Name as it appears on the ballot: DAVID KNIGHT
Party affiliation: UNAFFILIATED
Campaign website: www.knightforraleigh.com
Occupation & employer: Environmental Consultant, Knight Consulting
Years lived in Raleigh: 25
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?
No, I think we have gotten off track in the past two years, and haven’t made progress on the critical issues—affordable housing, transportation, small business support, and the environment —that people care the most about. As Mayor McFarlane said, Raleigh needs a reset, and I’m running for City Council to be a collaborative leader on these issues, and get Raleigh moving again on a forward-looking path!
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.
District E stretches from 5 Points all the way up to Brier Creek, encompassing most of Northwest Raleigh. I’ve spent my entire adult life here, and it is a great place to live. With that said, many of us are struggling with the rising cost of housing, and increased traffic in and around our neighborhoods. Both of these issues stem from the incredible growth Raleigh has undertaken in the last decade or two. We need to be smarter about channeling that growth in a productive manner for our residents, and that will be my top priority as city councilor.
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’ve spent my whole career bringing people of different backgrounds and outlooks together to deal with complicated policy issues. During my 25 year career, I have effectively advocated for environmental and natural resource policies to increase the quality of life for North Carolinians. I will bring to city council this experience and expertise of working with all stakeholders.
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?
“Crisis” is the right word for this issue. Families are getting displaced from the communities which they’ve lived in for years, and seniors are finding it increasingly hard to get by. Given the pressing nature of this issue, I was disappointed to see that the council delayed the bond for another year. They failed to act because they did not yet have a plan for how to spend the money, but I wish they had been more proactive on dealing with an issue that has been apparent for years.
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?
Durham’s affordable housing bond was $95 million, and I think we need to go well above that number, given our needs. How we address this question now will determine what kind of city Raleigh is to live in for us and future generations.
With an issue this serious we cannot just spend our way out of the problem. I will advocate to expand our housing stock by pushing for more housing options, especially along public transit routes. Allowing more townhouses, duplexes, backyard cottages and apartments will provide more affordable housing choices for everyone. We’ll help achieve affordability by working with developers to incentivize affordable housing units as part of market-rate developments, as well as partnering with nonprofits committed to affordable housing.
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?
In our downtown core, I think we should be focusing on building walkable, mixed-use communities. This type of development helps combat sprawl, allows people to live closer to where they work, study, and socialize, as well as promotes a thriving downtown small-business environment.
Outside of our core, I think we should be introducing more duplexes, triplexes, and ADUs. These types of housing can be built without compromising the character of a neighborhood, and help provide additional options for families looking for an affordable place to live.
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?
Ideally, the use of NCODs would be curtailed. If they are continued to be allowed, these overlay districts should at least have reasonable end dates that would give the neighborhood more control over its future development. NCODs have impacts that are felt beyond those immediate neighborhoods, and I think we could do a better job of planning for growth in our city as a whole.
8) If you could change anything about the city’s unified development ordinance, what would it be and why?
The UDO is overly prescriptive, which is not allowing for the flexibility we need in certain types of development. For example, last year, my opponent voted against a measure that would have reduced the 5-acre minimum that is currently required to build senior housing. Increasingly, senior citizens in Raleigh are finding it hard to get by, and mandating such a large lot size for senior housing means that very few affordable senior housing units are currently being built. As city councilor, I would work to make it easier to build senior housing units, so our older residents can live in the communities to which they have contributed so much over the years.
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.
No, I think it is the wrong approach. ADUs should be allowed by right. We need to give property owners more flexibility in using their own property, and ADUs are a way to help address the housing crisis, while providing additional income to help people to stay in their homes.
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 and parking concerns should certainly play a role in our decision-making process of downtown development projects. With that said, I think that parking minimums have historically been too high in Raleigh. We can’t just cut those on their own, with no alternative–we need to be providing people with more options to get into and around downtown, like Bus Rapid Transit, protected bike lanes, and pedestrian access.
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?
I’m less concerned with the height of a building than with how the building connect to the rest of the grid. By that I mean, how will it be connected to our transportation system, our parks and greenway system, our water and sewer systems. The greater the connection, the better for citizens quality of life in that area, and the more growth will pay for itself.
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?
I would support lowering the city’s $300 per scooter fee. It’s important, as with all new forms of transportation that we have clear and consistent guidelines to maintain safety for both the riders and others in the city. The regulations that were passed, however, seemed deliberately aimed at chilling the scooter business in Raleigh – we should be trying to promote low-carbon forms of alternative transportation.
As an avid and frequent cyclist, I think the city as not been quick enough to add protected bike lanes. Not everyone wants to ride their bike around, but making it easier for those who do will ease traffic congestion on the roads for those who don’t.
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?
The council passed an unworkable set of rules on short-term rentals. I believe short-term rentals are another beneficial layer of property ownership that should be regulated in an equitable and transparent fashion to help keep up with rising property values.
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 Citizen Advisory Councils (CACs) are an excellent idea, and it’s crucial that we have a conduit from city council to the people of Raleigh. Unfortunately, I believe the city council hasn’t figured out best how to use CACs. Consequently, the CACs have fallen short in many respects, and attendance is low in many areas of the city. Improving citizen engagement will be a priority of mine in office, and we should try to do a better job at offering things like child care at CAC meetings, and using new forms of technology, to boost engagement. Of course, for citizens to engage consistently, they need to not only feel heard, but see their opinions taken seriously by city council.
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?
It sounds like the lawsuit will be decided in the next few weeks, and I hope the courts rule that the city has a say in how this land will be used. I’ve spent my whole career creating and preserving public lands and open space, and given the chance on council I would vote for a park and against the quarry.
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?
I agree with Mayor McFarlane that it is time for a reset, and I want to help reset Raleigh to a better and brighter future. I think if the council can get back to putting people first, and not their own agendas, the council will be more successful. I will bring my years of consensus-building to the table and work in a collaborative way with the rest of city council to get things done.
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?
Yes, I would support a Community Oversight Board. This Board would need the power to investigate and subpoena. They should be able to recommend discipline and or next steps. There will need to be educational training for board members. To build trust between police and the community, we need people to feel like the community has more of a role in the oversight process.
18) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.
In Dix Park, Raleigh had a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a world-class destination for its citizens. As a city councilor, I will work to ensure this green space is built to the highest standards, and is a living jewel for this city and state.
Climate change is the issue of our time, and Raleigh has the opportunity to reduce its carbon footprint in many ways that will actually reduce costs and waste. One passion of mine is to make Raleigh the most solar-friendly city in the US. We can and should leave our children in a better position than we are in now.