Name as it appears on the ballot: Gregg S Kunz
Full legal name, if different: Gregg Steven Kunz
Date of birth: 3.3.61
Home address: 800 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC, 27605
Mailing address, if different from home: 815 ½ West Johnson St. Raleigh, NC 27605
Campaign Web site: kunzformayor.blogspot.com
Occupation & employer: Entrepreneur
Home phone: 919 795 8325
1) What do you believe are the most important issues facing Raleigh? If elected, what are your top priorities in addressing those issues?
I am still trying to sort through all of the ‘issues’ and determine which ones impact all of Raleigh and its citizens and to then prioritize which ones we can address in the near term to resolve them and move on down the list. Everyone has issues and each is important to them, but we really need to understand the collective issues that impact our community and focus on the here and now rather than the ‘nice to haves’. At this point in time I think that we need to address the unemployment problem and understand that with some creativity and some sacrifices that we can jump-start employment without waiting for Stimulus monies to trickle down. We cannot afford to wait for help from the Federal government — clearly they have no plan and are throwing every quick fix out that they can. We require a strategy and a strategy cannot be developed in a week — I am working hard on this at present and hope that ‘Special Interest Groups’ will table their self-serving interests for a period of time and come to the table to work together, give a little to get us on track, and once done then they can return to what is in their members’ interests. If we get rid of the ‘me’ and focus on the ‘we’ I think that we can turn the tide locally, which after all is what this is about right?
2) What is there in your record as a public official or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be effective on the council? This might include career or community service; but please be specific about its relevance to this office.
I have no political experience and am beholden to no political party, no lobby, and no special interest groups. My experience is limited to 20 years in the corporate business world followed by 6 years as a small business founder, owner, and entrepreneur. I was born in California and have lived in Illinois, New Jersey, England, Arizona, New York, Connecticut, Minnesota, Georgia, and moved to North Carolina in 1999. I have been fortunate to travel around the world both for business, leisure, and taken my children out of school to travel around the world for 6 months as well. In short, I have seen our country from a resident, ex-patriot, and foreign perspective which affords me a unique view on just how great this country is and how far we have departed from where we were and were we need to return. My career in the corporate business world began at the bottom and concluded at the boardroom level which provided me with the experience and skill set to work with people from every type of background, education level, and socio-economic strata. This formal experience enables me to lead, mentor, and make progress in a team environment while keeping a set of objectives in clear site to reach the goals set before me. Being apolitical while politically astute allowed me to focus on personal growth through achievement, rather than blindly following the direction of ‘leaders’. As meritocracy in the corporate world began to wane my need to start my own business increased which led to my departure from the corporate world. Together with my former wife we founded a very successful business which provided me with a keen understanding of how difficult starting small business is but also the rewards that come with starting with nothing and building a future in collaboration with others on a team. It also provided an insight into the ‘system’ and the problems and challenges that a small business faces, as well as the impact on one’s family. Extremely difficult but rewarding as well. How is this relevant to this office? In order to be an effective leader you must lead — but not dictate, and use the resources available to make an impact. Short of resources?: work harder, work smarter, but do something. You must also be willing to make tough choices and make decisions that impact not only yourself and your family but the lives of others. I do not accept unwarranted recognition but give recognition where it is due. As a leader I am only as good as the team I surround myself with and my ability to ‘enable’ them rather than to ‘control’ them is tantamount to success — my success, their success, and the success of the people impacted by the actions we take. I am more prone to ask ‘why not’ than ‘why’ and am willing to take calculated risks once I consider the impact of my decisions. I think strategically but act tactically.
3) How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I believe that character, life experience, smarts, and a track record of achievement are stronger indicators of performance than party affiliations. I have never voted a ‘straight ticket’ and think that both mainstream parties have significant flaws. The parties’ self-created need to please everybody, especially special interests, has diluted the thought leadership and effectiveness of each party. When combined with the self-interests of the elected officials the concept of ‘public service’ loses all meaning. My political platform speaks for itself: I do not want financial support — I want people to vote with their heads for the betterment of our society, locally and nationally, and I embrace everything that America stands for. America is a country of immigrants which we forget sometimes. My life experiences outside of the US served to reinforce that the American Way of Life is the best — not always the correct way, but all things considered the best system that has ever, and will ever exist. Make no doubt, America, despite our enemies charges, has at its core a fundamental belief on the side of ‘right’. Visits to the battlefields soaked in American blood for the sake of liberty and freedom for other people continues to remind me that America is on the side of justice. If there is any doubt to this I would urge people to visit France, Belgium, anywhere in Europe, Southeast Asia, or the Middle East — people admire America and that we liberate people from oppression so that they can achieve their dreams. My platform is straightforward — remove the barriers to citizens rights to improve their lives and provide a voice of reason and common sense for ALL of the people: rich or poor, regardless of the color of the their skin or their personal belief knowing that all share one underlying set of values — the value of freedom and self determination. Our present government has and continues to fail us. They ask for ‘Hope’ when they should ‘Act’ and empower. They reward those who deceive us and stomp on the rights of individuals. They reinforce laziness and stifle the American Spirit. In short, my political philosophy is simple: the American people are the only ones I represent. At this point in time it is the citizens of Raleigh, ALL of the citizens.
4) Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
I am rather positive that every stand I take will cost me popularity with voters. The key though is to only piss off 49% of them to get elected and then to work diligently to see that their interests are still at the core of the decisions we make. I cannot possibly please every person on every issue — nor can anyone. I can make sure that I act in the best interests of as many people as possible at every juncture and remain true to our system so that everyone receives fair treatment and that sacrifice, as needed, is spread equally for the betterment of our community. Our needs differ from those of other communities — if they did not we would take our lead from a Politburo. And yes, I have seen firsthand the result of that path. The interesting thing is that those systems do not work. Saigon today looks more like New York City than you might think, as does Moscow. When any special interest takes over the majority it creates a two-tier system in which one dictates over the other. Only when equality and the opportunity for prosperity for all is THE SPECIAL INTEREST is the special interest really special.
5) What are the two or three most important program or policy initiatives you will champion if elected to the Raleigh Council? Or, to put it another way, how will your election change anything in Raleigh?
I hope to dig in and separate the clutter hiding the most important initiatives that we must address. I think that we focus on too many ‘issues’ and get hung up and inefficient on self interests to make meaningful and timely changes that address whatever the perceived issues are. Getting to the real issues is the first step. I think that the most pressing issue at hand is giving people hope that they can get ahead and that this economic situation can be turned around. But they need to understand that they must rely on themselves to affect this change. Waiting for the ‘government’ to create those changes is misguided: Hope is not the answer — action is the answer and I intend to show people that WE can improve our own situation which in turn will improve everyone’s situation. We need to focus on the big issues first. To the root of the question…I think we need to put police officers on the street in our low income neighborhoods. They have NOT improved in the past 10 years. If we establish a police presence in those areas we will reduce crime and the people will take back the neighborhoods. If we encourage and REALLY support business development by people outside and inside the local community then the community will begin to restore itself. If people have jobs they have more than hope — they have income and pride. If they have pride they will not tolerate crime and the destruction of their streets and neighborhoods. They will invest in their homes and be empowered to grow, prosper, and get their slice of the American Dream. Drive through those neighborhoods and see all the people sitting idly by doing nothing. I cannot accept that they want to just sit there — who is giving them any assistance? And by assistance I in no way mean more handouts, I mean a helping hand to help pull themselves up and some support from behind once they are up. If we create business opportunities we will create jobs and increase the tax base and be in a position to increase the compensation of our law enforcement and we can make a generally safe city and VERY safe city. I would also push for an amendment that would make the first degree murder of a law enforcement officer in the line of duty a capital offense and support the death penalty. If we place our officers in the line of fire to help our citizens and the citizens believe that we are serious then we will accelerate the change we so sorely need.
6) What can you point to in your record, on the Council or in community service, to demonstrate that you’ll be an effective city leader?
Absolutely nothing except my life experience, beliefs and willingness to work until the job gets done. A City leader leads for the people — not for any other interest. Simple, but perhaps forgotten?
7) Recent droughts have underlined Raleigh’s water problems. Growth could cause the city to run out. On the other hand, the city isn’t selling enough water to pay down the debt on its existing systems, resulting in rate increases. How should Raleigh deal with water in the coming years?
I am still trying to understand the entire situation but have not had the luxury of time to meet with the people who can explain the problem, courses of action to remedy the situation, and the associated costs. There is an answer and we will make a decision based on sound decision making. I did notice something odd this past winter during the driving rainstorm that preceded one of our snowfalls — not a huge thing but something that still intrigues me: I observed a team of Public Utility Workers sitting in their vehicle watching a fire hydrant shoot water into the street. I asked what they were doing and they explained that they were in the process of their annual flushing of the entire municipal water system. I asked how much water was being sent into the sewer system each day and how long it took to flush/drain the whole system. They figured it was about 50 million gallons per day and the process took about 3 or 4 months. I’m still trying to understand this and would expect that there is good reason for it but why not capture that water and treat it? If our astronauts are drinking water from their urine I think we can probably manage to provide a long term fix in short order.
8) Crime and gang problems plague some parts of the city. Is there more the Council should be doing to go after them?
See number 5 — go after them and take care of the problem with the full backing of the community. Put law enforcement where the problem is. If I have rats in my barn I don’t put a cat in the basement. Rudy Giuliani had the balls to take on Organized Crime in New York — ask our police officials if gangs are organized — they are, let’s enact some laws that enable us to tackle this problem. And please do not tell me that we cannot do this. WE make the laws and we have people smart enough in this city to do it.
9) Are new initiatives needed to address the city’s fast-growing Hispanic population? If so, what do you recommend?
