Name as it appears on the ballot: Omar Ali
Date of birth: 9/28/1979
Home address: 102 McIntosh Court, Cary, NC 27511
Campaign Web site: alifortowncouncil.com (under construction)
Occupation & employer: Consultant for Accenture
1) What do you believe are the most important issues facing Cary? If elected, what are your top priorities in addressing those issues?
I believe the most important issues facing Cary are improving our decision-making and communication. These topics are obviously very broad but, if you look at the current/hot issues, the majority of the issues being addressed during this election stem from issues in these areas. Addressing these issues is easier said than done. My approach would be to start with how the planning/forecasting/budgeting process is set up to prepare the Council on decisions and potential agenda items it may face each year. This is probably the most crucial step because there are external factors to consider in planning that directly impact the plan such as how does the plan the Council comes up with align with other state/local government plans? The due diligence in communicating, forecasting, and assessing impacts, both internally in Cary and externally with other state/local government, places the Council in the best position for success in my opinion. Once the Council gets has a plan that aligns itself with the goals of Cary and its citizens, ideally, it should serve as a map or compass to base decisions on for the year. The same criteria should apply when executing Council duties in day-to-day operations and in items brought before the Council. What are the impacts of making this decision (both internally and externally)? How or who should we notify about this decision? There are definitely unforeseen issues that arise but at least taking the approach of becoming proactive in planning for the year, getting the necessary feedback from groups affected by Council decisions, and effectively communicating the Councils plans/objectives to the citizens of Cary and impacted state/local government entities I believe is a step in the right direction.
2) What is your philosophy regarding the pace of growth in Cary? Has it been too fast, about the right pace, or has growth been encumbered?
My personal take is that the pace of Carys growth has been too fast. There are many nice accommodations and conveniences that weve come to enjoy and appreciate as a result from the growth/development. Overall weve also experienced growing pains such as the most glaring one of the ability of our school system(s) to keep up. Ive been a resident of Cary for roughly 22 years and this problem has existed since the mid 80s when I was redistricted from my elementary school, Briarcliff Elementary, to Apex Elementary because of overcrowding. Briarcliff actually was forced to have only grades K-3 and had the 4th and 5th graders relocated to Apex. It was a problem then and with no effective solution proposed since that time the problem has grown from a small one then to an unfortunately big one now.
3) Please reflect on the recent developments approved by council at the intersection of Davis Drive and High House Road and explain whether you believe those development plans, and the process by which they were negotiated and approved, represent healthy growth for Cary.
I think the biggest part of this decision has to do with doing the right thing and acting responsibly as the voters of Cary have put that trust in the Council. Im definitely not well versed on how the laws for a situation such as this one work but basically there seemed to be some corner-cutting going on where the original plan was revised so that the Town of Cary was exempt from citizen protest in the approval of the applicant developers request. Im not sure why the Town worked with the developer to take this approach. Maybe it was to get the issue out of the way because of lack of resources to effectively handle the situation on the Towns part. Regardless, the outcome was a poorly managed decision that did not have the best interest of Cary citizens in mind.
4) How can the Town of Cary best ensure that infrastructure needs keep pace with growth? Please cite specific examples of policies or actions that the Town Council might undertake, or has undertaken, that you believe are effective or ineffective.
This goes right back to my answer for the first question. I think we really need to do a better in Cary with planning our yearly goals/objectives and communicating our decisions to the appropriate parties. In the long run, taking that approach will help everyone do a better job. Ive referenced schools for example. Something we could do is form an action committee between Town of Cary, Wake County Public School System, and NC State Legislature and anyone else thats considered a stakeholder in effectively planning so we keep everyone in the loop. That way across the board theres productive planning conversations going on about what kind of growth we anticipate (Town of Cary), how many schools/teachers will be needed to accommodate that growth (Wake County Public School System), and what kind of budget that requires for salaries/development (NC State Legislature). My belief is that we dont have effective cross communication among our local/state government entities that should be a part of successfully managing growth.
5) Would you support Wake Countys Commissioners if they chose to put a land transfer-tax referendum on the ballot? Why or why not?
The only reason Id support the tax is because its left up to the voters to decide. If its what we need to do to get the funding we need for bringing our infrastructure up to speed with area growth, then its definitely an option worth exploring. I think there should be provisions made for private citizens above a certain age and/or for people who have lived in Wake County longer than a certain length of time. Otherwise, Im OK with realtors and commercial developers picking up that extra fee. Im personally curious as to where the money from our property tax currently goes since around 15% goes towards a School Building Program. Since existing residents pay this as part of their property tax and theres a continuous influx of new homeowners in Wake County that Im sure do as well, how do we not have the available capital to support infrastructure needs and the building of new schools?
