KFP: Kinston mayoral candidates take center stage


Mayoral candidate Ralph Clark, left, makes his opening statements, while John Marks, center, and B.J. Murphy listen at the mayoral forum Tuesday at community television station TACC-9 on Queen Street.

Sara Pezzoni / The Free Press

Kinston’s three candidates for mayor each had their lone opportunity to address viewers on the issues of the city on Tuesday evening.

Ralph Clark, John Marks and B.J. Murphy spoke at the TACC-9 community television station for a mayoral forum, as the three are looking to be appointed into office by the people after the Nov. 5 election.

Clark, who has spent 32 years in public office, including eight as the former city manager of Kinston, believes his extensive experience and knowledge would be vital in helping the community he has called home since 1999.

“Kinston has been great to me as a city manager and a citizen,” Clark said. “I have a lot to give, and hope (the city) allow(s) me to be the mayor.”

Clark also talked about education in his opening statement, acknowledging that the city council would not be able to intervene in the decision-making process.

“I would be remiss not to mention something about education,” Clark said. “Even though the city has nothing to do with the education in the community, it has to be supported.”

Marks, the pastor and founder of Increasing the Faith Ministries, believes Kinston needs to move in an alternate direction in fixing some of the issues in the community.

“We do need change,” Marks said. “Everybody that I ask or come in contact with, they are always saying that the city needs to be changed. I’m just grateful that our city and the leadership that is present are still doing things, but we still need solutions to a lot of problems. I just want to be an improvement on assets to the city of Kinston.”

Murphy, the incumbent seeking his second term in office, used his opening statement to speak on some of the positives he has seen in Kinston since he became the mayor in 2009.

“I have never been more excited about the opportunities before our community than I am right now,” Murphy said. “Our community is growing, and there are a lot of positive things happening. Just over the past four years, we have had a major focus on redeveloping our community, on making sure we have better streets, and we’ve had a more accountable government than ever before.”

Early voting starts on Thursday, and will run until Nov. 2, with Election Day on Nov. 5.


Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.

For more information on reruns of the city council and mayor forums, visit tacc9.com.


KFP: Kinston voters reject mayoral veto referendum

by Bryan Hanks
Managing Editor

Tuesday wasn’t just a day to elect new leaders or bring back incumbents — Election Day 2011 also served as an opportunity for area voters to vote on referendums.

In Kinston, voters cast ballots on a proposed veto for mayor, that could only be overturned by a 4/5 vote of the city council. The measure failed by a huge margin — 2,358-1,237.

Although Joe Tyson, who was re-elected to the Kinston City Council Tuesday night, was an outspoken advocate against the mayoral veto, he was surprised at the almost 2-1 vote against the veto.

“I was really not expecting it to be the margin that was the final tally,” Tyson said. “But I think once The Free Press began to explain to the people what the veto really meant, they had the opportunity to digest that and come up with their own decisions.”

Full Story

WITN: Kinston Voters to Decide on Mayoral Veto Power

Voters will decide a hot issue in Kinston Tuesday – whether to give the mayor veto authority over city council.


Posted: 7:33 PM Nov 7, 2011
Reporter: Dave Jordan 

Voters will decide a hot issue in Kinston Tuesday – whether to give the mayor veto authority over city council.

The question of a mayoral veto is on the ballot in Kinston and there’s strong opinions on both sides.

As it stands right now, Kinston’s five city council members have the power to enact ordinances and hire and fire workers, including three key employees – the city manager, attorney and clerk. Mayor BJ Murphy says he, and future mayors, should have the ability to veto council’s decisions. Councilwoman Alice Tingle, who’s not running for r-election, says the mayor has enough power already.

If the referendum does pass , Murphy says council members could override a veto with a fourth-fifths majority vote.

Republican State Representative Stephen LaRoque sponsored the the mayoral veto bill, which legislators later voted to add to Kinston’s ballot.

Murphy says he contacted legislators about the bill in the spring, after council members voted in favor of forced annexation, which he says he’s against.

Only two other cities in the state, Charlotte and Topsail Beach, have mayoral veto power.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.


Op-ed: A passionate argument for the mayoral veto

by BJ Murphy
Mayor, City of Kinston

There is a fundamental question before the Kinston voters this Tuesday — do you want your mayor to be a ceremonial figurehead who cuts ribbons or do you want your mayor, the chief elected official, to have a formal say in our local democratic system?

Remove the personalities, stereotypes and false claims out of the equation and you will find the innocence of the checks and balances argument. The framers of the Constitution argued for checks and balances to stop, or at least slow down, the steamrolling of the majority’s stranglehold on the branches of government to protect the minority and its value to our free society.

The mayor of Kinston is not elected by the city council, but by the people, and therefore the mayor does act, or should act, as a separate institution of our government similar to the president and governor. We should elect these government CEOs with the full confidence that with the oath of office comes a huge responsibility to govern judiciously for both the majority and minority.

