Whoever wins the election Tuesday, Raleigh’s mayor faces some unique challenges.
Incumbent Mayor Nancy McFarlane, who is seeking her fourth term, says the city is on a good path and needs to stay there, while challengers Charles Francis and Paul Fitts say they want to take different approaches.
The mayor will be sworn in Dec. 1. Here are five issues he or she will face and where each candidate stands.
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Raleigh is an increasingly expensive place to live, which makes it tough for low- and moderate-income families. The cost of land has risen, prompting developers to tear down many homes and replace them with more-expensive houses. The City Council has approved a 1 cent property-tax increase that is expected to generate nearly $6 million a year for affordable housing.
Fitts: The city should not take an active role in the housing market. But it should streamline the approval process for new development, which could lead to cost-savings for developers that could benefit residents.
Francis: Raleigh should spend more money to increase the number of city-owned affordable-housing units. It should use low-income tax credits to encourage developers to build more affordable housing, and it should also allow for more-dense growth outside of downtown.
McFarlane: The city should offer incentives to developers to make building affordable housing a sweeter deal. When considering affordable housing, it’s important to also consider access to public transportation.
Raleigh expects to have 600,000 residents by 2035 and is considered one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States. That means more traffic and an additional strain on infrastructure. The Union Station downtown transit hub is set to open next year.
Fitts: The city needs to focus on improving roads and updating water and sewer lines.
Francis: The city should stop spending so much money on things like parks and downtown revitalization and focus on public transit and social services, such as mental health care.
McFarlane: Good planning is key, and the city needs to focus on public transportation to ease traffic woes as Raleigh continues to grow.
Raleigh spent $52 million to buy the roughly 300-acre Dix Park site off of Western Boulevard near downtown from the state. Now city leaders and a committee that is leading plans for the park hope it will become a “destination” that draws visitors from throughout the region. The mayor serves on the committee.
Fitts: Dix Park was an unnecessary purchase for the city, and it shouldn’t spend any more money on it.
Francis: He has criticized the amount of money spent for the project and has not made the park a focus of his campaign.
McFarlane: She considers the negotiations to buy the site her greatest accomplishment as mayor, and she hopes to stay in office to be part of the planning process. She says she’s open to ideas for the future of the park and hopes to keep some of the old buildings in place.
Citizen advisory councils
McFarlane came under fire this summer for considering a proposal that would have restructured the role of the city’s 19 citizen advisory councils in rezoning and development decisions. Currently, the city requires developers to present plans to CACs, and some residents said they worried changes would limit their power to shape their own neighborhoods.
Fitts: Citizen advisory councils are important, and he supports their existing role. He says residents are best-equipped to know what’s best for the neighborhoods where they live.
Francis: CACs are a necessary check on the city and developers, particularly in Southeast Raleigh, where redevelopment and construction are most likely to result in the depletion of existing affordable housing.
McFarlane: CACs are important, and her goal in suggesting changes was to make the groups more efficient and to engage more residents. As Raleigh grows, she says it’s becoming harder for the city to communicate with residents about things like development proposals.
City leaders want to tear down City Hall on Hargett Street and build a $165 million government complex. The existing building isn’t big enough to house all city workers, so employees are spread across several properties.
Fitts: The city should not pursue this project at all.
Francis: He calls the project the “Taj Mahal City Hall,” and he opposes it. He says the city should use the money instead to fund affordable-housing units.
McFarlane: City government would be efficient if all workers were in the same place. Raleigh would make money from selling some of the property it owns, and it would also make money from leasing office and commercial space at a new complex.
Gargan: 919-829-4807; @hgargan