ArlingtonForum1016

Local Arlington candidates for the Nov. 5 ballot speak at the Byrnes Performing Arts Center on Oct. 8. From left, mayoral candidate Barbara Tolbert and City Council candidates Michele Blythe and Mike Hopson.

 

Candidates for Arlington Mayor and City Council races talked about issues affecting the town at a recent candidates forum on Oct. 8.

The forum was hosted by the Stilly Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The candidates will be on the Nov. 5 ballot that is scheduled to be mailed out soon.

Arlington Mayor

Incumbent Barbara Tolbert is being challenged by Don Vanney Jr. in the Arlington mayoral race.

Tolbert has served as the city’s mayor since 2012.

She said the biggest thing the city has to plan for is the projected increasing population.

“We now live in one of the fastest growing areas in the U.S. and that will be the biggest challenge going forward. How do we protect the parts of our town that we love and covet?” she said.

The amount of people dealing with opioid addiction also needs continued support, said Tolbert.

“We’ll continue battling and moving people out of opioid addiction and into a more meaningful life to become a productive member of society,” said Tolbert.

The city is putting together a 20-year plan for transportation infrastructure, said Tolbert.

Arlington is bound by state highways on all sides so it’s especially important to work with the legislature, she said.

“If we’re not pressuring state entities to work on these highways, it’s going to dilute the effects of what we do in Arlington,” said Tolbert.

Vanney said he was not able to attend the forum for personal reasons, but provided comments to us.

He saw many of the same challenges for the city.

“Growth is something that all of us will have to deal with. I’m all for this growth as long as we plan for the growth properly,” said Vanney.

The growth areas need to be identified early in the process, he said.

“Start the discussion with those communities early and involve them with the planning of the growth that will affect them,” he said.

Infrastructure is necessary to support the growing town, he said.

“There needs to be more accountability for planning for growth to avoid the traffic issues we experience today,” said Vanney.

Opioids and homelessness also need to be addressed.

“I am encouraged by the results that we are seeing with the Embedded Social Worker with our Law Enforcement and would like to see this program fully funded for its continued success,” he said.

Arlington City Council Pos. 4

The Pos. 4 race is between Michele Blythe and incumbent Sue Weiss.

Blythe has lived in Arlington for about 15 years and has 30 years experience in banking and finance.

She said one of the biggest challenges for the city will be homelessness.

“Chief Ventura has done a great job with his program of how can we help versus just giving out money,” she said.

One of the other large challenges will be the growth coming to the city, and it she said it concerns her as she moved to Arlington to be in a small town.

“The other side of that is would you rather live in a town where nobody wants to live?” she said.

She hopes to improve the city’s communications for a more transparent government.

“I know it’s a two-way street and that people need to want to be involved, but I think we could do a much better job of getting our messages out,” said Blythe.

Weiss was not able to attend the forum but gave us comments about what she hopes to work on in the city if re-elected.

She said infrastructure improvements continue to be a need for the city.

“With all the development coming in, we need to catch up on  infrastructure in all areas. This not only includes repair and maintenance of existing roads, but additional roads, traffic improvements, sidewalks, etc,” she said.

Public safety is another area that requires more attention.

“I hear the concern in the citizens' voices when they speak to me about their fears of increased crime and traffic with all the new development,” she said.

Finally she wants to bring more living wage jobs to Arlington.

“If we are to expect citizens to work and live in Arlington, we need more companies to come into Arlington that will pay our citizens living wage jobs,” said Weiss.

Arlington City Council Pos. 6

Mike Hopson is running unopposed for the Pos. 6 seat but said he still wanted the public to know what he stood for.

At the forum he said one of his biggest issues was housing.

“The fact is many household incomes don’t keep up with the cost of market-rate housing, and this is forcing many toward homelessness,” he said.

He hopes to encourage different types of housing in the community and is proposing a tax-exemption program for housing with units of affordable housing.

“We need a variety, not just large complexes of 300 units, but it needs to be integrated into the community so it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb,” he said.

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