Will Raymond | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Will Raymond 

Candidate for Chapel Hill Town Council

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Will Raymond
Full legal name, if different:
Date of birth: 47 y.o.
Home address: 209 Mt. Bolus Rd. , Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign Web site: willraymond.org
Occupation & employer: Software Development
Home phone: 919-932-1035
Work phone:
E-mail: campaign@willraymond.org



Please also refer to CitizenWill.org for background information covering the last 4 years or so of my civic involvement.

1. 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.

Advisory Boards: Horace-Williams Citizens Committee, Sustainability Task Force, Downtown Parking Task Force, Technology Board

Other: Founding member Save Lincoln Arts Center, citizen activists involved in a number of issues over the last 8 years, including, recent efforts on Carolina North (UNC-LAC/Development Agreement) and siting a waste transfer site in Orange County.

Professional: Entrepreneur, CIO/CTO startups Reged,com, Blast Inc.

2. How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

I'm socially, environmentally and politically progressive. I have a track-record of supporting greater diversity, stronger environmental protections, broader community participation and civil liberties. Beyond that, for the last 8 years, I have put my "sweat equity" into these causes, collaborated with a range of constituencies in taking on some of the toughest, thorniest issues in my community. When it would have been more politically expedient to sit by quietly, I stood up for folks within my community whose voices might not normally be heard.

3. Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

As the plan to move the homeless shelter to Homestead Rd. progresses it is important to cultivate community support. That said, I expect that siting the facility on the old Duke Energy site will require significant outreach in local neighborhoods to build a community consensus. I'm prepared to work directly with all the stakeholders to calmly address concerns while also working, along with UNC and the IFC, towards creation of this new facility

Also potentially unpopular will be calling for a delay on the Library expansion until the Town can prudently acquire more debt. The Library is very popular, expanding it will benefit our community but until the Town's financial foundations are strengthened, the right thing to do is wait.

4. The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?

For the past 8 years I have worked on a number of civil, environmental and social justice issues. I started a campaign to rid Chapel Hill of a red-light camera system which bypassed basic civil liberties.

I have also stood firm on calling for development policies that benefit all our community, inspecting the wider consequences of various projects and assessing the whole range of trade-offs associated with development. Along those lines, I was one of the few citizens that consistently challenged the Greenbridge project on grounds that the consequences of its development didn't end at the property line, that it would drive the last concentration of minority-owned businesses in Chapel Hill off of Rosemary and start a commercial "land grab" on the north-side of Rosemary which, along with its affect on gentrification, would drive diversity out of Northside.

Another recent example is my activism at the county level is working for an equitable, environmentally and socially just selection of a trash transfer site on behalf of not on the Rogers Rd. community but rural Orange. I helped develop community criteria for site selection that made social justice a key component of the process.

Going forward, I will continue to work to increase diversity within Chapel Hill, to make sure our citizens are treated in a respectful and just fashion by our staff and to help rebuild the substance of a progressive agenda instead of cruising on a reputation built by folks like those that we will be honoring with a plaque next week.

5. In the midst of a difficult economic situation and a tough budget year, what's one thing that the town is cutting that you would save and what's one thing that's been saved that you would cut?

Not a cut directly but the draw down on our financial reserves has to be reversed. There will be dollars that would be politically easier to spend on projects that score political points that need to be restored to our "rainy day" funds. I will push for restoration.

Again, not a cut but more of a delay. I would postpone the very popular Library expansion until the Town can prudently take on the additional debt load.

6. What's your approach to growth in Chapel Hill? Where should the town grow? How do leaders manage it?

I joined the Town's new Sustainability Task Force to help define appropriate growth within Chapel Hill. The pattern of development we have seen approved the last few years -- dense, tall expensive mix-use condo projects, doesn't fit well with a model of successful transit-oriented developments elsewhere. The siting and scope of some of these projects has been soundly rejected by many in our community. One, the Greenbridge project, which is a showcase for environmentally sound construction and sustainable living, was sited in a very inappropriate location.

What needs to change? First, the focus needs to shift to real community benefits, backed by an honest assessment of anticipated trade-offs and a clear community discussion and understanding of consequences -- positive and negative -- beyond the property line. As Chapel Hill grows over the next decade, and redevelopment becomes ascendant, a more holistic approach that considers the broader effects of each development on other aspects of our residents quality of life, the state of our local environment and the impacts on our social, economic and sustainability goals needs to take place.

