Name as it appears on the ballot: Jennifer Truman
Party affiliation: independent
Campaign website: jennifertruman.com
Occupation & employer: Designer, Matthew Konar Architect
Years lived in Raleigh: 15 years
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?
This Council has led through unprecedented times and has started work on multiple fronts to help our city grow into a more equitable, more sustainable and more welcoming city. The current Raleigh City Council has implemented innovative and progressive housing choices and zoning reform. The next Council will need to maintain the momentum of saying yes to innovative ways of doing business in order to see the results of improved sustainability and equity. Building on that momentum will depend on improving direct community engagement and community education about the positive impacts these policy changes have for most Raleigh residents. If elected, my focus would be on continuing the momentum of this council with proactive communication.
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.
District D needs optimistic focus on connecting our diverse neighborhoods. My priorities are Equitable + Sustainable Growth, a Budget that reflects our People + Values, and greater Transit Choices + Walkability. A better Raleigh can be built through optimistic leadership, bringing current residents and new neighbors together to create a city where everyone is welcome to live, work and play.
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?
As a designer, trained in both civil engineering and architecture, I’ve learned how to start with listening to create positive change in my community. My technical background, pragmatic approach to zoning and experience actually permitting projects is what brought me into advocacy.
As a small business owner who works with other small and medium size businesses and developers everyday, I’ve personally encountered the zoning code obstacles that make projects harder, and more expensive, to build.
And as a community member and mom, who takes the bike and bus with my family regularly, I’ve often found myself at the random end of a sidewalk or bike lane halfway to my destination. I know we can do better to serve all residents and build a better future for our kids.
Both my professional and personal experiences have led to my track record of advocating to make our city a better place. I’ve been an outspoken community advocate on several key issues, including recent support for ending parking minimums, fulfilling our Bus Rapid Transit goals by encouraging denser development along transit corridors, legalizing tiny homes, accessory dwelling units and missing middle housing, as well as supporting the affordable housing bond and petitioning council to create a comprehensive food policy.
As a Councilor, I will continue advocating on these key issues and lead proactively in the community to find consensus on growing Raleigh into the future.
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.
We can preserve our parks, natural systems and trees by building denser housing and supporting development of missing middle housing and multi-story mixed-use buildings along transit corridors
I have long advocated on behalf of current and future residents that we should welcome incremental density into our neighborhoods and build more densely along transit corridors to build differently and better than we have in recent decades. The truth is, Raleigh is a city. As a city, we can lead the region on reducing sprawl – and the associated negative impacts of pollution, carbon emissions, development of exurban green field sites, etc – by prioritizing denser development and land use patterns, reducing reliance on automobiles, and encouraging mixed use, walkable urban infill. I’ve been advocating for adding density for quite some time, it’s why I started coming to Council meetings years ago. I’ve been an advocate from the community and as a representative on the Go Raleigh Transit Authority helping to move the bus rapid transit projects move forward. The success of those projects will rely on increasing density along the corridors and in nearby neighborhoods.
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?
Raleigh needs housing. Raleigh needs to build more housing. And build more affordable housing. I have a track record for advocating for the necessary zoning reforms and housing affordability policies that lead to building more housing. I supported the previous Affordable Housing Bond which will be spent over the next 3-4 years to directly provide subsidized housing, and to leverage several hundreds of millions of private and non-profit development dollars to build subsidized affordable housing. It’s possible that a future bond for affordable housing would be needed to continue to address housing supply for low-income households who rely on subsidies to make housing affordable.Raleigh needs to build more housing, both market rate and more subsidized affordable housing, to meet this generational housing crisis.
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 the authority to prevent property owners from redeveloping, selling, or building on their properties. The city does have authority to say what is allowed to be built back on properties that have experienced teardowns. For decades, the only thing that has been allowed to be built back in place of a single-family home is a single-family home. Thankfully, recent changes allowing duplexes, townhomes and small apartments in more zoning districts means that there are now many more options to build back than a single larger home. I support these changes and look forward to seeing more neighborhoods diversify the type and size of housing for people to choose from.
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?
