District: At Large
Occupation: Businessman and Photographer
Why should your constituents elect you for City Council?
Because I’m different. I guess you hear that a lot. I think nowadays you don’t even hear it as much as you used to. But I’m different. I don’t have a lot of the political clout a lot of people have. This is my first time running for an office this large. You know I work and live and go through the same exact things exactly like everyone else does. And we’re talking about just the average family who’s trying, who hasn’t really reached that level of success and I’m there amongst them.
I think our voice has to be represented in City Council. So you look at City Council, you know, they do a good job—I can’t say they don’t. I mean it’s hard to come into a city like Raleigh and start saying, like you see on a lot of the other websites, “Help me make Raleigh this,” I don’t know. Raleigh’s really, really on top of its game, but it’s growing really fast; a lot of companies are coming in really fast. But the disadvantage of the average working people, the poor people, you know, I want to see them come up as well and I should be their voice.
And it’s good to be amongst that atmosphere, because you get to hear things that are important that you don’t get to hear on the news or in the emails you get from the city. You know, common things, like ripped off by taxes, just basic stuff. Maybe that’s not a big deal to a lot of people, but if you have $50 and you have to feed your family and get to work. If the cab service is charging you $35, I mean it hits home. And you’re just trying to get to work. Maybe the bus doesn’t run way out to wherever, Cary or wherever. I’m a voice that talks about those things that normally you would never really hear about as truly a concern of the city. Like grocery stores. You know, not being able to get to a grocery store. Having to catch the bus to go shop for groceries—I’ve done it. It’s not easy to carry a bag of groceries for your family on a bus. But then you hear about these wonderful developments around the city and it’s great. North, Northwest, it’s fantastic. They get grocery stores and shopping centers, but you hear it’s slower on the Southeast side. That’s no good; you can’t do that. You have to be fair.
Many issues taken up by the state legislature have a direct impact on Raleigh. How can Councilors work better with the state legislature on those issues?
There’s a lot going on, a lot of stuff getting passed, and people are pissed, I get it. I think what happens at the local level is we get a little bit too involved in the legislation. I’m going to give you example. So the marriage amendment was a huge issue. It was extremely divisive. So we’re splitting people on one side and the other. And then you have City Councilors coming out, you know, picking one side. But the city doesn’t pick one side. Everybody’s thinking different. And then even everybody wasn’t even decided on how they felt.
What I would love to is say, “Look, you agree, you don’t agree, but we have to really help our citizens in the change.” So if it’s a voter ID issue, let’s make sure they get out and get their voter IDs or whatever needs to be done. I mean, it’s legislation; you can’t change that right now. That’s what it is. A lot of stuff has been passed, and it’s a big up cry. I get it, I understand. But let us help our citizens implement.
Raleigh continues to grow at a good pace, which affects everything from our water quantity to our infrastructure. How do you feel Raleigh can become more proactive about managing that projected growth?
I don’t know. I think they seem to be doing a good job. When I was in Winston-Salem, they have this program called the “City of Winston-Salem University” and you get involved and they take you through every single aspect of city government. And I was fortunate enough to be chosen out of the city for their program and there were just about 15 or 17 of us maybe. They take you through everything, through the water treatment plants, through every single aspect you can think of. To budget and planning, recreation department. I think one of my biggest concerns now is bringing a program like that to Raleigh.
(Editorial note: The City of Raleigh runs a similar program called Raleigh Neighborhood College.)
What do you think are the best and worst decisions made by the Council these last two years?
I think the best decision was the small business initiative that Mayor McFarlane was pushing and got approved. I think a couple of years ago it got approved. Because it’s not easy to start a business. You’re fearful first off, you’re fearful to leave your nine to five because you know that a good majority of businesses don’t make it. And just the start-up process. We’re talking about people who are working, who are good people, who may not have the best credit. And they’re scared to even go forward because they are like look, “I’m not going to be able to get a business account, I’m not going to be able to get a loan because of my credit.” But that’s not true. But they don’t understand that. So the way the mayor set it up to where you can pretty much go to one place and say, “Look I’m applying for a business,” and these are the steps. You’re right here at the table so it’s kind of like you have 10 different chairs and you don’t have to leave the table. You can walk to each chair and they can help you through the whole process. I think that is one of the best decisions that they made.
The worst decision? I can’t think of one.
Raleigh voters will decide whether to approve bonds for a transportation plan. Do you support the bond? If so, what would be your priorities?
I mean what is a bond? I guess that’s my question. And maybe I understand some myself, but does Raleigh really understand what they’re buying into? The average person as myself, maybe you didn’t go on Google yesterday and pull it up. What does it do for you? How are we paying it back? Who are we paying it back to? How is it paid back? Things like that. Things like, the city has investments that a lot of people don’t know about. We are investing a lot of the money we put in—who are those investments with? Are we getting returns on those investments? Those are the types of questions.
So as far as the bond, maybe it would help a lot of things, but will it raise our taxes? Will it raise our county taxes? And that’s a problem. Because a lot of people who are in the programs like Habitat for Humanity, they just bought homes and they’re working with the program to put them in homes they can afford. So what happens if the bond is passed and they say that buses and things are going to be better? More people probably on the outreaches may have better bus service, or whatever they plan to do with the money. But what about the taxes?