Party affiliation, if any: Republican
Campaign website: BobWeltzin.com
Occupation & employer: Chiropractor, Wakefield Chiropractic, PLLC./Team Leader CA, USAR
Years lived in Raleigh: 5
1) Given the current direction of Raleigh city government, would you say things are generally on the right course? If not, what specific, major changes you will advocate if elected?
a. No. The current city council is extremely out of touch with both the citizens and businesses that make Raleigh vibrant, and a recent string of decisions (the UDO, bar and patio restrictions and curfews, ending free parking) has highlighted that distance. If elected, I would re-instate free parking, work to repeal the bar and patio restrictions and other policies that dampen downtown nightlife, and halt the UDO, replacing it with a solution for managing Raleigh’s growth that takes into account the needs and concerns of each diverse section of the city, rather than the one-size-fits-all approach the current council is taking.
2) 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. As evidenced by recently available data, are the nonsensical bar and patio restrictions, which were poorly written and selectively enforced, have caused tens of thousands of dollars in losses for each affected establishment in the short period of time since their implementation. Such restrictions have no place in a city that has invested a great amount of time and money to make its downtown an attractive nighttime destination. As such, their repeal will be a top priority during my term as Mayor.
ii. Raleigh’s proposed UDO has something to hate for literally every segment of the city – whether it be citizens of southeast Raleigh concerned about being priced out of their homes, or residents of historic Oakwood faced with the development of buildings which will completely change the feel and character of their neighborhood for the worse. A top-down, one-size-fits-all model is usually a bad idea for any community, but especially so for a city as diverse and unique as Raleigh. I would set to work on day one conferring with urban and city planning experts and representatives of Raleigh’s impacted communities to create a zoning ordinance that takes into account the needs, concerns and goals of each area, in order to achieve growth and upward social mobility while avoiding the pitfalls of gentrification that prevent the city’s less fortunate from being able to share in its successes. A rezoning ordinance is only good if it is good for all its affected citizens, and that is what I would work towards as Mayor.
3) What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective as a member of Council? If you’ve identified specific issues above, what in your record has prepared you to be an effective advocate for them?
a. My experience as a Captain in the Army Reserves while serving in Afghanistan as a company commander demanded that I be able to operate under pressure, with my company counting on me to deliver day-to-day results. There is no ‘coasting’ in that environment. I also headed up a work group in South Korea on behalf of the Lieutenant General to develop, improve and to maximize traffic routes in all of Korea, both North and South. All types of transportation from tanks, basic food, water and displaced citizens on the battlefield was my mission. I supervised Engineers, Logisticians, Transportation agencies, local government agencies, and the US State Department.
4) Please give one specific example of something you think City Council has done wrong or that you would have rather done differently in the last year. Also, please tell us the single best thing the city’s done during that span.
a. See above. The UDO, bar and patio regulations and curfews, and Raleigh’s getting rid of free parking has had a dramatic and detrimental impact on businesses just in the short term since their implementation. As Mayor, I would work to develop an alternative zoning ordinance that would allow, rather that forcibly manufacture growth, and would fight to repeal the bar and patio restrictions, as well as bring back free parking. To the latter two issue, the best thing Raleigh’s leadership could have done is to just say “no.” Possibly the best thing Raleigh has done over the past year has been the purchase of Dorothea Dix Park, which represents a great opportunity for the city and its citizens at a time when the amount of open space for parks is diminishing.
5) 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?
a. I identify as a practical conservative. That means that I don’t believe that a city or an individual can sustainably spend more than they collect in revenue, and that I believe the best thing we can do for the least fortunate in our city is to enact policies conducive to helping them find good, permanent jobs. In a city like ours, partisan labels matter less than the particulars of concrete policy prescriptions.
6) The INDY’s mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. If elected, how will your service in office help further that goal?
a. “Just” is a word that can have multiple meanings. In my assessment, Raleigh’s treatment of the homeless has been grossly unjust. The UDO, which threatens to price citizens of southeast Raleigh neighborhoods out of their homes for the benefit of developers, in the name of increasing revenues for the city, is patently unjust. Addressing the needs of our homeless population, and ensuring that the proposed UDO is not implemented should be high on anyone’s list whose goal is to make Raleigh a more just and equitable city.
