Public safety and government transparency rank among the top issues for the candidates who want to represent District 9 on the Fayetteville City Council.
Political newcomer Deno Hondros is challenging Councilwoman Yvonne Kinston for the seat.
Hondros, 45, says that as a Fayetteville native, he loves and cares about the city.
“We have come a long way, yet I believe we still have a long way to go to realize our fullest potential as a city,” says Hondros, a commercial real estate broker. “There have been so many great innovators, philanthropists and visionaries that helped build our city and mold its future. They have laid a great foundation for Fayetteville and have constructed the ground floor. Now it’s up to this and future generations to further this mission — the mission to make Fayetteville first.”
Kinston, 53, who is also a Fayetteville native, was first elected to the council in 2019.
“Prior to running, I saw a void with communication and voice for the district,” says Kinston, who is a sales and service agent for AT&T and executive vice president of the 530-member Communications Workers of America Local 3680 branch. “It was important to have changes that are not only impacting but also addressed safety in the neighborhoods.”
Hondros and his wife, Liza, have one son. He is a member of Sts. Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church, where he has served as treasurer and is a member of the Parish Council Board.
Hondros sits on the Salvation Army board and is an ambassador for the Greater Fayetteville Chamber. He is a former chairman of the city’s Stormwater Advisory Board and served on the Uniform Development Ordinance Task Force, City Spirit Committee, and Murchison Choice Neighborhood Plan Committee.
Kinston is the mother of three children and grandmother of three. She has served on the city’s Audit and Finance boards and Appointments Committee and as a liaison to the Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumberland Cunty. She is active with the N.C. Commission for Volunteerism and Community Service and the N.C. State AFL-CIO, serving on its executive board.
Kinston is a graduate of Fayetteville Technical Community College and Fayetteville State University with degrees in business administration.
City voters will go to the polls on July 26 to choose a mayor and City Council members. Early voting is underway at the Cumberland County Board of Elections Office.
District 9 includes the neighborhoods of Campground, Courtyards, Devonwood, Eden, Edens Farm, Forest Creek, Great Oaks, Hermitage, Howard Acres, Huntington Park, Kendall, Kirkwood, Lake Shores, Land’s End, Loch Lomond, Montclair, Murray Fork, Newcastle, Summertime, The Lakes, The Oaks, The Villas, Three Colonies, Valley Forge, Water’s Edge, Westlake, Westwood, Wind Tree Villas, Woodlands, and Yadkin Acres.
Hondros reported $27,945 in campaign contributions as of June 21, according to the N.C. State Board of Elections Office. That includes $5,400 from the N.C. Realtors Political Action Committee.
Kinston reported campaign contributions totaling $10,195 as of May 3. That includes a total of $7,900 from three unions: $2,500 from the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union of the AFL-CIO; $400 from the N.C. State AFL-CIO; and $5,000 from the Communications Workers of America.
CityView TODAY asked Hondros and Kinston about a number of issues facing the city. They were also asked what issues they think are most important. Here is what they said.
What are your recommendations for fixing Fayetteville’s reputation on crime?
Hondros says the City Council could boost support for first responders by giving them the training and resources they need to provide better and more efficient services.
“We also can do better at enforcing current laws,” he says. “From expired tags to traffic infractions, enforcing current laws and ordinances is the first step in curtailing crime.”
Meeting those goals would improve morale within the Police Department and help reduce crime and improve the city’s reputation, he says.
Kinston says communicating with residents to identify the core reasons for crime and addressing those causes would lead to the changes necessary to reduce crime.
“Crime occurs in all states and cities,” she says, adding that she supports enhanced awareness of gun violence.
What are your recommendations for ensuring government transparency? Do you think the City Council adheres to your standard of transparency?
“Transparency and accountability are two issues I hold dear,” says Hondros. “When discussing and performing the people’s business, we must be as open as possible and permissible.”
Hondros adds that there is always room for improvement.
“Immediately, City Hall, all city meetings, as well as board and commission meetings, and all city departments should be open for business and available in-person to the citizens, taxpayers and residents of Fayetteville,” he says.
Kinston says it is important to follow the transparency policies that are in place as well as to review those policies if questions arise.
“As technology is developed, we need to be looking at how we are going to continue to adjust to make sure all transparency is followed,” she says. “The goal should be to be transparent with the business that relates to the residents of Fayetteville.