An equitable future and a sustainable future depend on building differently than we have for the past half century. We need to continue the work started by this Council, to encourage incremental and innovative building types that will shape Raleigh into a better place for all its residents. We can preserve our parks, natural systems and trees by building denser housing and supporting development of missing middle housing and multi-story mixed-use buildings along transit corridors. I supported the recent missing middle changes. Before modern zoning, people have lived in a variety of types of buildings and housing combinations besides the nuclear family single family home.
I believe that limiting the type of housing to single-family houses is a limit on the rights of property owners and also a limit to the rights of those seeking housing, as owners or renters. By allowing more housing types to be built, Raleigh has expanded the rights of property owners, and provided the opportunity for more sustainable and equitable development. Actions of town and city councils around the country to make missing middle housing types legal again over the past few years speaks to the merits of this progressive policy..
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?
At the most basic level, the City cannot prevent investment firms from buying houses and property in Raleigh because being able to buy and sell property freely is one of the most protected rights in our country. What the City can do is create policy that incentivizes the construction of more homes, particularly smaller homes on smaller lots. Building more housing has the most direct impact on the housing market. And we need more housing.In the past few months, several changes to our zoning rules that allow smaller starter homes on smaller lots to be built again in our City have been made and some of the first projects for accessory dwelling units, tiny homes and cottage courts in decades are being permitted now. We must work to create local zoning rules that balance and serve the interests of all who live in Raleigh, as owners or renters. We will find that balance through transparent community engagement and objective guidelines for zoning and building.
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 needs to acknowledge it has a troubled history with discriminatory environmental and land use zoning decisions. Acknowledging this history, and its causes rooted in single-family zoning and development of naturally occurring affordable housing in major floodplains give suggestions of how to move forward. An equitable future and a sustainable future depend on building differently than we have for the past half century. The zoning regulations and disinvestments over the past decades have led to the systemic issues we see today, including gentrification. Zoning reforms such as allowing duplexes and small apartments in single family zoned neighborhoods, eliminating parking minimums, and encouraging cottage courts have been critical changes to those systems to correct those past inequities. We also need to support existing residents with grants for financial support for rising utility costs and tax bills. We need to listen deeply and collaborate with our neighbors in South and Southeast Raleigh. Supporting current residents means distributing the pressure of redevelopment and growth across all Raleigh neighborhoods. Support and subsidy for existing residents to stay in their homes and to increase the supply of affordable housing is needed. We need to continue the work started by this Council, to encourage incremental and innovative building types that will shape Raleigh into a better place for all its residents.
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?
Fair pay and living wages for all City of Raleigh employees, part-time and full-time, across City departments has been a part of my campaign since day one. We can choose to value our workers, our employees and pay fair and living wages to all part-time and hourly employees as well as full-time salaried employees. There are always competing priorities within the City budget, our workers should be prioritized and valued. A Raleigh City Councilor cannot fix all the income inequity in our community, but the City can become an example that other employers can follow. Specifically, I support a living wage for all employees, a review of all pay scales across departments to provide consistency and job mobility within the City, the offering of benefits packages to part-time employees, and hope to encourage a culture of listening and feedback that can help city staff advocate internally for themselves.
11. Do you support the city council’s decision to eliminate parking minimums for developers? Why or why not?
Yes, I support eliminating parking minimums and have openly advocated for that text change alongside peers in the sustainability, housing and development community for several years. Parking spaces are costly, particularly for homeowners, renters and small businesses, parking spaces take up space better used by people and requiring them subsidizes our car dependence.
We are consistently reminded that we need radical changes to meet our climate goals, so when people resist changes like this as too much, I think it’s important to remember that we really do need to change the default. If we want a different and less car dependent future, then it depends on residents, designers, engineers, and policy makers to make different and better decisions. There will still be parking spaces, the number and vast parking lots simply won’t be mandated. Over the last half century we’ve seen the effects on pollution, sprawl, housing costs and more that mandated parking has had. Removing the mandates and setting parking caps moves us forward as a community to a climate friendly future.
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 don’t support reinstating city support for CACs. I do believe resident organizations should be able to organize themselves and if elected will meet with any organization. I believe in better ways to keep residents engaged through direct contact via mail, email, online surveys, and hybrid meetings and look forward to hearing the recommendations of the Community Engagement Board. I support bringing touchpoints both digital and in-person with all city departments directly to residents. My plan for community engagement includes re-investing in our community centers as resources and centers where residents can engage with all City departments. Our community centers can be gathering spaces for more than sports and as Councilor I plan to build on my community roots to bring transparency and collaborative communication into all the communities in District D.
