Name as it appears on the ballot: Mary-Ann Baldwin
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: www.maryannforraleigh.com
Occupation & employer: Executive Director, Holt Brothers Foundation / VP of Marketing, Holt Brothers Inc.
Years lived in Raleigh: 30
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?
Our city staff are professional, skilled, and really second to none, but current members of the city council too often get in the way of the staff doing their jobs. The Council is supposed to set policy and then staff is expected to execute that policy. Instead, we have council members deep in the weeds, trying to do staff’s job – and being disrespectful to them in the process. We need to restore a level of trust and civility between the Council and staff to ensure the city is run effectively. The City of Raleigh has a Code of Conduct. Members of the Council have violated that code numerous times. This needs to end.
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.
Housing affordability and homelessness, transit and mobility options, job creation and workforce training – creating a city that provides opportunity for all.
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 was elected to the City Council for five terms (receiving the most votes the last four times I ran), making me the only Raleigh mayoral candidate with significant experience and a proven track record. During my tenure on Council, I co-founded Innovate Raleigh, a catalyst for innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation in the region; led the charge to relocate Citrix to the Warehouse District, creating hundreds of jobs and more than $150 million in new investment; advocated for a dedicated funding stream to build affordable housing; worked on short-term and long-term solutions to address issues of homelessness, resulting in Oak City Cares, our new multi-service center; spearheaded the creation of the City’s Office of Innovation and Economic Development; worked with Dr. James West (former Councilor and now a Wake County Commissioner) on Youth Thrives to support student success. I also served on the GoTriangle Board of Trustees for nine years and helped create the Wake Transit Plan, which was approved by the voters in 2016. I’m the only candidate with that depth of Raleigh experience.
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?
Yes. First, the City needs to adopt housing policies that encourage housing affordability. Second, it needs to work with stakeholders to create a well-crafted bond that supports those policies; secure partners to advocate for the bond’s passage; and conduct outreach to determine a dollar amount that the public will support. (This approach is similar to the way we created the Wake Transit Plan and its successful passage). We can’t just throw a bond on the ballot to say we did something. It has to be strategic and involve the community.
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?
Please see above answer. Outside of a bond, what steps should the city be taking to promote housing affordability in Raleigh? Please see “10 Ways the City Can Encourage Housing Affordability” on my website: http://www.maryannforraleigh.com/housing-affordability. My 10-point plan addresses the need for policy changes that would allow accessory dwelling units by right, encourage the construction of “missing middle” housing as well as cottage courts and tiny homes, and reduce minimum lot sizes and minimum parking requirements. It also encourages the City to work with Wake County and Wake County Public Schools to identify underutilized properties that can be developed for affordable housing. We should also upzone property in transit corridors, work with land trusts to provide long-term housing affordability, and establish a committee of industry leaders to create ways to incentivize developers to build workforce and TOD housing.
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?
Many of the points in my plan noted above will have a positive impact on allowing folks in Southeast Raleigh to remain in their homes. In addition, we currently have two programs that can assist. Wake County offers a Homestead Act, which allows seniors and the disabled to defer a percentage of the tax value of their homes, reducing their tax burden. Another option to assist with aging in place is the City’s Housing Rehab Program (administered by Resources for Seniors), which offers zero percent loans for home repairs and energy improvements – resulting in lower utility bills. Loans can be made up to $90,000 and are forgiven after five years. The City also hosts resource fairs to promote these programs. I feel we can do more to educate residents about these programs and the value of their property, and host community discussions on gentrification. We may also consider adding to the Housing Rehab Fund during bond deliberations.
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?
We are now seeing the negative impact that NCODs are having on housing choices in Raleigh. We should ask for a halt to NCODs until we can conduct a study to better understand their impacts on housing choices and affordability. We should also consider time limits on how long an NCOD stays in place.
8) If you could change anything about the city’s unified development ordinance, what would it be and why?
I would change two things. Under the current UDO, it is difficult for small businesses to open without incurring extensive costs and working through onerous regulations due to the “change in use” policy. Without getting in the weeds, let’s use Scott Crawford’s Jolie restaurant as an example. He had to go through an extensive process that required a site plan review and an appearance before the Board of Adjustment, which added cost and delays. We need to streamline this process to encourage small businesses and entrepreneurs to open in Raleigh. Second, the current City Council has been deliberating a text change for two years regarding height, with no action. The way building height is measured in the UDO doesn’t align with floor ratios. We need to fix this.
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 current approach is onerous and is essentially a ban on building Accessory Dwelling Units. I believe ADUs should be allowed by right in all residential housing districts. This would give families choices. They could care for aging parents, house boomerang kids or rent the property, building wealth. The City also benefits by increased property values, and minimal impacts to infrastructure. Experts says this is the easiest way to add to supply without costing taxpayer’s money.
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?
John Kane’s proposed tower on Peace Street is located on a future Bus Rapid Transit line, next to the proposed Harrington Street Cycle Track, and across the street from a new park with greenway access. Additionally, the City recently spent $10 million to upgrade intersections in the area to improve traffic flow. People can walk to a grocery store from this location, as well as bars, restaurants and retail. If we want to reimagine our transit future by creating walkable, mixed-use communities, this is the perfect way to do it. The same can be said of the proposed RUS BUS project, which is located in the Warehouse District next to the train station.
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?
I believe in building walkable, urban communities that offer housing choices and opportunities for all people. If a proposed development is on a transit corridor, within walking distance to transit, near downtown or other growth centers, we should encourage such development.
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?
The city’s regulation of scooter companies has been a complete failure. The City should have imposed rules about riding on sidewalks in the downtown core and enforced those rules. Scooters provided access to downtown for many people who had been shut out of downtown, especially people of color. We need to revisit these rules. Regarding protected bike lanes: the City launched Citrix Cycle. We now need to build the infrastructure to support these efforts. The Harrington Street cycle project will be a great demonstration of how this can work. We can’t build it soon enough.
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?
I believe the ordinance over-regulates short-term rentals, and violates state law with its ban on whole-house rentals. As Mayor, I would ask that the ordinance not take effect January 1, and instead, we look at the suggestions of the Short-Term Rental Task Force for guidance. I have spoken with a number of people who use AirBnb to help pay their mortgages and their bills. We shouldn’t prevent them from doing this as long as their guests are good neighbors and obey noise and other ordinances. A “three strikes and you’re out rule” would prevent bad behavior.
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?
No. The CAC system no longer works. We need to use technology and other means to expand citizen engagement. The Citizen Engagement Task Force made numerous recommendations, all of which were ignored by the current City Council, leaving out renters, young people, and others from having a voice.
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?
No. This is going to be settled by the courts with litigation already filed.
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?
Some new council members.
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?
I would support an Advisory Board that makes policy recommendations and helps build trust. I also support more funding for training and a new commitment to community policing. Police officers knowing the people they protect and residents knowing the police officers who serve them is critical.