I have a bit of a problem with this question but am sure that the way it is written is not the way it was intended (I hope). Are there old initiatives? Unless we are going to outlaw Hispanics we need to remove the label and call them members of the community who look different and speak differently. Golly, what if you replaced the word Hispanic with Black? This question really bothers me deeply. Stereotypes offend and insult me to be quite honest. Sorry but I cannot help but notice how hard the ‘Hispanic’ population seems to work. Are there issues that need to be addressed? I am sure that there are. I have seen firsthand that the children of this segment of the population go into our schools and after one year of school they speak English. If people have a problem with older ‘Hispanics’ not speaking English then simply set up places for volunteers to teach English. Or, require that all signage be in English. It does seem that the majority of municipal signage, signs in hospitals and in banks, etc are in Spanish and English so what message is being sent? The banks put the signs in English and Spanish for a reason — money — deposits. The barn door is open, let’s deal with it. I think this question needs to be refined without what I perceive as some bias (racism?) I have heard all the same complaints before — they should be forced to speak English. I have news for you — Grandpa Solomon, Guido, Pierre, Sven, Gus, or Abdul came to this country and may never have learned more than a few words of English and who complained? These peoples’ children are learning English and succeeding as productive members of society. If you want to address the ‘issue’ make every sign in English only. Don’t speak English? Tough, learn or don’t eat. Next question please.
10) Does Raleigh need better public transit services? (A lot better?) If yes, what specific steps do you advocate, and how would you pay for them?
I do not know the answer since I do not take public transportation because it does not take me from where I live to the multiple places I need to go every day. That said, now I know the answer — yes, we might need a better system but only if it can take me within walking distance of EVERYWHERE I need to go. If it does not then it just needs to take me to work. Move all offices to one location and have everyone commute to that area (unrealistic). Otherwise let’s not put money into a system or project until we know the answer. Want the answer at no charge? Let’s ask NCSU to have the appropriate department offer a class or set of collaborative intertwined classes to study the question and provide an answer. It will produce great results, add a real-life curriculum, and give us an accurate answer to the question and probably yield a set of potential answers to see if we actually have a problem.
11) Raleigh’s development fees (impact and capacity fees) are the lowest in the region, meaning that current residents shoulder the lion’s share of the cost of growth, not developers or newcomers. Should these fees be increased, and if so, by how much?
This is a great but complex question. I do not have a simple answer as the Home Builder’s Association will tell you (based on my candidate screening last week). I will say that it needs to be fully explored and people will need to collaborate and be willing to bend for the greater good. I will dig into this and make it a priority as it is important obviously.
12) Raleigh’s never required developers to include affordable housing (however “affordable” might be defined) as a condition for approval of tall buildings or big subdivisions? Should it? If so, what rules should apply?
Not to dodge the question or to be obtuse but in a free market society if a developer purchases a parcel and meets local ordinances then they should be able to build whatever they want. If they make the investment then they should be able to realize the fruits (profits) of their work. If they build crap or miscalculate the market and they cannot sell the product tough luck. However, once someone explains what affordable really means and if we really need and want it then let’s designate some areas in Raleigh where we will build this type of housing. Please do not tell me we do not have the land available as the Raleigh Regional Association of Realtors told me during my candidate screening interview which was conducted so that they could ‘endorse’ a candidate who met the ‘needs’ of their members. And yes, I do not expect their endorsement — seems I’m making friends with all the Special Interest Groups eh?
13) What’s the best thing about the proposed comprehensive plan for Raleigh? What’s the worst thing? As it stands, would you vote to adopt it or insist on changes first?
I’m still working through the first 90 pages — I thought I was almost done but came to learn that it is over 300 pages. I’ll find the time to read it and comment but as I stated before we have some very pressing issues that we need to address first.
14) Public schools are a county, not city function. Should the city nonetheless act to assist the schools, and if so, in what ways?
Yes, we should be involved — let’s see what the School Board comes up with and be a vocal part of the process. Let’s work together to help make our schools the best in the nation.
15) Raleigh’s form of governmentstrong manager, weak council and mayorcombined with the fact that almost all city meetings are held during daytime hours, have the effect of limiting the extent to which average citizens can participate in government decisions. Is this a problem, in your view? If so, what changes should be made? Is this a priority for you?
I really do not know the right answer but if it has worked for 100 years then perhaps it is fine. Has it? I would say that meetings should be held when people can attend them, so that would suggest conducting them in the evening. Does the public want a stronger council? If so, let’s provide more power. But, if you want a strong council then you need to provide appropriate compensation for those on the council including the Mayor. But, I can assure you that this is not my priority — I am not looking to be a 5-term Mayor so I will not focus on increased compensation for myself. One thing is for certain: even if the Mayor has little power he has a voice and will be heard if he chooses to open his mouth. Be assured, if elected I will use my voice to be heard and, I will be heard.
16) Two years ago, the Indy asked every council candidate if s/he would support extending to same-sex partners the same benefits (e.g., health insurance) on the same basis that they are now offered to the spouses of city employees. Virtually everyone said yes, but to date nothing’s been done. Is it time?
Yes, it is time to do it already. Then we can take it off the list of issues bordering on discrimination and move on to the issues that really matter. That was easy. Let’s vote on it on Day One.