Name as it appears on the ballot: Terrance “Truth” Ruth
Party affiliation: Democrat
Campaign website: truth4raleigh.com
Occupation & employer: Professor at NC State University
Years lived in Raleigh: Eight 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?
Trust in government is the cornerstone of all democracy, and Raleigh’s citizens have had no reason to place their trust in the council these last three years. Changes must be made immediately, and I would commit to a series of comprehensive reforms that would make every aspect of our city’s government more accessible and transparent. From creating restrictions on secret votes to establishing a new system for relaying information to the public and press, everything that can be repaired to restore confidence must be done immediately. Never again should Raleigh residents have to see their council members as inaccessible figures who govern behind closed doors. The public must have a front-row seat to every action the council chooses to take, and should be involved and heard at every step in the process. Complete transparency is my commitment, and I promise each resident of Raleigh that I will work to earn the trust of every household, organization, and individual who calls this city home.
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.
Raleigh is currently one of the fastest-growing cities in our nation, but all of the growth in the world means nothing if it means making it less affordable to live here. We’ve watched as changes presented as solutions to unaffordable housing resulted in rising rents in low-income areas. It seems backward to have an affordable housing solution play a part in displacing longtime residents and contributors to our environment as a city. With inflation becoming a stark reality for many people’s pockets, it is time to reconsider how to ensure that Raleigh is affordable at all.
Raleigh has distinct southern ecological greenspaces. Greenspace is critical to maintaining quality of life, and it should be done so not just in parks like Dorthea Dix, but across the city. We are one of twenty-five cities in the world in the Biophilic network. The resources and information surrounding environmentally enriching growth can be better leveraged. Plans considering corrections needed when facing foreseen erosion, falling tree canopy coverage, etc. would benefit us in the short and long term. Proactive measures like incentivizing building in predetermined areas, ensuring safe water access for all residents, requiring non-clear-cutting practices; and working to preserve forests, urban green spaces, and landscape buffers all can and should be implemented.
It’s no secret large groups of constituents feel excluded from processes and decisions affecting Raleigh’s cost of living. Remaining informed about one’s neighborhood and the future security of a family’s current home should not be a major time commitment. Residents are working multiple jobs when working within or for their city used to yield a living wage. There are fewer waking hours at home due to increasing workloads, and yet it takes longer to find information about changes affecting residents or find ways to make one’s voice heard to an unavailable city council.
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’m not a career politician, but rather an advocate and academic who believes that Raleigh needs change. Throughout my career, I’ve served as the director or president of several non-profits in the Raleigh area. I was proud to be the executive director of the North Carolina NAACP a few years ago, and I have fought for change in the area through the positions I have held. I’ve done this while working as a Wake County principal and now as a professor at NC State. I have led throughout my life, and in talking with any person who has ever worked with me, you will hear that I listen and value a system that is led from the bottom up. I will always encourage input and will evolve not based on personal ideology, but based on what works best.
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.
Raleigh’s current model for growth relies on an ailing city transit system and places those in need of more cost-effective housing at a situational disadvantage. By segregating new affordable housing into limited stretches of land in certain neighborhoods, the city is advocating for the creation of poor, isolated neighborhoods. Research suggests that these constructed areas receive worse schooling, fewer infrastructural improvements, and end up financially overlooked. Far better models of development include constructing housing 3 in neighborhoods of varying wealth and income, near areas with prevalent food access, and in easily walkable locations.
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?
The Raleigh housing bond was a critical effort that was greatly squandered. While housing stock is increasing, it is not increasing relative to local population growth, and all income brackets are facing housing shortages. As a result, more individuals who grapple with housing insecurity are being forced out of existing homes and quickly become reliant on public housing. With a severe deficit in locally operated affordable housing units, homelessness will increase in the next decade unless significant steps are taken. Additionally, much of the existing housing being built is concentrated in areas of the city that are under-invested in, as the council continues to overlook Raleigh’s struggling neighborhoods. The city has options that it is not using. While a bond is one of them, the city can use public land to create more housing at significantly lower rates and create tax-relief programs to encourage long-term home ownership, so families don’t find themselves unable to stay in privately owned houses because they can’t keep up with rising rent prices. Far more can and should be done, and while a bond should be seriously considered, it is not the first step that can or should be taken.
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?
With few exceptions, North Carolina state law does not allow localities such as Raleigh to determine when properties may be demolished, and which homes can be rebuilt when they are of the same building type that the lot is zoned for. The state legislature codified G.S. 160D-702(b) in 2015 which allows local governments to limit building height, bulk, and location on a lot, but it must be done narrowly and is not meant to be applied on a massive scale. And additional restrictions cannot be applied unless all owners of lots in a development voluntarily consent to them. As a result, it is incredibly hard in our state to regulate this practice, and steps taken by the city would often be met with legal challenges. That said, historic districts can and often should be granted greater protections, and some neighborhoods near downtown that have historically been home to more affordable single-family homes could be shielded from the development of large buildings that create harm to property values.
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?
The current iteration of the city’s ‘Missing Middle’ policy has been poorly developed, explained, and implemented. The plan has been used to bypass most public comment and cater new portions of the city to the wishes of developers. Raleigh has a significant housing problem, but the construction of high-price townhomes and apartment buildings in single-family two-story neighborhoods does nothing to reduce burdensome housing costs and will wreak havoc on infrastructure and transit. Adapting current homes into duplexes should be encouraged in many areas, and efforts to increase housing density are necessary and should be pursued without the construction of apartments and foreboding townhomes in inappropriate areas.
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?
