Two candidates who hope to win the upcoming City Council election in Ward 2 participated in a public forum held last week inside the Fayetteville Public Library’s Walker Community Room.
Councilmember Mark Kinion is seeking his fourth term. He’s challenged this year by Sarah Moore, executive director of the Arkansas Justice Reform Coalition. The two spoke during an hour-long forum moderated by Steve Clark, president and CEO of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce.
Kinion, 65, said with Fayetteville recently becoming the second-largest city in the state, securing another term would allow him to continue to work on protecting the heritage of the city as it grows even larger.
“This city means a lot to so many people,” said Kinion. “I’ve been involved with a lot of those people and I think the experience I have counts.”
Kinion said he worked as a senior executive of a Fortune 500 company where he managed teams of people and negotiated state and federal contracts. That experience, he said, along with his time managing infrastructure as chairman of the council’s Water and Sewer Committee, are put to use as a council member.
“Not only is our city growing by leaps and bounds, but we have to have operations that also meet the needs of this growth,” Kinion said. “And I do have the experience to manage operations.”
Moore, 42, said as Fayetteville grows, it’s time to fully embrace some of the words and phrases that council members and administrators often use when describing the city, such as “welcoming,” “equity” and “inclusion.”
Moore said losing her first child and dealing with a family member with a mental illness pushed her to become more active in the community, and those experiences have helped her to recognize problems that sometimes go unnoticed.
“Even in Fayetteville, as great as it is, there is a huge disparity in our community,” said Moore.
Bringing more voices to the table when writing laws and setting policy, Moore said, will be an important part of managing the city’s fast growth.
“I know that those who live here care about each other and want to make sure we’re all thriving,” said Moore. “For some of us it’s working and it’s beautiful, but for so many of us, it’s not.”
Clark asked each candidate to describe their leadership style.
Kinion said he’s an inclusive leader who answers his phone and replies to emails from constituents.
“I want everyone to know they have access to me,” Kinion said. “Letting people know that you hear their voices is important, and I do that.”
Moore said her style has evolved from working in the corporate world and aiming for personal accolades, to a more consensus-building approach that’s centered around listening to others and recognizing that one person doesn’t always have all the right answers.
“It’s incredibly important for me to make sure that I’m hearing from those who are the most impacted by and who are closest to the problems, and bringing them forward as part of a solution,” said Moore.
Both candidates agreed that population growth is the most significant challenge the city will face over the next four years.
Moore said increased population can exacerbate income disparities, so focusing on affordable housing should be the first step in addressing growth. Rents are too high and wages are not keeping pace, she said.
“The majority of renters I talk to are telling me ‘I don’t think I can stay here in Fayetteville much longer,'” said Moore. “I also have City of Fayetteville staff members contacting me saying, ‘I can’t afford to live in the city where I work.'”
Kinion said supporting the local housing authority and partnering with organizations on housing projects is one way to ensure there are affordable housing options. He mentioned a new affordable housing development in south Fayetteville that is now coming to fruition thanks to cooperative efforts between the city and the nonprofit Partners for Better Housing.
“That’s how to get housing to people who need it,” said Kinion.
Election Day is Nov. 8. Early voting begins Oct. 24.
About Ward 2
Ward 2 is typically associated with the downtown and Dickson Street areas, includes portions of the University of Arkansas campus and stretches west past Garland Avenue to Asbell Elementary School, and north to the Washington County Fairgrounds. The ward also includes the businesses along College Avenue in midtown, and many historic districts including Wilson Park.