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Channel 9 Primary Election Guide: Charlotte mayoral candidates

CHARLOTTE — Ahead of the primary election on May 17, Channel 9 is asking candidates in several local races why they’re running and what they hope to accomplish if elected.

We sent all candidates contending to be Charlotte’s mayor six questions and asked them to respond in about 100 words.

READ MORE coverage from The Political Beat HERE

Four Democrats, including incumbent Mayor Vi Lyles, and two Republicans are running for mayor. The top Democrat and Republican will move on to the general election.

  • What is your occupation?
  • Why are you running?
  • If elected, what is your top priority?
  • What is a decision made by the current City Council that you disagree with?
  • What sets you apart from your opponents?
  • Should Charlotte City Council pursue a sales tax increase for transit? What project should receive priority?

Below are the complete, unedited responses of each candidate who chose to participate.

Democrat Candidates

Vi Lyles

What is your occupation? Mayor of Charlotte

Why are you running? I am running to empower our people and build opportunity for every resident of Charlotte.

If elected, what is your top priority? My top priority continues to be improving the quality of life for our residents, including safe, affordable living spaces, quality transportation, and good-paying jobs.

What is a decision made by the current City Council that you disagree with? I do not agree with the decision to approve 4-year terms for the Mayor and City Council without a referendum.

What sets you apart from your opponents? My experience—and Charlotte’s improvements as a result of my experiences—is primarily what separates me from my opponents. I have a clear vision for improving life for all of the people of Charlotte, and I will use my experience to help me make that dream a reality.

Should Charlotte City Council pursue a sales tax increase for transit? What project should receive priority? Yes, Charlotte should purse a sales tax increase to support and fund the betterment of our transit system. It is fundamental to our future—and to the prosperity of our people—to connect good paying jobs and affordable housing. We achieve these connections by having a reliable and consistent mass transit system, including buses, rail, roads, walking, and biking.

Tigress McDaniel

What is your occupation? Lead Consultant of PurSUEt of Happyness Corporation specializing in Business Legitimacy and Viability, EnviroSustainability, and the Performing Arts

Why are you running? City government is currently fast spinning out of control and has lost sight of the greater good for Charlotteans. Incumbents are misappropriating funds, complcit on issues for which Charlotteans have demanded and even protested change, alienating organizations and agencies that have economically benefited the city and positively and ethically so, poorly managing the increasingly problematic issues of air and water quality, failing to address increasing incidents of mold and unfit premises, failing to enforce ethical policing, and so many other demonstrations of ineptitude. It appears that they are scurrying to keep their seats to avoid public exposure and inevitable liability and possibly even crimes like past officials. I’m not running to doltishly tout an “I told you so” rant. I’m running because when one lies and remains uncontrite, they then cover up those lies with additional lies, and the problems that arise therefrom enlarge insurmountably. We need to employ a “pause” button and reset. Those subject to liability and public disdain don’t want to be ousted, so they’re telling Charlotteans, “give me another chance and everything will be ok...we’ll fix it.” However, many incumbents lack the expertise, experience, empathy and objectivity to “fix” any of the problems they have created. I think my view is shared by many fellow Charlotteans ... we don’t want to cane incumbents at high noon for their indiscretions, but we also don’t want them to keep their seat and persist upon their indiscretions. I’m running to give Charlotteans, myself included, a real viable opportunity to implement the change we seek.

If elected, what is your top priority? Because my love language and academic, spiritual and societal philosophies of life are interdisciplinary, and my ability to multitask nearly unrivaled, many of the priorities of fellow Charlotteans are “top priority” to me, as well: reduction of crime, community oneness, promoting better race relations, air and water quality, sustainable and affordable housing, including but not limited to fit premises for the least expensive housing, reentry advocacy for inmates, especially where many convicted persons have been wrongfully convicted (like myself) and deserve equitable housing, promoting better relations between citizens and police (and not just the facade therof), consistent enforcement for unethical and even unlawful police conduct, sustainable infrastructure (we surely don’t want to be the next city to face imminent citywide plumbing failure), arbor remediation, small business support and many other issues. My expertise and experience in Applied Physical Sciences for Environmental Sustainability, Economics and Law lends well to these goals and priorities. If I had to sum it all up in one word, our top priority is changing the culture.

