Again posting today’s endorsement editorial, this time for the Sanford City Council Ward 2 race. Coming tomorrow; City Council Ward 5.
The Sanford City Council Ward 2 race comes down to who will be a leader and who will be a follower. Any city would be in great shape if it had a full council of vocal leaders, regardless of whether they always agreed or not.
We feel about half of the current council routinely brings thought and discussion to the table, but in Dan Harrington’s two years since being appointed to his Ward 2 seat, we don’t feel he has been a strong presence — either in council meetings, working behind the scenes or while interacting with the public.
These are qualities newcomer Charles Taylor has pledged to bring to the council, and it’s just one of the reasons Taylor has The Herald’s endorsement heading into Tuesday’s election.
Being outspoken for the sake of being outspoken doesn’t make a solid public servant. But during the course of Taylor’s campaign, we like what he’s had to say.
From his performances in two recent political forums and his answers in The Herald’s recent Q&A, we feel Taylor is studious and knows the issues. He feels Sanford’s taxpayers are frustrated with the lack of diligence in saving money and keeping taxes down — and he says a prime example is the recently passed business privilege tax, which was opposed by the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce and several people in the business community.
“The wishes of the people should be reflected in the actions of the council,” Taylor told The Herald. “We need to respond to the everyday needs of citizens.”
Another promise Taylor has made to voters is accessibility. We like that Taylor was the only candidate in this election to be present at a recent public forum hosted by developers who are planning to build homes in the Deep River community, an area recently annexed by the Sanford City Council. He recently made an appearance at a public hearing on a minor zoning issue in Sanford’s Historic District.
Sure, these appearances are coming at a time when he’s seeking votes. We hope this accessibility and open ear doesn’t go away if he’s picked by the voters to join the council.
“I am committed to listening and responding,” Taylor said. “I am committed to reaching out to the citizens, communicating with them daily, weekly and monthly. We have to have open government; we have to engage our citizens to restore trust back into our local government. Keeping the public in the loop is critical and something we need to start doing more of in Sanford.”
We do have concerns. No candidate is perfect. Taylor had an unsuccessful stint as a member of the Chamber board, and his lack of experience in public office is a drawback, especially considering Harrington’s partial term on the board was preceded by nine years of service on the city’s planning board. Taylor was also a lobbyist in Raleigh for two years, and while not all lobbyists are “evil,” the title does carry negative connatations for some.
But we feel Taylor’s desire to be a voice on the council, his vow to come to meetings prepared and ready to discuss and his stance on several issues that affect Sanford’s taxpayers are all admirable qualities, and they’re all reasons for this endorsement.
When it came time to discuss endorsements for this race, the term “inactive” was mentioned more than once when referring to Harrington. It’s a perception that’s come about not because we feel Harrington hasn’t been involved, it’s just that he hasn’t brought any ideas or creativity to the table.
Much has been made of “no” votes made by some councilmen during this campaign season, and it’s true that a “no” vote for the sake of being the lone dissending voice (and a “no” vote that doesn’t contain any new ideas) does nothing to help the city. That being said, a councilman who is a constant follower of the majority — and who doesn’t have a lot of input during meetings or other public gatherings — also does little to help move the city forward.
We’re not saying Harrington isn’t up on the issues. We liked several of his answers from recent forums and questionnaires regarding topics like growth.
Having served previously on the city’s planning board, Harrington understands what the city needs to do to manage Sanford’s ever-growing residential and business population.
“The Unified Development Ordinance is an excellent tool to insure that future development has minimal impact on adjacent neighborhoods,” Harrington told The Herald. “A tenet of smart growth is to insure the viability of existing neighborhoods in an effort to reduce urban sprawl. I am proud of the city’s accomplishments with our code enforcement efforts, but we must do more.”
But while Harrington claims to be a fiscal conservative, his voting record on the business privilege tax and the city’s budget — which did not include efforts to make the city’s golf course more financially sound — prove otherwise, as both continue to cost the city’s taxpayers.
We commend Harrington for his two years of service since his appointment to the board.
In all of the local municipal elections, we want candidates who will excel at the juggling act of answering to voters, making wise votes, bringing sound policies to the table for discussion and being accessible to the public and the media. All of these factors have gone into all of the endorsements we are making this week.
Good luck to both candidates on voting day, and we hope for good turnout in this important election.
• Coming Saturday: The Herald will discuss and give its vote on the Sanford City Council Ward 5 seat.
• Coming Sunday: The Herald will endorse its candidate in perhaps Sanford’s most talked-about race, the at-large seat currently held by Mike Stone and challenged by Lora Wright.