Name as it appears on the ballot: David Cox
Party affiliation, if any: Not affiliated
Campaign website: DavidCoxForCouncil.com
Occupation & employer: Computer Scientist, ABB Corporation
Years lived in Raleigh: 14
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?
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The new UDO is a major development that will shape Raleigh’s future for years to come. The original intent of the UDO was to take the vision for Raleigh’s future as stated in the 2030 Comprehensive Plan and make it happen. The centerpiece of that vision is to allow growth while protecting Raleigh’s neighborhoods. The UDO certainly allows for growth but it does not do an adequate job of protecting neighborhoods. One can reasonably argue that the UDO fails to protect neighborhoods because it fails to implement several key policies and actions of the Comprehensive Plan. Consequently, I will advocate for changing the UDO to implement those policies and actions to protect our neighborhoods from excessive commercial.
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?
Running directly through the center of District B is Capital Boulevard. At one end of Capital is the Brentwood area near I440 and at the other end we find Triangle Town Center near I540. I want to see both ends and everything in between revitalized and thriving. Capital Boulevard has tremendous potential as a gathering place for citizens not unlike North Hills (aka Midtown) or Downtown. I would like to see the landscape of the road improved. I would like to see transit along Capital improved. And I would like to see many rundown or abandoned properties revitalized or redeveloped.
District B is also the home of some of Raleigh’s best outdoor recreational areas including the Annie Wilkerson Nature Preserve, Falls Lake Park, Falls Dam, the Neuse River Greenway, and soon, Forest Ridge Park which will become the largest park in the City of Raleigh. All of these resources are found in the same general area along Falls of Neuse Road north of Durant. The Comprehensive Plan calls for protecting this area. I want to see the UDO strengthened to ensure that the area really is protected and is not allowed to be commercialized with strip malls. This area with these amenities are some of Raleigh’s finest jewels for all of Raleigh’s citizens to enjoy. I will advocate strongly for their protection.
Transportation is a third most pressing issue for District B. Residents know well the congestion on Capital Boulevard and other arteries. A plan has been on the books for years to modify intersections and make other changes to improve the flow of traffic along Capital. It is time that that plan be implemented in earnest. Additionally, District B could greatly benefit from a transit system with more bus stops, routes, interconnections, and shelters to make travel efficient and dependable. An improved transit system should be designed to provide people with a real travel alternative. And, we should continue to move forward with rail which could move people through District B and provide considerable economic improvements along the rail corridor.
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?
Over the years I have been directly involved with the widening of Falls of Neuse Road. For the past two years I have been heavily involved with issues around growth and development – particularly as it pertains to rezoning for a strip mall near Falls Lake and other amenities along Falls of Neuse. I have worked with community leaders from those on City Council to the Planning Commission to neighborhood leaders from throughout Raleigh. I currently serve as Chair of the North Citizens Advisory Council. In the past, I have been Chair for a chapter of the National Kidney Foundation and Vice-President and President for Transplant Recipients International Organization (a support group for organ transplant recipients). And I serve each month as a volunteer with Good Shepherd Lutheran Church helping to host a “Coffee House” for those with physical and mental challenges. My education ranges from biochemistry as an undergraduate to graduate work (including a doctorate) in computer science. Although I haven’t been a politician, I believe that this experience gives me the skills needed to solve problems and guide Raleigh into the future.
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.
We are learning now that there are unintended consequence with the UDO. The City Council should have done a better job identifying and remedying those consequences before enacting the UDO. Once the city-wide remapping is complete it will be very difficult if not impossible to undo some of those consequences.
On the other hand, acquiring the Dix property will provide Raleigh with a tremendous asset that will enhance the City’s quality of life.
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?
The main reason that I am unaffiliated with a political party is that I find it very difficult to identify with a particular political philosophy. I view myself as fiscally responsible in that government should not go unnecessarily in debt and must raise the revenues necessary to pay its bills. I take the view that government is complex and provides a range of services – ranging from trash collection to fire and police to parks and community swimming pools to safe and well maintained roads. I also take the view that the services that government provides and the taxes needed to pay for them should result from a community discussion and input from citizens. Not everyone will be happy. Some will want to spend more money for more services and some will want to cut to the bare minimum. I like to think that there will be compromise and that the true answer will lie somewhere in the middle. But whatever the answer, we must also be responsible for ensuring that we have the money to pay the bills. There is no free ride.
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?
