MONROE — Candidates for City of Monroe Mayor and Council responded to more than 10 questions at a forum co-hosted by the League of Women Voters and The Enquirer-Journal on Thursday night (Oct. 21) in the community room at Monroe Fire Department Station 4 on Old Charlotte Highway.

The forum was moderated by Jeff Atkinson, assistant Vice President for Strategic Partnerships at Wingate University.

The event was not open to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was filmed by Chain Reaction Studios. To view the forum, visit: https://youtu.be/nGjw-eLC-8M

All candidates were invited to the forum. All three mayoral candidates — Marion Holloway, Angelia James and Bob Yanacsek — were in attendance. Five of the seven council candidates attended: Gary Anderson, Surluta Anthony, Cress Barnes, Michele King and Franco McGee; Julie Thompson and James Kerr did not attend.

This was the first forum where both mayoral and council candidates responded to questions. Two other forums were co-hosted by Courthouse Self-Pour Beer and Wine and Peddler’s Paradise. The two other forums were divided between mayoral and council candidates.

Candidates were asked about responsible growth, economic development and public safety in addition to questions about supporting inner-city schools, enhancing downtown Monroe’s nightlife and getting citizens engaged in city government.

The first question of the night, after opening statements, was: With approval of 4,000 new homes for the City of Monroe, how do you see the City paying for the expanded public safety and infrastructure needed to support the growth?

Anthony said the City will pay for expanded services with revenue from taxes. She said she is concerned about the city’s capability in providing expanded services as the population increases in the near future.

Taking the future development and population increases a step further, candidates were asked how the City could address a likely increase in student population at inner-city schools? (City Council neither oversees Union County Public Schools nor the Union County Board of Education.)

Anderson, an English teacher at Central Academy of Technology and Arts (CATA), cited his prior experience on council saying that council and the school board had joint meetings. He would like to implement those meetings again should he be elected. Those meetings, he suggested, could be held quarterly.

On the topic of bringing new businesses and amenities to the city so that citizens are spending money in the area instead of nearby towns and other counties, King said the key lies in public-private partnerships, as well as city-wide beautification and the preservation of historic properties.

Addressing both youth and amenities, James talked about needing more facilities geared toward children and teens. She said the city should provide a wider range of attractions for families because if there are more places for kids to have fun, then the parents will follow; the goal would be for more families to live, work and play within the city.

Candidates answered how the City can facilitate a trusting relationship between the police department and the community. Bob Yanacsek recently retired after being a police officer for Charlotte-Mecklenburg for 30 years. He said if residents feel like the City cares about them and their neighborhood, it fosters a reciprocal relationship; therefore, citizens would interact with police more often.

Social districts are designated areas where citizens can congregate and drink alcoholic beverages purchased from ABC permittees. The topic of bringing social districts to Monroe is currently being discussed by City council.

When asked about the implications or risk factors of social districts, Barnes said as one of four owners of East Frank Superette in downtown, she supports social districts; however, she is concerned about the possibility of having to police customers who may be walking around with drinks from other establishments (a required restriction of social districts). She is interested in watching how social districts operate in other towns like Kannapolis, where it already exists.

In explaining why he is the best candidate for Mayor, current Mayor-Pro Tem Marion Holloway said if he’s elected, he will set aside specific time during his week to allow for residents to come to his office and share their ideas and concerns and he will listen to them. He would also like for the City to set up an email alert letting residents know about upcoming events hosted by the City of Monroe in addition to setting up a calendar of events hosted by nonprofits.

McGee’s plan to engage citizens in the City government process is to have members of the government be willing to listen and collaborate with citizens in order to develop a shared vision for Monroe. To achieve this, McGee believes the City of Monroe can be more transparent and use social media to better advertise events and communicate with residents.