Name as it appears on the ballot: Jane Harrison
Party affiliation: Democratic Party
Campaign website: JaneForRaleigh.com
Occupation & employer: Environmental Economist, NC State University
Years lived in Raleigh: 8
1. Given the direction of Raleigh government, would you say things are on the right course? If not, what specific changes will you advocate for if elected?
We need a slight course correct. Community engagement is a sore spot for Raleigh. All voices should be at the table and city leaders should recognize the input of groups directly impacted by new council policy. Neighborhood-led community forums ought to be able to convene across the city to share information and empower residents to contribute to Raleigh. We need to go beyond informing residents of what’s coming but rather build a vision of the future together.
2. If you are a candidate for a district seat, please identify your priorities for your district. If you are an at-large or mayoral candidate, please identify the three most pressing issues the city faces.
Community-led development, affordable housing, and environmental stewardship are my priorities. With a career in public service, I help communities safeguard natural resources and invest in critical infrastructure. Raleigh can plan for a sustainable and inclusive future. I have a progressive vision and will be a tireless advocate for District D.
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’m a scientist, an educator, and a neighbor. My background is in sustainable development. I have a master’s degree in economics and Ph.D. in natural resource management. I work with communities across the state to protect and restore our water resources. I know how to navigate complex bureaucracies and rely on my scientific training to stay curious and open to different points of view. You can count on me to advance common sense, progressive policies. In 2019, I completed a successful campaign to guarantee eight weeks of paid parental leave – benefitting mothers and fathers after the birth or adoption of a child – for 30,000 University of North Carolina employees. I have the passion and energy to address our pressing needs.
4. U.S. metros are grappling with a housing shortage, especially a shortage of affordable housing. Raleigh is no different. Many believe that the best way to address this crisis is via dense infill development along public transportation corridors. Do you share this vision for Raleigh’s growth? Please explain.
Increasing housing supply through infill development is one solution but it’s not enough. We need stability in the housing marketplace. For example, Raleigh’s missing middle policy should have an affordability component. Quality housing for residents <30%, <50%, and <80% of area median income should be a priority in future development projects. I advocate for property tax and utility relief for low-income homeowners to prevent displacement. We also need additional investments in programs to repair homes and help people stay in place. The city needs a coordinated legislative agenda with other municipalities, the state, and the federal government to push a bold plan for housing affordability.
5. In 2020, Raleigh citizens voted in favor of an $80 million affordable housing bond to assist with acquiring land and building near transit corridors, preserving existing inventory, down payment and homeowner repairs assistance, low-income housing tax credit financing, and more. The city also created a goal of adding 5,700 affordable units over 10 years and is on track to meet that goal. But it’s estimated that Raleigh has a deficit of some 20,000 units currently, and it’s clear much more work is needed. Should the city bring another affordable housing bond before voters? Why or why not? If yes, when, how much should the city ask for, and what should the bond fund?
I’m looking forward to a bold, comprehensive plan for housing affordability from all municipalities to push a state legislative agenda for the changes we need. Affordability requirements for new developments, rent stabilization, tenant protections, and ownership opportunities are needed at all income levels. Another housing bond is one option to establish funding sources; we should also look to state and federal government as well as the private and non-profit sector.
6. In neighborhoods across the city, ranch homes and other modest, more affordable single-family homes are being torn down and replaced with large (also single-family) McMansions that don’t provide more density. Does the city have any authority to regulate such teardowns? Should it regulate such teardowns and redevelopment?
The city has no authority to regulate teardowns. Ultimately new developments need affordability requirements to ensure that what is being replaced meets the needs of our city.
7. One way Raleigh’s city council has attempted to address the city’s housing shortage is by allowing for more flexible housing options such as duplexes, triplexes, and quadraplexes in all neighborhoods in the city, eliminating certain zoning protections, and allowing apartments for zones along bus routes. Do you support this move to bring missing middle housing to the city and do you think it will be an effective policy for managing the city’s growth?
What’s missing from our current missing middle policy is affordability, environmental protections, and community engagement. I recommend we add an affordable housing requirement before allowing some of the densest configurations planned, as well as a tree protection ordinance and robust community discussion to ensure this policy provides the community benefits intended.
8. Raleigh’s city council has directed city staff to gather data on absentee investors who are buying up properties in the city. Would you support measures to limit investors from buying up homes as other U.S. cities are considering doing or further regulating whole house short-term rentals that some argue are detracting from the supply of homes available for full-time residents?
I support limits to absentee investors buying up properties, but the city does not currently have the authority to implement regulations. A policy would need to be implemented at the state or federal level. I advocate for a comprehensive plan for housing affordability that would monitor the prevalence of these purchases and make strategic investments to preserve currently affordable housing and build new entry level housing.
9. What role should the city play in ensuring that the longtime residents of rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods in Southeast Raleigh and other areas of the city can continue to afford to live in those neighborhoods?
We need an anti-displacement plan. For example, when Portland, Oregon implemented missing middle they worked with an anti-displacement working group for five years before adopting their policy which ultimately included affordability requirements. Raleigh does not have any requirements for affordability in new developments.
10. Public servants including police officers, firefighters, and teachers can’t afford to live in the city where they work. As a result, Raleigh loses good officers and teachers to other municipalities and is grappling with a current shortage of around 60 firefighters and more than 100 police officers. What can Raleigh leaders do to attract and retain the best officers and other public servants?
