Mary-Ann Baldwin (D)

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Age: 54
Occupation: Marketing and Communications Consultant

How long have you lived in Raleigh?
23 years

Why have you decided to run for office?
This will be my third term if I’m re-elected, so I guess the reason why I decided to run was to try to keep Raleigh on the track it was on and to give back to the community and to make sure that things kept happening.

What are the three biggest issues you think the City of Raleigh faces and how would you address those issues?
The first is obviously related to our economy. One of the things that I did this past year was push for an economic development office in our city. We did not have an economic development department and I felt that having somebody on city staff coordinating job creation efforts and economic development activities was critical.

The second issue would be transit. I really support moving to a more transit-friendly environment where we have improved bus service, better bus shelters and benches, better marketing and communication about bus services, and then plans for commuter rail and light rail. I think all of those together, not only will help us from a transportation standpoint, but they’ll create land use development so we can absorb the multitudes of people who are going to be moving here over the next 20 years.

And then I really think the third issue relates to public safety. One of the
things that I started and I’m continuing to work on is a youth collaborative. And I started this with [former Councilor James West.] We got the city, Wake County and the Wake County schools involved and we now have our very first meeting, over 60 people attended, and we now are working with a multitude of nonprofits, all working together.

What do you think are the best and worst decisions the current city council has made?
Well, I think that moving forward on the number of parks and greenways that we have in the city is
always a good decision and it gives us more options, makes people healthier. We have parks opening, new park facilities in areas that are fast-growing and need them. We also have two new senior centers that are opening. And we also opened a teen center, the first in the city. I think that the support that we’ve given downtown has been a good decision because it has encouraged private investors to come in here and build and that builds our tax base. And that’s what helps us keep taxes low throughout the city.

Worst : The city recently voted — the rest of the council voted — to spend $150,000 on a study for making Southwest Raleigh the Creative District. I think we could have used money for small business loans, for instance, instead of a study. A study is two years away. I think we need more immediate action.

What do you think are the most important issues for your district (the city) and how do you plan to address it?
I think one of the biggest issues is where we stand economically. Maintaining services is a priority. Keeping our workforce intact is a priority, but how do we do this and keep our tax rate balanced? One of the things we have to do is
make sure we set priorities that give us a return on investment, continue to help us revive our economy and help us build our tax base. Another major issue facing the entire city is the maintenance of our whole public utilities department and facilities. Right now, we have aging infrastructure. We have to start looking at a plan to fund and maintain the system, and at the same time, balance the health of the system.

What do you think the city should do to house its public safety functions?
I supported the construction of the public safety center. This was something that was started five years ago. When I came
on board the council, the site had already been selected, the design had already started. Were there some things that I think we could have done differently? Sure. But we were already into the process. Over that five-year period, $22 million of taxpayer money has been spent pursuing this location and this design. And I just think that it would be a disgrace if we didn’t move forward somehow or other with what had been planned and waste $22 million.

How do you feel about impact fees?
Since there’s nothing being developed right now, impact fees are bringing in very little money. It was a big debate when we had a lot of growth. I think that impact fees are necessary. I think the dollar amount that we have now is probably the right amount. I would like to see us look at graduated impact fees.

What are your ideas for public transportation in Raleigh?
I’m really committed to moving forward on the [sales-tax increase for public transportation] referendum, and letting people decide how to move forward with and support financially a transit plan for Raleigh. The major component of any transit plan has to be improved bus service, and that’s something we’ve learned from what they did right in Charlotte. I think second priority, from a congestion standpoint, is moving forward with commuter rail. I think that this would really help us cut down on traffic from Clayton all the way to RTP, or at least it will take some congestion off the road and give people choices. When we talk about transportation in Raleigh, it’s really about providing choices to people.

What do you think the city of Raleigh should do to house its future water needs?
Right now we are studying whether to build another reservoir and I think that that is something that we need to continue to look at. It’s very expensive, and when all is said and done, it might not be necessary, but I think we have to at least plan for that. We do have to move forward with conservation efforts as we have been doing.

Right now, we have a water resource group that is really looking at all these issues. They’re experts in the field, and they are helping advise us on how we move forward, and I’m going to be paying a lot of attention to what the experts say.

The city has been given a million dollars to do anything it wishes. How should the money be spent?
I would like to see part of the money used to start an entrepreneurial district downtown that really focuses on bringing in high-tech companies to our area and nurturing high-tech companies that already exist. It’s not small business, but if you have these companies created and they’re hiring and they’re at 20-50 people, those are the kind of companies that are going to rebuild our economic vitality.

And the other thing I would use some of the money for is to help create a brand for Raleigh. You know, what’s Raleigh? Well, we’re an innovative city, and we have a lot of smart people who live here.

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