Catherine Evangelista | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Catherine Evangelista 

Candidate for Cary Town Council District C

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Catherine Evangelista
Full legal name, if different: n/a
Date of birth: May 8, 1963 (age 46)
Home address: 106 Canon Gate Drive, Cary NC 27518 (12 years)
Mailing address, if different from home: n/a
Campaign Web site: Caryfirst.com
Occupation & employer: Stay-at-home mom, civic activist (see resume attached for professional history as marketing and advertising professional)
Home phone: 919-363-9661
Work phone: 919-215-0937
E-mail: c.evangelista@earthlink.net



1) What do you believe are the most important issues facing Cary? If elected, what are your top priorities in addressing those issues?

Growth remains the most important issue facing Cary. Traffic, water quality and school reassignment are also high priorities as well as symptoms of years of uncontrolled growth.

We cannot afford to be lulled into thinking growth issues have been solved simply because of the sudden drop in building permits. A national recession is the driving force behind our slowed growth. I intend to secure a balanced Cary by addressing growth during this downturn before an economic rebound creates another surge in growth putting us right back in the crosshairs.

Cary has tripled its population over the past 20 years. During that time, we've watched the pendulum swing widely between no growth and runaway growth. Previous Cary Town Councils have failed to effectively address growth and often exacerbated the problem by placing special interests above the interests of Cary first. One common denominator of those councils has been Jack Smith, my opponent. I represent a fresh perspective and an energetic work ethic to insure that this time growth is properly managed by putting Cary first.

Balanced growth is good as long as there is infrastructure to support it. And those who benefit from growth should share in equitably in funding the necessary infrastructure.

On a more local scale, I plan to address traffic, water and reassignment concerns by focusing on the root issue of growth. I see a need for restoring and redeveloping older areas inside District C that will provide value and amenities for area residents and new opportunities for the business community.

I also see a need to restore integrity to the District C seat of Cary Town Council.

2) What is there in your public record or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be an effective leader? Please be specific about your public and community service background.

Civic & Political Leadership

  • Member, Cary Economic Development Commission
  • Fellow, North Carolina Institute of Political Leadership
  • Chair, Administration Committee, WomenNC.org, a United Nations Human Rights Advocacy
  • PTSA Executive Board Secretary, Athens High School
  • Cary School of Government
  • Cary Emergency Response Team (CERT)
  • Member, League of Women Voters of Wake County
  • Founder and Chair, Cary Democrats
  • Re-elected Member, State Executive Committee of the North Carolina Democratic Party
  • Chair, Precinct 20-05 and past vice-chair
  • Led non-partisan Voter Registration Drives
  • Past Elected Cary Vice Chair, Wake County Democratic Party
  • Former Webmaster and Products Committee Chair, Democratic Women of Wake County
  • Past Communications Chair, Western Wake Democrats
  • United Way Ambassador, Blue Cross Blue Shield NC
  • Initiated and led Alaska's Desert Storm Holiday Card Airlift

Professional

I began my career as a television news reporter and anchor right out of college. I later joined the corporate workforce as a marketing, advertising branding and communications professional. I have 16 years experience working for such companies GCI (a subsidiary of MCI), Sprint and Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina. I've earned national marketing awards, piloted a highly successful healthcare marketing program, invited to present it at national healthcare conference and produced award-winning television commercials.

In 2006, I took time off to recuperate after being struck by a car while crossing a street. I have enjoyed the past three years being a stay-at-home mother and civic activist and concluded my physical therapy this summer. I'm ready to serve Cary.

3) How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

I view myself as a social progressive and fiscal moderate. My political philosophy is to consider all sides of an issue regardless of partisan position. A good idea is a good idea and it shouldn't be discarded because of its origin. I believe in basing decisions on facts, not politics and influence. There is simply no room for partisan politics and alliances in municipal government especially if you intend to work effectively for Cary citizens.

As a fellow of the NC Institute of Political Leadership, I have found that both political parties share more common ground than they have differences between them. I'm grateful we have a conciliatory Cary Town Council eager to work together to resolve town issues. More important than party labels is that as an elected leader you care and serve all citizens of Cary fairly.

4) Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

I have always stood by my principles no matter what the cost. As a town council member, I will always put Cary First. We should expect no less from any council member. We entrust our elected officials to represent all citizens not just themselves.

