Party affiliation: Democratic
Campaign website: maryannforraleigh.com
Occupation & employer: VP, Advancement at First Tee Golf
Years lived in Raleigh: 33
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?
Raleigh is on the right track. We are consistently ranked as one of the best places to live, work, and raise a family. We have done more than any previous City Council to address housing affordability, accessible transit, environmental protections, new ways of policing, and support for small business. But we have more work to do to create a Raleigh that is affordable, sustainable, and equitable for everyone — which is why I am running again for Mayor. We have to build on our momentum to ensure that we continue to grow in a smart way — building more affordable housing, expanding an accessible and reliable public transit system, and meeting the Infrastructure needs of a growing city while supporting Raleigh’s residents.
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.
The three most pressing issues the city faces are affordable housing, transportation and infrastructure, and public safety. I believe the city needs to work directly — though investment and policies — and with our unique leverage to expand our housing supply and build more affordable housing. We need to implement Bus Rapid Transit, expand frequent and reliable bus service to every part of the city, and make commuter rail a reality. As a growing city, Raleigh faces significant infrastructure demands. We need to invest in creating walkable, affordable communities along high-use transit corridors and redesign our roadways to be more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. And we need to ensure that our residents are safe by committing to the gun violence prevention initiatives that we started earlier this year, as well as expansion of our ACORNS unit, which provide individuals with mental health and other crisis situations with the services they need without the need for intervention by police.
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?
Prior to being elected Mayor, I served on the City Council for 10 years, helping develop the Wake County Transit Plan, acquire Dix Park and expand affordable housing options. In my time as Mayor, we have made tremendous progress on key issues including: passing a historic affordable housing bond, ending exclusionary and discriminatory zoning policies, and securing funding for Bus Rapid Transit.
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.
I believe Raleigh needs to grow in a smart way, and creating denser, walkable communities where people can easily access public transportation is a key part of that. The city is investing directly in building affordable housing units along transit corridors as well as protecting existing affordable communities in these areas. That was part of what we envisioned in creating our Comprehensive Plan and the Wake County Transit Plan.
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?
When the City invests in affordable housing, it usually provides gap funding to our non-profit and for-profit development partners. Since 2016, we have invested about $90 million in affordable housing communities, leveraging more than $700 million invested by the development community. The $80 million bond we brought before voters was determined, in part, by what we could actually fund over a five-year period when you look at the timeline involving public engagement, rezoning requests, site plan approval and financing. In order to move another bond forward, we need to conduct an extensive public engagement process (just like we did in the 2020 bond process) with a Housing Task Force to build support and determine how the funding will be spent. This engagement will be critical to the success of another bond campaign
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 does not have this authority over private property. What we have done is allow for missing middle housing in the hopes that homebuilders will opt for townhomes, duplexes, triplexes or quads instead of one large single family home.
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?
Yes, this been proven to be an effective policy in cities across the country to expand housing choices and make housing more affordable. It’s also a policy that has been encouraged by President Biden’s administration as a key component of a national affordable housing strategy. Raleigh is growing rapidly, and smart growth means encouraging more density where it makes sense – along transit corridors and near downtown – while introducing more gentle density like townhomes to neighborhoods.
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?
The City Planning, Housing & Neighborhoods, and City Attorney’s Office has evaluated ways the city can address this issue. Ultimately, the city cannot restrict a sale of a private property it does not own. This is why we are focusing on building affordable housing units on city-owned land and directly purchasing naturally occurring affordable housing to keep those units affordable.
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?
Raleigh’s growth can’t come at the expense of its longtime residents, particularly its minority and low-income communities. The City is using affordable housing bond funds to help seniors stay in and rehabilitate their homes, and we are working closely with the county to support property tax relief efforts for seniors and the disabled. The City is also investing directly in protecting naturally occurring affordable housing.
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?
Raleigh recently gave a 2% cost of living raise to all employees, a 5% increase to first responders and raised the minimum pay and pay scales significantly. We are committed to another 5% raise next year and will be providing retention bonuses up to $2,500 to first responders. The good news is we have a strong recruitment class for new firefighters and have a number of new lateral employees joining the force, which should eliminate vacancies. We have two new police academy classes that could add almost 100 officers to the department.
11. Do you support the city council’s decision to eliminate parking minimums for developers? Why or why not?
Yes. Raleigh needs more housing for people, not empty parking lots. Mandated parking drives up the cost of housing, hurts small businesses, and is bad for the environment. It is a small, but necessary, step to address both the housing and climate crises.
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 was clear when I ran for Mayor – including in my INDY questionnaire – that I thought the CAC system was outdated, broken and undemocratic. CAC’s were insular, exclusive (rather than inclusive) and gave an outsized voice to a small number of residents who skewed whiter, wealthier and more politically connected than Raleigh residents overall. I believe community engagement involves meeting residents where they are – in their neighborhoods, in the community, on social media and through other creative means. Community engagement should involve members from every part of the community, not just property owners.
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?
I think Chief Patterson has done an excellent job focusing on community policing and engaging with our residents. She is working with our Police Advisory Board on important policy issues. Additionally, Raleigh Police have implemented a number of reforms in the past few years restricting use of force and providing more training to officers. I do not support cutting the police department’s budget. We need to ensure our public safety officers have the resources and training they need to protect our community. We also recently budgeted more money to expand our ACORNs unit. And we will be lobbying the Legislature to pass a bill that allows for civilian enforcement of traffic accidents, freeing up police to do what we hire them to do.
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’m proud to have helped develop the Wake County Transit Plan and lead efforts to implement Bus Rapid Transit. I am also committed to keeping our bus system fare-free, and expanding bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. I am a strong proponent of commuter rail, which will help connect our region, reduce congestion and fight climate change. Funding to support these efforts comes from a half-cent sales tax that was approved by voters in 2016, as well as federal grants.
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?
We have done incredible work with the Downtown Raleigh Alliance, supporting their efforts to bring people back downtown with events and celebrations. We continue to provide grant funding for small businesses. Most importantly, we need our business community to stand up and bring their employees back to downtown. I’m excited about our new social district, which is bringing people together and supporting our small businesses and restaurants.
16. Do you support Raleigh’s $275 million parks bond on the ballot this fall? Why or why not?
Yes.The parks bond will fund much-needed repairs and improvements to parks, greenways and community centers in every part of the city. If we learned anything from the Covid pandemic, it is that parks and greenways were our salvation. The bond is focused on addressing our needs through an equity lens and ensuring every neighborhood has access to great parks and facilities.
17. If there is anything else you would like to address, please do so here.
I am the only one running for Mayor who has government experience. I am the only one who has worked, since 2007, on all of the issues facing our community. I have been an advocate for affordable housing and public transit, leading efforts to address these issues. We need to build on the momentum the current City Council has created to build a Raleigh that is affordable, equitable, and sustainable for everyone.
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