John Rodger Koopman
District B incumbent
Address: 2214 The Circle
Hometown: Born in Willemstad Curacao, part of the Netherland Antilles and grew up in The Hague.
How long Have you lived in Raleigh?
What brought you to Raleigh?
I belonged to a small startup software company in Alameda California, which was acquired by another company, Itron. As part of that acquisition they needed someone to re-organize their Raleigh office.
In two to three sentences, please share something that you believe the City of Raleigh does well.
So far, the City of Raleigh has managed well its ability to continue to raise revenue and pay for growth. Growth here has been pretty good.
In two to three sentences, please share one thing that you believe the City of Raleigh could improve upon or change.
I think the City of Raleigh needs to improve in terms of preservation of its natural spaces. It needs to improve its commitment to ecology and environmental practices. And it needs to improve how growth pays for itself. Today, most of growth is paid for by property taxes. I’m one of several on the council who believes we need to shift that balance, much more aggressively, towards developers.
In two to three sentences, please share your position regarding public transit in the City of Raleigh.
I’m a big supporter. Beyond the moral and ethical obligation I think I have to ensure we have public transit, there are huge economic impacts as well, because gasoline is going to be more expensive. And if we don’t provide alternate transportation modes for our working population and non-working population we are going to less and less relevant as a city and economically we won’t survive. Public transit is a must have. Beyond that, I grew up in the Netherlands where public transit is huge part of the overall infrastructure and it makes an incredible difference in the lives of people to not have to get into a car just to be able to get to work.
In two to three sentences, please share your position regarding growth management in the City of Raleigh.
Growth management is very critical. When you talk to developers and realtors they tell you that growth is good because it increases revenues. And what they’re not telling you is that industrial and commercial growth increases revenues; residential growth actually costs you more than it brings in. Growth management needs to recognize where the money comes from, number one; number two, who most benefits from it, and then to manage it in such a way that we create the incentives to drive growth in the direction that benefits the people that live here, not just a bunch of developer who make money, cash out and then buy a beach house and move on. And that’s one of the challenges we have, is to manage growth so we have quality growth and not just runaway growth like we’ve seen in Atlanta in the past few decades.
In two to three sentences, please share your position regarding crime control in the City of Raleigh.
Crime control is very important. The number one job a city probably does for its people is to provide safety and security. We have a police retention issue that is quite severe and we need to aggressively manage that. We need to make sure the police chief not only has the resources to be able to attract and retain quality law enforcement, but we also need to make sure he uses all these options. Number two, crime is also about prevention. That also means that in the low-wealth areas you provide job training programs, you provide quality day care, child care for single parents so that they can go to work. Law enforcement is fighting crime. Crime prevention – oftentimes when you look at the literature is much cheaper – but requires people like me to make investments in preventative measures, which includes a whole host of things, but includes, number one, I think job security and opportunity for people in low-wealth areas.
Now, we would like to hear your position on two issues that were not previously mentioned, but that you think are important to the voters in the City of Raleigh. You tell us the issue and then give us two to three sentences about your position on the issue.
One of the issues I’ve actually been very aggressive on, and has been one of my main issues, has been parks and open spaces. Part of the reasons I got elected – and I beat a female Democratic incumbent – is because I was a strong supporter for Horseshoe Farm Park, keeping it natural and she supported developing it. So hopefully when people look back on my career as a local politician, my legacy will be having been able to preserve places like Horseshoe Farm Park. I recently also helped preserve Strickland Road Park. And the best way I’ve heard it put – and I’ve plagiarized this from the Dix 306 people – is to think about Manhattan without Central Park. Even if you didn’t care about parks or nature, because you are committed to it environmentally and ecologically, it also makes sense economically. Because property values in places that have beautiful open spaces in metro areas are much, much higher than in places where you just plow everything over with concrete. So, from an aesthetic and economic perspective, preserving your parks and natural spaces also makes a lot of sense. So that’s a big issue for me and that’s what I’ve been working on a lot.
I think we can do a lot more to make Raleigh really, really bike friendly. Public transit is great in terms of having busses and trains and all that, but I also want to have infrastructure where you don’t even have to have a car to get to a train station. Where you can safely ride your bike, provided the weather is even enough, like it is today, brutally hot, or it’s raining. To be more like a Portland, Oregon where using a bicycle is truly a viable option to go shopping, to commute, etc. And to connect that – to make sure that you can ride your bike and then hop on a bus, or ride your bike, hop on a bus and then hop on a train – to truly connect all of it.
What would you say is your guilty pleasure?
I like very high-end chocolate, high quality chocolate and very high-end ice cream. I also like good quality wine. Food in general is my pleasure and my bane; my cardiologist will tell you. I like good food.