Name as it appears on the ballot: Corey Branch
Party affiliation, if any: Democrat
Campaign website: www.CoreyBranch.com
Occupation & employer: Senior Technical Director, AT&T
Years lived in Raleigh: 37
1) Given the current direction of Raleigh city government, would you say things are generally on the right course? If not, what specific, major changes you will advocate if elected?
- Raleigh city government is not proactive in resident engagement as the remapping and affordable housing projects have displayed. A lack of citizen engagement on the frontend of projects leads to confusion and misunderstanding which impacts how the direction of the city is perceived. I would work with staff to improve the civic communication. I would advocate for the improvement of community centers that have not received the upgrades you would expect in a major city. The city has been focused on big projects, but we must engage civics and invest in our current centers to protect the things which bring jobs and people here.
2) If you are a candidate for a district seat, please identity your priorities for improvements in the district if you’re elected. If you are an at-large or mayoral candidate, please identify the three most pressing issues the city faces and how you will address them?
- District C priorities center around Economic Inclusion, Civic Communication, and Transit Development. Our small businesses need access to office space within the district and shared office space is one concept which can be used to assist small business owners. Home ownership is a key component to economic inclusion and developing communities with resident input on mixed-income housing will assist in reaching that goal. The city offers many programs and activities to better the life of our citizens and we have to find a way to communicate these events. As the city grows, we have to engage citizens early to make them part of the process, then communicate throughout the process. Our transit system must improve to aid residents in going to work and participating in community events. Not all citizens have vehicles and those who don’t rely heavily on our public transit system. The system must be frequent and reliable, to improve the lives of all citizens with my district.
3) What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective as a member of Council? If you’ve identified specific issues above, what in your record has prepared you to be an effective advocate for them?
- Currently, I’m a member of the Raleigh Transit Authority (RTA) and a member of the Wake County Transit Advisory Committee. As a member of the RTA I have advocated for District C and shared information with the community. In meetings of the Wake County Transit Advisory Committee I have been engaged, working to understand the process and contributing to the future plan. I’m advocating now for public input on the plan and look to use my experiences and knowledge to advocate for District C and Raleigh going forward. Being on the RTA, working with WakeUp Wake County, Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association and leading other community organizations, along with my professional corporate experience of 15 years, have prepared me to bring my leadership and team work skills to the service of the citizens of Raleigh.
4) Please give one specific example of something you think City Council has done wrong or that you would have rather done differently in the last year. Also, please tell us the single best thing the city’s done during that span.
- The rollout of the community input phase of the Raleigh Arts Plan was well organized and planned. The city staff scheduled meetings around the city for customer input, comment and collaboration and were available to answer questions. For the UDO-Remapping, Council could have directed the city staff to have community meetings with citizens impacted in advance of the public hearing. Citizens have stated repeatedly that they were not aware of remapping and some did not receive notices of the public hearing. In having meetings before the public hearing, citizens have the opportunity to learn more about remapping and address concerns with the plan. We must be a City Council who is receptive to citizens and ensure citizens have every opportunity for engagement.
5) How do you identify yourself to others in terms of your political philosophy? For example, do you tell people you’re a conservative, a moderate, a progressive, a libertarian?
- I believe in a government working to help those in need and ensure the same opportunities for all to be successful without discrimination.
6) The INDY’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. If elected, how will your service in office help further that goal?
- As a native of Raleigh, I have lived every day to promote a Raleigh and Triangle that is just and fair. I will work with fellow council members of Raleigh and our county as well as elected officials of the triangle. My work on the Wake County Transit Advisory Committee has allowed me to work with and build relationships with leaders across the Triangle, establishing ways to partner on projects to bring resources to underserved communities and the entire community in housing, transit, and programing for our youth.
Please address, in detail, the following major issues in Raleigh:
7) Now that the city has acquired the 306-acre Dorothea Dix Park, what are some specific things you would like to see the city do with it?
- Raleigh needs to develop a tentative timeline to lay out for citizens goals and milestones for the project. The timeline needs to include community engagement opportunities related to gathering ideas, involvement with selection of priorities and opening construction and management bids. This is a long range project that needs to be mapped out.
