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Saffo has to go

Somebody Stop Saffo! In case you haven't been reading the paper or watching the local news, somebody needs to stop Bill Saffo. Saffo's kind of politics are bad for Wilmington. His real estate ties are too intertwined with the major problems facing the city. The problems we face today; infrastructure, the environment, the city employee pay raises, and the convention center are all issues directly related to this latest real estate boom which by all accounts has gone bust. Do we want a mayor who is a devout real estate man? Look at the facts first. Our city has some major problems, our roads are congested and dangerous, the sewers are leaking, city employees can't afford to live in the city and some people want to spend big money on a convention center. These are the same people that caused all the problems to begin with, they are the quote unquote "development community." The development of Wilmington is important but it seems we haven't been doing it responsibly and it has caused some major problems. Bill Saffo's website (http://billsaffo.com) lists his occupation as "Owner/Broker-In-Charge" with local real estate company Hanover Realty, Inc.; one of the areas largest local real estate companies. The booming business of selling Wilmington to the highest bidder has afforded Saffo with a wonderful life. He has a beautiful wife, a big SUV, and a large home in a private gated club house community, the sprawling golf course suburbia better known as Landfall. Chris Mazzolini with the Star News has done a series of great articles on the race for mayor they are available online. Mazzolini reported that Bill Saffo's "biggest campaign contributors were from the real estate and development communities." They contributed almost 80 thousand dollars. By comparison, the other two candidates have roughly a whopping three thousand dollars a piece, largely of their own money. Mazzolini also reported that Saffo faced criticism about being in the "developers' pockets and that his 158 thousand dollar election fund has bought favors for a select few." Saffo's buddies in this are none other than the people who turned a cow pasture into millions; the developers of Mayfaire who were some of his notable contributors. Mazzolini reported, "Hyman Brody, of the Brody-Zimmer Development Co., which developed Mayfaire Town Center contributed $2,000 to Saffo's campaign. Saffo also received $6,000 from the Zimmer family." Mayfaire is a perfect example of developmental problems. Sewers are leaking because of rapid growth in the northeast corridor, the Military Cutoff and Ogden areas. Mazzolini and McGrath reported that "the [northeast] interceptor, has leaked more than 4.7 million gallons of sewage into Hewletts Creek in the past two years, carries wastewater from Wrightsville Beach, Wilmington and parts of eastern New Hanover County to the city's Southside Wastewater Treatment Plant…much of the flow from the fast-growing Ogden, Porters Neck and Military Cutoff areas." The road itself on Military Cutoff, has been under construction for almost four years causing traffic nightmares as reported by Stephanie Beecken for WWAY. "Construction on Military Cutoff has been going on since 2004 and some businesses along that stretch of road say the construction is causing more problems. Is there an end in sight?" And why all the problems? Because the huge development of Mayfaire, with its restaurants, shops, grocery stores, apartments, 300thousand dollar and up condos, movie theater, and Charleston inspired luxury homes in sidewalk lined neighborhoods, was built on a cow farm on a two lane road where UNCW students once went to tip cows. And all of it was built with out making prior adjustments to the infrastructure to accommodate all these people. These developers are Saffo's contributors and he talks of fixing the infrastructure problems, when large development projects on every available piece of land is the reason the infrastructure is failing. Saffo's company lists several new development communities. Just a couple of the "Listed New Developments" Avalon West and Belle Meade Plantation are both built by Kirk Pigford Construction. Houses in Avalon from $399,000 to $599,000 and lots in Belle Meade $130,000 and higher. How can we expect him to do something about the problem if he appears to be adding to the problem? And when the police and firemen complained because they needed raises Saffo decided spending $200,000 on an outside consultant would be the best way to decide what to pay them. The reason why they needed a raise is, like many of us, they can't afford Wilmington anymore. Real estate prices are out of a city employee's price range. For example, on the low end of the housing market, Hanover Reality offers one small, older, one-bed/one-bath apartment next to UNCW campus for $65,000 or several two-bed/one-bath shot gun style houses in the downtown area for $120,000 to $125,000. Now these might be high crime areas but real estates agents don't talk about such things. For the same price, Hanover Reality offers a selection of slightly used trailers in the Monkey Junction area, or outlying counties. On the other hand, Hanover lists over 400 houses in the million dollar plus price range. They offer a six-bed/six-bath home in Saffo's neighborhood for $7.45 million dollars. What city employee can afford that? Saffo also says he wants to help the environment by adding "green space" to Wilmington. His website states "Today, I am happy to report that we are, in fact, in a position to purchase, plan and develop more public and open areas in our community than ever before. To date we: Purchased 60 acres for a softball/multi use field. Began engineering work on a 9 ½ mile multi use path from Halyburton Park to Wrightsville Beach. Started improvements to Greenfield Park Amphitheatre. Purchased land for a downtown park overlooking the Cape Fear River. Began creating a 22 acre park behind Alderman School." His idea of green space is rapped up in the development of parks and paths which are to be engineered and planned. He doesn't set forth a plan to preserve current natural areas, only gives a plan to develop some beautiful sod and concrete green space. Saffo is the only candidate for mayor still in favor of a proposed downtown convention center. The other two candidates Justin LaNasa and Harper Peterson are both longtime downtown business owners and Peterson has already served as mayor. Like many downtown business owners they have changed their minds about the convention center. Peterson said to local media, Through investigation I discovered that convention centers are dated, they don't make money, the attendance is down nationally and they bleed communities out of local tax dollars." Reported by Joe Kiley for WECT. A petition being circulated on the internet asking for a vote on the matter says "all research shows that publicly funded convention centers lose money and take ongoing public subsidy to operate and that the amount of such subsidy and the source of revenue cannot be firmly established at this time." Who actually would benefit from the convention center? Realtors, builders, and developers. Mayor Saffo's biggest contributors. In conclusion, Saffo is a real estate man with real estate money supported by the development community, which he in turn supports. His real estate company profits from a market that has quadrupled home prices in many parts of the Wilmington area, making it impossible for many to purchase homes. He is the only candidate still for the development of a convention center, and his plan to help the environment is tied to the development community. Bottom line is, the irresponsible development boom over the past decade is the cause of the city's biggest problems. Do we really want to continue in that direction? No, somebody has to stop Saffo.

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