Last night I attended a candidates forum in The Landing, a Southport neighborhood bordered by East Moore Street, Ferry Road and the Cape Fear River. The turnout was good, the opportunity for me and the other candidates to state our positions was excellent, and the questions from the residents were incisive and well thought out.
This was my first ever event of this type and I found it to be both exhilarating and educational. Meeting citizens in an intimate setting, where they can look you in the eye as you talk to them, is really where the rubber meets the road in a political campaign. That's why I love small town government because it allows one to reach a larger percentage of the people in a more direct manner. It is the best way to transcend the political rhetoric of signs, ads, commercials and other 3rd party sources (like newspapers). This does give a slight advantage to those candidates who excel in the art of slick salesmanship, but most folks can spot a phony or a demagogue when they're standing close to them. I've found that the BS detector of Southport citizens is both accurate and well tuned.
The educational opportunity that one-on-one interaction gives to the candidate is profound. While the concerns of each citizen are diverse, I am seeing many patterns show up--some of which I could never have anticipated. The most consistent thing is the large number of people who are truly interested in our city government. The percentage of registered voters who actually show up on election day has increased with each of the past 2 elections. This is encouraging for folks like me who are working to increase citizen participation in our local government's decisions. People want to know what's going on in their government. People want more information about how decisions are made in their behalf, and people want to have input into those decisions.
The major discovery for me as my wife and I canvass the neighborhoods is that the vast majority of people we meet are 100% against the proposed international container port terminal that the NC State Ports Authority would like to place less than 1 mile upriver from our city. I feel strongly that elected leaders in Southport must know this, and it should be a major factor in deciding how the city will deal with the port issue, the State Ports Authority and the legislators who will vote to fund this project (or not).
I'm saving a separate blog to discuss the port, so stay tuned for that. Also, if we haven't gotten around to your home on our travels, please contact me by all means available (e-mail, phone, post a comment, US Postal Service) and let me know your concerns. Furthermore, if you like what you've heard from me and want to improve the curb appeal of your Southport home, please give me your name and address and I'll deliver a stylish yard sign directly to your door. Installation is free of charge.
The single most important thing you can do to help make Southport the city you want it to be is to vote. Let your voice be heard on November the 3rd and I hope to meet you very soon.