Thomas G Crowder | Candidate Questionnaires | Indy Week

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Thomas G Crowder

Candidate for Raleigh City Council District D


Name as it appears on the ballot: Thomas G Crowder
Full legal name, if different: Thomas Garrett Crowder
Date of birth: May 05, 1956
Home address: 1409 Ashburton Road
Mailing address, if different from home: 905 Tryon Hill Drive | Suite 101, Raleigh
Campaign Web site:
Occupation & employer: Architect | ARCHITEKTUR, PA self-employed
Home phone: 919.859.1297
Work phone: 919.664.8500

1) What do you believe are the most important issues facing Raleigh? If elected, what are your top priorities in addressing those issues?

Growth: How we manage and pay for growth will continue to be our greatest challenge. Our population is projected to nearly double in the next 20-30 years. The challenges are maintaining a high quality of life, maintaining water quality and supply, addressing traffic congestion, and insuring the availability of work force housing.

a. Quality-of-life: Our highest priority must insure all new policies provide for growth, but never at the expense of our natural environment, existing neighborhoods, and rich history.

b. Water: Our water system's capacity and financial model must be revamped to encourage and reward your conservation without the constant fear of water rates increasing.

c. Equitable Housing Opportunities: All new housing and mixed-use development in Raleigh must accommodate opportunities for people of all income levels through inclusionary zoning policies and graduated impact fees.

d. Traffic Congestion: Raleigh must adopt policies and create funding sources to construct a comprehensive transportation network, for rapid transit, pedestrians, bicyclists, as well as motorists.

e. Economic Redevelopment: Raleigh must take a proactive roll in economic redevelopment of dark shopping centers and blighted commercial districts near fragile neighborhoods.

2) What is there in your record as a public official or other experience that demonstrates your ability to be effective on the council? This might include career or community service; but please be specific about its relevance to this office.

a. Raleigh Planning Commission 1999-2003 (Chair of Strategic Planning Committee 2000-2003). Co-Chaired the "Downtown Livable Streets" planning initiative that kicked-off downtown's renaissance.

b. Member of the Raleigh City Council 2003-Present. Co-Chair of Council Budget and Economic Development Committee, 2007 to present; member 2005 to 2007. Chair of Council Comprehensive Planning Committee 2004 to 2007; member 2003 to 2007. Member of Law and Public Safety Committee 2003 to 2005.

c. Council Representative to the North Carolina League of Municipalities Finance Committee and council representative on the Triangle J Council of Regional Governments; Chair July 2009 to present.

d. Worked on three councils who led the vision to make downtown the 24/7 place to be.

e. Moved the city to develop environmental sustainability policies, including all new city facilities over 4,000 SF being constructed to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) design standards, LED lighting programs, etc.

f. Led the way for the landlord registry and probationary rental occupancy permit in order to protect tenants and neighborhoods from irresponsible absentee landlords.

g. The first on Council to commit to making all 306 acres into a world-class urban park when the State announced it was closing Dorthea Dix Hospital.

h. Required growth to pay more of its fair share for roads, parks and utilities through increased impact fees and water capacity fees.

i. Intervened with concerned SW Raleigh citizens to successfully keep the Athens Drive Library open.

j. Built consensus on council to get Hillsborough Street construction underway, enhancing pedestrian safety, calming traffic, creating additional on-street parking, and the infrastructure to jumpstart economic redevelopment.

k. Authored Raleigh's first mission statement, which was adopted by the current city council.

3) How do you define yourself politically and how does your political philosophy show itself in your past achievements and present campaign platform?

I focus on progressive long- term solutions of economic, cultural, and environmental, sustainability. Attracting high-quality employment, conserving our environment and open space, preserving and enhancing existing neighborhoods, as well as working for predictable proactive planning and design standards, equitable housing opportunities, and growth paying its fair share in order to maintain a high quality of life for all of Raleigh's citizens.

4) Identify a principled stand you might be willing to take if elected that you suspect might cost you some popularity points with voters.

All new development should include 14% work force housing opportunities throughout the city, focusing first where job centers currently exist. This will ruffle some feathers, but we cannot build a world-class city if we do not provide adequate opportunities for good, safe, convenient housing for those who actually do the hard work of building a world-class city.

5) What are the two or three most important program or policy initiatives you will champion if elected to the Raleigh Council? Or, to put it another way, how will your election change anything in Raleigh?

a. Restructuring our Water use philosophy and Enterprise Funding Model, including a graduated water capacity fee structure in order to encourage onsite water storage for non-potable uses.

b. Development of a regional mass transit system. District D must be included in the first leg of the regional rail system. District D stops include downtown, NC State Main Campus, the Fairgrounds, Arena District and NC State Centennial West, and the West Raleigh Station strategically positioned for "park and ride opportunities off I440.

c. Development of an inclusionary zoning policy for the city, which will include a graduated impact fee system furnishing mixed-income housing opportunities throughout the city.

d. Change all council and committee meetings to start at 5 PM, or later, to make them accessible to the working public.

6) What can you point to in your record, on the Council or in community service, to demonstrate that you'll be an effective city leader?

See #2 above.

