Name as it appears on the ballot: Brittany Bryan
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: https://www.brittany4raleigh.com
Occupation & employer: Regional Sales Manager – EBSCO
Years lived in Raleigh: 6 (going on 13 in Wake County)
1) Given the direction of Raleigh government, would you say things are on the right course? If not, for what specific changes will you advocate if elected?
Raleigh is at a crossroads. We are not doing enough to prepare for the future and to support the growth we are experiencing, and will likely continue to experience. We must put plans into place now to make sure that Raleigh is growing in a smart way. Continuing to be reactive instead of proactive as our governance has been the last several years is not a way to be ready for the future.
My vision for Raleigh centers on three areas:
A Place to Call Home For All
A safe & Vibrant Raleigh
Strong, Healthy, Engaged Communities
To ensure that all Raleighites can truly call Raleigh home, we must provide more options for housing and address affordability in a meaningful way. This means allowing for more housing types and developing a task force of agencies, community members, developers, and city staff to advice on a robust affordable housing plan. Our building should have more focus on green-infrastructure to responsibly plan for the future.
We must invest in our safety, infrastructure, and economic development by creating more diverse options for people to get around safely in Raleigh, with a strong focus on accessibility and a robust transportation system. This means having more and better sidewalks and crosswalks, sidewalks to all bus stops, bike lanes that are separated and protected from the roadway. We must also improve the reliability and frequency of our bus service as well as add more routes. We need to develop a plan to pay our for first responders fairly and make sure that those departments have the staff and training they need (right now they are understaffed) to ensure all of our neighborhoods are safe. Our small businesses are the backbone of our City and we can do a better job of supporting them so that they can thrive.
It is important to have improved community engagement that utilizes technology to reach all residents to give people more opportunities to participate in decisions. When planning public meetings, they should be hosted at a variety of times and at locations that are easy to access whether by foot, bus, or car. Providing options for childcare during meetings also means that more people could participate. We can improve our overall health by providing more greenspace and public art (especially when the community participates in creating the art).
More details are on my website: www.brittany4raleigh.com
2) If you are a candidate for a district seat, please identity your priorities for your district. If you are an at-large or mayoral candidate, please identify the three most pressing issues the city faces.
Better housing options, a robust transportation and infrastructure plan, improved safety, and better engagement are the focus for my district as well. District D is a very diverse district and it is changing quickly. Our plans must focus on how to support that growth in a way that is safe, equitable, and sustainable.
3) What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective as a member of the city council and as an advocate for the issues that you believe are important?
I have been active in Raleigh since moving to Wake County almost 13 years ago. I have served on nonprofit boards and committees such as Activate Good, the Glenwood South Neighborhood Collaboration, the Transportation, Housing, and Land Use Committee of WakeUp Wake County, and many more. I have been an active participant in the City including the Hillsborough-Wade Citizen Advisory Committee, the Citizen Leadership Academy, Raleigh Neighborhood College, Raleigh Neighborhood Exchange, and the PR Latta House and Park Planning Committee. I have spent many evenings and weekends registering voters with You Can Vote. I have also served as a precinct chair and precinct secretary for the Wake County Democratic Party.
Being involved in the community means that I have heard about the growing pains that Raleigh is experiencing from many perspectives. I have already been working hard to make my community a better place and am ready to do that for District D as well.
My previous policy and government experience includes research work with the Canadian Parliament and the Tennessee General Assembly Office of Legal Services, and planning Continuing Legal Education seminars for judges, law clerks, and court clerks for the Administrative Office of the Courts with the Tennessee Supreme Court.
4) Most people agree that Raleigh faces a housing affordability crisis. Do you believe the council made a wise decision not to place a bond on this year’s ballot? Why or why not?
Yes. There was a lack of adequate planning for a bond. Important community stakeholders had not been consulted and research into what the amount of the bond should be and how it would be used had not happened. We cannot just throw ideas around without proper research and planning. There also was not have been enough time to educate the community on the bond before the election. I will only support adding a bond for housing to the ballot if there has been solid research on the amount and consultation with experts on how it will be used. It also much be part of a much bigger plan and commitment to increasing livability. Providing housing is only one part of a larger overall issue. The housing must be near transportation and give people easy access to needed resources like health clinics, affordable child care, and grocery stores. We must address housing affordability in a more holistic way.
