Name as it appears on the ballot: Thomas G Crowder
Party affiliation, if any: Democrat
Campaign website: crowderforcouncil.com
Occupation & Employer: Architect | ARCHITEKTUR PA
Years lived in NC: 55 years – Raleigh native
Given the current direction of Raleigh city government, would you say things are generally on the right course? If not, what are the specific, major changes you will advocate if elected?
Generally we are on the right course; however we must continue to seek ways to improve the City's delivery of services, transparency and Raleigh's quality of life. Over the last eight years we have been on numerous top-ten list as one of the most desirable cities to live, work, play and raise a family in the nation. That was not by happenstance, but rather vision, planning and leadership. That said, the upcoming city council will have to be more nibble and more creative in order to stay at the top, particularly given the current economy and the city's recent revenue shortfalls. With Raleigh's growth, so will impacts and needs. We must continue to concentrate on a vision for the future, proactive planning and fiscal restraint based on targeted spending in strategic investments, which will continue to yield a positive return towards an environmentally, financially and culturally sustainable future for the city.
If you are a candidate for a district seat, please identity your priorities for improvements in the district if you're elected.
Over the last eight years, we have tackled many quality of life challenges that were negatively impacting SW Raleigh and we have invested in key plans and infrastructure investments. One major quality of life challenges for neighborhoods still remains that must be addressed; passing a substantive front yard parking ordinance. Regardless, now that many of those challenges have been addressed, or are in the process of being addressed, it is now time to focus on highlighting the multitude of existing assets and opportunities for reinvestment that exist in the SW quadrant of the city. This fall we will be kicking off a two-year branding and economic development project in partnership with NC State Universities College of Design, College of Management and College of Humanities. It will focus on bringing to light the community, recreational, educational, arts, technology, innovation, vision and entertainment assets that currently exist in the Capital City's Creative District, SW Raleigh. Out of this process we will also develop key priorities the city and private sector must take over the next three to five years to further stimulate positive economic development and redevelopment in the district.
What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective as a member of City Council? If you've identified specific issues above, what in your record has prepared you to be an effective advocate for them?
It has been a true honor and privilege to serve one and a half terms on the Raleigh Planning Commission and four terms on the Raleigh City Council. When first running for city council I promised to provide "vision and leadership". However for one to be a leader there must be those standing beside you to advance a common goal and vision. Over the past eight years one of my key goals has been to educate, empower and engage our district residents in city government. This has benefited both those individual residents and the community at large in planning and creating a better quality of life for citizens in SW Raleigh. During the 2030 Comprehensive Plan Update District D residents were fully engaged in updating the adopted plan, recommending over fifty changes to the city staff's "draft" document. Over the next twenty years these citizen driven recommendations will help insure that our existing neighborhoods, history and natural environment are protected in SW Raleigh, as well as accommodate future growth in existing and newly created walkable, mixed-use urban neighborhood and community centers. Many of these centers will soon be served by regional light rail transit.
Regardless of the challenges facing our city and SW Raleigh or the recommendations I may bring forward to the community and council table, citizen driven participatory engagement in city government will continue to be the core means to the end solution.
How do you identify yourself to others in terms of your political philosophy? For example, do you tell people you're a conservative, a progressive, a libertarian, or what?
I consider myself a careful listener, creative and pragmatic problem solver, a free thinker and a leader.
The Independent'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 apparent by my record on the Raleigh City Council and the Raleigh Planning Commission, my stance on any issue is what is right, just and in the best long-term interest of all the citizens of District D and Raleigh, verses political expediency, or posturing. One of the efforts I have championed over the past eight years and will continue to champion in this term is developing inclusionary zoning, or at minimum policies to insure Raleigh remains affordable for all income levels. We cannot continue to segregate our neighborhoods and communities by income where demographic data prevents positive economic development, services and job opportunities in historically lower wealth areas of our city. As the Capital City, Raleigh must lead the way in insuring mixed-income communities are the new rule, rather than the exception. I will continue to lobby the Council to develop at minimum a graduated impact fee system that will incentivize and direct growth and mixed income housing options into more walkable, transit oriented mixed-use communities and employment centers.
Please address the following major issues in Raleigh:
Is the city's debt load too high? Or does the fact that Raleigh retains its AAA bond rating indicate that the debt load is manageable for our city our size?
Our current debt load is manageable and next to the lowest for a city our size in North Carolina, however given the current economy, we must continue to be strategic and prudent with our investments and spending.
Is the property tax rate too high? Too low? Or about right?
