Shelton takes common-sense approach to city council run

by Keith Barber

Shelton takes common-sense approach to city council run

Matthew Shelton calls it like he sees it. Shelton, who is seeking the Republican nomination to represent Winston-Salem’s Northwest Ward, cited the fable “The Emperor’s New Clothes” as an appropriate analogy for the city council’s unanimous approval of all resolutions related to its $28 million investment in the new home of the Winston-Salem Dash minor league baseball team.

“It’s almost like no one wants to stand up to the mayor,” Shelton said. “If I had been on the city council, I would’ve been the only one to say ‘no’ to it.” Shelton said he sees a serious conflict of interest for Mayor Allen Joines, who also serves as president of the Winston-Salem Alliance and the Millennium Fund. The Winston-Salem Alliance secured dozens of properties for Dash owner Billy Prim and his development company to purchase years before the project was publicly announced and the Millennium Fund is contributing $2.3 million to the project. CouncilwomanWanda Merschel, who represents the city’s Northwest Ward, served as chair of the finance committee that approved all the financial agreements with Prim. Shelton said Merschel, a bank vice president, should have known better. “If you’re an expert in a field, and you make a decision that Helen Keller could see is wrong, I question the motivation behind it,” Shelton said. “I have nothing but respect for someone who does this job, but I have to question your decisions.” Shelton said the original deal with Prim was tragically flawed. He characterized the attendance benchmarks cited in the city’s agreement with Prim as “impossible to meet.” According to the original agreement, the Dash must sell 350,000 tickets per season beginning in the third year of the stadium’s construction. The city will be guaranteed $350,000 per year in surcharge revenue regardless of attendance. Shelton, an account executive for Pepsi Cola, can see Ernie Shore Field from his office window. He’s paid close attention to the Dash’s attendance numbers. “The average attendance is 400 to 450 people for a team that’s in first place,” Shelton said. “You’ve got a No. 1 team and no one knows about it. If you are depending on fans to pay this ballpark off, it will never get paid off.” As a member of city council, Shelton said he would advocate a sensible approach to managing the completion of the stadium. Shelton cited his dissatisfaction with the city council on the ballpark issue and his favorite high school teacher being laid off by the school system in June as the two things that inspired him to run for city council. When John Giles, a longtime history teacher at Mount Tabor High School, was laid off last month due to budget cuts, his students protested. The Facebook page, “Keep John Giles at Mount Tabor!” has nearly 1,200 members. Shelton said the city should spend more time on issues people care about, such as retaining good teachers, rather than real estate development deals. Shelton acknowledged the school system doesn’t answer to the city council, but he hopes to be a voice for the citizens of his ward on all issues including education. Shelton opposes involuntary annexation and said his approach to improving public safety would be for Winston-Salem police officers to focus on the service aspect of their jobs by making themselves more accessible to the citizens they protect. Shelton said his campaign platform is one of fiscal responsibility and common-sense government. He said he would oppose any city service fee increases and keep taxes low. Most of all, Shelton wishes to serve his community by being a good listener and standing up for the citizens in his ward. “Whatever your residents are interested in, you should represent them in those things,” Shelton said. “Whether it’s zoning issues or education issues, if it’s something that affects my ward, I want people to call me and tell me how they feel.”

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