On the Record: Nancy McFarlane

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On The Record: Nancy McFarlane Interview Transcription
CDP: My name is Charles Duncan Pardo with the Raleigh Public Record, and I am speaking with Nancy McFarlane, who just won the mayoral race for Raleigh. Congratulations.
NM: Thank you very much. Thanks for coming out.

CDP: Can you tell me what your plans are for the next two years?
NM: Well, Raleigh’s really in a great place, and I think that that was a message that we heard from the voters. They’re like being the number one city in the country, and they also, with the passing of the bonds, acknowledge that it’s really important to invest in our community. So, I think that the main focus is going to be on making sure economy stays strong and gets even stronger. And, also, really planning for growth. We’ll be seeing more and more people move here, so we have to manage that carefully.

CDP: And voters did pass the bonds. Do you like how the discussions over light-rail and high-speed rail have been going and what are your plans there?
NM: The bonds did pass. The only thing really in there was the transit station, and we’ve had a lot of good discussion about rail. I think people really understand how the dynamics of the area could change if we do see the growth that some people have talked about – anywhere [from] 100,000 people coming in the next few years. So, I think that what people really are looking for are transportation options, and I think that that means a combination of cars, but also light-rail and buses and trolleys and bikes and walking. I think we really are looking at multi-modal transportation options.

CDP: So, you’re going to be taking over this council with a lot of balls in the air, and I think one of the most contentious is going to be the Lightner Center and where to put the police department. I know you supported the Lightner Center, and you’re going to be the negotiator over the next two years, so tell me what your thoughts are on that.
NM: Well, I think that everyone does acknowledge that we have a need. Our 911 emergency services are at capacity. That is the most pressing need, and I think that we’ve really had some good discussion, and I think that everybody is ready to really sit down and find out a solution that’s going to work for all of us.

CDP: Does there need to be some sort of interim measure for the 911 folks?
NM: Well, I think everybody knows that’s really going to be the first thing that we address and it’s going to be a matter of really getting some feedback on just how long it will take with different options, building something new, rehabbing something and that will be all part of what we take into consideration, but it’s something we’re going to have to look at right away.

CDP: And when you think about what you would like to see, is this something centralized, decentralized?
NM: Well, I think… when I originally saw the building that was proposed, I think that there are some things that we can do, looking at that model. I think it will be toned down, maybe not quite as big, maybe moving the emergency services down to the bottom. I think there’s a lot of potential, so that we can use the monies that we’ve already invested in that project. We’ve relocated people and shifted space around. We have that space available. So, I think the first thing would be, maybe, how do we best utilize the dollars we’ve already spent.

CDP: It sounds like you’re saying a centralized solution.
NM: Well, I mean, I would say that, having my own business, there is a lot of benefit to having your managers together.

CDP: There’s still a lot of tornado damage in southeast Raleigh and northeast Raleigh. What is going on with that?
NM: Well, that was one of the parts of the bond, and that was one reason I was very happy that the voters stepped up and passed that because there is tornado relief monies in there and, you know, it’s complicated. Some people have insurance, some people may still be waiting on FEMA money. We’re certainly aware. We’re working with different groups that are assisting people. We’re doing all different kinds of programs as best we can, but the bond money is really going to be helpful.

CDP: And that’s for loans to people who can’t get insurance?
NM: Mm-hmm. (McFarlane nods in agreement.)

CDP: So, one of the other big balls is rewriting the entire zoning code. Do you like how that process has gone?
NM: It is a big process, and I’m really glad that, a few months ago, we decided to slow it down a little bit. It’s a complicated thing, and it’s really important to get public input on that, but Unified Development Ordinance just in itself, just explaining what it is…I just want to make sure that the process is right. I’m not as worried about the length of the process as I am with outcome.

CDP: And do you think there should be… I know there’s been some controversy over a map to go along with this. Do you think that mapping process should be sped up?
NM: Well, I’ve actually heard both sides, and that is something I’d like to sit down with the consultants that we have … and our … maybe Christie Dargess, the staff that’s really looking at it, to really get…everybody kind of has an opinion on that right now, but I’d really like to spend some time with the consultant going through and seeing what the pros and cons are of doing them separately, or waiting and doing them together.

CDP: Okay, and I know we’re running a little short on time here, but I wanted to just ask you about water. There’s this weird dynamic where if people conserve, rates go up. It pays for itself. What do we do with that when we could get another drought any time?
NM: Actually, that’s a really good question because one thing that we looked at during the drought was exactly that model of people conserve, and then they use less water, and then you don’t have as much income to run the utility, and based on that, and talking to some people that are really key in the locally and in the state on water, that’s not a sustainable model.

So, what actually I did last year was put together a group, we call it the WUTAT, Water Utility Transition Advisory Task Force, and what they’re doing is looking at our water utility system, our storm water system, our reuse water system, and saying what’s a better model– what’s a more sustainable model. Is that something that we need to have altogether, as opposed to having a water system and a storm water system over here? There’s a way to recapture storm water and work that in so that it’s not every time you use … People feel that they’re being punished for using less water, but what they also have to understand is the base of what their cost is is the cost to run the system. There’s a cost of water purification plants, there’s a cost of waste water treatment plants, and that’s why it’s so important when we do things like protect Falls Lake and buy up some of that open space, because the cleaner we can keep Falls Lake, the lower the cost is to purify that water.

And so, it’s all very connected. So, we have a task force that’s come up with some great recommendations, and now they’re really looking at how do we take that into a sustainable model that’ll take us into the future.

CDP: So, are we going to see this system change a lot in the next two years?
NM: Yeah, I’m kind of hoping that we will. I think that storm water is a huge issue for us. They just built a Whole Foods up here, and the storm water system that they came up with is…I mean, they got a grant from the Clean Water Trust Fund because it’s so innovative, and nothing leaves that site. What water they do capture and don’t use is all reintroduced into the ground, and that’s really what we want to see. So, it can be done, and I’m just really excited about the possibilities of taking different kinds of storm water recapture and putting them into our water model to help us with drought and with storm water run-off.

CDP: Thank you so much for speaking with us.
NM: Thanks. Thanks for coming.

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