Name as it appears on the ballot: Sam Smith
Full legal name, if different: Samuel Smith
Date of birth: 06/18/1990
Campaign website: www.samsmithnc.com
Occupation & employer: Real Estate Agent/ Coldwell Banker Howard Perry and Walston
Do you have a Facebook page? Sam Smith for Raleigh City Council
1. What do you see as the most important issues facing Raleigh? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?
Growth is without a doubt the most pertinent issue Raleigh is facing. Though growth is a great thing for a city, and I hope to encourage as much growth for Raleigh as possible, we still cannot be blinded by the issues that can arise from growth. As our population increases, we will have issues arise such as strain on infrastructure, increased need for public transportation, housing and traffic issues. We have to be proactive in dealing with these issues. Raleigh, being a city with history, is a city with infrastructure that needs repair and replacement to increase our ability to deal with the increasing population. Second, the Raleigh transportation system does need a great deal of attention. We need to extend the routes and keep a continuous look at areas where we may need to increase service. Additionally, I'd like to move Raleigh forward as a cleaner city; let's leave it to the next generation cleaner than we found it. By putting in place a plan to replace the current bus fleet with a hybrid, more efficient fleet, we will decrease the about of emissions we release, as well as cutting the city's fuel budget.
2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you've identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.
I am running as a candidate that cares about the community and its citizens. I am running with dedication and a fresh mind, and I am someone very willing to take-on expert advice and opinions when it comes to matters where I may not have personal experience. I have had a career as an airline pilot, a career that often tested my resolve by placing me in situations that required the ability to make quick, yet very well thought out decisions.
3. Indy Week's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle and North Carolina. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.
I believe in strengthening the small business office. Part of operating a just community is ensuring that even the smallest of business owners have a chance to thrive in the marketplace.
4. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
I believe in the rights of property owners. For example, last year the current City Council rejected a petition for a gate to be placed in front of an affluent neighborhood. I believe the council should have permitted the gate. The affluence of the neighborhood is irrelevant. If a property owner is not harming others or costing the city money, then they should feel free to utilize their property as they see fit.
5. If these issues haven't been addressed above, would you please comment on:
a) The role of City Council members and their relationship to the manager and staff is an issue currently. Some think council members should talk only to the manager, insulating staffers from political pressure. Others think the members should also be able to question department heads and staff as part of their policy oversight role and to resolve constituents' problems. A middle course would be oversight by committee, a time-consuming job for the part-time council. What's your position on this?
I believe the City Council needs to take a step-back from the daily operations that full-time staff are there to handle. The Council is a vital part of the city when it comes to making policy, and the city staff are a vital part in enforcing those policies. I do believe we need a political insulation between the two. However, if constituents' issues are not being resolved, I believe the Council members should have a direct line of communication with the city manager in order to ensure that all citizens' concerns are being appropriately addressed.
b) Council members are paid little ($17,000 for the mayor; $12-13,000 for the others) and, except for the city attorney and clerk, no professional staff report to them. All staff work for the manager. Would you change this system at all, and if so, how?
It is my personal belief that City Council members should be dedicated enough to the city, and for the causes they stand on, to be elected to their position without pay. Additionally, I don't believe the fulltime staff of the city should report to the council. I believe in leaving the current policy in place and I will refuse to support any increase in Council member pay.
c) In light of the scandal unfolding at the Raleigh Business and Technical Center, supposedly a business incubator, is it time to beef up the City Council's oversight mechanisms? Are other city-sponsored agencies and city departments vulnerable to similar problems?
Yes, I believe that the City Council is responsible for ensuring that programs within Raleigh are being appropriately managed. Ultimately, it is the members of the Council who are elected by the citizens in order to make sure that their city is functioning properly. I certainly believe that other agencies and city departments are vulnerable, and should also be within the supervisory prevue of the City Council.
d) Do you support the goals of the 2009 comprehensive plan and the brand new Unified Development Ordinance? Will these two initiatives really change the way Raleigh develops over the next several decadesand for the better? Or for the worse?
