City Council candidates address Livingstone College students’ questions

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 24, 2019

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — Salisbury City Council candidates took questions from Livingstone College student leaders Wednesday about building better partnerships between the college and the city, increasing visibility and creating an environment for students to want to stay after graduation.

The candidate forum was held at Varick Auditorium on campus. Anthony Bowman, the Student Government Association president, said the forum was to start communication with students and their leaders.

“Many people do not vote because they don’t fully connect to the candidates or the issues at stake in the election,” Bowman said.

Candidate Gemale Black, the Salisbury-Rowan NAACP president, told the auditorium that it is time for future generations. He spoke about his partnership with the police department for Operation Cease Fire to ensure the relationship with the community and police is equitable. The Salisbury-Rowan NAACP also works with the Livingstone College cheerleading team.

“I will make sure our police officers are visible and learning how to talk to each other, continue to go through training and just making sure they’re there for each of us,” Black said. “If I was elected, I would continue to be in partnership with Operation Cease Fire.”

Mayor Al Heggins talked about the current council and figuring ways to keep students in the community after graduation as they work on economic development.

“It is always a goal to retain the graduates from Livingstone College and also Catawba College as you matriculate into the world,” Heggins said. “What’s important is that there are jobs here for you to matriculate into. That has been a focus of not only myself but of the current council as we talk about economic development and how do we bring into the jobs here that interest you and in line for what you want to do.”

Heggins said the city has invested money into the West End to improve the area around Livingstone College. If the community around the college is improved, it improves the college and provides a safer place to be and have more engaged citizens, she said.

Mayor Pro Tem David Post said the city needs to find ways to make students want to stay in Salisbury. As a 70 year-old, Post said he is not the future — the students are.

“The most important thing we can do is create an environment where you want to stay here after you graduate and, to that end, I have been active in the IDEA Center and supporting the idea of an angel fund to help minority businesses get a first start,” Post said. “I think being engaged in the campuses is a two-step process. One is being on the campus and learning what your needs are, and secondly finding a way to make you want to stay here.”

Patricia Jones “P.J.” Ricks told the Livingstone College students she is a Blue Bear along with her mother. Ricks said the community around Livingstone needs to be revitalized to keep graduates in the city.

“This community can be revitalized to help you find a living wage and a place where you can live, study, work and be happy,” Ricks said. “It can be a vibrant place. Engaging Livingstone students in Salisbury activities and life will help them find jobs with affordable wages and housing.”

Councilwoman Tamara Sheffield said the council needs to ensure it is engaging with students, and not just when they are invited for events like LC on the Green and homecoming. Sheffield said she is working on bringing a Gay-Straight Alliance to campus to make Salisbury safer for all. 

“Please let’s make sure we partnership with one another to make sure we do that,” Sheffield said. “We have to listen to you because I don’t have the ideas but I will work with you to ensure we can bring them over.”

Candidate John Struzick said his platform is three words: jobs, jobs, jobs. Struzick answered a question about the Confederate statue “Fame” and its possible relocation along with Post, who commented it was his fourth time answering that question.

“I believe we need to take a more practical look at where Fame stands today,” Struzick said. “Our city is growing and will be more rapidly in the years ahead. In addition to growth we now have Bell Tower Green, a city park, that will attract more traffic downtown. I believe if it has not already, Fame will be a safety hazard.”

He proposed they should consider moving Fame and the median on Innes Street to create more parking and eliminate congestion.

Livingstone College students will be transported to the polls Oct. 30, William McCorn, the moderator, announced.

“At this point, our future is in the hands of these people,” McCorn said. “We need to understand in order to get the right people in place to make decisions that will best benefit us — our community — we have to vote.”

Candidates Karen Alexander, Brian Miller and Giannina Monzon were absent from the forum.

One-stop voting continues until Nov. 1 weekdays at 7 a.m.-7 p.m. at Rowan County Board of Elections, 1935 Jake Alexander Blvd. W. On Saturday, one-stop voting will be 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Election Day is Nov. 5.