Name as it appears on the ballot: Harold Weinbrecht
Date of birth: 1956
Home address: 105 Windspring Court, Cary, NC 27518
Campaign Web site: http://www.abalancedcary.org/
Occupation & employer: Software Engineer, SAS
What do you believe are the most important issues facing Cary? If elected, what are your top priorities in addressing those issues?
This is a critical time for Cary as we expect a slow economic recovery. Among the most important issues for Cary are to continue economic prosperity, maintain our low tax rate, sustain balanced growth with emphasis on environmental protection, continue our excellence in public safety and improve our overall high quality of life. For all of these issues, I will provide steady, proven leadership that has demonstrated excellent results in all of these areas over the last four years.
Explain how—or if—Cary should continue to grow in Chatham County. How do the needs of Cary residents in Chatham County differ from those in Wake? How do you plan to address them?
Cary already extends into Chatham County and Cary's extraterritorial jurisdiction and planning jurisdiction boundaries are largely already established. Within those boundaries, we should respect the desires of Chatham County residents and ensure that the overall public interest is served with low-density development patterns in Chatham County, especially in the most western areas that are near Jordan Lake, which is Cary's drinking water supply. I have worked very hard for several years on the joint Cary-Chatham Land Use Plan, which is nearing completion, to achieve these objectives.
Tell voters about your vision for a revitalized downtown Cary. What should it include—and what should it avoid? What other cities are good models for your vision? And finally, how should Cary pay for it?
We have already established a general plan for downtown Cary, the Town Center Area Plan, and we have already begun to execute on that plan, especially with the recent opening of the Cary Arts Center. My vision for downtown Cary is a vibrant place that draws families to the area with remarkable places and events, while preserving the history and charm of our Town Center. The new Cary Arts Center, which I supported, is an excellent example of how we can revitalize downtown Cary. As with other areas of town, private enterprise will lead with development based on market demands, and the Town can support development by ensuring that appropriate infrastructure is in place and facilities that benefit the public, such as the Cary Arts Center, are pursued by the Town.
In your analysis of Cary's operating and capital budgets, what expenditures should take priority? What expenditures should be reduced? Should any items be eliminated entirely? Justify your priorities.
This is not a hypothetical question; rather, it is one I have wrestled with over the past 4 years and Cary's economic situation, based on careful budgeting, is one of the accomplishments of which I am most proud. Public safety must be a high-priority budget item, and we have ensured that it is by adding new police officers and firefighters in Cary. Infrastructure improvements that benefit all of the citizens of Cary are important. We have had to defer some capital projects during the economic recession but we still have moved ahead with important capital projects including road improvements, new sidewalks, new sewer treatment capacity, continued open space and parkland acquisition and completing the new Cary Arts Center. Even during the worst economic situation in modern times, Cary has finished each budget year with surpluses that can be reinvested in our Town and maintained the lowest tax rate in Wake County.
The median home price in Cary is $257,000, according to CNN Money. (By comparison, Durham's is $158,000 and Raleigh's is $170,000) How should Cary ensure there is adequate affordable housing for low- and moderate-income residents?
It is important to me that Cary maintain a diverse population and that people who work in Cary, including our Town employees, be able to live in Cary. I support Cary's affordable housing programs, including incentives to developers and non-profit organizations to build affordable housing – for example, the Town worked with the Downtown Housing Improvement Corporation to provide affordable family and senior housing in the Highland Village project. I believe that similar projects can be pursued in the future to increase our affordable housing stock.
Would you support placing a half-cent transit tax on the 2012 ballot? Why or why not?
I believe that citizens should always have the opportunity to vote directly on such important matters. I envision regional transit in our future; however, timing is crucial and 2012 might or might not be the appropriate time for such a referendum. Our economic climate is still fragile. Citizens should decide if they want a half-cent transit tax, but the timing of such a vote should consider the economic situation.
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?
As mayor, I have pursued relationship building with members of the Wake County school board and I am proud to say that I have established positive relationships with members of "both sides" of the school board. I have worked to ensure that the school board members hear the concerns of the Cary community. Although I have not pursued headline-grabbing tactics, preferring to work collaboratively behind the scenes with the school board, I am proud to say that this collaboration has resulted in many of the concerns of Cary families being heard and addressed by the school board. Forming a separate western Wake school district would require changes to state law, which is highly unlikely, and would require so much time and resources as to be thoroughly impractical. I believe that we can invest such resources in finding solutions to problems and improvements to our existing school system.
Earlier this year, after public protest the federal government withdrew its plan to site an Immigrations and Customs Enforcement office, which would have included temporary detention facilities, in Cary. In retrospect, how could that issue have been handled differently, internally among planning staff and elected officials, with the federal government and with the public?
