Nancy McFarlane | Candidate Questionnaires - Wake County | Indy Week

Elections » Candidate Questionnaires - Wake County

Nancy McFarlane

Raleigh Mayor

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Nancy McFarlane
Website: NancyMcFarlane.com
Occupation: Mayor, Pharmacist
Phone Number: (984) 444-9306
Email Address: Nancy@nancymcfarlane.com
Years Lived in Raleigh: 33

1) Between gentrification in historic neighborhoods and expensive rentals downtown, Raleigh has struggled with questions of affordable and workforce housing. In June, the City Council set a goal of fifty-seven hundred more affordable units over the next decade. With burgeoning growth and rising housing prices, what additional steps should Raleigh take to create more affordable housing?

Affordable housing is a top priority for me. It’s a challenge brought on by our city's success. This year, we’ve created dedicated revenue stream of nearly $6 million dollars specifically for affordable housing. Because this is tied to the tax base, money available for affordable housing will rise as property values go up. As your questions says, we’ve approved tripling the number of affordable housing units created over the next three years. We will continue to make more investment in affordable housing units a priority. Our Neighborhood Committee has been charged to look closely at what other communities are doing to address this issue and work closely with Wake County. I have also asked the newly created Urban Land Institute Task Force to help develop a toolbox that we can use to work with the private sector to increase our affordable housing stock.


2) 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? County voters approved a transit referendum last fall that will eventually create a bus rapid transit system and commuter rail line. What more should be done?

Raleigh will continue to be one of the nation’s fastest growing cities in coming year. In order to maintain the quality of life we enjoy, we must take an all of the above approach to transportation, and provide options to all our citizens. We’ve expanded bus routes and increased services on weekends. We upgraded Moore Square Station and we’re planning for the new Union Station to be an efficient hub of mass transit for generations to come.
Being able to get to work easily, and at a low cost is a key consideration in the affordable housing picture. That is why the upcoming transportation bond is so important. It will add $206 million toward transportation improvements including improving access to mass transit hubs like the new Union Station. The bond also will greatly increase options for cyclists and alternative forms of transportation to automobiles and improve roadways on major bus routes.


3.) Given the inflamed racial tensions after the recent events in Charlottesville, what steps should Raleigh take to position itself as a guardian of social justice? How would you characterize city leaders’ relationship with Raleigh’s communities of color, and what should be done to improve that relationship going forward?

This past year, Police chief Deck-Brown and I set up a series of community conversations across Raleigh that led to real dialogue about race and community-police relations. We are continuing to build upon that progress. We need to continue these conversations, not just between the community and law enforcement but in all aspects of the relations between City Hall and the diverse communities that make up our city. Raleigh needs to lead the way in saying ‘enough is enough’ when it comes to kind of bigotry, racial injustice and violence we saw in Charlottesville.


4.) Given the recent creation of the community engagement board, what do you believe the role of citizens advisory councils should be? What features and levels of involvement do you want to see incorporated into the new structure?

We have not created the community engagement board. During the past year there has been much discussion about the growth of the city, our current methods of communication and citizen engagement, and what we can do to effectively engage our growing population. A task force was created to study what other cities are doing and make recommendations back to City Council as to how we might expand our ability to communicate with residents and increase government accountability. The City Council voted to move forward with the task force recommendations, citing that they were only recommendations and the primary suggestion was to engage the community in a 1-2 year long process to get as much input as possible in designing a comprehensive two-way communication program.
The CACs have provided that role ever since they were created in the 1970s. We have grown and certainly have electronic means at our disposal that warrant another look to how the CAC system can best serve the city. We have some CACs with 2000-3000 residents, up to some with 83,000 residents. Citizens should not have to show up on a weeknight for several hours in order to be heard or vote.
We are moving forward with the recommended process facilitated by an expert in equality and communications to combine what has worked best in the CAC’s with new methods to utilize the immense talents of our citizens and enhance citizen engagement.
For the first time this year, Council expanded Early Voting citywide to make participation in our elections easier. Citizen engagement is key to our form of democracy. I know that we can build on a good foundation and provide all our citizens opportunities to weigh in our decisions, helping us continue to create the city we are proud of.


5.) Thinking about the current direction of Raleigh city government, would you say things are generally on the right course? If not, what specific changes you will advocate if elected?

Yes. Over the past decade, the city has seen enormous success and its success has brought thousands of new residents every year because this city is a fantastic place to live, work, and play. In a first ever city-wide survey of our residents this year, 91% said our quality of life is good to excellent.
Raleigh is consistently ranked as a top city for businesses and job seekers. New and expanding businesses have invested over $900 million in our city’s economy just in the past few years. Our commitment to the arts has tripled the impact they’ve had on our economy in the past 5 years, contributing $2.4 billion to Raleigh’s economy, generating $250 million in tax revenue, fueling 25,000 full time jobs, and setting records annually for tourism.
However, with our success comes challenges that we are working to stay ahead of. We must ensure that our growth is a shared prosperity. The city has led by ensuring all city staff are making a living wage of $15 an hour. Transit plans and affordable housing options must always be well thought out because with the massive influx of new residents our infrastructure must grow with it.


6) If you are a candidate for a district seat, please identify 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.

The most pressing issues facing us are all related to the explosive growth that we have experienced as a factor of our success.

