Three candidates hoping to represent Ward 4 on the Fayetteville City Council participated in an hour-long forum held Friday night (Sept. 14) at the Fayetteville Public Library.
Incumbent John LaTour and challengers Adam Fire Cat and Teresa Turk each discussed their candidacy in front of a crowd of about 35 people in a question-and-answer-style forum moderated by Taylor Shelton, the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce’s director of government affairs.
Ward 4 contains a large portion of west Fayetteville, including Razorback Stadium, Holt Middle School, Holcomb Elementary School, and the Boys & Girls Club of Fayetteville.
John La Tour, 62, has filled the Ward 4, Position 1 seat for nearly four years, and is seeking a second term on the council in the Nov. 6 election. He highlighted his experience on the council in his opening statement Friday night. He is a certified public accountant and tax attorney.
Meet the Candidates
The following candidates have responded to a request from the Fayetteville Flyer for more information about their candidacy in the Nov. 6 election.
“I appreciate the chance to serve and listen to you, my constituents,” he said, before highlighting his service on the Water and Sewer Committee, the Equipment Committee, and the Ordinance Review Committee.
Fire Cat, 43, is a local restaurant worker who ran unsuccessful council campaigns in 2012 and 2010. He also ran for mayor in 2008. He said personal freedom and fiscal responsibility would guide his decisions if elected.
“I am willing to tell you no. No you can’t have something that you want just because you want it,” he said. “I am willing to defend your freedoms – even from you. You may be willing to give it away. I am willing to stop you from giving away your freedom.”
Turk, 57, is an environmental consultant who serves on the city’s Historic District Commission, and the Civil Rights Commission. Born in New Orleans, Turk grew up in Little Rock and Texarkana before attending the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville where she played tennis for the Razorbacks her freshman year and earned a bachelor of science in zoology and a master of arts in anthropology. Turk highlighted her experience as well, and said that managing Fayetteville’s growth responsibly will be a priority for her if she is elected.
“In a great place like Fayetteville, growth is inevitable,” she said. “But it needs to be managed and well thought out, so that is one of the things I want to really work on if I am elected to be your City Council person.”
Managing the city’s growth and keeping up with infrastructure demands along the way was a common theme during the forum.
The candidates were asked whether they would vote to extend a $200 million bond issue that will be up for renewal in the upcoming term, and if so, what they proposed to do with the money.
La Tour said he would vote to extend the bond issue, and would like to see at least some of the money go toward infrastructure needs in Ward 4.
“We can be somewhat disconnected on the west side of I-49,” he said. “Right now, Rupple Road going north dead ends into a field…I think some of that money should be used to complete ‘The Mayor’s Box’ around Fayetteville.
“We need more connectivity in Ward 4 to I-49,” he said.
Turk was also in support of renewing the bonds, but said she would like to see some of the money used to prioritize affordable housing.
“Affordable housing would be one of my top priorities,” she said. “I think there are ways we can do that. In other cities, whenever there is a big housing project that is built, a certain amount is designated as affordable housing, so we could implement those kinds of things…I think we need to be looking at that.”
Turk said she’d also like to see some of the bond money spent on parks projects around town, like helping to save the Lewis Park land currently owned by the University of Arkansas that UA officials have said they intend to sell in the future.
“From the studies that I have seen, green bucks follow green spaces,” she said. “Green spaces are very good for the health and welfare and livability of the city. I think that is one of the reasons people want to live here, because we have beautiful parks.”
Turk said she also supported using some of the funds to address connectivity and traffic issues in Ward 4.
Fire Cat said he would rather let the bond issue expire.
“You can still have everything you are asking for in terms of additions to the roads and parks you’d like to have,” he said. “But you don’t need to extend the bond to do it. Let it expire, and then vote individually on those issues.”
The candidates were also asked about how they would balance the growth and development as it intersects with existing neighborhoods.
La Tour said the council should consider existing architecture and use grids when considering new construction projects in existing neighborhoods.
“Although I am a strong believer in private property rights, I understand zoning, and we need to protect existing architectural grids,” he said. “I think we can do that through our development plans and our planning code.”
Turk said she believed in “the sanctity of the neighborhood” when it comes to new development in existing communities.
“I’m really against spot zoning,” she said. “Once you’re in an established neighborhood, then you need to preserve that zoning, and not be able to split up that property unless something major, major, major has changed.”
Candidates were also asked about their feelings toward the LGBTQ community in Fayetteville. During his initial campaign four years ago, La Tour was an outspoken opponent of the city’s civil rights ordinance that was passed by the City Council in August 2014. He also made headlines during his first term (and later apologized) for insensitive comments he made in the spring of 2016 toward a local restaurant worker.
Fire Cat answered first. “I treat you like I treat everybody,” he said.
La Tour echoed Fire Cat’s comments.
“When a zoning comes before the council, my first question is, ‘What do you want to do,'” La Tour said. “I don’t ask sexual orientation. I don’t ask political affiliation, conservative or liberal. I think everyone should be treated the same.”
“Why should human sexuality be a part of our public discussion? Let’s treat everyone with respect, treat everyone fairly,” he said.
Turk agreed that everyone in Fayetteville should be treated fairly, and added that being a welcoming community can also have other benefits.
“I think being a welcoming LGBT city also brings talent,” she said. “Putting that out there, and ensuring that people know they are welcome here, that attracts talent, that attracts new businesses, and the right kind of businesses for our area.”
Friday’s event marked the final City Council candidate forum hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, but additional forums for county and state government positions are scheduled through mid-October.
A full schedule of upcoming election forums hosted by the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce is available here.
Election day is set for Nov. 6.