6) What sort of relationship do you think the Town of Cary should have with the Wake County school system? Do you believe that, in the future, western Wake County municipalities should form their own school system, either by a formal breakaway or through the creation of a sub-district? In general, what can town leadership do to improve or strengthen the education system for Carys public school students?
As mentioned earlier, I think the Town of Cary and the Wake County Public School System should start a more open relationship where they share pertinent information with each other which will help both of them do their jobs better. So, to put it simply, they need to work together because theyre both catching heat right now from Cary residents, and Wake County residents overall, because theyre not. I definitely think that breaking off into our own school system is a road we dont want to go down because it sets a bad precedent for future challenging situations in Wake County. If we can form an action committee that meets at a TBD frequency that plans and discusses development and education with the common goal of keeping those two topics aligned, Im confident well be able to work towards acceptable results for Carys families/students.
7) Do you believe the Town of Cary has done a good job in recent years of involving citizens in the public process with regards to growth, education and other issues of interest? What, if anything, would you change about the way public input is incorporated into the town governments decision making?
Ive been following Cary politics consistently for the last 2 years and unfortunately Id have to say no. As stated earlier, Im not sure if this is due to a lack of resources that the Council has available to them, because at times it really seems like theyre pushing through decisions or pushing paper. I think that whatever the case may be, we need to revisit decision-making and make sure that were not pushing paper in Cary because of the extensive impacts it has here in Cary and across other state/local government entities.
8) Are you concerned about the long-term water quality of Jordan Lake, Carys primary source of drinking water? If so, what measures would you take to preserve or improve it?
I am absolutely concerned with the long-term water quality of Jordan Lake. The first thing that Id do is ensure that everyone pulling from the water supply has a water restriction ordinance in place. The next thing Id do is assess the need of areas outside of the Triangle area that are pulling from the water supply at Jordan Lake. If they have more water per capita than our residents here, something to look into may be raising the issue of whether or not to continue allowing them to pull from Jordan Lake or how much we allow them to pull. Also, I think some of the other possibilities to look into are developing alternate water supplies and slowing both residential and commercial development until you have the problem under control. Water is a resource that everyone should take more seriously because of potentially disastrous long term outcomes for this area if its not properly handled now.
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.
Unfortunately, I dont have much experience to offer in the area of sustained public/community service. I do volunteer with the Habitat for Humanity, NC Food Bank, and other such organizations. I believe the most recent event I attended was the Komen Race for the Cure which was a challenge in itself! I am working to improve that and hope that I can start off with the Town of Cary.
10) How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I define myself politically in every way by my honesty, genuineness, and doing whatever it takes to get the job done. Ive been able to have success in my career thus far using this approach and Im confident I can do the same for Town Council. I really believe in doing things the right way. Taking your time to do things the right way pays dividends down the road. Another I define myself politically is that I feel that I, more than anyone, really have the best interest of Cary in mind. I moved to Cary from Raleigh when I was around a year old. Though my family moved to Apex in 2000-2001, Ive always had a kinship with Cary and since their move bought a house here where Ive lived since 2005. I feel a sort of personal obligation to help in whatever way I can to get Cary back on track to its rightful place that everyones valued living in over the years.
11) Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
In looking ahead, I can see where I may try and make the unpopular stand over our water shortage to where there are further restrictions or price hikes for people who consume over a specified amount based on household occupants, registered vehicles, and acreage for example. I think water is taken for granted and is an undervalued resource that needs serious consideration on how to resolve and combat our shortage.
12) The Independents mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
I think there are two parts to building a just community. It all starts with community. I think we need to do a better job of promoting our diversity in the area and to educate our citizens about their fellow citizens. With education comes understanding and respect for the individual.
The second part of the just community is justness or justice. In recent months, weve seen a hike in crime of opportunity where people have been robbed of their possessions because they leave their cars or houses unlocked. Many people are not aware of the trends in crime so we need to find an effective way to reach out to these citizens as a mode of prevention. We also need to respond by actually catching the bad apples in our community to send the message that their actions are not going unnoticed and that there are consequences. Im not sure how active the community watch has been over recent months/years but that can also be another initiative to get people involved in their community and, ironically enough, in a just community.