Name as it appears on the ballot: Jack Smith
Party affiliation: Unaffiliated
Campaign website: www.jackforcary.org
Occupation & employer: Owner, CGT, LLC (Customized International Travel)
Years lived in Cary: 36
1) In 300 words or less, please give us—and our readers—your elevator pitch: Why are you running? Why should voters entrust you with this position? What are your priorities, and what would you want to see the town council do differently or better over the course of your term?
I first ran for this office because I felt the Council at that time was not addressing citizen concerns and they forgot who they worked for. That ‘how things get done’ was not transparent and the voice of citizens was muted. I wanted to change that, and I did. We’ve grown from 20,000 to 180,000 and much has been accomplished since I joined the council. We are now a more welcoming and diverse community, that over 60 nationalities call home. Though we’ve maintained our small-town charm and appeal, remain one of the safest cities in the country and most family friendly place to raise our children, there is much more to do. This election is about the future, and I am up for the challenge of helping Cary grow better with age. Cary needs a citizen advocate with experience and a proven record of accomplishments, to protect the town’s long term financial interests while simultaneously fighting for people and neighborhoods. I am that person and with your support I pledge to remain above divisive, myopic political partisanship and dedicate my time to listening and addressing your concerns.
2) Given the direction of Cary’s town government, would you say things are on the right course? If not, for what specific changes will you advocate if elected?
We are on the right course. But I do have a concern that partisan party politics is encroaching into municipal elections diluting the integrity of local decision making. Having municipal elections remain nonpartisan on the ballot helps promote a collegial and collaborative approach to common sense problem solving and fosters a thoughtful, strategic approach.
3) What are three of the most pressing issues the town currently faces? How would you propose to address them? Please be specific.
With the explosive growth of the region, affordable housing has clearly emerged as my top priority. Broadening our environmental protections and improving our sustainability is next. Then increased focus on public safety at the neighborhood and small business (cyber-crime) level. There is no silver bullet that will fix the affordable housing backlog overnight.
Compounding the challenge for Cary is we are 85% built out and 50% of our residential housing is part of an HOA, restricting our ability to pursue programs such as ‘granny flats’ on a large scale. The ’flats’ and similar programs will help but our best opportunity to provide more immediate impactful affordable housing is through infill redevelopment, particularly in areas with struggling strip malls. A good example is the recent Glenaire Senior Living expansion onto a distressed shopping center which resulted in a win-win for all. I have a 32 year history of proven environmental deliverables -from my early years of achieving the doubling of our buffers, protections against clear cutting and instigating a plethora of environmental initiatives such as water quality and conservation guidelines, Cary’s use of reclaimed (gray) water, championing Adequate Public Facilities ordinances, to activities in the past decade of leading the efforts in Stormwater management and championing programs in Composting, Solar installation, Town EV vehicles – and my personal pride and joy – my tree planting initiatives. As liaison to our Environmental Advisory Board (EAB) and through our efforts we are now the only town in Wake County actually growing our tree canopy! Our innovative Project Phoenix program ensures all our affordable housing is safe and family friendly.
4) What’s the best or most important thing the town council has done in the past year? Alternatively, name a decision you believe the council got wrong or an issue you believe the town should have handled differently. Please explain your answer.
We can never rest on our laurels and recently Cary created a community-based task force to focus on issues relating to human relations, inclusion, and diversity in Cary with the sole mission to ensure fair treatment and promoting mutual understanding and respect amongst all our citizens. It is my hope this effort ensures racial injustice never finds a home in our community. Cary has a practice of reviewing major decisions every 3 years to ensure no unintended consequences. This practice ‘nips in the bud’ decisions that have gone wrong.
5) What prior experience will make you an effective member of the town council and advocate of the issues listed above?