And yes, the mayor does have the responsibility of consensus-building among the community and council. But what is consensus building when there is no power to act?

The intent of the mayoral veto is to allow our community, not just the council, to pause and reflect on the consequences of their actions. Sometimes you the citizen, voter and taxpayer are the minority when quick rubber-stamping occurs at City Hall. And without some mechanism in place like the mayoral veto, the status quo will continue.

Several questions have been floated by some with clear indication to confuse people. Summing up answers to those objections boils down to about four answers: the legislation to change the city charter was approved by the N.C. General Assembly to be voted on by the citizens of Kinston, the mayor pro tem has all the powers and duties the mayor has in his absence, the council can override any veto with a four-fifths majority, and the mayor abides by the same code of ethics approved by the council.

Anyone can count on one hand the number of absent council members in the past few years. We continue to be blessed by elected members who take their duties seriously, if nothing else than by simply showing up.

Other frequently asked questions about this issue have been answered via YouTube by visiting www.BJMurphy.org, search video.

I certainly will ask you to vote for the mayoral veto referendum to bring checks and balances to the City of Kinston. But, regardless of Tuesday’s outcome of the mayoral veto referendum, you will not see any difference in the passion for Kinston, respect for constructive disagreements, and hope for a greater Kinston from this mayor or any future mayor.

And that is a small example of what makes our democratic society the greatest nation in the world.


B.J. Murphy is the mayor of Kinston. You can reach him at bj@bjmurphy.org. The opinions of the guest columnist are not necessarily those of The Free Press.



The Free Press guest columnist feature appears every Wednesday in this space. Would you like to be considered as a guest columnist? Contact Managing Editor Bryan Hanks at (252) 559-1074 or at bhanks@freedomenc.com.

Carolina Journal: Kinston Mayoral Veto


Referendum on Nov. 8 ballot would make mayor ‘more than a figurehead’

By Karen Welsh

Nov. 2nd, 2011

KINSTON — If the “yea” votes have it, Kinston could be one of the only towns in North Carolina to give its mayor veto power. Local voters will decide the matter in a referendum scheduled for the Nov. 8 ballot.

Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, introduced House Bill 310, also known as the Mayoral Veto Bill, in the General Assembly last spring after Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy requested the action. The bill passed unanimously, making way for the proposition to be brought before the people.

If passed, the mayor will have seven days to veto any action taken by the council. The vetoed item would be placed immediately on the next agenda for consideration, and four of the five council members would have to vote for the measure to override the mayor’s veto. 

Charlotte is the only city in North Carolina that gives its mayor veto powers. The General Assembly controls the charters of all cities, towns, and villages in the state, so legislative action was required to give Kinston voters the opportunity to decide it they wanted a mayoral veto.

Murphy, 30, was the youngest mayor on record in the state when he was sworn in Dec. 7, 2009. He battled with city council members over House Bill 5, a measure that would have repealed forced annexation in Kinston. The mayor favored H.B. 5 and let constituents know by sending them a message on official letterhead detailing his position on the matter. (The bill passed the House and is pending in the Senate.)

During a Feb. 12 council meeting, Murphy said he was both chastised and marginalized. He said the council voted 4-1 to remove him from the Highway 70 Corridor Commission and 3-2 to remove the mayor’s signature from documents and ordinances unless he received the council’s express permission.

“It was a personal vendetta,” he said. “It was all in the same breath as forced annexation, and they were trying to send a message to me.”

After the confrontation, Murphy decided the mayor should be more than a figurehead and should have the right to veto council decisions.

“The mayor is the chief elected official, as duly elected as the council, but has no formal say in the budget, hiring, or day-to-day items,” he said. “Yet the mayor is still held accountable for those decisions by the people. The mayor having veto power would be in the citizens’ best interest. It would provide a series of checks and balances.”

LaRoque said he responded with H.B. 310 after Murphy inquired about securing veto power. LaRoque said it made sense for the mayor to have a veto because it not only allows more deliberation before final council actions are taken, but also adds a needed cooling-off period when hotly contested issues arise.

“Right now, the position is more ceremonial and has no real authority,” LaRoque said. “The mayor should have some ability to direct policy instead of a bully pulpit. I know the mayor of Kinston would appreciate having it.”

Councilwoman Alice Tingle disagrees with both Murphy and LaRoque. She said Kinston’s mayor has a distinct, clear, and “very powerful role” as a spokesman for the city and a meeting manager, and that shouldn’t change.

Tingle said H.B 310 should have a broader scope.

“I look at it this way,” she said. “If Steven LaRoque pushed this for Lenoir County, then why didn’t he push it for the other counties he represents, or for the entire state? Why is he picking on Kinston?”

