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Todd Paris says city needs “competent government” before all else

SALISBURY — If anything is going to change in Salisbury, the city needs a “competent government,” says Todd Paris.

Paris, who is running for a seat on the City Council, said good government will lead to better success recruiting business, more civil public-comment periods at council meetings, and better performing schools.

On recruiting business

“We have to be the kind of place where people come and say, ‘Yeah, these guys don’t have any big problems,’” Paris said.

He said the city needs to rely less on the Rowan EDC because it’s “not a novel thing.”

“Every single city and county that I know of in the state has an EDC,” Paris said. “If you want to bring business here, you’ve also got to think outside the box.”

Paris said the city should hire a well-established industrial recruitment firm to offer creative ways to bring big companies to town.

“Find the top company, pay them $1 million if you’ve got to and get us a Toyota- or BMW-sized plant down here,” Paris said.

By putting a greater emphasis on growing Salisbury now, he said, the city might be able to attract the young families that will soon be looking to settle down.

“The prevailing economic figures show that (young) people are drawn away from everywhere and to two cities in North Carolina, which is Raleigh and Charlotte. They go to the big cities because there’s more to do and better salaries and everything,” Paris said. “I think eventually this generation is going to end up ricocheting back. And when it does ricochet back, we have to be ready to have a good city and a good county to accept them.”

On public comment

“City council (members) are public servants, not public masters. This is not England,” Paris said.

As an attorney, he said, he has developed a thick skin and would allow people to say whatever they need to say to him.

“Some of the people who get elected, they’re just not used to people arguing with them. They’re thin-skinned,” Paris said. “I’m an attorney. I’m used to people arguing with me, yelling at me, treating me all kinds of ways (and) asking me tough questions.”

He said the meaning of “personal attack” — a phrase that has been used in the current City Council public-comment ordinance — needs to be clarified.

“And they better draw it very narrowly because the thing is, these public comments are the only time once a month that the citizens can stand up in front of their elected officials and speak to them in public with the media and everyone else watching,” Paris said.

Paris said council members should be allowed to respond to the people speaking.

“Why shouldn’t they answer us? This whole thing where they sit up there like Mount Rushmore and people go up and ‘Blah, blah, blah’ at them and they don’t say anything back unless it’s something ugly,” Paris said. “That whole idea is nonsensical to me.”

On schools

“The reality is that the council has nothing to do with the school system,” Paris said.

But, he said, the council should use its position as a “bully pulpit.”

“You can’t control, but you can influence,” Paris said. “If the City Council is going to do something, we need to get up in front of the school board and get up in front of the county and say, ‘You will go out and figure out how to teach urban kids.’”

Paris said that neither city nor county officials have learned how to serve and teach urban youth. Instead, he said, they have given every child in the system a computer or tablet.

Paris said the investment in computers and tablets, called the “one-on-one system,” is not working because most of the students in the county don’t have internet in their homes.

“It was ahead of its time, and it’s not working,” Paris said. “Instead of spending $12 million on computers, why aren’t we sending one or two people out to places where they’ve learned to (teach urban youth)?”

Paris said he wants Salisbury to become the “code center of the universe” and for kids to learn coding throughout their school years.

Contact Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222. 

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