5) Assuming the council places a bond referendum on the 2020 ballot, how much money to do you believe the city should ask for? What do you believe it should fund? Outside of a bond, what steps should the city be taking to promote housing affordability in Raleigh?
Funding should come from a diverse amount of sources not just a bond and the bond referendum must be part of a larger plan. Other cities of similar in size to Raleigh are putting together plans for $100-750 million in housing funds. This is coming from a variety of sources and it meant to increase housing options for multiple income levels – low, middle, and workforce.
As I mentioned before, housing affordability is only a part of a much larger problem with liveability in Raleigh. While we absolutely must increase our housing options we must make sure that the housing is accompanied by ways to access services that people need most. Infrastructure improvements must go hand-in-hand with more housing options. If we build housing in areas that are isolated from grocery stores, health clinics, child care, and transit lines, it only helps a portion of the bigger need. We have to be thinking more holistically in our planning.
6) Discussions surrounding housing often turn on questions of protecting neighborhoods’ characters or promoting density in the city’s core—i.e., what kinds of new housing the city should add, and where? At the crossroads of this conversation is the rapid gentrification of Southeast Raleigh. What role should the city play in ensuring that the longtime residents of those neighborhoods can continue to afford to live there?
While it is true that the market often drives development, the City has an obligation to make sure the people are safe and protected. There are many options we can explore. However, decisions on this topic should not be made in a vacuum. There must be input from the community members in the areas where gentrification is occurring. Without including those communities in the planning, we are missing a vital part of the solution.
We can look at things like property tax reductions/freezes, increase investment in senior home repair programs, limit large-scale luxury developments, and many more. But once again, any plans for addressing gentrification must be made with the community and experts at the table.
7) The city currently has twenty neighborhood conservation overlay districts, which can restrict new development. Do you believe this tool is being used effectively? How would you change the city’s approach to NCODs, if at all?
I would like to see the NCODs used more effectively to protect our neighborhoods that are at risk of having residents displaced, like in Southeast Raleigh. But they should be used sparingly. I also think there should be much more input and communication with residents about the process.
8) If you could change anything about the city’s unified development ordinance, what would it be and why?
I would adjust our UDO to allow for more housing types, such as cottage courts, duplexes, etc. in all of our neighborhoods and I would also include more green building requirements. As our City grows, we must be responsible in our development so that we have a place for future generations.
9) Earlier this year, the council required homeowners who wish to build an accessory dwelling unit on their property to petition their neighbors through an overlay district process. So far, no neighborhoods have started the application process. Do you believe this is the right approach to ADUs, or do you believe they should be allowed by right? Please explain.
Looking at how other cities, including neighboring communities here in NC, have approached ADUs, I believe they should be allowed by right. In no city has there been a huge onslaught of ADUs built when allowed by right. There are many neighborhoods in Raleigh that do have ADUs (that were built prior to Raleigh dis-allowing them) and can attest to their benefit. The AARP has advocated for ADUs as an option for providing more housing choices for aging in place. The process that City Council established this year for allowing ADUs is overly cumbersome in that it essentially requires an entire area to be rezoned for one homeowner to be able to build an ADU. That is a costly process and creates more red-tape than is necessary.
10) When considering new downtown development projects—e.g., John Kane’s proposed tower on Peace Street or new developments in the Warehouse District—how much consideration do you believe the council should give to automobile traffic and parking concerns?
Traffic studies to accompany rezoning can be helpful to planning, However, investing in a more robust transportation system and walkability makes a much bigger difference in our dense cores. We’re seeing that more and more households are living close to where they work, telecommuting, and trying to utilize other modes of transportation. Creating an environment where there are options for residents is what we should be focused on to be better prepared for the future.
11) Developers are eyeing at least three parcels on the outskirts of the downtown business district for twenty-plus-story buildings. Do you believe this area is an appropriate place to add height and density? What conditions should the city attach to such projects, if any?
This is an area that is appropriate to have more density. However, we do need to make sure that we are developing the proper infrastructure to support it. I also think that we should require more green building and LEED building and design as part of the condition for rezoning.
12) What are your thoughts on the city’s approach to alternative transportation options downtown? Is the city handling issues such as regulating e-scooter companies and building protected bike lanes the right way? Why or why not?
There are currently no true protected bike lanes downtown. This is an area where we need to improve. For the safety of all residents, bike lanes should be separated and protected from traffic. The e-scooters pointed out gaps in our existing infrastructure and separated and protected bike lanes can help close those gaps. If we are going to charge dockless mobility companies a large fee per unit, that fee should be used to help create a safe space for alternative modes of transportation.