8) Between gentrification in historic neighborhoods and expensive rentals downtown, the city has struggled at times with questions of affordable and workforce housing. What concrete steps can or would you take to help ensure that, for instance, hospitality workers can afford to live in Raleigh and especially its urban core? For example, there has been some talk of density bonuses to entice developers to include affordable units in their downtown developments. Do you believe this is a viable idea? Why or why not?
- City owned property that is sound for development needs to include affordable housing. Programs and incentives need to be developed for property not owned by the city for affordable and work force housing. I would fight to promote both ideas and work with staff and council to ensure a fair process.
9) Related to affordable housing and affordability in general is viable public transportation. What steps can the city take to improve mass transit throughout the city? Will you actively support the transit referendum that Wake County will likely put to voters next year?
- I will support a transit referendum for a transit system that has a positive impact on all residents’ lives. The system must be affordable, frequent, and provide adequate coverage to promote economic inclusion.
10) The city came under fire at Council meetings in July for the proposed remapping under the Unified Development Ordinance. It is safe to say there was a lot of uncertainty and distrust. Broadly speaking, how do you think the city should approach issues of density and neighborhood livability? And if the city had it to do over again, what about the UDO remapping do you believe should have been done differently, if anything?
- I would have promoted more education to the citizens on the remapping plan and worked to explain the impact and purpose before scheduling votes, many of which have now been put on hold. The city council must share the vision of what the goal is to develop Raleigh and allow for public input. Trust is built when everyone who wants to be involved, believes they had an opportunity. Out of the public hearing the citizens voice their distrust, because they did not feel as if they had opportunity to be involved.
11) Also on the subject of livability: The issue of regulating sidewalk patios hints at the difficulty this city (like other cities) faces in striking a balance between making its downtown more of a neighborhood and the needs of the businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry, that currently exist. How do you think the city should go about balancing these needs? What does a successful downtown look like to you?
- A successful downtown includes retail with hospitality and downtown Raleigh is lacking retail. The Office of Economic Development needs to be staffed and funded to seek retail and a grocery store for downtown Raleigh. Retail and a grocery store will aid in anchoring an economic center to complement the hospitality and businesses.
12) Some downtown businesses have worried that the parking-deck fees scheduled to go into effect at the end of the year will adversely impact them. On the other hand, there are obviously costs associated with both building and maintaining garages, and most other cities do charge for their use. What would be your ideal solution?
- A partnership with the Raleigh Downtown Alliance, apartment complexes and the city to pay for safety, cleaning and maintenance of parking decking is a plan I would support. A committee is formed with representation from all participants to address issues and makes recommendation to the city council to ensure all remain invested in the livability of the downtown community.
13) Some recent legislative actions have seemed, to some extent, antagonistic toward the state’s cities: specifically, the repeal of business privilege taxes and the movement toward redistributing sales tax revenue. In your view, how should the city respond to these (potential and actual) revenue losses? Will the city’s property tax rate need to increase? Will services or new initiatives be curtailed? How should the city address its fiscal challenges going forward?
- Raleigh must partner with other cities impacted by the loss of business privilege taxes and loss of revenue from redistribution of sales tax. The council must work with our citizens to educate them on the impact of these changes, so that they can also place pressure on the General Assembly. The loss of revenue will impact the city budget. Existing services will be reduced services or new services will be delayed. Property taxes can remain unchanged as long as services, changes, or implementations can absorb the reduced revenue. The city would have to plan future budgets without expectation of this revenue.
14) The city has about 230 employees who earn less than what is generally considered to be a living wage, about $31,000 a year. In your view, is this problematic or something the city should concern itself with?
- The city should be concerned because if these employees leave, services are impacted while their position remains vacant and we train a new employee. The city must look at ways to ensure employees are paid a livable and competitive wage.
15) When is the bike share program going to happen?
- The city can fund the bike share program when funding is found so that we do not negatively impact other programs.
16) What do you believe the role of Citizens Advisory Councils should be? If you are running for a district seat, how closely would you work or have you worked with local CACs?
- The Citizens Advisory Councils should be in place to advise the city council on items that impact their community most directly. As the District C City Councilor I will work with my CACs by meeting with the chairs and vice-chairs for my district and attending meetings.
17) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.
- The city must work to promote and improve programs, activities and jobs for our youth. We must work to ensure all youth have the exposure and training to be successful and well-rounded citizens.