In 2007, in the final act of Mayor Ernie McAllister's administration, a policy was quietly enacted that provided only council member Jack Smith with free healthcare for life at taxpayers expense. The Town of Cary is self-insured meaning it pays for all medical expenses for those employees who participate in the town's healthcare plan. Current town council members are eligible to participate while in office. This surreptitious policy funded 100% of Smith's healthcare costs and extended his healthcare benefits for life. Smith, a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, voted to approve this personal benefit.

I would never permit a personal benefit to come at the expense of Cary taxpayers, nor would I allow another council member to do the same. Our current healthcare crisis notwithstanding, public service demands the needs of our constituents come before the desires of the elected officials. This is what I mean by putting Cary first.

5) While its growth has slowed, Cary remains one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Assess whether its rate of growth is good for the town. Should it be faster, slower or remain the same? How should Cary grow and what measures should be implemented to achieve this?

The citizens of Cary have spoken out against growth both in the biennial survey and the ballot box. Mayor Harold Weinbrecht was overwhelmingly elected on a platform of controlling runaway growth in Cary. Residents further proved their commitment to controlling growth and limiting its impacts on the town and its infrastructure. As Mayor Weinbrecht has said, the economic downturn provides us with an opportunity to catch up on our infrastructure needs.

I pledge to continue vigilant control of Cary's growth with an emphasis on planning, transparency and citizen involvement. Specifically in East Cary's District C, my focus will be on re-developing older areas such as the vacant Waverly Place property. I intend to bring new amenities to District C, such as a dog park and recreational fields to raise our district to the same level as the rest of Cary.

We also need to look for new ways to increase our revenue base with minimal impact on citizens and without raising taxes. I intend to seek county property tax evaluations every four years instead of the current 8-year cycle. This provides the town needed revenues in an upward cycle and protects residents during a downward cycle.

6) Cary's tax rate is one of the lowest in the Triangle, and its budget is 25 percent lower than last fiscal year. What do you think of this reduction? How should the town balance its tax rate with essential public services? What services and projects do you consider essential and need additional funds? What services and projects could be reduced or delayed? Evaluate, in general, the current town budget.

Forecasted sales tax revenues, property taxes and development fees for 2010 predicted a substantial drop in town revenues. Though Cary's percentage appears draconian compared to other towns' budget cuts in Wake County, Cary's final budget cuts were necessary to avoid increasing property taxes during a severe recession. The Town of Cary's tax rate remains the lowest in Wake County at 33 cents per $100 of property valuation. Taking on non-essential projects now would only hurt taxpayers.

Any non-essential or "desired" capital improvement projects are determined by current economic conditions. In our present situation, capital improvement projects such as the Town Center Streetscape should be delayed, modified or even eliminated if necessary. Cary can't afford to risk its stellar bond rating on non-essential projects that raise our debt level and our taxes.

Any services that address the safety and welfare of Cary citizens are essential public services and we're obligated to provide them. The current town council has done an admirable job funding essential public services under the current tax rate. I'm fully committed to doing the same on future councils.

No matter how forward-looking a plan may be, our municipal budgets are at the mercy of the immediate economic conditions. Something that was achievable in 2008 may be unaffordable in 2010 due to economic circumstances outside of Council's control.

7) In the biennial Citizen Satisfaction Survey, focus groups indicated they were concerned about the impact of the "transient population" of Cary. There were also suggestions that those short-term residents be "screened" in terms of a visioning process for the city. How should Cary deal with its short-term residents? What value do you place on their opinions of the town? What impacts have you seen of short-term residents? What can the town do to more fully engage these residents?

I disagree with the focus group's characterization of what motivates short-term residents to participate in Cary's visioning process. Cary is blessed to have an active, involved, highly educated and diverse population. What may make some residents appear "transient" is what initially brought them to Cary: a job transfer or employment opportunity.

Any property-tax-paying Cary resident should be entitled to participate and voice his or her opinions regardless of their residency tenure, brief or otherwise. Likewise, short-term residents who rent in Cary should have an equal opportunity to participate in how their community evolves. Both groups have unique perspectives to offer. I see zero value in screening citizen feedback based on residency requirements.

8) What should Cary do about Western Wake Partners' plans to build a sewage plant in New Hill? What are your concerns, if any, about the plan? If you have no concerns, tell us why. Where should a new sewage plant be placed?

