Name as it appears on the ballot: Allan Polak
Full legal name, if different:
Date of birth: September 6, 1978
Home address: 1613 Valley Run, Durham, NC 27707
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign Web site: www.allanpolak.com
Occupation & employer: Self-employed/NOAH IT, LLC
Home phone: 919-593-2202
Work phone: 919-593-2202
1) What do you believe are the most important issues facing Durham? If elected, what are your top priorities in addressing those issues?
I believe Durham faces 3 critical issues, namely:
a. Crime - While it is true that Durham's crime statistics are better than those of many similarly sized cities, Durham must address issues of public safety in an increasingly more aggressive manner. From auto and home burglaries to gang violence and murders, crime is a reality in Durham and it must be reduced. As a member of the City Council, I would work with Durham law enforcement to identify successful crime prevention programs and work tirelessly to ensure they received the support they deserve. Increased foot patrols, gang prevention programs, and community programs such as neighborhood watches are examples of initiatives I would support as a member of the Council.
b. Economic Development -- For Durham to remain one of the best places to live in the U.S (Durham was just selected one of the best 100 places to live in America by CNNMoney), it must continue to provide quality jobs to our citizens. With a strong education system preparing the workforce, Durham can continue to shine in this area. If elected to City Council, I would encourage sustainable economic development throughout our city while ensuring that our schools continue to equip our 21st century workforce.
c. Image -- Even while praising Durham by naming it number 12 in a list of the 100 best places to live in the U.S., CNNMoney refers to our city as "as the underdog of the Triangle region." Durham is home to Duke University, countless acres of state forest, the Research Triangle Park, and the Durham Bulls, to name only a few of our city's marvels. Yet the name "Durham" is seemingly left to stand alone, divorced of its own qualities. Our crime is no worse than others, yet we are known as the high crime city of the Triangle. Our schools are well run and our roads well built, but we are often a homebuyer's second choice. As a member of the Council I would explore the city's current public relations efforts and identify fiscally responsible methods of allowing Durham's true qualities to show through. These efforts would have the effect of increasing our quality of life and enhancing city revenues.
2) What is there in your record as a public official or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be effective on the council? This might include career or community service; but please be specific about its relevance to this office.
In my capacity as both the owner of a small business and a hands-on technician, I am faced with the daily tasks of providing quality services, compensating my employees fairly and in a timely manner, and running the financial and administrative tasks associated with a business. Through operating my business, particularly during the recent economically difficult times, I have demonstrated the ability to make competent decisions based on fact and reason.
Further, in my work providing IT support to other businesses, I am frequently tasked with developing solutions that meet both technical and fiscal requirements. I believe this experience would be particularly valuable when dealing with issues before the Council.
In addition to my business experience, I previously served on the Orange County Information Technology Advisory Committee and on the Chapel Hill Technology Committee. Serving on these boards provided valuable local government experience.
For the past two years I have served as volunteer president of my neighborhood's homeowners' association. In this role I have mediated disputes, organized community gatherings, coordinated a response to neighborhood burglaries, and enforced HOA policies on a day to day basis, thereby working to preserve the community's property values and quality of living.
Additionally, through volunteer work I have done with the mentally and physically challenged I have gained a great appreciation for the obstacles these individuals face on a day to day basis. If elected to City Council, I would make the needs of Durham's mentally and physically challenged a great focus. In recognition for my work in this area I received the Orange County Key Volunteer Award and my business was awarded the 2005 RTPnet Community Technology Award.
Finally, over the past two years I have had the great opportunity to serve as a search and rescue volunteer with NCCERT, an all volunteer organization that assists local government in locating missing persons. Working with NCCERT as a K9 handler I have completed comprehensive training in fields such as disaster management and I would bring this experience to my work with the Council.
3) How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
Politically I am supporter of small business, law enforcement, and I am a great believer in any American's ability to achieve success, whether in Durham or any other city throughout our nation. My present campaign platform reflects my support of small business and my focus on public safety in Durham.
In my work on Chapel Hill's Technology Committee I opposed plans which I believed would hurt the local business community while providing little benefit for residents.
Having created a small business, I am a firm believer in personal responsibility, the importance of hard work, and good corporate citizenship. I also believe that society plays an important role in assisting our most vulnerable citizens. Through my participation in various volunteer activities I have sought opportunities to give back to the community. For example, my business donates computer support services to physically disabled individuals in the Triangle and I currently serve as a search and rescue volunteer.
4) Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
If elected to City Council, I would take a firm stance against Durham's unofficial "ambassadors." I refer to the orange vested panhandlers that provide the first glimpse of Durham to countless visitors to our city. These individuals present a clear public nuisance and are a danger to themselves and Durham tax payers. Allowing these panhandlers to line our city streets is not an act of compassion. A multitude of non-profit and government sponsored organizations exist to assist individuals such as these - their place is not on our busy highways. If elected I would work with the Council and law enforcement to pass ordinances strictly prohibiting highway-side panhandling in Durham.
Based on previous discussions of this issue I am aware that my stand would not be popular with many voters.
5) Recently, the N.C. General Assembly approved a nutrient clean-up strategy for Jordan Lake, which will require local municipalities, including Durham, to pay for any necessary pollution-reduction measures. How will you work with the City's Public Works Department to ensure Durham's pollution-reduction goals are met, and how will you work to prevent similar pollution—and the high cost of state-mandated clean-up efforts—in the future?
Taking into account the importance of water quality, I would work with experts in this field to seek solutions that are financially viable and environmentally sound. I would seek to prevent future high cost cleanup efforts by ensuring that the responsible departments have the resources they need to meet these requirements.
6) Southern Durham Development is suing Durham County for conducting a public hearing before changing its Jordan Lake watershed maps to accommodate a proposed mixed-use project known as 751 Assemblage. Supporters of the project say it will increase Durham's tax base, and call a public hearing to change the watershed maps an unnecessary burden on property owners. However, others question the validity of the survey and say the County is bound by the state's administrative code to conduct a public hearing. Would you consider annexing the property to resolve the matter, if Southern Durham Development requests that the City do so? Why?
I understand that this issue is currently in the hands of the Board of County Commissioners. Should I be elected to City Council and should this issue fall under the authority of the Council, I would consult thoroughly with subject matter experts in this field to determine the best course of action for the city.
7) Until recently, the City had a 25-square-mile "donut hole" in which no watershed protections existed. By closing the "donut hole"—which covered most of downtown—Durham lost an important incentive to attract downtown development and re-development, developers argued. What are your thoughts on how Durham can best attract smart growth while also protecting its watersheds?
Durham must seek a balance between meeting its water and environmental needs and creating economic development and living space. Utilizing innovative methods such as land banking, our city can successfully find this balance.
8) Fairway Outdoor Advertising has proposed amending the city-county Unified Development Ordinance to allow for electronic billboards? Are you in favor of this measure, or not? Please explain your answer.
I am not in favor of this measure. Electronic billboards would detract from our city in an obvious manner while providing little, if any, benefit to Durham's residents. As opposed to other forms of advertising, electronic billboards would essentially utilize taxpayer owned space to "pollute" our own cityscape.
9) Last year, Durham voters rejected a proposed half-cent "meals tax" for local projects. This year, a half-cent sales tax for transit is proposed in the legislature, also requiring voters approval. But Durham could pay for transit and other needs simply by increasing property taxes, which some consider a more progressive method than either of the alternatives. Which taxes should be increased, if any, and for which projects? Will you support the half-cent sales tax for transit if the legislature enacts it and the county puts it on the ballot?
I would not support an increase in property or sales tax to fund projects unless they were deemed absolutely vital to the City's operations. Increasing taxes on businesses and homeowners often has the effect of encouraging taxpayers to relocate to other cities where the tax burden is less cumbersome.
I support finding innovative solutions to Durham's transportation issues.
10) The FY 2009-10 budget includes cuts to many social services, while maintaining rainy-day funds necessary to maintain Durham's AAA credit rating. How can Durham maintain services for the neediest while also balancing its budget?
Budget constraints are a reality of any city government and unfortunately often affect those who need city services the most. Durham may not be able to both balance its budget and maintain services for the neediest amongst us. As a member of City Council I would work to continue providing the most critical services while coordinating efforts with non-profit organizations and religious charities to assist where most needed.
11) One of the focus areas for economic redevelopment is northeast-central Durham. How do you propose redeveloping that area and through what measures?
As a member of City Council I would consult with educators, architects, social scientists, business leaders, law enforcement and, most importantly, residents, to determine the needs of the area and to develop a comprehensive plan for its redevelopment.
12) Assess the health and effectiveness of the city's economic incentives fund. What improvements could be made?
My understanding is that the economic incentives fund has been effective in achieving its goals. As a Council member I would encourage continued and careful use of this fund.