Fayetteville Ward 2 candidates offer distinct visions for job

Posted: September 6, 2018 at 1:03 a.m.

Raymond Burks, Martin Bemberg and Mark Kinion

FAYETTEVILLE -- The city's three candidates to represent Ward 2 on the City Council told a small crowd Wednesday they'd take dramatically different tacks on the job.

Mark Kinion, who's running for re-election, offered a steady hand that's been involved with the community and city government for decades. Raymond Burks said he'd work to limit development to try to keep housing from becoming more pricey. And Martin Bemberg said he'd bring a socialist perspective and push for more public transit, low-cost housing, a living wage and other proposals.

Web watch

To watch the full forum online, go to livestream.com/faylib and look under past events.

Source: Staff report

Meeting information

Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce candidate forums

• What: Public forums to hear from candidates Washington County treasurer and Fayetteville City Council Ward 3 positions

• When: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 7

• Where: Willard and Pat Walker Community Room on the main level of the Fayetteville Public Library, 401 W. Mountain St.

Source: Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce

The three spoke at one of several forums for political candidates organized by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce this month and next in preparation for November's elections. Candidates for Ward 3's open spot are up next, speaking Friday evening at the Fayetteville Public Library.

Ward 2 covers much of the city's middle, stretching from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard through downtown, and much of the University of Arkansas campus northward to around Fulbright Expressway. Kinion has been one of the ward's two representatives since 2010; fellow Ward 2 Alderman Matthew Petty's term runs until 2020.

Council members vote on the city's budget for public safety, roads and other operations, which amounted to more than $160 million this year, and decide on ordinances regulating such topics as the city's development plans, its sales taxes and its public spaces. They earn about $12,500 a year during four-year terms.

Kinion, a mortgage loan officer at Bank of England Mortgage Fayetteville, said he has built a record of listening to constituents and helping the city protect its water, maintain its parks and welcome a diverse community. He co-sponsored the city's Civil Rights Ordinance banning landlords and employers from treating people differently because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, which has been challenged by the state in court.

Kinion also pointed to his time before the council working with housing organizations, Terra Studios, Planned Parenthood and other groups to make local life better.

"It needed to be done, it was taken care of, and that's what a true community servant does," he said, urging other residents to also get involved in local government and community work. "Everyone has a voice in this city."

Burks, a support manager at the Walmart on Campus, took a dim view of the city's development plans and its plan for a cultural arts corridor downtown with public art and gathering spaces.

He said the city has allowed big developers to raise property values and rents by going after university student and well-paid professional tenants, leaving locals in the middle with fewer housing options. He also said he opposed the push for denser development, such as replacing a single home with a four- or five-unit building. City officials have encouraged denser, more mixed development around town.

"The city needs more careful and considerate approach to future development," Burks said, adding he also wants safer streets and trails and to designate areas for homeless people. "We need someone on the City Council that speaks for all of us."

Bemberg, a musician and activist, said he had few complaints about Kinion's record but wants to jolt the council leftward. He listed five policy priorities: affordable housing, guaranteed living wages and jobs, more transit and the abolition of police and jails. Taxing the city's wealthiest could make these a reality and bring the highest earners closer to everyone else's level, Bemberg said.

He added he's committed to protecting the rights of women, minorities and working-class people, pointing to his scars from protesting and fighting white nationalists during their rally in Charlottesville, Va., last year. A rally participant has been charged with murder in the death of Heather Heyer, a protester who was struck by a driver.

"I'm going to bring that same commitment to being alderman of Ward 2," he said.

NW News on 09/06/2018