Phone Number: 984-200-8716 (campaign office)
Email Address: Charles@francisforraleigh.com
Years Lived in Raleigh: 40+
1) Between gentrification in historic neighborhoods and expensive rentals downtown, Raleigh has struggled with questions of affordable and workforce housing. In June, the city council set a goal of fifty-seven hundred more affordable units over the next decade. With burgeoning growth and rising housing prices, what additional steps should Raleigh take to create more affordable housing?
Affordable housing primarily consists of three programs – Housing that is administered by public housing authorities, naturally occurring affordable housing, and low-income tax credit housing. I have a deep familiarity with Raleigh Housing Authority programs, having served as General Counsel to RHA since 1995. That experience and knowledge are invaluable in working to save and promote affordable housing.
The government cannot solve the housing issue alone. We should explore loan programs administered by the City and funded by banks and private philanthropy to help owners renovate and upgrade older properties in exchange for placing income restrictions and rent restrictions that maintain affordability for a period of years. As Mayor, I will aggressively pursue the construction of tax credit housing all over Raleigh including areas where the current city scattered site policy prohibits such construction. The city should also contribute or buy down the cost of land for tax credit deals since land is one of the largest costs of development.
2) Related to affordable housing (and affordability in general) is viable public transportation. What steps can the city take to improve mass transit throughout the city? County voters approved a transit referendum last fall that will eventually create a bus rapid transit system and commuter rail line. What more should be done?
Investment in public transportation goes beyond bond packages. The citizens of Raleigh need to have faith in our existing transit system. Our current mayor stated earlier this year that the citizens of Raleigh would wait 18 months before a new bus can arrive on our streets. Working families need help today and cannot wait longer to solve our transit problems. We must work to get our residents to their locations faster, and our citizens should be more informed about transit opportunities. Increased availability and better technology are paths forward and should coincide with any regional rail lines that are a part of long term planning.
3.) Given the inflamed racial tensions after the recent events in Charlottesville, what steps should Raleigh take to position itself as a guardian of social justice? How would you characterize city leaders’ relationship with Raleigh’s communities of color, and what should be done to improve that relationship going forward?
Raleigh can do better for communities of color. The issue is not simply a black and white issue; this is an all people of Raleigh issue. We must include and accept the diversity that makes Raleigh great, and the membership of our city council should reflect the diversity of Raleigh.
The shooting of Akiel Denkins, an unarmed man in Southeast Raleigh, gave pause to many people across Raleigh that despite the high ratings we receive in various publications, we have real issues to address in our backyard. Racial tensions were high, law enforcement trust questioned, and revealed ignored issues of discontent.
Unity within our community helps us in times of tragedy, like the Denkins shooting, but leadership should happen without the occurrence of a senseless death. Raleigh needs a leader that will be honest and forth coming about improving our relationship with communities of color. I will be that leader as Mayor, not because I am black, but because this city lacks the leadership at City Hall to tackle the tough problems directly and without cause.
In relations to Charlottesville, the chaos, injury, and death caused by hateful agitators were a tragic but predictable consequence of their actions. As one city and one nation, we must support the victims of terrorism and forcefully reject all efforts to make America hate again. As a nation, we can do better.
Now is the time for all southerners and all Americans to speak and act forcefully against monuments to terror, the resurgence of hate and the equivocation and hesitation on the part of so-called leaders in Washington. Raleigh must lead in promoting diversity and inclusion and standing against hate. We shouldn’t pretend it couldn’t happen here. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
4.) Given the recent creation of the community engagement board, what do you believe the role of citizens advisory councils should be? What features and levels of involvement do you want to see incorporated into the new structure?
I believe in strengthening our Citizen Advisory Councils, and making sure they have a critical voice on land-use issues facing our city. When two opposing sides find common ground, they often find the best decision through compromise. Raleigh cannot make progress if we allow the highest bidder to make all the decisions for the best interests of their neighbors and not allow them to have input or recourse.
