Name as it appears on the ballot: SAIGE MARTIN
Party affiliation: DEMOCRAT
Campaign website: saige4raleigh.com
Occupation & employer: Fund Director, Fidelity Charitable & Master’s Student, NC State University College of Design
Years lived in Raleigh: 6
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 City of Raleigh is not on the right course. The only vision I’ve heard articulated by the current council is one of backward momentum. Under current leadership, Raleigh has stifled small business growth, pushed our affordable housing crisis under the rug for another time and inadequately managed our growth as a city. I believe that we can lead the southeast and the country on so many issues that are not only challenging us but are challenging cities and communities across the country. We have the best universities, the best businesses, and the most creative minds right here in Raleigh. Specifically, I want to build a long-term strategic Housing Affordability Plan with all stakeholders at the table. I plan to build a stronger partnership with Wake County and service providers to cut our chronically homeless population in half. I will work diligently with the community to update city code to effectively and equitably manage our growth. And I am committed to ensuring that protecting our environment is a key focus for the next council. All of my policy proposals are on my website and I welcome your input and feedback on my plans. For Raleigh to course-correct, we need a leader at the table who isn’t afraid to make bold decisions. We need a leader who has respect for the diverse opinions that surround our city and we need a leader that is proactive in their outreach and communications to engage all of our 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.
- Housing as a Right: The housing affordability crisis and the lack of a sufficient number of units is a personal concern for me as someone who grew up homeless, I look forward to providing the council with creative solutions to address this issue head-on. My first course of action would be to rescind the restrictive Accessory Dwelling Unit policy put into place to allow for increased density in our most desired areas.
- A Responsive Council: It is imperative that our representative is more accessible, respectful, and responsive to constituents. Serving on City Council is not glamorous, it is hard work, and it is about constituent service. I have already identified ways in which our council can be more inclusive for those that have felt left out of the process, including free child-care during council meetings and updated meeting times to be able to hear from more of our residents. But this is just the start as we look to advance our engagement across the city.
- A Healthy Environment: As a life-long environmental advocate, I have worked at the international level to bring awareness to our climate crisis and I’m ready to be a champion for our environment starting on day one. This includes the creation of a long-term Renewable Energy Plan for our city as well as identifying ways that the city can incentivize new developments (private and commercial) to invest in green infrastructure.
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 received a B.A. in Cultural Anthropology from Hawai’i Pacific University (HPU) in Honolulu, HI. At HPU I was elected Student Body President and I worked with the city, county and Governor’s office on multiple issues affecting the student body. Professionally, I’ve worked for the United Nations in Turkey where I aided various UN agencies by creating refugee resettlements for Syrian refugees fleeing the civil war. I previously have worked for President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign as well as a communications consultant for Secretary Clinton’s campaign in 2015. Later I took an opportunity back in the states at UN headquarters to work for the United Nations Millennium Campaign in New York City to run strategic partnerships and global outreach for the Sustainable Development Goals. (SDG’s). In my current role as a Fund Director, I am responsible for piloting a new funding model for non-profits which requires me to manage a multi-million dollar budget and various stakeholders. I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering with nonprofits, serving on nonprofit and foundation boards including The Hope Center at Pullen, Justice-Love Foundation and LEAD NC. I’m currently a master’s candidate finishing my thesis at NCSU’s College of Design.
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?
The council made a wise decision to not rush an affordable housing bond. I absolutely support a bond that is crafted intelligently, as part of a longer strategic plan, and with all partners and stakeholders present who are responsible for implementing the bond so that it is not created in a vacuum. Furthermore, the City Council has many options to increase affordability before ever touching a housing bond, most of which they have not shown any interest in using as tools or resources to combat our crisis. City Council has sat on their hands for the last four years while prices have skyrocketed and as more people have moved into the city. A $30 million-dollar housing bond would not even put a dent into solving the issue. We have to look more holistically at our zoning, internal approval processes and incentives, all of which council has control over to build a comprehensive and long-term solution that involves multiple answers. A bond is not enough, it has to be part of a more strategic investment by the city.
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?
The amount of a bond needs to be determined as part of a larger strategy, and as part of a stronger commitment to solving the issue. In short, we need to work with and respect our city staff and our partners to understand how much the bond should be and how it should be implemented. We should be proactively upzoning for gentle density increases along our busiest roads and where we expect public transit investments; we should allow ADU’s by right, and allow affordable housing developers expedited and fee-free rezoning and permitting requests. Those are just a few ideas I am proposing as part of a larger “kitchen sink” style proposal for addressing our affordable housing crisis.
