Todd Paris, Candidate for Salisbury City Council, Reports from Thursday Evening’s NAACP City Candidates Forum

Posted on September 22, 2017

Todd Paris, Salisbury Attorney and Candidate for Salisbury City Council

♦ The Salisbury-Rowan branch of the NAACP hosted a candidate’s forum for Salisbury City Council candidates Thursday at 6:00 pm at the Salisbury Civic Center at 315 Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue, in Salisbury. Latasha Wilks was unable to attend as she was caring for an injured family member. Mayor Karen Alexander was conspicuous in her absence having an event planned months before. A reliable source said she was attending some sort of regional mayor’s convention where she might be running for some kind of office that may or may not elevate her status among her peers.

Gemale Black and the entire NAACP ran a forum that was exceptionally well done. The questions presented were cogent, relevant, and well thought out. While I did not take a count of attendees, the group appeared to well exceed fifty citizens. While a highly skilled photographer was employed, unfortunately, the forum did not appear to be videotaped.

Livingstone History and Political Science Chair, Margaret Simms-Maddox served as moderator and as expected, did a wonderful job of moving the forum along while showing both strength and restraint with her directions. At the end of the forum, she congratulated the candidates for actually answering the questions and providing useful information. She was a pleasure to work with.
While, naturally, I considered myself ‘the star of the show” all candidates handled themselves well and stayed on point with their answers. My favorite question concerned the treatment of citizens at public comment at city council meetings. Clearly this was an issue for those assembled. I simply gave an example by recognizing Carolyn Logan (the most afflicted by Mayor Alexander’s gavel) and said, “How hard is it just to say, Ms. Logan I disagree with everything you just said, however I support your right to say it and thank you for coming?” I also explained that when there is a public comment required by law, that mayor or council may not restrict the content of speech absent threats or obscenity.

On a question regarding diversity, candidate Al Heggins stunned everyone by responding to the question in Spanish and then a quick translation in English. I jokingly called her a showoff after the forum. She’s a great lady and I would love to serve with her. David Post is always pleasant to talk with and he quipped afterwards that since he was asked to leave the last city council meeting that he felt he had joined the ranks of those happy few like Ms. Logan and me who have had our free speech rights abridged at Council. I told him I might get t-shirts made.

Leda Belk reminded everyone including myself that she had been a law enforcement officer in Charlotte for over 30 years and that experience might be useful with our present crime explosion. Of course my 30 years experience in criminal law, both as a prosecutor and defense attorney, might be helpful as well.

A notable comment was made by incumbent Brian Miller who reminded attendees he had been or soon would be elected to his fourth two year term. Considering that he has presided over the Fibrant deficit induced Salisbury Police Department draw-down and attending crime explosion, the abject failure of his Empire Hotel project to finally sell this August under it’s “non-binding agreement” after we have wasted almost one million dollars over the past ten years and council’s complete failure to stem the financial arterial bleeding from these two debacles, I’m not sure I would have mentioned that longevity had I been him.

Miller also trotted out the tired cliche that he and Blackwell and Alexander did not know Fibrant was losing millions of dollars per year until City Manager Lane Bailey heroically discovered it in 2016. That is either a distortion of the truth or these folks were asleep at the wheel during the budget process. It took me about 15 minutes to figure it all out in October of 2015. The only thing I was wrong about was the amount of the losses. They would become three times my estimate. For your review:

I send my apologies to the other candidates for not reporting your comments in greater detail. It almost impossible to take good notes while being a participant and I make no claim to impartiality. These were just highlights from my memory. Unlike Salisbury’s mayor, the NAACP did not gavel or eject anyone and as long as the answers were roughly responsive, the candidates were afforded their full first amendment rights.

Photos from the NAACP City Candidates Forum:

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