At Large Candidates 2023

QUESTION #1 (PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT)

Over the past few years, Charlotte has adopted a number of planning and development plans and policies, including the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO). Going forward, the Charlotte City Council will be responsible for overseeing rezoning efforts and making any necessary amendments to the UDO.

The UDO is informed by the 2040 Comprehensive Plan, an important vision that will shape the equitable growth of our city, livability, and our climate resilience. For the Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan goals to be realized, city council will need to uphold the requirements in the UDO, approve text amendments that are in line with the 2040 Plan, and deny rezoning requests that allow the rules to be skirted.

Will you honor the work that has been done to create this plan and ordinance? What will you do to ensure consistent implementation of the UDO and adoption of text amendments necessary to keep its implementation aligned with the goals of the 2040 Comprehensive Plan?

 

Dimple Ajmera (D, At-Large)(i):

Ajmera has not responded.

 

Steven DiFiore (L, At-Large): 

“While I don't like everything in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan, we need a steady hand at the wheel if the benefits to the city are to be realized. The UDO is a huge step in the right direction for land use policy, but its only the first step down a better path. For our Charlotte to prosper the continuing liberalization of zoning must move forward. Efforts to backslide into policies of the past, such as exclusionary zoning, need to be resisted.”

 

James “Smuggie” Mitchell (D, At-Large)(i):

Mitchell has not responded.

 

LaWana Slack-Mayfield (D, At-Large)(i): 

“I have challenges with the adopted plan due how it has created the space for displacement of working class residents.”

 

Victoria Watlington (D, At-Large): 

“Given that the UDO is a regulatory document, consistent adherence to it is enforced by the court system. The work of Council is to evaluate whether or not what's in the UDO is consistent with the city's 2040 plan, and whether or not the 2040 plan is consistent with the will of the majority of constituents. I'm absolutely committed to ensuring the residents drive this conversation, and that we honor their wishes. I do that by engaging, listening, and thoughtfully evaluating each text amendment as well as each potential change to policy, whether a rezoning, a street map update, or other.”

 


QUESTION #2 (STRATEGIC MOBILITY PLAN)

In June 2022, City Council adopted the Strategic Mobility Plan (SMP) to help realize the vision laid out in the 2040 Comprehensive Plan. One of the main tenets of the SMP is a 50-50 mode-share goal to balance mobility choices so residents need not depend on a car for transportation.

In order to fulfill the goals laid out in the SMP, a major, dedicated source of revenue is needed and a countywide “One Cent for Mobility” sales tax has been suggested to reach our mobility goals. However, there has been little visible progress on moving this forward, even as federal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill creates time-sensitive opportunities for our area to compete for federal dollars that will require a local match.

Do you support the need to secure a local funding source to realize the goals laid out in the SMP? If so, what will you do as an elected official to move the process forward in a transformational rather than incremental way? If not, what do you propose as an alternative to support mobility for all residents?

 

Steven DiFiore (L, At-Large): 

“I am not in favor of raising taxes and don't think a tax hike is needed to achieve the goals of the SMP. Better budgeting and more efficient operations would see better returns on the public's money. While transformational progress is something many would like, in a complex system incremental progress is more obtainable. However, that doesn't mean city policy makers can delay and take a lot of time. An effective and dependable mobility infrastructure is needed for Charlotte and the people to grow and prosper respectively.”

 

LaWana Slack-Mayfield (D, At-Large)(i):

“There is a level of privilege in this plan in regards to who has access to bank accounts, credit cards and smart phones to utilize mode-share. I support FREE bus fare for all residents to remove the barrier of a "Honor System" for rail &. immediate pay for the bus.”

 

Victoria Watlington (D, At-Large): 

“Yes, I support the need to secure a local funding source; not only for our county, but across our region. Any meaningful transportation plan must stretch beyond our county limits. In order to do that, we must engage our surrounding counties and gain buy-in to a broader vision, which is the only way we will be granted permission to pursue local funding by the General Assembly. This discussion has to include a regional transit authority structure.”

