Jennifer Robinson | Candidate Questionnaires - Wake County | Indy Week
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Jennifer Robinson 

Cary Town Council (District A)

Jennifer Robinson
Website: RobinsonforCouncil.org
Occupation: Director of Local Government Solutions, SAS
Phone Number: 919-740-9667 (personal); 919-469-4011 (office)
Email Address: JRobinson.Cary@gmail.com
Years Lived in Cary: 22


1) Please identify the three most pressing issues the town faces and how you will address them.

1. Less than 18% of our developable land is left
We must create ordinances and policies that govern the review and acceptance of infill development and redevelopment in order to protect the quality of our community. <

2. New neighborhoods are established before roads, schools, parks, greenways, and community centers can be built.

We must “catch-up” on the infrastructure we provide, critically assess requests for new development, and encourage our counterparts in Wake County to continue to hasten its school construction.

3. Revenue growth is not keeping up with population growth. To maintain the services and infrastructure that citizens expect, we must look for new efficiencies, enable the development of Class A office space, and consider alternate funding mechanisms.


2) Earlier this year, the town council unanimously passed the Cary Community Plan, which is designed (among other things) to create denser housing and bring more people downtown. Already there’s been at least one case, on Urban Drive, where residents protested new townhomes. If elected, how would you go about addressing conflicts related to urbanization and growth in what has historically been a suburban community?

For Cary to prosper in the future, we must re-imagine parts of our Town to allow for compact communities that support transit, walkability, and mixed uses as well as satisfy the desires of different demographics that value experiential living. The political will to approve projects that meet the criteria you are aiming for in light of citizen concerns is very difficult. In the past, I have approached this by weighing the merits of the development proposal against the merits of the concerns expressed by citizens. In each case, I vote according to what I sincerely believe is best for our community. I consider both the immediate impact as well as the impact the proposed project has on our Town’s future – 10, 25, and 50 years from now. I think that stakeholders and citizens respect when their elected officials apply due diligence by looking at all sides of the issue and voting with sincerity. While the people of one group disagree with a vote, it is more acceptable when they understand the rationale behind the vote.


3) As the town grows, affordable housing will become more and more of an issue. How do you believe the town should address affordability?

There are many aspects of affordability from the price to acquire or rent a home or unit, the cost to maintain the home and unit, and the cost to live (transportation, food, child care, utilities). The Town should continue to allocate CDBG funds toward affordable housing projects. In the past, we have supported DHIC, Habitat for Humanity, Carying Place, and other affordable communities. In this current fiscal year, we are dedicating CDBG funds to several affordable housing projects including Habitat, rehabilitation projects, Tammy Lynn, and Evergreen senior living. Additionally, we support grants to senior homeowners so that they can maintain their affordable properties and age in place. Our total appropriation for affordable housing in FY2018 is approximately $835k.

As we work with stakeholders that are interested in affordability, we should encourage the use of sustainable practices that make maintaining a home less expensive. For example, exteriors that do not require painting, low-maintenance landscapes, and energy-efficient practices.

Partnerships with and support of organizations that foster our community of people with modest incomes will also assist with affordability in Cary. The Town allocates $1 for every citizen to non-profits that serve our community. Programs such as the YMCA’s Camp High Hopes and afterschool care, Dorcas Ministries’ food pantry and outreach services, and White Oak Foundation’s youth, family and senior programs tremendously help our neighbors in need.


4) What in your public or professional career shows your ability to be an effective member of the town council? If you’ve identified specific issues above, what in your record has prepared you to deal with them?

I have eighteen years of experience on the Cary Town Council. I have an intimate knowledge of past and present issues, events, developments, policies, laws, and stakeholders. This knowledge gives me unique insight and the ability to realistically envision Cary’s opportunities as well as anticipate our future challenges. I have relationships with elected officials and staff members from cities, quasi-governmental agencies, and non-profits across the State. My knowledge, relationships, and communication skills – combined with my resolve to get things done right - make me an effective Councilmember. I have several tenets to which I adhere including “If you’re going to do it, do it right” and “Wait for great” – both of which speak to my belief that quality prevails over quantity and long-term gain trumps immediate gain.

