Russ Stephenson | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Russ Stephenson

Raleigh - Mayor and City Council


Name as it appears on the ballot: Russ Stephenson

Party affiliation, if any: Democrat

Campaign website:

Occupation & Employer: architect, self employed

Years lived in NC: 36

Given the current direction of Raleigh city government, would you say things are generally on the right course? If not, what are the specific, major changes you will advocate if elected?

Raleigh is generally on the right course.

If you are a candidate for a district seat, please identity 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?

Throughout my eight-plus years as an At-Large Raleigh Councilor and Planning Commissioner I have built a reputation for honesty, integrity and hard work. I am trained as an architect and urban designer with professional problem-solving skills and an appetite for listening and learning. I draw upon this foundation daily to build consensus for cost-effective, sustainable growth that will protect the quality of life for Raleigh citizens.

Over the years, my commitment to quality planning, strong neighborhoods, environmental stewardship, fiscal responsibility and shared prosperity have helped define Council's course, so that despite the economic downturn, Raleigh's fundamentals are the envy of the nation.

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?

On jobs and growth I am a sustainable progressive. On taxes I am a sustainable conservative.

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?

The most important task in rebuilding our nation is to rebuild our middle class. I will continue to advocate for change that builds our sustainable growth triple bottom line, combining economic benefits, environmental benefits and social equity benefits. Major initiatives, as described in my answer to question #9 will be focused on improving housing, transportation and living affordability, along with job training and a closer partnerships with our public schools to improve educational achievement for all Raleigh citizens.

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 load is manageable for our city our size. The city's general obligation debt is below the state average and our AAA debt rating is unquestioned.

Is the property tax rate too high? Too low? Or about right?

Raleigh's high quality-of-life rankings, low combined cost of services and AAA debt rating suggest that our property tax rate is about right. The economic downturn has led to deferred infrastructure investments that will have to be made up when the economy recovers.

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 am confident that the next council move forward with a design that meets our long term public safety needs in a way that costs less and is more secure than the current proposal, and that takes into consideration the fiscal constraints of the current economic downturn.

What other major capital projects, if any, do you want the city to undertake in the coming years?

Raleigh should undertake capital projects - including private partnerships - that support our sustainable growth triple bottom line, combining economic benefits, environmental benefits and social equity benefits. The most significant opportunity for this kind of growth is in redevelopment around future light rail transit stops. Growth in these areas will impose fewer impacts on existing residents and the environment, while building our tax base and providing improve transportation options for those without drivers licenses or with limited financial ability to maintain private vehicles. Transit-oriented developments present opportunities to locate new public schools within walking or transit-ride distances of more homes and income levels, reducing the need for driving and bussing.

Do you support the transit plan for Raleigh and Wake County developed by Triangle Transit and the 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 its on the ballot, do you expect to support or oppose its passage?

I support the current Raleigh/Wake transit plan. I support holding the countywide referendum as soon as we are confident it will pass.

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 passage of both bonds. These are modest investments that recognize two important aspects of our city's success: (1) the need for fiscal restraint, especially in an economic downturn, and (2) the need to continue investing our city in order to maintain both the quality of life we enjoy today and sustain our prosperity into the future.

With the state hospital closing, what is your vision for the 306-acre Dorothea Dix tract? Should it all be a destination park someday? Should development be allowed on part or all of it?

We should plan for all of the Dix property to become Raleigh's Central Park. That planning should include a commitment to meeting local mental health needs, rehabilitating historic structures for compatible uses and planning for sustainable re-development around the park. Combined with strong statewide support, Raleigh's commitment to help fund a fair price for the land – via park bond or similar means – will go a long way toward securing this once-in-a-lifetime investment in our region's future.

Regarding the health insurance benefit provided to city employees, should elective abortions be included or excluded for coverage? Please explain your answer.

Elective procedures should be included as policy options the insured may purchase.

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?

Couples with sufficient evidence of a committed relationship (ex: marriage, civil union or similar) should be eligible for spousal benefits.

To learn about other candidates' stances on the issues, read their 2011 Candidate Questionnaires.

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