FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Voters in Fayetteville came to their ultimate decision on two controversial measures that could massively change the city.
One measure would have transformed the makeup of city council.
Currently, the council has nine representatives presiding over separate districts. The measure, called the "Vote Yes Referendum" by supporters, asked if residents wanted to change the council so it would be newly divided into five district-wide representatives, and incorporate four at-large representatives.
The measure failed with more than 56% of voters choosing no on the change.
"What has changed since the DOJ determined that at-large seats--especially in our area, causes disenfranchisement?" said Angela Tatum Malloy, a community activist. "The two times that this has been brought up, it was ironic that the first time was right after we had our first Black mayor, and then the second time was when what has been described by some as the 'browning' of city council."
Opponents say the effort has been a veiled attempt at voter suppression, marginalizing vulnerable, and underrepresented groups in local politics. But supporters argue the opposite, saying it could improve representation.
"I recognize how the composition of our council plays into us making policy," Former Fayetteville City Council Member Tisha Waddell said. "I think that when we have fewer people that we are held responsible too. Our policy tends to be a little bit more narrow. And if we expand our political base, we tend to have thinkers that are thinking about larger needs and creating more vast policies."
The other measure was the city's sweeping effort to get residents' support for a $97 million bond package to fund improvement projects. Those projects include enhancing infrastructure like increasing sidewalks and biking areas, building more housing and investing in public safety.
All three bonds were passed by voters.
"About four years ago, I actually started pushing for bond initiatives. We had the lowest interest rates at the time. I think we were at 1.5% at the time as far as borrowing money which meant that our repayment amount was going to be significantly low," Waddell said.
"At this point, interest rates are between 3% to 5%, so they're significantly higher. Saying 'yes' today to a bond package means that your repay amount is going to be significantly higher. So, while the bond packages in theory sound like a great idea, I think the timing is absolutely horrific," she continued.
Columnist Troy Williams expressed concern over whether most voters have been educated enough on the package to vote in favor of it and get it passed.
"I think it's a lot and it's complicated. I'm not sure that the bond packages are going to make it out of this because of the complexity of what you're asking voters to be able to understand, " Williams said.
However, Tatum Malloy disagreed, and said she was encouraged by the strong turnout and sophisticated questions residents had about the bond effort during the city's info sessions in recent months.
"They're putting in the time and effort to make sure that whoever gets their vote or whatever issue gets their vote, it's not just because they are just voting because that's what they're told. They're doing the work," Malloy said.
Residents can find the election results at the Cumberland County Board of Elections website.