When Whitley would stop people, he’d treat them with respect, calling them mister and miss.
He believes trust can be gained by police being accessible to the public, treating people fairly and make sure every officer has the opportunity to advance and move up the ranks.
Where should dense housing be located and should those areas incorporate apartments, upscale townhomes or other housing?
Bailey believes dense apartments and condos should be allowed along roads and traffic corridors that allow people to move in and out of Charlotte, like Independence Boulevard, as well as along the future light rail line and in downtown.
“I think it’s important to stick with our vision that we had for many years to ensure that we got enough population in the downtown area to support businesses and to have a vibrant downtown,” he said.
But he’s not really in favor of apartments. He’d prefer residents own their homes.
“I think we need to ensure we got workforce housing, so we can have police officers who work here live here,” he said.
What steps should Matthews take to become more bicycle and pedestrian friendly?
Whitley said there are a lot of people who travel by bike in Matthews. He mentioned saying a prayer for a former mayor, whom he saw trying to bike across U.S. 74.
Whitley believes new roads must have a walk and bike-friendly lane built into the design phase of the projects.
The town is evaluating a rezoning project to replace a trailer park with upscale apartments, how can town leaders ensure the town is free from the effects of gentrification?
“With that piece of property, it’s important to realize although we do have concerns about the people who live there, that we can not interfere with that as a town,” Bailey said. “That’s between the owner of the property and the people who live in those trailers and the contracts they have.”
The town could work with developers and other landowners to find solutions for those folks or work with the property owners to delay the development.
How can Matthews retain its small-town charm in light of a fast-growing population?
“Matthews is a great town to live in and a lot of people want to come here, but we have done a great job of preserving our downtown to keep it that small-town feel,” Whitley said.
Towns around the state don’t have a downtown where you can go eat dinner or walk place to place. So when Matthews declares itself the best town in the state, people are going to want to come here.
“The thing we have to keep in mind is that change is inevitable,” Whitley said.
Whitley said Matthews doesn’t have as much space downtown, so leaders have to preserve what they do have and make sure it’s accessible for people to be able to enjoy it.
How prepared should the town be for a railroad accident?
Bailey brought up the issue 10 years ago when he was on the council. He has worked 39 years in the nuclear industry. His firm has monthly, quarterly and annual drills.
“We do have a plan in place in the event of a major railroad accident,” Bailey said. “My concern is that we’re not exercising the practice drills in preparation for that.”
He thinks the town manager and staff need to have quarterly or semi-annual practice drills.
How should town leaders balance modern-day growth with preserving the historic aspects of the Town of Matthews?
Whitley acknowledged downtown has a well-preserved historic district, but modern day growth is coming.
“We have upscale apartments houses that are coming but we have very few affordable homes for people who don’t make high-dollar salaries,” he said.
He wants to preserve the town’s historic district and ensure developers include affordable housing in their housing projects.
Bailey’s closing remarks
“I started getting involved two years after I moved here because I believe that service and citizenship is extremely important,” he said.
Bailey shared some of that experience, including 18 years on the town commission, 10 years on the county’s parks and recreation commission, five years on the Matthews transportation board and four years on the school board. He’s also been involved in Boy Scouts and works for a company whose slogan is “ “Citizenship in Service.”
“I believe I have the experience, the leadership and the vision for our community, for our town, for our citizens and for our future,” Bailey said.
Whitley’s closing remarks
Whitley moved to Matthews in 1988 as a state trooper. He’s retired as a captain of the highway patrol after 30 years and service and has pastored at Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Matthews for 20 years.
Whitley shared how his mother and father didn’t have extensive education or much money, but they instilled in him virtues that would carry over into the campaign, such as respect people, live an honorable life, have integrity and treat people right.
“That’s what your mayor should have – good integrity, transparency, respect for all people, be a voice for all people,” Whitley said. “That’s not happening now. Matthews is represented for some people, but not all the people.”