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?
There is no silver bullet for affordable housing but what has been done and proposed by our current council simply isn’t enough and has only exasperated the displacement in Southeast Raleigh. Under her watch, our infill development has exploded with little regulation or enforcement of how that infill meets our core needs as a growing city and its effects on their neighbors. We have to get outside of the rhetoric associated with growing v. not growing and density v. no density. At the end of the day, I believe strongly that we all want similar things. We want walkable communities. We want to feel safe when walking our children to school or riding a bike. We want to maintain our strong sense of community with our neighbors while building a thriving downtown.
All of this can happen with the right leadership, with someone who is willing to be proactive and have the tough conversations. We need to ensure that our rapid growth isn’t pushing out current residents, to do this we should use neighborhood conservation overlay districts as they were intended, to keep low-income and at-risk communities from being pushed out by development. In addition, we need to freeze property tax rates for those that could be adversely affected by this development and provide resources and connections with additional partners who can help residents understand the true value for their property and home should they choose to sell.
I’m committed to utilizing every strategy and resource available to us — and to working with all stakeholders to implement effective and sustainable initiatives. The city needs to address the crisis now and hold itself accountable with clear measures of success. Last, to preserve our limited but valuable and unique historic building stock in Raleigh, I’m also committed to working diligently with RHDC and developers to identify a solution that will ensure our limited historic housing stock is here for years to come. The city of Raleigh must begin to utilize recommendations made by the Historic Preservation Toolkit and develop a historic preservation development plan for the future growth of Raleigh.
7) The 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?
This is, again, where land-use zoning and proactive measures by the City Council are required to reform the Historic Overlay District (HOD) and Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District (NCOD) phenomena. These districts mandate that neighborhoods be stuck in time and are a detriment to affordability, building a vibrant walkable city and to ensuring that we are building ‘up and in’ to stave off the expansion of development into rural farmlands and natural areas. Teardowns are the first sign of gentrification for most. When the land under the home has become more valuable than the home sitting on top of the land, and when the zoning ordinances do not match the growth trends of the moment, then a larger, more expensive single-family home is placed on the parcel. Instead, we should be allowing gentle density by right (duplex/triplex/quadplex) and encouraging responsible and design-conscience infill in our neighborhoods. Maintaining the character of neighborhoods should not come at the expense of our environment and affordability, and it doesn’t need to with the right leaders at the table.
8) If you could change anything about the city’s unified development ordinance, what would it be and why?
I would push for any mention of affordable housing to be pulled out and addressed as part of a larger strategic plan. Right now the UDO mentions affordable housing in many ways but without concrete steps, the city should be taking. This allows the city to drag its feet on meeting the needs of our residents and with no accountability mechanisms in place. We can talk about affordable housing but we have to finally do something about affordable housing and we should use the UDO as our guiding document as we build a 15-year strategic plan to address our housing and growth needs in a responsible and equitable manner. Last, if you search the most recent addition of the UDO for words like homeless, displacement, or gentrification, nothing appears. We have a moral obligation to ensure that our UDO is comprehensive and addressing all of the issues in our city.
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.
ADUs should be allowed by right. It’s simple. In fact, this is one of the easiest and tax-free ways for a city to increase its density in a gentle way. The decision by this council to put in arbitrary rules and regulations has hurt our ability to increase density where we need it most and stops us from finding innovative ways to use ADU’s as a tool to combat chronic homelessness. The current regulations do not encourage density because of the oppressive and confusing guidelines and approval requirements needed to build one. Not only is this bad policy, which has been confirmed by urban planners, affordable housing advocates and land use attorneys, but it goes against a fundamental American value of land ownership and the right to do what you want with your land.
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?
Cars and parking are not the future of our downtown urban core, micro-transit and residents walking are. Raleigh City Council has a moral obligation to our people and to our taxpayers to begin a strategic and methodical process of removing publicly subsidized parking and begin to refocus our resources and future planning on providing the necessary infrastructure for non-vehicular modes of transportation. When we incentivize and increase safety for those that want to walk, bike or take a scooter, we decrease the number of vehicles on our roads which decreases our carbon pollution and traffic congestion, while increasing revenue for businesses on those routes.
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?