Where should growth occur? The Sustainability Task Force is working on identifying green and brown field commercial development/redevelopment opportunities based on the Town's desire to expand its commercial tax-base. Many of the denser, transit-oriented, mix-use type developments, by necessity (and because of the Town's comprehensive plan and LUMO) will fall along transit corridors. I support that intent. In doing so, I don't believe we should approve dense/tall developments on the bet that it will curry Federal light-rail dollars, as was the case one former Council member routinely made. The "build it and they will come" approach will cause significant negative impacts on current transit, Town infrastructure and quality of life without any surety that the "ends justified the means" (not an approach I philosophically agree with anyway).

I have suggested that the Sustainability Task Force evaluate existing zones, RCDs (resource conservation districts), conservation areas, transit corridors,identified economic development zones, watersheds, NCDs (neighborhood conservation districts), the Carolina North development agreement among other planning overlays to narrow and define areas of interests. Along with that, I have suggested that we look beyond the existing comprehensive plan (which has various inconsistencies) to define a pattern of growth that will help solidify the links between Meadowmont/Southern Village and central Chaple Hill while maintaining the character of our Town.

How do we manage growth? The Sustainability Task Force is a good first step. By defining a range of acceptable growth patterns and identifying appropriate locations to apply each pattern, the STF will give the new Council a roadmap to work from. Ideally, the STF process will generate a set of planning overlays at a detail never available for Council deliberation. At a glance, the Council and the various advisory boards involved in the development pipeline, will be able to determine if a project infringes on important habitats, complies with the RCD, has potential consequences to the Lake Jordan watershed, fits within the 2035 Master Transit plan, etc.

What will I bring to the table? Other than a fairly strong background and track history in monitoring and responding to growth within our community, I will work to make sure that we better quantify the benefit of a project, clearly communicate the anticipated trade-offs to the community, cultivate the widest possible input from the public and follow-up, after approval, to make sure that the putative goals for granting a SUP or other variance actually are met.

Follow-up and follow-through are two of the weakest components of our current decision making process. For instance, the %30 affordable housing component of East54 was reduced by 1/3. This was a key touted community benefit that "sold" the Council on granting MUV zoning, setback modifications and other

7. Do you think recent efforts to revitalize Franklin Street, such as adding welcome flags, using new parking rules, implementing Touchdown Carolina, etc. have been effective? What more needs to be done downtown? What would you do to increase occupancy rates and make Franklin Street a more vibrant and economically successful entity?

I believe that some of these reforms have been quite effective. I served on the Downtown Parking Task Force and one of my recommendations was adopting the courtesy ticket program. That has generated a number of appreciative responses to Town Hall. If you have been Downtown during football weekends, the crowds seem to be coming earlier and staying longer. I have wondered, and will work with the Downtown Partnership to better understand why, some businesses don't open earlier to take advantage of the new influx of visitors.

Besides the courtesy ticket, moving leased parking off prime lots and other recommendations, the Downtown Parking Task Force (DPTF) made others that have either not been implemented or inverted.

For example, the DPTF recommended making parking free or lower cost during holidays, when students left town, summer, etc. but were either ignored or in the case of daily rates, which were increased by Council, inverted. I will work to make a case for more affordable parking that is attractive to visitors and residents alike.

As far as revitalizing Downtown, while there is a role of redevelopment, many of my suggestions over the years involve "minor" but necessary improvements. I have lobbied for a family-friendly pocket park, drinking fountains, decent bathrooms, directory-style way signs, better lighting, fixed sidewalks, appropriate timing of crosswalk signals for handicap access and other "simple" amenities for Downtown. On Council I'll continue to work to make these a reality.

As far as "high concept" redevelopment, the initial plans for University Square are quite exciting. The broad spectrum of housing, the increase in affordable commercial/office square footage, an arts component, an integrative tenant like a grocery store (which pulls in folks from surrounding neighborhoods), the commitment to "reattach" Cameron to Franklin St. are all elements that are lacking in the current facility. In my estimation, this redevelopment far exceeds the promise of the Town's own Lot #5 project and, essentially, nullifies the basis for building it. As a Council member I would ask that the Lot #5 agreement be re-evaluated and that we wait until the University Square project is in place before taking up a new project at Lot #5. That new project could be designed to fill in the "gaps" and complement the new profile of the University Square project.

Franklin St. is already vibrant, just not consistently so. We need to benchmark what is working and build on that success.

