Betsy Kane is a professional land-use consultant and attorney who previously spent time working with the city on the Urban Planning Commission. She represents the thoughtful leadership that the New Raleigh writers want to see more of in Raleigh government. Geary once described Kane as “the sharpest member of the Raleigh Planning Commission, she does the hard work of thinking through and considering the consequences of every development case in the city.” New Raleigh presents Betsy Kane’s City Council Endorsements.
In the at-large race, Russ Stephenson has earned his reputation as the councilor most responsive to Raleigh citizens. He combines depth of understanding of Raleigh’s issues (he’s an architect and award-winning city planning consultant) with a nearly pathological commitment to reaching out with courtesy to all groups (including those that disagree with him). In his second term as an at-large councilor, he has shown a dedication that defies the paltry $7,000 after-tax compensation that accompanies this full-time job. He’s been an incredibly hard worker advancing the ball on issues from sustainability to economic development, fiscal sanity (opposing subsidies that promote sprawl), he is one of the strongest voices for neighborhoods and urban living. As long as Russ is willing to serve, we are fortunate to have him. He receives my highest endorsement.
For the second at-large seat (you get to vote for two), Lee Sartain is the clear choice. Lee will be new to City Council, but everyone who meets him has been impressed with his intelligence, vision, and ability to clearly articulate positive ideas on transit, economic development, and sustainability. Lee Sartain will be a breath of fresh air on Council, bringing the ideas and energy of the next electoral generation to a body that often seems mired in dated ideas and.
One issue that Sartain has made a signature item is economic development. Raleigh’s now a city of a third of a million people but still has no economic development department or agenda of its own – leaving that task to the Chamber and other business organizations. They do a fine job, but it’s long been time since our city should have put economic development at the forefront of its own initiatives.
Sartain recognizes what’s been apparent for only a few years now: Raleigh is emerging as the center of gravity in the Triangle. As a regional power and destination, we need to stop pretending that business can be done as if this were a small town, and take on the responsibilities of a major metro area. Those responsibilities include job creation, transit service, and the expansion of a world-class quality of life—with the arts, parks, environmental sustainability, and good urbanism forming the heart of what Lee calls “the mix”. I hope Raleigh’s cultural creatives will unite around Sartain and propel him into office, where he’ll do great things.
I’ve not been impressed with at-large candidate Mary-Ann Baldwin. In her first term on council, she’s recorded no significant accomplishments, and she has trouble staying in touch with neighborhoods and the grass roots. I’m sympathetic to her complaints that Council is a full-time job on a tiny part-time stipend – a pittance, really – but other councilors manage to show up at neighborhood events and candidate forums. Baldwin really whiffed on those, both in her first term and during this election campaign.
She promises to do better, but the real problem is her fundamental attitude towards Council service: for her, it seems to be more of a nice line-item on her résumé than a full-time commitment. She often arrives at the Council table unfamiliar with the material in her packet, and she’s voted yes on issues that turned around to bite Raleigh in the behind, such as the water re-use fiasco (which put Raleigh at risk of a 17% increase in water rates).
She’s voted over and over for commercial rezonings and planning designations that compromise neighborhood integrity and result in stripped-out sprawl retail, or densities that disregard good planning principles. She’s done this repeatedly in neighborhoods across the city – Stanhope Village, West Morgan and Pullen Park, Lincolnville and Nowell Pointe, Falls of Neuse, Oakwood-Mordecai and Five Points, and along Highway 401.
Baldwin’s all-expenses-paid junket to China is only a recent flash point. I’m much more concerned about her lack of regard for the city’s neighborhoods and failure to do her homework on issues that need careful handling. But it’s true that she used campaign funds for a sightseeing trip to China. When you look at the source of her campaign donations – largely from big “playahs” in real estate – the trip looks like a classic junket. That’s a real blast from the past, the kind of thing Raleigh needs to leave behind.
In District A, the clear choice is Nancy McFarlane. As an advocate for neighborhoods, parks and green space, she has worked for years to get northwest Raleigh’s out-of-control stormwater problems under better management. She’s helped to protect Raleigh taxpayers by making new growth pay more of its own way so that property taxes don’t have to, and brings a strong business perspective to management of city affairs in a fiscally sound way. McFarlane was instrumental in ensuring that the 2030 Comprehensive Plan protects the city’s infrastructure, growth, economy, and well-being over the next 20 years.
Another easy choice awaits voters in District B, northeast Raleigh. In his first term, Rodger Koopman worked hard to save Horseshoe Farm and Durant Nature Park. He is deeply committed to democracy and citizen empowerment at all levels of government, and it shows in his actions at the Council table. Koopman helped get new impact fee rates passed, so that Raleigh provides less of a subsidy to sprawl development.
The easiest choice of all is in District D. Thomas Crowder has served with valiant dedication to his constituents and Raleigh’s interests as a whole. His total commitment to public service was especially evident over the last ten months, during the creation of the 2030 Comprehensive Plan.
Thomas worked with 27 neighborhoods and every Citizens Advisory Council in his district to involve hundreds of people in directly shaping the 2030 Plan. Of the 1,400 citizen comments received on the Plan during its shaping, over 900 came from District D – a testament to the power of citizen involvement when there’s a good listener in office. Thomas Crowder is the driving force behind the City’s sustainability initiative, and thanks to his presence on Council, “people power” is stronger than ever in Raleigh.
Challenger Ted Van Dyk thinks that that citizen involvement was a bad thing, and that the Comp Plan was somehow made worse by the massive public input that took place. Maybe he should seek office in some system other than a representative democracy. Van Dyk is a talented designer; I hope he’ll continue to shape Raleigh’s built environment as an architect – just not in public office.
Finally, Bonner Gaylord will bring energy and understanding to the District E seat. I appreciate Gaylord’s understanding of good urbanism and good suburbanism. Both have their place in Raleigh, a city of mostly low-density neighborhoods that is just becoming familiar with the nature of urban places, and the details of getting urbanism right.
Gaylord’s experience as general manager of North Hills will give him fresh perspectives on the city’s functions and finances. He’s eager to support transit and infill development, and he’s got the intelligence to discern the “devil in the details” as those are implemented. My hope is that Bonner Gaylord will bridge the gap between progressives on Council and the (often retrograde) Old Raleigh business community. He’s certainly got the credentials and the connections to do so.
Good luck to the candidates endorsed above. Voters, you can vote early (from now until 1:00 pm on Saturday) at the Wake County Board of Elections, 337 S. Salisbury Street www.WakeVotesEarly.com.
Or, get yourself to your regular polling place on Tuesday, October 6.