Nancy McFarlane | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Nancy McFarlane

Candidate for Raleigh Mayor


Name as it appears on the ballot: Nancy McFarlane

Date of birth: July 20, 1956

Campaign website:

Occupation & employer: Pharmacist, President & CEO, MedPro Rx, Inc.


Do you have a Facebook page? Nancy McFarlane For Mayor

Do you have a Twitter account? @NancyMcFarlane

1. What do you see as the most important issues facing Raleigh? If elected, what are your top three priorities in addressing those issues?

The three main priorities for Raleigh are:

Quality Growth: Good planning is a major reason that Raleigh is the prosperous and beautiful city that we all enjoy. It is critically important that we continue to plan carefully for future growth, providing opportunities and choices for all of us in how we live, work and play. Raleigh is projected to continue to experience the highest population growth rate in the U.S. through 2020. Sustainable development is key we cannot sacrifice our area's future to satisfy fleeting short-term gains. Investment in infrastructure should be based on a clear vision, and managing water usage and supply have to be another top priority.

Economic Vitality and Job Creation: Raleigh must continue to be a business-friendly city. A balance of low taxes, a stable government, our AAA bond rating and great amenities are essential to attracting good people, great companies and 21st century jobs. Since I was elected in 2011, unemployment in Raleigh has dropped by 20 percent from 7.3 percent to 6.1 percent. I know small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and led the creation of a city Small Business Office with unanimous support from fellow council members, which helps existing businesses and entrepreneurs, start a business, find mentorship help, coordinate inspections, and streamline the permitting process necessary to open and expand small business in Raleigh.

Expanding Transportation: Raleigh has grown from 270,000 people in 2000 to over 425,000 people today. Over next several years, we have to address the fact that an effective and accessible transportation infrastructure is vital to our continued success. We need more transportation options including walkable and bike-friendly communities, improved traffic calming designs, and more public transportation options such as the Union Station project. I have advocated for more funds dedicated specifically for bus stop shelters and benches.

2. What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective on the issues you've identified? Please be as specific as possible in relating past accomplishments to current goals.

I have a proven record of success as mayor, a two-term city councilwoman, a small business owner, a community volunteer and a neighborhood activist. I've helped move Raleigh forward through initiatives such as the Small Business Office to help entrepreneurs get their businesses up and running, and an Economic Development Office to attract established businesses to Raleigh. During my term in office, Raleigh has seen a 20-percent reduction in its unemployment rate and a $448 million increase in the city's commercial and residential tax base.

3. INDY Week's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle and North Carolina. Please point to a specific position in your platform that would, if achieved, help further that goal.

I opposed Amendment One, and voted with the City Council in favor of a resolution reflecting that. In addition, I have been a strong supporter of public transportation which helps equalize access to resources and services both public and private.

4. Identify and explain one principled stand you would be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

If something is the right thing to do, I'll fight for it regardless of how it affects my popularity. As we began our search for a new city manager, we reached out to the community to get their input on what they would like to see in a city manager. We then engaged a national search firm to assist us, who recommended was that we use a closed search to receive the best candidates. The concern is that some of the top applicants may not want their cities to know that they are looking elsewhere. Of the last two public searches for School Superintendent and Police Chief, one of the final three candidates in each search lost their jobs after the announcement of finalists was made. The open process clearly did not work for them. I have strongly supported open government during my time in office, but in this case it is important to maintain a closed search in order to attract the best candidates who can best serve Raleigh.

5. If these issues haven't been addressed above, would you please comment on:

a) The role of City Council members and their relationship to the manager and staff is an issue currently. Some think council members should talk only to the manager, insulating staffers from political pressure. Others think the members should also be able to question department heads and staff as part of their policy oversight role and to resolve constituents' problems. A middle course would be oversight by committee, a time-consuming job for the part-time council. What's your position on this?

The key to good government is good communication. A collaborative relationship between Raleigh City Council and department heads has always been encouraged, and city governments around the country are moving toward a more collaborative model between staff, citizens and councilors. Councilors should always be wary of putting undue pressure on city staff, but ultimately it is our responsibility to make sure constituent concerns are heard and issues facing our city are resolved.

b) Council members are paid little ($17,000 for the mayor; $12-13,000 for the others) and, except for the city attorney and clerk, no professional staff report to them. All staff work for the manager. Would you change this system at all, and if so, how?

We are currently looking at other city governments that operate under a council-manager form of government to see how other cities handle reporting structure. Under our current charter, only the city manager, city attorney and city clerk report to the council. All other employees must report to one of those three.

c) In light of the scandal unfolding at the Raleigh Business and Technical Center, supposedly a business incubator, is it time to beef up the City Council's oversight mechanisms? Are other city-sponsored agencies and city departments vulnerable to similar problems?

In our budget, most entities that receive funds from the city go through a grant process. There are a few that have been administratively reviewed and approved for funding. I have suggested that everyone that receives money from the city be subject to a grant review process that would ensure that all accounting practices are reviewed.

d) Do you support the goals of the 2009 comprehensive plan and the brand new Unified Development Ordinance? Will these two initiatives really change the way Raleigh develops over the next several decadesand for the better? Or for the worse?