A just community to me is one where people treat each other with respect. This means that people come together to discuss issues and are willing to give and take. To reach a just community means citizen involvement. I want to find ways to increase citizen involvement in all aspects of City government. I would like to improve and strengthen our Citizens Advisory Committees. I would like to see citizens involved in oversight and improvement of government functions. By continually improving what we do through citizen involvement now to prevent problems is far better approach than waiting for a crisis to happen.
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?
I would like to see Raleigh fulfill its vision to develop the park. Developing the park should be a community process with input from Raleigh’s citizens. Amenities from trails to pavilions to gardens to outdoor theaters – let’s hear from Raleigh’s citizens what they would like to see.
I would also like to float the idea that some of the Dorothea Dix property be used to provide housing for the disadvantaged. As I mentioned in another question, I work every month as a volunteer with people facing physical and mental challenges. Many of these people live in group homes. Raleigh has a shortage of such homes. Perhaps a small portion of Dorothea Dix could be set aside to provide such housing, thus enhancing our lasting tribute to Dix’s pioneering work with the disabled.
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?
I think that density bonuses are viable. The City should provide developers with taller, denser development in exchange for affordable housing. However, we should also explore other options such as zoning and taxation changes to encourage affordable housing. I am particularly concerned about the ability of seniors to continue to live in Raleigh. I am aware that other communities provide considerably lower property taxes for seniors. I would seriously consider lower property taxes for individuals with low incomes or those who find themselves temporarily out of work. For seniors, in particular, after working for a lifetime they should not face losing their homes from excessively high taxes.
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?
Yes, I will support a transit referendum by allowing the citizens to decide if they will pay for more transit stops, routes, connections, and shelters as well as take the steps towards a future rail system. Public transportation benefits all of Raleigh with alternative modes of travel, lowering road congestion, and helping those who cannot afford or are unable to drive.
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?
First, remapping should be a one-to-one remapping from legacy zoning districts to new zoning districts under the UDO. Many of the problems with remapping stem from the new zoning districts giving property owners more entitlements than what they currently have. In many cases these new entitlements threaten existing neighborhoods in a number of ways. These threats include oversized commercial development near existing neighborhoods to increasing the value of the land to the point where renters will not be able to afford to stay in their homes. Doing over the UDO could have had more zoning districts to provide more gradations in zoning as well as implemented numerous policies and actions in the Comprehensive Plan to protect neighborhoods. Perhaps most fundamentally would have been requiring our new mixed use districts to be truly mixed use. As it stands today our single so-called neighborhood mixed use district (NX) is neither neighborly nor mixed use.
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?
This question ties back to an earlier question about creating a just community. I think that the key answer lies in people treating others with respect and trust. The regulation of sidewalk “patios” largely resulted from unacceptable behavior such as fights, vomiting, and public urination. The key was to get people off the sidewalks to prevent this behavior. Sidewalk patios in and of themselves are not really the problem. The problem is unwanted behavior that is the result of intoxication.
Several years ago my wife and I watched as emergency workers pulled a young woman from her vehicle and try to resuscitate her after being struck by a drunk driver. We learned later that this young lady did not survive. Intoxication isn’t just a nuisance. Many are driving to downtown, drinking irresponsibly, and then driving home. Sooner or later the consequences will be devastating. Bar owners who serve obviously intoxicated persons should be held accountable as should the individuals behaving badly.
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?
Shopping centers such as Cameron Village, Triangle Town Center, and Crabtree Valley Mall obviously incur the cost of providing parking for their customers. Clearly there is a cost to maintaining parking decks. Either those parking in the decks pay directly or, alternatively, businesses can pay and transfer those costs indirectly to their customers. There is no such thing as a maintenance free parking deck.
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?
The state has greatly limited the cities’ ability to raise the revenues needed to pay for the services that they provide. I would like to investigate the possibility of a sliding property tax schedule – those with more expensive homes will pay a larger percentage in property taxes. To raise property taxes across the board will greatly increase the tax burden of low and middle income families – particularly for seniors. With a sliding scale we can reduce this burden on those with the fewest financial resources. Even with a sliding scale, we might find that we will have to reduce services. In both cases it should be clear that the change is the result of the actions of the state legislature.
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?
Assuming that these wages are for a 40 hour work week, then, yes, it is a problem. I would support increases in their salaries to provide them a livable wage (about $15 an hour).
15) When is the bike share program going to happen?
I support the bike share program and would like to see it happen soon.
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?
I am currently Chair of the North CAC. I have been involved with Citizens Advisory Councils for the past two years. I strongly support the CACs and the role they play – particularly in realm of rezoning and development. For example, there would have to be a very compelling reason for me to vote for a rezoning if the CAC were to recommend against it.
17) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.