As long as increased development in this area does not negatively affect our environment or displace existing residents, then we should be looking at all possibilities for increasing density as close to our downtown core as possible. By doing so we are ensuring that our transit investments will be successful and that we can continue to provide a walkable experience for everyone looking to live close to our urban core. The city should work with developers and the surrounding communities to clearly understand the needs of that area and to ensure that the added development will address the needs and leave the area better off than when they started their project. This could include grocery stores, community meeting spaces or green spaces.
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?
I am committed to pushing for investments in multi-modal transportation solutions that begin to reduce the number of cars in our downtown core and other appropriate focal areas. Most importantly, this includes developing a plan for the rapid deployment of separated and protected bicycle lanes, and improved pedestrian infrastructure. When cities are built to support a safe experience for pedestrians or cyclists or scooter riders or any other low-impact forms of transportation, more people will choose these modes which decreases traffic congestion and improves our health and the planet’s health.
The greatest barrier to bicycling and public transit as a viable transportation mode is the lack of infrastructure and public understanding of the many benefits of investing in said areas. Furthermore, another barrier is having elected city officials who do not prioritize or actively work to make Raleigh a leader in regards to investments in micro-transit and public transportation. Raleigh must invest in separate and protected bike lanes to protect cyclists and encourage less experienced cyclists to use the infrastructure. Additionally, we must invest in more modes of public transportation and take the steps necessary to ensure that transportation is accessible and equitable. This means when we commit to investing in Bus Rapid Transit we also commit to investing in affordable housing along transit corridors before the transit development is started. We have to have a holistic approach to all of our development, and its effects on our communities. Last, we need to move quickly to secure investments for our commuter rail service to connect Raleigh and Durham. This investment will aid in reducing overall vehicle traffic and provide another tool for our residents to use.
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?
The council’s decision on banning whole-house rentals and other short term rentals is another example of their lack of progressive and holistic thinking. The city’s policy is harmful to those that use short-term and long-term rentals as a source of income so that they can continue to afford to live in our city. In addition, it limits the amount of stock available to tourists when visiting Raleigh. I am committed to rolling back these restrictions and to ensure that any decisions moving forward are proactive and progressive.
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’s offer one avenue for residents to engage but we should be investing in ways to grow that engagement. Unfortunately, only a small minority of people participate in CACs so I am committed to bolstering efforts to identify ways we can increase engagement to bring more diverse ideas and experiences to the council table.
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?
The proposed lease (or sale) of the quarry by the RDUAA is detrimental to our community and our environment. If the City Attorney does believe that there is legal standing to challenge the lease then I will work to build relationships amongst the other three municipalities who also have a stake in the lease and the land. Any litigation would be far more compelling with all interested parties participating. I am committed to doing the deep organizing to ensure that your advocacy on the front lines is as effective as possible when it comes to your proposed outcomes. I’m interested in ensuring that we use all of our available channels to be successful.
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?
Yes, the incivility is seen in many ways if you pay attention. From council members laughing in the face of developers to upending committee appointment rules to give one side of the council more authority than another. Raleigh is better than this and we deserve the right to public debate even when we don’t agree, it’s part of our democratic process. Being civil and open-minded and open to sharing ideas is a core requirement of any leader. I’ve demonstrated my commitment to hearing diverse opinions and then taking action through my professional work but also as I have been out in the community. I am proud to have such a diverse base of support, I believe that to truly lead we have to understand where each side is coming from in order to build consensus. Right now our council is only interested in supporting their own ideas and not listening to those with other views.
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 do support a Police Accountability Review Board. I also support the efforts of the members of the Human Relations Commission who sought to bring a comprehensive policy proposal to the Raleigh City Council to establish a Police Accountability Review Board. If I’m elected, I will support their efforts in establishing a Review Board as has been done similarly in many other cities, and within the confines of existing law. Where that state law is contradictory of our efforts I will work with similar-minded municipalities to lobby our state-level officials for change in our laws. Too many people have died, and we’ve waited too long for change. Rebuilding the relationships and trust between our police and our community is of critical importance to the function and success of our city.
18) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.
Why hasn’t the Indy asked why Saige didn’t vote at all in the last City of Raleigh election? Are you not investigating this just because you like his answers? What happened to the tough questions?Look up his voter registration if you don’t believe it. He doesn’t care about local politics he is reading from a script. Don’t allow this man to fool you – he is just saying what needs to be said to get votes.
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