Elections » Candidate Questionnaires

Karl Thor

Candidate for Cary Town Council

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Name as it appears on the ballot: Karl Thor

Full legal name, if different: Karl Bruce Thor, PhD

Date of birth: March 30, 1954

Campaign website: KarlforCary.com

Occupation & employer: Scientist - Dignify Therapeutics, Inc. / Musician - Eye d'Neau, LLC

Email: karlthor.music@gmail.com


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

Excessive growth is the most important issue and is directly responsible for most of the subsequent important issues

• degradation of a fantastic recreational area at Jordan Lake that adds to District A home values...where boating, fishing, swimming, bird watching are becoming increasingly less attractive because of muddy construction sediment run-off, phosphates and nitrates, and other toxins introduced by development

• pollution of our drinking water (also) in Jordan Lake and the associate costs of removing said pollution before it is potable

• water shortages throughout Wake and Durham Counties

• destruction of natural habitats that serve as nesting grounds for American Bald Eagles, cormorants, osprey, aquatic life

• destruction of rural habitats that provide local foods

• school overcrowding

• increases in water/sewer, waste collection, vehicle fees and property taxes associated with the $80 MM in debt for the Town and the $800 MM debt required to educate our children in classrooms instead of trailers

• traffic congestion and the extremely expensive remedial solutions such as that proposed for the intersection at Cary Pkwy and High House Road

• doubling of Cary's violent crime rate

• placement of a sewage treatment plant right next to the Baptist church of a poor, rural, predominantly black, community (New Hill) that is miles from Cary and requires extensive pumping stations and pipelines to carry Cary's raw sewage into someone else's town to dispose of...even though Progress Energy had agreed to provide Harris nuclear plant property nearby as an alternative site

• etc.

2) Explain how—or if—Cary should continue to grow in Chatham County. How do the needs of Cary residents in Chatham County differ from those in Wake? How do you plan to address them?

My opponent was the leader of a 9 year battle for Cary to invade Chatham County to allow development. It took so long because the Chatham residents were overwhelmingly opposed to Cary's invasion of farms that have been in their fanmily's for generations. One of the farms was bequeathed by the King of England to Patrick Barnes family in the 1690's! These Chatham residents created a citizen organization called Chatham County United to fight my opponent's invasion. I joined them in their fight against Cary. It was not until the Chatham County Board of Commissioner's was filled with regressive politicians who were part of the general political overthrow of progressive politicians in the NC general assembly. Only then was Chatham County government usurped by Cary.

Cary should do everything it can to prevent the development of Chatham County including buying conservation easements for the farmers, whose families have lived there for generations...to protect our drinking water supply, protect a valuable recreational area that enhances our home values, and protect a source of local food.

Development in Chatham County will increase 1) sediment run-off pollution into the lake from construction sites, which will make the water unattractively muddy, reduce the amount of space in the reservoir for water (sediment displaces water) and will eventually need to be removed at great expense 2) nitrate and phosphate pollution from the developments which in turn induces algae that deprive the lake of oxygen has been the cause of vast fish kills in the lake during construction of Amberly and Carolina Preserve and 3) increase in toxic chemical pollution from motor vehicles that have required the state to put warning signs on the lake against eating more than 1 fish per month.

Development in Chatham County will exacerbate urban sprawl and all the associated problems. You could not place people further away from proposed mass transit, shopping and business centers.

Placing people in Chatham, away from shopping and business centers, will increase traffic from West Cary, through the middle of Cary, and into Raleigh, where most Cary people are employed, shop, and attend entertainment...or they could go the long way around Cary and waste gas and pay tolls.

Chatham County has no schools in the proposed development area. The nearest schools are 20 miles away. Will Chatham County residents approve school bonds to build schools in "Cary"? Or will "Cary" residents living in Chatham County be forced to go to private schools!!! Great plan to further reduce the public education budget, if that's what you want (which I don't).

3) Tell voters about your vision for a revitalized downtown Cary. What should it include—and what should it avoid? What other cities are good models for your vision? And finally, how should Cary pay for it?

