BOONE — The Boone Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the annual Meet the Candidates forum virtually on Oct. 5 where Boone Town Council candidates answered questions and talked about their reasons for running.
CEO and president of the chamber David Jackson served as moderator of the forum, introducing the candidates running for Boone Town Council and lone mayoral candidate, Tim Futrelle.
“It’s not a done deal yet,” Futrelle said.
Futrelle named water conservation, renewable energy, small business growth and affordable housing among his top priorities. Futrelle also said he hopes to better the relationship between the town and county administration.
“I’ve seen (Boone) from a business perspective, I’ve also seen it from a students perspective and I’ve seen it from a citizen’s perspective,” Futrelle said.
He said those experiences gave him unique insight into the town’s goals.
After Futrelle, Jackson opened the forum to responses from the candidates running for unexpired terms on town council: Edie Tugman, Eric Brown, Christy Cook and Becca Nenow. Affordable housing was a top concern among the four candidates.
“Somehow we have got to make housing more accessible for the people who will support and live and work in our community and I think the town council has an obligation to participate,” Tugman said.
Nenow said, similarly to Tugman, the town of Boone has a “responsibility” to take part in addressing the affordable housing issue. Part of that responsibility involves reaching out to community members for feedback on how the town can address the housing problem.
“We’re really talking about the health and wellness and the community,” Cook said. She proposed reserving 10-15 percent of existing multi-unit apartment buildings for full-time single family residents.
“The town of Boone is just one voice in this conversation,” Nenow said. “It’s a community conversation and Town of Boone’s responsibility is to reach out to other groups to get their (input).”
The conversation shifted from affordable housing to safer roadways, with all of the candidates vying for the unexpired town council term supporting the widening and addition of sidewalks and bike lanes to Boone’s main roads.
“Safety first,” Brown said. “Let’s keep the people on the road safe. Let’s keep the people that are in a steel-cage safe but let’s also keep the people that are mounting a bike and very much exposed to the elements safe as well,” he said. Brown said expanding Boone’s roadways would also help prevent water runoff.
Jackson revisited questions about affordable housing in a conversation with the five candidates running for the three seats on town council: Todd Carter, Dalton George, Benjamin Ray, Virginia Roseman and Eric Woolridge.
“I actually think this a place where the town, the county and ASU collectively should share a staff person and help fund a cooperative staff person that’s dedicated to nothing but this particular issue,” Woolridge said. “First, it’s human resource capacity putting towards this and secondly it’s looking at our own property and land.”
Ray said he would be willing to give up his councilmen’s salary to pay for a liaison between the university and the town so that the voices of students would be represented on the council.
The conversation also turned to housing.
“Some people think that this is a student issue but, through my activism, I’ve talked to single parent families who are dealing with this, the elderly, so we really need to improve our current housing stock and improve it and make it safe for people,” George said.
He said he sees a community land trust as the best model to address affordable housing moving forward.
“We can’t hand the keys over to developers or the university and expect them to do right,” George said.
Jackson presented a question, submitted by a community member prior to the virtual meeting, about the inaccessibility and inefficiency of past town council meetings.
“I want people to participate and I want people to have a voice and I will do whatever I need to do address those concerns,” Roseman said. “We can’t do anything without hearing from people and getting information from people.”
If granted a seat on town council, Carter wants to implement Coffee with a Councilmen, an initiative to break down barriers to council meetings.
“I believe that a good government goes to its people, it doesn’t ask its people to come to it,” Carter said.
Ray also mentioned how COVID-19 could have impacted accessibility.
“I know COVID-19 is an issue, but I also think this has been an excuse to push the public out in some ways,” Ray said.
Jackson also steered the conversation toward sustainability and accountability for candidates.
One-stop early voting for municipal elections begins Oct. 14 and ends on Oct. 30.
The full forum can be found at fb.watch/8CCnfKaibY/.