Name as it appears on the ballot: Jennifer Robinson
Full legal name, if different: Jennifer Bryson Robinson
Date of birth: 02-14-1970
Home address: 106 Chertsey Court; Cary, NC 27519
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign Web site: robinsonforcary.org
Occupation & employer: stay-at-home parent and Councilwoman
Home phone: 919-461-2342
Work phone: n/a
E-mail: Jennifer@robinsonforcary.org; Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org
1. What do you believe are the most important issues facing Cary? If elected, what are your top priorities in addressing those issues?
The most important issues facing Cary are the accommodation of new growth that is harmonious to the community and maintaining the quality of life that people enjoy in Cary.
2) 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.
As a leader, I am a visionary, I am an ambassador for the Town, and I get things done. I have lead or initiated several projects and policies that help the Town make decisions today that affect our future. To name a few: Southwest Area Plan, Chatham County Joint Land Use Plan, Thoroughfare Corridor Buffers, Tree Preservation Task Force and related ordinance changes, Land Banking Program (dedicated $20m in funds to banking land for future needs). In my work, I strive to bring consensus to groups with diverse ideas and opinions. I often help articulate concerns of neighbors to developers and find solutions that fits both groups of stakeholders. For example, a project at the corner of two major intersections was proposed to go up to a creek that separated the land from a neighborhood. I worked with the applicant to pull all development out of the area that would flow directly into the creek. In exchange, the developer went more vertical and dense up near the road. The net result is a dynamic mixed-use project (Stone Creek) that preserves almost nine acres of land along the creek. The developer built and dedicated a greenway in that land.
3) How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?
I am an independent-minded, environmentally concerned Republican. I believe in fiscal management and individual's rights.
I have been open-minded to trying various techniques over the years to "manage growth." My experience has taught me that managing growth artificially has consequences. Over the years, I have refined my approach to focusing on solid planning for new growth, consideration of infrastructure to support growth, and quality of life initiatives.
My concern for the environment has led to several initiatives that I either spear-headed or strongly supported. Examples include tree preservation, open space acquisition, land banking, increased recycling, expansion of our greenway system, support for multi-modal transportation options.
4) Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.
In the past year, I took a stand that will cost me votes. Several years ago, the Council amended our Land Use Plan to designate areas as "mixed use." I believe in putting commercial and office destinations close to homes to reduce the need to drive distances. We can maximize our roadways and decrease the effects of congestion by disbursing destinations. When an applicant proposed a mixed use development that met all of our ordinances, I supported his project. I strongly believe that the community will enjoy what this project (once built) will provide. However, citizens have concerns about mixed use projects close to their neighborhoods. Many in Cary only want the "small town, large lot" community.
5) While its growth has slowed, Cary remains one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. Assess whether its rate of growth is good for the town. Should it be faster, slower or remain the same? How should Cary grow and what measures should be implemented to achieve this?
The entire region continues to attract people from other parts of the United States and the world. We cannot turn new comers away. Rather than contrive to hit annual growth rates, it is better to allow the market to drive growth rates. For example, two years ago we had a lot of new building permits. This year, however, we will experience a 1% to 1.5% rate of growth. Averaged out, we had a reasonable amount of growth.
Rather than dictating an arbitrary "it feels like the right amount" of growth, we need to use our Land Use Plan to drive how we grow. Designating on the plan areas for low densities, open space, parks, community facilities, higher densities, etc. enables us to strategically guide new development. Attention to our infrastructure will allow us to accommodate new residents without seeing a degradation of services.
6) Cary's tax rate is one of the lowest in the Triangle, and its budget is 25 percent lower than last fiscal year. What do you think of this reduction? How should the town balance its tax rate with essential public services? What services and projects do you consider essential and need additional funds? What services and projects could be reduced or delayed? Evaluate, in general, the current town budget.
I honestly believe that Cary offers the best value possible to our tax payers. We provide the highest quality services and amenities for a relatively small amount of money. It is important to note that the Town did not cut essential services the FY 2010 budget.
Our 25% reduction in our budget was a pragmatic approach to weathering this economy. By decreasing our budget, we acknowledged that people's personal budgets are tight and they do not need to be sending more of their money to the Town. We met our objectives when setting the budget:
1. making our budget cuts transparent to the average citizen. We postponed hiring non-essential staff, replacing our fleet of vehicles and other items that don't affect a resident's quality of life in Cary.
2. maintaining the amenities and services that we already have. Our resources were applied to existing infrastructure and programs and making sure that what we have and do remains top-notch and provides what our citizens expect to receive.
3. allowing most previously funded projects to continue on course. We carefully assessed our funds established in previous Capital Improvement Budgets and confirmed most of the projects to move forward.
4. prioritizing our wish list. We determined which projects were of utmost concern and applied our resources to those projects.
5. staying within our self-imposed debt ceiling. We are committed to spending no more than 15% of our operating budget on debt payments.
