Lee Sartain | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week
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Lee Sartain 

Candidate for Raleigh City Council At-Large

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Lee Sartain
Full legal name, if different: Ricky Lee Sartain
Date of birth: 05/11/1981
Home address: 3010 Walnut Creek Pkwy #N, Raleigh, NC 27606
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign Web site: www.sartainforraleigh.com
Occupation & employer: Education Technology & Policy Specialist, Friday Institute, NC State University
Home phone: (919) 210-4797
Work phone: (919) 513-8512
E-mail: lee@sartainforraleigh.com

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

I believe job growth and economic development downtown, and public transportation region-wide are key issues we face. My plan for addressing economic development is to create the Raleigh Innovation & Technology Zone (RITZ) designed to incubate new companies in the heart of the city. The RITZ leverages existing tax credits as a catalyst for job growth. Additionally, comprehensive public transportation must be developed in concert with the RITZ. I'm proposing a realignment of responsibilities between CAT and TTA surrounding transit planning. I also plan to work with the Wake County Commission to put a ½ cent transit sales tax proposal on the ballot by 2011.

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.My work with the Friday Institute at NC State University has uniquely positioned me for public service in Raleigh. My extensive knowledge of state and local policy processes will help the council build needed relationships with the Legislature so we can work together to build Raleigh's future. Further, I serve on the Wake Library Advisory Board, and my extensive background in education will help the council dialogue with the county on education issue.

3) How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?I identify myself as progressive, but with an eye towards economic development and opportunity for all. My platform leverages tax credits that require employers to pay living wages and provide health insurance to their employees. Further my commitment to public transportation and sustainability is significant. My philosophy lends me to believe that economic development and community sustainability are not opposing values.

4) Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.I believe that putting the transit sales tax on the ballot could be a lynchpin for many council members including myself. However, we must be committed to sustainable transit solutions for our city. Additionally, this ballot initiative will help us illustrate the commitment of Raleigh and Wake County to it's own future.

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?I believe the biggest shift you will see if I'm elected is a more aggressive policy on economic development and transit planning. These issues are critical to our future. Simply put, Raleigh has rested on her laurels as a great place to live and do business for too long. If we don't keep our eye to the future, we may lose out.

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?My effectiveness and ability to work with people of various backgrounds points to my ability to lead the city. My relationships and leadership roles in education and state government show that I'm ready for the challenge Raleigh brings.

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?Raleigh must look towards innovative solutions to water management. Conservation, reuse initiatives, and run-off projects can provide the city some level of stopgap protection. However, our growth will outpace these measures. The city must continue to identify long-term supply for our thirsty city. These measures can include, additional Neuse and Cape Fear reservoirs, pumping from the Roanoke River basin, and coastal desalination project. Projects of this nature are of course major civic undertakings, and ideally the city could partner with other central North Carolina urban areas to accomplish these goals.

8) Crime and gang problems plague some parts of the city. Is there more the Council should be doing to go after them?The council should continue to seek guidance from the Raleigh PD and the Southeast Raleigh Assembly concerning these issues. Our responsibility as a council is to provide appropriate tools to police and community groups to combat the problem.

9) Are new initiatives needed to address the city's fast-growing Hispanic population? If so, what do you recommend?We should continuously revisit services the city provides to this population, and reevaluate them based on feedback from city staff and the community.

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?Raleigh must implement a comprehensive multi-modal transportation system over the next 10-20 years. Much of the responsibility for planning and implementation of this system should be shifted to CAT, as Raleigh is the population center of the region. The city will conduct a national search to source leadership for the new regional CAT that has experience planning and running a major transportation system. To pay for this system, the city should work with the legislature to shift Wake’s portion of license plate fees to the new system beginning in 2011. Additionally the new ½ transit sales tax will be placed on the ballot in 2011. The city should work with employers to develop innovative ridership initiatives, and expand the frequency and scope of the current bus system until the first segment of the light rail system opens in 2018-2020.

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?The city should continuously evaluate development fees. However, we should acknowledge that "growth paying for growth" at the maximum allowed amounts do not cover the full cost of growth. The city should work with developers to steer growth to where growth is needed and desired. Developers that choose to participate in these types of initiatives can be fast-tracked through the process. Collaborative solutions such as this bring down the overall cost of growth as it is steered where infrastructure is already in place to handle it.

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?

Raleigh's median family income is in line with our city's median home prices. So, in theory, the market is providing "affordable" housing in various parts of the city for various income levels. However, the city should support various down-payment assistance programs to help people get into a home they can afford if they are credit worthy.

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?The new comprehensive plan is probably the best the city has produced to date. However, it's difficult to adopt a comprehensive plan in the absence of a legitimate transit plan. With some of the proposed changes on the table I would vote for the comp plan with the caveat that major changes will be made once the city adopts a real transit plan produced by the new regional CAT authority..

14) Public schools are a county, not city function. Should the city nonetheless act to assist the schools, and if so, in what ways?While the city does not fund schools, the city has a responsibility to encourage good relationships with the school system. Our schools impact our quality of life in several ways. Raleigh and Wake County have the lowest property tax rates in the region, yet countless thousands still chose to locate in remote suburban counties, primarily due to their perception of the county school system. Raleigh must work diligently with the school system to address quality of life concerns so we can continue to attract families to locate within the city.

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 believe the lack of citizen involvement is problematic from voting to participation on citizen's advisory councils. Every effort should be taken to enforce flexibility with all volunteer boards, and to make council meetings more accessible to the public. However, the reality is that some boards and appointments do require daytime meetings and a significant time commitment. We must evaluate our boards and commissions to ensure that appropriate levels of citizen involvement are occurring, and that transparency is required of all city functions.

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?

I believe the city can move on this issue and make something happen. I would encourage the city to make these changes in concert with national changes on the horizon concerning healthcare, and work with the State Treasurer's Office to introduce reform to the state retirement systems (in which local government employees participate) to introduce reforms at the state level to allow us to extend these benefits.

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