These two initiatives will change the way Raleigh develops over the next several years and decades. I do not support them, as I believe they're placing a great deal of the cost of growth on the developers. As someone eager to motivate the continuing growth, I believe the city needs to meet the developers "half way" with cost of expansion of water, sewer, streetlights, etc. By excessively burdening developers, I can foresee growth being staunched.
e) How important is improving public transit in Raleigh and the region to the city's future prosperity, do you think?
Public transit is the cornerstone of my campaign. Bus routes need to be expanded and the buses need to be converted to hybrids. When the City Council was given a grant to improve the public transit system, they chose not to implement a single hybrid bus, which I believe was a huge mistake. As with any growing city, public transit is the heart. We must convert to hybrid buses in order to save both money for the city and the environment.
f) If elected, will you ask the Wake County Commissioners to allow a public referendum in 2014 on a ½-cent sales tax for transit, the same as Durham and Orange counties have passed?
I will stand behind this referendum. We need to address transit in our area, and this will take money. This tax will help with expanding the transit system and help us to make for a cleaner more energy efficient transportation system, which will in the future, cost the city less to maintain.
g) Until the ½-cent sales tax is in place in Wake, what else should Raleigh do on its own, if anything, to jump-start public transit within the city?
We need to take careful consideration into our unnecessary expenses. In doing so we can hopefully transition some of the funds into our public transportation system. By doing so, we can add additional buses to increase the frequency and routes of our system. In addition, new purchases need to be hybrid buses, which will jumpstart a plan of moving the current system towards a more efficient system. Also, we need to work towards a solid plan for a city rail system, connecting some of the outlying areas of Raleigh with downtown and the airport.
h) Raleigh is trying to gain control of the 325-acre Dorothea Dix Hospital tract for use as a destination park. Do you support this effort? Should Raleigh pay fair-market value for the land, via lease or purchase, as many in the General Assembly demand? Please share your thoughts on how development of the park should be financed, if at all?
The property is located within our city and it is one that is perfect for a park, we need to, as a city, call on our General Assembly to stand with us on the park. I do not believe Raleigh should be subject to pay the full value of the land. Not only was the deal previously agreed to but it is a piece of land under current ownership of our State, which should support the Capital City in making this park.
i) As part of a growth and economic development strategy, should Raleigh begin to use tax-increment financing (TIFs), subsidizing current developments with anticipated future property tax gains? If so, what policy limits, in any, should be adopted as part of a TIF plan?
Behind my strategy of encouraging growth, I do believe we should support developers with economic subsidies. This will help in extending infrastructure to other areas of Raleigh, which will not only grow the city, but will also bring in additional revenue in the future.
j) For many years, it's been a point of pride for Raleigh managers and Council members that Raleigh government costs less, and the city's property tax rate is lower, than other towns in Wake County and other North Carolina cities. On the other hand, services may suffer because of inadequate funding. Are you concerned that Raleigh is investing too little to achieve the world-class status to which it aspires? Or can spending be cut further without sacrificing quality?
I believe we can maintain a lower tax rate; however, in doing so we have to analyze the city's spending habits. We can maintain and continue growing into the world-class status to which we aspire by cutting spending on projects and programs that offer no true benefit to the city. Every project needs to face a cost/benefit analysis before deciding on the approval and on the amount we approve. We have to spend to keep the historic value and to preserve and continue to grow our city, but my idea is keeping the amount spent on aesthetics limited, and spending more on things such as our water system and city expansion.
k) Is Raleigh doing enough to serve its growing Hispanic population and help them feel a part of the city?
I believe that the City Council should support and grow a Hispanic outreach center. A center that would not only offer a safe haven for our Hispanic citizens, but one that would offer educational and career opportunities.
l) Is Raleigh doing enough to serve its growing population of homeless and street people, many of whom suffer with mental illnesses? If not, what do you recommend?
I was pleased to see that the Council voted to lift the ban on sharing food in Moore Square. However, I do not believe that this ban should have ever existed in the first place. We should not penalize or prohibit those who are striving to aid others. In addition, I would support the expansion of our current homeless shelters.