Please address, in detail, the following major issues in Raleigh:
7) Now that the city has acquired the 306-acre Dorothea Dix Park, what are some specific things you would like to see the city do with it?
a. Raleigh has a great opportunity with Dix Park. My top 3 suggestions would be :
1. In order to honor the legacy of Dorothea Dix, and the one request she made when she bequeathed the land to North Carolina, at the very least, some of the land should be utilized for the purposes of helping with the Mental and Behavioral Health Crisis in North Carolina. When I am elected Mayor, I will use my influence to make that happen.
2. The current leadership has been unable to articulate what exactly a ‘destination’ park is. If that is the will of the people of Raleigh, and the case is made that it will enhance the city, I’m comfortable with looking at the project.
3. I will not support this ‘Park’ project at the expense of the poorest in Raleigh, or at the expense of the critical infrastructure needs and the misplaced priorities in the compensation of civil servants and first responders.
8) Between gentrification in historic neighborhoods and expensive rentals downtown, the city has struggled at times with questions of affordable and workforce housing. What concrete steps can or would you take to help ensure that, for instance, hospitality workers can afford to live in Raleigh and especially its urban core? For example, there has been some talk of density bonuses to entice developers to include affordable units in their downtown developments. Do you believe this is a viable idea? Why or why not?
a. Workforce housing reminds me of subclass living standards. This city council and mayor have required excessive requirements on the construction trades that have easily increased building expenses as much as 30%. This additional expense is passed on the consumer. These regulations have created intrusive obstacles for smaller construction companies while rewarding others. This is not smart growth. Affordable housing shouldn’t be dictated by the city. The current rezoning promotes fracturing of communities. A change in zip code does not increase economic success. Job creation and financial stability is the fastest way to combat depressed areas. The fact that our public servants cannot afford to live in the city they work is a perfect example of failures of the current mayor. Our city budget has doubled since this mayor joined the city council - why didn’t city works get a raise?
9) 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? Will you actively support the transit referendum that Wake County will likely put to voters next year?
a. Why are we relocating a group of people to support an alternative motive? The affordable housing is being planned to help push the mass transit agenda. It currently takes me 1 hour and 43 minutes to ride a bus from my house to city hall. I believe we can accomplish more ridership with smaller vehicles. A 15 passenger van or electric vehicle can make more frequent stops with personalized service and consume less energy than the current buses outside the beltline. We need to review the success of private enterprise such as Uber and Lyft to assess the best course of action. Relocating a group of people in the name of government progress has not worked well in American history.
10) The city came under fire at Council meetings in July for the proposed remapping under the Unified Development Ordinance. It is safe to say there was a lot of uncertainty and distrust. Broadly speaking, how do you think the city should approach issues of density and neighborhood livability? And if the city had it to do over again, what about the UDO remapping do you believe should have been done differently, if anything?
a. Yes, the UDO remapping is abusive to property owners. I am not against development or progress. When we have vacant commercial space all over Raleigh don’t attempt to say that it’s to create jobs. 45,000 property owners will be affected by this single land grab. Smart growth should be considerate to communities impacted with vast changes from residential to commercial rezoning. I’m concerned that residents will not be able to afford the increase in property tax, the increase in property insurance or the susceptibility to loss of property rights to eminent domain. We will be remembered as the authors of a terrible page in our city’s history if we allow people to lose their property and allow neighborhoods to be pushed out of the way because we were too hasty to do the zoning process right.
11) Also on the subject of livability: The issue of regulating sidewalk patios hints at the difficulty this city (like other cities) faces in striking a balance between making its downtown more of a neighborhood and the needs of the businesses, especially those in the hospitality industry, that currently exist. How do you think the city should go about balancing these needs? What does a successful downtown look like to you?
a. We have spent millions of dollars, and thousands of hours of meetings to build up the downtown area. What are we doing? Raleigh already has ordinances for noise and fire code violations. Additional regulations and restrictions on businesses will only hamper additional growth. Police and Fire services have more important concerns than enforcing an unjust ordinance. I would like to see water trucks and increased sanitation services following weekend events to clean the downtown areas to improve overall city appearance. The downtown sidewalks need vast improvements, but we should be more focused on repairing the dilapidated walk ways that are not in compliance with the American With Disabilities Act than with putting a volume control on our city’s nightlife.
