Read the candidates’ questionnaires.

The renaissances of Raleigh and Durham largely have been sparked by revitalized downtowns. Streets are busy and energetic, which inspires small business owners to open restaurants and shops.

Cary officials, realizing that thriving cities have vibrant downtowns, are re-envisioning the town’s center, historically a place where the sidewalks roll up at 5 o’clock. The Imagine Cary initiative has received thousands of comments and ideas from citizens. Meanwhile, the town has built a downtown arts center and renovated a movie theater (that, council members point out, has cost twice as much as projected$3 million over budget).

With the suburbs almost fullthey comprise nearly three-quarters of Cary’s housingrebuilding downtown in a cost-effective way will be a major task of the next council.

This fall there are two contested races, District A and C; incumbent Ed Yerha is running unopposed for the at-large seat.

District A

Jennifer Robinson has represented northwest Cary since 1999. We’ve not endorsed her because of her many pro-development votes. However, this year, due in part to Robinson’s going out on a limb to support a vote on the half-cent transit taxlikely a controversial stance in Carywe’re going out on a limb and endorsing her.

Robinson, a Republican, has served on 12 town committees, including the planning and zoning board and the tree preservation task force. In her questionnaire, she listed as a priority revising town ordinances to pursuing additional land banking to set aside acreage for preservation.

She envisions downtown as a place with free parking and light rail, and limited impervious surfaces (pavement): “I think we should avoid surface parking, sterile or bland architecture with no interest to pedestrians and long, empty spaces between buildings that discourage people to walk.”

We do like Karl Thor, who received the endorsement of the Capital Area Sierra Club. In the mid-2000s, he was a major force in the (unfortunately losing) fight against the town’s massive developments on the corner of Davis Drive and High House Road. His environmental stances are admirable. However, he opposes the transit tax and school busing, which helps achieve diversity. News reports have quoted him as saying he didn’t decide to run for town council until three days before the filing period ended. We think a decision of this magnitude should be made more thoughtfully. He is registered as unaffiliated.

District C

We’ve endorsed Jack Smith, a moderate Republican, three times, and we endorse him again for the 2013 election. If elected, Smith, a former U.S. Army captain, would be in his seventh term.

His has received key appointments, including the RDU Noise Abatement Committee, an important post considering planes often arrive over Cary and Morrisville. Smith also represents Cary on the Wake County Economic Development Commission and at the Greater Raleigh Convention & Visitors Bureau.

We are encouraged by his previous support for a Schools Adequate Public Facilities ordinance, which requires council to approve developments only if Wake County schools can accommodate the additional students. He also is sensitive to environmental issues and has supported reclaimed water programs in Cary.

Deborah King Pugh, who is unaffiiated, is challenging Smith, although “challenging” would be a stretch. We couldn’t find a campaign website or even a Facebook page. We see no indication she is running a legitimate campaign.

District C includes much of south Cary.