Mary-Ann Baldwin: mayoral candidate questionnaire answers

Read below for mayoral candidate Mary-Ann Baldwin’s answers to the Raleighites Agenda. See all the available mayoral candidates answers here.

The Raleighites Agenda, a community-powered questionnaire, includes questions from Raleigh residents. For more details 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?

My vision is to create a City of “Progress, Innovation and Compassion.” What do I mean by that? We need to move our city forward on urgent issues such as housing affordability and transit, encourage a culture of innovation that rewards new ideas instead of fearing them, and care for those members of our community who are most vulnerable.

First, we need to take urgent action on the issue of housing affordability. Please see “10 Ways the City Can Encourage Housing Affordability” on my website: http://www.maryannforraleigh.com/housing-affordability.

Second, we need a culture change within the Council and our government to encourage innovation and new ideas. I would suggest we start an innovation fund to reward employees who bring forward ideas that create government efficiency and save taxpayer dollars. It’s also important to look at ways to support our start up community – perhaps by being a beta customer or providing them with a front door to government. Most importantly, we need to recognize that what worked 10 or 20 years ago may not work today. We need to be bold and brave.

And finally, we need to look at ways we can stem generational poverty and uplift people in our community. Housing is part of the solution, but so is reliable transportation, access to jobs, workforce training, and educational opportunity. The new Southeast Raleigh YMCA’s promise-built community is the perfect example of innovative ways we can do this. With a YMCA, elementary school and affordable housing on campus, this collaborative effort between the public and private sector is sure to change lives.

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?

Walkable urban communities that offer opportunity to all residents should be our ultimate goal when talking about future development. This means density, especially on transit corridors and future bus rapid transit lines. But it also means a mix of uses so people can walk or bike to a grocery store, restaurants, movie theater or retail. Density along transit lines is a must to alleviate congestion. But encouraging “gentle” density (such as accessory dwelling units, also known as granny flats) and missing middle housing (duplexes, triplexes, quads, cottage courts) also helps to create walkable communities without major impact on infrastructure and at no cost to taxpayers.

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?

The arts and our creative community play a critical role in Raleigh’s economy, complementing our tech community in ways that make our city unique. First, I think we need to encourage a culture that rewards innovation and risk-taking. Second, I would ask our Arts Commission to conduct a survey to determine the needs of our artists and creatives beyond “cheap studio space” and look for ways to encourage collaboration. Third, we need to promote the arts as an economic driver and work with non-profit partners and others to help build the brand.

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?

Please see answers to Questions 1 and 2 above.

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?

When I was on the City Council, we initiated programs to encourage locally-owned businesses to open in downtown. The Building Upfit Grant provides up to $25,000 in funds to small businesses to update, renovate or expand a retail space (the exceptions are bars and breweries). The city also offers Façade Rehabilitation Grants, as well as Impact Partner Grants, which are focused on innovators, entrepreneurs and small businesses with an emphasis on underrepresented entrepreneurs. All of these grants are designed to support our small business community.

The City also partners with the Downtown Raleigh Alliance to attract, promote and retain small businesses in downtown, and advocate for small business needs.

A barrier that prevents small businesses from opening in downtown and other districts (such as Person Street) is our Unified Development Ordinance. Currently, small businesses must incur extensive costs and work through onerous regulations due to the “change in use” policy in the UDO. Without getting into the weeds, let’s use Scott Crawford’s Jolie restaurant as an example. He had to go through an extensive process that required a site plan review and an appearance before the Board of Adjustment, which added cost and created delays. We need to change this policy and streamline the process to encourage small businesses and entrepreneurs to open in Raleigh.

Mary-Ann Baldwin is a candidate for Raleigh mayor. Her campaign website is maryannforraleigh.com

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