1. Why are you running for re-election?
Well, I feel like I have accomplished some great things. I’ve been on the council for eight years. I’ve been mayor for four. The city is in a great place. We did just purchase the Dix Park property. Obviously now we have to start the planning process, and that’s something that I’m very much looking forward to. We’re also very much at a crossroads where we’re seeing unprecedented growth. And a few more things I’d like to accomplish, I’d like to see us get the transportation referendum passed and moving forward with some really good public transportation.
2. What is the biggest challenge currently facing the city, and what would you propose to do about it?
I think the biggest challenge is the growth. It’s also the biggest opportunity. You know, we have a lot of people moving here. I think it’s 63 or 67 a day. And that presents a lot of challenges. Traffic is one, water supply, housing … I mean all of those things are challenges, but it’s a good thing to be a growing city. You know, they’re coming here because we’re very successful and they see lots of opportunity and we want to be a healthy, thriving city that people are coming for. It’s really all about planning for the growth and figuring out how you’re going to accommodate it in a way that it doesn’t overwhelm you.
3. A text change ordinance was recently passed that restricts sidewalk dining. Was this the right move, and why or why not?
Well, what it does is it changes the amount of people that can be on a sidewalk outside of an establishment, and it changes the hours from 2 o’clock just two nights a week to one o’clock that they need to come in, and a little earlier on weeknights. You know, downtown is all about balance. Right now we have a lot of bars, we have restaurants, we have residents. We’re seeing more and more residents, but we don’t really have a good mix of retail and services and all those things that really go into a healthy, thriving downtown. The reason that we needed to do something with the ordinance was the fact that it had become a public safety issue. We had worked with a couple of the establishments that had been causing some of the problems and just were not able to really work with them to help solve it. And when it gets to the point that we can see that there’s a high probability that someone’s going to be hurt, it’s really our responsibility to step in and do something about it.
So we’re hoping we can work all of this out with the bar and restaurant owners and really come up with … People like to be downtown, people like to live downtown, like I said it’s all about balance.
4. Raleigh has ended up on a lot of top ten lists in recent years. Why do you think that is?
Well you know it’s a lot of different things. One of it is, we’re very fortunate to have the university system, with the colleges and universities not just in Raleigh, but obviously we have three large research universities right here in the Triangle. That really is key to us always having a great workforce. And that’s unusual for around the country.
If you look at how we fared against a lot of other places in the country, we really continue to do well. We also have a very diverse economic base. We’re not highly concentrated in just one thing or the other. That really helps with our success. We as a city work very hard on quality of life issues. We know that people now choose where they want to live, and then they find a job. It’s not always the other way around. We understand that the arts and parks are just as much an economic driver as taxes. It all plays a piece. And I think the fact that we have worked very hard to have an attractive well-balanced community is really served us well.
5. 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 — sort of back to the drawing board? What do you think and why?
Well this final step, this remapping is really the last step in a six-year process. We did a future land use map; we did a comprehensive plan for 2030; we mapped out how we saw the city growing. We rewrote the UDO, which was redefining the code, so now this final remapping exercise changes all the zoning from the old code to the new code. So that’s to give the current zoning a new name. I think a lot of the pushback and concern has just been a combination of not having enough information out there. Sometimes there’s bad information out there. People were scared, they were misinformed, and that’s unfortunate.
Every single person that has come to the public hearings, our staff has gotten in contact with every one of them, they have gone out and had neighborhood meetings. We are having work sessions every Monday to really go through all of those properties that people were concerned about, really take the time to explain what all these codes mean. And are we going to pass it all at once or in pieces? I’m not really sure. We’re definitely working through it in pieces. It’s over 40,000 parcels and a great many of them — most of them — are really fine. It’s almost like going from R4, which is residential 4, to low-density residential. It’s a new name for the same thing.
Sometimes we have properties that have an old zoning on them that may currently be used for something else and when the new zoning shows up it might match the old zoning, but it’s not what’s being used on the property now. And people get very confused. We do not want to take anybody’s property rights away. They should retain the ability they have now to do what they want with their property. It’s confusing because a lot of it is name changes, but we’re working really, really hard and want to make sure everybody’s comfortable and understands what we’re doing before we finalize any of it.
So it sounds like you’re really deep into this rezoning case. Do you think it’s ready to be approved as is?
Not yet. We had a session Monday, and I think we tentatively scheduled work sessions in early November. We, like I said, really have resolved a lot, but there are still parcels downtown that we’re still looking at, there are a few that are buffers between some residential and commercial that we’re looking at. I’m confident we’ll be able to get it down. We’re going to work until it’s done.
6. What is the best and what is the worst decision made by City Council over the last two years?
I think the best was to buy Dix Park. It’s hard to say that there’s a worst. I have to say that I wish that, and I can’t say this was exactly a city council decision, maybe it was … I would say the worst that we have really been a part of is I really wish that we had taken more time to advertise the remapping and done more communications in a way that people really understood what was happening, in retrospect. Because it had been through the planning commission for a year and there had been many, many public meetings about it. Really until those signs started going up around town, and people started seeing them, it really started dawning on people that something big was going on.
It’s just tells us about the power of communication and changing our communication style and it was more of a lesson than a … you know, I don’t know if it’s the worst thing we did but it’s the thing I wish we could’ve done in a different way the most.