Name as it appears on the ballot: Lori Bush
Date of birth: 7/8/64
Home address: 107 Doric Ct., Cary, NC 27519
Campaign Web site: www.LoriForCary.org
Occupation & employer: Cisco Systems, Education Solution Dev Manager
What do you believe are the most important issues facing Cary? If elected, what are your top priorities in addressing those issues?
Putting Public Safety First
Our Town's first responsibility is the health and safety of its citizens. Public Safety is no place for politics, it's top of mind for all. I will make sure that our police, fire fighters, and Cary EMS have all of the resources they need to do their job. That means ensuring those that protect and serve have the equipment, support and necessary information. Cary Police, fire and EMS need to be fully funded to maintain our "safe city" status.
Smart, Balanced Growth – listed as a top citizen concern for a decade
Continue progress by current Mayor and council to review and ensure that we focus on responsible growth; ensuring infrastructure and town services will support current citizens and neighborhoods, new residents and businesses. And, as Cary begins to reach its boundaries, this growth will turn to infill, and we must find ways to balance and ensure that development is appropriate and sensitive to the neighboring communities.
Protecting our environment
Cary's environmental track record is good, but we can always do better, and innovate where possible. We must protect Jordan Lake, our drinking water supply, by limiting development in the lake's watershed. Buffers must be respected and open space protected.
Listening and being responsive to constituents – in a number of ways
One of Cary's greatest resources is the intellectual capital and the collective energy of its people. We need to continue to find new and innovative ways to reach out and engage citizens using technology, town hall forums, and interaction with Homeowners' Associations
Leveraging and driving innovative use of technology to improve town services.
Explain how—or if—Cary should continue to grow in Chatham County. How do the needs of Cary residents in Chatham County differ from those in Wake? How do you plan to address them?
Just to be clear, Cary has already expanded over the Chatham County Line - as an example, a portion of the "Carolina Preserve" development is in Wake and another portion of it is in Chatham County.
The Chatham/Cary Joint Issues committee is currently working together to come up with a jointly approved plan that addresses the concerns by local residents, while proactively mitigating future issues. I believe that significant progress has been made to preserve the goal of very low-density residential (VLDR) housing in the area, which helps to protect the watershed, while still enabling some property owners to develop their land.
I don't believe that the needs of Cary residents differ substantially from the needs of residents of Chatham County. In fact, many of them are the same. We must respect the rights of property owners who are interested in developing (or not developing) their land, while considering the impact to the shared water resources and the needs of the community.
Tell voters about your vision for a revitalized downtown Cary. What should it include—and what should it avoid? What other cities are good models for your vision? And finally, how should Cary pay for it?
I believe Cary has made great strides in the downtown revitalization efforts over the last 2 years. But there is so much more that can be done. The first big step was the investment in hiring a Downtown Manager. Now that Cary has Ed Gawf, we have someone on the staff with the sole mission to improve the "Heart of Cary." Overall, a revitalized downtown will improve the vitality of the community and attract new businesses and residents to the area.
The downtown area has a great start with the new Cary Arts Center, and we expect more possibilities now that the Town has purchased the old movie theatre.
A vibrant downtown requires focus in several areas: infrastructure improvements, such as sidewalks and roads; investment in social programs and recreation, such as park investments; public transit and transportation, to ensure that citizens can easily visit, work, live and play in our downtown area.
Another important component is our history and culture. And in fact, I believe we should avoid trying to "be" another community. As it is, we remain the "Town of Cary", even though we are approaching 150,000 residents. Part of that "Town charm" is what should remain – and be cherished. Any effort to try to hide or demolish our history should absolutely be avoided. It's who we are, and it adds unique character to our hometown.
There are a number of ways to pay for these programs. Federal and state grants are available for downtown revitalization projects; public/private partnerships that strengthen the community by incenting businesses to help the area grow, and investment by the town itself.
In your analysis of Cary's operating and capital budgets, what expenditures should take priority? What expenditures should be reduced? Should any items be eliminated entirely? Justify your priorities.
The Town of Cary organization "exists to serve its citizens." Essential public services that should be fully funded begin with public safety That means continuing to fund police and firefighters, and support Cary EMS (a non-profit organization that is not part of the Town government) with the resources they need to serve and protect. Also, investment in our environmental programs and the good work being done by the new sustainability manager have already proven that Cary can "lead" and still have valuable return on taxpayers' investments.
In this tough economic time, Cary has already taken a hard look at the expenditures that could be eliminated, or delayed, and prioritized the remaining projects. The Town has also re-aligned where possible, removing vacant positions, keeping Cary lean, with fewer than 8 employees in the town per thousand residents (compared to a national average of 11 employees per 1000 residents), and being fiscally conservative in its management of the town's debt and investments.
Many capital projects can be deferred during economic downturns such as we are experiencing now. For example, park development can be delayed, but purchasing the land for parks and open space while prices are more reasonable is a good fiscal practice.
Until the recession subsides, I believe we must continue to make those hard decisions as we move forward.
The median home price in Cary is $257,000, according to CNN Money. (By comparison, Durham's is $158,000 and Raleigh's is $170,000) How should Cary ensure there is adequate affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents?
Affordable housing to me means residing in, or owning, a residence in our community that can be sustained by those whose income is near the median of our country and state. To many, "affordable housing" has a negative connotation, evoking thoughts of urban poverty and slums. That is not how I view affordable housing – to me, affordability has a clear definition. It is the ability to rent or own a home in which you are able to pay the housing costs that are in proportion to your income level, typically less than 30% of your income.
It's disappointing that only 20% of our Town of Cary employees – our firefighters, police, and even public servants like our teachers – can afford to live in Cary.