6. maintaining a four month fund balance reserve over the State-required balance
7. protecting our AAA bond rating by the three rating agencies
Projects and services that cannot be delayed include positions in our Fire and Police Department, the Waste Water Treatment Facility (because the Town must have it operational in order to be in compliance with the State-imposed Interbasin Transfer requirements), and some road projects such as the extension of Morrisville Parkway. I would like to have the Council fund the widening of Carpenter Fire Station Road, the Mills Park Community Center, the Visioning project, and the downtown streetscapes project. But, these projects can wait until we have additional funds.
7) In the biennial Citizen Satisfaction Survey, focus groups indicated they were concerned about the impact of the "transient population" of Cary. There were also suggestions that those short-term residents be "screened" in terms of a visioning process for the city. How should Cary deal with its short-term residents? What value do you place on their opinions of the town? What impacts have you seen of short-term residents? What can the town do to more fully engage these residents?
Our mission statement states that the Town of Cary focuses on "enriching the lives of our citizens by creating an exceptional environment and providing exemplary services that enable our community to thrive and prosper." We don't distinguish between long term and short term residents and we value all of our citizens. I am not sure about the reference to "screening." However, when we embark on our Visioning project in the future, I hope that we will collect the thoughts and opinions of as many people as possible, regardless of how long each person has lived in Cary.
We are blessed to have a people from all over call Cary "home." While many people think that Cary is homogenous, it is not. Our community has become rich with diversity and cultural resources.
8) What should Cary do about Western Wake Partners' plans to build a sewage plant in New Hill? What are your concerns, if any, about the plan? If you have no concerns, tell us why. Where should a new sewage plant be placed?
The Western Wake Partners need to move forward with the plant for various reasons. For the Town of Cary, we need the Plant to comply with the State's Interbasin Transfer rules. The Plant should be located in an area that impacts the surrounding community as little as possible. My preference is for the Plant to be located near Harrison Lake and deposit its water directly into Harrison. However, the State has not approved this location. Until we get affirmation or a denial, we need to be working on both of our options in tandem. We need to work cooperatively with Chatham County to get necessary easements with a promise from the Town to return those easements if they are not needed.
9) Evaluate Cary's sign ordinance. How would you change it? What should the ordinance accomplish?
The Council just directed our staff to do a comprehensive review of our sign ordinance. Rather than picking at little parts of the ordinance, we need to look at all changes collectively. For the most part, citizens like the effect that the sign ordinance has had on the look and feel of the community. We are being asked to allow more opportunities for directional signs and larger sign areas. Before approving any changes, I want to fully understand the implications.
10) While the expansion of U.S. 64 is largely a decision of the N.C. Department of Transportation, as a town council member, what input would you give the state on this proposed project?
We need to protect our adjacent communities first. The Regional Transportation Alliance has provided an innovative option for the NCDOT to consider. Implementing a series of traffic circles may enable the road to accommodate more traffic while not widening the road at all. The NCDOT should look to direct traffic around the 540 turnpike rather than through the Town of Cary. As a Councilmember, I will speak for Cary residents and only endorse a proposal that protects our community.
11) On the topic of transportation, this year, a half-cent sales tax for mass transit is proposed in the legislature, requiring voters' approval. Would you support such a tax? Why or why not?
Yes. It is apparent that people will come to our area whether there are growth control measures or adequate infrastructure. Our region CANNOT pave its way out of congestion. We need to act boldly now to address our present and future commuting needs. I would like to see additional corridors designated as future rail transit corridors. For example, I have sought guidance from TTA on the underutilized CSX rail line that runs from Apex to Durham. Based on their advice, I encouraged the first applicant (Park Side in Alston) along that rail line to design their project to be transit-friendly and reserve land for a future rail line. Guiding new development to be transit-friendly will help position our Town for mass transit in the future.
12) Are you concerned about the long-term water quantity and quality of Jordan Lake, Cary's primary source of drinking water? If so, what measures would you take to preserve or improve it? What is your assessment of Cary's water conservation ordinance?
The long-term water quality of Jordan Lake is a driver in many of our decisions. Over my ten years on the Council, I have worked to implement several measures that protect Jordan Lake. I pushed for rural lands in our Southwest Area Plan, ordinance changes that prohibit mass clear-cutting, topography changes, slab on grade construction for single family houses, ordinances that require more trees in commercial projects, quicker replanting of trees in buffers, and higher fines for tree removal. I have stood unwavering by our 100' tree buffers as developers have sought (and sued for) variances to these buffers. I have been working on our joint land use plan with Chatham County to create a plan that protects Jordan Lake and the rural areas that surround it. I was one of the initiators of the Policies 35 and 146 that, among other things, use Town funds to restore wetlands. I have worked with our Congressional representatives to bring Federal dollars to our Solid Waste dryer project and our White Oak Creek preservation and greenway. Protecting our Lake is a regional, cooperative and constant effort.
Our water conservation effort is one of our first involvements in taking a proactive step in protecting our environment. I believe that our water conservation ordinance is reasonable and fair. Our approach is to levy higher fees for higher water use and lower fees to those that conserve. People who are high consumers make the choice about whether they want to use the water badly enough to pay the fees. Our rebate programs have been appreciated by our citizens. These programs offer opportunities to help our environment while bettering the lives of our citizens.