District: City Council, District B
Occupation: Chief Operating Officer of The Sorin Insurance Group
Why should your constituents elect you?
I think the most important reasons are the fact that I represent the people and I am a demographic that is very common in our district, which is I have two young kids, and I’m active in the local business community, and I think that I really do represent a very specific, but also a demographic that is very common in District B.
District B has a lot of residential areas and so I think I represent that well, but more so I think, if I had to answer the question of why should people elect me, there’s no stronger reason other than the fact that I’m not really afraid of saying ‘no.’ And what I mean by that is that I’m not doing this to do what’s popular. I’m doing this to do what’s right and I go into this with a very open mind. But I’ve got to go into a position like this with the understanding that you know what, there might be a situation down the road that I might be enlightened. I might learn something, and my position might change. And I don’t know that an image of a good politician is one that isn’t accepting of change, and isn’t accepting of new ideas. And having run a business, I certainly know the plight of so many businesses in the district and beyond, but I think I bring a very unique and broad range perspective.
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?
Vocal. The Council needs to be vocal. In the absence of true leadership, people will listen to whoever is talking. And so what the Council needs to do is there are so many things that our legislature has been doing, and even more recently that will directly affect our ability to be a prosperous and successful city. It will hinder our ability to attract the best and brightest talent. It will hinder our ability to foster a welcoming community. And so I am not the type of guy that sits idly by while things like this are going on, and I as a City Councilor or not, if I’m lucky to be elected or if I’m not elected, I’m going to be vocal in support of my city.
One of the issues that is of the utmost importance to me is the right for equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters in Raleigh and in the state. And to see as somebody that runs a business and as somebody that lives in the state, that was certainly one of the issues last year as we voted upon Amendment One that I became very impassioned about and the fact of the matter is that Amendment One does a number of things to hurt the city of Raleigh. It is not a benefit to our city by any stretch of the imagination, and certainly with new legislation on the voting rights of North Carolina citizens and the limitation of a woman’s right to find proper healthcare – all of those things are going to impede our ability to be successful and we need to be cognizant of that. If other sides are going to be loud, we need to be the loudest and because I keep going back to that. In the absence of true leadership, people will listen to whoever’s the loudest.
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 think you kind of hit the nail on the head. It is about being proactive, and it is about sort of having our current infrastructure needs meet the needs of 10 years down the road. If we constantly live our lives here today as though it’s 2023, then hopefully we’ll always be one step ahead of the game. So as we see those ebbs and flows of growth, if we have a year that’s particularly high or particularly low, we’ll still be able to function pretty well. I think that the more we can do to engage the citizenship too; say, what is it that is impeding your ability to live a prosperous life in Raleigh? Is it taking you too long to get from Mitchell Mill Road to I-440, and what can we do to, you know, would it help to put in a light somewhere? Do you live in an area that doesn’t have fantastic water service? So I think that the more that we can be proactive in engaging our citizens in the process of government, the better off we’ll be.
What do you think are the best and worst decisions made by the Council these last two years?
Well, it’s funny; we just last night, or two nights ago, my campaign manager and I did one of our campaign videos on the bridge that is right on Louisburg Road, the corner of Louisburg and Mitchell Mill. And it’s this really cool suspension bridge, and I feel like that having occurred in the past two years and the commitment to the greenway, and its connection to the fact that I can hop on and ride to so many different areas on my bike just from my house in North Raleigh is fantastic. So I think that that, certainly for me, is one of the shining moments of our Council in the past two years.
As far as bad things, I would certainly have to say that one of the things I noticed in the beginning when we started this race is how little people know about their city government. And when we went through the process of our city manager leaving and now that we go through the process of finding a new one, it’s amazing how little people know. And it’s amazing that you go up to the average citizen and their assumption is that Mayor McFarlane does the hiring and the firing, and that she is the chief executive of the city and people don’t recognize, or maybe it’s that they don’t know or whatever it is, they weren’t fully aware of what the city manager leaving meant.
We’re taking up a bond proposal this fall, and part of that bond proposal is going to go towards investing in the capital area transit, and one of the things that we’re going to be doing in our campaign is for the month leading up to the election I’m going to be taking the bus to work every day. I feel like that’s another one of those areas where we’re making a lot of decisions on infrastructure, transportation, things like that, but I wonder how much connection the council and the mayor has with these decisions that they’re making. I think the connection is really what’s lacking.
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 do support the bond. I think that the bond is definitely something that we need, frankly though I think that it probably falls a little bit short of the total amount we need. I would have liked to have seen something a little bit higher, and I think that, I’m not sure what’s preventing us from doing these types of things. Maybe it’s just, $75 million is a lot of money, but again the more we can educate people about how that $75 million fits into the city’s balance sheet. Our city’s not operating similar to the checking account of a normal Raleigh citizen. There are extenuating circumstances that dictate the type of debt we can take on and I think that there’s no better representation of that than our AAA credit rating. We’ve done an incredible job of maintaining that. But I think that, I do support it. I wish it was higher, but I want to see the money go towards areas that can make it easier for people to live in the city.