Name as it appears on the ballot: Shelia Alamin-Khashoggi
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: www.sheliakhashoggicampaign.org
Occupation & employer: Small business owner
Years lived in Raleigh: 56
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?
No, there are too many homeless people; gentrification has displaced too many families in District C and there’s not enough workforce housing for teachers, bus drivers, and other professions.
2) If you are a candidate for a district seat, please identity your priorities for your district.
I am a candidate for the District C seat. At present, District C is in a delicate condition. My platform focuses on 1) housing affordability especially for moderate, low, and very low-income families, individuals, and homeless veterans using VASH vouchers; 2) transportation to meet the needs of all people especially those that have no other way to get around the city, and the effect the New Bern Avenue BRT will have on area businesses and residents; and, the need for smart growth and compassionate planning.; and, 3) employment through economic development for every educational level and skillset and also, the implementation of youth job training programs in District C such as, Build Up, which will help give youth a real-world experience through “paid construction, real estate, and entrepreneurship apprenticeships.”
2a) If you are an at-large or mayoral candidate, please identify the three most pressing issues the city faces.
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 a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Administration/Political Science, a Master of Public Administration, and a Master of Religious Education. I am currently on the Go Triangle Transit Advisory Committee, the North Carolina Legal Aid Board, the United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County, and a former, City of Raleigh Human Relations Commission chair and grants chair.
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, because the citizens are taxed too much. Besides, the city has money available for affordable housing. For instance, the city simply needs to shift money from the Development Services Department back to the Housing and Neighborhoods Department and, redirect HUD money to build housing for low and very low-income families, individuals, and homeless veterans.
5) Assuming the council places a bond referendum on the 2020 ballot, how much money 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 City Council can redirect HUD money to build low and very low-income housing – now – and reverse that 60:40 ratio, which they can do. Also, since developers enjoy the financial benefits of doing business in our city, they should also expect that they will “pay it forward” by being part of the solution to affordable and low-income affordable housing deficit in Raleigh thus bring the city back into a socioeconomic balance.
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?
City regulations can encourage “gentle density” like duplexes, townhomes and cottages throughout the entire city but not at the expense of changing the character of our older communities/neighborhoods; and, then only If these types of housing can also apply equally to moderate to low-income households and residents can use vouchers. We have a high rate of homelessness, veterans, and mentally challenged citizens who need to use housing vouchers.
6a) 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?
A Community Land Trust (CLT) is a tool the city could have and can use that will give the protection these neighborhoods need. The trusts would own the land while individuals in the community would own the homes built on the land. The land would be held in trust in perpetuity or forever. This is not a new concept but it is revolutionary inasmuch as land trusts have been used in Raleigh for parks and green spaces but not for housing. The property donated for Dorothea Dix Hospital was built on “protected land.” The land was prime real estate then as it is today. Just like the first developers who choose that site for the hospital and placed a special protection on the land, the city can designate land to care for the fragile members of society so they will have a place of security. I say this because those who are our most economically fragile can have pockets of land designated and protected in District C as well as all across this city whereby the low and very low-income members of our community may have safe, affordable, and decent housing built just for them – in perpetuity.
7) The city currently has twenty neighborhood conservation overlay districts, which can restrict new development. Do you believe this tool is being used effectively?
No, because Neighborhood Conservation Overlay Districts (NCODs) are supposed to serve as an additional protection to lower the density/intensity of residential zoning codes to preserve older neighborhoods against intrusive new development that can gentrify these neighborhoods like it did in the College Park area in District C. But the NCOD is not protecting neighborhoods like College Park that has a home that was too large for the neighborhood because the city was not diligent in monitoring the NCOD policy in College Park. Therefore, the developer built a different type of housing rather than the affordable housing the NCOD mandated.
7a) How would you change the city’s approach to NCODs, if at all?
Inspections/Planning Departments need to be more diligent in making sure NCOD policies and procedures are followed and city staff are monitoring neighborhoods with NCODs.
8) If you could change anything about the city’s unified development ordinance, what would it be and why?
Yes, because I would restrict Neighborhood Mixed Use zonings only on properties along the main corridors like New Bern Avenue and prohibit its use within neighborhoods; and limit their setbacks or how far they can be built into a neighborhood.
