Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Apex Candidate Forum for Nov. 2015 Elections

Totally different topic than technology, but this is another topic I care about - my government. I'm raising two young daughters and am interested in providing them with an environment where they can be safe and thrive. Our town has gotten a little bit of attention; it has definitely grown since we moved here in 2002. Tonight was a candidate forum for the local elections, which I assert means more in my day-to-day life than any other little election going on. With the growth going on here, there's definitely an increased interest in the races. When I originally registered for the event, it was going to be held at the town hall, but they soon changed it to a new high school auditorium when it was apparent there was going to be a large crowd. I would estimate there were about 300 people in attendance.

There's a mayor race with 2 candidates and a town council race with 2 spots and 5 candidates.

Town Council Forum

The town council was first up. There were five candidates and they were given 90 seconds to make opening remarks and then the moderator (WRAL's Ken Smith!) would ask five questions (pre-selected, no audience interaction), giving each candidate 90 seconds to answer the question. After the five questions, each candidate would be given 90 seconds for closing remarks. Candidates were not able to challenge or address each other. This was a forum just to give the voting public an insight into their approaches.

The candidates talked about smart growth, using our #1 ranking and attraction to be more selective with the homes & businesses that want to come here. They saw a need for better roads and more water/sewer. There's an upcoming bond on the ballot that most (all?) candidates supported. It also seems like the Land Use plan needs to be updated.

Here are my notes from the question session:

  1. What steps would you take to manage the influx of new residents?
    • Helton: Invite more businesses. Don't say no to all opportunities.
    • Jensen: Manage subdivisions with infrastructure. Incentivize businesses. Parks (called out Pleasant Park w/ 93 acres)
    • Lassiter: Sustainable growth. Use land use plan. Strict standards/high fees for builders.
    • Moyer: Set standards. Don't have to say Yes to all. Bring business to 540/64. Non-residential growth.
    • Xavier: Managed growth. Keep eye on density.
  2. What are your top two infrastructure challenges and how would you address them?
    • Jensen: Roads. Called out Kelly Rd/Olive Chapel Rd as a problem. $50M bond coming up to provide bridge over Salem St. for Peakway. Sewer/water.
    • Lassiter: Roads. Approve transportation bond. Says it won't raise taxes. He sponsored the bill of getting out of the power business and says it saves the consumers money.
    • Moyer: Traffic. Bond to help Peakway. Partner more with the DOT.
    • Xavier: Roads. Annexation needs to include sewer/water. Avoid being in the business of provider power and implement it quicker.
    • Helton: Bond. Sewer/Water is lifeblood. Looking at history, the $2M bond for sewer/water helped support the whole Beaver Creek Common shopping area.
  3. Would you support bond for Pleasant Park, even if it increases taxes?
    • Lassiter: Would need concrete plan.
    • Moyer: Agree. Would like to see plan tap into private funding. Let the public decide on the bond.
    • Xavier: Fiscal conservative. No Bond. Wants senior center before a park.
    • Helton: Needs to see a plan.
    • Jensen: Need a plan. Voters will decide.
  4. What specific role should the council play when recruiting business?
    • Moyer: Land Use Plan. Incubator.
    • Xavier: Work proactively. In unison w/ builders and residents. Facilitate/manage process.
    • Helton: Untie the hands of the economic development department. Allow them to offer incentives, such as free water/sewer for a year.
    • Jensen: Revise land use plan. Add more business to the plan. Preplan infrastructure (water/sewer), so they can have it ready when a business shows up and ready to move in.
    • Lassiter: He seemed more resistant, thinking we're fine w/ the residential percentages.
  5. Would you support a grant to match new investments for existing, expanding businesses?
    • Xavier: Works elsewhere, even w/ Dell. Yes
    • Helton: Yes. It's the right thing.
    • Jensen: 80% of our growth comes from existing businesses, so yes, we need to support that.
    • Lassiter: Skeptical, but if it's proven and ironclad, he would support it. Also if it didn't mean raising taxes. We already have a pretty good incentive with our workforce, open spaces, etc.
    • Moyer: Invest in infrastructure.
In closing, Moyer seemed to get a dig into Lassiter by saying he's not using the council race as a stepping stone (Lassiter is rumored to run for higher office next). Lassiter was thankful to everyone and wanted to remind folks he's a fiscal conservative. Jensen stressed that we need more employers and a senior citizen center. Helton wrapped it up by saying we need to take some risks and that his mother-in-law is a great chef, so he's not going anywhere.

Mayor Forum

There are two candidates. Same format as the town council, but with six questions. Even with an additional question, they were done in less than half the time it took to field five questions to five candidates.

Olive opened that he's been here for 45 years and back then, the population was 1500. He's seen the downtown whither and then revitalize. Wilkie moved here in 1990 and wants to maintain our strong sense of community.
  1. How will you support the council when there's conflict?
    • Olive: Unify council. Stop bickering and personal attacks. Work to find common ground. Meet with each member and find out what are their top five things they want to accomplish.
    • Wilkie: The mayor is the CEO of the town. Represents the residents. Bring consensus.
  2. What do you want to accomplish?
    • Wilkie: Economic development. Help small businesses grow.
    • Olive: Hold public meetings to gather feedback. Election districts to make sure all areas of Apex are equally represented. Unique shops in downtown. No chains.
  3. How would you represent Apex in state or national venues?
    • Olive: Work with Capital Area Metro to make sure Apex traffic is represented in overall plan.
    • Wilkie: Work with DOT on roads.
  4. Businesses can't find space in Apex - how would you handle this?
    • Wilkie: We should target 30% commercial tax base. Let them know we'll step up to help with infrastructure. Business-friendly.
    • Olive: We're currently 82% residential. We need to review the plan, which should be derived from vision.
  5. Explain vision of economic development.
    • Olive: It's going to come because of the #1 ranking. Need to work with existing businesses.
    • Wilkie: Show businesses that we have the talent pool already, such as the academies in the high schools.
  6. Strategies for keeping up with being the best place to live?
    • Wilkie: Being selective about businesses/subdivisions. Temper growth and selecting quality businesses and houses.
    • Olive: Need to cast a vision for 20 years out. Insist on quality.
In closing, Wilkie said that Apex has a great staff and wants to support and use them. She's unaffiliated and so she doesn't have any party agenda. She wants to keep taxes low and businesses strong. Olive talked about breaking down his candidacy into three sections: Vision (history of working across party lines), Leadership (Cisco leadership, business school as an adult, and no party agenda, just an Apex agenda), and Experience (6 years on the planning board and 4 years on the council).

There's a local Apex Voter's Guide website that's pretty good, where you can get some more information. Don't forget to vote on November 3rd!