carney jones-potter wilmington mayoral race

Jones-Potter expects to face status quo in Wilmington mayor race

Karl BakerGovernment, Headlines

carney jones-potter wilmington mayoral race

Former City Treasurer Velda Jones-Potter is preparing to face off against Gov. John Carney in the race to become mayor of Wilmington. | SPOTLIGHT DELAWARE PHOTO BY JEA STREET JR.

This story was originally published on Spotlight Delaware

In 2017, then-newly elected Mayor Mike Purzycki sat on a stage close by to Velda Jones-Potter as she gave her inaugural speech as Wilmington City Treasurer.

The two held an amicable relationship at the time, Jones Potter said – with both of them new to being elected politicians and facing a city that was struggling with crime and a sputtering economy.

But, over the subsequent years that relationship crumbled as a power struggle ensued. Each politician ultimately came to represent in the minds of many Wilmingtonians the opposite poles of city politics.

Purzycki was seen as the pro-developer mayor, laser focused on uplifting the city’s central business district.

Jones-Potter became known as a counterweight to Purzycki’s vision – first by rebutting his office over repayments of a city loan, then by directly challenging the mayor in the 2020 election.

In one debate that year, Jones-Potter said Purzycki had partnered too closely with big developers who placed too much emphasis on downtown at the expense of the city’s poorer neighborhoods.

Ultimately, Jones-Potter lost the 2020 Democratic primary in a three-way race.

Jones-Potter v. Carney

Today, she is taking her second shot to become Wilmington’s mayor, and in an interview with Spotlight Delaware she said she expects to face off against largely the same vision as she did four years ago.

But, instead of running against Purzycki, Jones-Potter will face a peculiar situation of running against the highest elected politician in the state.

Weight bloom amtrak assault housing Congress governor Hope Carney Jones-PotterGov. John Carney announced his bid for mayor of Wilmington on Monday, with a campaign that aims to bolster city finances, improve public schools and reduce gun crime.

But Jones-Potter argued that Carney’s policies at the state have also left many city residents worse off, making him unfit to be mayor.

She said the governor’s Department of Education has failed local students who can’t pass proficiency tests. She said his management of the Port of Wilmington left the facility without thousands of promised jobs.

And, she said Carney’s reluctance to legalize marijuana amounted to a tone deafness in a city where drug laws had been heavily policed.

Last year, the Delaware General Assembly passed a bill to legalize marijuana. Carney declined to either sign the bill or veto it. As a result, it became law without the endorsement of the state’s top elected leader.

“To not even approve that, to just acquiesce when the City of Wilmington population is probably the single most heavily impacted by that [is disappointing],” Jones Potter said.

Finally, Jones Potter indicated her belief that Carney as mayor would amount to a third term for Purzycki – an apparent reference to their mutual friendliness with the state’s biggest developers.

“I perceive it to be a method to just continue and perpetuate the practices, the policies, and the management of the city as it’s been done for the last eight years,” she said.

carney Jones-Potter Wilmington Mayoral Race

Velda Jones-Potter would become the first woman to lead Wilmington, if elected. | SPOTLIGHT DELAWARE PHOTO BY JEA STREET JR.

Not anti-development

Asked about her own policy stances, Jones-Potter said she is not anti-developer or even anti-Buccini/Pollin Group – referencing a key ally to Purzycki and the city’s most politically influential development company.

“But I also believe that there is a way to do (development) that balances and is consistent with the interests of the community at large,” she said.

Jones-Potter also pointed to what she said was a need for increased transparency and inclusivity around the city’s contracting decisions, and around opportunities for residents to buy and renovate houses from the Wilmington Land Bank.

Finally, she said she wants the city to provide more educational aid for small businesses facing regulatory hurdles, and said the mayor’s office should be a vocal proponent of schools in the city.

While the city does not oversee its public schools, Jones-Potter said the mayor needs to encourage residents to speak out about their interests to the state Department of Education and to the local school districts.

Jones-Potter also noted that she does not support proposals to dissolve the city’s government into a larger metropolitan entity that could be managed by New Castle County.

A check on power

In the interview, Jones-Potter spoke at length about her feud in 2019 with Purzycki over the city’s $3.4 million debt to JPMorgan Chase.

For many, the feud was the first public indication of the simmering friction between Wilmington’s treasurer and mayor. It had been sparked by the collapse of a public-private entity, called the Wilmington Housing Partnership, which had been responsible for redeveloping blighted homes in the city.

The Wilmington Housing Partnership couldn’t pay back a loan it received  to redevelop a block in Wilmington’s Eastside neighborhood. Therefore the city was on the hook.

Jones-Potter and Purzycki disagreed on how and when to pay it off.

Jones-Potter says they also disagreed on whether her office had the ability to investigate where the proceeds of that loan had originally gone.

Ultimately, a Delaware judge mediated a deal that allowed the loan to be paid off.

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