Party affiliation, if any: Democrat
Campaign website: deantonycollins.com
Occupation & employer: Educator/Admin - Bright Horizons Family Solutions
Years lived in Raleigh: 13
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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?
We see Raleigh appearing on “best Of” list quite frequently - and that’s great - I feel great pride seeing Raleigh get recognized nationally. That being said, I have spoken to lots of residents and small business owners about who have not begun to feel the benefits of all the “best of” accolades. Engaging and listening to our current citizens, improving and fitting our roads for modern transit options, and fostering a culture of economic development for the majority are specific changes, some major, that I will continue to promote.
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?
My priorities for improving District E begin with engaging our citizens. Starting with a more in depth tour of our small business community and hosting listen and learn sessions to gain better understanding of the needs and sentiments regarding issues like public safety via completed sidewalks and bikes lanes, transit/transportation, and economic development and affordable housing.
Being an effective communicator and educator can mean the difference enthusiasm and apathy when selling programs and policy to citizens. In my work, communication is at the heart of what I do. Taking sometimes complex ideas and making them palatable for teachers, staff, parents and children is what helps our organization to provide such high quality services; respond appropriately to challenges; and adjust to a changing market.
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.
Over the past year, in my opinion, the City Council could have approached the UDO in a different manor. More public engagement in the planning process and well as information presented in layman’s terms that could be well understood by the general public would have opened up a more progressive conversation on the issues and set us up for a positive implementation.
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?
On local issues, I identify myself as a moderate. I am principled, but I believe that issues should be heard from a centrist point of view to ensure that most every facet of an issue, including those affected, are being considered.
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?
As a City Councilor, I will continue to work to find consensus amongst the citizens of Raleigh, her residents and small business owners. Promoting ideas and policies that help create an environment for fairness and accountability, to celebrate our diversity, and help us to strive for progress individually as well as together.
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?
The phrase “Central Park of the South” always comes to mind. I would like to see Dix Park as a world-class destination, with various attractions; guided tours and other programs. As a city renowned for its great parks, greenways and open spaces an uber attraction like Dix Park would be the feather in our cap. It would provide ample opportunities for public private partnership and increase city revenue.
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?
I personally believe that “affordable housing” should be available throughout the city to promote more mixed income communities. We should seek developers who are interested in building housing that is affordable - if they seek to profit from our market, but density bonuses can also serve as a secondary option.
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?
Immediately, the city can look into increased Park and Ride stations, and ways to increase coverage outside the beltline. Ideas like leaner vehicles for areas that currenlt have lower ridership could also provide some immediate relief. For the long term, I support a referendum on transit that will help increase coverage throughout the city, integrating sidewalks and bike lanes that make the city more walkable and safe. Adding more covered bus stop shelters to protect riders from the elements would also be a simple and practical improve to transit throughout the city.
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?
As I stated earlier, I believe that more public engagement in the planning process and well as information presented in layman’s terms that could be well understood by the general public would have opened up a more progressive conversation on the issues and set us up for a positive implementation.
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 successful downtown recognizes that commerce is our primary vehicle for success but the scope of that success is in connection with those that frequent and live in the downtown area. That relationship needs to be strengthened, and a progressive conversation, started.
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?
The only real way to know if these fees will be a net positive or a net negative, if they will in fact go into effect, is through observation. If over an agreed upon probationary period, and revenues are down all around then we should probably revisit the policy.
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?
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?
With all the conversations about affordable housing and living wages, I do believe this is problematic. No matter how much “affordable housing” you offer, if citizens don’t make enough nothing will be affordable and residents will struggle to make personal progress. The City of Raleigh should be a leading example for the business community on this issue.
15) When is the bike share program going to happen?
I support a bike share program, and I believe it can be a key component the development of our world-class transit system. The business community can also play a role by adding shower stations as and other benefits for employees. I hope these goals can be accomplished soon, and before we lose any financing we have in place.
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?
I feel the CACs should used as the grassroots arm of the City. Its a great way to communicate with the community in a small group setting and educate neighborhoods on any upcoming policies; hearing concerns and suggestions; crafting petitions and connecting with local officials. I have visited all of the CAC’s in district, and think that their officers are doing a great job staying connected to the issues.