George Knott isn’t going to be Raleigh’s mayor.

The upright bass player and self-described malanthrope says he doesn’t want the job. But he’s running anyway. His campaign—such as it is without fundraising—falls somewhere between a protest and a joke, centered on antipathy toward high-rises and downtown development and hatred of bike lanes and leaf blowers.

There are, to be fair, a few other points of interest, too: a proposed ordinance banning discrimination against LGBTQ people, eliminating the Hillsborough Street roundabouts, abandoning the restrictions on ADUs, and somehow purchasing the remnants of the Durham-Orange light rail line on the cheap.

What the hell. George Knott filed his paperwork, so he gets ten minutes to tell us why he’s kinda-sorta running for mayor. 

INDY: You call yourself an impossible candidate in the mayoral race. You’ve raised no money and don’t plan to, Your tagline is, “He’s not the only mayoral candidate that doesn’t care about you, but he’s the only one who will come out and say it.” Where did that come from? 

GEORGE KNOTT: I’ve got a theory that anybody who actually wants to run for political office has some sort of a pathological condition. I don’t want to run. I don’t want to be mayor. I’m running for reasons other than me actually wanting to be mayor. I am a malanthrope. I don’t—I love humanity. I don’t like people. I will fight for people who are the underdog, people who are, who have been treated ill by society, but don’t show me pictures of your grandkids. 

So what are the reasons that you’re running, then? 

When Nancy [McFarlane] announced that she wasn’t seeking reelection, I knew there would be the potential for great change to happen. And when some of the other candidates started announcing, the change that I was hoping we would have an option for is not there. 

What change was that? 

People have called me an anti-growth candidate. I’m not anti-growth. I wished Raleigh had been growing organically. I think it would have grown organically. I think that [Charles] Meeker was one of our greatest mayors, and I think that he really set us on the path that, where we could have become an amazing city on our own. But what’s happened since him is, our policies as a city have been to subsidize corporations to come downtown. What happens is we’ll give cash incentives or we’ll give tax abatements and we’ll have these huge companies move downtown and they create jobs, but they don’t create jobs for people who live here. So you get these high-paying jobs, you get new people, they want to live downtown. And it’s, what happens is, you know, like, you know, housing, existing housing gets bought up and torn down and redeveloped. Existing house, the price goes up, [so] you and I, as taxpayers in Raleigh, you’re paying money to subsidize million- and billion-dollar companies to bring in people to raise the price of real estate beyond the point where we can even live here. I think it’s criminal. And I would like somebody to come out and say that. I think that every problem every one of the other candidates talks about, they’re all serious problems. There’s not one thing they’re talking about, that’s trivial, but I think almost all of them can be traced directly back to our government subsidizing big business. 

But every city offers businesses incentives. And a lot of people who are moving to Raleigh aren’t moving for these tech companies. You say you’re not anti-growth, but some of your policies don’t really read that way. Like, what is this about rolling back lax guidelines in the unified development ordinance? 

The first time I looked at that code, there were things like if you tore down a building, the building that you put up couldn’t be any taller than the average of the roof lines. And now it’s not there anymore. There’s like setbacks for these buildings. We have these high-rises that come almost right up to the street. I don’t know when they redid it, five or ten years ago, and the way that the city’s changing, it just doesn’t, it doesn’t feel right. It’s a means toward the wrong end. 

But cities grow and change. I mean, what’s the alternative to growth? 

Um, that’s a good question. And, I mean, that’s a good point.

And people are coming here because there are things about Raleigh that are attractive. 

Well, for now. The path we’re on there’s a definite outcome. Like we’re on a path and we’re either gonna end up like San Francisco or we’re gonna end up like Detroit, and there’s no middle ground. And the thing is people who work for a living, it doesn’t matter where we end up ’cause we won’t be able to afford it. 

So another one of your platforms is you want to get rid of some of the bike lanes downtown and ban e-scooters. What’s with that?

If you ride a bike on the street, you should ride a bike on the street. The traditional downtown, six by six blocks square, and a lot of the streets are two-lane streets. And on some of the streets, you have the choice between parking and a bike lane. You go to some of the places where there’s smaller businesses that have been here for years, for decades, and they don’t have parking lots. They rely on street parking. Of course, the city wants them gone and for high-rises to come up with high-dollar tax income. I think if you ride a bike, you should ride it on the street, and if you ride a scooter you shouldn’t ride a scooter.

But if you ride a bike, you are encouraging more people to use alternative transportation and that helps alleviate the parking issues. 

You know what else would it help eliminate parking issues? It’s not putting all these high-rises downtown. 

Where should we put the high-rises? 

The bones of Raleigh cannot support what we are allowing to happen.

What do you mean by “the bones of Raleigh”? 

Like the two-lane streets everywhere. This development on Peace and Capital Boulevard. Capital’s four-lane and how many hundreds of people do we expect to put there with their hundreds of cars?

So you’re against growth—you’re against height, basically. Because if not downtown, then where?

We opened up Research Triangle Park in 1957, and we’ve got the space out there to have really nice big industry. Of course, it’s not sexy to have a big tech company out in RTP anymore. It’s real sexy to have it downtown. 

But I mean, those high-rises aren’t just holding businesses; they also have residential units, places for people to live where they can walk to their job or use public transportation. And the alternative to building up is urban sprawl, which has a lot of environmental consequences. And that also exacerbates our traffic issues. 

And that’s true. I mean, I guess there’s no way around it. 

I wanted to get to one of your other ideas: banning leaf blowers. 

Oh, I hate them. I grew up in North Raleigh, and now I live in Midtown, and I didn’t move. Raleigh moved around me. You wake up Saturday morning, it’s nothing but leaf blowers just all over the place. And it’s not only the noise—I mean, leaf blowers are horrible for your yard. Then again, yards of grass are pretty negligent. I wish that everybody would just have a natural lawn, but that’s just me personally. I am proud to have a very brown yard. 

Are your neighbors proud of that? 

I live in the suburbs so I don’t talk to my neighbors. That’s another artifact of living in the twenty-first century. Nobody knows each other. 

Another one of your priorities would be getting rid of red-light cameras. 

Oh yeah, sure. So if you run a red light and a police officer stops you, what’s the first thing they ask for?

Your driver’s license.

Yeah. You know why? So they know who committed the offense. But a red-light camera, they send a ticket to your car and then, because you own the car, you are obligated to pay that ticket. I don’t think that’s— I’m not a lawyer, I’m just a bass player—I don’t think that should be legal. 

So you hate people, you hate politics, you’re not raising any money, and you don’t think you’re going to win. 

That’s true. But I do think that what I’m talking about is, it might not be the most important, but it should be part of the conversation. Believe it or not, I’ve gotten a lot of traction from people who’ve lived here for a while, or people who work for a living. You know, people who don’t reap the benefits of having an enormous downtown. So, I don’t know. All I would ask your readers: Every single candidate has a website, and please look at every single one of them because that’s really the most important thing.

Editor’s note: The INDY has previously interviewed Raleigh mayoral candidates Mary-Ann Baldwin, Caroline Sullivan, Charles Francis, and Zainab Baloch

Contact staff writer Leigh Tauss at 

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