New Hill residents are understandably upset with Western Wake Partners' coalition of Apex, Cary, Morrisville and Holly Springs, for siting a sewage plant in the middle of their historic community. I am concerned how the town was selected instead of unoccupied acreage in the surrounding area. Building a 63-acre sewage plant inside a 200-acre community is going to increase project costs to reduce odor, noise and traffic. Locating this plant in New Hill doesn't make sense on its face. I would question the less than transparent process that appears to be condemning this town's future.

9) Evaluate Cary's sign ordinance. How would you change it? What should the ordinance accomplish?

I applaud our Town Council's responsive decision to take on a comprehensive review of Cary's 10-year-old sign ordinance. The recession is especially tough on small businesses and realtors. Given the escalating numbers of home foreclosures, the drop in consumer spending negatively impacting the town's sales tax revenues and small businesses struggling to keep the doors open and workers employed, we have to reevaluate the sign ordinance restrictions and find a balance between preserving Cary's aesthetics and obstructing effective advertising.

Cary is a town of cul-de-sacs and easing realtors' temporary-signage restrictions will help homeowners attract potential buyers. Homes deep inside some larger neighborhoods may need more than three directional signs to lead potential buyers to an "Open House." Easing restrictions makes sense particularly during hard economic times.

If I could make one change to the sign ordinance it would be to dismiss accrued fines against businesses whose preexisting signage violates new changes to the sign ordinance. These businesses' signage should be grandfathered in as is and any accrued fines or liens absolved.

10) While the expansion of U.S. 64 is largely a decision of the N.C. Department of Transportation, as a town council member, what input would you give the state on this proposed project?

The decision to construct the proposed U.S. 64 "Super Street" through Cary and Apex addresses forecasted growth and the need for highway connectivity for shipping and travel. As a council member, I would work with the NC DOT to insure four key concerns are addressed and incorporated into the expansion design:

  1. Super Streets dissecting communities like Cary and Apex must include safe, alternate bicycle and pedestrian access.
  2. Impact to residents commutes needs to be evaluated based on existing transportation infrastructure and proposed roads.
  3. Assigned safety lanes for school bus transportation during school hours.
  4. Defined aesthetics standards for the medians and shoulders (plantings, artwork treatment to bridges) to preserve property values of bordering land tracts.

11) On the topic of transportation, this year, a half-cent sales tax for mass transit is proposed in the legislature, requiring voters' approval. Would you support such a tax? Why or why not?

I would support a transit tax referendum but timing is an issue. We clearly have a need for a modern, urban transit system. Traffic congestion has grown exponentially relative to the rampant growth we've experienced in western Wake County. The cost is minimal compared to the maximum benefits residents would derive through reduced greenhouse emissions with fewer cars on the road. Still, increasing taxes even a half-cent is unlikely to win voters' approval during a severe recession. I am hopeful we'll see a referendum put before voters in the coming year should the economy recover by then.

12) Are you concerned about the long-term water quantity and quality of Jordan Lake, Cary's primary source of drinking water? If so, what measures would you take to preserve or improve it? What is your assessment of Cary's water conservation ordinance?

Yes, I am concerned about our drinking water, but quality foremost over quantity. Jordan Lake water samples consistently show polluted runoff from farms, roads and housing developments flood excessive amounts of chemicals (nitrogen, phosphorus) into our water reservoir. These chemicals are the primary cause of the unhealthy levels of algae in our drinking water.

Most of Jordan Lake is located inside Chatham County, the second-fastest growing county in NC. Ultimately, water quantity will become the focal issue if area growth rates continue their present pace. Cary and those local governments along the watershed that feed into Jordan lake must work with existing developments to reduce water runoff. I will insure Cary preserves its 100-foot stream buffers. Cary has a strong track record in water resource management and is one of the few towns with an irrigation program to recycle and distribute treated water. Not only does this make good economic sense to reduce our water demand on Jordan Lake but it insures a clean water supply and protects the economic benefits of maintaining Jordan Lake as a recreational destination. Our Council must remain proactive in balancing future development with preserving our environment.

Additional Information:

Family

  • Moved to Cary in 1998
  • Age: 46
  • Married 21 years to Mark Evangelista
  • Mother of three boys: Joseph, 19; Mark, 16 and Cameron, 12
  • Two dogs: Macy & Rascal, sisters rescued from Hurricane Katrina
  • Member, St. Andrews Catholic Church
  • Neighborhood: Danbury
  • Raised in Anchorage, Alaska

Education

  • Master's Degree, University of Kansas, Journalism. Graduated with honors on master's exam
  • Bachelor's Degree, Texas A&M University, Journalism
  • Candidate for Cary Town Council District C

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