Name as it appears on the ballot: Megan Patton
Party affiliation: Democrat (though the race is non-partisan)
Campaign website: pattonforraleigh.com
Occupation & employer: Customer Service Manager
Years lived in Raleigh: 6
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?
The current council has done some good work for our city. The Non-Discrimination Ordinance and the fare-free bus routes are good policies that they were responsible for enacting. They’ve also had to legislate during some unprecedented times, and I applaud them for their fortitude.
That being said, there has been a breach of trust between the council and Raleigh residents. Some significant moves have been made behind closed doors in the past few years, like the dissolution of CACs and the extension of the current council term. These decisions were made swiftly and without an opportunity for public input. When I speak to voters across my district, they feel as though the current council doesn’t have their back. We need to restore that trust.
If elected, I would reconstitute some version of neighborhood meetings, increase the time available to speak at council meetings, and continue to explore pathways to hybrid meetings. I would also fight to ensure that no controversial decisions are made behind closed doors.
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.
My top priorities if elected are housing affordability, sustainability, and community engagement. We know that when all of our neighbors are stably housed, communities thrive. When folks are housed, they can work, raise a family, and fully participate in their community.
Raleigh is predicted to grow to at least 600,000 people by the end of the decade and we have serious work to do to ensure that both our current and new neighbors — across the income spectrum — have access to rental and ownership opportunities that don’t leave them cost-burdened by rising property taxes.
While we’re busy making Raleigh a city where all folks can live comfortably today, we need to ensure we’re leaving a city where the next generation can live comfortably tomorrow. We need to accelerate efforts across the city to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GhG) through transit, renewable energy, environmental preservation, and thoughtfully designed neighborhoods that reduce dependence on driving long distances. Climate change is happening, which means more days of extreme heat and increasingly erratic weather patterns, including flooding and drought. To make sure that we have a livable city for decades to come, we need to partner with residents and businesses to implement solutions across houses, apartments, buildings, and green spaces.
Raleigh is filled with amazing folks, folks who care deeply about their communities. Raleighites want to engage, to share their wisdom and vision for a vibrant city. We need to bring urgency to renewing a culture of listening deeply to residents, whether through neighborhood meetings, social media, proactive canvassing and other engagement tools. Our elected leaders cannot pretend to have all the answers and solutions — instead, we need leaders who understand the critical need for creating space at the table. The voice of the citizens is the voice we really need to hear.
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 have professional and civic experience that position me to lead our district as we continue to build a better Raleigh — and I have a shared story with so many residents that enables me to better represent their priorities.
Professionally, I have been a People Manager for large manufacturing and customer service teams. I’ve successfully advocated for compensation increases and benefit improvements, I’ve hired and fired people, and I’ve led process improvements that have improved efficiency and employee experience. I helped navigate an in-person workforce through a global pandemic.
Civically, I’ve been a member of Moms Demand Action, working on the long slow march for gun safety. I’m also an active member of my neighborhood HOA where I’ve worked to ensure that even the smallest form of government is serving its constituents.
I moved to Raleigh more than six years ago to provide a better future for my daughter, and every decision I’ve made since then has been to that end. I’ve worked a constellation of jobs, sometimes 2 or 3 at a time, including waiting tables, nannying, and factory work, to make ends meet. I understand the pinch of long hours and tight budgets. I’m running to represent working families across my district and our city who can’t always make it to City Hall, and listen to them as we work toward building a city where our children — and generations to come — can live and thrive.
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.
Dense housing along transit corridors is certainly one component of tackling the housing shortage. We do need more homes in order to house all of our new neighbors, and placing that development near transit will help us to move away from car dependency — this is critical for mitigating climate change.
That being said, I don’t believe that density alone will provide us with vibrant, mixed-income communities. Ensuring affordability in these areas is also critically important, so the people who keep our city running have access to the same amenities. I’d like to see the density bonus in the TOD provide for more affordability than it currently does while also using strategies to protect naturally occurring affordable housing in those same areas so we can ensure that our long-time residents aren’t forced out.
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?
Bringing another housing bond before voters in 2024 would be a good way to provide more funding for affordable housing. We know that overwhelming Raleigh voters support bonds and the last housing bond passed by over 70%. While I don’t have an exact number of how much the bond should be, I would want to ensure staff and the involved boards accounted for increased land and building prices and also ensured the bond was large enough to amplify our “bang for our buck” in terms of maximizing state and federal funds.
If we were to bring a bond, I’d like to see it fund land acquisition to support land trusts that promise permanent affordability, and building acquisition that would enable retrofitting office spaces that have become underutilized due to a changing workforce. I’d also like to see a priority placed on permanent supportive housing for senior and disabled folks; as well as, gap financing for tax relief for residents who don’t qualify for other avenues of tax relief.