Essential city services require a well-compensated labor force that is respected for the important work they do every day to keep Raleigh running. I am grateful for the work of our first responders and will advocate for the pay and tools they need to be successful.
I will advocate for salary increases that are adjusted fairly for inflation and are on par or better than neighboring municipalities. It is a priority for me that we staff all essential city jobs to meet the demand for these key services – first responders, sanitation workers, parks staff, etc.
11. Do you support the city council’s decision to eliminate parking minimums for developers? Why or why not?
Parking contributes to the cost of a new housing unit by $30,000 on average. Eliminating parking minimums may reduce housing costs which is needed. We also must recognize that our city is still car-centric; thus, if parking is not built, those cars will end up on our neighborhood streets. There are benefits and costs to this decision born by diverse groups.
12. In 2019, Raleigh’s city council voted to eliminate citizen advisory councils (CACs) without public notice or input. Do you feel this was the right decision? Do you support bringing back CACs? What do you think the council is doing right or wrong when it comes to community engagement post-CACs? Could you describe your vision for community engagement in Raleigh?
I believe in empowering our residents to lead the conversation on what’s important to them in their neighborhoods, and to have a consistent structure across the city to ensure all voices are heard. It was unacceptable for city council to remove support for CACs without public engagement nor a plan for what comes next. I re-established the West Raleigh Community Advocacy Council so that neighbors have a forum for meaningful dialogue with city staff, local leaders, the police, and one another. We talk about issues like housing affordability, pedestrian safety, storm water infrastructure, parks, and long-term city planning. We clean up trash. Raleigh is better off when neighbors communicate, organize, and advocate to address issues of common concern.
I advocate for revamping the CACs as a complement to the City’s Office of Community Engagement. I would love to see the new neighborhood ambassadors spread the word about CAC meetings and how to get involved. Neighborhood groups need the same resources across the city; otherwise, we risk continued underrepresentation. Groups need a place to meet, virtual or hybrid meeting technology, and assistance with outreach and communications. CAC leaders would benefit from leadership training. Meeting facilitation, agenda setting, and having a structured process of engagement – these are skills that are hugely beneficial. I would be open to CAC boundaries changing to have more groups across the city.
13. Following shooting deaths of Raleigh residents by RPD officers, the city council established a civilian-staffed police review board in 2020 that had no official power and fell apart soon after two of its members resigned. The council also established the ACORNS unit to address mental health crises, but data shows the unit rarely assists on calls related to suicides and involuntary mental health commitments, leaving most of those calls to police officers. Do you feel that the council has done enough, in partnership with the police chief, to reform the police force and address officer violence? Would you support cutting the department’s $124.5 million police budget?
Our public safety system is under stress with higher levels of crime in recent years as well as continued distrust between residents and the police. We must invest in our social safety net and reimagine our relationships. When our community has healthcare, education, housing, and meaningful employment, desperation doesn’t come into play. Police officers should have access to additional training opportunities on mental health, de-escalation, use of force, and innovative approaches to reduce violence. I am encouraged by development of the ACORNS program, but we must evaluate to determine how it can better serve mental health calls. Our first responders – 911 operators, fire department, police – need the pay and tools to be successful. I would not cut the RPD budget without first understanding why such changes are being proposed.
14. Raleigh has made strides on transit in the last several years. Bus fare is free and construction of new Bus Rapid Transit routes is underway, bike lanes are expanding to areas across the city, and commuter rail will eventually connect Raleigh to Durham and Johnston Counties. Is the city doing a good job of managing its current transit systems, encouraging residents to use them, and planning for more future transit and connectivity? Should the city be investing more on bike, pedestrian, and other transit infrastructure?
I bike to work and it’s a priority for me to have safe streets for pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as ample public transportation options. But right now, it is a challenge to not have a vehicle. The frequency of bus service is hourly for most routes and sidewalks, the greenway, and bike lanes are not available throughout the city. We must continue investments in public transit infrastructure including commuter rail. At the same time, we should work to retain and recruit bus drivers so that our current routes run more frequently. Our bus system does not have sufficient human resources for it to be a first-choice option for most residents.
15. Downtown Raleigh has struggled to rebound following the COVID-19 pandemic with foot traffic still down and many storefronts and offices sitting vacant. The council has implemented a new social district to try to bring people downtown again. What more could or should the city council do to revitalize the urban core?
Downtown Raleigh would benefit from a greater diversity of independent businesses that provide a wide range of needed goods and services. But rising commercial rents prevent many small businesses from considering downtown as a feasible location. Grant programs that offset commercial rents downtown should be developed and enhanced for small, minority and women-owned businesses – entrepreneurs who typically have less access to start-up capital.
16. Do you support Raleigh’s $275 million parks bond on the ballot this fall? Why or why not?
I support the parks bond because there are significant benefits to District D, including development of the Devereux Meadows Park and improvements to Dix Park, Lake Wheeler Road and the multiuse path, Method Community Center, and Walnut Creek greenway. If we don’t pass the bond this year, costs deferred will grow.
I am also aware of concerns around the price tag of this bond. We must make greater investments in housing affordability and workforce development to ensure that everyone can benefit from park improvements.
17. If there is anything else you would like to address, please do so here.
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