 


QUESTION #3 (VISION ZERO)

In 2018 Charlotte adopted a Vision Zero goal to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2030. CDOT staff are working with Vision Zero Task Force members to achieve this goal.

What investments and/or policy changes, including funding for mobility in the CIP, do you believe are most important for Charlotte to fulfill its commitment to Vision Zero and ensure that our streets are safe and well-connected for people of all ages and abilities to walk, bike, and ride transit?

 

Steven DiFiore (L, At-Large): 

“Vision Zero is a goal I support. More investment in creating safe and consistent paths for bikes and pedestrians is needed. Policy makers needs to re-think how it connects sidewalks and bike paths. Currently the costs of public works is too high. There are no incentives and few mechanisms in place to keep the cost of building bike paths, sidewalks, and other transit options to a reasonable level. This hurts the ability of the public sector to provide the services and infrastructure many people depend on. Reforms are needed to achieve the goals of Vision Zero.”

 

LaWana Slack-Mayfield (D, At-Large)(i): 

“I would like to see the funding request from the community in regards to Vision Zero to see what funding should be allocated through the CIP.”

 

Victoria Watlington (D, At-Large): 

“I'm very proud to have led the policy change to eliminate the need for property owner signatures in order to install traffic calming devices in areas that met the thresholds. In addition to CIP mobility funding, I have been pushing to lower the thresholds for traffic calming in denser, pedestrian oriented parts of the city (speed humps, speed limits, stops signs).”

 


QUESTION #4 (ACCESS TO PARKS AND GREENWAYS)

Although building parks and greenways is primarily the responsibility of Mecklenburg County, the City of Charlotte has partnered with Mecklenburg County to build the Cross Charlotte Trail and also supports access to parks and greenways by providing connectivity for people who bike, walk, and ride transit.

What would you do as an elected official to support residents’ access to outdoor recreational opportunities and greenways as part of the broader transportation network?

 

Steven DiFiore (L, At-Large): 

“I like the Cross Charlotte Trial and Charlotte's partnership with the County in connecting our parks and greenways. We need more collaboration with private organizations and neighborhoods to continue building out a robust network of interconnections. Many of these projects are prohibitively expensive, which keeps collaboration to a minimum. There are ways to introduce cost savings without compromising on quality. We can find those work-around solutions to continue the growth of the Cross Charlotte Trail network.”

 

LaWana Slack-Mayfield (D, At-Large)(i): 

I will publicly support more greenway access to areas of the City that have little access for families and children to connect outside.”

 

Victoria Watlington (D, At-Large): 

“I consistently push for connectivity through the rezoning and development process. This is significant due to the number or rezonings we see in a growing city.”


QUESTION #5 (BUS NETWORK)

CATS has undergone significant changes in this past year, which have resulted in reduced frequency of service on several bus routes. However, research shows that public transportation is most effective and successful when service is fast, frequent, and reliable.

What role should Charlotte City Council play in supporting CATS’ goal of increasing frequency on all core bus routes to run every 15 minutes or less and ensuring that CATS has the necessary resources to implement the recommendations identified in the Envision My Ride Bus Priority Study results?

 

Steven DiFiore (L, At-Large): 

“Charlotte's bus system needs attention from our policy makers to be the public transit backbone a world class city deserves. Think of it, hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on just four miles of street car in a highly developed and affluent part of town. I believe if those funds were spent on improving our bus system a lot of people would already be seeing the rewards and benefits of easier access to the rest of the city. I feel strongly that working people deserve better transit options than they currently have and will work to give the people what they deserve.”

 

LaWana Slack-Mayfield (D, At-Large)(i): 

“Council has limited role, if I was on the Transportation Committee I would advocate for stronger relationships with our regional partners to support comprehensive plan.”

 

Victoria Watlington (D, At-Large): 

“This is a regional issue that requires development and planning be responsive to people's travel patterns. We need to make sure our transit plans connect to regional planning efforts led by the COG.”