Finally, a quick observation that Downtown is just one component of our economic picture. The municipal fiber optic project, which I fought for and this Council finally adopted, could help integrate technology-based ventures located throughout our Town together. Having worked at a technology company based Downtown, I know that being able to effectively network is a great economic discriminator. We need to build on that asset once it is available.

8. While Greenbridge has been lauded as an environmentally friendly housing development, there are also concerns that it threatens adjacent lower-income neighborhoods. What do you think the town's strategy should be in regards to gentrification?

Every development creates trade-offs. Environmental, social, economic impacts need to be assessed honestly and communicated clearly to the community. Objective standards should be applied to measure benefits and a commitment made to follow-up to see if the expected negatives and promised positives are realized. If we had done this effectively with Greenbridge, I believe that the off-site consequences would have been given a better airing, that the community would have had a better understanding of the underlying trade-offs and, if the public was listened to, that a different decision might have been made.

Market forces guarantee that gentrification is going to happen in Chapel Hill. The Northside neighborhood is already seeing the impact realized in two ways. Direct gentrification of existing homes and rental refurbs that, essentially, have the same impact as direct gentrification; raising tax valuations. As far as Town policies and development approvals, I believe we need to maintain existing neighborhood communities by mitigating anticipated consequences as reasonably as possible. In some cases, like Greenbridge, we shouldn't adopt policy -- in that case creating a new Downtown development zone -- or a project -- Greenbridge -- that radically alters the landscape (throwing gas on the gentrification fire, so to speak).

Again, without objective standards cultivated from community input, the Council and its advisory boards doesn't have an adequate yardstick for measuring the consequences beyond the development's property line. We need to create that tool.

9. Do you agree with Community Home Trust Executive Director Robert Dowling that the town's affordable housing policy is not working? If so, what needs to be done to correct this? As for public housing, how should the town continue to manage these developments in light of reduced federal funding?

Yes. It took courage for Robert to change course and admit that what I and others have been saying and calling for these last 5 years was correct.

The Town has already committed to redirect funds to maintain existing stock, much of which is robbing actual affordable housing square footage by accepting in lieu monies. Even as Federal monies shrink, I will continue to call for square footage over in lieu funding. With East54 and the transfer fee mechanism, the current Council has started to address the sustained funding issue for maintaining existing stock. We need to adopt a similar strategy for both existing and new housing stock. There will be a lag time and deficit which, unfortunately, will probably have to be made up out of general fund revenues.

Another important reform, though, is in the may we incorporate new stock into our land trust portfolio. Both Robert Dowling and Delores Bailey have said that their organizations cannot manage the kind of influx of affordable housing stock that the East54's of Chapel Hill present. Just as I believe we should be taking square footage now over cash payments, I also believe we should be organizationally prepared to take almost (there's always exceptions) all the housing stock developers offer. This is no complaint against either land trust organization, they are operating at the limits of their resources. I believe the Town needs to look at what it can do to help these organizations take in affordable housing stock whenever it becomes available. Providing tactical support and resources is one possible way to lift some of the burden off of OCHLT (now Community Land Trust).

10. What makes Chapel Hill unique to you? How would you preserve that while advancing it?

At the base of what makes Chapel Hill unique are the people that live here. While we have lost some of the unique characters and characteristics of the Chapel Hill I first experienced in the late 70's, the intelligent, involvement, interesting folks of Chapel Hill continue to make this community a great place to live. Complementing that diverse population is the natural beauty found throughout Town. And, of course, there is the University, which acts both as an anchor and a reminder of what we can achieve.

I will continue to build on those policies that protect the environment, maintain our neighborhoods and reduces our dependence on limited natural resources.

Diversity is a hallmark of a sustainable community. Unfortunately, because of development policies, increased taxes and other factors, our existing diverse population is being displaced. Further, as folks move to Chapel Hill not as much for the community as for the services the community offers -- good schools, swimming centers, easy access to RTP -- I hear more folks who have lived here for awhile describe Chapel Hill as more "disconnected". We haven't done a great job at recognizing this growing "balkanization" and working to reconnect folks. It is clear from the Sustainability Task Force forums that folks want to tie outlying neighborhoods like Southern Village and Meadowmont closer to Chapel Hill. I will follow up on some of their excellent suggestions on bringing us closer together, irrespective of geography, as a community.

11. With that in mind, the town's comprehensive plan emphasizes regional planning and cooperation. How should this collaboration take place? On what kinds of issues? And, what strategies would you borrow from your neighbors that could work in Chapel Hill?

