The names are familiar but the talking points have changed.
Nancy McFarlane and Bob Weltzin are squaring off in Raleigh’s mayoral race for the second time since 2013, when McFarlane won a second term with 72 percent of the vote.
Weltzin, a Republican chiropractor who lives in North Raleigh, that year criticized the city’s spending on arts and parks, saying it needed to divert more to roads, police and fire, while cutting taxes.
He still touts those ideas, but thinks he’ll garner more support this time because he opposes two City Council moves that have generated pushback from some residents and business owners.
McFarlane, a politically-unaffiliated pharmacy owner who lives off Lassiter Mill Road just inside the Beltline, says most people are happy with the city’s growth and quality of life.
Weltzin opposes sidewalk drinking rules imposed in August that require downtown bars and restaurants to stop serving food and alcohol on public sidewalks at midnight Sunday through Thursday and at 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights.
He’s also against the city’s effort to apply new development zones on nearly a third of properties throughout the city. The zones dictate which types of development can be built, from low-density housing to office space, retail and high-density housing. Proposed zones aim to maintain the character of most properties, while enabling a wider variety of development in some areas.
Many Southeast Raleigh residents fear the new zones will increase their property values, driving their taxes up and ultimately pushing them out, Weltzin said, while the sidewalk drinking rules hurt downtown business owners.
“They don’t know how to take care of people. Period,” Weltzin said, referring to the mayor and City Council members.
McFarlane stands by the sidewalk rules, saying they clear downtown walking paths and make it less likely that pedestrians will walk in the streets.
“As I go around the city and talk to people in other districts, that’s not their biggest issue,” she said. “It was a public safety issue and we had to address it.”
McFarlane admits the city could have done a better job of explaining the rezoning process to residents, but says Weltzin is exaggerating the effects of the new zones.
“We followed up with everyone who’s spoken publicly,” she said. “Once people’s concerns were heard, and they heard what’s really going on, it alleviated a lot of fears.”
She dismissed Weltzin’s assertion that the city neglects its infrastructure, citing a recently-launched sewer line assessment and replacement program.
The city invests in the arts and recreation because they are vital to attracting businesses to Raleigh, McFarlane said. The city’s acquisition of Dix Park from the state is one of her proudest accomplishments. She thinks it could be one of the city’s defining features.
“I’ve had consultants from around the world call me,” she said. “We want this to be something that nobody else has.”
Her goals of designing the park, along with opening the Union Station transit hub in downtown Raleigh’s warehouse district in 2017, are two of the biggest reasons she’s running for a third term.
But her highest priority is passing a countywide transportation plan, which the city and county could fund with a referendum next November. She hopes a combination of expanded bus and rail service will reduce traffic, aid workers who depend on public transportation and stimulate the economy.
“Right now the most important thing is getting a plan on the ground so we can get started,” she said. “We need to connect to the Triangle.”
Weltzin accuses McFarlane and the City Council of chasing “shiny new things” to the detriment of basic services.
“We need to do the small things right first because we start dreaming the big dreams,” he said.
He claims that Raleigh’s property taxes are too high and the $34,200 a year starting pay for police officers is too low.
“They’re at least 10 percent lower than they should be,” he said of the salaries.
McFarlane questions how Weltzin would lower taxes while increasing spending on roads and raising salaries for some city workers.
“Do I have a set plan right now? No I don’t,” Weltzin said. “I believe you need to sit down and talk with everyone in the community.
“Until I can go through and take a look at everything we’re spending money on, I don’t have a definitive answer.”
Entering September, Weltzin had $50,000 less campaign cash than McFarlane. But he thinks his anti-establishment platform can lead to a victory.
“I’m not a multi-millionaire like our current mayor, so I’ve got to work a little harder,” he said.
McFarlane, meanwhile, points to the city’s accolades and her own campaign successes as evidence most people think she’s leading the city well.
Nonetheless, she’s still campaigning hard.
“I never take anything for granted,” she said.
Robert “Bob” Weltzin
Born: May 13, 1969
Birth place: Waterloo, Iowa
Occupation: chiropractor, Captain in the Army Reserve
Political experience: none
Education: BS and doctor of chiropractic from Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa
Born: July 20, 1956
Birth place: Washington, D.C.
Occupation: Pharmacist, pharmaceutical company owner
Political experience: Elected Mayor in 2011, 2013
Elected as Council member representing District A: 2007, 2009
Education: BS in Pharmacy from the Medical College of Virginia, now known as Virginia Commonwealth University