Thomas Crowder (D)

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Age: 55
Occupation: Architect

How long have you lived in Raleigh?
55 years

Why have you decided to run for office?
This would be my fifth term. Actually, a lot of folks encouraged me to run. It’s a great city. I love it. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed representing District D.

What do you think are the three biggest issues facing the city, and in 30 seconds or less, how would you address them?
Number one issue would be water. Growth, how we manage that, and maintaining a high quality of life.

On water, we’ve already started looking at how we can better conserve our current resources. The council, myself and Coun­cilor [Russ] Stephenson, pushed for the tiered rate system. We’re also trying to move towards on-site cap­ture. Actually the city, up until the drought in 2008, we were using about 35 million gallons a day from October to April. Then from April to October, it jumped anywhere from 75 million to 80 million gal­lons a day, and a lot of that water is getting dumped on the ground. It’s a very pre­cious resource.

High quality of life. The reason you’re here and that people come is because of high quality of life. We need to continue to pro­vide choices and opportu­nities for a high quality of life, and I think one of the number one issues associ­ated with a high quality of life is making sure that we protect our environment. Transit needs to be one of our number one issues. I use quality of life because it was a more holistic term, but under that I consider that we going to have to move towards a world-class transit system so that we can focus development in the right places.

What do you think are the best and worst decisions the current city council has made?
I would say one of the best decisions, and I will be somewhat proud of this, is adopting our sustainability policies. I was actually the architect behind the city’s mission statement and that has to do with being a 21st century city of innovation focused on environmental, cultural and economic sus­tainability and it goes on with a lot of other things, so it talks about protecting our quality of life. Raleigh was just named the most sustainable, mid-size city in the nation by the U.S. Chamber, and I think in a short period of time, we really have started looking at environmentally respon­sible moves.

What do you think is the most important issue facing your district and how would you address it?
There’s a certain per­ception of the district. It is a very diverse dis­trict, and we’re go­ing to have to change some perceptions of the real estate community. It has been both racially, social and economically diverse, and over the recent years, we’ve seen for instance with the university, a lot of professors and faculty, the real estate communi­ty are not showing them housing opportunities in southwest Raleigh. They’ll look at North Raleigh or Cary, which contributes to traffic congestions, sprawl, things of that nature. And one of the things that we’re getting ready to kick off in partnership with N.C. State University College of Design is a branding and economic development study for the area. We just need to recapitalize on those assets and make the real estate community and the community at large understand what a great place this is.

How do you think the city should house its public safety functions?
One of the things that we’ve done over the years is actually decentralize. All of the fire and police were in one location in down­town, and same thing goes for our safety center. Staff, some of the police depart­ment didn’t want to decen­tralize, and we’ve done that and it’s been a great asset for the communi­ty. And the same goes for emer­gency man­a g e me n t operations. We need to make sure that we don’t cluster our 911 and fire and police de­tectives in one area. With the Lightner Center, what was happening is you had the tail wagging the dog because you have to deal with potential disasters and I think you can think back to the recent tornado that ripped through down­town, or almost through downtown.

I think one of the hic­cups was not getting enough information ear­ly on about best practic­es and some of the short­comings that councilors Stephenson and myself and [Bonner] Gaylord dug into on the Lightner Center.

How do you feel about impact fees?
I’m very supportive. In fact, when I first got on council, we pushed to in­crease impact fees. Growth should pay its way, but I’d like to go a little bit further than that. I think we need a graduated impact fee sys­tem, and that’s something I’ve been pushing for a couple of years, in conjunc­tion with Councilor Ste­phenson, is that we should have a system that helps in­centivize growth where it should be.

What ideas do you have for public transportation in Raleigh?
I’ve been a big supporter of that we need to look at transit. Transit is going to be able to not only move a large number of folks, it is going to continue to provide economic devel­opment opportunities, and it’s also going to keep our tax base low. Arling­ton County, Virginia: 33 percent of their tax base is generated by less than 7 percent of their land area, and that’s around tran­sit stations. So it’s cost ef­fective. Number two, it gives an opportunity to link our region with light rail and help reduce trip generation.

How do you think the city should plan to meet its future water needs?
Number one, we need to look at how can we stretch our current water resourc­es and being innovative at capturing our stormwa­ter. We have issues with stormwater runoff, down­stream flooding. If we can incentivize and encourage on-site capture and reuse, because the majority of our water is used between April and October during the dry season, that we can expand that resource out into the future and help absorb growth. The other thing is protecting Falls Lake. Raleigh has an Up­per Neuse Initiative to buy property along tributaries to protect the water qual­ity of Falls Lake, and that’s a huge and very important measure that we must do, because if we allow that water quality to degrade, it costs us over a half a mil­lion dollars to clean it up and added chemicals or other ways to treat that wa­ter when it comes out.

So the city has been given a million dollars to do whatever it wishes. What do you think the money should go to?
I would take a portion of that money and use that to better engage the pub­lic in the current [Unified Development Ordinance] process, doing some case studies, and part of that money to help model the city in 3D modeling so that we can look at how to analyze growth in the future, and I think that can be done with a million dollars.

One thought on “Thomas Crowder (D)

  1. So glad Mr. Crowder represents my district. Agree with his priorities and his approach–this is the kind of long-term vision that we need to manage the future of a high-growth city like Raleigh.