Voters in Elon will select from among four contenders for a trio of town council seats that will appear on the ballot in next week’s municipal elections.
These four office seekers include incumbent councilmen Monti Allison and Quinn Ray along with challengers Michael Woods and Sammerah Qawasmy. A third incumbent, Elon’s mayor pro tem Mark Greene, has opted not to seek re-election this fall after 16 consecutive years on the governing board of this small college town.
Biographical information on the candidates can be found here: https://alamancenews.com/meet-the-candidates-for-elon-town-council/
In order to provide voters with some insights into the values and policy stances of the town’s four would-be council members, The Alamance News sent each of the candidates an issues questionnaire which touched on matters ranging from municipal finances to Elon’s relationship with its eponymous university.
The newspaper ultimately received responses to these questions from Woods, Ray, and Allison. Qawasmy failed to respond to either of two emails or a subsequent phone call seeking her participation. Her non-responses are indicated in the full inventory of questions and answers that appear on page 10 of this issue. Biographical information for candidates other than Qawasmy can be found on page 9.
The three candidates who responded to the newspaper’s inquiries offer fairly similar takes on most of the issues they were asked to consider.
On the question of property taxes, all three respondents endorse the town’s current tax rate of 35 cents for every $100 of property value. Nor are they troubled that this figure is about 14.2 percent higher than the “revenue neutral,” or break even, rate that the county’s tax office had calculated for Elon in light of the windfall from the county’s most recent mass revaluation in January.
In addressing sending levels for particular areas, Woods called for additional funding for the police and fire departments, and Ray endorsed an increase for public works, while Allison saw the current levels as adequate on all counts. Allison nevertheless acknowledged that the town gets routine requests from residents to invest in the extension of certain sidewalks and greenways or on making them handicap accessible. Meanwhile, Ray stressed the need to consider competitive salaries when setting the funding levels for municipal departments.
When asked about two of the town’s newest initiatives to drum up economic activity, the challenger Woods joined Allison and Ray in endorsing the council’s decision to hire a part-time staff member to oversee a long-running farmer’s market that had begun as a purely private endeavor. Wood also endorsed the seven-day a week schedule of the downtown area’s new “social district,” where patrons of participating restaurants and bars are allowed to roam around, within designated limits, with open containers of alcohol. All three candidates, likewise, endorsed the council’s decision to allow a microbrewery in Gibsonville to set up a “beer garden” within the social district – at least on a trial basis.
None of the candidates is entirely opposed to a consultant’s proposal to construct a new municipal building that would include extra space on the second and third stories to accommodate retail tenants or apartments. Allison conceded, however, that the consultant’s proposal exceeds the town’s immediate needs, although he added that it has outgrown its current accommodations and is “pursing” a lease to increase its office space.
All three of the candidates are also eager to see the town work closely with Elon University to address issues of mutual interest.
For Ray, the cultivation of a “symbiotic relationship between the town and the university is paramount.”
“As the second-largest employer in the county,” he added, “the university not only contributes to the local economy but also provides a captive audience for the town’s businesses.”
Meanwhile, Woods said that, in light of the university’s tax exempt status, he’d like its administrators to pitch in whenever they can to defray some of the municipality’s costs.
“We should all want Elon, NC to be a shining example of how a community works together,” he adds.
Allison shared a similar suggestion in his view on the town-gown relationship.
“While the university doesn’t pay property taxes, they have made annual contributions of $200K towards the downtown plaza project,” he added. “That said, we continue to work together to find more opportunities for cost sharing investments.”
See complete Elon town council questionnaire HERE