MONROE — What does saying “yes to Cress” mean for the City of Monroe?
To Cress Barnes, it means working toward making Monroe a more welcoming place for everyone. She hopes to be elected to city council so she can achieve that goal.
Barnes is a co-owner of the quirky, eclectic East Frank Superette and Kitchen on Franklin Street in downtown. She and her husband, Blake, started the business two years ago. East Frank is part restaurant and novelty shop that offers a wide variety of beer (on tap and canned) as well as wine. They also serve hot and iced coffee.
She, Blake and their children moved to Monroe five years ago. Blake is a native of Union County and graduated from Wingate University. The family moved into a historic home downtown.
Barnes expressed concern over the volume of gun violence in Monroe.
“As charming as Monroe is, there is a great need for change that does not seem to be happening quickly enough or responsibly enough,” Barnes said when explaining why she is running for city council. “I want to be part of making it great for everyone — not just a select few.”
“It just doesn’t seem like there’s an effort to welcome people to Monroe,” Barnes said.
Barnes is invested in the community, with her business and base of customers. Her hope is that more people of all backgrounds will grow to love the city the way she does.
Barnes is a founding member and a past president of the Charlotte Roller Girls — a roller derby team; she is on the Union County Arts Council, the United Way Board and Union County Playmakers Board in addition to being on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee.
Barnes refers to herself as a democratic socialist but a capitalist business owner. She would like to add more sidewalks, specifically around Monroe Middle School for students walking to and from school. She also supports the idea of adding lighting and more green space with connective walking/biking trails). She wants to see the city become more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.
Barnes believes how taxpayer dollars are spent should be reviewed and redistributed so that projects benefiting everyone can be funded projects that would have an impact on a larger number of residents. For example, using money to bring a transportation service to the city.
Barnes said that while the Monroe Science Center and Dowd Center Theatre are great attractions, her concern is that everyone will not be able to afford ticket prices. Should she be elected, she plans to push for more programs and facilities that are attractions for teens.
She is pro-small business and believes the city should have a committee that provides mentors to people opening small businesses across the city — not just downtown — to help them with things like navigating the permitting process and identifying available grants and incentives.
Barnes said it’s been a great experience having a small business in downtown Monroe and she describes surrounding business owners as “wonderful.” Local business owners meet up and share ideas and collaborate on hosting events. Those meetings have helped Barnes learn how to develop ideas with people who think differently than her.
Barnes would like to see the City of Monroe promote events happening in downtown that are not planned by the city.
“One thing that does bother me is — it seems like — if the city isn’t involved in planning, it doesn’t get put in the calendar for the town,” Barnes said.
“It seems like the City is very resistant to what we are doing with our ideas,” she said, referring to downtown business owners.
Barnes said she would like to see more affordable housing in the city. Her concern, however, is that with housing developments popping up there won’t be enough emergency service and law enforcement personnel to respond to calls. Also, she has a concern about how roads, water and sewer will be able to handle a growing population.
“Growth helps us all in Monroe, but if it’s not smart and responsible and environmentally aware then we are shooting ourselves in the foot for the future,” Barnes said.
Before voters head to the polls on Nov. 2, Barnes encourages them to “step back and do away with labels. Do away with party affiliation and look at what people truly stand for and how they behave toward other people and how they treat everyone else because that’s important.”