In my mind, Cary needs a small, concentrated downtown with healthy businesses that generate pedestrian traffic which in turn generates a sense of vested community and discourages blight and vandalism. The business make-up should include a small number of individually-owned restaurants that serve locally produced food to support the local farmers and provide live local entertainment. It should include shopping for those whole live locally, preferably stores that are individually owned over chains. It should contain parks large enough to throw a Frisbee in without hitting folks who are playing checkers and chess on permanent tables. It should have plenty of places to sit back and enjoy the great outdoors. Some good model cities are Boulder CO (before the floods), Portland OR, and Black Mountain NC. The town should not have to provide much in the way of financial incentive to do business in the "# 1 place in the country to live and do business". What it does have to provide is an overall plan and creation of an environment that encourages forward-thinking processes. I think that by helping the downtown businesses organize themselves, decide what is needed to improve their business, and then provide a vehicle for them to raise their own money for "amenities" of general benefit (e.g. nice sidewalks, pretty facades, artwork and sculptures) similar to the Kickstarter program or the way Universities use alumni donaions in return for, for example, the names of businesses on the checkers tables, the benches, ndividual names on bricks on the promenade, discounts on meals, theater tickets etc. This way the businesses could be responsible for designing what best suits their needs without imposing on taxpayers.

4) In your analysis of Cary's operating and capital budgets, what expenditures should take priority? What expenditures should be reduced? Should any items be eliminated entirely? Justify your priorities.

My research indicates that the most important item to Cary residents is safety...low crime. Thus it deserves the highest priority. Another item highly important to residents is retention of trees and vegetation and open spaces and greenways. We should reduce or eliminate town purchased art and other amenities. Art is in the eyes of the beholder and you are never going to reach agreement on what art the town should money on. I love art and want it to pbe available to all, rich and poor. However, I think that Cary could again use the "Kickstarter" approach to provide on-line donations to support public art and amenity purchases. The "Imagine Cary" process should be eliminated. The town has had a Biennial Survey for the last 14 years that does an excellent job of answering "Imagine Cary". In every one of those surveys excessive growth was listed as the primary concern. It is tempting to speculate the reason nearly $1 MM was spent because powerful special interest groups involved with town government did not like that answer, and by bringing in pro-growth consultants they hoped to manipulate the outcome and have cover for a pro-growth agenda that says "Imagine Cary" indicated we want high density housing and more businesses. Fortunately, the results are looking consistent that we love our trees and neighborhoods where people on the streets know each other well.

5) One of Cary's best-kept secrets is its diversity; for example, Hindi is its second most-spoken foreign language. How do you propose diversifying the town boards, both elected and appointed? What can town leaders do to encourage more input from non-white communities?

I don't think a special effort is needed for all populations. Although not a supporter of "Imagine Cary" process, I think the town did a good job of populating the Committee with diverse membership. I also know from working with many Orientals and southern Asians that they do not take democracy and local government for granted as much as the core population. When I review my voting records to target "reliable voters" for my campaign, I find that the Orientals and southern Asians make a high proportion. Furthermore, these populations have sufficient socioeconomic resources to fund much of their own cultural events. In regards to blacks and Hispanics, I think that the most important way of getting them involved is to make them feel like they have a vested interest in the town and vice-versa. A public investment in strengthening the cultural ties to show respect and appreciation for these lower socioeconomic populations will provide a good return in regards to reduction of vandalism and crime, a greater sense of community spirit, and hopefully active participation in educational programs..

6) Would you support placing a half-cent transit tax on the ballot to pay for public transportation? Why or why not? What do you see as Cary's most pressing transit needs?

I am in favor of a vote. Personally, I am not in favor of a tax increase, but I don't think my opinion should over-ride my fellow citizens. I do not support current residents paying higher sales tax for implementation of mass transit. There is no city that I am aware of that has mass transit that does not also have terrible, terrible, traffic. Research Triangle Park was never intended to be served by mass transit. People won't walk a mile in the rain, snow, or August heat to get to and from their offices.

I would rather handle traffic issues by restricting overall growth in the area and by placing future population growth close to shopping and business centers. I would encourage all future growth in Cary towards business and employment centers and available mass transit centers along Cary's border with Raleigh and discourage growth at a distance from mass transit and business/employment centers (i.e. not in Chatham County). If mass transit becomes necessary, then I think that the implementation costs should be borne by those who will profit from increased growth (i.e. development community) and that the mass transit system maintenance should be revenue neutral (i.e. run by a private contractor or ridership revenues should equal ridership costs).

