Name as it appears on the ballot: Ms. Stormie Denise Forte
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: Stormie4Raleigh.com
Occupation & employer: Attorney/Self
Years lived in Raleigh: 51
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 City of Raleigh is experiencing a tremendous amount of growth. Frequently, Raleigh is listed as top destination for companies and people that want to relocate. That is truly a positive quality. However, that is also creating some challenges in some communities. There has to be space to accommodate our new residents, while we have to respect the investments other long term residents have made in the City. There has to be a balanced approach as it relates to growth.
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.
Affordable Housing which includes an escalating homelessness crisis, improving the transit system to make it more efficient and reliable, and ensuring the city’s infrastructure is keeping pace with the rapid growth we are experiencing are the three most pressing issues the city is facing.
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 am currently serving on the City Council in District D. I am also licensed as an attorney and real estate agent, as well as being certified as a mediator and an Ombudsman. I have demonstrated the ability to advocate for issues that are important to my constituents.
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.
Density immediately along public transportation corridors is an effective method to address the housing shortage and is a good opportunity to increase the affordable housing stock. Certainly providing affordable housing in spaces where people can easily access public transportation would be beneficial for people who want or need to be able to move around the city without owning a car.
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?
Yes we should put another Affordable Housing Bond before the voters. As I move around the city, the housing crisis is the number one issue voters discuss with me. People are very concerned about housing affordability across many income levels. Additionally, the escalating homelessness crisis is also a concern that people raise. We must be able to find ways to bring more stable and safe housing units into the market to accommodate our neighbors who desperately need it. The bond should be at least $250 million. While the city does not directly construct housing, the proceeds from the bond would be used to provide support and partnerships with non profit organizations and development firms that focus exclusively on low income affordable housing.
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?
Property owners have the right to teardown existing homes and build something else in its place. Neighbors often hope that the new structure would blend in with the existing community. The city may have the authority to implement policies to regulate teardowns, however, I am not certain a regulation for this issue is necessary at this time.
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?
I am supportive of the opportunity to have gentle, transitional density in neighborhoods. It is an effective way to increase the housing supply. Having more apartments along major transit corridors and bus routes is helpful to folks who want or need to use public transportation as their primary means of travel around the city. There have been some occasions where discussions between the existing community and those constructing the new projects would have been beneficial. Certainly, establishing policies to facilitate those conversations in hopes some consensus can be achieved, moving forward is vital.
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?
There is growing concern regarding large companies and investment firms being in the market place and precluding prospective homeowners from purchasing homes. I absolutely believe small, local investors should have unfettered opportunities to acquire homes for the purpose of renting them to other members of our community. However, I would like to see some limits placed on the large national companies acquiring homes and creating challenges for folks who want to become homeowners and have the opportunity to live, work and play in the City of Raleigh.
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?
Being a native of Raleigh and having grown up in Southeast Raleigh, I have seen the changes first hand for the area. Many folks have requested the City of Raleigh work towards implementing policies such as assisting senior citizens and people with disabilities by establishing a program to stabilize homeowners taxes especially in areas that have experienced unprecedented gentrification and displacement over the past 10 years. The city continues to explore whether such a program can be implemented and if so, how to fund it.
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?
The City of Raleigh is like most other employers, in that we are currently competing for top talent to fill our vacancies I am very much a proponent of people being able to live, work and play in the same community. Certainly, implementing policies to increase the housing supply across various income levels and having dense projects in spaces that make sense is one thing we can do to attract more public servants to the area. Working with the city manager to explore ways to increase salaries and provide other incentives for city employees is another tool we can use to attract and retain the best public servants.
11. Do you support the city council’s decision to eliminate parking minimums for developers? Why or why not?
Overall the decision to remove parking minimums would provide more opportunities for housing. Removing the parking minimus does not mean development will not have parking spaces. Often, market demands will keep a parking spaces in the plans for new construction. However, projects located along major transportation corridors will have the opportunity to increase density in areas where it makes sense.
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 have had the opportunity to discuss CACs with people who support them, as well as people who attended their meetings and believed CACs needed to be revamped to generate more participation. The City of Raleigh has established an Office of Community Engagement as well as a Community Engagement Board. The board is comprised of a diverse group of citizens from across the city. They will be working to identify strategies for inclusive forms of community engagement that the the city can adopt and implement moving forward. Certainly, the goal is to find methods that will be convenient and increase participation by as many citizens as possible.
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 City established a Police Advisory Board which active and meeting regularly meeting. The ACORNS unit is a vital part of the Raleigh Police Department. It may beneficial to increase marketing efforts to make the public aware of their existence. Also it may be necessary to review internal policies to ensure they are included in mental health crisis situations. I believe the police budget should be supported. We need to continue to explore ways to get the department fully staffed to serve our growing community.
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?
The city has to continue to find ways to make the transit system more efficient to increase ridership. Improved frequency and reliability will hopefully will be one factor for more people to use public transportation. The addition of commuter will provide unprecedented connectivity for the citizens of Raleigh throughout the entire Triangle region. We should continue to examine ways to improve all of infrastructure, including transit systems.
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?
The city has made substantial investments in the downtown corridor to attract more foot traffic in the area. There have also been quite a few festivals that have occurred downtown that have been supported by the city. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance has received funding from for several programs designed to draw more people to the downtown corridor.
16. Do you support Raleigh’s $275 million parks bond on the ballot this fall? Why or why not?
Yes. I initially had reservations regarding the Parks bond based on the challenges we are experiencing with a need for Affordable Housing and solving the escalating issue of homelessness. However, I have had an opportunity to have extensive conversations with people who have used the park spaces more frequently over the past few years especially during the pandemic. These people have expressed how vital access to the parks were to them during times when there were limitations on their ability to socialize and be connected to other people. Additionally, there are people who support the bond because many parks that have been historically underfunded that will receive many necessary improvements.
17. If there is anything else you would like to address, please do so here.
My background includes being a certified Rehabilitation Counselor, a mediator, Ombudsperson, consultant and attorney. I always look for consensus in contentious situations. I do believe people have a right to express their opinion to me, even if I do not agree with their perspective. I do my best to be present, active and engaged in various sectors of our city and I look forward to being able to represent all of the residents of Raleigh.
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