What is a decision made by the current City Council that you disagree with? The decision most of my fellow Charlotteans know that I have publicly rejected is the usurpative vote to increase their own compensation. Whereas, of course, I generally agree that ALL who work for the city are entitled to a living wage. The notion, which mind you has been asserted by incumbents that they are somehow poverty stricken and deserving of more than minimum wage, is especially absurd considering the express fact that many of them have their own flourishing practices as a licensed attorney, CPA or otherwise gainfully employed in addition and notably separate from their city council seat. Many peer reviewed or otherwise reputable articles have dispelled disinformation regarding the time or work hours required to serve in public office; the gripes of current incumbents are inconsistent with the facts. Even more so, if we excuse or otherwise accept their reasoning, what cannot be sufficiently explained is their lack of productivity and completion rate on Charlotteans’ priorities. In other words, they now have the pay they believe they deserve, so where’s the output we Charlotteans deserve. It remains missing and insufficiently explained.

What sets you apart from your opponents? The most obvious is, of course, my interdisciplinary academia and experience. However, just like my mother taught me, book smarts “ain’t everything.” That said, regarding my opponents, my empathy, objectivity, humanity, well-rounded cultural and diverse socio-economic experiences are unrivaled. I have experienced so much of the dymanism of life’s crises and successes that my lens is well-calibrated to serve Charlotte best.

Should Charlotte City Council pursue a sales tax increase for transit? What project should receive priority? As an Economist, I understand the application of sales tax for public goods like transit. And there are many instances which necessitate increased sales tax. Increase the sales tax for transit will further economically and otherwise financially hardship all Charlotteans who depend on it. It is not clear what is intended by the second question, especially when coupled with the first. Surmising that you intend to remain on the topic of city transportation, priorities should include: (1) sidewalks and adequate bust stops with seating for commuters (2) safety officers to accompany bus drivers for emergencies (even if they don’t necessarily ride along); bus drivers are undersupported and overworked; (3) flat rates for transit fares; more transit options for the disabled, student, and elder communities, and (4) upfit of purportedly clean air buses which I recorded a few weeks ago spewing black pollutant smoke. Without a seat in office and an audit (which doesn’t have to a scary scruitnous thing; it’s more about having sufficient information for better decision making), then I can assess what other implements should be considered and vetted by the council.

Tae McKenzie

What is your occupation? Non-profit Director

Why are you running? Because I don’t feel as though those citizens of Charlotte are being heard. No one is listening to them.

If elected, what is your top priority?

Affordable Housing, Disability Housing, Making Charlotte a more accessible City, Better Police Communication training with Black and Brown Communities on How to Speak and interact with these communities because the way they approach the situation from the start is how the situation will go from there. They have to know how to talk to them as well and talk to them as if they are human beings as well. ( as if they have value) increase in pay ( if you all are not going to come down on the rent and mortgage you all need to increase pay)

What is a decision made by the current City Council that you disagree with? Affordable Housing. You all say that there is affordable housing but there is not affordable housing here in Charlotte. There are people looking to move that want to get to better communities and neighborhoods, but they can’t afford anywhere in Charlotte to stay and they stay in the worsts part of Charlotte with the roughest crime and their innocent children are getting hit at and killed by bullets because they have no way of getting out and what you all call affordable is not affordable.

Never once has anyone ever voiced their opinion on Disability Housing (like (Senior Citizen) Yes there are a ton of us that are disabled and we would like our own Housing no one in city council ever thinks about us.

What sets you apart from your opponents? I don’t speak for what I want, I speak for what the people want. I am the people of Charlotte that live the struggle of the day to day.

Should Charlotte City Council pursue a sales tax increase for transit? What project should receive priority? No. Affordable Housing.

Lucille Puckett

What is your occupation? I am the Founder and Director of Take Back Our H.O. O.D.S. a non-profit organization created to be a decrease violence and rebuild safer neighborhoods to include, but not limited to addressing community and public safety, gentrification, youth and education, homelessness, and economic mobility.