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?
I am not aware of any innate authority of the city to regulate the square footage of the new homes being built in place of older homes. Small Area Plans and Overlay Districts could be tools to exert some regulation on this. Just as Historic Overlay Districts can exert some control over the types of building materials used on the exterior of a building, I could envision some other type of overlay that specifies the height, square footage or setbacks on properties in the area, which wouldn’t inherently promise modest and affordable homes but could precipitate that type of building. I would absolutely be willing to explore this from the council table to ensure there is an ample supply of homes for first time home owners and moderate income folks.
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 quadruplexes 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?
I do support housing variety, in-fill development, and density in some areas as ways of creating space for our new neighbors.
However, Missing middle is often touted as the silver bullet for keeping housing affordable across the city. And I don’t wholly subscribe to that. Townhomes and other types of housing allowed by Missing Middle are not inherently affordable. As long as housing is necessary for survival, people will continue to pay prices that leave them cost burdened, which means that market-rate housing will continue to become more expensive. While I want to add housing stock, I think we need to be careful of heralding missing middle as an answer to all the housing challenges Raleigh faces.
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 would support measures that enable regular folks to be more competitive in the market. I want my neighbors and community members to be the ones purchasing homes in my city, not large investment firms. This might include working with our friends in the NCGA to limit the amount of due diligence money allowed during a home sale among other measures.
Short of intervening and blocking companies from buying houses, we can work to make potential home buyers — regular folks — more competitive in the housing market by amplifying down payment assistance. Likewise, we should seek and implement tools that allow non-profits (and the city) to be more agile in purchasing homes that can then be designated for affordability.
I am also interested in making efforts to incentivize long term rentals of ADUs and houses and disincentivizing short term rentals. While I understand the financial benefit to a homeowner in opting for short-term rentals, I’d really like to see the entire city band together to house our permanent residents by prioritizing long-term rentals. I would also be interested in exploring mechanisms to require lease terms on rentals to be at least a year. As more and more landlords move toward month-to-month leases, we see folks whose rent price can rise at any time. I’d like to find some mechanisms to provide stability there.
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?
What I hear from Raleigh residents is that the city hasn’t done enough to acknowledge how the decisions Raleigh leaders made in the past brought us into the housing and gentrification crisis we’re in today. Something I’d like to work toward in the next council is greater listening and a more comprehensive acknowledgment of how Raleigh’s practices, historically, have prevented racial equity. This includes practices like redlining.
To ensure that the long-time Raleigh residents don’t get gentrified out of their neighborhoods – if they haven’t already – we need to see the City partner with nonprofits like One Wake to support tax relief and home rehab and repairs. Additionally, sometimes the cost of code violations can become so onerous that people have to sell their home because they couldn’t afford to fix their porch. The City should look into ways to enforce code violations that don’t force folks out of their homes.
I’d like to see the city set forward an ambitious plan to reach housing parity — that the percentage of homeowners by race, for instance, matches the composition of our city. While we work to create a city where no residents are burdened by housing costs, I’d like to see the council provide even more energy to communities in which we have historically divested and in which residents are the most cost-burdened.
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?
We must increase the salary of our city’s public servants, particularly our most veteran folks, to attract and keep the most dedicated professionals in these essential lines of work. An increase in wages would also mean that they would be able to live in the communities they already serve. Recruitment and retention efforts rely on finding the funds within the budget for higher compensation.
In addition to better wages, I would also be curious to explore other changes, like scheduling and benefits, that could improve quality of life and stave off burnout. Developing more workforce housing would also be a tool for creating places that our public employees can afford to live at a reasonable cost. I would work with experts and labor leaders on creative changes that help to retain public servants.
11. Do you support the city council’s decision to eliminate parking minimums for developers? Why or why not?
I see that the move away from parking requirements is a necessary facet of moving away car dependency and achieving our climate goals. In my own area, I see large surface lots that are rarely full that could certainly accommodate more trees or denser development rather than just absorbing heat through the asphalt. At the same time, much of Raleigh is still quite car dependent, so I understand the desire by some on the council to have taken a more nuanced approach to the text change and the concern that without adequate parking, cars will spill over into residential areas.
Seeing as the text change is in place now, my focus will be on ensuring that existing parking is well managed, specifically for ADA parking. We must make sure that disabled residents across the city who still drive are able to find parking that meets their needs and that the spaces aren’t being taken by folks parking illegally due to a real or perceived parking shortage.
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?