In addition to serving on the Council, I work for SAS as its Director of Local Government Solutions. Every day, I help cities across the country use analytics to make informed decisions and become more effective and efficient in meeting the needs of their citizens. I serve on several national, state, and regional boards that focus on helping cities thrive. I am:
• a member of the Governing Board for the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC)
• a member of the Executive Board of the Triangle J Council of Governments (TJCOG)
• the Chair of GoTriangle

Additionally, I have served as:
• a member of the Executive Board for the North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM)
• the Chair for the NCLM Strategic Plan Committee
• the Chair for the NCLM General Government Legislative Action Committee
• the Chair of the TJCOG

Apart from municipal service, I also:
• serve on the Board of the Northwest Cary YMCA
• have served on the Board of the Taylor Family YMCA
• actively fundraise for the YMCA’s We Build People campaign
• have served on the Board for Read and Feed
• founded the Cary Community Foundation
• Co-founded the Cary Women’s Giving Network
5) Please give an example of an action by the town council in the past year that should have been handled differently. Also, what was the town’s biggest accomplishment during that period?

I would like to talk about a profoundly bad decision that was made within the last three years, but is now about to come to fruition. In 2014, the Town Council considered a rezoning request for 142 acres at the intersection of Highway 55 and the 540 toll road and adjacent to the CSX rail corridor. This land was zoned for Office and Institutional use and dense, mixed residential use which are logical uses given that the parcel is bordered by two major highways and a railroad. The Council voted 6-1 (I was the dissenting vote) to approve a rezoning to allow for single family homes to be built on the parcel.

Reasons for approval by the Council included:
• The applicant decreased density from 800 to 700
• The land is close to RTP so housing is appropriate
• The quality of the homes proposed is higher

My counter-point to these arguments are:
• Decreasing density on the parcel is not compelling when low-density residential use at this location is inferior to O&I and multifamily
• RTP is pursuing mixing residential within its borders
• There were no conditions in the rezoning request that addressed the quality of homes. In fact, the applicant did not exercise the option to buy and a different company is developing the site.

Additionally, this vote represents a movement in the wrong direction. Not only are single family homes inappropriate for a parcel that should have dense mixed use, the site is ideally situated for Office and Institutional. Office and Institutional buildings should be situated along major corridors that offer visibility and accessibility. At the time of the vote, there were only twelve Cary parcels greater than 10 acres in size that were zoned for office. The Town needs more than twelve parcels within our 55 square miles to attract new or expanding companies. Since then, other parcels that were zoned for office have been rezoned or proposed to be rezoned to residential.

This vote also represents a missed opportunity. A more strategic and well-planned project could have created a dynamic mix of offices, hotels, supporting retail, and dense residential.

Contrast this terrible decision with the decision to deny a low-density, single family proposal on the 95 acre “State Site” which is located adjacent to Cary Towne Boulevard, I-40, and the WakeMed Soccer Complex. While the applicant claimed that 360 single family homes would “save the mall,” the Council agreed to deny the request and wait for a better use for the land. Presently, the Council is considering a mix of office, retail, and multi-family that will bolster the economy of the entire area, create a unique live-work-play environment, and provide an opportunity to attract new employers to our market.


6) How do you identify yourself to others in terms of your political philosophy? For example, do you tell people you’re a conservative, a moderate, a progressive, a libertarian?

I am a moderate. I am a fiscal conservative who believes in protecting the environment, ending discrimination of all kinds, implementing and expanding transit, promoting experiential living, and collaborating across party lines and municipal boundaries.


7) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.

Other information:
Twitter: @JenBRobinson
Facebook: Robinson for Cary https://www.facebook.com/Robinson-for-Cary-704223686434648/
LinkedIn: Jennifer Robinson https://www.linkedin.com/in/jennifer-robinson-4a2530102/

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