High Point Journal: One-term incumbents in wards 5 and 6 face challengers

3
286

by Jordan Green

Two first-term candidates in wards 5 and 6 face challengers, albeit with different ideas about the best direction for the city.

Ward 5

Jim Davis is running for a second term as the city council representative of Ward 5, but in the meantime he holds the extra responsibility of serving out Bernita Sims’ unfinished term as mayor.

Jim Davis
Jim Davis

After Sims abruptly resigned from office on Sept. 10 before entering a guilty plea to a felony, Davis assumed her official duties by virtue of being mayor pro tem. Five days later, his fellow council members voted to officially name him mayor.

“I went from a council member to mayor pro tem to mayor in 21 months,” said Davis, a homebuilder with conservative political views and an easygoing personality. “I’m so proud of my leadership.”

He said he’s enjoying serving as mayor, adding that “sometime in the future” he would consider running for city’s top elected position. In the meantime, if he’s re-elected to the Ward 5 seat, he’ll work with a new mayor when a council is seated in December.

Davis noted that in his two years on council the city has not raised taxes, and this year implemented a slight decrease, while cutting the overall budget and allocating an additional $400,000 for street repair.

“The fact that we can provide all these services with a tax decrease is my proudest accomplishment,” he said.

Davis’ challenger in this year’s nonpartisan municipal election is Roger Sims, an insurance agent who is promoting investment in High Point’s core, both to bind the northern tier comprised of wards 5 and 6 to the rest of the city and to boost property values.

Roger Sims
Roger Sims

“In wards 5 and 6 we’re not a separate entity, we’re not a separate municipality; we’re part of High Point,” Sims said during an interview at Panera Bread. “I live up here. Is it quicker for me to go to downtown Winston-Salem or Greensboro? No, I don’t think so. High Point’s a small town. The community spirit of this town would warrant a gathering place, a place where we can get together, encourage each other and spend dollars with each other.”

Taking his cues from urban planner Andrés Duany and City Project, Sims said he believes that “gathering place” is Uptowne. Sims said he also supports one of Duany’s specific recommendations for revitalizing Uptowne — reducing the number of lanes, or “dieting” North Main Street.

Davis antagonized many revitalization supporters when he voted with the majority of council to reassign City Project Executive Director Wendy Fuscoe to position with broader, less focused responsibilities coordinating with nonprofit leaders on a variety of initiatives within the Core City.

“Most people I’ve talked to are not opposed to dieting a street,” Davis said. “But they’re not sure this is the right street. I have come to believe that myself.” He added that Kivett Drive and English Road, two east-west thoroughfares that intersect Main Street just north of the railroad tracks, might be better candidates.

“We have a major announcement on our horizon,” he said. “This council has been working diligently on revitalization. There are things we can’t talk about because we’ve got to put together the deals. When you know what it is, English Road and Kivett Drive will make a lot more sense.”

Ward 6

Jason Ewing
Jason Ewing

Real estate broker Jason Ewing is also seeking his second term on council. Jim Corey, a retired political-science professor at High Point University, had served only one term in 2012, when Ewing wrested the seat from him in an election decided by only 305 votes.

Like Jim Davis, his fellow candidate in Ward 5, Ewing ran on a platform of fiscal restraint and efficient government, and capitalized on voter discontent over a 1.3-cent tax increase.

Seeking vindication, Corey has recast himself as a fiscal conservative. The candidate expressed skepticism about a proposal to “diet” North Main Street through the Uptowne area to make it more appealing to pedestrians.

“I get the impression it’s just for the furniture market,” he said. “I don’t know if you dieted Main Street how attractive it’s going to be year round. People’s habits have changed. Taking a stroll down Main Street is not something people do anymore.”

Corey’s resistance to the street-dieting proposal largely aligns him with his opponent, who voted against a traffic impact study on the basis that it didn’t look at the section of North Main Street closer to downtown where his office is located. Ewing has also said that any significant investment in a street-dieting plan that required a bond referendum would divide the city and likely go down in defeat.

