The most heated City Council race this year is in North Raleigh’s District A, where two military veterans are facing off in a contest that’s seen heavy fundraising and plenty of attacks.
Wayne Maiorano, an attorney and political newcomer, is challenging incumbent Randy Stagner as he seeks a second term representing the district. Maiorano has frequently criticized Stagner and the current council for firing the city manager and creating a “culture of interference” in city hall’s day-to-day affairs. Stagner has fired back, stressing his successes in the district and pointing to Maiorano’s connections to developers.
Maiorano, a former U.S. Marine, has a slight lead in fundraising heading toward the Oct. 8 election, when all Raleigh City Council seats and the mayor’s post will go before voters. In campaign finance statements released three weeks ago, Maiorano has raised $50,394. Stagner’s total was $38,225, though much of it has come from a $20,000 loan he provided his campaign.
Maiorano says he decided to run after reading about the council’s decision to fire longtime City Manager Russell Allen – and a tense email exchange between Stagner and Allen about the council’s reserved parking spaces. Stagner has said the parking discussion had nothing to do with the firing, though it prompted him to call for a discussion of Allen’s “future with the city,” according to email records.
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“What that said to me was we lack good, thoughtful leadership,” Maiorano said.
For his part, Stagner – a retired Army colonel – has labeled the race as “neighborhoods versus developers,” noting that Maiorano’s firm, Smith Anderson, often represents development interests, and a number of local developers are supporting the challenger’s campaign.
“Because he is a partner with a law firm that works for developers, he will have to recuse himself when his law firm is before the council,” Stagner said. “That means his district will not be represented.”
Maiorano says he takes issue with the idea that developers and neighborhoods are competing interests. “Why are we talking about fighting instead of collaborating?” he asked, adding that his service on the city’s Appearance Commission shows he’s pushed for smart growth. He also pointed out that Stagner was among the council members who voted for his appointment to that board.
“I’ve been an outspoken advocate against bad design and bad development,” Maiorano said.
Maiorano’s campaign has also taken aim at the current council’s decision to keep the city manager search behind closed doors. He thinks other stakeholders – neighborhood leaders, former mayors and local government managers – should have been included in the process.
“We have a truncated process that we’re going to do in two months” while Wake County’s current manager search will be a more extensive search lasting seven months, Maiorano said. “It breeds suspicion, confusion and lack of confidence.”
Stagner, however, paints a far different picture of the city manager search after interviewing four finalists last week.
“I don’t think it could have gone any better,” Stagner said, adding that the closed process made qualified candidates feel more comfortable about applying. “We were told by three out of the four candidates that had this been an open process, they wouldn’t have come.”
The two candidates have differing approaches to issues like greenway safety as well. Maiorano wants to put more police officers on bicycles to patrol the city’s extensive greenway system.
But Stagner says he’s already improved greenway safety by helping to start the greenway volunteer program. More than 60 trained volunteers now serve as the “eyes and ears” of the police department on the greenways, he said.
Stagner’s campaign has touted the program as one of his first-term successes. He’s also highlighting his efforts toward the rebuilding of pothole-ridden Sandy Forks Road, getting a new stoplight installed at Lead Mine and Bridgeport roads, and giving neighborhoods more input into new developments.
He says he’s quick to respond to all neighborhood concerns. “The most rewarding part of my job is constituent service,” he said.
Stagner has also focused his first term on infrastructure, utility and water quality issues. He points to runoff problems that occasionally flood North Raleigh roads during heavy rains.
“The biggest problem that we’ve had in the city is our infrastructure and paying for it in a sensible manner,” he said, noting that he supported a study mapping the age and location of every water and sewer pipe in Raleigh. He has also served as the city’s representative on the Upper Neuse River Basin Association.
Maiorano has his own list of issues to address if elected. He wants the council to better scrutinize its annual budget to ensure tax dollars are spent effectively – and to avoid another scandal like the missing money at the city-funded Raleigh Business and Technology Center, which is currently under investigation.
“We should ask, ‘Are we paying for a core city service?’” he said.
Maiorano joins the current council members in backing the $75 million transportation bond, and he says it’s important to plan for growth and future transportation needs. He wants to adapt the greenway system to serve as a transportation artery, taking people from place to place.
Maiorano also wants to the city to better brand itself as it seeks further growth. “What are we going to be best known for?” he asked.