If mass transit becomes necessary, then I would like to propose the following plan for implementing in West Cary (my district) and RTP where my constituents work. RTP and West Cary were designed around automotive transportation, and mass transit will not be used by those folks without creative and innovative alternatives to current mass transit options. Riders in those regions can't realistically get to and from mass transit stops and to and from their homes and work without some form of "personal transport vehicle" (PTV) that can rapidly and comfortably convey them to their destinations (issues are time, weather, health, etc.). (As a concept, think of a PTV as a bare bones electric golf cart with 24/7 tracking of cart and rider.) I propose to work with the entrepreneurial community, tech companies, transportation companies, regional, and national governments to explore the feasibility of providing adequate parking and rental PTVs at mass transit "transfer stations". The transfer stations would collect riders (who would park their car or "deposit" their PTV after a short ride), then transport them through high traffic areas across significant distances. Mass transit would then deposit the rider where they would retrieve their car for a short ride home without traffic or rent a PTV to take them to their next destination. With recent IT advances in monetary exchange, GPS, battery technology, surveillance systems; coupled with increases in traffic and gas prices; it just might be possible to get Cary citizens and RTP employees to use mass transit while not asking them to sacrifice their time, comfort, and safety...and it might be a very profitable business! In parallel, for the hearty, I would certainly facilitate placement of pedestrian and bike lanes that were convenient and safe to encourage exercise. This idea fits in with compatible land use plans in the West Cary and RTP regions since the roads and buffers are wide enough to accommodate "golf cart paths" parallel to current roads.

7) Nearby Triangle cities are seeing a vibrant culture led by people in their 20s and 30s? How do you encourage young people to move to Cary? What amenities does Cary need to provide for a new generation of residents?

A vibrant downtown with opportunity to mix and mingle without concerns about crime is important. Providing them job opportunities that don't require long commutes in traffic would be useful. Being a musician myself who is starting a company to help artists get from amateur to entry-level professional positions, I believe it is also important to provide an outlet and even encourage local artists to be in the public eye. An active sports recreational program and facilities (which we have) is also a draw to young people. I think that having town wide wireless would be attractive.

8) While the SAS Institute is an anchor for Cary, how should the town compete economically with other Triangle cities, such as Raleigh and Durham, in growing small tech companies and other start-ups?

Being a serial entrepreneur myself, I think that Cary can provide an atmosphere that encourages start-ups by ensuring that the local employee pool is well-educated. When recruiting employees, having parks and open spaces, good schools, low taxes, a vibrant downtown is useful. Having access to the local universities is also important. Most important is providing an encouraging atmosphere to allow former and future entrepreneurs to get together, socialize, support each other by sharing successes and failures...i.e. facilitate networking.

9) 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.

I have been involved in protecting Jordan Lake's watershed from encroaching development outlined in the Chatham Co. Cary Joint Land Use Plan (Chatham JLUP). My capacity was as a Cary citizen and spokesperson for multiple organizations who opposed this plan: Chatham County United, WakeUp Wake County, Stop NC Annexation, New Hill Community Association, and DavisandHighHouse.org. Letters were sent to Cary Council, Chatham CO. Board of Commissioners, and local Representatives and Senators of the NCGA. In addition, I have actively participated and supported the various organizations that fought the delay of activation of the "Jordan Lake Rules". The outcome was negative for both, which is why I am running for office.

I have successfully led several companies that employed scientists and musicians, 2 of the most difficult people to "lead".

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

My shortest poem explains my political philosophy.

I will always stay a paradox
So I can't be locked in a labeled box.

I am an "independent". I have no party affiliations or special interest affiliations. I am a conservative progressive. I look at all government spending as an "investment" that has to be financially weighed in the perspective of risks and returns. In my education and career I have been supported by various governmental agencies including food stamps, fellowships and research scholarships which many would say is a waste of government money. I can assure you that the money the government spent on me has been returned at least 100 fold through the very high income taxes that I and the companies I worked for have been paying across my "senior" career years. In other words the government made a very good financial investment in me.

I am an environmentalist I received the Sierra Club endorsement but I always let people know that protecting the environment today makes great financial sense for the future...a progressive conservative approach. I am also a capitalist, having founded 5 companies in my career.

My campaign platform is to restrict growth for both municipal financial reasons and environmental reasons.

In summary, I let common sense and intelligence guide me in a pragmatic manner when making policy. I use "evidence-based, data-driven" decision making rather than "opinion-based" decision making.

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

I suspect that my reluctance to support a half penny sales tax increase for mass transit could cost me the Indy Weekly endorsement and therefore many votes.

I also do not support school busing because it deconstructs a community and places a burden on parents of bused children and wastes kids time sitting on a bus when they should be studying or playing outdoors. Having said that, every kid in America should be given the best schooling possible within their own community...because it is an investment that provides a high return on investment.

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

As the son of a high school dropout bus driver (who was as smart as many of my fellow PhDs), I know what an advantage moneyed children have. I also know that children from poor families, if given the opportunity to develop to their full potential, can produce enormous financial and artistic benefits to society. With great enthusiasm, I will continue to invest heavily in all children, regardless of the socioeconomic level they were born into.

I will also prevent those with wealth and power (e.g. developers, bankers, realtors) from taking advantage of those without (e.g. Chatham County farmers).

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