Name as it appears on the ballot: Rodger Koopman
Full legal name, if different: John Rodger Koopman
Date of birth: 4/27/60
Home address: 2214 The Circle, Raleigh, 27608
Mailing address, if different from home: PO Box 6236, Raleigh, 27628
Campaign Web site: www.rodgerkoopman.com
Occupation & employer: Independent Consultant, Software Design and Architecture
Home phone: 919-832-0004
Work phone: 919-887-2611
Cell phone: 919-604-8884
1. If elected, what are your top priorities?
My top priorities are to manage growth, protect our neighborhoods and our parks (especially Dorothea Dix, Horseshoe Farm, and Durant Nature Park), provide a clean water supply from Falls Lake, increase impact fees, and improve public transportation. We should change the mix of representation on the planning commission and other important regulatory and advisory boards to reflect our neighborhoods. I want to see more average citizens and recognized experts in areas such as urban planning and design, parks, water safety, etc.
2. What is there in your record as a public official or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be effective on Council? This might include career or community service; but please be specific about its relevance to this office.
I have extensive experience working in the complex bureaucracy of the Pentagon as a retired Air Force officer. My last assignment was as the special assistant to the general in charge of the U.S. Counter-Terrorism program in Southwest Asia. I traveled with him as he visited US Ambassadors to brief them on the terrorist threat and counter-terrorism measures.
I have two masters degrees, one in Information Systems and one in Public Administration. The MPA degree is focused on educating graduate students to become city managers. I have an extensive background working in leadership positions at charitable organizations, chambers of commerce, trade organizations and have many years of experience organizing and fundraising. I have traveled internationally and have managed outsourced software development, so Im keenly aware of and intimately familiar with the problems posed by the global economic environment.
3. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
Im a progressive who believes that a country is defined by how it treats its less able people. I do not believe in a harsh laisez faire economy where only those with the most resources or the most resolve to break rules come out on top. My entire professional career is a testimony to that idea as I have a legacy of treating people fairly and giving people opportunities to excel. My present campaign platform very much reflects my sense of fairness and passion for equality. For example, my ideas about managing growth is a direct reflection of my strong belief ALL Raleigh citizens should be able to equally and equitably participate in our community.
4. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
We are facing a significant funding challenge since the mid-nineties. This means we now face some really tough choices in terms of what we can pay for and how we generate the revenue to do that. I want to see a significant increase in impact fees to help ensure growth pays for itself. I know that not all citizens support this, but its one of the tough choices we must make if Raleigh is to remain the great city it is today.
5. The Independents mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
I was raised with a very keen awareness of what intolerance taken to its most extreme form will do, and am imbued with a very strong sense of fairness and justice. My parents barely survived the nazi occupation of Holland. Most of my dads family was murdered in nazi concentration camps, and my maternal grandmother was sent to a concentration camp because she had courageously hid a Jewish couple but was betrayed by one of her nephews.
My 15 years in the U.S. military further taught me that when you treat people fairly, give them access to good healthcare and educational benefits, and reward them for their hard work, everybody thrives. One has only to look at the U.S. military to recognize that fairness and justice arent just feel-good ideas. When actually used consistently they unleash the true human potential in everybody.
What I will bring to public office is a unwavering commitment to making sure we build and maintain a fair and just community where everybody has access to the same quality of life regardless of race, religion, or other cultural and religious attributes.
6. In the next two years, Raleigh will complete a revision of its comprehensive plan. If elected, will you seek to influence what it says? If so, how?
I intend to be fully involved in the planning process to ensure a reasonable and equitable Comprehensive Plan is produced. The current plan does not reflect the needs of the citizens in Raleigh. This is because citizen participation has been marginalized , discouraging citizens from coming forward with their ideas and it has created a more cynical political environment. I want to restore citizen participation to the maximum extent possible. Furthermore, modern computer technology and network technology like the Internet provides the real possibility of creating a much more democratic community process. With computers and the Internet its realistic to be able to collect information from many different sources and be able to process that information. So a commitment to citizen participation, plus better use of modern technology must be an element in how the comprehensive plan is put together to make sure it reflects the broadest consensus possible.
7. The issue of tax-increment financing (TIF) is before the Council because of developer John Kanes request for a $75 million tax break in connection with his North Hills East project. Do you support or oppose Kanes request? In general, do you think TIFs are needed in Raleigh? If so, under what circumstances?
In general, I do not think TIFs are needed in Raleigh, and oppose Mr. Kane's request. We dont need white collar welfare when tax expenditures ought to be used to stimulate blighted areas or provide affordable housing for our hard working middleclass citizens like our teachers, police and firemen. TIFs can make economic sense when theyre used for the greater good of the community.
8. Raleighs impact fees for parks and roads were increased 72 percent last year, but they remain far below what state law allows. Do you support increasing impact fees further, and if so, by how much?
Yes, absolutely. Today, on average it costs the city around $7,000 per new house to pay for roads, parks, and sewers. This does not include many other necessary items like schools. Yet, our current impact fee is only $1100. Before the 72% percent increase the impact fee was a ridiculously low $650. The 72% increase was part of a cynical political effort to preempt Mayor Meekers proposal to increase impact fees to a much higher (and needed) level.
So even the current impact fee of $1100 is clearly too low, and it means our property taxes do not pay for important services, but instead are used to subsidize sprawl. Other communities around us have much higher impact fees. For example, the impact fee for a 3,000 square foot home in Cary is around $5,500. It is not unreasonable to make sure we get closer to our neighboring cities' impact fee. Property values clearly havent suffered from managed growth.
9. CAC leaders are asking the Council to help them strengthen citizens involvement in city government matters. Should the CACs be strengthened? If so, what specific measures would you support to assist them?
One of the avenues for citizen input to the city's development process is the CAC's. I think they need to be strengthened by providing additional City staff support and funding where needed. CACs are currently being ignored for the most part.
10. Public transit is a huge issue in Raleigh, but theres little consensus on what to do about the local bus service, or about regional rail or bus connections. What are your goals in this area?
We need more buses, and buses that stop at more places. We also need to increase the frequency of bus stops so people dont have to wait for an hour before the next bus arrives. I would like to see a mix of regular buses and smaller express buses. I think all new buses we purchase should run on bio diesel and ideally bio diesel thats produced in North Carolinia. This in itself will help increase economies of scale that further reduces the cost of bio diesel production. Rail is also important, but will likely take more time to develop as the density of our population increases.
11. Several city or county governments in the Triangle extend employee benefits to domestic partners (including gay and lesbian partners) the same as to married spouses. Raleigh does not. Should it? Is this something youd support if elected?
Its time we stop all forms of discrimination. Gay and lesbian people work along side us in all types jobs. The fact they dont get the same benefits is discriminatory.