Local Politics

City Council District D candidates weigh in on COVID-19 response in Raleigh

Posted July 12, 2020 6:15 p.m. EDT
Updated July 12, 2020 8:52 p.m. EDT

— In the vacancy left in Raleigh City Council by Saige Martin, who stepped down after allegations of sexual misconduct, hopeful candidates are speaking up about why they should be appointed to the District D seat. Five potential candidates spoke at a virtual forum on Sunday afternoon, answering questions sent in by Raleigh residents.

COVID-19 was a prominent topic among those vying for the vacant Raleigh City Council seat, as state and local leaders focus on how to contain outbreaks and get our numbers trending in the right direction.

Whoever is selected will have the power to shape the city's response, as local leaders have a lot of power to enact requirements.

For example, Raleigh put in a mask requirement at the city level before Gov. Cooper implemented a mask mandate statewide.

The candidates shared some ideas on how to fight the virus spread here in Raleigh at Sunday's forum.

"We have to renew our social contract to one another," said Jane Harrison, one of the candidates invited to speak at the forum. "So we can take care of one another. I think we understand how to take care of our families, and we need to see our city as a larger family in this endeavor."

Harrison pointed out that COVID-19 cases disproportionally effect certain communities, such as essential workers and the Latino population. "Not everyone is getting the same level of protection," she said. She said she wants to determine which communities in Raleigh are still in need of masks, and which communities have employers who are not taking their response to COVID precautions as seriously.

Some of the candidates, like Carmen Cauthen, said they would consider moving back to an earlier phase.

"Maybe having to close some places again that may be reopened. And I know that’s not necessarily a popular idea ... but we all have to do some things we don’t want to do in order to protect more people," she said.

Jenn Truman focused heavily on protecting small businesses, while also keeping people safe from the spread of COVID. She pushed for more heavy use of masks and social distancing, while also allowing businesses to open their sidewalks and curbside seating. "Maybe capacities will have to be reduced again, but we also need to support our small businesses. Some have had help and grant money, but they need more," she said.

She pointed out that, aside from protecting residents from the pandemic, we also need to protect our small business owners from hunger and health problems associated with inability to pay bills, buy food and pay rent.

Todd Kennedy, who said he comes from a science background, said masks are effective and social distancing is effective. "It looks like COVID’s going to be with us for quite some time, so we need to learn how to operate in that environment," he said.

Another candidate suggested that if we step up enforcement of masks and social distancing – and can do a better job – then we may be able to avoid pulling back on the partial reopening.

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