The Mount Airy News is concluding a series of profiles on candidates for Tuesday’s municipal election here.
Those running for South Ward commissioner are featured today — incumbent Shirley Brinkley, who is seeking her second four-year term on the board, and two write-in challengers, Bill Clark and Joe Reid.
Each was presented with the same set of questions to determine candidates’ positions on issues facing the city.
Candidate name: Shirley W. Brinkley
Address: Pineview Drive
Occupation: Wife, mother, grandmother, front-desk clerk at a local hotel, substitute teacher
Previous political experience: Mount Airy city commissioner (2011-2015)
Question: What makes you the best choice for the office you are seeking?
Answer: I have ALL the people’s needs at heart. I research each issue that comes before me and cautiously and carefully make decisions that will best serve ALL the people. I stand by my convictions, make decisions with no conflict of interest and am running on my own without any special-interest group sponsoring me.
Question: What would be your top priorities re-elected?
Answer: To continue to keep the taxes low to draw new businesses and help ease the financial burden that higher taxes poses to our citizens.
I will continue to serve every citizen and be the spokesperson for those who need a voice from the board.
Other priorities included helping to maintain the sound financial condition of our city at high ratings, continuing to support aggressive improvements in our infrastructure, concentrating on job creation by marketing our existing resources and tourism and helping to give our citizens the quality of life each one requires.
In order for a city to run smoothly, every item that makes our city the best it can be must be seen as a priority.
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: My position has not wavered since the city purchased the Spencer’s property. I believe and hold firm that it should be developed first. The support of all the citizens is important to have a united and healthy redevelopment project.
Develop first what is affordable without a strain on the purse strings of the city finances. Build revenue, then move forward once enough revenue has been obtained through the finished redevelopment of the Spencer’s property.
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: The redevelopment commission is in place to come up with the needed funds. TIF has been mentioned, which is tax increment financing used in projects such as the Spencer’s revitalization, in which money is borrowed against the future increase in property tax revenue.
I do not like the prospect of the city footing the bill without an assurance that it will be a gain for the city. I am, at this point, leaving the funding needs up to the redevelopment commission — that is its job. Taking from the fund balance is not a consideration I would entertain at this time.
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: The city already has accepted some developers who cater to senior citizens, such as with the Whistlers Cove apartments now being built. A good city government works to meet the needs of all age groups — young and old, rich and poor — who often have the same needs. As a city board member I will continue to work hard for everyone. I have worked for four years to help improve areas that need handicapped access. Riverside Park is one example.
Public transportation will always be a challenge in small towns for many reasons. In my opinion, it should be run by private business, not the city.
Reeves Community Center already is bursting at the seams providing healthy approaches for senior citizens as well as all other age groups. The connecting of the two greenways is under way for continued healthy outdoor walking, running and biking. Sidewalks are in the works to aid access to these areas. Mount Airy is an excellent small town that strives to serve all age groups and does not single out, or cater to, any individual group.
Question: Census figures indicate that Mount Airy’s population is stagnant, having dropped slightly since 2010. How can this be reversed?
Answer: We need to continue to provide an adequate or better-than-adequate level of services to our citizens at a cost that is affordable. Keep our taxes low to keep the residents we have and at a level that will draw residents and businesses into our area. The revitalization of our area requires strategic intervention, vision, strategy, leadership, partnership and action that is driven at our local level and utilizes all community’s resources.
We already have this happening throughout our area. Local wine growers and wineries are a big calling card for tourism and people interested in relocating to a great grape-growing area. Mount Airy is strategically located between the mountains and the ocean. We attract young people wanting to raise a family away from the crime of larger cities. We are the choice for people retiring from the North who desire a warmer climate, with lower taxes and more solitude.
We need to continue to pursue active economic-development strategies designed to revive businesses’ confidence and create investment. We need to continue to promote our assets such as our greenways, Reeves Community Center, the arts that are promoted through the Surry Arts Council, blue ribbon schools and health-care facilities.
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: Poverty has existed since Bible times. It is not only the responsibility of the city to help these people, but civic organizations and churches. Good neighbors exist throughout our city and the needs of these people are being met in many forms, including through churches.
Food pantries are supported by many organizations in the city. Contributions — monetary and material — go to The Salvation Army and others to help feed, clothe and pay utility bills for those less fortunate. Surry Medical Ministries is a volunteer service offered to people without any form of medical insurance.
Our federal government offers food stamps and Medicaid to many of our citizens living at or below the poverty level. The community college provides classes to help everyone better themselves when utilized. It takes a village working together to improve every aspect of life, and it takes willingness of the less fortunate to take advantage of all of the services and the education offered.
Moving forward is the responsibility of everyone, not just the government.
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: State law empowers cities to adopt and enforce ordinances for dwellings that are “unfit for human habitation” due to conditions that render structures “unsafe” to residents.
Every situation should be carefully evaluated and studied to determine the best approach to a problem. Unmaintained buildings can become unfit for human habitation and unsafe to residents or anyone entering them.
Mount Airy obeys the laws of the state and it is the job of the code enforcer to determine the best approach for each building. The process then goes to the board of commissioners to evaluate on an individual basis. I believe close scrutiny of each case brought before the board is the answer to keeping this process in check.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.