In a word, that's what Raleigh's Oct. 6 election is about: how much to grow, where to grow, how to create infrastructure that keeps up with growth, how to ensure that the prosperity accompanying growth is distributed equitably.
Within that one issue, growth, are myriad related issues: affordable housing, gentrification, density, historic preservation, public transportation, poverty, downtown development. This year's hottest political fights have centered on a hated rezoning process and new rules to rein in downtown rowdiness.
In Durham, you see a similar story: affordable housing, gentrification, economic inequality, concerns about the boring, fancy-hotel direction downtown seems to be taking. There's also anxiety about gun crime and the contentious relationship between the police and communities of color, which probably contributed to Chief Jose Lopez's ouster.
(Programming note: We'll endorse in Orange County races Oct. 21.)
The challenges are certainly real. Still, we believe that both cities are generally moving in the right direction. Raleigh's and Durham's downtowns are thriving, and with them our culinary and cultural scenes. The Triangle's unemployment rate is well below the state average. We top all manner of quality-of-life rankings and best this-or-that lists.
The question for this election is how to keep that momentum going—how to build on our positives and address our negatives.
Both Raleigh and Durham are fortunate to have a number of smart, engaged, progressive candidates for office. Some races proved difficult to decide; we're not supporting a few candidates we like very much. But in the end, we believe the individuals we've endorsed best align with the INDY's mission of making the Triangle a more just, livable and interesting place.
Endorsements, of course, are by their nature subjective. This is not: In October 2013, turnout in Wake County municipal elections was an abysmal 15 percent; in Durham city elections, 10.5 percent. That's not good enough. This is your home, and your home is at a crossroads. We can't afford for you to sit this one out.
Vote for our people, vote for someone else, write in Scrooge McDuck or Homer Simpson or Donald Trump or some other cartoon character. Doesn't matter. Just vote.
This one's a no-brainer: We endorse Mayor Nancy McFarlane.
While not as visionary as her predecessor, Charles Meeker, McFarlane exudes competence. The two-term incumbent has guided the city through a personnel overhaul with the hiring of a new city manager, maintained the city's AAA bond rating, established the Small Business Office and provided the lowest-cost municipal services in the Triangle. On just about every list imaginable, Raleigh ranks among the best places to live, work, start a business and raise a family. At minimum, McFarlane hasn't crashed the car since taking the wheel.
The mayor also has at least one major accomplishment to her name: McFarlane was instrumental in the $52 million purchase of the 307-acre Dorothea Dix property, overcoming late-game Republican meddling on Jones Street. And she'll be a reliable advocate for the badly needed Wake County transit referendum slated to go before voters next fall.
But we aren't content to see McFarlane rest on her laurels. In this term—thought to be her last, though that could change—we want the mayor to stop tip-toeing around Council in fear of disrupting the delicate working majority that usually sides with her. We want the normally conflict-adverse McFarlane to assert herself more forcefully. In short, we want to see leadership.
McFarlane's challenger, Bob Weltzin—or Dr. Bob, as he calls himself—is a chiropractor and military veteran who has lived in Raleigh for five years and run for mayor twice, both times with the backing of the Wake County Republican Party. He believes the City Council is "extremely out of touch with both the citizens and the businesses that make Raleigh vibrant," and is championing the cause of downtown bars chafing at new sidewalk restrictions that McFarlane has supported. On this issue, we side more with the bars, but one issue does not an election make.