Where do Cary candidates for mayor and contested Town Council seat stand on the issues?

Cary Mayor and town council District D candidates (left to right) Harold Weinbrecht, Beth Friedrich,Ya Liu, and Ken George courtesy of their campaigns. Election day in Cary is Oct. 8.
Cary Mayor and town council District D candidates (left to right) Harold Weinbrecht, Beth Friedrich,Ya Liu, and Ken George courtesy of their campaigns. Election day in Cary is Oct. 8. Weinbrecht, Friedrich, Liu, George

Candidates for the Cary mayor and District D town council seats recently answered questions for the upcoming election.

Cary’s municipal election is Oct. 8, and early voting started Sept. 18. Early voting runs through Oct. 4 and polls are open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

You can find your polling place at http://wakegov.com/elections. Don’t assume you’ll vote at the same place you voted in the last election; check the Wake County site’s list of recent changes.

We sent questionnaires to the candidates in the contested races.

As of Oct. 1, we have received responses from one of the two mayoral candidates and all three candidates for District D.

Dero-Asha Davis-Weeks and Harold Weinbrecht (Incumbent) are running for mayor.

The District D candidates are Beth Friedrich, Ken George (Incumbent) and Ya Liu.

1. Does Cary have an upper limit to how many people can live in the town?

Weinbrecht (Mayor): The council does not have legislative authority to limit or stop growth. Our decisions are mostly with the type of growth. Our authority also includes the ability to provide water, sewer, fire protection, police protection, and parks which are impacted by growth. With recent expansions, Cary has enough water and sewer capacity to handle population growth for at least the next decade. Our fire department is an ISO 1 which is very rare and allows our homeowners and businesses to get the lowest insurance rates. We are consistently ranked as one of the safest communities in the nation thanks to our police department. And our parks department was given the gold medal award which means they are number one in the country. We continue to focus on the impacts of growth.

Friedrich (District D): Yes. In 2019 Cary’s population hovers at about 166,000 people, and our town grows annually at just over 2% per year. As we come to an end of developable land in the town (as of 2017 only 18% of land in Cary was available for development) we should see a natural slowing of population growth over the next 20 years.

George (District D): There may be a virtual limit, yes, but only by the choice of what land holders want to do with their property. The council would have to consider rezoning for any land holder who asks, but within the framework of the Land Use Plan. If no one requests to build, or tear down and rebuild, then there would be a limit.

Liu (District D): My vision for Cary is a town with balanced growth. We must ensure that growth doesn’t overwhelm our infrastructure and doesn’t compromise the quality of life for current residents. Traffic and school overflow are two top issues. I will work with ALL stakeholders on creative solutions to balance growth and alleviate pressures on housing, transit, and schools. Our task will be working with citizens to use the 2040 Cary Community Plan and Imagine Cary as a blueprint and find if and where increased density fits in Cary.

2. Do you support the current redevelopment plan for the Cary Towne Center?

Weinbrecht (Mayor): The current development proposal for the Cary Towne Center is still evolving. So, it is too early to make a judgment call on the proposal. I, along with the rest of the council, have expressed many concerns which we hope are being addressed. Concerns include traffic, residential intensity, buffering of adjacent neighborhoods, vehicular flow, bike/ped safety, etc.

Friedrich (District D): Yes, but note that “current” plans are not “final” plans. The redevelopment of Cary Towne Center into a mixed-use development with ample green space is a good use of that large and mostly vacant property. All eyes will be on the Cary Towne Center as it goes through the redevelopment process, not only in Cary but across the Triangle. It will impact future policies and regulations surrounding redevelopment in the town going forward.

George (District D): Yes. I have met several times with the developer. It needs minor adjustments in my estimation, but they have received council feedback and will be coming back to us with changes. It’s complex with a “development agreement” that will be part of the zoning, which will have hundreds of conditions, with milestones to be met in each phase of development.

Liu (District D): Redevelopment and revitalization of our existing commercial land help to boost our economy and ease the growing pains in housing affordability in our town. We want to make sure our schools, transit, stormwater management, and environment are integrated in the redevelopment plan of Cary Towne Center. If elected, I would be excited to work with all stakeholders and involve public input in developing the Towne Center so that we can realize our goals of environmental sustainability and economic vibrance. We have an exciting opportunity ahead.

