Mary-Ann Baldwin | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Mary-Ann Baldwin

Candidate for Raleigh City Council At-Large


Name as it appears on the ballot: Mary-Ann Baldwin
Full legal name, if different:
Date of birth: 9/20/56
Home address: 614 Capital Blvd. Raleigh 27603
Mailing address, if different from home:
Campaign Web site:
Occupation & employer: Marketing/Communications Professional
Home phone: 919-828-5591
Work phone: 919-828-5591

1) What do you believe are the most important issues facing Raleigh? If elected, what are your top priorities in addressing those issues?

Transportation, public safety, parks/open space, and the economy/jobs. My top priorities are improving transit services (including buses and light rail); promoting gang prevention and student success through a model pilot program; preserving the Dix property as a future destination park; and providing resources for job growth and creation.

2) What is there in your record as a public official or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be effective on the council? This might include career or community service; but please be specific about its relevance to this office.

I have served as the City's liaison to our state legislative delegation. In this role, I've been able to develop an improved dialogue with our local legislators and legislative leaders, resulting in a positive outcome for the City and its citizens. My work on transit -- especially building much-need support to the launch of the R-line circulator bus -- to the founding of Capital Area Friends of Transit -- are important first steps for Raleigh. I've also worked with our state legislative delegation to secure passage of legislation that will expand options for new transit opportunities including "express" bus service and light rail. In addition, my leadership service on the Triangle Transit Authority is also a chance to represent Raleigh's interest on an issue that I care very much about -- and that is so important to the City. Additionally, I've been able to effectively negotiate and problem solve, helping to approve two City budgets, secure passage of the revised Neighborhood Conservation Overlay District, negotiate the design and development of two senior citizen facilities, improve our master planning process for parks, encourage proactive communication with our citizens, and work to address issues in Southeast Raleigh. I feel my professional background and involvement on a number of community boards gives me a strong understanding of the team work and consensus building skills required for the council to function effectively.

3) How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

The first campaign I worked on was George McGovern for President. (Most of your readers won't know who that is). But I believe that type of idealism has shaped my life as a journalist and community volunteer because I always wanted to make a difference. I define myself as a pragmatic Democrat with progressive ideas. My voting record and campaign platform reflects my interests in transit, land use, jobs, and gang prevention / student success. But most important, I believe my involvement in non-profit organizations has shaped my desire to help those who need our assistance the most.

4) Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

I support a half--cent increase in the sales tax to fund improved bus service and light rail in the Triangle. I think transit is the single most important initiative we need to address and fund if we are to become a great city for the 21st century.

5) What are the two or three most important program or policy initiatives you will champion if elected to the Raleigh Council? Or, to put it another way, how will your election change anything in Raleigh?

I am committed to bringing an improved transit system to Raleigh, which will have a major impact on the way our City grows and how we deal with congestion, air quality and even obesity / health issues. This policy issue will have a huge impact on Raleigh's future, and I am 100% committed to working to bring it to reality.

6) What can you point to in your record, on the Council or in community service, to demonstrate that you'll be an effective city leader?

See answer to 2 above.

7) Recent droughts have underlined Raleigh's water problems. Growth could cause the city to run out. On the other hand, the city isn't selling enough water to pay down the debt on its existing systems, resulting in rate increases. How should Raleigh deal with water in the coming years?

Raleigh's water rates are among the least expensive in the state, which speaks well of the job our staff has done in managing our water system. However, we are at a critical juncture where we need to change our philosophy about selling water by encouraging conservation through incentives and tiered water rates. We also have to develop our re-use water system, which will allow us to use recycled water (instead of drinking water) for irrigation and other uses.

8) Crime and gang problems plague some parts of the city. Is there more the Council should be doing to go after them?

The Raleigh Police Department is doing an excellent job policing gangs. However, I feel we have fallen short in the area of gang prevention. I am working with Dr. James West, our District C Councilor, on ways to address this. For instance, the RPD, Parks & Recreation, and Community Services are now working together on a program at the Tarboro Road Community Center. There are also plans in the works to develop "Teen Centers" that would give at-risk youth a safe place to go. We are also working with Wake County to develop a comprehensive, cooperative and big-picture view to tackle this challenge. These ideas and programs need to be fully implemented, and if favorably evaluated, expanded.

9) Are new initiatives needed to address the city's fast-growing Hispanic population? If so, what do you recommend?

Yes. City government needs to employ more bi-lingual speaking people, develop a proactive communications campaign directed at the Hispanic population on such issues as community policing and outreach, city services, water conservation, and the like. We also need to develop stronger partnerships with organizations that represent the Hispanic community. Our Human Relations Commission should be more fully engaged in this discussion to develop outreach programs and offer ideas.

10) Does Raleigh need better public transit services? (A lot better?) If yes, what specific steps do you advocate, and how would you pay for them?

See many answers above.

11) Raleigh's development fees (impact and capacity fees) are the lowest in the region, meaning that current residents shoulder the lion's share of the cost of growth, not developers or newcomers. Should these fees be increased, and if so, by how much?

We raised impact fees considerably two years ago after I joined the Council. I supported that increase.

12) Raleigh's never required developers to include affordable housing (however "affordable" might be defined) as a condition for approval of tall buildings or big subdivisions? Should it? If so, what rules should apply?

I support the recommendations of the City's Affordable Housing Task Force that calls for expanded options for the City to incentivize affordable housing initiatives.

13) What's the best thing about the proposed comprehensive plan for Raleigh? What's the worst thing? As it stands, would you vote to adopt it or insist on changes first?

The new comprehensive plan is a model document that involved an extensive public process involving hundreds of Raleigh citizens. The plan supports transit-oriented development, encourages higher density growth in specific areas, and creates patterns of predictable development. I applaud the effort that our citizens put into helping draft this planning document, and I support the efforts of the staff and our consultants in creating a plan that will move Raleigh in the right direction. However, I also believe we must continue to work out issues that are of concern to neighborhoods, especially regarding transition zones. That is a priority that should and will be addressed.

14) Public schools are a county, not city function. Should the city nonetheless act to assist the schools, and if so, in what ways?

Our citizens do not want to hear that schools are not a city function. I believe we need to support the school system in a variety of ways -- through policing, gang prevention programs, track-out and summer recreation programs, planning coordination, support of the diversity policy, advocacy, and shared facilities.

15) Raleigh's form of government—strong manager, weak council and mayor—combined with the fact that almost all city meetings are held during daytime hours, have the effect of limiting the extent to which average citizens can participate in government decisions. Is this a problem, in your view? If so, what changes should be made? Is this a priority for you?

There does not seem to be a lack of public participation at most council meetings, as evidenced by the hundreds of people who have shown up at public hearings and at meetings of the two committees on which I serve -- Public Works and Comprehensive Planning. I think that citizens have a high rate of participation in Raleigh city government through a variety of means including public hearings, access to the City Council, and Citizen Advisory Councils. In fact, the first meeting I attended (zoning hearing before being sworn in to Council), over 400 people showed up. Needless to say, they weren't happy and they were there to let the Council know.

16) Two years ago, the Indy asked every council candidate if s/he would support extending to same-sex partners the same benefits (e.g., health insurance) on the same basis that they are now offered to the spouses of city employees. Virtually everyone said yes, but to date nothing's been done. Is it time?

If constituents feel it is time, then it is time.

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