Quality growth is essential for the long-term vitality of Raleigh and the surrounding region. As Chair of the Council's Comprehensive Planning Committee, I was instrumental in developing Raleigh's widely praised Comprehensive Plan approved by the Council. That plan took 18 months, and was the result of a careful evaluation of citizen, municipal and business interest. I also helped pass the Unified Development Ordinance, and am committed to a UDO that protects neighborhoods, and provides direction, certainty and flexibility to the development community. I also believe that we, as a council, need to keep a close watch as we transition to the UDO. The purpose is to give both citizens and developers more predictability as to the development potential on parcels of land. We must be sure that the UDO is delivering the desired outcome.

e) How important is improving public transit in Raleigh and the region to the city's future prosperity, do you think?

Given how much Raleigh has grown over the past decade, and how much it will continue to grow over the next one, it is imperative that we offer more public transportation options for her residents and visitors. I proudly support the Union Station project, which will become a public transit hub for Raleigh and the rest of the Triangle, look forward to continuing the conversation on different ways to expand riders' options as demand grows. Public transportation is vital for economic strength and social equity. People need transportation to jobs, food, medical care, all parts of their lives.

f) If elected, will you ask the Wake County Commissioners to allow a public referendum in 2014 on a ½-cent sales tax for transit, the same as Durham and Orange counties have passed?

City Council passed a referendum last year asking the Wake County Commission to allow a public referendum on transit, and I have spoken to commissioners on more than one occasion about the issue. We are in danger of falling behind neighboring counties when it comes to transportation -- which could threaten our business-friendly status.

g) Until the ½-cent sales tax is in place in Wake, what else should Raleigh do on its own, if anything, to jump-start public transit within the city?

The Union Station project is a perfect example of the steps Raleigh is taking to jump start public transit. The station will be able to serve as a hub for passenger trains, light rail and buses, giving us the infrastructure necessary to begin work on connecting a Triangle-wide transit network should the transit bond be enacted. I also support bike/pedestrian-friendly improvements and traffic-calming designs, and have advocated for more funds dedicated specifically for bus stop shelters and benches.

h) Raleigh is trying to gain control of the 325-acre Dorothea Dix Hospital tract for use as a destination park. Do you support this effort? Should Raleigh pay fair-market value for the land, via lease or purchase, as many in the General Assembly demand? Please share your thoughts on how development of the park should be financed, if at all?

I have fought tirelessly in favor of building a destination park on the Dorothea Dix campus, and support the lease originally agreed to by the state. Over the next seven months, I will continue to work with Gov. Pat McCrory's office to make sure Raleigh gets the best possible deal for the land so we can begin building a park the entire Triangle and State can be proud of.

i) As part of a growth and economic development strategy, should Raleigh begin to use tax-increment financing (TIFs), subsidizing current developments with anticipated future property tax gains? If so, what policy limits, in any, should be adopted as part of a TIF plan?

The council passed a policy several years ago saying that TIF financing should only be utilized for economic renewal and revitalization in areas that couldn't otherwise obtain financing. To date, the council has never utilized TIF financing, and as part of our responsible fiscal management, we should set a high standard before we ever do.

j) For many years, it's been a point of pride for Raleigh managers and Council members that Raleigh government costs less, and the city's property tax rate is lower, than other towns in Wake County and other North Carolina cities. On the other hand, services may suffer because of inadequate funding. Are you concerned that Raleigh is investing too little to achieve the world-class status to which it aspires? Or can spending be cut further without sacrificing quality?

I wouldn't take pride in having the best services for the lowest costs out of anywhere else in the Triangle if I couldn't also be proud of the quality of those services. As Raleigh continues its record growth throughout this decade and beyond, of course it will be necessary to expand and modernize our infrastructure. In the meantime, we are investing in sustainable services such as LEED standards for the city's new solid waste services facility (platinum) and water treatment plant (silver), expansions to the city's reusable water system, and plans for a hydroelectric facility and solar farm.

k) Is Raleigh doing enough to serve its growing Hispanic population and help them feel a part of the city?

The Community Services Department works to ensure that members of the Hispanic-Latino community have access to the resources and services of local, state and federal governments, as well as other public and private groups. The department also helps inform members of the Hispanic community about city ordinances, and helps them transition into the culture of their new home. We also organize the annual Viva Raleigh festival to provide information about the city and local nonprofits, and sponsor La Fiesta del Pueblo, a celebration of Latin American culture which was held in Moore Square in September.

l) Is Raleigh doing enough to serve its growing population of homeless and street people, many of whom suffer with mental illnesses? If not, what do you recommend?

One of the best things about Raleigh is how many people are willing to help the less fortunate in our community. City government should be in the business of facilitating that aid, not preventing it. I have always supported the mission of groups such as Love Wins and Human Beans Together, but it's important that we figure out a way to connect charities and the people who help them that best benefits everyone involved. Over the next few months, we will work together with charities, city agencies and local businesses on a permanent, action-oriented solution that will utilize public input and cooperation to best assist Raleigh's homeless and expand access to resources.

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