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Candidates for Fayetteville mayor face off in forum

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FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. -

With just a week to go until Election Day, the two candidates for Fayetteville mayor faced off in a forum Tuesday night.

It was the first forum in which the candidates did not share the stage with city council candidates.

At times Val Applewhite and Nat Robertson agreed on points. Both said they understand improving the city will mean they need to form coalitions with others in city government and with members of the community. They also agreed that reducing crime in Fayetteville is a priority.

Applewhite said a grassroots and community approach to underlying social issues would contribute to crime reduction. She said she would like to bring together citizens regularly to discuss ideas they think would work. In addition to those feedback groups she said she'd like to increase mentoring programs and possibly keep recreation centers open until midnight on weekends. She said the extended hours would give young people an organized and positive place to go instead of getting into trouble.

Robertson said he liked the idea of putting mobile police command posts in crime "hot spots." He said the idea worked when he previously served on city council, and he thinks it could work again. Robertson explained the mobile units would stay in a problem area for a few days or a few weeks. He also said he sees the role of mayor as someone who gives the police chief leeway to make crime fighting decisions and then holds the chief accountable for results.

Applewhite seemed to work toward a personal connection with the audience, and at least three times she connected well enough to receive applause during her comments. Several times she mentioned her feelings that citizens need more input in government.

"I don't think government should come in and tell you what your community should look like," Applewhite said as she spoke about Murchison Road redevelopment. "Hear your vision and helping to achieve that vision – that's my role as mayor."

Robertson took a practical approach to his comments. Several times he emphasized the need for economic development. He specifically spoke out against the city's Unified Development Ordinance, which was adopted in 2011. He believes the ordinance restricts the ability of businesses to expand.

"We've got to revisit this, and we've got to do it quickly," Robertson said. "This is what's standing in the way of economic development in the city, and it's affecting development everywhere."

The forum is expected to be the last time both candidates will be together to discuss city issues before the election on November 5.

Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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