“My standard is different due to my background and experience,” Kinston adds. “I have to look at what level of transparency's being provided, not just being transparent. There is a difference.”
What are your recommendations for enhancing Fayetteville's economic development or growth?
Hondros says economic development is an issue in every campaign.
“First, we must improve public safety. If the city is not safe or residents do not feel safe, this will negatively impact all economic development recruitment efforts,” he says.
“As a Fayetteville native, I often say our city's strength is our diversity and our city's greatest asset is our people,” says Hondros, who adds that the city should work with local colleges and Fort Bragg to train and retain talent.
“We must also provide housing for our workforce,” Hondros says. “I believe everyone should have the opportunity to live where they labor. We can do better by improving our public safety, training and retaining our talent, and providing adequate housing for our workforce. All are quality-of-life issues, and improving them will have a positive impact on economic development.”
As the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the state, Fayetteville can no longer afford “hodge-podge development,” he says.
“We can do better at planning our growth and facilitating growth in an organized manner,” Hondros says.
Kinston says that as the city grows, it needs “a workforce that is ready.”
“I believe continuing to work with our local partners in education, housing and workforce development will show the benefits of companies coming to Fayetteville,” she says.
Kinston advocates fostering entrepreneurship and using technology to transform Fayetteville into a "smart city" as a way to attract economic growth.
What are your top three issues of concern?
Hondros says public safety, workforce housing, and transparency and accountability are his top priorities.
“All three are foundational principles whereby all others can be built upon,” he says. “As America's ‘can-do’ city, we can accomplish everything we set our collective minds to. Whether we want a world-class aquarium, a riverwalk or a state-of-the-art performing arts center, Fayetteville residents do not want to hear why we cannot; we demand to hear how we can.”
Kinston lists transparency and policy enforcement, public safety, infrastructure and strengthening communities as her priorities.
How would you address those issues?
Hondros says public safety can be enhanced by providing first responders with the training and resources they need and by investing in infrastructure to limit loss of life and damage to property.
“We can address workforce housing by facilitating public/private partnerships and exploring the various land-trust development funding and ownership models and choosing what works best for our communities and city,” he says.
And to ensure transparency and accountability, all meetings involving city administrators, the City Council and its committees, and city boards and commissions should be open to everyone, including in-person options.
“This is paramount to handling the people's business honestly and openly so that we can regain the citizens' trust,” Hondros says.
Kinston says all policies on transparency should be fully reviewed to ensure all issues are being properly addressed.
On public safety, she would continue to support law enforcement with new training and technology tools, as well as work with community leaders and support efforts to reduce crime.
Kinston says the city needs to invest in infrastructure and strengthen communities with beautification projects and neighborhood meetings on public safety.
What, if anything, is the current council doing well?
Hondros says previous councils and the current one have taken great first steps in many areas.
He cites progress such as “working with pioneers and visionaries to revitalize downtown; bolstering our parks and rec centers; increasing our events options with Festival Park and Segra Stadium; and (planning for) infrastructure by commissioning a comprehensive, high-level watershed study.”
“The new and future councils will build upon (the progress),” he says. “We can do better by being innovative, dynamic and collaborative.”
Kinston says the council has done a good job bringing economic and workforce development to the city; increasing the minimum wage for city employees; and reaching out to community groups and partnering with the police to reduce crime. Also, she says, the council has done well in embracing technology to enhance public services and “has done an admirable job managing the budget during a pandemic”
What, if anything, is the current council not doing well?
Hondros gives kudos to the council for governing during the recent pandemic.
“We can do better handling the people’s business in a proper and transparent manner,” he says. “We can do better discussing in a respectful manner and handling disagreements when they arise. We can do better by holding our colleagues accountable so that we may regain the citizens' trust and work together to make Fayetteville first. We can do better handling the people’s business in an honest and open way so that we are accountable to you on how we spend your tax dollars.”
Kinston agrees that government must be held accountable.
“Personally, transparency has always been important to me,” she says, adding that all council members should do a better job of being transparent when handling the public's business. “My idea of transparency differs from (that of) other council members.”
Also, Kinston says the council could do a better job of working on issues before they become problems. For example, Kinston suggests fixing infrastructure problems before they become code enforcement issues.