Mayor Mitch Colvin, his challenger Freddie Delacruz and all of our Fayetteville City Council members and all but one of their opponents were up early for the Greater Fayetteville Chamber candidates’ forum on June 30 at the Crown Complex.
“It’s been a long road getting here,” Eva Houston Henderson, the Government Relations Committee chairwoman for the chamber, said in welcoming the candidates. “We’ve been working diligently to make this day happen.”
Four local journalists posed questions to the incumbents and their challengers about issues facing this city of 204,000 residents. The issues included crime, economic growth, infrastructure and homelessness. Those journalists were Bill Bowman of Up & Coming Weekly, Myron Pitts of The Fayetteville Observer and CityView TODAY reporters Michael Futch and Jami McLaughlin.
The election for Fayetteville mayor and City Council is July 26. Early voting begins Thursday.
Colvin was first to tell us about how this is a city on the move, but still with work to be done and he wants a third term as mayor. Delacruz was there to tell us why he would be a better mayor and that he would be more forthcoming. And he reminded all that the evening of May 30, 2020 — when protestors converged on the downtown Market House and damaged it to the tune of $84,000 — is what prompted him to run for mayor.
He’s always said that for Fayetteville Police Chief Gina Hawkins to hold officers at bay and let the rioters do as they please was a mistake. He said as much at a Fayetteville NAACP candidates’ forum some three weeks ago at the Headquarters Library downtown.
“The policemen were told to stand down,” Delacruz said at the NAACP forum. “Why in the world would you tell police officers to stand down? If you're gonna arrest somebody that would be the time.”
The mayor countered by saying neither he nor the council can override the police chief. “This is not the 1960s where we turn dogs and water hoses and unleash fury on citizens who are behaving or misbehaving,” Colvin said at the NAACP forum. “There’s a process. Our police officers came home safe that night. We didn't have any police funerals to attend and nor did we have any citizens’ funerals to attend. But we did have 62 indictments to hold people accountable who acted outside the bounds of the law ... We were commended by people across this country, Republican and Democrat, for how we handled it with no lives lost.”
‘What if, mayor …’
How I wish there had been a seat for me on that panel of journalists.
The mayor is correct in saying police officers were not harmed. There were no serious injuries, although a Fayetteville Observer reporter was injured when the crowd took its anger to Cross Creek Mall over the death of George Floyd by a Minneapolis policeman, and that was after the Market House was damaged. On the Sunday morning following, stores and shops and the Market House and the downtown was like a war zone. Many residents in this city were traumatized by that egregious night.
“What if they had been destroying Colvin Funeral Home and Crematory?” I would have been asking the mayor, who owns the business on Murchison Road. “Would you, mayor, have wanted our police to just stand back and let your business be torn apart?’’
I’d like to know where they all stand on other issues as well.
This includes whether they support the $7.5 million the City Council promised in concept for the N.C. Civil War & Reconstruction History Center and about the Vote Yes Fayetteville initiative to change the City Council from nine district council members to five district seats and four at large members. And every city resident should be asking, too.
“It’s been a long road getting here,” Eva Houston Henderson, the Government Relations Committee chairwoman for the chamber, was saying.
And we almost are there.
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-624-1961.