5) Thinking about the current direction of Raleigh city government, would you say things are generally on the right course? If not, what specific changes you will advocate if elected?
The cultural revitalization of downtown Raleigh is on the course with attracting interests that reflect the diversity of Raleigh. These efforts are less to do with the government taking credit for such events and more the citizens asking for more entertainment options. We can further improve downtown and other areas of Raleigh by bringing together small business leaders to help find ways increase storefronts and sustain more local businesses.
6) If you are a candidate for a district seat, please identity your priorities for improvements in the district if you’re elected. If you are an at-large or mayoral candidate, please identify the three most pressing issues the city faces and how you will address them.
I believe that improving the quality of life for our citizens with access to housing, managing the consequences of the city’s growth in easing traffic congestion, and recruiting good jobs are the most important issues facing Raleigh in the coming years.
Improving the quality of life of our citizens with access to housing is our most pressing need. Affordable housing is not solely through a lens that factors the calculation of the poverty line. We have people in Raleigh who work 40-hour jobs who cannot live inside of our city limits because they cannot afford the rent. We have seniors who have lived their best days being pushed out due to rising property taxes or building owners who are looking to increase profit margins with a change in clientele. We have leadership at City Hall that is satisfied with increasing affordable housing units by the dozens instead of by the hundreds. As mayor, I will have real fiscal planning that coincides with public and private partnerships that focus on this crisis.
In addressing the traffic issues of our city, acknowledging we have a marketing problem is the first step toward earning public trust. Light rail services are the way of the future, but we currently lack a real timeline as to when they will solve our immediate needs. City leaders must act now to add additional buses to existing routes, use technology to help citizens know when mass transit options are in their area, and explore ways to become more efficient.
With respect to jobs, I will champion the job recruitment and retention efforts of our city. Recruiting good jobs goes beyond giving tax breaks to new comers to our area. The city’s leadership should embrace the existing small business community and ask what ways can the government get out of the way of increasing growth and creating more jobs. As mayor, I will recruit and retain jobs from companies near and far, increase the relationships we have with our existing business community, and reduce the city governance red tape that stifles growth.
7) What in your public or professional career shows your ability to be an effective member of the city council? If you’ve identified specific issues above, what in your record has prepared you to deal with them?
My 28 years in the practice of law have prepared me. In that time I’ve seen that often the only way to bring about positive change is to engage issues with direct and decisive intent. In doing so, I have won justice for everyday people in large settlements and judgments.
The breadth of my experiences in Raleigh from the Mini Parks and community centers to the boardrooms and drawing rooms and my experiences around the country and the world have helped to prepare me.
My faith prepares me. My optimism that Raleigh can go from good to great prepares me. We Can Do Better. I am prepared to lead Raleigh to the next level as Mayor. 8) Please give an example of an action by the city council in the past year that went wrong or should have been handled differently. Also, what was the city’s biggest accomplishment during that period?
I know Raleigh can do better and we can start by acknowledging that Raleigh is wasting money to request additional studies for budgetary decision. Our first responders and other city employees deserved a pay increase and $250,000 of taxpayer monies to determine the level of pay increases is not good government. We should have competent city management that can access such a situation and not participate in such frivolous spending. 9) How do you identify yourself to others in terms of your political philosophy? For example, do you tell people you’re a conservative, a moderate, a progressive, a libertarian?
I am a Jim Hunt Democrat. I believe we must increase social mobility. We must listen to our business leaders for information on how to bring more jobs to our city. I believe in including diverse opinions to attract support from a broad range of people.
10) Now that the city is moving ahead with plans for the 306-acre Dorothea Dix Park, what are some specific features or focuses you’d work to see as part of final design?
I would like to see more citizen involvement beyond individuals who live near Dix Park. If Dix Park is the Central Park of Raleigh for the people of the city, then we must hear from regular residents who live beyond the downtown corridor. Small business leaders should be a part of the discussion as to what they would like to see commercially at Dix. These leaders must be a part conversation on the growth and opportunity for local businesses at the park.