Raleigh provides the lowest cost for services in the Triangle and next to the lowest in the state for a city our size, second only to Winston Salem. By providing the most value for the buck, Raleigh has continuingly been listed as one of the best places in the country to start a business, to raise a family, providing a quality of life and one of the fastest growing cities for the past several years. I would say I and others on the Council have worked very hard over the last decade to create a high standard of living for our citizens, protect and preserve our environment and natural resources and invest in a more sustainable future at the lowest cost possible. Particularly during the "Great Recession" (over the past three years) we have worked hard to meet these goals while also not burdening our financially strapped senior and low-wealth citizens with a tax increase. While taxes will ultimately need to be increased to meet our ever-growing needs, I will continue to work to insure Raleigh remains a bargain for our citizens, while also maintaining the highest possible quality of life in the nation.
The proposed Clarence Lightner Public Safety Center is stalled. Should it be built? If not, what should be done to meet the city's facility needs for police, fire and emergency operations?
Not in its current proposed form. While I believe a compromise solution is feasible, the current proposal rose in cost from eighty million dollars to over two hundred million dollars. More importantly it would have consolidated our
critical services and placed them at risk based on national precedents and best practices, which I and other Councilors researched during this debate.
What other major capital projects, if any, do you want the city to undertake in the coming years?
We have many needs in the City of Raleigh, particularly in SW Raleigh; however given the current downturn in the economy and reduction in the city's sales tax and fee revenues we must be very measured and strategic in our investments. Such investments would include moves to mak the Dorothea Dix property a world-class urban destination park, investing in multi-model transit alternatives and facilities such as Union Station, completing Hillsborough Street, revitalizing the S. Wilmington/S. Saunders corridor, preserving vanishing open space and fragile ecological habitats, constructing more neighborhood parks in SW Raleigh, as well as making infrastructure improvements in key locations around proposed light rail stations.
Do you support the transit plan for Raleigh and Wake County developed by Triangle Transit and the committee of Wake mayors? Do you support taking the ¥¥¥-cent sales tax for transit to Wake County voters in the next two years? If it's on the ballot, do you expect to support or oppose its passage?
I do support both the transit plan approved by the Wake Mayors and taking the ¥¥¥-cent sales tax to the voters in 2012. I will fully support and advocate for any transit plan and funding that includes SW Raleigh in the first phase build-out of light rail and enhanced bus service.
Raleigh has two bond issues on the ballot in October, one for transportation projects and the second for affordable housing. Do you favor or oppose their passage?
I voted to include both of these bond packages on the ballet in October and I fully support their passage. Furthermore, I lead the charge to change how the city pays for sidewalk improvements and repairs, with one hundred percent now being paid out of the General Fund in lieu of the City's previous policy where individual residential property owners were assessed to participate in the cost. The old policy pitted neighbor against neighbor to improve walkability in their community.
With the state hospital closing, what is your vision for the 306-acre Dorothea Dix tract? Should it all be a destination park someday? Should development be allowed on part or all of it.
I was the first Raleigh City Councilor to come out in favor of turning all 306 remaining acres of the Dorothea Dix property into a world-class urban park when the state announced they would close the hospital and I continue to support such a vision today. No development should be allowed on the remaining 306 acres, as redevelopment opportunities already exist along Lake Wheeler Road/S Saunders Corridors and other surrounding locations.
Regarding the health insurance benefit provided to city employees, should elective abortions be included or excluded for coverage? Please explain your answer.
I fully support an individual woman's right to choose and their right to control their reproductive bodies; however I would not be honest if I did not say I am torn about the city's insurance covering elective abortions. Today, there are too many proactive responsible measures to prevent unwanted pregnancies. I also firmly believe our city employees are responsible and intelligent adults in control of their destiny; however many employee's adolescent children are at risk of making life-altering judgment calls they are not equipped to make. As someone who is historically decisive, I continue to wrestle internally about how I feel regarding this issue. For me the jury is still out.
Regarding health insurance and other benefits provided to city employees, should the partners of LGBT employees be offered the same access to benefits as married spouses?
I support all married couples, or couples joined in a civil union receiving spousal benefits regardless of their sexual orientation. However, I would not support couples having equal access to employee spousal benefits who just co-habitate together, straight or otherwise.
If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.
As someone who has lead the charge for codifying the City's Urban Design Guidelines and creating "Form Based" zoning in Raleigh, I strongly urge your readers to carefully study, comprehend and comment on the City's Draft Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). There has been no single piece of local legislation in the City's recent history that will dramatically and literally change the face of Raleigh, or impact our future natural and built environments; for the good, or bad once a new development code is adopted. While this is a complex and challenging document for most laypersons to grasp, it is critical that every citizen participate...and remember that "the devil is in the details", or as the renowned mid-century architect Mies van der Rohe put it: "God is in the details".
After all, it is your city and your future that lies within this document.
To learn about other candidates' stances on the issues, read their 2011 Candidate Questionnaires.