Tonight the City Council of the City of Kinston voted 2-2 and I broke the tie in favor of the recommended budget as presented by the Kinston City Manager. Here is the statement I gave at the end of the meeting.
Public debate, openness and transparency are essential in our democracy. The State of NC requires that our City Manager present a balanced budget to this body. This Council has the authority to accept, reject or amend his recommendations.
Each and every one of us lives here, works here and plays here. Everyone on this bench and in our presence tonight are financially impacted by these decisions.
We have seen increases because of our wholesale suppliers. We have seen increases because of the Affordable Care Act. We have seen increases because of the needs of our aging infrastructure.
Our electric partners have made it clear that increases are coming and should’ve already come based on wholesale and infrastructure pressures. However, a potential deal with Duke Energy caused there to be a pause in hopes of a record deal for our communities.
Last year we pulled from our General Fund to loan and support the electric fund. We decided then to pay that back this fiscal year. I think we all can agree that this practice is not a long-term solution. Just as continuing the practice of transferring from the electric fund to subsidize our General Fund will one day be obsolete.
Also, this fall we will be making serious, long-term financial decisions regarding our infrastructure to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Ultimately we may need to ask voters for their opinions on how best to finance the replacement of 100-year-old pipes and 30-year-old electrical equipment.
In light of the potential Duke deal and our future discussion of infrastructure, I would encourage some compromise tonight. We can either stomach a small increase in electric or we can take street resurfacing to $0, stop demolishing dilapidated buildings and more.
Unfortunately, we have three options and neither one will make sleeping tonight easier. We can raise a utility rate with the hope of a future decrease, we can raise property tax rates by 5.71 cents, which will never decrease, or we can drastically and negatively affect the momentum we’re gaining in service quality, street resurfacing, planning and quality of life.
I want to thank our City Manager and staff for doing more than this body requested of you. Without your diligent efforts in frugality our choices tonight would be much more difficult.
In closing, we all should concede that this budget only affects the next 12 months and the fall infrastructure discussions, potential vote of the people, and Duke Energy deal will have a greater impact on our community for decades.
This decision is not taken lightly and this body has had ample time to review it, ask questions, seek input, hold a public hearing and now even receive more public comments. I want to thank all of our citizens who came tonight to speak their opinions on the budget. We truly value your opinion and the time you gave to be here.
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.
Reece Gardner Hour Featuring Mayor BJ Murphy
August 12 2013
This week we have a special edition of NC SPIN featuring four Mayors from North Carolina. They include:
Mayor Nancy McFarlane, Raleigh
Mayor Bill Bell, Durham
Mayor Jill Swain, Huntersville
Mayor B.J. Murphy, Kinston
Former Durham city councilman has worked with Kinston officials on projects
In his capacity with UNC Chapel Hill, Thomas A. Stith III has worked closely with local entities in Eastern North Carolina communities — including Kinston — on economic development and community redevelopment projects.
Local leaders now hope Stith will bring the capacity of the Governor’s Office to bear and continue to work with them as he settles into his role as chief of staff for Gov.-elect Pat McCrory.
“Mr. Stith has been highly engaged with our urban planning and redevelopment efforts, which you’ve seen along the Hwy. 11 corridor,” said Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, referring to studies carried out by UNC students and faculty — who worked with Stith’s guidance — on the best ways to reinvigorate the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard corridor.
Murphy continued: “I think by selecting Mr. Stith, (McCrory) has shown that he cares about Eastern North Carolina, and Mr. Stith has experience with municipalities and so that certainly plays well for local governments — besides the fact that Gov.-elect McCrory was a mayor himself.”
Stith is currently the director of McCrory’s transition team, which is laying the groundwork for the governor-elect to take office next month.
“The first step is to really get a good assessment of where we are at the departmental level and to assess which policies are currently operating efficiently, and which policies may need to be refined or changed,” Stith said Friday.
McCrory, the former mayor of Charlotte, is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 5, and give his inaugural address on Jan. 12.
Stith will become chief of staff once McCrory formally becomes governor.
“I feel it’s a significant responsibility, and one that I plan to dedicate all my experience to ensuring that we have a successful administration,” Stith said.
He served as program director for economic development in UNC’s Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, as well as a three-term Durham city councilman.
Stith has also worked with IBM and Progress Energy, co-founded the Michael Thomas Group marketing firm and served as vice president of the John W. Pope Civitas Institute.
“He just has a wide depth of knowledge on issues important to the governor and important to the state, and the governor is glad to have him leading his team,” said Chris Walker, communications director for the transition team.
David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 orDavid.Anderson@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress.
By Bryan Hanks and Jon Dawson
My interview begins at 11:38.
Managing Editor Bryan Hanks and columnist Jon Dawson have a very Justin Beiber-ish conversation with Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, who also discusses his plans for the 2013 municipal elections and other news topics of the day, including the Will Barker arrest. Additionally, Hanks and Dawson sit down with Free Press Advertising Director Matt Holbrook to talk about the business side of the newspaper.
Interview begins at 26:00.
Reece and I covered:
– Street resurfacing
– Amtrak service
– Governor’s race and impact on electric issues
– Planning updates (CDBG, updating UDO, Arts & Cultural District, demolishing blight)
– Monthly newsletter: www.BJMurphy.org
– Sewer expansion
– $0.25 sales tax on ballot
– Paying our obligations
– Fund balance
– S. Queen St. bridges
– 2013 Mayor’s race