I'd like to see Cary revisit the Town's Affordable Housing Plan that has not been updated since 2000. We should take that plan, evaluate the results and identify how to proactively attract development at more affordable levels.
Would you support placing a half-cent transit tax on the 2012 ballot? Why or why not?
I always support a citizens' referendum to decide how our tax money is spent, and I support the goals of financing regional transit, but I am concerned that a sales tax is regressive and could impact our most vulnerable citizens the most.
However, I want to answer the question you did not ask, and one that I believe requires true leadership. I think we need a vision of a comprehensive transportation plan for our area, one that includes various forms of mass transit that would be key elements of such a plan.
What sort of relationship do you think the Town of Cary should have with the Wake County school system? Do you believe that, in the future, western Wake County municipalities should form their own school system, either by a formal breakaway or through the creation of a sub-district?
First, I believe it's important to recognize what the citizens have to say about this, and we have clear data from Cary citizens from biennial surveys. For over a decade, Cary citizens have listed schools as a top concern.
Although Cary does not have any direct involvement with the Wake County schools today, our citizens, of course, do. The Town has made a number of investments to assist the school district, such as working closely with the county to provide School Resource Officers to middle and high schools, land banking for schools and shared services for parks and schools.
But, there are also additional options could be implemented. For example, the Town of Cary could work with our Wake County Commissioners and NC State legislators to request the authority to enact a Schools Adequate Public Facility ordinance. This would give Cary the legal authority to ensure that adequate school capacity exists before new development occurs.
Regarding separation from Wake County Public School System, it's important to note that WCPSS is the largest in the state, and the 21st largest in the country. Yes, being that big can make it difficult for all citizens to feel that their school board members hear them. But there are also cost efficiencies associated with managing a large school district. During this economically difficult time, I do not believe that there is a strong and compelling case for Western Wake county to break away from WCPSS.
Earlier this year, after public protest the federal government withdrew its plan to site an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement office, which would have included temporary detention facilities, in Cary. In retrospect, how could that issue have been handled differently, internally among planning staff and elected officials, with the federal government and with the public?
The ICE issue was an unfortunate "wake up call" to Town staff and council regarding the importance of following a set process and sharing information among departments. What could have been handled at the Town staff level became a very public (and rightly so) appeal with strong vocal outcry from the community that something be done, immediately.
New processes might need to be put in place, and reminders given to staff, to share vital information with the Town Manager, so that important issues such as this are handled better in the future.
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.
Cary Planning & Zoning Board member: advocated for citizens; voted for responsible growth
Cary Site Design Focus Group – provided citizen feedback for the update of the town-wide design guidelines manual
Cary Citizens Advisory Committee (chair) – led task force to develop a process for Cary citizens to become involved by initiating Citizens Issue Advisory Groups
Preston Village HOA (member, secretary, president) – work for my neighborhood to protect property values, create a sense of community through events and communication, ensure the protection and maintenance of common areas for all, created a reserve study to ensure the financial viability of the community
Board of Trustee for Multiple Sclerosis Society – engage with not-for-profit to raise awareness and funds to eradicate MS.
National Cyber Security Alliance (board member, secretary) – promote cyber security for digital citizens, provide information, tools and activities for businesses, families and educators to protect themselves and the cyber infrastructure. Teach internet safety classes for parents and students.
National Institute of Urban Search and Rescue (executive board member) – dedicated to ensuring citizen readiness for disasters, work with federal, state and local officials to assist them in their preparedness plans.
Institute of Political Leadership (class speaker, fellow) – work to improve and develop skills in current policy issues and develop political leaders for today and the future.
Wake County Information Technology Advisory Committee (chair) – serve as advisory group to Wake County Commissioners on technology initiatives in the county
Leadership NC – Understand the issues and impacts to NC and broaden my understanding of the various potential policies and solutions.
NC State, Hunt Library Technology Advisory Board – provide insight, advice and information for the new library on the NC State Campus
How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
My political philosophy is one of inclusion, commitment and participation. I believe that a democracy can thrive and be successful with a variety of opinions and discourse from a diverse set of experiences and insight. Cary has a wealth of creative and innovative people and the Town should reflect those attributes.
Cary can improve its outreach to the community with more active communication. Rather than posting meetings in the newspaper, our outreach to citizens should use a variety of methods, leveraging technology where possible, and enhancing services where needed. Much of this can be accomplished through the town's web site (as it is today) and other forums, such as engagement with Homeowners Associations and actively meeting citizens where they live. The Town should better heed the policy and recommendations from its volunteer boards and commissions and utilize technology to bring more citizens into public participation. For example, the town's current use of social media does not fully realize the potential of that method of communication.
My work as the Chair of the Cary Mayor's task force for Citizen Involvement is a great example of how we can leverage our citizens to participate and help the town. The town has taken the first step by creating the recommended process that our task force proposed; however, the support structure for online support has been assigned a lower priority. These technology improvements, once implemented, should provide more engagement, discourse and opportunity for citizens to participate with their town government.
Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
One such area is annexation, a topic that will come before council as we move to more infill development, rather than expansion, which is the way that Cary typically has grown in the past. This idea of forced annexation troubles me, and I oppose forced annexation. In general, folks that would benefit from this principled stand are not Cary residents, and hence, they could not vote for me, and some voters in Cary would surely disagree with my position. However, I believe that the people who are considered for forced annexation should be part of the process and conversation, and they should have a say in what happens to their property.
The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
I always strive to be authentic, open, and honest in my day-to-day interactions. My goal is to ensure that my intentions are clear, my team is engaged, and with those qualities, we can accomplish great things, together. A "just community" can be built only when all citizens are engaged, valued and heard. I will support that premise –it is a key pillar of my platform!
To learn about other candidates' stances on the issues, read their 2011 Candidate Questionnaires.