Name: Jerry Taylor
Address: Plantation Place Lane
Occupation: Retired from Sherwin-Williams with 36 years of service.
Previous political experience: None
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: The next four years will be pivotal to the future of Mount Airy. We need commissioners who will be open-minded. Who will listen to public opinion and make decisions that represent the best interests of all the citizens and property owners of our city.
My stable background and 22 years in management, all here in Mount Airy, make me the best choice for commissioner.
Question: What would be your top priorities if elected?
Answer: Working for economic development, job creation and the Westside Redevelopment Plan; improving the working relationship between the city commissioners, the business community, various boards appointed by the city council and the city department leaders; involving a more diverse group in city government.
Question: Regarding the proposed redevelopment plan, there seems to be some momentum for focusing only on the city-owned Spencer’s property at this time. What is your position on this, and why?
Answer: I support the redevelopment commission. The Westside Redevelopment Plan is a draft, it’s a work in progress. Let’s let the commission members finish their job and present the plan. The law requires three separate public hearings on the plan before any vote is taken. That’s plenty of time for everyone to fully understand what it means for the city.
Anything else would be wrong-minded!
Question: There are estimates that preparing the Spencer’s area for revitalization projects could exceed $5 million for street work and other infrastructure needs. If grants aren’t awarded for this, should the money come from the city’s fund balance, or some other source you can suggest?
Answer: I’m sure the city will have to spend some money on the redevelopment project. It’s more likely the figure will be $1 million to $1.5 million. This year the city plans to take $700,000 from the fund balance to balance the budget. Next year’s budget will require that much or more.
That’s at least $1.5 million over two years; this money will be gone, never coming back.
I would much rather invest that same sum of money in the redevelopment project, then the city would recoup the investment in four to five years through new property taxes.
We have to create a larger tax base to balance the city budget.
Question: Recently, a political forum was held that focused on ways city candidates might help younger residents, the so-called millennials. But what can be done for the city’s older population (23 percent of which is 65 or higher) in areas such as housing, transportation, etc.?
Answer: There is no handicapped parking on Main Street. I don’t know why, there has to be a reason, but I support handicapped parking on that street.
There are a number of communities across town, including my own, where a majority of the folks are retired. Most of these have units for sale and public housing is driven by demand. If there is a need for more public housing for the elderly, then a private developer will meet that need.
Transportation is provided by the Yadkin Valley Economic Development District Inc. (YVEDDI), and other options include church groups that are glad to help their retired members have a more active life. And in communities such as my mother’s on Heatherstone Lane, they carpool. The ones who still drive look after the ones who don’t.
Question: Census figures indicate that Mount Airy’s population is stagnant, having dropped slightly since 2010. How can this be reversed?
Answer: How do we get people to move to or to stay in Mount Airy, inside the city limits? We make it attractive, we make them want to be here! Everyone has their own reason for moving or staying, that’s why we need a more diverse business model, more downtown food choices, more downtown housing, more things to do after dark and more jobs.
It’s just another reason to support the Spencer’s redevelopment project.
Question: Given that about 22 percent of Mount Airy residents live below the poverty level, what can/should city government do to help them?
Answer: Let’s think outside the box here. Let’s get some private business people, members of the Mount Airy professionals group, the city commissioners and Surry Community College, and meet with the local Employment Security Commission.
Let’s try to connect people who are looking for work with people with unfilled jobs. We could form a volunteer group, a resource group helping residents find a better life.
Question: Is the stepped-up enforcement of Mount Airy’s minimum-housing codes (which has led to about 17 structures being demolished or otherwise addressed in the last few years) going too far or not far enough?
Answer: Unsafe buildings, residential or commercial, should be fixed or torn down. I think that’s what the code says.
Why would you not enforce codes that are written to protect people who live, work or visit our great city? If you know a building is unsafe, such as the property located at 455 Franklin St. (the old “Koozies” Building), as a commissioner you have to enforce the codes to limit the city’s liability in case of a fire or accident.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.