When candidates running for a seat on the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners appeared at a Candidates’ Forum last week, there was one question which elicited answers voters are still talking about.
As WHQR’s Rachel Lewis Hilburn has learned, the candidates have been advised to avoid taking a public position on Titan’s proposed cement plant in Castle Hayne.
When asked where they stand on the issue of the proposed cement plant, all six Republican candidates answer with this basic logic:
“My position is I will listen to all the sworn testimony in the quasi-judicial hearing and I’ll make a decision at the end of that.”
That’s Incumbent Jason Thompson. The other five Republican candidates -- Claud “Buck” O’Shields, Woody White, Beth Dawson, Dr. Derrick Hickey and Frank Meares also decline to express their support or opposition to a cement plant in New Hanover County. But Democratic incumbent Jonathan Barfield says the Republican candidates weren’t answering the question that was asked.
“The question was asked ‘where do you stand on Titan and then what would you do to improve our air quality?’ And then people started talking about the special use permit which was not the question that was asked. My stance has not changed on Titan. I would rather they not be here.”
Democratic Candidate Rob Zapple says he does not support industry that produces more pollution. Fellow Democrat Robert Murray agrees. New Hanover County Attorney Wanda Copley explains it this way: if a candidate specifically voices support or opposition to Titan’s presence in the area -- and later votes as a Commissioner during the special use permit process, that earlier, more general comment could be a basis for challenging that Commissioner’s decision should Titan apply for a special use permit.
“I disagree. I think it gives them the ability not to answer the question.”
Vice-Chairman Barfield says he’s been vocal about his opposition to Titan since 2008, and he’s not going to back away from that stance now.