Champ Claris | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Champ Claris 

Candidate for Raleigh City Council At-Large

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Champ Claris
Full legal name, if different: Robert Champion Claris
Date of birth: 10-6-77, election day!
Home address: 1328 Palace Garden Way 27603
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign Web site:
Occupation & employer: Realtor, Prudential YSU
Home phone:
Work phone: 227-7382

1) What do you believe are the most important issues facing Raleigh? If elected, what are your top priorities in addressing those issues?

1. Sagging Economy- I will find ways to better support and promote our small businesses as they are our largest provider of jobs. On top of trying to keep their taxes and fees down, I'd like to make city processes such as permitting faster and less cumbersome.

2. The Increasing Crime/Gang Activity- To maintain our high quality of life we must make public safety a higher priority. We need to move the resources necessary in order to fully staff our police and fire departments and find ways to better recruit, train, compensate, and retain our safety professionals.

2) What is there in your record as a public official or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be effective on the council? This might include career or community service; but please be specific about its relevance to this office.

At 31, I am extremely excited about the potential for a long future in public service. As far as experience that I know will help me lead this city, I believe my career as a real estate broker is a solid example. When I got into real estate in 2003 I had to literally start from scratch which unfortunately is where a lot of our citizens find themselves today. Armed only with a license to practice I dove in and crossed my fingers that I would survive that first year which many real estate agents do not. I had to come up with a business plan, marketing strategy, and learn on the job since I hit the ground running. I am certainly not a wealthy person but what I am most proud of is that I have grown my business every year. It is the real world experiences I have gone through and my ability to adapt that I know will help me lead Raleigh in the same positive direction.

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

I am a common sense conservative. I run my business and life that way. I believe that government should be good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars and spend them wisely. We need to get the Raleigh City Council focused back on priorities such as maintaining our roads, improving public safety, and helping our local economy by streamlining the permitting process for small business.

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

When elected, I will try to make future budgets fully fund the core services first(roads/public safety/parks/water), and then allocate the money to other programs to make sure essential services do not suffer.

5) What are the two or three most important program or policy initiatives you will champion if elected to the Raleigh Council? Or, to put it another way, how will your election change anything in Raleigh?

First I want to fully staff our police department, and as part of that I want them to have more of a working community relationship in troubled areas of the city. A more visible presence in these troubled areas I think would go a long way towards deterring crime. Second, I think we need to put more emphasis on abundant clean drinking water. I think our council has done a good job bringing it to the forefront since the drought two years ago but we have to get the new water plant online ASAP and continually work on new methods to make sure it never happens again. Finally, if elected I'd work to create more equity between ALL parts of Raleigh. While I know that we are centered on a strong downtown, which is vital to a thriving city, Raleigh is MUCH more than JUST a downtown. Whether it is North Raleigh, SE Raleigh, or anywhere else, we need to make sure our focus on downtown does not cause us to neglect these other vital neighborhoods and communities. Together we can continue to build a stronger, better city.

6) What can you point to in your record, on the Council or in community service, to demonstrate that you'll be an effective city leader?

Starting and running my business has taken the lion share of my time over the last six years. During this time I have been very involved in my neighborhood associations, and served two years on my Home Owners Association, one year as President.

7) Recent droughts have underlined Raleigh's water problems. Growth could cause the city to run out. On the other hand, the city isn't selling enough water to pay down the debt on its existing systems, resulting in rate increases. How should Raleigh deal with water in the coming years?

The most important thing is preparation. I think if we had done a better job preparing, we would have been able to avoid the worst of the situation in '07. Because of that, we are in a bind and unfortunately I understand the economics of this situation that has caused the added burden on our citizens. Hopefully the tiered rates will have a positive effect as I believe they could be a good start.

8) Crime and gang problems plague some parts of the city. Is there more the Council should be doing to go after them?

Public safety is a big issue for me. I also know that it is these same troubled spots that get neglected in other ways. We need more feet on the street, and we need them ASAP (perhaps more precinct houses in troubles areas). Our community officer program is a great concept and I think we need to "fast track" it to other sections of town. When elected, I look forward to being involved in those communities and continually working with their leaders to find ways to improve the lives of all of our citizens. After all, crime and gang problems affect us all.

9) Are new initiatives needed to address the city's fast-growing Hispanic population? If so, what do you recommend?

I think we need to the best we can to make ALL our citizens feel comfortable in their city. If there were a need for more initiatives for any group, I am always willing to listen and learn.

10) Does Raleigh need better public transit services? (A lot better?) If yes, what specific steps do you advocate, and how would you pay for them?

I think one thing we need to work on is changing the negative perception of our bus service. We have a couple of very good bus services that are underutilized. In the future, I see Raleigh having multiple public modes of transportation, including light rail, and as far as how to pay for it, I think the citizens should have a chance to vote their opinion.

11) Raleigh's development fees (impact and capacity fees) are the lowest in the region, meaning that current residents shoulder the lion's share of the cost of growth, not developers or newcomers. Should these fees be increased, and if so, by how much?

I don't think any tax or fee increase in a recession will have a positive impact on anyone in our city. We raised impact fees on new development about 70% in 2006 and have automatic yearly increases so I think they are were they should be.

12) Raleigh's never required developers to include affordable housing (however "affordable" might be defined) as a condition for approval of tall buildings or big subdivisions? Should it? If so, what rules should apply?

Inclusionary zoning is a subject that is often debated. From the research I have done, it does not seem to create the desired effects on a community. I think local government should look for ways to create affordable housing but I think offering incentives to developers and builders to create affordable or work force housing is a better idea. With so many strong banks with a presence in Raleigh, we should also work on a partnership to get them more involved as well. I look forward to using my background as a real estate professional to find solutions to these issues.

13) What's the best thing about the proposed comprehensive plan for Raleigh? What's the worst thing?

As it stands, would you vote to adopt it or insist on changes first? I'm so happy that we are looking ahead and working to be a sustainable city. I am excited that at 31 years old, I'll be able to see us evolve and maybe even still be helping lead Raleigh in some capacity 25 years from now. The plan is still a work in progress and I look forward to seeing the finished product soon.

14) Public schools are a county, not city function. Should the city nonetheless act to assist the schools, and if so, in what ways?

There are many ways the city can partner with the school system to provide a safe environment for our children to learn. Any involvement our law enforcement can have in a policing, mentoring, or teaching capacity can have a real positive impact on our school children.

15) Raleigh's form of government—strong manager, weak council and mayor—combined with the fact that almost all city meetings are held during daytime hours, have the effect of limiting the extent to which average citizens can participate in government decisions. Is this a problem, in your view? If so, what changes should be made? Is this a priority for you?

I am very much in favor of a transparent government. But I think with the Council meetings available on TV and the internet, the agenda available online prior to meetings, and most zoning cases heard at night, the city is doing a good job at including the citizens. All told, the Tuesday meetings can take up to 5-6 hours so starting them after work hours isn't really an option. However, I will make a point to listen to our citizens as much as possible outside of the meetings so hopefully anyone who wants to be heard can be.

16) Two years ago, the Indy asked every council candidate if s/he would support extending to same-sex partners the same benefits (e.g., health insurance) on the same basis that they are now offered to the spouses of city employees. Virtually everyone said yes, but to date nothing's been done. Is it time?

Because of the economic situation, I am sure our budget would make this a tough time to institute this policy. However once things improve, I would absolutely be open to discussion on the topic.

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