Property-purchases from first time buyers have dropped from 40% to 27% nationwide since 2020, and investors are buying almost 50% more properties now than this time two years ago. In Raleigh where home prices are rapidly increasing, speculators buy property hoping to rent or sell the units fast. Minorities are targeted by investors, who often tear down existing affordable homes to erect new modern houses. North Carolina state court decisions like City of Wilmington v. Hill (2008) bar city governments from deciding if companies can buy properties or if units can be rented, meaning investors have broad autonomy. That said, I support the efforts of private neighborhood boards who wish to try policies like ‘one-year occupancy rules’ which mandate new homeowners live in their properties for a full year before renting them. We must also zone neighborhoods in a way that lots cannot be torn down and replaced with large multi-unit buildings without comprehensive city planning, particularly in historically minority neighborhoods.
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?
Homeownership in Raleigh is becoming increasingly difficult, as renters in the city watch their monthly rates climb and see house prices rise, making dreams of buying a home inaccessible. City programs have done little to help. Only five individuals who were eligible for the Raleigh Homebuyers Assistance Program managed to purchase a house in the first half of 2022. As thousands of people find themselves struggling to stay in Raleigh as cost of living increases, the city must do more to expand programs to subsidize housing for more people than ever before. The city should massively expand subsidies available to 5 low-income households, and develop a tax relief program and a longtime homeowner grant like those created in Durham County. Housing stock must also increase, and using the city’s massive swaths of underutilized land, public-private partnerships should be extensively pursued to provide city-managed affordable options across the city.
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?
City wages in all essential departments should be raised across the board as currently municipal employees can be paid less than $14 an hour, 25% less than the local statistical livable wage. It is important to encourage the zoning of more cost-accessible units and allow lower and middle-income Raleigh residents to stay in the city by adding affordable housing. Tax-relief programs and housing stipends for public employees would allow our teachers, wage workers, and firefighters to live in desirable neighborhoods, and make our city less segregated by income.
11. Do you support the city council’s decision to eliminate parking minimums for developers? Why or why not?
Parking minimums have been proven to encourage car-centric transportation and can lead to the creation of massive urban heat islands to accommodate the traffic of just a few days a year. Buildings are often more spread out making walking more difficult, like in suburban shopping districts where massive parking lots encourage personal vehicles. They are also detrimental to storm-water runoff, as can be seen in Crabtree Valley where water is unable to penetrate the asphalt. However, in circumstances including the construction of downtown residences, on-site parking is vital to ensuring city street parking and parking garages are not overtaxed, and some parking requirements are important in these cases.
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?
Public opinion has been suppressed and rendered inaccessible since the council hastily pulled funding from local forums of public discourse. To gain more public input and ensure greater transparency, well-funded and supported councils or committees should be recreated in a way that will guarantee the greatest amount of accessibility and diversity of voices. Upon a proper review of the city and the presentation of various plans, these forums must be brought back in the best manner available.
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 6 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 last three years have brought about legitimate concerns about the application and enforcement of city ordinances relating to policing and enforcement. RPD has made attempts to restore community trust which should be supported, and the department cannot be entirely blamed for attempting to enforce poorly developed mayoral ordinances. However, various events have created doubt about the department’s commitment to reform. Much more must be done to prove to residents, particularly those groups who have historically been targeted by local police, that the department is committed to improving and acting in the best interest of residents. The Raleigh Police Advisory Board should be abolished and recreated with significantly greater investigatory powers and community rebuilding efforts led by the council should facilitate the restoration of public trust. The police department’s annual budget increased by $8 million over the last five years, and concerns over issues of equity, bias, and dysfunction remain. RPD needs and should receive funding for salaries so Raleigh’s own resident officers don’t leave the city for higher-paying offers elsewhere. However, other money would be better spent on public health programs like those established in Denver and Houston which can reduce crime and improve relationships between police departments and residents.
14. Raleigh has made strides on transit in the last several years. Bus fares are free and construction of new Bus Rapid Transit routes are 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?
While transit must be improved and should connect Raleigh to the county and the region, current plans for rapid transit and light rail are limited and would only be accessible for those traveling to a few areas, rarely including low-income neighborhoods. Without improvements, numerous bus changes will still be required, diminishing the value of rapid transit. In the three years of the current council’s term, rail plans have remained dormant, and should be reevaluated to determine feasibility. More funding is urgently needed to expand critical lines of transit to ensure that Raleigh decreases its car dependency and road taxation.
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?
Encouraging networks of walkable attractions and businesses is critical to encouraging Raleigh residents to come downtown. Allowing for more outdoor restaurant spaces, public 7 art installations, and pop-up street markets and fairs can help to create a culture of downtown entertainment which will keep people coming back. The city should also work to recruit and host more outdoor festivals and urban events which see residents spending their money at local small businesses.
16. Do you support Raleigh’s $275 million parks bond on the ballot this fall? Why or why not?
Many of Raleigh’s neighborhood parks are in desperate need of repair, but few are included as major parts of the plan. Instead, tens of millions are being allotted for downtown parks, primarily accessible to the city’s top income bracket. Given existing projects in these parks are wildly over budget and behind schedule, potential bond money raised by the city should be devoted to critical issues like housing and transit, helping Raleigh’s residents who are most in need of the city’s support.
17. If there is anything else you would like to address, please do so here.
The city of Raleigh sits at a unique point in history where it has the power to decide its future. As the city grows rapidly, we are presented with both opportunities and enormous challenges. For residents who are being pushed out, often from multi-generational homes, or are forced to leave their neighborhoods as they’ve gotten too expensive, this time is one of loss and sorrow. But this does not have to be the case. As a central hub for development, industry, and academia, I myself have found that some of this change brings the possibility of positive growth. With a larger tax base and a thriving business community, we have a chance to use the resources we have been given to help all Raleigh residents in every neighborhood. Through the proper creation of community-focused programs, we can become an example city in the South, and for the nation, but to do so, we have to put every resident first, no matter their race, background, or income.
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