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In response to a question about High Point
's election format, Williard said he wants to return City Council elections to odd-numbered years and to reinstate primaries. He cited as a reason this year's mayoral race, in which there will be five candidates on the ballot, but essentially only three running.
Whitley, too, said he supports having City Council elections on odd-numbered years. He described the current system as "horrible." He said, "We are last on the ballot, so people just forgot about us."
Whitley lists attendance at Elon College and NC State University on his website. One audience member asked whether or not Whitley had graduated.
Whitley replied that, no, he had not that he left NC State after three years to go into business, which he regrets. He said that is why he encourages his daughters to finish degrees.
Someone in the audience asked why High Point
has no shopping center or downtown. High Point
's downtown has been taken over by furniture showrooms.
One woman asked, "What about Oak Hollow Mall?"
"Have you been out there lately?" a man replied. "It's a wasteland."High Point
University recently bought the mall, and rumors about what the university will do with it abound, although High Point
University executives seem to genuinely have no plan for the building.
That's where Alston began running out of answers from Sims, and began answering for herself. She said Oak Hollow Mall is inaccessible to much of the city anyway, and she would like to have shopping close to her home, so she could quickly buy pantyhose.
Whitley said Oak Hollow Mall never fulfilled its promise that some stores never came to the mall and others arrived too late. He said, "Malls are no longer going to exist."
Whitley said that smaller shopping centers "nodes," he called them are the most likely shopping future. Whitley represents Ward 5 in north High Point
and has championed the growth there. He said, "It turns out that the Palladium area is the most viable shopping area we have in town."
One of the heaviest debates in High Point
politics in recent years has been the flight of stores and restaurants to northeast High Point
, and the efforts of the High Point
City Project, which the City Council created to try to renovate central High Point
neighborhoods, to bring commerce back into town. The City Council has only sporadically supported the effort, however, and Whitley has been a critic of the City Project.
Whitley said that all he could say about the City Project is that it is a work in progress. He said, "Who is going to go down and actually shop in those areas?"
Williard said that Smothers opposed Oak Hollow Mall until the last second which made Smothers sound prescient and argued against giving up on the mall.
"I think Oak Hollow Mall has a shot," Williard said. "I think there's a chance to bring some kind of shopping back there."
On the City Project, Williard retreated from his position at the Oct. 4 debate, at which he said the eight Core City neighborhoods slated for redevelopment should all be attacked at once. That would be a monumental and expensive drive for redevelopment that recent City Councils haven't dared. Williard said on Oct. 4. that, as a community, High Point
has to spend money to get the job done.
By the Pennybyrn debate, Williard had retreated from that position to saying the City Council should focus on only three neighborhoods Uptowne, the section of North Main Street between State and Ray avenues; the upper part of downtown (might as well call it Lower Uptowne and be done with it) and the High Point
Williard did not explain his change in position. Williard is aligned with High Point
University President and CEO Nido Qubein. Williard's new plan would leave out all neighborhoods south of Lower Uptowne, which is not going to win him votes in south High Point
Someone asked about High Point
University's role in the city, and all the candidates said nice things about the university. No candidate wants to risk angering Qubein this close to Election Day.
Someone else pushed for getting more young people involved in government "Everyone in here is almost as gray-headed as I am," he said. All the candidates said nice things about young people. Young people may or may not turn out to vote as they did in 2008, but there was no reason not to butter them up.
The candidates' brief closing statements diverged wildly.
Alston basically said, "Vote for Bernita Sims."
Whitley cited his position as chairman of the National League of Cities Information Technology & Communications Committee, saying High Point
will need to be as high-tech as it can be to continue to compete.
He also said that a woman who attends his church told him that the platforms of all the mayoral candidates, especially his and Williard's, seem similar. Whitley said his 19 years on the City Council gave him seniority. He said, "I would say his looks a little more like mine."
Whitley said the mayoral race boils down to himself or Sims. "For any of these other candidates, it's a leap," he said.
Williard, for his closing statement, reached back four years to Hillary Clinton's "3:00 a.m. phone call" ad against Barack Obama during the 2008 primary season switching the topic of the call from a national security crisis to a business wanting to settle in High Point
. He said he is better qualified to talk business to such a company, to discuss education with it, and to connect it with local business and human services groups.
"I have answered numerous questions tonight," Williard said. "Now I ask you, who do you want to take that call?"
Williard also said that the race boils down to his business experience compared to two candidates with 10 and 19 years of City Council experience, respectively. He said, "If you think that 19 years and 10 years are the most important thing out there, then you need to vote for one of them."