13) Earlier this year, the city passed an ordinance banning whole-house rentals and regulating other short-term rentals. Are you concerned about claims that this ordinance might conflict with state law? Do you believe the city’s policy is the best way to regulate Airbnb and other short-term rentals? Why or why not?
I am concerned that our new policy could be in conflict with the new state law regarding homestay services. Beyond that, the policy adopted this year is overly strict. After attending numerous meetings where members of the community spoke heavily in favor of allowing whole house homestays, I am disappointed that those voices were ignored. There are ways to regulate homestays so that bad actors are handled without being punitive to responsible business and homeowners. The policy adopted this year does not do that.
14) Do you think Raleigh’s system of Citizens Advisory Councils is the best way of fostering engagement with local government? If not, how do you believe the CAC system should be reformed?
The CACs are a good way for the community to have input on decisions made in Raleigh. However, we can do more to engage our residents. Our CAC system can be accompanied by better use of online engagement tools like other cities, such as Fayetteville, AR and Savannah, GA, use. Currently the attendance at CAC meetings is relatively low. By combining more online engagement with our current system, we can increase participation within our communities. Having Staff live streaming all CAC meetings can also be a great benefit. Currently CAC members are in charge of streaming the meetings to social media which is not optimal. Having the meetings streamed through the City website is a better approach. Our CAC meetings could also benefit from more flexibility in meeting times and locations. Making sure that meetings are held at places people can easily get to and at times that are more convenient can go a long way to increase engagement. Providing access to child care at meeting facilities can also increase engagement.
15) Four council members have called for the city to join a lawsuit over the RDU Airport Authority’s quarry lease with Wake Stone. Do you support RDU’s quarry lease? Do you believe this case is something the city should involve itself in? Why or why not?
The RDU quarry situation is an incredibly unfortunate one. There are many better uses for the land in question. However, the City was involved with this decision as Council appoints two members to the Airport Authority board and gives them the authority to make these decisions, one of those members is also currently a City Councilor. So the City was represented during the unanimous decision to move forward with the lease. I think that makes joining a lawsuit much more complicated and problematic. While I personally hate the idea of a quarry there instead of a more environmentally sustainable use of the land, the truly unfortunate part of this situation is that the City WAS involved with the decision to move forward. Because of that, I think it is best to let the case play out without further involvement from the City.
16) When Mayor McFarlane announced her decision not to seek reelection, she cited increasing incivility among council members. Do you agree with her assessment? If so, what would do to lower the temperature in city government and make the council more productive?
We cannot let perfect be the enemy of the good. True leadership means working together in an agreeable way even when we disagree. We owe it to Raleigh to come together to make sure that this continues to be a place for everyone. I promise to always have an open ear and be thoughtful and respectful in my approach to issues and other Council members.
17) Do you believe the city needs a community police oversight board? If so, what should the board look like, and what powers should it have? Do you believe the city can or should challenge the state law that blocks access to certain police personnel records?
Oversight Boards can be useful if done right (and there are numerous examples of ineffective citizen oversight initiatives). It all depends on the details of how the Board is created and structured. There are examples of Oversight Boards being ineffective and detrimental to communities, leading to less internal police accountability. However there are also examples where citizen involvement on this level provides opportunity for community education and bridges the gaps between the police and residents. If done right, there is potential for creating stronger relationships and trust between the police and residents, greater transparency, and can help change perceptions of communities and police for the police and for the public and media. If effective, they can open lines of communication. Members of an Oversight Board need to be educated on the role the police play, police equipment, procedures, and the law. We need to make sure that the police can continue to do their jobs effectively. It is often difficult for police to be able to provide their own oversight. If there is a problem, citizens need to have an avenue for addressing their grievances and often going through the police department is not the best way. An important issue to address is the police department’s need for confidentiality of an on-going investigation and the Oversight Board’s need for information – who makes the decision about which information is disclosed and when and under what conditions. The structure and appointment of the Oversight Board is also important – it should be free from political influence, diverse, and should include some members who have experience with the day to day workings of the police department.
I do not believe the City should challenge the state law regarding personnel records. Instead we should be working on the things we can do here and now to improve police relations, such as investing more in community policing and evaluating the effectiveness of our current body camera policy.
18) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.