QUESTION #6 (STRATEGIC ENERGY ACTION PLAN)

Although Charlotte has received much attention for winning Bloomberg American Cities Climate Challenge status and funding, the Environment Committee has been combined with other interests and its role has been minimized at a time when it should be highly active. Almost five years have already passed since the Strategic Energy Action Plan (SEAP) was passed, and there has been little discourse around progress on the stated 2050 goals.

What actions will you take to ensure the SEAP goals and plan stay on course?

 

Steven DiFiore (L, At-Large): 

“The goals of SEAP are obtainable, but they will require partnerships with local free enterprise to ensure the implementation of energy saving technologies that benefits the public and the city. My profession and experience in the construction industry has granted me familiarity with any energy saving technologies and I have a unique perspective that many in government simply don't have. It's a matter of connecting the dots and getting the right players into a room to coordinate their efforts, which is something I have done in the private sector and can do for the public too.”

 

LaWana Slack-Mayfield (D, At-Large)(i): 

“Your are correct, in the 10-months I have been back in office there has been little discussion on the SEAP. I look forward to discussing. the 2050 goals in the future.”

 

Victoria Watlington (D, At-Large):

We continue to receive periodic updates on SEAP progress. However, the intent is that our daily work incorporates the SEAP action items, and the 2040 Plan encompasses our goals. Many of the action items come in the form of budget approvals (the CMGC is currently undergoing comprehensive HVAC equipment and building envelope upgrades, for instance). We continue to ensure dedicated staff is working on not only internal initiatives but external partnerships with Duke Energy and others. We've recently hired staff to stand up a Workforce Development department, whose focus will in part be on building the talent pipeline for target energy industries. Finally, we received annual reports as a formal measure.”

 


QUESTION #7 (FOOD SECURITY)

Access to fresh, healthy foods are of particular concern to many of our neighbors, particularly those in food deserts.

In keeping with the 2040 Comprehensive Plan’s goal of 10-minute neighborhoods, what will you do to ensure that residents have access to public gardens and healthy food in their neighborhood?

 

Steven DiFiore (L, At-Large): 

“Better public transit infrastructure is needed to achieve greater access to public gardens and solving the issue of food deserts. For people without cars, bike paths, sidewalks, and buses that run every 15-minutes (minimum) improve access to the many amenities our city has to offer. To that end, better public transit makes it easier for folks to move around the city and prosper. After all, it is hard to climb the economic ladder if you don't have a reliable way to get to work. Prosperity for the working class begets more prosperity and opening doors is the best way to promote our goal of a better city.”

 

LaWana Slack-Mayfield (D, At-Large)(i): 

“There are numerous communities around the city that do not have access to public gardens, I support more funding for Neighborhood Associations to learn what healthy food options they will support and want.”

 

Victoria Watlington (D, At-Large): 

“I've championed co-op models in food deserts, and helped secure $1.5MM for the Three Sisters Market along West Blvd.”

 

 


QUESTION #8 (TREE CANOPY)

Charlotte has a goal of building the city’s tree canopy coverage to 50% by 2050, but some now view this as aspirational and unattainable. The tree canopy coverage has actually been declining. As of 2019, the canopy cover is approximately 45%, down from 49% in 2012.

What will you do to help preserve and enhance our tree canopy?

 

Steven DiFiore (L, At-Large): 

“The UDO has made it easier for developers to build higher density, which means there will be more space for our tree canopy. The mandate of detached single family homes and large lawns has been a threat to the tree canopy for decades as our urban forests are cut down to make room for cookie-cutter subdivisions. Continuing to liberalize zoning and allowing more variety in the home types available to our growing population will help our tree canopy rebound without constraining much needed housing supplies.”

 

LaWana Slack-Mayfield (D, At-Large)(i): 

“I have spoken out repeatedly agains the "clear cutting" of mature trees and paying a fee in lieu. I support appointing more members from the community that are climate change agents to the Planning Commission and other committee's that see and approve projects before they come before Council for a Vote.”

 

Victoria Watlington (D, At-Large): 

“I support funding to preserve heritage trees for individuals and through organizations like TreesCharlotte, and have long pushed for environmental considerations in development through the rezoning process.”

 


 

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