Edie Jeffreys | Candidate Questionnaires - Wake County | Indy Week

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Edie Jeffreys

Raleigh City Council - District E


Name as it appears on the ballot: Edie Jeffreys
Party affiliation, if any: Republican, but non-partisan race
Campaign website: EdieForDistrictE.com
Occupation & employer: Software Tester, SAS
Years lived in Raleigh: since birth except for ages 2-9 in Danville, VA and 3 years at ECU

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?
  • Edie Jeffreys

In general I think the city has been on the right course, but there are many issues affecting the lives of the city’s citizens related to growth that need more intense scrutiny than they have been given by some council members in order to continue in a positive trajectory. There are specifics of the new zoning code, the Unified Development Ordinance, that need adjustment now that we are seeing its effect on residential areas and the real differences between it and the intentions of the Comprehensive Plan. For residential, I would advocate for strengthening the Infill Standards and tuning the transition area language to assure that small business can flourish without negatively impacting adjacent residential properties.

Traffic issues are mounting. Only one percent of Raleigh commuters use public transit. New bus routes need to be planned and deployed in the next two to five years to prevent real gridlock in the near future. All possible transit options need vetting and improving.

If the quality of life the city affords its citizens is degraded by growth, Raleigh could begin to lose its attractiveness to residents and businesses.

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?

Significant growth is taking place in District E. My priority for District E is assuring that new development in the district is appropriate and minimizes negative impacts on adjacent properties. Better movement of traffic and better transportation options must be developed in the district. Many property owners in the district saw significant increases in their property taxes. I want to assure that those funds get applied for infrastructure improvements in the district. And I want to work to keep tax increases in check in the future so that working class and retired citizens can afford to keep their properties as the city grows and people in all income levels are not unduly burdened.

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?

I have spent 15 years advocating for my neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods in the face of growth and infill that had the potential to degrade the property values of adjacent properties and the quality of life of the neighbors. My efforts in conjunction with other neighbors have resulted in significant adjustments to zoning and site plan cases throughout Five Points, making them a better fit within these neighborhoods.

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.

I think the City Council was ill prepared for the UDO remapping public hearing. I realize the city has made some efforts to contact citizens that would be impacted by the remapping, but I would have preferred to see more granular outreach to the areas being remapped and to the adjacent property owners. The rezoning problems have not been entirely resolved. More property is impacted than is currently under review. Small businesses are at risk for significant impact from the rezoning.

The single best thing the city has done in the last year was acquiring the Dix Property.

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?

I consider myself a moderate. When it comes to revenue and spending, I want Raleigh to be fiscally conservative. I want balanced budgets. But I do believe a city needs investment in infrastructure to promote business and to provide a certain quality of life for its citizens. And we must address the needs of moderate income families and the retired community.

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?

I believe in fairness. I want Raleigh to be a city where its citizens all have comfortable quality of life, just treatment, access to the tools for required for successful work lives, and equal access their city government officials and representatives.

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?

I’m very excited about Raleigh’s acquisition of the Dix property. I think Raleigh has an opportunity to create its own world class park, comparable to New York’s Central Park and Washington’s National Mall. Given the opportunity to serve on City Council, I would be excited help shape a park for multiple uses: walking, skating, and biking trails, natural spaces, gardens, picnic spaces, ball fields, events, happenings, etc. I think a multifaceted park would be a fitting tribute Dorothea Dix’s wishes for spaces that support the emotional wellbeing of citizens.

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 once had a real estate representative tell me that Raleigh Inside the Beltline should be the land of the millionaires. I found that thought appalling then, and I still do. Services for working class and retired are densest in the center of the city. Our city staff, firefighters, and police are finding it harder and harder to locate housing in the city near their jobs. Raleigh needs to find a way to make sure there is housing stock for all income levels across the city. I think it’s possible for a city to find a way to facilitate that mix. But it will be hard work to find the balance between development pressures and the housing needs of citizens. I’d be very interested in hearing about and working with any tools that could assure that we have housing affordable for all income levels across the city.

