Dennis Peterson said he’s running for a City Council at-large seat because the city’s economy is still struggling.
“I’m not satisfied with the rate of economic growth,” Peterson said. “I see too many people struggling to make ends meet.”
He cited his older son, a recent East Mecklenburg High graduate, and said too many of his friends are looking for work.
“There’s no jobs for them available. That’s a big reason why I’m running,” said Peterson, a Republican.
Peterson, who lives off Harrisburg Road in an area annexed by the city in 2009, said he would work to lower the cost of doing business in Charlotte. That would spur companies to locate and expand inside the city, rather than moving to lower-cost counties.
“As it stands now, if you are trying to decide if you are going to start a business in Charlotte or across the border in Rock Hill, if you look at the cost of government perspective, you will look across the border,” Peterson said.
Democrats have a 9-2 council majority, and they have all four at-large seats. That is the first time that has happened since the City Council went to single-member districts in 1977.
Peterson is running against four Democrats, three Republicans and a Libertarian.
The Republicans and Libertarian face a challenge in terms of the city’s demographics. Just under 50 percent of registered voters in the city are Democrats, 23 percent are Republicans and 26 percent are unaffiliated.
Peterson lost a 2011 race against Democrat John Autry for the District 5 council seat.
He said council members need to focus on more than just the property tax rate, which was increased by 7.25 percent to pass the $816 million Capital Improvement Program in June.
“It’s not just taxes,” he said. “We also saw our utility rates go up, we see (bus and train fares) go up.”
He said city regulations have added to the cost of building homes, which is another reason some people don’t live in the city.
Despite his concern about taxes and fees, Peterson said there were some parts of the CIP that he could have supported, such as new police stations, roads and sidewalks.
But he said he would have “definitely” voted against the city’s plan to give the Carolina Panthers $87.5 million for stadium improvements in exchange for a firm six-year commitment to stay in Charlotte.
“We are talking about taking $87.5 million from the taxpayers, and we are giving it to some of the wealthiest people in the city,” Peterson said. “I understand they have done a lot of philanthropic work, but they have their own money to upfit the stadium.”
Peterson’s pre-primary campaign finance report, from early September, showed he had raised $2,652.
He said the campaign for the at-large races has been slow.
“There doesn’t seem to be much interest,” he said. “Early vote totals are low. At-large candidates haven’t been able to raise much money.”
But he said he hopes voters will like his more “populist message.”