The future begins now. With the upcoming elections for local government right around the corner, now is the perfect time to start catching up on who you're voting for and why.
After the candidate forum held by the Greater Fayetteville Chamber last week, Up & Coming Weekly was able to reach some of the candidates running to clarify their statements and dive deeper into their platforms and core issues that need addressing in the community.
The candidates were asked various questions about issues such as the local unhoused population, local mental health care services, the crime seeping out of Ft. Liberty, and their plans for alleviating and addressing these issues at the city government level.
For the mayoral race, we reached out to Mitch Colvin, current mayor, and Freddie De La Cruz for their mindset and plans around the need for more affordable mental health services, the crime in Fayetteville and efforts going forward to improve the city as a whole.
Concerning plans for developing new avenues for mental health services, incumbent Mayor Mitch Colvin had this to say, "It's not naturally a space we're a good fit for, but we have a responsibility nonetheless. For one, putting real funding behind continuing care."
Colvin speaks briefly on the city government's role in the process of lobbying for more funding from the county government.
"There's room for the city in the lines of creating these connections between organizations
Freddie De La Cruz
When asked about his plans for developing infrastructure to combat the unhoused problem, De La Cruz had this to say.
"That's a county lane. Health and education are county issues. But here's what I would do. Number one, we need to leverage our assets and resources. We have to help the county with that problem; however, we can do that either through 501 c programs, clinics, shelters, places that already do this work.
"We need to figure out how to connect those people and the county with these organizations and help them work together. Not just healthcare workers. We need to get the pastors and ministers involved too."
With his lengthy military background, De La Cruz was also asked about the issue of crimes committed by soldiers off-post.
"Soldiers are soldiers; you have good ones and bad ones. What we need to look at when comparing the military sexual assaults and crime to how it transitions to the city, which is part of the county, the military has higher standards.
"We have sexual assault organizations and the chain of command. Everyone's involved in the process to make sure we prosecute sex offenders in the military. The same incident that happens in the city limits doesn't have the same stringency on the civilian sector in the city. We have so much crime in the city, the gun violence; the crimes we're talking about [sexual violence crimes] are getting lower," responded De La Cruz.
Regarding the quality of police officers in the city, De La Cruz had this to say.
"What I would do when it comes to reducing those crimes, I'd increase police activity. More patrols, more stops. The city is hiring anyone who has credentials because it's all about numbers and getting them out on patrols.
"The way I think we need to approach this problem is hiring quality police officers that actually know what is right and interacting with their community and showing their presence where the people are to help reduce the crime and enforcing the law when it's needed. We need to increase the police pay and benefits." De La Cruz continued, "The reason we need to do that is because by doing so you're going to be able to hire a quality police force. Instead of 58 police officers, we're going to have people lining up to be a police officer."
"How are you going to pay for it? We've got a hundred personnel shortage in emergency services. We're already operating with that shortage. My idea is to cut that number in half.
"We use the money saved and reallocate it to paying for those pay increases and benefits. Once that entices people, that will give us the chance to pick between quality candidates that allow us to enforce those higher standards," he said.
Next, U&CW spoke to the candidates for the District One seat, incumbent Kathy Jensen and her opponent Alex Rodriguez.
They were asked questions concerning the process of improving mental health services, crime in Fayetteville and their plans for improving those already existing avenues in the future.
When asked about the mental health crises Fayetteville is currently facing, Jensen brought up the Office for Community Safety, a fledgling organization aimed at developing the understanding and necessary solutions to the mental health crises we are facing in the city. She talked about not only supporting it but lauding its efforts and results so far.
"We have already started the process for improvement. It's going to take more resources from the city, the county, the hospitals, the non-profit organizations, and really all of us to sit down and work towards that improvement. We need to come together as a whole community to move ahead towards our goals," said Jensen.
Jensen was also asked about her stance on the city council and its efficacy in future endeavors.
"Storming, forming, norming. We start out adjusting to the changes. Then, once we've found our footing, we can begin organizing. Finally, we can start working together as a whole. We have a young council.
"We've only been together 14 months, and we lost 6 of those months due to the census. It just takes time. I see this council coming together, and we can begin to really do a lot of great things when we do."
