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James Bledsoe: at-large candidate questionnaire answers

IMPORTANT NOTE: Raleigh Convergence is no longer publishing, as of April 1, 2022. Read more.

Read below for at-large Raleigh City Council candidate James Bledsoe’s answers to the Raleighites Agenda. See the at-large candidates’ answers here.

The Raleighites Agenda, a community-powered questionnaire, includes questions from Raleigh residents. For more questions on the process, visit this post.

QUESTION 1:  For at-large and mayoral candidates: What is your vision for the future of the city? (What will Raleigh look like in 10-20 years?) Once in office, what actions will be your priority to achieve that vision? 

I expect Raleigh to be much denser in 10 years. We will have gotten ahead of our housing supply shortage by allowing multifamily housing to be constructed all over the city along with ADUs in a few backyards. We will have created a walkable and rideable city by having protected bike lanes for cyclists and scooters, sidewalks everywhere for pedestrians. Our small businesses that once operated out of vehicles will have opened shops or gotten larger along with the success of our AirBnB owners who took advantage of our increasing tourism. Our first responders are near full staffing and are paid well enough that the majority can live in the city. 
I plan to put forth this vision of growth by first expanding our housing options and allowing ADUs & a great deal of housing supply to be built through upzoning, the removal of height restrictions on apartments, & through the removal of overlays which also restrict the growth potential of many areas of the city. To improve our infrastructure, I would lower fees from e-scooters from $300 to $100, remove the secondary insurance to allow competition to return, and then use the fees to pay for protected bike lanes and new sidewalks. To allow our small businesses and startups to grow, I would remove many of the regulations that limit their activity and operation. To capitalize of our record tourism from 2018 forward, I would enact modest rules on whole home rentals to include: minimum distance between rentals, annual record keeping fee, & quarterly inspection fee. Use the collected fees to hire code enforcement and to pay off city debts. To pay our First Responders I would enact the Bledsoe Pay Plan found on electjamesbledsoe.com that many fire fighters have blessed off on. 

QUESTION 2: What’s the impact on traffic of the rapid high-rise development in downtown, and what are you doing to avoid the gridlock we’re seeing too often? How would you improve walkability, especially in the urban core? 

We have to create a walkable and rideable city and that means getting people out of their cars and onto the sidewalks, bikes, or scooters. Right now, we have council members fighting against putting sidewalks in where people are walking on streets or through wood lines, it’s utterly asinine. If we are going to put our money where our mouth is about fighting carbon emissions then we have to put an end to voting in these councilors. We need sidewalks all over the city, that shouldn’t need to be discussed any further than getting someone from a to b on a path for pedestrians. When it comes to improving mobility and avoiding gridlock, we need to have a rideable city too. We have painted bike lanes in the city and sometimes just a sign, if that. That does nothing to prevent a car from parking or swerving into a bike lane. Bollards and delineators are the way to go here. They are cheap and easy to install and provide a barrier between car and bike lanes. Getting this protection would allow cyclists and scooter riders a safer place to ride and get many off the streets and sidewalks where cars and pedestrians have incidents with them. We have a means of paying for it too without raising taxes. Lower the scooter fees, remove the secondary insurance, & get competition going between e-scooter companies. Once that happens, we use those fees to pay for this upgrade. Provide safe places for people to walk and ride as well as promoting BRT, and you’ll see less gridlock. 

QUESTION 3: According to the Arts & Economic Impact Study 5, the nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in Raleigh generated $532 million in economic activity, representing 95% of the total activity for Wake County in fiscal year 2015.  The creative economy also supports over 8,00 full-time equivalent jobs in Raleigh and generates $26 million in tax revenue for local government.   

What is your vision for the arts and the role they would play in Raleigh’s overall economic development strategy? 

I have limited knowledge in this field so I would hold any recommendations for any change, if needed at all, until city staff or experts gave their input. If we have the ability to stably increase support for the arts to generate more revenue and jobs, then by all means let’s do it. 

QUESTION 4: What is your vision for Raleigh 20 years from now? Development will happen whether you support it or not — so what is next? What is the big idea? What is YOUR big idea? 

My vision is to bring Raleigh up to speed with tech innovations. 5G services will be big for the next 10 years and deployment of this platform won’t come the way we expect it to. I’ve spoken with Verizon and AT&T, they have many different ways they will bring the service here as well as installing a separate service band for our first responders so emergency services will still be able to communicate during cell tower over use. I want Raleigh to pioneer negative emission technology implementation as well solar and wind. These don’t have to be ugly projects; we can couple the arts with this tech to make beautiful and productive energy generators. We also need to look into AI technologies and how they may help our city in any way possible. The world is changing, Raleigh has to keep up. 

QUESTION 5: With rising costs for parking and rent, what will you do to help keep independent, locally-owned shops in downtown Raleigh from being swallowed up by larger chains? 

As I’ve stated before, we have to remove many of the restrictions placed on our small business as well as offer similar incentives to not only keep them here but to also get more startups and entrepreneurs to see Raleigh as a fertile business opportunity. America is about to enter another industrial revolution through 5G and AI implementation in nearly everything we see and use. We need to be prepared for that event by making sure our ordinances, infrastructure, and zoning don’t conflict with that. As a member of the Army Corps of Engineers, we cannot delay in this else we fall further behind other cities in NC and the USA. We need an adequate housing supply which is where ADUs and multifamily housing comes in. We also need to stop increasing taxes and fees for residents and business owners alike. Every time we do, the cost of living gets higher and higher. I will work closer with our city staff and local businesses to see how we can increase revenue through collaboration and by hosting e-town halls each month so everyone can voice their opinion in real time. 

James Bledsoe is an at-large candidate for Raleigh City Council. You may visit his campaign website at electjamesbledsoe.com.

Author: raleighconvergence

Sarah Day Owen Wiskirchen is the editor of Raleigh Convergence.

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