LaRoque said he would be willing to introduce a new bill before the House of Representatives allowing any mayor in his district who wants to change his role from passive to active. “I think all the mayors are going to want to have veto power if it passes in Kinston,” he said. “I would run legislation for any mayor if it was requested.”

LaRoque said he isn’t surprised that most council members are opposed to the mayor having veto power.

“Certain people don’t like other people to have extra authority,” he said. “But we’ll let the voters decide for themselves in the upcoming election.” 

Karen Welsh is a contributor to Carolina Journal.


KFP: Mayoral veto on Kinston ballot

Mayor Veto

Murphy: It will bring checks and balances; Tingle: Veto not part of mayor’s job

by David Anderson
Kinston Free Press

In addition to choosing three new City Council members, Kinston voters also have the opportunity this election to determine whether or not the mayor should have veto power.

The state legislature approved a bill earlier this year to allow the city of Kinston to hold a referendum on a mayoral veto.

The matter came up after Mayor B.J. Murphy and the members of the council had a dispute over his support of a bill introduced by Rep. Stephen LaRoque, R-Lenoir, in Raleigh to repeal the city’s proposed annexation.

The council voted unanimously to oppose that decision, and members were angered over the lack of support from the mayor.

In the wake of the dispute, the council voted to remove Murphy from the U.S. 70 Corridor Commission, and strip him of his traditional duty to sign council-approved resolutions and other documents. Council members stressed their actions were not related to the dispute, though.

“Just like President Obama and Gov. Perdue have a tool to oversee the polices implemented by their governments so too should the mayor of Kinston, who is the chief elected official,” Murphy said Tuesday.

The Kinston mayor currently only has the power to vote on an ordinance if there is a tie among council members.

No mayors in North Carolina, other than those in Charlotte and Topsail Island, have veto power, and that power is limited in those cities.

If the Kinston mayoral veto measure passes, it would give the mayor the power to veto any decision made by the council. The council can come back at their next meeting and override the veto if the members can obtain a four-fifths majority vote.

“You take personality out of the equation here and look at the fundamental principles being put to the voters this November,” Murphy said. “Do you want a mayor who is indirectly responsible for a $100 million budget and who cuts ribbons, or do you want your mayor that you elect to have some say-so in the government?”

The six candidates running for City Council are split on their support of a mayoral veto; Democrats Joe Tyson, Kelly Jarman and Sammy C. Aiken, as well as unaffiliated Jimmy Cousins, are against it. Republican Lennie Peterson and unaffiliated John Nix are for it.

Councilwoman Alice Tingle, who will not run again after her term ends this year, said the Kinston mayor already has a number of duties, but vetoing council measures should not be one of them.

“I think (voters) should vote against the mayoral veto,” Tingle said. “The president of the United States and the governor have a veto, and our mayor is extremely important and he plays a very important role, but I don’t think it rates up there with the president of the United States or the governor.”

Tingle said few cities in North Carolina give their mayor veto power — the majority of municipalities have a council-manager form of government, with the town or city manager often taking on the role of chief executive, although he or she does not have any vote.

“Our form of government was set up that the council has a vote,” Tingle said. “He represents us everywhere he goes and he does a great job of that, he welcomes people to our city, he presides over our meetings. There’s so many things he does, that I think the voting is supposed to be with the council.”


David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 or danderson@freedomenc.com.



Fast facts on Kinston mayoral veto:

n Mayoral veto is on this year’s election ballot

n Election Day is Nov. 8, early voting continues through Nov. 5

n If passed, mayor would have veto power over all council decisions

n Any vetoed matter can be placed on the next meeting’s agenda

n The council can override with a four-fifths majority

Source: Mayoral veto legislation

Podcast Interview with the KFP

by Bryan Hanks and Jon Dawson 

Free Press Radio Program Seven:

Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy joins Bryan Hanks and Jon Dawson on this week’s Free Press Radio Program to talk about everything going on in the city, including the mayoral veto, the proposed Kinston Bypass and many other things. Hanks and Dawson also lament the break-up of R.E.M. and the expansion of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

  To listen:Click on the link below to download this episode. Depending on the speed of your internet connection the podcast may be accessed by clicking on the link once with the left side of your mouse, or by clicking on each link with the right side of your mouse and choosing the “save target as” option:

Free Press Radio Program Seven – Interview  starts at 8:05

Topics Covered:
Facebook changes
2009 campaign for mayor
2011 voter turnout
Outgoing City Council members
Nonpartisan elections and USDOJ
Mayoral veto
Hwy 70 bypass
Forced annexation
City Manager vacancy
Electric and water rates
My future
GOP Presidential race
I’ll be a new daddy again!

“Everyone has an ego to an extent and it’s a matter of how you control it.”

“Even during all my wins [I try to] be humble about it.  And, during my losses it reminds me about why I’m humble about my wins.”

“Wherever the Lord leads me I will certainly go.”