Voters can control the discussion through WHQR’s Community Agenda
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Municipal Election Day for communities in southeastern North Carolina is Tuesday, November 7, 2023. It’s the one day when politicians and candidates running for office must listen to voters, who speak by casting ballots at precincts across every county.
However, there is an effort to change that relationship. To give you, the voter, the opportunity to tell candidates who want to be mayor, council member, alderman or commissioner, what the important issues are and what they should be talking about to earn your vote.
WHQR Public Media is conducting a Community Agenda. It is a one-question survey, where responders can provide an answer to: What do you want the candidates to talk about as they compete for your vote? Individuals must be 16 years of age or older to submit an answer. WHQR, WECT and Port City Daily will use the responses as the basis for our questions in upcoming forums involving candidates running for one of three open seats in the Wilmington City Council election in November.
“I think it’s important because we’re allowing candidates to see what their constituents really want from them,” said Kelly Kenoyer, a reporter for WHQR, who is tasked with combing through the responses. “It leads to better candidacies. It leads to better votes after the fact because they know what people want from them, and it leads to the voters themselves like they actually are being reflected in what their candidates are doing.”
City Council candidates will have a lot of issues to study leading up to election day. More than 500 people have responded to the survey already, and it will remain open for submissions through the end of September. Even though the answers and comments from residents in the City of Wilmington will be used for question material in the upcoming candidate forums, the survey is open to anyone in southeastern North Carolina. That will allow WHQR staff to get a wider view of citizen priorities heading into election season.
“What I’m seeing in the top two issues, and they jump back and forth, are housing affordability and development,” Kenoyer said after reviewing several months of responses from residents. “Those are the top concerns that we see and that’s good because that’s what city council can affect pretty consistently. The other concerns we see are kind of related to that: homelessness, infrastructure and traffic. When you think about it, all five of those are closely tied together.”
There are only two ‘required’ responses in the Community Agenda survey: what individuals want candidates to talk about, and whether the individual is 16 or older. They do not have to fill out any of the demographic information that follows, including name, age, gender and race, unless they wish. Responders are not asked to identify their political affiliation. The replier can also signal whether they are willing to be interviewed by a reporter for a more in-depth news story. Kenoyer has had several conversations with responders, which allows her to dig a little deeper into the specifics of their concerns.
“They’ll talk about being a teacher, and not being able to afford anywhere to rent in town,” she said, giving one example of what someone told her in a follow-up interview. “They’ll talk about not being able to get to work because they don’t have public transportation available, or they’ll talk about the traffic that’s impacting them and needing a stoplight outside their neighborhood. These are the concerns that we hear about.”
Anyone interested in taking part in WHQR’s Community Agenda can click here to be taken to the survey. It is open until September 30, 2023.
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