Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer
Early voting for municipal candidates is under way in Franklin and of the town’s 3,993 residents, 2,655 are registered to vote. As of noon on Tuesday, 19 town residents had taken advantage of early voting and cast their ballot for town council. Six candidates are vying for three open seats on the town council. The race includes two incumbents, Barbara McRae and Billy Mashburn, and four others, Angela Moore, Greg Raby, David Culpepper, and Jimbo Ledford.
Angela Moore has several generations of family currently living in Macon County. Moore describes herself as a strong believer in fiscal responsibility, individual rights, and minimal government interference. She also described herself as an advocate for reducing government spending, increasing the transparency of government, and equal enforcement of the law.
Moore has a Masters of Science of Natural Resources and a Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems from NC State University. She has worked for the National Park Service, NC State University, and the Town of Franklin, as well as doing work as an independent GIS contractor and as a missionary teacher in Tanzania.
“I am running for Town Council because I want to help the people of Franklin protect their rights,” said Moore. “Much like our founding fathers, I want to promote open government, restore private property rights, stand by equal enforcement of the law, and cut taxes through fiscal responsibility. New rules and regulations have piled up by the dozen. Many of those rules are sporadically enforced leaving citizens to wonder if their neighbors are well connected or if the town just doesn’t care. If a law is not fair it should be rescinded, but if it is on the books it should be enforced equitably among all land owners. We should have a similar view of our public funds. Our tax funds should be used exclusively to serve the public through infrastructure, public works, and public safety and not used for special interests, promotion of favored business types/districts, or given away at the council’s whim. The town is under a mountain of debt, no doubt due to poor money management, spending on special interests, and debt services. We have to make every penny count. Our town must function without bias and with fiscal responsibility.”
Moore has no prior political experience, but has spent her free time studying the Town of Franklin’s Code of Ordinances, both as an employee, and as a private resident.
Greg Raby has spent all but a few years of his life in Macon County and all of his family roots are here.
“I’ve been a blue collar worker most of my life, been self employed for the last 16 years, graduated Franklin High class of 1986 then to the school of hard knocks,” said Raby.
Raby doesn’t have political experience and describes himself as being “politically incorrect and pretty much say what’s on my mind, I will say told you so when I’m right but also admit being wrong.”
Incumbent Billy Mashburn has faithfully served on the Franklin Town Council for decades, but due to some recent health issues, has been unable to attend forums and events this election cycle. Mashburn was also unable to answer questions for an interview as of press time.
Top issues facing the town and where you stand.
For this portion, candidates were asked to state their opinion, plan, and outlook on prominent issues currently facing Franklin.
Main Street’s businesses continue to grow and expand, bringing more and more people downtown. With more visitors, parking continues to be an issue. What would you like to see happen with parking and how do you think it needs to be addresses?
Moore: “Is parking downtown a real issue or just a pet project of the town board? I did a study as the town Geographic Information Systems Analyst over 9 years ago, the DOT did a study, and the town has hired multiple outside firms to do studies with no practical solutions. When is the town going to stop wasting time and money on this issue and let it rest? Space for parking directly on Main Street is limited and no amount of studies is going to change that. Parallel parking would only serve to create traffic jams and accidents as it takes more time to park and many people struggle with parking in this manner. If we really want to improve the parking situation downtown better signage to available parking would be an excellent low cost and convenient solution. If parking spaces directly on Main Street are not large enough for extra long vehicles we could look at restricting the length of vehicles parking in those spots. Let’s stop putting time and money into studying pet projects and instead give that money back to the people, or at least spend it on actual improvements such as better sidewalks or improved road maintenance.”
Raby: “I think we should leave Main Street like it is and look for options on secondary streets.”
The Whitmire property has been debated over the last several election cycles, and while the town has discussed plans to address it, nothing has been implemented. If you had to decide tomorrow, what would you like to see done with the Whitmire Property?
Moore: “The Whitmire property should be sold. We are in debt, and it has been surplus for over a decade. What is to be done with the property should be up to the new owner. The town should not dictate what to do with the property as it would only reduce our ability to find a buyer. That being said I would I think it would be well within reason for the town to show a small measure of negotiation on the price in the event that a buyer would be willing to offer tangible infrastructure projects to the town in return. For example an added branch to the greenway connecting the existing residential homes behind the property with the greenway and businesses in front of the property would offer significant value to a very large group of residents and businesses, but this type of agreement must be left up to the buyer. The property should not be further restricted without an amicable buyer in place.”
Raby: “We didn’t use it for what it was purchased for so it needs to be sold. I would like to see it used for a hotel/ lodging with a convention center.”
County and town relations
Macon County and the town of Franklin work closely together on several issues that overlap the two entities. What is your impression about the state of this relationship and how do you think it can be improved?
Moore: “A positive and collaborative relationship with Macon County is a huge asset to the town, but the Town Council’s priority must be the residents and property owners of Franklin. Everyone who lives within the town limits of Franklin already pays county taxes. Being part of the Town of Franklin is a value added service. Our services should specifically target serving our residents and businesses. Partnerships or agreements between the Franklin Town Council and the County Commissioners, should only exist when it is mutually beneficial for both the town residents and the county residents at large. As a town government we should keep in mind that any agreement like this should doubly favor the town residents and land owners because they are part of both groups. The town exists to offer extra services and higher quality services to its people, but let’s not forget that every town resident is also entitled to county services as well.”
Raby: “I’ve always heard the Town and County didn’t get along, I would like to see relations strengthened.”
Is there an issue that you think is pressing in Franklin that was not addressed? If so, what is it and your plans to approach it?
Moore: “Debt is a pressing issue for the Town of Franklin, and it is an issue you rarely hear about. The Town of Franklin does not just have one debt service, they have several. In fact, this year alone over $1,000,000 will be used to make the required payments on the town’s debt. This does not even count the debt service that will begin next year for the new water plant. A water plant that could have easily been delayed several years or even decades. While debt services are a viable tool for emergent or unexpected issues a local government may face, they should be a last resort, and not a first line of defense. Our aldermen have built extravagant buildings, made poor choices in planning infrastructure improvements, and forgotten to put funds aside for future infrastructure expenses. The habitual debt must stop, and we must look at better ways to pay down the debt we have. We can sell surplus property to pay down the debt and explore the viability of paying debt down early to save on costly interest. Debt has become a habit. A habit that will be a deterrent to small business owners. A habit that will drive the cost of living in Franklin up for our children and our grandchildren. I have spent ample time studying our budget and I can help the town to start making better choices and stop spending what they don’t have.”
Raby: “The town’s infrastructure needs to be addressed so it will support growth for decades to come.”
A public meet and greet and forum will be held on Thursday, Oct. 26, at Lazy Hiker Brewing company beginning at 6 p.m. The event will feature eight questions submitted by citizens of Franklin and each candidate will have the opportunity answer. All town candidates with the exception of Mashburn plan to attend. The event is sponsored by Homestar – The Regina England Team.