While we must coordinate regionally, the existing MPO and Jordan Lake compacts demonstrate the type of problems we face. Specifically, Durham and Durham County feel free to encroach or dispense with the kind of protections we expect in Chapel Hill and Orange County. Whether building a huge development just west of I40/north of Hwy54 or redrawing watersheds, the partnership is not working effectively. If we're to continue working through these organizations, we must be firm in our leadership.

12. How do you view UNC's relationship with the town? What's the state of it, given recent Carolina North developments? How will you help further that relationship in the future?

As a long time observer of UNC's development process, the Town-n-Gown relationship, I believe we are on much firmer ground. The University demonstrated that they could not only listen to the community's concerns but integrate the community's suggestions for mitigation during the recent Carolina North negotiations. Prior to those negotiations, the University had completely reworked their community outreach efforts and, while there is room for improvement, it was substantially better than any effort before (at least compared to the Mason Farm Rd./IO4 process).

One way to further that relationship is to use the Carolina North community process as a template for managing the University Square redevelopment.

13. The 10-year plan to end homelessness is underway. How will the town monitor progress on the plan? What accountability measures are or should be in place? What are the hurdles to accomplishing it? How can the town overcome those obstacles? What is not in the plan that should be?

A good case has been made that a handful of homeless individuals require an excessive amount of homelessness support resources.

The 10-year plan will compassionately address this imbalance while freeing up additional resources to meet a dramatically growing need. As I've spoken to folks about this initiative the last 4 years, I well know that "selling" this program will take political fortitude. On the face of it, we will be putting individuals that appear undeserving of priority treatment at the head-of-the-line. It will appear that the services we offer them will be lavish in comparison to folks that are temporarily homeless but in dire straits. The case has been made at a policy level. The tough part is making the case at the community level. Part of selling the program is to make sure that adequate safeguards exist to manage the growth of the program, to make sure individuals comply with the requirements and that the funding freed up is redirected appropriately. I will work to make sure that measurable, objective standards are used in formulating the goals of the program and that we commit to actively following the progress as monies are expended.

14. What important town departments or agencies have been, in your opinion, chronically underfunded? What have been the ramifications of that shortage? If elected, where would you find the money to more fairly fund these areas? Conversely, what town departments or agencies have been overfunded?

The town government functions effectively for an organization using 1980's technology and management techniques. We need to upgrade our management techniques and operational infrastructure to cost-effectively deal with today's demands.

Generally, we need to streamline our processes, reduce the amount of paper pushing, put a game plan in place to develop and retain top quality people, take a more team-directed approach in some departments, effectively use technology and tap into the incredible sense of service, talent, innovation and creativity latent in our staff. We need to reward those performing above and beyond the call of duty - through salary and incentive "prizes". We need to remove those that are ineffective.

As far as departments, I believe a "looser" team-directed approach would be an appropriate remedy for our troubled transportation department. Our planning group is overwhelmed and doesn't provide an adequate level of service because they don't have access to modern technological solutions.

We also need to adopt a simple set of principles that will guide our staff. One example: resource conservation should be "bone deep" – turning off lights, using appropriate vehicles/the bus/carpooling on Town business should be second nature, sitting in idling SUVs should be an anathema, etc.

15. Many of the town's workers live in outside communities due to the high cost of living in Chapel Hill and the lack of what some term "a living wage." What would you do to address this? Should it be addressed? Is it important for our police, firemen and public works officials to live in the community that they serve?

Our work force should be paid a competitive wage commensurate with their service. At the low-end, we should pay wages that meet regional standards for a "living wage". At the current rate of growth in the cost of living in Chapel Hill, adopting a policy to increase wages at the low-end to keep pace with that trend is not fiscally prudent.

I do think it is important that not only our Town staff but educators and other folks working on behalf of our community have an opportunity to live here. That is why I have called for an improved affordable housing policy that addresses those folks falling into the "housing gap". These are folks that make too much to qualify for existing affordable housing programs but too little to afford a $350K or more home. Adopting policies that encouraged developers to fill this gap will be a priority.

Along those lines, some of the most successful mixed-use, transit-oriented development is targeted towards folks in "the gap". We are overweighted at this point with new million-dollar condo projects that promise an uptick in transit use. I will work to rebalance our efforts to more closely follow the lead of other successful transit-oriented developments which have helped deal with the lack of affordable housing for this segment of our community.

  • Candidate for Chapel Hill Town Council

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