George Knott: mayoral candidate questionnaire answers

Read below for mayoral candidate George Knott’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 for the future Raleigh is a Raleigh that is fair, just, and equitable for all of it’s citizens.  Unfortunately the past 20 years Raleigh has been incentivizing growth downtown, that growth displaces lifelong residents forcing them from their homes as their neighborhoods gentrify, housing prices soar and affordable housing is torn down to be replaced by million dollar condos in high rise apartments.  Raleigh currently has a 56,000 unit deficit of affordable housing and that number is growing. The displaced residents end up in the suburbs or county far from their jobs and far from the social services that downtowns traditionally provided them. They enter a downward spiral of poverty and many end up homeless.  In 2017 Raleigh had 4,200 homeless; in 2018 we had 5,500, an increase of 1,300, or 4 Raleigh residents per day. We are the ONLY city in North Carolina with an increasing homeless population. As the trend continues we are well over 6,000 homeless people as you read this today. The county only has 300 beds (225 in a shelter for men and they are working on a 75 bed shelter for women) but county beds aren’t the solution to homelessness.  The solution starts with safe and stable housing but there is no safe and stable housing for our working citizens much less our homeless citizens. Raleigh is in the midst of a housing crisis and an homeless crisis that is driven by our city incentivizing huge corporations to move into our city core.

My plan?  First and foremost, stop paying cash and giving tax breaks to million and sometimes billion dollar corporations to move downtown.  In 20 years we are going to look like San Francisco with Nuevo Rich and developers at the top, no middle class and massive poverty. 

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?

Raleigh’s downtown proper is a 6 block by 6 block grid.  Most streets are 2 lane and buildings are built right up to the road so there is no room for widening streets.  Our city doesn’t have the bones to support the density we have downtown. Never did, never will. 

Raleigh became a city of sprawl decades ago so we will never give up on our cars.  I only live 8 miles north of downtown and the nearest bus stop to me is exactly 1 mile from my front door.  The further out you go the more expensive it becomes to make bus stops accessible. A light rail that serves the city is an impossibility, the topography of Raleigh is inhospitable to rail and I am dubious of the BRT system the other candidates push simply because of our sprawl and the exponential cost of access as you travel out from downtown.  We have built to far out and thin on the one hand, and far too dense in the center on the other. We are at the same time Icarus who has flown too close to the sun and at the same time never getting off the ground. 

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?

People accuse me of being in the arts.  I play the double bass for a living. I’ve done it for 20 years.  I am not an artist. I am a small business owner who exchanges a skill for payment.  I’ll never be rich, but it’s a living and every cent I have ever earned I have earned.  I have never taken a grant, hand-out, stipend or any financial reward for anything but work done. 

Every art is first a craft and not all craft is profitable.  If your craft is not profitable it is a hobby; if it is profitable it is a job.  I’m not sure exactly how that makes it any different from any other freelance job out there.  I provide a service, I negotiate compensation for that service and I pay taxes like everyone else. 

As long as there are Raleigh citizens living on the street, families who can’t afford safe housing and hungry children in our schools the talk of subsidizing the arts should be the end of conversation.  The WPA made great contributions with governments funded arts programs but we are not in the same climate by a long shot. Until we can get our city in order, artists have to make it on their own. That means they have to produce a commercially viable product, it means they will have to take commissions they don’t want, it means they will have to hustle for work.  Just like every other freelance job out there. 

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?

Raleigh in 20 years will mirror San Francisco if we stay on the same path of corporate welfare and chasing growth at by all means available.   There is one script, one destination. We are speeding towards end stage capitalism. My big idea is nothing new. I believe a government’s main job is to help its citizens, and particularly the most needy citizens that the free market ignores.  This doesn’t mean a hand out, this means though civil projects, municipal job creation, education and job training and help with housing. Rather than focus on the most vulnerable and impoverished in our society our city acts as an agent for the already wealthy to become even richer.  When we incentivize growth and choose to invest in million and billion dollar companies to move into our city core, we superheat our problems of inequality, we create a class divide and drive the mechanism that has lead us into this housing crisis. Our housing crisis and incentivized growth are two sides of the same coin; you can’t feed one without feeding the other.   Raleigh will still grow if we don’t shovel tax dollars into the top and hope it trickles down. It won’t grow as fast and it won’t be easy but the consequences of growing the way we have been are far too heavy a burden to shoulder. 

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?

There is no way to stop locally owned shops from being swallowed up.  Capitalism is ruthless and brutal and it makes no quarter for sentimentality.  I could fill a book with shops and stores that were owned, operated, and run by Raleigh resident that have been overtaken by chains or simply bulldozed for condos.  This is classic third stage gentrification; and by the third stage it is quite too late to intervene. 

Of course, on the other hand, Raleigh has grown massively in our downtown over the last 20 years; and the companies that come to our downtown import their own workforce.  People who live downtown by and large are not from Raleigh, and if we don’t seem to mind filling up our downtown with transplants why would we care about keeping our locally owned shops?  Who is there to care? Who even remembers Yates Garage or Sadlacks, or Pine State, or the Mordecai Dress Shop, or Finches, or the Bear Alignment shop or, well, I think I’m just going on and on for my own sake now.  It’s hard to be a stranger in your own city.

George Knott is a candidate for mayor. Find his website at george4raleigh.com.

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