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?

I am well aware of the Wake Transit work on public transportation options, and I am supportive of it. Raleigh should facilitate work on transit plans to improve its citizens’ transportation options and reduce personal vehicle traffic. Raleigh should support and promote the work of Wake Transit in its effort to provide effective public transportation options. I also think Raleigh and Wake County should explore the use of vehicles other than large buses and light rail. Shuttle vans and other vehicles could bring people from outlying areas to stations in the areas that need public transit where they can get on large express buses. I would be excited to leverage my education and background in Logistics to work transit issues.

Raleigh should explore new transit ideas as technology brings about transportation changes and auto companies transition from being strictly automobile companies to mobility companies. Public transit should become more personalized in the future, improving productivity and quality of life.

It is my hope that Wake County will put a transit referendum that I could support. I would need to see the specifics of its planning and financing, as I’m always concerned about these details.

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 discussed above, I think the UDO remapping process could have been handled far better and outreach to those impacted was not sufficient. I would like to see the city work harder to engage citizens in conversations about growth, density, and neighborhood livability. The city should invest more in promoting citizen involvement in the CACs where they can disseminate information about city planning, and take citizen feedback. Rather than day meetings and a single night meeting in the downtown city council chambers, additional meetings at night near impacted properties would have given those affected by the remapping the opportunity to attend and participate in providing feedback. Currently, the problems of the ‘remapping’ have not been resolved.

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?

I think it’s important to get representatives of the downtown residents and businesses meeting to work together to solve the issues that have arisen between the two groups. On-going negotiated solutions between those affected will be more likely to result in palatable compromises than the city trying to regulate behavior with minimal input from the two sides of the issue. If there are recommendations that come out of negotiations that can be presented to City Council as potential text changes, those regulations would be more likely to create a harmonious and vibrant downtown. But I do think maintaining the cleanliness of the public outdoor areas used by downtown businesses should be the responsibility of those businesses. Large cities like New York, LA, and Chicago who have dealt with these issues long term could potentially provide us with a framework to help us with these issues.

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?

Having made a great deal of use of the parking decks downtown to attend events, eat, and shop, I would be reluctant to support charging for night time and weekend parking. But I have also, seen feces and trash and experienced the stench of urine left behind by those that utilize the decks.

It’s a hard question. This issue is another where it think more conversation is needed before a decision can be made. I want small businesses to flourish downtown. I think a coalition of businesses owners needs to work with the city to come up with a palatable solution for the businesses, the patrons, and the city with regards to the parking decks.

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?

I need to study the sources of revenue issues. I don’t have the details and will need to come up to speed if I’m elected. I understand that most of the these proposals are still up in the air.

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?

Yes. I think paying employees committed to the well-being of the city a living wage should be a goal of the city.

15) When is the bike share program going to happen?

It looks like Raleigh is attempting to budget for a bike share program to start in 2017. According to the N&O “It would cost about $1.5 million to install 30 bike sharing stations and 300 bikes across Raleigh, according to last year’s feasibility study, and monthly operating costs would range from $25,500 to $61,200.”

Cities across the world have seen the value of having bike share programs to reduce traffic on city streets and the pressure for automobile parking in the most congested parts of a city. The per bike cost for cities to implement these programs continues to drop, but given the estimated expense, Raleigh needs to seek sponsors for the program to reduce the burden on taxpayers. With sponsors, I think the program could be implemented within the 2017 timeframe and not get derailed due to the significant cost. I could see companies and citizens sponsoring one or more bikes, similar to the adopt a highway program.

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 have been quite involved in the Five Points CAC for 15 years. I think the CACs are an important avenue for citizen participation in city affairs. If I’m elected, I would push for more support for the CACs to gather citizen input and to provide information to citizens about city plans for the city and the areas encompassed by the CAC boundaries. I think the CACs could have been used more effectively to bring citizens into the process for creating the UDO and reducing the negative impacts of it.

17) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.

I have high hopes for Raleigh’s future. I would very much like to help the citizens of District E and the city shape that future for the better.  

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