Name as it appears on the ballot: James G. Bledsoe
Party affiliation: Veterans Party
Campaign website: Electjamesbledsoe.com
Occupation & employer: IT Tech at NC Dept. Of Public Safety, Sergeant at U.S. Army Reserve
Years lived in Raleigh: 6
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?
Absolutely not. We have a council of no that is disconnected from the residents and workers of Raleigh. The worst overlay for ADUs was passed not to long ago with massive opposition from residents. The Molok trash bins were removed because of a few complaints even though a couple thousand people said they wanted them back, still no response from council. Two members of council have told our firefighters that they are lucky to have a job and if they don’t like the low pay they can go elsewhere. We have a housing shortage and an ever rising cost of living. I plan to address all of this by bringing the Army code of ethics LDRSHIP with me to the city council and to enact each facet of my platform which includes: expanding our housing market with multifamily housing, pay our first responders a proper wage, allow ADUs to be built by-right, allow whole home AirBnBs with modest regulations, lower the fees on scooters to bring back micro mobility competition, & create protected bike lanes so we can have safe places to bike and ride scooters. We need to have a council of yes that listens to all citizens, renters and homeowners.
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.
1.) We are a city of sprawl that needs to change to a build up, not out philosophy. Allow multifamily housing like duplexes, cottage courts, town homes, mixed use, etc. along with removing the height restrictions for buildings so they can be built above three stories. We need to expand our tax base, not our tax rate. If we want businesses to come here, we need affordable homes for blue collar, white collar, and no collar workers.
2.) Support our first responders. 96% of Raleigh Fire Fighters do not live in the city because they cannot afford to. The Bledsoe Pay Plan fixes the horrible system that was put in place and brings the RFD to pay and benefits parity with the RPD. We also need council members that care for our first responders. We see a severe lack of respect for them with this council. We cannot skimp on our safety budget any longer. Our high response times will just get higher.
3.) Transportation. Its 2019 and we still don’t have sidewalks for pedestrians all over our city and our bike lanes are just painted lines. What do these two issues have in common? Safety. If we are going to be serious about combating carbon emissions then we need to have a safe alternative to cars. That means putting in sidewalks & putting in bollards or delineators for protected bike lanes for cyclists and e-scooters. That’s how you get a more walkable, safer, and green city with our current infrastructure.
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 been serving our country for 14 years in the Army on active duty and the Reserve with a 15 month deployment to Afghanistan. During those 14 years I’ve learned to follow before I learned to lead and I also had the Army Values of Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, & Personal Courage (LDRSHIP) adhered to my moral code. I have also served the people of NC by working for the Dept. Of Public Safety for 5 years. These careers have given me experiences and taught me lessons that no other council candidate can claim. From Afghanistan to NC, I have worked on bringing people together to work as a team. My career in the Army Corps of Engineers has also molded me into a leader that must look at the big and small picture while being pragmatic. We need an inclusive and logic focused council, I plan to bring just those qualities.
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?
I believe that there are alternatives to placing a bond or raising taxes to tackle this crisis. Every time we do either the cost of living goes up, that’s higher rent & property values. When the cost of living increases, more people apply for affordable housing or are forced out of the city. Throwing even more money than we already do at affordable housing is treating a symptom of the actual problem. It’s becoming too expensive to live here because of our housing supply shortage. How do we fix that? Allow multifamily housing, allow ADUs to be built by-right, and remove height restrictions placed on homes and apartments so we can build up, not out and expand our tax base, not our tax rates.
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?
I don’t believe that we should use a bond at all to tackle housing affordability or affordable housing. We have an option available to us that wont cost the tax payers anything. Upzone the city and change the UDO to remove height restrictions and allow for multifamily housing like duplex, triplexes, quads, etc. Allow developers to make Raleigh a denser city with more housing through infill and making use of derelict or unused land. More housing supply means less demand, and Raleigh has a very high demand right now. Rent and property prices will continue to rise if we raise taxes or float more bonds.
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?
Allow multifamily housing and ADUs to be built where it can to create density. ADUs should be built by-right wherever they can because they are expensive to build, but offer affordable rent, so we won’t see them pop-up all over the place. MFH can be infilled into existing neighborhoods where homeowners want it, or we can make use of derelict buildings or vacant land to build this type of housing. Instead of down-zoning neighborhoods, exacerbating the housing crisis, we need to upzone Raleigh. SE Raleigh needs denser housing and mixed use buildings more than anywhere else in the city, like grocery stores below housing like we see elsewhere in Raleigh. This fixes the “food desert” issue in SE Raleigh, provides jobs, and creates lots of housing. To keep long term residents in the area, build in unused land where the home is for sale, abandoned, or no home exists first. This keeps residents in the same place, allows existing residents time to adjust, and puts them near new resources.
