Name as it appears on the ballot: Joshua Bradley
Party affiliation: Socialist Party USA; Green Party
Campaign website: jbradleyforraleighworkers.org
Occupation & employer: Hotel Accountant, Summit Hospitality Group
Years lived in Raleigh: 26
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?
The Raleigh city government has certainly tried to listen to the concerns of city inhabitants, but attempts to address gentrification, affordable housing and mass transit are always made within the constraints imposed by capitalist development. For example, city councils past and present have talked about the need for better mass transit, but have made zoning decisions encouraging sprawl that place effective mass transit further and further from reality. Developers are allowed to continue the construction of housing for high-end markets while affordable housing is discussed and worried over, but actual construction of affordable housing lags far behind need. There is no attempt to restrict land speculation, which drives up prices and drives out less wealthy residents. A number of things need to change. First, stop approving luxury home construction. The land speculators and property owners can wait until the city can comprehensively address affordable housing. (The definition of ‘affordable’ itself needs to be revisited, as current assumptions leave out people who need housing but don’t meet the percentage of adjusted median income used to define what affordable housing will require in income.) Families living in hotels while developers build McMansions and expensive apartments is not justified if we aspire to a society that provides for all. Second, stop allowing developments to be designed for cars. If ever an incentive was to be given to developers (which in general I oppose), it should be the elimination of the personal automobile as a necessity. The reduction in pollution and the personal savings to homeowners and tenants would be enormous, as well as increased safety for pedestrians, especially children. Much of what we call acceptable development will become increasingly unsustainable as anthropogenic climate change advances, and, equally immediately, open space decreases . We can no longer assume unlimited expansion, and must begin to plan for denser populations and less sprawl. Finally, we have to make the city financially available, both in terms of housing and access to services, for people of all income levels. Increasing housing prices create even more commuter culture, where people who work in the city can only afford to live outside of it.
2) If you are a candidate for a district seat, please identifty 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 A represents all of the problems faced by the city as a whole. It is crowded and congested, with insufficient mass transit, poorly planned development and, as time passes, re-development. Along with that, apartment rents are high, far in excess of affordability for minimum wage workers. Continued in-fill development is cutting down trees that are needed to make the city more livable, for both environmental and aesthetic reasons. As Raleigh continues to sprawl outward, the older areas of District A are becoming home to more hourly workers who are increasingly working in low-wage service jobs (the jobs becoming predominant in our economy, the Triangle’s high-tech reputation not withstanding). I am concerned that re-development will take the form of the high rise apartments whose investors have more interest in creating a state of permanent debt for tenants than making affordable housing.
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?
Insofar as being effective as a council member, I have been involved in organizing around several social justice issues, especially as a participant of Occupy Raleigh. I am the chair of the Piedmont chapter of the Socialist Party-USA. That position involves democratically handling differences between members and other chapters, up to the national level. In addition, I was for years involved with the Democratic Party, which is not always so democratic, but did require me to exercise political acumen and use my ability to work out compromises. While a democrat, I served for several years as the policy chair of the Wake County Progressive Democrats and two years on the SEC of the Democratic Party.
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 cannot speak to the decision of the city council not to place a bond issue on the ballot in 2019, as I was not privy to all the debate surrounding the decision, However, provision of affordable housing is not an issue that can be delayed. An affordable housing bond should be brought to the public in 2020.
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 am in favor of at least a $100 million bond. This should fund construction of new affordable housing units and the required infrastructure required to service them. If the city were to put in place a progressive property tax structure, with small tax increases for every 500k of valuation, this would enable us to shift some of the tax burden to the people that benefited from flattening of the state income tax rate. As the City Council has gone out of it’s way to make the city pleasing to the affluent residents, they should bear a larger portion of the tax burden.
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?
Raleigh’s older neighborhoods deserve protection from development that is egregiously out of line with the type and style of buildings in existence. At the same time, we are in need of increased housing density. In southeast Raleigh, this could mean allowing the construction of accessory dwelling units and cottages on existing property as opposed to high-rise apartments. Newer sections of the city that are already less than attractive, such as the strip development along major roads, would be more amenable to re-development as high-rise, high density apartments. However, this must be accompanied by planning that makes those developments walkable and served by effective mass transit. All new development should include these goals. Regarding long-time residents in older neighborhoods, these properties should, at the least, qualify for reductions in taxes. Reductions in taxes could also be used as incentives to get residents to sell or will their properties to land trusts in lieu of selling to a developer or property speculator.
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?
NCODs can restrict development, and applying new NCODs should not be done without considering development ramifications. At the same time, NCODs can restrict poor development in neighborhoods that does not consider aspects of the neighborhood worth preserving – it’s character, distinctive architecture, historically important buildings and so forth. Part of the problem lies in the ambiguity of language in NCODs. They could be better tailored to neighborhoods.
8) If you could change anything about the city’s unified development ordinance, what would it be and why?
