Name as it appears on the ballot: Randall Williams
Party affiliation, if any: Republican
Campaign website: firstname.lastname@example.org
Occupation and Employer: Obstetrician/Gynecologist Williams, Benavides, Marston and Kaminski
Years lived in NC: 54
Given the current direction of Raleigh city government, would you say things are generally on course? If not, what are the specific, major changes you will advocate if elected?
Raleigh is a great place to live and work but given our current economic reality, I think we have to focus on job creation and increasing our tax base by attracting and growing businesses to avoid the problems other cities have had with layoffs and cutting back on essential services. I spend a fair amount of time overseas volunteering to teach in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Haiti and you hear the military telling you to practice situational awareness. I think our economic situation has changed and we need to have a tremendous amount of support from the private sector to have a tax base to support the resources we need to keep the quality of life we have enjoyed in the past. I believe the city staff and city council should work hard to make our city a place that private businesses enjoy doing business with as they invest money to improve the tax base. I favor keeping the Dix property a natural habitat in its entirety as a destination park because I think that is in keeping with Raleigh's character as a park with a city in it.
If you are a candidate for a district seat, please identify your priorities for improvements in the district if you're elected.
What in your record as a public official or other experience demonstrates your ability to be effective as a member of City Council? If you've identified specific issues above, what in your record has prepared you to be an effective advocate for them.
I think one of the most important aspects of being Mayor is setting the tone of the city as a place where people can work together to meet challenges and reach practical, not ideological solutions to problems. I think you do that by leading from the front and listening to all citizens and council members and their constituents. You should treat all members with respect, even when they differ with you because they represent constituents who may have different views as well. I think the process of making decisions is very important and should be transparent and fair and people doing business before the council must feel as if their views were given a fair accounting. In my work trying to reconcile factions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti and Palestine, I have found that people appreciate it if you genuinely care about them and are willing to sacrifice to understand their point of view. In my work on the North Carolina Public Health Commission for the last 8 years and in other leadership positions in Raleigh as a volunteer, I try to look for win-win solutions to build sustainable solutions to disputes.
How do you identify yourself to others in terms of your political philosophy? For example, do you tell people you're a conservative, a progressive, a libertarian, or what?
I am a fiscal conservative but my training as a physician affects my political views in that I try to pragmatically solve problems while making decisions based on the facts. I think it is important to do that with a great deal of humility as sometimes there are not perfect solutions to problems.
The Independent's mission is to help build a just community in the Triangle. If elected, how will your service in office help further that goal?
One of my central tenets in life is that we are all a lot more alike than we are different. That is based on my educational experience through 12 years of public school and three degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill. This has been reinforced by my work as a physician for the last 26 years taking care of people of different races, religions, ethnicity, nationality and political beliefs. My experiences and my patients have taught me that all people should be treated justly and with respect. I think you must observe the rule of law and be transparent and avoid conflict of interest in the business of the city council.
Please address the following major issues in Raleigh:
Is the city's debt load too high? Or does the fact that Raleigh retains its AAA bond rating indicate that the debt load is manageable for our city our size?
Raleigh's debt has quadrupled in the last 10 years to 1.2 billion but I certainly agree that maintaining it's AAA bond rating puts us in a better place than many other cities. I do think that our economic reality has changed however and as a surgeon I always try to hope for the best, prepare for the worst and we need to be more mindful of the debt. I worked on a farm one summer and I am reminded that if your hole is getting too deep, the first thing to do is quit digging. I would propose that all bond issues be subject to a public referendum.
Is the property tax rate too high? Too low? Or about right?
I think it's reasonable but what concerns me is that the city has a trend of seeking revenue in fees to make it seem like we are not increasing people's out of pocket expenditures. I think with contractions in state government, it makes it that more imperative that we increase our tax base by growing and attracting businesses and creating jobs.
The proposed Clarence Lightner Public Safety Center is stalled. Should it be built? If not, what should be done to meet the city's facility needs for police, fire and emergency operations?
I would have voted against it then and now and here is why: I have talked with Chief Dolan and I certainly recognize the need for new facilities at some point. I think as it was proposed, with $750,000 in public art and the significant increase in the property tax, it makes more sense to build facilities that are more functional. My own life was changed so much by 9/11 and I am certainly more conscious of being a target when I am overseas in places like Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq. Therefore, I also have concerns that a 17-story glass building housing the nerve center of the city becomes a symbol to those who wish us harm.
What other major capital projects, if any, do you want the city to undertake in the coming years?
I would devote a considerable amount of energy to making the Dix property a destination park and planning for the development around it that would complement it as is seen in Central Park. That is a win-win to me.
Do you support the transit plan for Raleigh and Wake County developed by Triangle Transit and committee of Wake mayors? Do you support taking the 1/2 –cent sales tax for transit to Wake County voters in the next two years? If it's on the ballot, do you expect to support or oppose its passage?
Yes. Yes to second question if funding from other sources available. I think Raleigh should do its part in an area that defines the concept of regionalism. The funding from these initiatives will be largely from county, state and federal initiatives and this is my major concern - who is going to pay for it? I do not see the city council having to vote on paying for it so I would support our participation in a regional plan and having a referendum.
Raleigh has two bond issues on the ballot in October, one for transportation projects and the second for affordable housing. Do you favor or oppose their passage?
I support both as reasonable investments. I run marathons and cross train cycling so I run about 2500 miles each year on the greenways and city streets. I favor the greenway inclusion and bike paths in this transportation bond.
With the state hospital closing, what is your vision for the 306-acre Dorothea Dix tract?
I would work tirelessly to keep all 306 acres as a natural habitat. Being a physician who did his psychiatry training at Dix many years ago and as a member of the North Carolina Public Health Commission for the last 8 years, I am certainly sensitive to the need for mental health funding in this state. I just think if you develop the Dix property, you can never get it back. Those of us wanting to make Dix a destination park have to combine our efforts with efforts to find funding for mental health from other sources.
Regarding the health insurance benefit provided to city employees, should elective abortions be included or excluded for coverage?
It is my understanding that this is not permissible under current federal law.
Regarding health insurance and other benefits provided to city employees, should the partners of LGBT employees be offered the same access to benefits as married spouses?
As a physician, I would like as many people as possible to have access to health care coverage for preventive care and for those times when they need it. However, as to who pays for it, I would not change the city's present benefits package.
When people ask me about my non-traditional path in running for Mayor, I explain that I think leadership skills are transferable and often preferably so. People questioned General Tata's selection as Superintendent of the Wake County Public Schools because he was a non-educator, but I think life experiences can train you to lead in different environments. The leaders I admire get out of their comfort zone and engage those they are serving. During this campaign and throughout my term of office, I have and will continue to get up and run from Nash Square in front of the Municipal Building at 545 am with anyone who wants to join me seven days a week. I then will be in Nash Square from 615 to 7 am to talk with, text, email or meet with anyone who has concerns. It gives me a chance to start off my day thinking about Raleigh's concerns and to talk with city staff and others getting off the third shift and starting the first. I will run in most of the road races that routinely occur on weekends in Raleigh and be available afterwards to discuss issues and address concerns. I will also have regular weekly office hours and do ride alongs with police and other city workers and spend time in the various departments so that I can learn how the city council can help them better serve the citizens of Raleigh. I have found that whether you are helping people here or in Baghdad or Kabul, whatever your differences, people appreciate others who are going out of their way to help them.
To learn about other candidates' stances on the issues, read their 2011 Candidate Questionnaires.