Kay Crowder | Candidate Questionnaires - Wake County | Indy Week
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Kay Crowder 

Raleigh City Council (District D)

Kay C. Crowder
Website: CrowderForCouncil.com
Occupation: Retired
Phone Number: 919-996-3050
Email Address: kay.crowder@raleighnc.gov
Years Lived in Raleigh All my life.

1) Between gentrification in historic neighborhoods and expensive rentals downtown, Raleigh has struggled with questions of affordable and workforce housing. In June, the city council set a goal of fifty-seven hundred more affordable units over the next decade. With burgeoning growth and rising housing prices, what additional steps should Raleigh take to create more affordable housing?

We see the benefits of the real estate boom that the City is experiencing. But affordable housing continues to lag behind new development. For 60 years, the population density of Raleigh - the number of people per square mile - decreased as the City expanded. This trend ended in 2000. Now, 68 people move to Wake County every day of the year, and the population density has increased by over 25% and is rising rapidly. This is great news, but brings great challenges for protecting existing neighborhoods, particularly long-established neighborhoods that contain much of the affordable housing stock.
In 2015, we adopted the Affordable Housing Improvement Plan to significant increase affordable rental units. This year, we will build 2.5 times more affordable housing than we did in 2014, the year I joined the City Council, and we are on track to produce almost four times as many units in 2019 as we did in 2014. Let’s face it, we can’t break the cycle of poverty until we can provide stable housing.
We need both short-term and long-term solutions. Much of the affordable housing stock is being converted to new uses. A recent example that has received much coverage in the newspaper is the sale of Wintershaven, a long-standing affordable housing development in Downtown. Many Wintershaven residents are elderly living solely on Social Security income, and are finding it difficult if not impossible to find a new place to live that they can afford. I believe we have opportunities to create a small, revolving fund that can be used for assistance in these emergency situations.
The City Council approved a livable wage this year for all city employees. And it’s no longer only the less fortunate among us who are priced out of the housing market. Increasingly, it is much of our skilled workforce – our teachers, our firefighters, and so many of our service workers. Much of the middle class is suffering under wage stagnation while the cost of housing rises far faster than the rate of inflation. I call this the “Missing Middle”. We need to keep these folks in Raleigh.
The City must take a sharper look at this segment of our population; it is going to take creativity on the part of the city and leadership from both the public and private sectors to solve this problem. I want to be a leader in finding these solutions.


2) Related to affordable housing (and affordability in general) is viable public transportation. What steps can the city take to improve mass transit throughout the city?

County voters approved a transit referendum last fall that will eventually create a bus rapid transit system and commuter rail line. What more should be done? This is both an economic and a quality of life issue. Improvements to vehicles have dramatically limited the pollution that comes out of each tailpipe, yet the Triangle continues to fail to meet ozone and other air quality standards. To its credit, the City is investing heavily in transportation infrastructure, including road improvements, sidewalks, bus rapid transit, and Union Station.
We must promote development standards that provide people the opportunity to live near where they work, learn, and play, or close to a transit corridor. A fully integrated multi-modal transportation system makes travel by bus, train, bike, and foot common, safe, and convenient. It must be people-friendly, for example, transitions between modes must be simple and convenient. Buses and trains must be tech-friendly, frequent and on-time, and clean and attractive.
If we want people to use transit, we must make it safe and easy to reach. Each stop needs a bus shelter in a safe location with sidewalks and pedestrian crossings that allow safe passage. The City of Raleigh needs to increase dramatically the miles of sidewalk on the ground. The transportation bond referendum on the October ballot includes $14 million for new sidewalks along both major corridors and neighborhood streets. Another $2 million is earmarked for the Safe Routes to Schools program, to make improvements around public schools that improve accessibility by foot and bike. Raleigh’s sidewalk deficit is so large that we must continue to seek new revenue streams for sidewalks.
I would like to work with local business to promote ridership through incentive programs, for example, perhaps reduced fares if a minimum percentage of employees participate.
Psychological research and clinical practice have clearly shown that healthy habits develop very early in life and, once well established, are exceedingly difficult to change. The City should give every school kid 18 years old or younger a free pass to ride the bus – to school, after-school sports, academics, and even a part-time job. The cost would be trivial, as these kids would be filling seats on the bus that are currently empty for much of the day. What a great way to start building your future ridership!