Please note any endorsements you have received that you consider significant. As a career Organizational Development professional, I’ve helped companies improve their productivity by identifying critically important priorities to address, how to hire a broad culturally diverse workforce and then train their management how to make it happen. I have been blessed, to be able to ‘apply my trade’ in helping Cary grow responsibly. Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht and his predecessor former Mayor Ernie McAlister have endorsed me. Also, past mayors of Raleigh, Apex and Cary have contributed to my campaign.
6) Given the rate of growth in Cary, how will you ensure that growth is well managed and enhances the town rather than detracts from it? Where does density and height fit in in planning decisions, if it does? How do you intend to balance growth with sustainability?
Our growth rate over the past decade has trended in the 2-3% range, still a challenge but manageable. Our biennial citizen surveys reflect record high satisfaction scores in all categories. We’re doing something right, particularly in the areas of safety, parks and recreation, and the environment. Density and height are integral, well thought out parts of our Cary Community Plan and a key component to our public transportation efforts. We are a national leader in sustainability programs and those are documented in more detail elsewhere in the questionnaire.
7) As with most places in the Triangle, Cary is grappling with issues related to affordable housing. How would you like to see the town approach affordability issues over the next few years? Should it promote apartment living, duplexes, and/or triplexes? Encourage density in single family housing? What do you believe the town is doing right? What could it do better?
Much of how we are addressing affordable housing is explained above, particularly the challenge of adding density in single family areas. We have to increase our affordable housing stock by expanding our partnerships with not-for-profits and provide more funding in excess of the 4% we currently budget. We’ve had extraordinary success partnering with Habitat for Humanity and DHIC and we must keep doing more to enable all our not-for-profit colleagues to act quicker. In addition, we need to explore availability of additional town land similar to the 7 acres we are in the process right now of converting to affordable housing.
8) How should town leaders work with the large organizations who are relocating to, or expanding or investing in Cary? What obligations, if any, should these businesses/companies/facilities have to the town?
What companies have learned is Cary citizens enjoy their lifestyle and quality of life so much they will not move. When considering coming to Cary, one of the negotiating tactics is ‘what are you going to do to help ease the housing crisis your helping to create’. Its still a tough sell especially when neighboring cities do not hold them to the same high standard.
9) In your view, how can Cary be safer and more accessible using different modes of transportation? What is your vision for public transit, pedestrian and bike safety?
We have a large amount of multimodal options identified and explained in detail in the MOVE section of the Cary Community Plan. In the past many of these components were treated as ‘silos’ and I’m pleased to say integrating all these aspects (bicycle, pedestrian, et.al.) into our land use plan has helped to complement our efforts in public transportation. And it is paying off. Over the years, our strategic planning has resulted in over half of Cary residents now work in Cary. Moving forward, to have a better functioning and more meaningful public transportation program it is critical we work in partnership with the County.
10) What are your goals for Cary’s downtown and what does the town need to do to achieve those goals?
Cary downtown is now basking in its ‘overnight’ (20 years in the making) success. Phase 2 of the downtown park, scheduled for completion next year, includes significant underground stormwater improvements providing relief to the many older areas surrounding the park. Downtown is walkable, safe and family friendly a testament to our good planning.
11) Cary residents love their parks and greenways. How should the town work to preserve, improve, or expand them?
The Town’s nationally accredited Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department oversees a park system of over 2,400 acres of combined parks and open space. This system consists of 22 developed parks, 58 miles of greenways, 3 community centers, 13 staffed facilities and 4 major sports and entertainment venues. All are meticulously maintained and more are coming every year.
12) If there is anything else you would like to address please do so here.
I was born in Germany and received my citizenship in 1967. I am the only veteran on the Council. In this country I grew up poor and growing up in a blue collar area surrounded by affluence, I know what it feels like to be an outsider When I joined the Council it was a passion of mine to ensure Cary became a welcoming and inclusive community for all. Today over 60 nationalities call Cary home and I am proud of my efforts to ensure every person living in Cary enjoy all the benefits Cary has to offer. No matter where you live or your income you can feel safe and part of our family friendly quality of life with all our amenities.