In 2015, city planner Ken Bowers was quoted (Raleigh Public Record, August 2015) as saying the following: “ According to Bowers, the new code allows the scale of development and the density to be “worked out by the market.” Fundamentally, the unified development code, a process worked out by the city council and Raleigh city staff to benefit the citizens of Raleigh, is presumed to rely on the “market” a notoriously unstable and unreliable public planning tool, to determine what development should look like. This assumption should be discarded. Planning can be democratic without pandering to developers, who were famously represented by lawyers in the planning process. Why should they have been considered at all, except for fear of their control of capital? Plan for a decent city for people to live in. Developers will come to such places regardless, they don’t need control over the process.
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.
The Accessory Dwelling Overlay District zoning process will likely prove to be prohibitive for the average homeowner in terms of time, rezoning fees, and the ability to navigate the complexities involved. The process is six steps long, requiring a pre-application meeting with city planning staff, a neighborhood meeting followed by a ballot process requiring 51% approval, an application submitted to city planning staff, and then presentation of the case to the planning commission and then to city council, all for the permitting to build one small dwelling on an existing lot. The 15 contiguous acre minimum requirement for ADOD zoning seems excessive and may create barriers to construction if applicants do not have a positive relationship with their neighbors. The ADOD process is overly complicated, and should at the very least be streamlined, if not removed altogether. If Raleigh wants to permit ADUs, the city could simply allow them to be built without the additional rezoning requirement of an overlay district, assuming the regulations for accessory dwelling units are met.
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?
Development of the type Kane proposes will increase traffic on Peace St, significantly. This is an example of allowing developers to create conditions where all the city can do is respond to problems, rather than controlling them by planning. Any new development that takes place should consider reducing traffic rather than reflexively accommodating it. Kane’s tower should never have been approved without this sort of comprehensive planning,
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?
Again, these developments should not be taking place without considering where the residents will work, what schools their children will attend, where they will shop and how they will get there, and finally that they do not stratify and exclude families and individuals based on income. Twenty story buildings are not in and of themselves bad, although they can be jarring to look at, but their construction as standalone objects without affordability, and proximity to work, school and food cannot be allowed. These developments must contain within them workspace, walkable access to stores and necessities, and be accessible by mass transit – effective frequent mass transit.
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?
Protected bike lanes are helpful. Scooters and programs like the Citrix bike rental, not so much, because they are run as for-profit businesses. Ideally, the city would manage it’s own bike-sharing program that did not cost anything for residents to use. Putting a price on these services precludes their use by lower income residents, who really need them the most. A possibility would be to ban cars from downtown altogether, using either a park and ride approach for access to downtown or improving mass transit between downtown and outlying parts of the city,
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?
Regarding conflict with state law, I am much more concerned about state law conflicting with the desires of municipalities to regulate their own development and environment than vice-versa. So far, pre-emptive state laws do more harm than good. Airbnb and short-term rentals lead to property speculation and investors buying housing in a tight market to rent for short term profit. This does not help affordable housing, and the city is right to control its proliferation.
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 CAC system is a great way to foster engagement with local government, but we could be doing more to include working class people in this process. Neighborhood and homeowner’s associations are encouraged to have representatives at CAC meetings, but more could be done to make them more accessible to workers, such as livestreaming meetings, making voting processes available to residents online, and offering childcare during meetings. Meetings should be better promoted and advertised to the general public as a means of involvement, and should be held at times that are accessible to working people.
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 RDU’s proposed quarry lease. If the lawsuit is winnable, I would suggest that the city join the lawsuit. Either way, it should be protested, because this land is proximate to the city and development of any kind on it impacts the quality of life of future and current residents. Furthermore, the city refrain from allowing RDU to use Raleigh police in quelling protests at the site.
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?
Politics in the country in general have ceased to be civil in the last several years. Compared to the national and state level, the city council has been civil. There will be disagreement between council members, but they should do what they can to be as productive as possible, while standing for the interests of the people they represent (the people, not the monied interests). Sometimes this can get heated, but it is the nature of a democratic system.
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. It should be representative of the city. Neighborhoods should have the ability to send representatives to the board for incidents that occur in their neighborhoods . It should be separate from the police department and have investigative and subpoena authority. The city should challenge the state law that blocks access to personnel records. Police are supposed to protect and serve. They carry weapons and frequently interact with people in the city. The people should know the biases and opinions of those who are policing them, and the Oversight Board should be able to have access to records that could prevent reflexively aggressive cops from patrolling the streets.
18) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.
The city should end all support for crisis pregnancy centers and hold them to the same standards as reproductive health clinics. Buffer zones should be zoned around any reproductive health center to ensure a safe environment.
Police should have more training in de-escalation and dealing with people who have mental health differences in a non-violent way. Shooting to kill should be an absolutely last resort when police are in a tense situation. Police should be offered a higher salary for not carrying guns, but rather non-lethal arms. Ideally, police would reside in the communities in which they serve.