Nancy McFarlane | Candidate Questionnaires - Wake County | Indy Week

Elections » Candidate Questionnaires - Wake County

Nancy McFarlane

Raleigh Mayor


Name as it appears on the ballot: Nancy McFarlane
Party affiliation, if any: Unaffiliated
Campaign website:
Occupation & employer: Pharmacist, currently working as mayor of Raleigh
Years lived in Raleigh: 31

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?

I think that the Raleigh city government is generally on the right course. There is always room to improve, and we work with our city manager on a continual basis to address issues that arise. Ruffin Hall has been our city manager for almost 2 years, and he has addressed many issues and made many positive changes in the way city staff functions and responds to our constituents. We have the lowest cost of municipal services in the triangle, maintain a AAA bond rating and put customer service first.

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?

1. Economic Development for All. It is important that we continue to be a place that attracts new business. Our work force is very attractive to employers and we want to make sure that they stay here by continually improving our quality of life. It is important to support our small businesses, whether starting up or growing. My establishment of the Small Business Office has served as a resource for small businesses in the area. It is also important to connect businesses and schools to make sure that we understand the gaps in the marketplace, whether it is data analytics or plumbers, workforce development is also important.
2. Transportation- We are one of the fastest growing cities in the nation. We are projected to double in size. Without a user friendly, comprehensive transportation system, we will choke off our own success with traffic congestion. A transit system also plays a critical part is affordability and equity in our city. Affordable housing is much more than the cost of the unit. Access to jobs, food, medical and childcare are all parts of the cost of living. Passing the Wake County Transit Referendum in 2016 will be a critical first step in achieving the goal of a comprehensive transit system. 3. Keeping Raleigh’s unique character as we grow. Raleigh is the best city in the country because of the careful planning that has occurred over the past years to create this place that we love. Careful planning and follow thru is critical for us to accommodate the growth that we know is coming while keeping the character of this city that we love.

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 been on the city council for 8 years, 4 of them as mayor. I have guided this city through a period of unprecedented growth. We continue to rank among the best places to live, work, start a business, raise a family and many other accolades. I have been instrumental in the hiring of a new city manager and guiding those internal changes. The purchase of Dix Park took many, many hours and involved navigating many different political situations, but I always knew the importance of that and was determined to make that happen for the city of Raleigh.

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 wish that we had advertised and communicated the remapping of the city in a different way. People were confused and worried during the transition from the Planning Commission to the City Council. We need to look at our forms of communication and consider what the citizen reads and hears. Official government communication needs to be more readable and easily understood.

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?

It’s difficult to put a label on that. I think those terms mean different things to different people. I have started and grown a business, so I have that background and understand finance. I also believe that there is a difference in spending and investing. We have to invest in our community, and that includes everything from infrastructure to people. I believe that we help the people that need help the most. I believe that we have an obligation to protect the environment, and I’m proud that I have received the Sierra Club’s endorsement every year. I embrace diversity and believe that it contributes to our strength as a city.

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?

There are many things that we can do as a city to help with that mission. Transit is a big part of social equity. Access to not only jobs, food, childcare and the essentials but to all the services and opportunities that Raleigh has to offer is a key part of building a just community. I believe that everyone should have an equal voice and it is my job as mayor to make sure that everyone does. Our commitment to providing affordable housing in all areas of the city will become even more important. We must work closely with the county and the school board to make sure that every child has access to a quality public education. It is important that we continue to address those issues associated with education, such as poverty, hunger, access to preschool, homelessness that affect families and children every day.

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 have many ideas, but this is a park for the people. I am very excited about the planning process and look forward to the many ideas that arise. We have had international interest and I know that with the great partners both here in Raleigh, input from citizens and information we gather from other cities with great parks, we will build a destination park like no other.

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?

We are taking concrete steps, such as using the money from the sale of Stone’s Warehouse to put into affordable housing. We are currently gathering a comprehensive list of city assets to assess and determine what the best use for those properties is. Density bonuses will not work in our current market. Not in the way that they have been presented. The per square foot cost of building and selling property in the downtown is not a high as many other cities. The math does not work for the developer to add affordable units to a project through a density bonus and still have a viable project. When you look at the numbers, the bonus would likely be turned down. An increase in density will not subsidize the cost of the affordable units. We have to look at other options. A commitment to the dedication of the sale of city held property to affordable housing would produce more units. Partnering with a builder that specializes in affordable housing would not only be the best use of our money, but it would enable us to study the market and provide that housing the areas of greatest need.

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?

It is critical that we work to ensure the passage of the Wake County referendum next year. We have to take a first step, and this is it. Mass transit is a key component of affordability and we must get moving on this!

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?

I commented earlier on our remapping process. I think the public input should have been handled differently. We had months of public input, but until the signs went out, many people were not involved. As for density, I believe that we need to follow our comprehensive plan and develop density around transit stations. We have a lot of people coming here and we have to figure out where to put them. Change is hard, but planning is the best tool we have to address the growth.

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?

Balance is the key word here. Our downtown has grown, but currently is out of balance. We have bars, restaurants and residential. We need more retail and services in our downtown. Different cities have different models for their downtowns. Some separate the residential and the entertainment districts. We have chosen to incorporate those together. People like the ability to walk out their door and engage in exciting city activities. Business owners and residents should have a respectful relationship. We have depended on the DRA to provide that balance, guide the development of space in the downtown and serve as a convener of discussion groups, but I think we will have to revisit that relationship. It’s time to clarify what we expect from that organization and what we both see as their role.

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?

More growing pains! Yes, some owners are concerned, but we have 2 options. Raise property taxes on everyone to pay for it or have the users of the decks help cover the cost. I have asked the business owners to work with the city on another solution. I would like to see something for the service workers to address their parking costs. They may be a program between the city and the employers. This also is a part of the big picture of changing revenues from the state.

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?

This question relates to every other question that you have asked. We have to be very mindful of our current obligations and maintaining our infrastructure. Frankly, as much as we may want to add new programs, no one will use your bike share program if you don’t have a clean and adequate water supply. We are a successful city because we are a great place to live. Quality of life issues are critical to economic success. It’s critical to keep an eye on revenue, maintain our AAA bond rating, not over extend and commit to projects we may not be able to sustain and remember what effect our tax structure has on our residents.

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?

My quick math says that is about $15/hr. I’m not sure where the living wage you quote came from, but we always need to be concerned that our employees are paid enough to live on. I’m happy to have a follow up conversation, but feel that I need more information.

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

When we have a handle on our future budget with regards from the state. We lost $7.1 million this year from the loss of the privilege license tax. An estimated $1.5 million from the builders inventory exemption passed this year. We have no idea of the impact of the proposed Sales Tax Redistribution. We have to be much more careful about future commitments, especially given the increase in poverty we are seeing in the area.

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?

CACs have always been a vehicle for information not only to be sent out from the city to the citizens, but a way to gather information from the citizens. I think they fill an important role and I would like to see the RCAC talk address how they can be more effective. They were developed in the 1970s and much has changed!

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