3. Should it be a priority to lower housing prices for first responders and others who serve Cary?

Weinbrecht (Mayor): Affordable housing is always a priority for Cary, but we must remember that the market controls the price. There are many ways to create affordable housing. Some of the most successful include partnering with public and private entities to reduce the cost which can be passed on. Cary continues to work for state and federal funding to help with housing which also reduces cost. In addition, we continue to look for ways to partner with Wake County and private developers. But to answer your question, affordable housing should be available to everyone including our amazing first responders.

Friedrich (District D): Yes, workforce housing is one of my priorities. Making homes more affordable for people that make our community work like firefighters, police officers, teachers, etc. is a request that I have heard from residents. Housing costs in Cary outpace the incomes of working families employed in Cary. Redevelopment of older commercial properties within Cary should be rezoned and developed as starter homes and family sized units to give our workforce options to live in Cary.

George (District D): Yes. The way to do that is to make sure that older neighborhoods are protected. If they get run down and are at risk, then cash buyers will scoop the houses up, upgrade them, flip them and make them unaffordable. We have a young policeman, 2 years on the force, who bought a house in Scottish Hills within the last 6 months. Single school teachers have done the same thing. These houses aren’t new, but they are affordable.

Liu (District D): Housing for our first responders is a key measuring stick for our ability to provide good housing options for our community. Our first responders do so much to ensure that Cary is one of the safest communities in the country, which means we have to give back to them. First responders and other critical public servants should be able to live in the communities they serve and we can ensure this happens by improving our entire town’s housing affordability by incentivizing developments that offer different housing price ranges, and by ensuring that first responder salaries are in step with Cary’s cost of living.

4. Does Cary need stronger tree-protection rules?

Weinbrecht (Mayor): Cary has some of strictest buffering and tree protection requirements in the state including a champion tree ordinance. In addition, we created a special tree advisory committee to come up with additional ways to protect our trees. Those recommendations include protecting and increasing our tree canopy. We will be voting on those recommendations soon. I want Cary to continue to be clean and forever green.

Friedrich (District D): Yes, we must work harder to protect and reestablish our tree canopy. We should create a forestry master plan, measuring the current status of Cary’s forests and then determining how to best maintain them by targeting invasive species and planting more storm and wind-resistant trees (primarily hardwoods).We could also look at doing a combined public/private commitment over a number of years to fund forest monitoring, restoration, planting, management and long-term maintenance.

George (District D): No, we have within the limits of the law, very strong rules for champion trees and clear cutting, but individual home owners that don’t have an HOA can do what they want, guaranteed by the US Constitution. HOA’s are governed by the STATE, so we have no say over their rules, nor their enforcement.

Liu (District D): Yes. Rapid growth over the last few decades has damaged our tree canopy. As a town, we must properly value the multitude of things that trees provide such as improved air quality, temperature regulation, and stormwater absorption. We must include tree-protection in rezoning negotiations during new construction projects and strategically protect critical parts of our canopy. We should also prioritize replanting programs to strengthen our canopy and include the community in our eco-friendly goals. I will closely work with Cary Environmental Advisory Board to implement the tree protection proposal.

5. Do you support developing places for children and teenagers to spend time?

Weinbrecht (Mayor): As I mentioned our parks department was ranked number one in the nation. They continue to look for ways to expand their programming for youth, seniors, and all those in between. The passing of the $112 million bond for parks would go a long way in meeting demand of our seniors and youth including creating an additional space which has been discussed by council and staff. Funding for this additional space would be the first obstacle we have to overcome.

Friedrich (District D): Yes, but there are already many such places and child/teen centered programs run by the Town of Cary.

George (District D): YES! We hope to work into the redevelopment of the mall a community center. This part of Cary has outgrown the Herb Young community center.

Liu (District D): Yes, I believe recreational places for our youth to connect, think, and play are essential parts of a strong community. I strongly support developing public places for children and teenagers. We must be intentional about policies and programs for our youth that include them in our town and foster their desire to learn. I support the parks bond and hope that it will allow us to expand our park services.

