Mayoral Candidates Debate the Future of Raleigh

By Brent Woodcox

Mayor Nancy McFarlane and Charles Francis appeared on Spectrum News for a debate moderated by Tim Boyum on Friday. You can stream the full debate here

A couple of notable exchanges below.

On gentrification and affordable housing...

Mr. Francis said that he didn't think Raleigh had a gentrification problem but rather a problem with people being displaced from neighborhoods to which they had a historical connection. He repeated a line that he has used often throughout the campaign saying that the Mayor's $60 million tax increase she has touted on the campaign trail was too little, too late and not the right approach. Mr. Francis pledged to use tax credits to incentivize developers to build affordable housing units and said he would focus on preserving existing affordable housing units, specifically mentioning Wintershaven. He said that Raleigh is on the verge of a "creeping affordability crisis" and that involving the private sector would be key to providing additional access to housing for Raleigh residents. "What is needed is leadership."

Mayor McFarlane pointed out that there are ongoing projects in the city that are using tax credits to rehabilitate affordable housing and reclaim it for families in need of it. The mayor agreed with her opponent that the scope of the need is great and that bringing multiple parties to the table from both the private and public sector will be necessary to address the issue. Mayor McFarlane admitted that at the current pace the Raleigh Housing Authority is not keeping pace with demand. She said that she had the experience and leadership required for that task and for finding new solutions to the problem. 

On transit...

Mayor McFarlane championed the sales tax increase for public transit referendum passed last year by Wake County voters and the transportation bond passed this year by Raleigh voters saying they would help transit and connections to transit in Raleigh. Since the new half-cent sales tax has been collected, the mayor touted increased bus service resulting in 15 minute intervals on routes along New Bern Avenue and South Saunders Street. She explained that part of the impetus behind the transportation bond this year was to improve walkability along transit routes and help connect people to bus service. Mayor McFarlane said that she was pleased by GoRaleigh's efforts to modernize the technology that riders use to access transit including an app that will help riders access information on routes in real time.

Mr. Francis said as mayor he would focus on reducing wait times for buses and find money in the budget to improve shelters for the benefit of those who wait frequently for buses to arrive. He said that the transit system in Raleigh is inefficient and highly subsidized. Mr. Francis said the entire system could benefit from being run more like a business. He thinks that improving efficiency and adopting a business-like approach to transit in Raleigh is what will make the difference in getting people out of cars who have a choice about whether or not to use public transportation. Finally, Mr. Francis said that a good transit system was vital not just to transportation mobility but to social mobility within the city.

The two candidates also discussed racial and socioeconomic division with the city, Dix Park, the City Hall construction proposal and partisanship. Kudos to both candidates for focusing on the issues and avoiding personal attacks during the 30 minute debate. The debate will re-air on Spectrum News at 10AM on Sunday for their customers. It is worth watching the whole debate. Be informed on the issues and go vote on or before November 7.

Brent Woodcox