Jose Alejandro "Alex" Rodriguez
When asked about the issue of soldiers committing crimes off base and its relation to the rising crime rate across military installations, Rodriguez had this to say.
"I would treat them like any other scumbag. We'll put them on the news and send the message that their actions will be held accountable. They need to understand that that kind of behavior won't be tolerated in our city."
In response, Rodriguez was asked about the rising rate of sexual assaults taking place across military installations and how he would combat that with his experience from his military career.
"Let me go old school on you. You have to separate the sexes. If you want to stop the sexual assaults, you have to separate the sexes."
Concerning his stance on crime in general, Rodriguez was also asked what his actions would be to handle the crime in Fayetteville as well.
"We need more police traffic stops. We need more stops to search for guns, drugs, and outstanding warrants. We need more DUI checkpoints to get those people off the streets."
Next, we spoke to the candidate running for the District Two seat, Malik Davis.
Incumbent Shakeyla Ingram was unable to be reached for comment, so only Malik Davis's responses will be shown below.
When asked about the current issues with the local unhoused population, Davis had this to say.
"We can set them up with job trainers to help them get job skills, life skills and mental health care. If we don't help with their minds and problems, we can't help them change," he said.
Continuing, Davis then spoke about his ideas regarding new avenues of education for the youth.
"I want to help them with their goals. Providing lessons and courses for life skills, financial literacy and job training. Not everyone gets to go to college, but those people still want to help their communities and feel like they have an impact."
Finally, Davis was asked to comment on the importance of voting for his generation as well as those to come.
"When we vote, our vote matters. As a millennial I'd like to let them know things happen. They might not happen to us, but if we don't vote, the same things that been happening will continue to happen. Step up to the plate. Step up and be the change you want to see in society."
Finally, we spoke to two of the candidates for District Five, the incumbent, Johnny Dawkins, and Lynne Greene. Both were asked questions about their goals concerning the future of mental health infrastructure in Fayetteville and their plans to improve them moving forward.
When asked about improving mental health services, Dawkins had this to say.
"The North Carolina State Constitution clearly states that the counties, not municipalities, have jurisdiction over this issue. However, we are also working on a new homeless shelter. The Day Resource Center has also been so successful that people are coming to our town because of how good it is. Mental Health Services are crucial for our society," he said.
"Mental health services, especially for our young people, are crucial. Speaking with garrison commander Colonel Wilcox on Fort Liberty, I pleaded with him to convince the army to set aside some funding for improving mental health services for our veterans and soldiers," remarked Dawkins about what place the military had in this developing situation.
When questioned about her plans to improve the mental health services already available in our community, Greene had this to say.
"I just don't have enough background to answer that, but I do know the next initiative and phases must include the county. We can't expect to correct the issues overnight. We've got to work together, the city and the county," she said.
In response, Greene was asked how she would improve her understanding of the current issues and what her plan of action would be.
"I really want to have more one on one conversations with those affected. Even more small group or community meetings. The lines of communication have to start with the community and the police. I can't pretend to know what their struggles are, but I want to hear them voice it to me. I don't want to assume. I want to learn what the real bottom line struggle is," said Greene.
One-stop early voting for the Nov. 7 Municipal Elections in Cumberland County's municipal elections is now open. Voters will be required to show a photo identification to vote in this election.
Citizens who do not have a photo ID can get a free photo ID at the Cumberland County Board of Elections Office at 227 Fountainhead Lane in Fayetteville.
One-stop early voting will be open until Nov. 4 at the following locations:
• Cumberland County Board of Elections at E. Newton Smith Center, 227 Fountainhead Lane in Fayetteville, from Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
• Cliffdale Recreation Center at 6404 Cliffdale Rd, in Fayetteville, from Monday to Friday, noon to 7 p.m.
Both locations will also be open on the last day of one-stop voting on Saturday, Nov. 4, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Photo ID required
Voters will be asked to show photo ID when voting in North Carolina, beginning with the 2023 municipal elections.
Most voters will simply show their driver’s license, but there are other acceptable photo IDs.
For more information regarding voter information, visit https://www.cumberlandcountync.gov/departments/election-group/elections/voters/voter-guide, or call 910-678-7733
For a full list of polling locations around Cumberland County, please see the back of this issue of Up and Coming Weekly. Election Day is Nov. 7.