6. Does the Cary Town Council adequately represent the diversity of a town where 1 in 5 residents was not born in this country?

Weinbrecht (Mayor): About 10% of our population was born in Cary, which means most of us came from somewhere else. We are blessed to have over 60 nationalities represented by our citizens, which makes up about 20% of our population. I have said many times that it is only through mutual understanding and respect that we reach our true potential as a community. Cary values, embraces, and celebrates diversity with many cultural events throughout the year. Some of those events include Ritmo Latino, Diwali, the Jewish Cultural Festival, and Kwanzaa.

Friedrich (District D): No, and I find this to be a leading question. You are choosing to define diversity here by national origin only, and I believe that does a great disservice to those who currently serve on the council and those that are seeking to serve on it.

George (District D): Yes. The council represents the people of Cary through constant involvement. For me in particular, I chaired the Sister Cities Commission when Cary first had a foreign Sister City. I’ve lived in the Dominican Republic, speak Spanish and routinely mix with the Latino population, both in public events and in private home settings. My wife and I have 2 Colombian granddaughters, having spent nearly a month in Bogota this summer, experiencing their culture. That’s what it takes to represent people of other cultures.

Liu (District D): I absolutely think there is space for more diversity on the council. Cary’s cultural diversity is a cornerstone of what makes our economy and social fabric so vibrant. I believe it is critical that our council is reflective of that. When Secretary of State Elaine Marshall enthusiastically endorsed my candidacy, she emphasized the importance of a diverse governing body to reflect the town, helping to attract international and domestic businesses. I would be proud to represent our diverse community on the Cary Town Council.

7. Can Cary do more to reduce the reliance of automobiles as the primary way people get around town?

Weinbrecht (Mayor): There are many ways to reduce vehicle miles traveled. It can be done with multi modal transportation options including transit, bike, and pedestrian solutions. Planning developments where people can live work and play can also make a big difference. Cary has and will continue to do all these things.

Friedrich (District D): Yes, supporting Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is one way. I often take the bus to work but BRT will mean shorter and more frequent trips between Cary and downtown Raleigh and points in between. That will increase ridership around town. Also, Cary should construct recharging centers throughout the town to encourage electric vehicles.

George (District D): YES, and we are. The wake transit plan will bring Bus Rapid Transit and expanded routes to connect many of our citizens to employment and shopping areas. The new routes will serve the mall area and the Fenton Development in a big way.

Liu (District D): Yes, and we must. A better-connected transit system will boost businesses and make our community stronger and tighter. We need to support the efforts in Wake Transit Plan and transportation bond that allow us to provide better bus services. Second, we can find ways to connect high-density residential areas, bike lanes, and greenway paths, and commercial areas so that in the evening and on the weekend our citizens can easily use bikes to access friends, food, and entertainment. Reducing transportation carbon emissions is one of the main ways we can ensure Cary is environmentally sustainable.

8. Would you consider making Cary a dementia-friendly community and taking active steps to make the town a better place for aging residents and retirees?

Weinbrecht (Mayor): Cary will always consider anything within our authority to help any group of citizens. Please note that Cary is the oldest largest community in the state. Our senior citizens are and will continue to be very important to us.

Friedrich (District D): Yes, and it would make sense to take steps to put such an initiative forward now as Cary is a maturing community with more retirees seeking to move here every year (such is the case with my own parents who have also moved to Cary). Making Cary a dementia-friendly community would also assist the supporters and caregivers of those living with dementia. It would benefit our whole community.

George (District D): YES. I’ve experienced this with family members and working with town staff to consider a “family leave” plan to take care of aging parents is an important issue for me. Having lost both parents to cancer, one at age 47 and one at age 67, and my father-in-law at 66, we’ve not had the same issues as some, but I’m well aware of the pressures and needs of families with loved ones in this situation.

Liu (District D): Yes. This issue is very dear to my heart. Having spent over twenty years researching senior issues and publishing many articles in gerontology, I will work hard to increase community-based services for seniors that allow them to age in place and ensure there is a well-trained health workforce that provide quality care and services to our seniors. We also need to provide support to family caregivers who care for their loved ones with dementia.

Trent Brown covers the Town of Cary and other odds and ends. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019 and is a Collegiate Network fellow.