The dissolution of CACs with no public input and the failure to replace them with another solution straight away has led to three years of folks feeling disconnected from their city. I have yet to talk to one resident who doesn’t acknowledge that CACs needed improvement, but defunding them with no discourse sent a message to residents that they were no longer welcome in the conversation. We need to reverse course and restore a sense that the council is here to listen and engage, even when conversations are difficult.
I support the reinstatement of a version of CACs. I’d like to see them broken down to the community center level so they can serve a smaller, more representative population and be more responsive to the needs of individual communities. Neighborhood meetings are an important component toward ensuring that we are comprehensively engaging the community, but they’re only one component of community engagement — the presence, availability, and proactive outreach of councilors are also critical. I also support the continuation of the work of the Community Engagement Board – appointed members that represent a variety of Raleigh populations can serve to make sure all voices are represented. Proactive canvassing of neighbors to hear their opinions on a relevant topic is an effective strategy that we should continue. I’d also like to see enhanced use of social media by city departments and councilors.
13. Following the 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?
Discussion of cutting the police budget is difficult. Like so many departments and fields, RPD is struggling with hiring and recruitment. Raising officer salaries and incentivizing tenure are important efforts and those cost money.
At the same time, I support getting the right type of professionals to each type of emergency. We saw the RPD act on October 13th in Hedingham with skill and expertise. They were doing exactly what they were trained to do and they did it well.
Durham is piloting a variety of public safety initiatives, including the HEARTS program, which can provide mental health crisis response at the time of the call to 911 as well as dispatching unarmed, mental health professionals to non-violent emergencies and provide follow-up services after the incident. The preliminary results are positive.
I would like to see the next council implement innovations that enable us to get the right type of help to each emergency situation. I would also like to see investment in the types of programs that lead to safer communities overall, such as stable housing, good-paying jobs, and wrap-around services.
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?
Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) and Greater Triangle Commuter Rail (GTCR) are both impactful projects that will serve Raleigh residents. However, we need to apply resources to move faster on these projects. We need these transit options to be progressing as quickly as Raleigh is growing. If we want to reduce our carbon footprint as a city, we need these alternatives that allow folks to move away from cars.
Fare-free transit is wonderful, but we also see that ridership is way down and the bus driver shortage has caused us to limit route frequency. We need a well-paid, fully-staffed team of drivers so that we are providing enough coverage that using the bus is a reasonable option for folks. Some studies suggest that a modest bus fare used to reinvest in the transit system can enable more frequent stops, getting people where they need to go, increasing ridership and creating a positive feedback loop for the transit system. Increasing fares isn’t my number one goal, but making sure transit is effective is a high priority for me.
To approach closing these infrastructure gaps, I would advocate for the continued enhancement of greenway connectivity, as well as connectivity of neighborhoods and collector roads. Initiatives like this would help to create more options for cyclists to safely travel to their destinations without having to utilize major roadways. I would also advocate for building arterial roads as “complete streets” to create more space for bus and bike lanes that are plenty wide and protected.
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?
In order to continue revitalizing the downtown core, I believe there are unique opportunities to retrofit office spaces that remain unoccupied due to a shift to more remote work into housing. We could also look to expand programs like the Downtown Raleigh Alliance’s Pop-Up shop incubator program to help reduce barriers to small start ups leasing their first space. Additionally, I believe that modifying some downtown retail spaces to a smaller footprint could lower the cost to lease, which could attract businesses that might otherwise be blocked from downtown locations.
16. Do you support Raleigh’s $275 million parks bond on the ballot this fall? Why or why not?
I’m extremely torn about the bond. While there are myriad things I wish were different about the bond — a cheaper price tag, more equitable distribution of the projects across the city, etc. — I don’t want to delay the improvements to city parks, like Chavis, Tarboro Rd., and Method Community Centers, that have been stripped of funding for decades.
Since I wasn’t able to be at the council table during the creation of the bond, what I’d like to do once I get there is double down on property tax relief efforts for tax-burdened neighbors and rental relief efforts for neighbors near these parks at risk of seeing their rents rise. I plan to pursue every available funding source for affordability preservation, like land trusts, and maybe even explore the possibility of something like a “Parks Overlay District” that secures affordability for new development near parks, too.
17. If there is anything else you would like to address, please do so here.
I know that Raleigh can be a city that works for all its residents. I know that we can craft a future where we welcome new folks and honors our forever neighbors, while also ensuring we have a city that works for the next five generations. The decisions we make today determine whether we create that future. From the council, I will work tirelessly for my neighbors. I will listen deeply, build consensus where possible and compromise when necessary. I’m dedicated to my community and would be honored to serve.
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