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 do not like NCODs and I would like to remove the ones that I can. What are we protecting these neighborhoods from? Growth? 63 residents enter the county each day and our cost of living is just going up and up. Our current council thinks that we needs to be protected from growth by downzoning or restricting any change in Raleigh character. We need to change our way of thinking. This doesn’t mean destroying neighborhoods or housing, it just means adding to them so people of all economic backgrounds have a place they can afford and call their own. It’s Welcome To Raleigh Ya’ll, not Welcome To The Raleigh HOA.
8) If you could change anything about the city’s unified development ordinance, what would it be and why?
I would remove the height restrictions placed on buildings limiting them to three stories or less AND remove zoning below R-10 to upzone most of the city. We need growth, but smart growth. Our infrastructure needs to be updated for a population three times our size, but that will take time. That’s why we start small with R-10 zoning and work our way up from there. I tell people to look at missingmiddlehousing.com to see the amazing types of housing all of Raleigh could have.
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.
This was the most restrictive bureaucratic overlay Raleigh has ever put into place to prevent “soft density” on the basis of exaggerated fears. ADUs need to be built by-right with a record keeping fee to keep track of where they are built. It’s expensive to build ADUs. You need to survey the land, alter it if need be, buy the supplies, construct the ADUs, and upkeep it when it is used. Not everyone will build them because of the cost, so we should allow them where they want to be built everyone, college students to senior citizens, have an affordable place to stay.
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?
Of course concern needs to be given to transportation. Parking should be encourage to be built within or below structures to remove on street parking. We also need to focus on alternative forms of transportation like escooters and bikes. A walkable and rideable city is what we will need to transform into if we want to reduce congestion and carbon emissions, so why not get started on it now by building protected bike lanes and making sure our sidewalks are large enough? We can also look at removing one side of on-street parking to allow for drop-off points for businesses and bike lanes.
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?
Twenty-plus-story buildings near or around downtown is an appropriate place. We need to have in building parking available along with mixed use buildings to allow not only commerce but housing.
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?
Our city has certainly not looked into alt-transportation outside of busing and bike share programs. We do not have protected bike lanes, we just have painted lines. People have to fight the city council just to get sidewalks so they don’t have to walk in the streets. If we want to have a safer city for people to get around in, then we need to start putting protected bike lanes in faster so we have a place for cyclists and e-scooters to ride. This council decided to make national news by implementing the highest fees on scooters in the US at $300 a scooter and forcing the companies to take out a second insurance. This made Raleigh look like a bad place for business. I’m proposing lowering the fees on e-scooters to $100 and removing the secondary insurance, this will allow there to be competition again between companies and we’d even see Lime return. We use those fees collected to build our protected bike lanes and improve our infrastructure.
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?
This ordinance needs to be removed as quickly as possible. We saw a record level of tourism in 2018 and our hotel industry loved it. The problem? Hotels get booked full and there isn’t enough places for everyone to stay. That’s where whole home rentals come in. Booking a home here shows Raleigh’s hospitable side and boosts tourism which means even more revenue to the city and local businesses. Here is my proposal: create a minimum distance between whole home rentals, have a yearly record keeping fee, and a quarterly inspection fee so properties can be maintained. Use all the fees to hire more code enforcement personnel and put the rest into our budget to pay off city debt or improve infrastructure. Allowing WH rentals will create entrepreneurs and generate much needed revenue.
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 great way to learn about what is happening in your area and to be involved in the decision making process. The problem isn’t the CACs, it’s the city council. On numerous occasions the council has completely disregarded the CACs decision and went a completely different way. Raleigh residents should stop voting in disconnected representatives and start looking to inclusive candidates.
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?
I do not support the building of the quarry nor do I want to waste the tax dollars on joining a lawsuit on an issue we have no decision making process in.
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 her statement. The best way to make the council more productive is to vote in new council members and to involve residents in digital and physical town hall meetings. We can’t lower the temperature in the city government with council members that disregard what the population wants. That’s not being a good representative. By hosting these different types of town hall meetings, we can get more constituents involved and contacting their council members. Besides that, we need a pragmatic and logical council member that will voice their concerns while staying within the code of conduct.
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?
First, we would have to request the powers to subpoena from the state so we could not create an oversight board with any actual power until that could happen. Second, I am against an oversight board. A board further binds and adds stress to an already overworked, understaffed, & underpaid police department. The saying that the police do not police their own is incorrect. We don’t need people who have never done the job or unaware of SOPs reviewing those that serve. Retired police officers on a board is the only scenario I would get behind.
18) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.
I would like to go on record again by stating that I will be donating 90% of my council pay to the teachers and students of Raleigh. 50% of my Cm. pay would go towards a yearly grant that would be issued to a Raleigh high school senior going into the STEM field at a NC University or College. 40% of my Cm. pay would go into a monthly lottery for school supplies for teachers. Teachers would enroll for the lottery by email with their school supply list and names chosen at random.