In interviews with the Record, the mayoral candidates—Nancy McFarlane, Billie Redmond and Randall Williams—talked about what they considered were the biggest issues facing Raleigh and how they would address them.
Although the candidates pinpointed similar issues, such as growth and the economy, each had different approaches and outlooks. Election Day is Oct. 11. Early voting begins Sept. 22.
Nancy McFarlane said that the first is “planning for growth.”
McFarlane said providing different housing, transportation and work options to citizens is going to be “critically important” part of planning for that growth as household demographics change.
“By 2035, a majority of the homes in America will be single-person households,” she said.
This, McFarlane said, is due to increases in the aging population and “young professionals” opting not to marry.
“So, as you look at that, you have to look at options, because not everyone is going to want to live a
suburban lifestyle,” McFarland said.
McFarlane considers jobs to be another big issue.
“I opened a business here nine years ago, and just from my experience and from talking to a lot of other people in the community, I know that when you are first getting started, it is really hard to know where to start. It is hard to know what licenses to get and permits,” McFarlane said.
McFarlane wants to see the city have a “point of contact” for businesses to turn to for advice on how to “navigate the system.”
She said that she did not think that the city needed to “reinvent the wheel” in that area, pointing out that there were many great resources already for businesses, like Shop Local Raleigh and the Chamber of Commerce.
“I just want an identifiable point of contact for people to go to, and then they can help put all of that help together,” McFarlane said.
The third biggest issue McFarlane feels is facing the city is quality of life. McFarlane thinks it is not only important to maintain the city’s quality of life, but to also improve it, which will ultimately attract more people and businesses to the city.
“It makes me a little crazy,” McFarlane said. “I hear people say ‘maintaining the quality of life.’ It is improving the quality of life. We have to always improve the quality of life, and that is what drives everything else.”
Redmond also considers jobs and the economy to be big issues facing the city.
Redmond said she feels that economic development will help solve these problems and has a plan to address them.
Redmond said the city should be “more business-friendly,” and said this is one of the reasons why she is running.
Redmond thinks that businesses need to “step up for leadership” in order to create jobs in the city.
“We are the ones that create the jobs,” she said. “We need to stop relying on the government to create them. We need to create them. Business needs to lead that process, and the city needs to be our partner.”
Redmond said fiscal responsibility is an important issue that could be addressed through “setting priorities” and making more long-term investments.
“People are making short-term budget decisions to survive and to be stable, but you keep your eye on the future relative to long-term investments,” she said.
She said she believes this balance of short and long-term goals is important for the city.
“It is the balance between what are the priorities for the city, where should we be investing our money? And yet at the same time, how can we look at our citizens and say, ‘This was a prudent decision,’ and it meets an economic model that mirrors the fact that people are being conservative and budget-conscious at home,” Redmond said.
Williams also cited the city’s economic situation as one of the biggest issues.
“The mayor has to do everything he can to create a favorable business climate, attract jobs, increase the jobs that are here, increase customers,” Williams said.
Williams also wants the city more fiscally responsible. Williams said officials can do that by “keeping taxes low” and listening to businesses on what the city can do to help boost their productivity.
“I think my experience overseas and here have taught me that a strong business sector solves a lot of social ills,” Williams said.
One thing Williams said he thinks the next mayor needs to do is “set the tone for the city” and encourage citizens to work together.
“So much of politics now is divisive, almost driven by an anger by people who disagree with you and that is just not who I am,” Williams said.
Williams said historically, the city has been able to work together, but that within the past couple of years, both Raleigh and the surrounding areas have “gotten away from that.”
“I think that diminishes all of us when we can’t resolve your differences with civility,” Williams said.
Williams said, like most candidates, he considers planning for growth to be an important issue facing the city.
“I just think we probably differ a little bit on our approach on how you manage that,” Williams said.
Williams believes that keeping taxes low in order to attract businesses and jobs to the area will help ease growing pains.
“Or all you do is just strain the resources you have—the roads, the water, education,” Williams said.