7) Recent droughts have underlined Raleigh's water problems. Growth could cause the city to run out. On the other hand, the city isn't selling enough water to pay down the debt on its existing systems, resulting in rate increases. How should Raleigh deal with water in the coming years?

a. Raleigh must develop a comprehensive water budget plan in concert with Triangle J Council of Governments' development of a 50-year water resource management plan. Water capacity fees on new development must be increased and the City must offer fee reductions for new onsite collection and gray-water systems for non-potable uses. The current model of raising rates as users conserve does not reward good citizenship.

8) Crime and gang problems plague some parts of the city. Is there more the Council should be doing to go after them?

Yes...through both enforcement and prevention. Gangs recruit the poor, illiterate, parentless, and hopeless. The city cannot do it alone, however Raleigh must be a leading partner. RPD, the school system, faith based community, non-profits, Wake County, and most importantly our parents must work together to reclaim our youth. Eradicating blight, strengthening fragile neighborhoods, and truly committing to create mixed-income communities throughout Raleigh is a major step the city can take to address gangs and crime in general. However, our police, non-profits, faith based organizations, WCPSS, our parks departments and most important our parents and mentors must insure our children are well schooled and tutored in ethics and life skills training in addition to academics.

9) Are new initiatives needed to address the city's fast-growing Hispanic population? If so, what do you recommend?

Over the last six months the City's Community Services Department has taken a broader approach to reaching out to all of Raleigh's diverse minority population, as has RPD. This includes the Hispanic population. Legal immigrants are here to stay and will continue to expand in numbers. WCPSS, Community Services, faith based organizations, sports organizations, and Scouting can all take on a greater role in assisting with ESL and encouraging assimilation into the American mainstream.

10) Does Raleigh need better public transit services? (A lot better?) If yes, what specific steps do you advocate, and how would you pay for them?

A lot better, but some improvements are underway. Buses are being currently replaced and a new pilot program with Capital Broadcasting program is underway to fund much needed bus shelters and benches. However, our routes must be restructured to insure more direct and methodical routes throughout the city. It is past time for a regional rail line. While I personally support the land transfer tax over a half-cent sales tax for helping pay for a regional transit system, Wake County, Raleigh, and taxpayers throughout the triangle region must look at all viable options. We cannot continue to kick this can down the road if we want to continue to maintain a high quality of life in the near future.

11) Raleigh's development fees (impact and capacity fees) are the lowest in the region, meaning that current residents shoulder the lion's share of the cost of growth, not developers or newcomers. Should these fees be increased, and if so, by how much?

Yes they need to be drastically increased, however how much needs to be evaluated as part of a restructuring of our current fee system. Both impact fees and water capacity fees should be structured to a graduated system. Development that creates the greatest impact (requiring the most city investment) needs to pay the greatest. Development that is downtown and around transit stations, or furnishes a minimum 14% workforce housing, onsite water reuse systems, open space, etc. should pay the least. Otherwise, will we will only continue to talk about managing future growth.

12) Raleigh's never required developers to include affordable housing (however "affordable" might be defined) as a condition for approval of tall buildings or big subdivisions? Should it? If so, what rules should apply?

The Raleigh Housing Authority does a good job of addressing the bottom 15% of the AMI (Average Median Income). However, the 16% to 50% of the AMI is currently not being served. Raleigh must develop a set of inclusionary zoning policies to meet this growing need. All new development should include 14% work force housing opportunities throughout the city, focusing first where job centers currently exist. Otherwise, we will continue to warehouse our poor in certain areas of our city, or further out into the county, or beyond.

13) What's the best thing about the proposed comprehensive plan for Raleigh? What's the worst thing? As it stands, would you vote to adopt it or insist on changes first?

Best: Greenprint Map.

Worst: Future Land Use Map

Vote: Changes are a must

14) Public schools are a county, not city function. Should the city nonetheless act to assist the schools, and if so, in what ways?

Raleigh's legislative authority is restricted regarding schools, however Raleigh can greatly assist the school system by limiting sprawl that forces new school construction, ensuring all neighborhoods stay healthy and attractive for new families, and developing sound policies that will create mixed-income development throughout Raleigh.

15) Raleigh's form of government—strong manager, weak council and mayor—combined with the fact that almost all city meetings are held during daytime hours, have the effect of limiting the extent to which average citizens can participate in government decisions. Is this a problem, in your view? If so, what changes should be made? Is this a priority for you?

a. While the manager | council form of government has its pro's and con's, not until the length of a council term is extended beyond two years and more equitable compensation exists will we see a desire for change. More importantly, you will continue to limit those who can run for public office to the affluent, retired, and self-employed.

b. Years ago, Council meetings were held exclusively in the evenings. I have and will continue to lead the effort to require all public meetings be held in the evenings and have included it in my campaign.

16) Two years ago, the Indy asked every council candidate if s/he would support extending to same-sex partners the same benefits (e.g., health insurance) on the same basis that they are now offered to the spouses of city employees. Virtually everyone said yes, but to date nothing's been done. Is it time?

As I stated in an Indy interview two years ago, I have no issue with offering partner benefits to all city employees. All it takes is five likeminded votes.

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