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?
The Police Budget is one of the largest expenditures in Raleigh’s budget and we need to have the hard conversations and considerations of policy reforms before the city can discuss raising the non-salary police budget. As a City we need to acknowledge that while public safety is a priority for residents across the city, the presence of police officers does not always ensure the same level of public safety for black and brown residents. I’m committed to having those hard conversations. I’m committed to not raising the police budget and I’m committed to having those hard conversations about how the funding is used. One of my campaign priorities is a budget that reflects our people and values. What Raleigh City Council needs to do is work with the community to take a hard look at what we are spending money on and make sure it’s valuable and meets the needs and shared values of residents across the city.
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?
Getting around on a bus or bike is hard right now, but it shouldn’t be. As a regular bus rider, I know that there are some basics like bus shelters, wayfinding and maps, fare equity, and safety of operators and passengers that we need to prioritize and get right as we expand the system with the goals of the Wake Transit Plan. A vibrant, healthy, and equitable Raleigh depends on supporting residents who walk, bike, and ride the bus as part of their everyday life.
In District D, we should work to improve the walk score for neighborhoods, promote connectivity between neighborhoods and commercial districts. Raleigh as a whole needs to increase funding to sidewalks and protected bike lanes, prioritize pedestrians and alternative means of transportation, create stronger connections for bike lanes and trails to travel to work or school, encourage hyper-local neighborhood businesses, increase funding for bus stop improvements and amenities, improve working conditions for bus operators, improve marketing and bus route information at bus stops, start an e-bike grant program, and continue support for Bus Rapid Transit and the Wake Transit Plan.
As a city we should prioritize funding for alternative modes of transportation as primary ways of traveling around our city. Reducing our dependence on automobiles will help us reach multiple environmental and climate goals, as well as improve the health, wellness and quality of life of Raleigh 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?
Partnerships with the local business and non-profit community are essential to serving Raleigh residents. Raleigh is a city of both success stories and of struggle. In many ways these unprecedented times have revealed underlying inequities and the need for social justice in health work, food policy, labor and wages, policing, and housing. Partnerships and support of local businesses through grants, programming by the Downtown Raleigh Alliance and leading by example supporting local small businesses are all short-term ways to support downtown businesses. In the longer-term Raleigh needs to encourage more mixed-use buildings in the downtown core with residential and active ground floor retail. Bringing more residents downtown will help local businesses who found the amount of offices open and employees out for lunch downtown significantly drop during the pandemic. While employees have returned to many offices, diversifying the type of visitor and resident to downtown will help businesses be resilient in the future.
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 it’s an investment in our future and our shared civic infrastructure. The Parks Bond is built on equity and reinvests in neighborhoods that deserved investment for years. It funds over 20 projects across Raleigh in critical and long underfunded parks and community centers in South and SouthEast Raleigh. I personally worked as a community member to advocate for several projects to be included, including the improvements for Lake Wheeler Road. I also support programs that will provide assistance for those low-income and working class families that are burdened by rising costs of living. We can do better for our Parks system while also doing better on the affordable housing situation.
17. If there is anything else you would like to address, please do so here.
Raleigh should fund a Comprehensive Food Policy. I am a long-time advocate for local food businesses, urban farmers and community gardens. Last year, myself and a coalition of urban farmers and food security non-profits petitioned the City Council to take on the work of improving the sustainability and resiliency of our local food system. We asked Council to do three things: (1) Formally acknowledge the encouragement of urban agriculture and equitable food policy as a priority for the City of Raleigh. (2) Begin a community-engaged planning process with urban agriculture as the starting point towards creation of a comprehensive Raleigh Food Policy. (3) Adjust Raleigh’s UDO to remove barriers for starting and expanding community gardens and urban farms. Since then, little progress has been made on food policy issues despite the clear benefits of such a policy. Urban agriculture and a focus on an equitable local food system can help the City accomplish goals towards climate resilience, equity, economy, health and cultural and natural resource preservation.
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