CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Just over a year ago, Michael Zytkow was arrested for protesting Charlotte City Council.; he was escorted out of chamber in January 2012 for interrupting a public meeting.
On Wednesday, he filed to be Charlotte’s next council member representing the University area.
The former Occupy Charlotte and Wall Street South protester makes no apologies for his civil disobedience.
“We have too many people who just say what they will do, but not many people who will put themselves on the line. Jail time is a small price to pay to elevate these issues to the level that they need to be," said Zytkow.
Now slimmer, dressed-up in a button-up shirt and slacks, Zytkow was joined by his wife and son as he filed the paperwork to run Wednesday afternoon.
“My waistline's quite a bit thinner from pounding the pavement for the past nine weeks.”
If voters have any doubt of Zyktow’s intent, they need to look no further than how he’s spent the past few months.
As the first unaffiliated council candidate to be on the November ballot, he overcame an historic hurdle: submitted a petition of 6,592 voter signatures in District 4. To run in a general election, North Carolina law requires Republicans and Democrats to hold primaries first, but unaffiliated candidates must gather signatures from 4-percent of the voters in the district in which they’re running.
“There is a primary process for the other folks, and there is this process for unaffiliated folks,” explained Michael Dickerson, director of the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections. “It’s difficult to collect the signatures.”
“Most people see this number that you have to collect, and decide to join allegiance with the Republicans and Democrats, rather than taking the independent route," said Zytkow.
Unaffiliated voters account for more than a quarter of voters in District 4, and in the entire city. They outnumber Republicans.
The unaffiliated candidate says, if elected, he wants to reprioritize the way city leaders spend taxpayer money.
“Our city council is willing to give $87 million to upgrade the escalator system, to make [it] easier for people to walk in Panthers' stadium. Yet we only spend $7.5 million a year on sidewalks and safe streets in this community."
Zytkow will face the winner of an October Democratic run-off primary. Current District 4 Council member Michael Barnes is running for an at-large seat.