12) Some downtown businesses have worried that the parking-deck fees scheduled to go into effect at the end of the year will adversely impact them. On the other hand, there are obviously costs associated with both building and maintaining garages, and most other cities do charge for their use. What would be your ideal solution?
a. Citizens of Raleigh already pay taxes which are supposed to go towards maintenance of, among other things, critical infrastructure such as roads and parking facilities. Raleigh citizens tangibly benefit from the influx of revenue that a vibrant downtown attracts. For years, Raleigh has been attractive to those who seek a lively, active city, but are put off by the metropolitan tendencies of cities like Charlotte, Atlanta, etc. I have heard from many concerned citizens who believe this measure makes us less like Raleigh and more like Charlotte. We shouldn’t want to be like Charlotte. I remain unconvinced that the patrons and citizens of the city don’t pay enough to cover the upkeep costs associated with parking decks. I would demand a return to the previous parking policies which attracted visitors to downtown, and encouraged those visitors to spend their money in downtown businesses rather than sending it to the city coffers.
13) Some recent legislative actions have seemed, to some extent, antagonistic toward the state’s cities: specifically, the repeal of business privilege taxes and the movement toward redistributing sales tax revenue. In your view, how should the city respond to these (potential and actual) revenue losses? Will the city’s property tax rate need to increase? Will services or new initiatives be curtailed? How should the city address its fiscal challenges going forward?
a. There is a popularly-held misconception that lower taxes equate to lower city or state revenues. Quite the opposite, when the tax burden of an area is lowered, businesses are incentivized to open in that area, bringing jobs, foot traffic and (to a greater extent than before) revenue to the city or state, to the benefit of its citizens. If the real-world experience of cities and states who have implemented similar measures is any indicator of Raleigh’s future, services and initiatives will not need to be curtailed or trimmed except in the usual instances of waste, fraud and abuse.
14) The city has about 230 employees who earn less than what is generally considered to be a living wage, about $31,000 a year. In your view, is this problematic or something the city should concern itself with?
a. Yes, and no. Raleigh has a moral and contractual obligation to ensure that we meet our obligations to city employees. Someone who works 40 hours per week for the city should not live in poverty. However, the problem with the concept of a living wage is that those who “generally consider” it fail to take into account relevant outside economic metrics in their calculations – Cost of living being of primary importance. In a city like New York, where the cost of living is by most accounts nearly double that of Raleigh, $31,000 is barely enough to scrape by, if at all. This is owing to the economic policies and particulars of that city. In Raleigh, $31,000 dollars goes much, much further than in NYC or Los Angeles, and pay schedules for city of Raleigh employees should not be compared to those in cities where the cost of living is astronomically higher – which is what occurs when one applies a one-size-fits-all standard like a “living” wage. However, having rejected the economic merits of the “living wage” as a useful conceptual standard, employee pay must be considered in light of Raleigh’s cost of living, with periodic cost-of-living adjustments made accordingly. There are, to be certain, issues that will demand that the city revisit employee payment policies – inflation, rising cost-of-living, etc. So, yes, the city should always concern itself with the well-being and equitable payment of its employees, but the fact that a segment of them make less than a particular outside group believes they should is not as great a concern as the actual real-world livability of their wages.
15) When is the bike share program going to happen?
a. When donors come forth with funding and a plan to avoid the tragedies of the commons that inevitably impact these sorts of “sharing” programs.
16) What do you believe the role of Citizens Advisory Councils should be? If you are running for a district seat, how closely would you work or have you worked with local CACs?
a. CAC’s have a critical role in advising and informing the Council and Mayor’s decisions. The city council and mayor need to realize that they are insulated to a degree from the impacts of their decisions, and that the voices and concerns of those most impacted by a decision, whether it relates to bar and patio regulations, municipal employee pay, or creation of parks, must assume a place of equal importance as their own sensibilities and understandings in the decision-making process. Humility in leadership is crucial to our success as a city.