Corey dismissed the idea that by investing in revitalization the city can increase its tax base over the long run and over time ease the tax burden on citizens.

“There’s nothing the city can do to prop up falling property values,” he said. “We don’t have the luxury of spending on nice things. Spending is going to have to tighten up.”

Jim Corey
Jim Corey

He also batted away the notion that High Point needs to offer a quality of life that is competitive with Winston-Salem and Greensboro to attract and retain talent.

“We need to try to identify what quality of life people are expecting,” he said. “I think they would like to have a life free of crime. If they need help, they would like for an ambulance to show up at their door rather quickly. They want to be able to shop without getting mugged. I don’t think people go out to the movies that often anymore. They have cable TV and internet. That’s their quality of life.”

Ewing said if elected to a second term, he wants to continue to reduce property taxes, encourage more of “can-do attitude” in how the planning department handles permitting and inspections, get more affordable housing built across the city and align the city’s transportation system to the needs of businesses on the north end and workers in the core city.

Corey said he plans to hit Ewing with a mailer of his own that contrasts his education (he holds a doctorate) with Ewing’s (he attended college, but didn’t graduate). “If you want to buy or rent a house, Jason may be your man,” the mailer reads. “If you want to be represented in local government, Jim Corey is your choice.”

Ewing appeared unfazed by the slight. “Jim raised property taxes both years on the council,” he said. “I didn’t support a budget last year that did not decrease taxes but added a fee. This year we reduced taxes. Education level is only as good as how you apply your education.”

  • Observer

    Yep, taxes were reduced by only a fraction of what they had just been previously raised to cover the big jump in utilities and fees we just had.
    Net effect: much higher overall costs.
    How many millions just in the last 9 months of non voter approved 2/3 bonds?
    Missed that one.
    We’re still the most expensive city in the state in combined costs.
    Folks who ran as fiscally conservative but didn’t act that way when elected, and those that didn’t, lost, and now have a born again perspective to get elected.
    Diet wrong but maybe right elsewhere when the whole expensive idea is absurd on it’s face, and even more so for areas even less vibrant now.
    No word, no whimper of reduction of cost here and a real catch up in neglected municipal maintenance.
    More secret plans which possibly will be thrown on us in another of our council’s famous “done deals”. You can bet it won’t be a save-you- money plan. No sir’ee.
    This town is a sink hole of truth, and the cost of the deceptions is pulling a lot of barely- making- it -now folks in with it,and not a damned one of them up there even addresses it.

  • Frank Swatson

    Mr. Davis’s comment about a tax cut is somewhat true but not at all accurate. We got a slight tax cut but rather hefty fee and rate increases. The net total is that more money comes out of each High Point citizen’s pocket each and every month now compared to a year earlier.

    By calling one thing a tax, another a fee, and another something else, you can make things sound any way you want. But all of these come out of our pockets, regardless of what you choose to call them.

    • Observer

      Not a huge fan of Kepley’s on Main Street BBQ personally although those that like the style love it.
      Did stop by today to buy other food (excellent) and sign their petition to stop the street “diet” plan, and thank them for their efforts.
      A few non insiders here still have some guts to stand up to the movers and shakers, and spenders of the public buck.
      Seems the folks at Kepley’s don’t believe that choking their street to less than half of current traffic volume will help their business: imagine that.
      This is one dietary choice that is certain to give the unconnected of the average tax payers here a large case of indigestion: about $12 mil worth, before the expensive detour fixes and the inevitable more expensive return to sanity later.
      Add in the rest of Core City and the just announced neighborhood enhancements on our dime for the area around HPU ( gotta’ dress up the neighborhood, y’know) and we’re talkin’ about real money: the kind that the taxpayers here ran out of a long time ago.
      Life in High Cost Point