Why are you running? For the people and not for a position, to be the voice for the voiceless and those lost in the scheme of politics that want their votes to work for them. To be held accountable, to have a seat at the table when it matters the most for ALL people. I’m running to walk the walk and not just talk the talk and to be the Official that may not always get it right for everyone, but to be transparent about the decisions made on their behalf. I am running for YOU.

If elected, what is your top priority? Community and public safety (homicides), low-income and affordable housing, and youth violence are three of my priorities when elected.

What is a decision made by the current City Council that you disagree with? The current Council have a right to their own decisions and no one truly knows the reasons why, but this is one that I’m sure so many will agree with me on and thankful that a Higher Power intervened on, and that’s the RNC National Convention.

What sets you apart from your opponents? I lost my son to senseless gun violence; an issue that plagues our community and communities around the nation and a major issue that is addressed the least. The fact that I am in the communities regularly and I pride myself of building relationships with all voters especially the most marginalized and communities of color. Either I am living or I have experienced the issues that I am fighting for, I am most transparent and consistent in my fight for change. These are a few of the thigs that set me apart from my running mates.

Should Charlotte City Council pursue a sales tax increase for transit? What project should receive priority? I would have to have more facts and details.

Republican Candidates

Stephanie de Sarachaga-Bilbao

What is your occupation? Finance and Real Estate.

Why are you running? I am running because there needs to be a new vision for Charlotte; bridging the best of the past with the needs of our present. My family has a tradition of service, and this is a heritage I am working on passing this example to my daughter. There is something everyone can do for their community, and right now mine is to collaboratively identify and rapidly implement a vision for our home for everyone in Charlotte

If elected, what is your top priority? My priority is to improve the everyday lives of Charlotteans by focusing on three key areas: safety, community lead development, and promotion and support of our backbone job creators - our small businesses.

What is a decision made by the current City Council that you disagree with? Charlotte right now is confused about its soul. Our soul defines our vision and our local election is about creating clarity. I look forward to bridging our city’s past and present to lead us into a future which will make Charlotte an example to the rest of our country. Through this personal growth we will then be able to reevaluate current decisions made and ensure they match our city’s direction.

What sets you apart from your opponents? Dedication and resiliency, along with an ability to leverage my national and international network for the benefit of our city.

Should Charlotte City Council pursue a sales tax increase for transit? What project should receive priority?—Before asking more from people hurting by inflation, we need to find immediate and actionable transit solutions for all Charlotteans.

Mohamed Moustafa

What is your occupation? Industry Mechanical Engineer specialist in heat treatment and Motorcraft, President/ CEO Universal cab company,Inc.

Why are you running? The city of Charlotte, for about 15 years, has been managed by failure, corruption, monopoly and unqualified individuals and the wrong group of law makers. Charlotte needs a new set of community leaders that have personally invested their livelihood in making the city a better place. My experience as a small business owner in charlotte and surrounding areas has given me the ability to understand the city and it’s citizens needs from many perspectives, as well as the experience needed to be a leader in decision making that benefits all.

If elected, what is your top priority? Public Safety. Police reform & Accountability by By teaching the new and old officer coming law. Affordable housing with in transportation route. Recruiting businesses Manufacturing (creation/training). Job creation by opening opportunities by partnering with companies such as manufacturing companies willing to train young people and provide jobs.

What is a decision made by the current City Council that you disagree with? The city council voted to increase property tax to pay for infrastructure upgrades including reopening bus lanes on independence boulevard. Although safety is important, there are other issues at hand that are much more critical to address which that money could’ve been invested in such as increased wages and better working conditions for city employees, and other efforts in creating jobs and affordable housing for low income households.

What sets you apart from your opponents? I have first hand experience as a small business owner and citizen of charlotte for 40+ years dealing with every day indivvidials of the city. I have also ran a successful business during that time which speaks to my leadership skills. Unlike my opponents, who are have infiltrated the city council and mayor positions through means of political efforts, I can relate better to our citizens through honesty and honor as A normal working class citizen. I work to perish the city through honest and straightforward measures. Accountability is key and that is lost when most of the people in power in the city are corrupt or have their own agendas.

Should Charlotte City Council pursue a sales tax increase for transit? Mohamed Moustafa did not submit an answer for this question.