3.) Given the inflamed racial tensions after the recent events in Charlottesville, what steps should Raleigh take to position itself as a guardian of social justice? How would you characterize city leaders’ relationship with Raleigh’s communities of color, and what should be done to improve that relationship going forward?

The Brookings Institution tells us that young black city-dwellers (born between 1985-2000) are just as likely to live in a high-poverty neighborhood as the previous generation (born 1955-1970). White Americans are also more segregated from black Americans than from either Asian or Hispanic Americans.
To its credit, the greater Raleigh-Cary has a significantly lower degree of black-white segregation than the greater metro areas of Durham, Greensboro, and Charlotte. Segregation has declined in all of these rapidly growing areas since the acceleration of southward Black migration that began in the 1990s. The same is true for Hispanic-White segregation.
City policies should be geared towards continuing these trends. The City had a long-standing scattered affordable housing policy, which was recently replaced by a new policy based on location. These policies are intended to distribute new affordable housing across the city, but the City Council has waived them so often that their effects are negligible.
The City’s Homebuyer Program is for first-time homebuyers who meet income qualifications and want to buy in the city. This second mortgage program offers up to $20,000 as a low-interest loan and can help with down payments, closing costs or a gap in financing.
The City has just started IT Beginnings – workforce development for unemployed and underemployed youth that leads to industry-recognized IT credentials and valuable leadership and job skills. It’s a great start but we need to find more opportunities for our youth.


4.) Given the recent creation of the community engagement board, what do you believe the role of citizens advisory councils should be? What features and levels of involvement do you want to see incorporated into the new structure?

I will always believe that more engagement with the public is the central pillar of a well-run city. The council has decided to move forward with a more in-depth view, with the assistance of a professional group to evaluate different ways to engage citizens. Learning more about how citizen engagement can look in the 21st century is a grand place to begin a new level of conversation.


5) Thinking about the current direction of Raleigh city government, would you say things are generally on the right course? If not, what specific changes you will advocate if elected?

I believe the city is well governed and managed. There is always plenty of room for improvement.


6) If you are a candidate for a district seat, please identity your priorities for improvements in the district if you’re elected. If you are an at-large or mayoral candidate, please identify the three most pressing issues the city faces and how you will address them.

I know how hard it is to walk most anywhere in District D because of the lack of sidewalks. For many of the residents here, the bus is their only transportation, and they deserve to be able to walk safely to bus stops, school, and work. Many of these folks have no voice in the City, and it is incumbent upon you and I not to forget them.
I have focused my efforts on building sidewalks to connect people to transit. A new sidewalk in Carolina Pines to connect South Saunders Street to Lake Wheeler Road is one of my top priorities. I will continue to work closely with the N.C. Department of Transportation to reduce the impacts of widening the beltline on the Historic Method Community, NC State University, Meredith College, the Museum of Art, and especially the established neighborhoods, most of which existed before the Beltline was built. There is much more work and creativity that needs to be devoted to reducing the impacts created by running a superhighway through an established area of the City.
I must continue to work at finding solution to infill conflicts between new construction and existing construction as it relates to residential development. There are many changes that need to be made in the UDO to address citizen and developer concerns. Quality of Life is still what drives people to want to live, work, play, and learn here.


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

I’ll give you an example. Textiles that can be recycled comprise seven percent of what we throw away in our landfills. This is not sustainable! I worked with a textile recycler to partner with the city to create a curbside textile collection. Soon you will have a bag in which you can put used textiles and set it out by the curb. Landfill space is incredibly expensive, and the more of it we can conserve for real trash, the longer the life of the landfill and the lower the cost to all of us. Best of all, there is no cost to you or the city for this new program.


8) Please give an example of an action by the city council in the past year that went wrong or should have been handled differently. Also, what was the city’s biggest accomplishment during that period?
↓ Citizen engagement
↑ Working with our partners to define our transit needs for now and years to come.

9) 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 Democrat, who is socially progressive while being fiscally responsible. I strive to be a public servant, not a politician, shaped by Raleigh’s history to help lead Raleigh’s future.


10) Now that the city is moving ahead with plans for the 306-acre Dorothea Dix Park, what are some specific features or focuses you’d work to see as part of final design?

It is way too early to get that specific. Raleigh recently hired a firm with a great international reputation to help us create a master plan. Yes, we can activate the park now, but the point to remember is that Dix Park will be the culmination of a long-range and well-thought-out process developed over years, not months, and implemented over decades. I think it is important to think of Dix Park as not being for you and me, but for our children's children.


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

Get the schoolkids free bus passes.

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