J.B. Buxton — District A

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J.B. Buxton

J.B. Buxton

1. Why are you running for city council?

I think Raleigh is in a great position today in terms of the kinds of individual opportunity and quality of life that it presents our residents. But I think we’re facing some significant challenges moving forward. We’re facing significant challenges in terms of the pace of our growth and how we handle that moving forward.

I think we’re facing challenges from other cities nationally who are looking to recruit the same kind of talent and job opportunities that we are fortunate to have today. And I think we’re facing challenges from a state government that has reduced its leadership in education, the environment, economic development and the city needs to be a leader in this area, in those areas in a way it never has previously. And so I feel strongly about the importance of Raleigh’s leadership in these areas right now and I want to be part of tackling those challenges.

2. What is the biggest challenge currently facing the city, and what would you propose to do about it?

I’m going to give you one but then I’m going to link in a second issue because I think it’s very hard to separate them. I think the biggest issue is how we grow moving forward. Again I think we’re in a great place as a growing and dynamic city. That we’re attracting people and keeping people in the city but the character of our growth moving forward will determine whether it’s still that way in the next five to ten years.

The most important decisions I think we’ll make coming up will deal with where we focus our growth and I think it’s going to to be important that we grow in key geographic centers where we can co-locate employment, housing, transit, even schools so that we keep people out of cars as much as we can.

We create really walkable, livable communities and we also take development pressure off existing and established neighborhoods. A lot of neighborhoods I’ll be representing in District A of the city, kind of north of 440 and I think that growth question is, is a major focus, is going to be a major focus for the city council coming up. I would make a very close coupling of that though with building out a transportation system that can support that kind of growth. We, we simply can’t be a great city without a great transportation system. We don’t have that right now.

3. A text change ordinance was recently passed restricting sidewalk dining, was this the right move? Why or why not? What kind of balance should be struck between revelers & residents?

Well, I, I’ve been uncomfortable with the way the city has approached this recent effort and I say that because I think it’s absent, it has been absent a conversation about what our vision is for downtown moving forward. It’s, it’s, it’s been very reactive from a policy standpoint and when you’re trying to balance livability and a vibrant downtown community I think you’ve got to be real clear about where you’re trying to go.

We’ve got people who have made some significant, or have taken some significant risks to build businesses downtown and to help deliver, deliver a kind of vibrancy that really our leadership was asking for and we were trying to create as we opened up Fayetteville Street, put a convention center down there, created more hotels and it feels like we’re now turning our back a little bit on those folks and treating them as if they’re part of the problem.

If retail is an issue, we need to get about retail. And so I’d like to see us move to a place where we’ve got clarity about where we’re trying to go. That we don’t, we don’t think that negotiating a rule substitutes for that clarity in overall vision and that we’re pretty clear about the problem we’re trying to solve. So I would say, I though the text change was short sighted in not creating an overall vision for where we’re going to go downtown.

4. Raleigh has ended up on a lot of Top Ten lists in recent years. Why do you think that is?

Let me give you three or four. One, people love schools. They love that they don’t have to have a million dollar to be in a good school and they love some of the choices and opportunities they have. And while that’s not a city council issue, it’s something that the city has to be very cognizant of that we don’t lose our K-12 public schools in addition to a great community college in Wake Tech and a great set of universities, including N.C. State, Shaw, St. Aug’s, Meredith. These are places people move here for, stay here for, feel strongly about. That’s one.

We’ve got a jobs picture that is probably second to none but lots of cities around the region, especially around the country working hard to kind of knock us off that pedestal. And those are jobs that, I think, are linked pretty importantly with our higher education system but also with our, our kind of regional footprint that we have in the Triangle. Third thing I think is important is just the character of our neighborhoods. You’re not, you don’t have to live way out to be close to services, or excuse me right down town to be close to services but there are great neighborhoods kind of in the Midtown area and extending up into my district where people are extremely happy to be raising kids or in some cases to be moving back in as grandparents.

