Wilmington residents and supporters of the large field of candidates vying to become Wilmington’s next mayor, gathered this week at World Café Live at the Queen to hear how the candidates would improve their city if elected.
The hour-long debate was focused largely on improving Wilmington’s downtown and riverfront areas to attract more businesses.
The live radio forum featured seven candidates who bandied questions posed to them from debate attendees, who submitted questions upon entry. WDEL radio aired the debate Monday and asked questions submitted from listeners via the web and Twitter.
State Representative Dennis P. Williams suggested exploring entertainment venues that would attract big name musical acts like rapper Jay-Z, which Williams added was probably not a fan favorite of attendees or listeners but who could bring big bucks to the city.
City councilman Kevin Kelley called for a defined vision for the riverfront. He also added just as much attention needs to be placed on the surrounding neighborhoods where residents are under siege by crime and fearful to travel to the riverfront.
Protecting the rights of property owners was another hot-button issue. Scott Spencer said the push for eminent domain was one of the greatest failures of the Baker Administration. Spencer called it, “a direct threat to the stability of the city and its downtown well being.”
Eminent domain was just one of the controversial issues that put Bill Montgomery, the former chief of staff for Mayor James M. Baker on the hot seat several times during the debate. He found himself defending such actions as the eminent domain law and the cost-cutting program called rolling bypass used by the Wilmington Fire Department. Montgomery added the Chief of the Wilmington Fire Department suggested the program and that it was working well and not compromising safety.
The candidates vying for the position of mayor are Robert Bovell, Selara Gatewood, Derrick Johnson, Bill Montgomery, Kevin Kelley, Scott Spencer and Dennis Williams. They will compete in the September 11th primary. The official candidate slate will be settled after registration for the race closes on July 9.
The Monday night debate was sponsored by Downtown Visions, Wilmington’s Downtown Business Improvement District and was broadcast on WDEL 1150 AM and WDEL.com.
NewsWorks camera’s recorded portions of the debate.