Cary should have had better communications among Town Staff, with senior Town leaders being advised of the information that was received. The Town Manager has acknowledged this and put in place improved practices for better communications in the future. The federal government's procedures for finding the site were less than transparent and I believe that they now understand that their processes also can be improved. I transparently shared all of the factual information I had with the public, including attending community meetings to listen to citizens' concerns. Fortunately, because I have established positive relationships with other government officials, in this case including US Representative David Price, we were able to bring this to an appropriate conclusion for the citizens of Cary. I believe that the ICE issue illustrates very well why Cary needs experienced leadership, integrity and advocacy for open government in the mayor's office.
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.
Effective leadership is critical in the office of Cary mayor. I believe that my record over the past 4 years demonstrates many accomplishments that were made possible through effective leadership. For fiscal matters, I made tough choices and, together with the citizens of Cary, I achieved a Cary tax rate lower than any other municipality in Wake County while maintaining the highest quality of life. Under my leadership, the town posted annual budget surpluses every year. We even managed to hire when other towns and cities were laying off workers: To keep Cary one of the safest places in the nation, we hired additional police officers and firefighters. I brought balanced growth back to Cary after a period of uncontrolled growth that was damaging our quality of life.
I fought for environmentally-friendly programs, including creating the Environmental Advisory Board and the volunteer-based award-winning Spruce Program, hiring a Sustainability Manager and converting our town's fleet to hybrid vehicles.
I am especially proud of the open government initiatives I established. I created the Citizen Issue Review Commission to improve citizen engagement and participation in local government. I re-instituted an open process to select all members of town boards and commissions. I helped to develop "Cary Matters," a television show devoted to keeping citizens informed about the town's new initiatives and activities. And I am the first mayor to blog about the activities of our town government – every week I post all of my weekly Town-related activities on my blog so that Cary citizens know what goes on at Town Hall and throughout our community. In addition, all of my town email correspondence – every single email – is automatically sent to the media once per week. I cannot filter or adjust this – my email correspondence is not only a public record but is proactively delivered to the press.
Beyond Cary, I was elected president of the Wake County Mayors Association for 2010 and as a result, I have received endorsements for my re-election from several Wake County mayors.
How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
First and foremost I am a public servant. I ran for office to serve the citizens of Cary. I do not believe that partisan or "liberal" / "conservative" labels are relevant for municipal government – my job is to listen to the citizens of Cary and ensure that we provide the services they need and want efficiently and effectively. So perhaps my political philosophy is best summed up as "citizens first".
I have demonstrated this philosophy by bringing unprecedented levels of openness to our town's government by blogging, starting the Citizen Issue Review Commission and removing politics from our board and commission appointment process. I listen to what everyone has to say, I respond to every email I receive and I spend many hours every week meeting with community groups and individuals.
Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
This is not a hypothetical question; rather, it is one I have wrestled with for a long time. For years, the local chapter of the Police Benevolent Association has sought formal discussions with senior officials of the Town of Cary. According to our attorneys, whom I trust, this constitutes collective bargaining at the local level, and unfortunately, that is contrary to state law. So I have told the PBA that I can not support their requests – it is not a matter of whether or not their issues are reasonable, but rather it is a matter of law that prevents private discussions with their organization, because that would constitute local collective bargaining. In fact, I have met with their leaders many times to listen to their concerns, but state law stands in the way of accommodating their requests. The PBA endorses candidates in local races, and I know that I can not give them the answers they seek, and so I do not expect them to endorse me and recommend that their members support me.
As a result, I expect that many PBA members vote for other candidates; even worse, I expect that some Cary voters interpret the PBA endorsement as indicative of a candidate's support for police officers. I always have and always will support our law enforcement officers in every way I can. However, that is not the criterion used for PBA endorsement. I respect and appreciate the people of the PBA and the work they do. But as Mayor, it is important that I follow all laws and regulations and heed the advice of the town attorney, even if that costs me endorsements and votes.
I believe that this issue represents not only an example of the "principled stand" you asked about in this question, but also the complexities, nuances and many factors that must be balanced when leading the Town of Cary. Many people can run campaigns and espouse their stances on issues, but sitting in the Mayor's chair is a big responsibility that I take seriously as I do my best to represent ALL of the citizens of Cary.
TheIndependent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. How would your election to office help further that goal?
I believe that integrity is essential to trust and trust is essential to building a just community. I have kept my promises. I have established relationships with leaders of other communities in the Triangle – as a result of serving as president of the Wake County Mayors Association; I have received endorsements from several Wake County mayors of both political parties. I listen to all points of view and I make sure that the concerns of citizens – especially those who are too often ignored – are heard at the council table.
To learn about other candidates' stances on the issues, read their 2011 Candidate Questionnaires.