And I think the last thing is that we’ve got a set of natural resources both in terms of lakes and rivers but also in terms of our parks that make this area very livable and as we move forward in developments one of the reasons why I think developing in certain geographic centers where we can get dense, where we can go up a little higher so that we don’t have to go out and we can preserve open space is really important for Raleigh’s future.

5. The Council is currently considering a rezoning case that would remap a significant portion of the city. Should this be approved as is, with changes, or not at all. Why or why not?

Sure. It’s going to need to be approved with changes because I think that the public input process and the public hearing will find that there are places where residents and property owners are able to bring a different perspective that will have the council change some of the recommendations from staff.

So I would very much assume we’ll see changes. I’m on the planning commission and so I’ve actually been through the whole remapping document. We actually took the remapping recommendations from staff. We went neighborhood by neighborhood in dealing with questions, comments and requests for changes.

We heard about 177 different cases from property owners who either wanted clarify what the intent of the staff recommendation was or make a, make a change to what it was. Frankly, I wish the council had followed our process in taking up the remapping. I think it gave a little bit more comfort when folks were going through it rather than kind of putting it out there as one big document that was going to move as one big document. There are going have to be a lot of public hearing on this and from very, some very targeted work.

You want to get the remapping task because what we’re doing is just updating the zoning designations with the new code. So we we, we have new codes that allow for mixed use, for instance, or new zoning designations. We’ve changed some old ones on the nonresidential side so there, there are with the new code there are just new designations we’ve got update and just translate people from an old designation to the new language in a way that’s not controversial.

In other parts there are different mixed use areas that allow for perhaps retail, restaurant, housing to be more closely coupled. That allows for a more walkable city but in some places neighborhoods might suggest maybe there’s more intensity than they’d like to see. They need a chance to have that heard. So we need to get it passed because it allows us to keep moving with a new, more urban code than our old suburban code but it needs to have some changes because there’s no doubt that citizen will bring wisdom into the process and make those changes happen.

 

6. What is the best and what is the worst decision made by city council over the past two years, and why?

Well let me start on the positive side and I guess it’s not exactly a city council decision but I’m going to give them credit and that is to finally have a new affordable housing plan on the table that we can work with. That’s a pretty recent development. I think that had languished for a couple years. And again as we’re sitting beginning to knock on the door of 500,000 people the diversity of our housing stock and both in terms of very low income individuals but even in terms of teachers and cops and firefighters and people working in our service industry who can’t live very close to the city they’re serving.

I think it’s really been an important issues for a couple years that we just haven’t seen much on. So I though the recent plan that was put in place that the city is basically, the city council I want to give credit to kind of moving things forward is a bright spot. And I think now we have a shot at of seeing some strong affordable housing initiatives in some key areas around the city.

I think on the worst side I would say, or on the worst decision side I guess would be how the city ended up handling the UDO remapping process and as I told you I though the planning, as a planning commission we, we took it kind of in manageable chunks. We brought people in. I think some up front work in education really was called for in a big major approach, even if it’s just translating from one code to a new code.

When you talk about people’s property that’s one that people need time and a lot of communication on. To me it’s a little symptomatic of a larger issue which is clarity about the vision for where the city is headed and kind of setting a context for where we’re trying to go as a city. What our next major steps are as we manage growth as we try to keep growing a great city. I felt like you go back four or five years when we’re reopening Fayetteville Street, we’re building a new convention center, we’re bring vibrancy to downtown and talking about the importance of having a strong downtown core to a strong overall city.

I think people had a sense and understanding of where things were going over the next four to five years. Since that time, I think we’ve not communicated with city residents in Raleigh about this is the next step in a growing city. This is how we’re going to grow. This is what we’re trying to do in transportation. This is how some of these downtown issues and livability issues fit in. This is where the housing stock issues come in. This is what we want for our schools. I think we’ve missed some of that clarity of communication and the UDO remapping exercise is maybe symptomatic of that.

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