1. Why are you running for city council?
The main reason I’m running for city council is a concern about growth and development and its impact on neighborhoods. I’ve been involved for the past couple of years in a rezoning case in my own neighborhood and I’ve gotten to know a lot of other people throughout the city that have had to deal with other rezoning cases.
As the city is growing there’s a prediction of increasing the population from 430,000 to more than 600,000; there isn’t going to be a single neighborhood that isn’t impacted by growth and development, and I felt that in District B our current councilor wasn’t doing enough to really take into account the feelings of the people that live in the neighborhood. And he’s very pro-development, there are very few development proposals that he wouldn’t approve, and I think going forward that needs to be changed.
There’s citizens’ opinions that need to be weighed heavily on how development proposals pan out. I think it was fine in the past when Raleigh had a lot of open land and there was forest or farm land that was unoccupied that was being developed. But now that you have development competing with neighborhoods where people live and are invested in their homes, I think a more balanced approach is needed
2. What is the biggest challenge currently facing the city, and what would you propose to do about it?
Definitely dealing with growth and development, because of all the consequences from growth and development. We have poor neighborhoods, like in southeast Raleigh for example, where there are a lot of people that rent and the property owners want to sell the property and redevelop it and reap the profits from it, and all the sudden we have a whole bunch of people that are having to look for housing elsewhere.
There’s one gentlemen who told me in the Brentwood area, he’s lived in his house 20-30 years and he can’t afford to move anyplace else. What are we going do about that? I like the idea of looking at options like trading off height and density for affordable housing, finding creative ways to fund affordable housing so that would be one of the challenges.
Another challenge is obviously transportation. If we’re going to add 200-400,000 people to the city; the roads are already recognized as being clogged during rush hour and even after rush hour, so how are we going to deal with that? It strikes me as interesting that John Odom’s been in council for 20 years, and every time he runs he talks about the need to improve the transportation system. And yet over 20 years, there’s been very little movement to do exactly that. I think it’s necessary to get someone in there that doesn’t just talk about it, but actually gets it done.
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?
I’ve told people before that I don’t really view sidewalk dining is really a problem; the problem is the behavior of people, the irresponsible behavior of people who get intoxicated and then they’re causing a lot of problems, whether it be vomiting or urinating in the streets or making a lot of noise or causing fights with other people and so my bigger concern is what do we do about that kind of behavior.
Several years ago I witnessed a drunk-driving accident, I witnessed a young lady being pulled from her vehicle and the emergency workers trying to resuscitate her; she didn’t make it. I’m constantly reminded that this kind of behavior with intoxication, drinking too much, drinking irresponsibly, has serious consequences and I really think that what the council was doing was trying to control that behavior.
I don’t think the council has a vendetta against responsible people dining on the sidewalk, and I think that having people move indoors at 1 a.m., as I understand it’s the trial period. I’m sure it’s to see if it will really do anything; I’m very much a proponent of making policy based on facts; I’m curious to see if it’ll have any effects, but if it does have an effect and it’s a positive effect, than I think that shutting down sidewalk dining at 1 a.m. vs 2 a.m. is a very, very modest change, and again I’m not against outdoor dining and I don’t think that’s the issue, the issue is people drinking irresponsibly.
4. Raleigh has ended up on a lot of Top Ten lists in recent years. Why do you think that is?
I think it’s because the quality of life that Raleigh offers; there’s a lot of places people can go and find jobs and work, so Raleigh offers a tremendous balance of work opportunities, education opportunities, health care facilities, wonderful weather, recreation opportunities, entertainment opportunities, and people like their neighborhoods.
In my area people move in and we have a lot of young families all the way up to retirees. Young families I know they want to have somewhat of a yard for the kids to play in, they want to have nearby playgrounds, people want walkable neighborhoods. The one I moved into had extensive sidewalks, and that’s one of the things that attracted us to the neighborhood. So having quality neighborhoods is extremely important, that’s one thing I’ve been trying to emphasize over the past three years as a developer wanted to build a strip mall at the entrance to our neighborhood. It wasn’t walkable, it was the creation of a huge parking lot for 350 cars, not just in front of the neighborhood but across the street from Falls Lake Park and in the watershed. None of that was appropriate; I’m really trying to emphasize going forward, balancing those kind of properties vs. our neighborhoods which is where I think Raleigh gets this quality of life from, and ends up on those lists of best places to live.
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? Why or why not?
I definitely advocate that it needs to be changed, and it needs to be approved with changes. The obvious case is right in my neighborhood, with the proposed remapping of Dunn Road to the same zoning classification that was denied under the rezoning a few months ago. There’s other situations throughout the city where there’s going to be impact on traditionally black neighborhoods, and with the introduction of bars that people don’t want, an impact on historic areas like Oakwood, there has to be mitigation done. I think that it would be wrong for this city council to vote on this remapping before a new city council is seated. I think it’s pretty clear from the public hearings that were held on remapping with a turn out of hundreds of people, there’s lots of concerns. This election is a referendum on remapping, we need to let the people have a voice through this election and allow the new city council to be seated before any decisions are made.
6. What is the best and what is the worst decision made by city council over the past two years, and why?
Best, I’m going to go ahead with the Dix Property. I think that’s right on a number of levels. First of all, it honors the Dorothea Dix Legacy, and I think it does so in a wonderful way through that property. I think it’ll be a tremendous amenity to the city, it’s one of those things that will continue to enhance Raleigh’s quality of life. I think it’s pretty obvious to say that’s probably the best decision in the past couple of years, the other decision that would rival that would’ve been the reopening of Fayetteville and the resurgence of downtown.
Beyond that, the worst mistake … nothing really sinister is going on, but I do think the UDO needed to be better tested before it was put into effect. I think with the remapping we’re seeing many cases where the UDO is not implementing the comprehensive plan, the vision that’s set forth in the comprehensive plan for protecting neighborhoods, that’s why we have so much frustration and so much protesting going on in the city over the remapping.