Opinion

The N&O’s recommendations for Raleigh mayor and City Council

Decision day is here for Raleigh. The mayor’s seat is open and the other seven City Council seats are also up in Tuesday election. Which way will Raleigh choose to go?

We urge voters to support change and demand a more united and focused council. For more than a decade, Raleigh’s leaders effectively channeled a surge in population and development in ways that enhanced the city without fundamentally changing its character. But in recent years, the pressure of growth has created cracks. Among the most noticeable is a surge in housing costs that is making it hard for lower-income residents to find a home or apartment they can afford.

The pressure is also splitting established neighborhoods that are coping with infill construction, more multi-family and commercial construction and proposals for allowing backyard cottages and homes to be used for short-term rentals. Growth is making rush hour traffic worse and adding to such annoyances as a lack of free parking downtown or what to do about electric scooters.

Perhaps inevitably, the continuous and rising pressure of growth has also split the council. Some members are accused of favoring developers and allowing too many building projects. Others claim to be “smart growth” advocates, but they sometimes seem to be against anything that disrupts neighborhoods, an approach that denies the need to accommodate change.

There’s no way to unplug what’s bringing growth here — the climate, a relatively lower cost of living, an educated workforce, good schools and a growing culture of fine food and entertainment. What’s needed is a group of leaders who can — as past leaders have — use the city’s appeal to increase its tax base, its amenities and the quality of life for all — newcomers and longtime residents, the well off and the struggling.

Toward that end, we recommend candidates who would bring experienced leadership to the mayor’s role and fresh perspectives to the council. Our recommendations are:

For mayor, Mary-Ann Baldwin. After 10 years on the council, Baldwin, 62, did not seek re-election in 2017. She said the mood of the council has become “too toxic” and public service had stopped being enjoyable. But she has stayed involved in public life and is eager to lead a united and purposeful council. Hr experience, political skills and deep knowledge of city operations would make her a mayor well suited to this time Raleigh.

For at-large (vote for two): We recommend the re-election of Nicole Stewart, 37, a knowledgeable, even-tempered and progressive choice who is the prototype of a good council member. And we recommend Jonathan Melton, 33, a domestic law attorney who would bring both youth and an LGBTQ perspective to the council.

In District A covering central north Raleigh, we recommend Patrick Buffkin, 36, a staff attorney with the N.C. Utilities Commission.

In District B covering northeast Raleigh, our choice is Brian Fitzsimmons,36, a project manager.

In District C covering Southeast Raleigh, we support the re-election of Corey Branch, 41, an associate director-technology at AT&T.

In District D, covering southwest Raleigh, we recommend Brittany Bryan, 38, a regional manager for EBSCO publishing.

In District E, extending northwest from central Raleigh to RDU, we recommend David Knight, 51, a natural resources consultant.

Expectations are that voter turnout will be low on, but the stakes in this election are high. Vote for change.

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