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? Please explain
9a) Do you believe they should be allowed by right? Please explain.
No, because depending on how many homeowners on a block decide to build an accessory dwelling unit, the density can change for an individual property or it can change for the whole block. In other words, if a significant number of the principal structures on a residential block build an ADU in their backyards then the density will increase significantly, and the zoning may have to be changed for all of them. But if only, say, one or two homes have ADUs then the density will increase slightly, and the zoning will remain the same.
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?
A current Planning Commission member stated he opposed this project because it failed “to address a number of city policies that are important.” Given the current traffic congestion in Raleigh in general and on streets like Peace Street specifically, motor vehicle traffic and parking should be a major consideration when these types of proposals are submitted to the city.
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?
No, because traffic is already horrible in Raleigh and that much height and density is too much for any part of the city.
11a) What conditions should the city attach to such projects, if any?
Recently, the City Council approved the 40-story John Kane development on Peace Street on several conditions, one being a pending traffic impact analysis, which may make it necessary for him to adjust his plans. The requirement of the traffic impact analysis should have been a condition prior to the Council’s consideration of the project. Also, a development of that size/height should always go to the Council.
12) What are your thoughts on the city’s approach to alternative transportation options downtown?
Aside from the bus transit system, people can travel via e-scooters, rickshaws, taxi, Uber or Lyft, walking, bicycling, and personal motor vehicles. So, there are variety of ways to travel to fit almost everyone’s preference and pocketbook.
12a) Is the city handling issues such as regulating e-scooter companies and building protected bike lanes the right way? Why or why not?
Bike lanes on some streets have not been built in safe places such as, the bike lane in a curve on Creech Road. A car driving in that curve will not see a cyclist until it is too late.
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?
No, for two reasons: 1) SB483 did not became law until July 1,2019 after the City Council passed the ordinance for Raleigh’s short-term rentals, which was on May 21, 2019; and, 2) if there had been a conflict, I am sure City Attorney Currin would have made the Council aware prior of this the vote to approve the ordinance.
13a) Do you believe the city’s policy is the best way to regulate Airbnb and other short-term rentals? Why or why not?
Yes, for one thing it prohibits whole house rentals so that the property owner or manager is onsite during the rental period, which is a protection against unruly guests and preserve the quality of life in the neighborhood.
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?
Yes, the Citizen Advisory Councils are one of the best options and the other is a neighborhood association. According to the city’s website, “CACs serve as a link between residents of Raleigh and City government.” Any Raleigh resident is “automatically are a member of a Citizens Advisory Council.” While all 19 CACs have open meetings a resident “can vote only at meetings of the CAC where [they] reside.” Hopefully, residents will eventually be able to view all CAC meetings via live streaming either over RTN if they chose or are not able to attend their CAC meeting.
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?
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, but hopefully the new Council will be more civil so it can be productive in addressing the serious issues that confront our city and especially those in District C.
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?
Yes, because I wrote and presented a framework-proposal to the City Council on November 20, 2018. The purpose of the Citizens Advisory Board is to strengthen relations between citizens and the police community. The Board’s primary objective will be system-focused. It calls for ongoing Crisis Intervention Training by NAMI so that officers have clearly defined boundaries of enforcement authority. The proposal also includes the citizens’ responsibility in understanding the RPD officers’ duties and functioning and the citizens’ role in interacting with officers. The Board includes a City Council member and an appointed city government liaison. It should be noted that professionals serving on the Board need to be versed on issues that arise in the city at-large. The Board representatives would be chosen by the City Council, the Human Relations Commission, and a non-profit organization. Its functioning power would be two-fold: (1) to examine the responsibilities of the RPD in their relationship with the community; and (2) to explore the responsibilities of citizens in their relationship with the RPD officers. As pertaining to its system-focused objective, the Board would examine, review, and make recommendations for updates/changes to the policies and procedures of the Raleigh Police Department (RPD), specifically, the training of new recruits and the ongoing training of veteran and ranking officers.
17a) Do you believe the city can or should challenge the state law that blocks access to certain police personnel records?
No, because if it becomes absolutely necessary for city officials, the Council and City Manager, to view police personnel records then the City Attorney will have to provide a judge with a legitimate reason for the inquiry in order to get a court order allowing for this action.
18) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.