1. Traffic/Transportation.
2. Affordability
3. Accommodation of the influx of people and businesses in a way that respects the current residents, their neighborhoods, and maintains the qualities about Raleigh that we love.

All of these issues are related in many ways. Raleigh, like many cities across the US, is experiencing rapid growth. As the city becomes more popular, combined with a boom in the economy, prices rise. Land becomes more valuable as supply decreases, something that is felt more acutely in the downtown area. The recent trend in urbanization also creates more of a demand for downtown living. Housing prices are rapidly rising in the city core, often displacing long time residents. We addressed this with a plan to increase our supply of affordable housing. We raised property taxes by 1 cent and dedicated that stream of money to affordable housing. That fund is nearly $6 million dollars this year, and will increase as our tax base increases.
We have found that we are most productive when we partner with organizations such as DHIC, who can leverage our dollars to produce more units than we can alone. We have also worked with them to identify affordable projects that can be renovated rather than letting them degrade to the level that the owner sells them and they are torn down and lost to our affordable housing inventory. We worked with DHIC to renovate Capital Towers, an affordable senior housing complex on Six Forks Road.
A good public transportation system is a key piece of affordability. Affordable housing is more than just the price of the unit. The ability to get around and access jobs, school, medical care, day care, shopping, all of the necessities of life without a car is a key piece of affordability. I worked with city and county leaders for many years to get our transit referendum on the ballot and passed. This now gives us the ability to move forward with a transit plan for Raleigh, Wake County and the Triangle. In addition to affordability, transit will aid those who cannot or choose not to drive. The expansion of public transportation options will also help with the growing congestion we are seeing in the Raleigh area. We approach transportation as multimodal, encompassing walking, biking, car, transit, shared rides and a growing number of options becoming available to us.
Planning is what we use to protect our neighborhoods and our character, and we have an award winning Comprehensive Plan to guide us. Planning for growth and transit together allows us to build more densely in targeted zones, connected by public transportation. This is one of the most difficult challenges that we face, but it goes back to my desire to improve citizen input and two-way communications.


7) What in your public or professional career shows your ability to be an effective member of the City Council? If you’ve identified specific issues above, what in your record has prepared you to deal with them?

I entered public service in a roundabout way. I first engaged when my children started public schools and I came to understand how much their education was impacted by the decisions of the county commissioners and school board members. I started working on campaigns and became involved in school and county PTA. I continued working on candidate’s elections, and eventually became a homeowners association president. I spent a great deal of time advocating for better stormwater and silt runoff controls from construction sites.
I am also a pharmacist. I worked both in community and hospital pharmacies prior to starting my own business in 2002. My company, MedPro Rx, was a specialty pharmacy that focused on certain drugs that were administered at home and often needed the assistance of a nurse. I grew the company, receiving awards for the fastest growing company in the triangle, best place to work and businesswoman of the year. I sold the company in 2014.
My business experience has been a tremendous asset in serving as mayor. I have an in-depth understanding of cash flow, budgeting, finance, personnel, sales and most of all, caring for the customer. I can also tell you that nothing is more valuable than the experience of sitting at your computer on Friday, and figuring out how to pay your people, pay your bills and keep your business running. I know the feeling of being responsible for others lives and livelihoods.
Finally, I had the pleasure to learn from the best, my predecessor Charles Meeker, who taught me that 90% of leadership is listening.


8) Please give an example of an action by the City Council in the past year that went wrong or should have been handled differently. Also, what was the city’s biggest accomplishment during that period?

Although we had good intentions, the process surrounding the Citizen Engagement Task Force should be been handled differently. The task force was not given sufficient support. Their task was unclear from the beginning and they did not have enough time to thoroughly engage many of the people who could have brought value. The council should have given them better resources and more time given the scope of our request. In retrospect, we should have taken more time to clarify what we were looking for. Perhaps if we had engaged a professional to determine the scope and the process, we would have had a less turbulent outcome.

9) 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?

I am a Progressive. I strongly believe in the values of inclusivity, support for public schools, protection of the environment, and economic opportunities for all.
I also understand that fiscal responsibility gives us a AAA Bond rating, saving us money and allowing us to invest in programs that strengthen the community, such as transit and affordable housing. Just this year, our utilities acquired a AAA Bond rating, allowing us to refinance, saving ratepayers $8 million dollars.


10) Now that the city is moving ahead with plans for the 306-acre Dorothea Dix Park, what are some specific features or focuses you’d work to see as part of final design?

We took great care in selecting the park planning team for Dix Park. We selected Michael Van Valkenburg because we believe that he and his team get it! They understand that we want a park that will be the next great park in America but they also know that it has to feel like Raleigh. It has to be born out of our ideas. I know that they will find the perfect balance. We have great partners adjacent to us. We’re already engaging in discussions with NC State University and the NC Department of Agriculture (State Farmers Market). I want Dorothea Dix Park to be a place that is a place for everyone. Much like Central Park in New York City, which is a park for all New Yorkers. It helps to define New York, as I know that Dorothea Dix Park will help to define us in the future.


11) If there are other issues you want to discuss, please do so here.

Primarily, I want to say what an honor it is to serve as Raleigh’s Mayor, and say thank you to all of our citizens for making our city the best place to live, work and play in America. You make Raleigh the dynamic, collaborative and diverse city we are, which is at the heart of our strength and character.

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