Editor’s note: With the election right around the corner, former city council candidate Jason Brady has some salient thoughts on the future of the greater Fayetteville area. Publisher Bill Bowman yields this space to Brady this week due to the relevance and timeliness of the topic.
Since I’m no longer a candidate for Fayetteville City Council, I can write about this topic without breaking an agreement I had with Bill Bowman. We agreed that I not bring my candidacy into my column.
So, today I want to write about my campaign issues that obviously didn’t resonate with voters, but which I think are still relevant.
I didn’t pull them out of the air. Instead, months before I filed for office, I started a conversation with people. It was an informal conversation at first. I simply asked people what they disliked about living in Fayetteville.
Let me emphasize again – it was an unscientific survey. I used social media, direct mail, hand-delivered surveys and just pure conversations with people who would listen and answer. Heck, I even jotted notes on paper napkins and paper place settings from the Greek Pancake Breakfast.
The most telling thoughts people had about Fayetteville came from my first two questions:
1. What three things don’t you like about living in Fayetteville?
2. What three things do you like about living in Fayetteville?
I included other questions to gauge opinions about local government. I asked if they believed Fayetteville and Cumberland County spent tax dollars wisely. I asked for their take on the bond referendum for parks and recreation amenities, and I asked what they thought about spending $33 million on a baseball stadium and if downtown was the best place to build it. I received interesting answers and more fodder for future columns.
But first, about the first two questions and answers – on which I based my campaign message.
While I asked for three reasons someone might dislike living in Fayetteville, the responses seemed to center mostly on four dislikes. They may have been worded differently, but the core thread about our city was obvious. They are listed below in no particular order:
• Lack of professional-level jobs, the kind of full-time jobs that pay a salary that can entice a family to live in Fayetteville. We have plenty of low-paying, part-time jobs. We don’t have jobs that keep young people in Fayetteville. The only young people coming back are those whose families own businesses and can employ them.
• A trashy appearance, especially along the gateways into the city. It’s not just trash, but the appearance of property. Despite efforts of people like Councilman Bobby Hurst, who spearheads the Fayetteville Beautiful efforts, we have more people who don’t care how we present our community to visitors who could be potential employers.
• Violent crime. People hear about gunfights in crowded parking lots or dead bodies floating down the Cape Fear River. Violent crime has risen nationwide for two consecutive years, and Fayetteville is no exception.
• Finally, people dislike the traffic. The responses about traffic varied. For some, it’s those “damned” center medians the highway department is putting on every street, making it nearly impossible to get where you’re going. For others, it’s the sheer volume of traffic coupled with crazy aggressive drivers who’ll change a lane and cut you off like it’s the right thing to do. The reasons people like living in Fayetteville, sadly, have nothing to do with our city. Rather, it’s because of Fayetteville’s position in relation to other amenities: family who live nearby, military-affiliated services and proximity to the beach and mountains.
Our soon-to-be elected council has a lot of work ahead to address these types of issues. I hope voters are smart enough to elect representatives who can work toward solutions and not for candidates based on superficial motives.