City Council candidates 2022

Question # 1 Planning and Development

Last year, City Council adopted the Charlotte Future 2040 Comprehensive Plan, which sets the vision for how our city will grow in the coming decades. This summer, Council will vote to adopt Charlotte’s first Unified Development Ordinance (UDO), which are the regulations needed to implement the comprehensive plan. Recently, Council approved a rezoning petition to allow drive-through establishments in the areas that were previously zoned as transit-oriented development (TOD) districts. These TOD areas are meant to be walkable, and therefore would not have allowed a drive-through to be built by-right. This is not the first time the city council has diverted from adopted plans and regulations. One of the goals of the soon-to-be-adopted UDO is the reduce the number of exceptions and be a plan-making city instead of a deal-making city. If elected, will you help to end the practice of granting exemptions to adopted plans and ordinances? 

Kyle J. Luebke (R, At-Large): Yes. One of the key rationales in the development of the UDO was certainty for developers in how they can develop and peace of mind for neighborhoods in how those communities are going to grow. Allowing for exceptions simply because developers ask for them defeats the entire purpose of our zoning code and it allows those who have deep pockets to manipulate the system to their advantage. Exceptions should be rare and they should be based upon a fulsome examination of the purpose of the particular zoning rule and whether the exception fits into what the City is trying to accomplish. Though I am not willing to say that there should *never* be exceptions, I will fight to reduce the granting of exemptions to adopted plans and ordinances.

LaWana Slack Mayfield (D, At-Large): I will commit to researching how the impact of COVID-19 has changed how we do business with safety at the forefront along with realizing impactful ways to protect our environment. I support expanding the financial cost to our regional partners who also utilize our infrastructure.

David Merrill (R, At-Large): I like the concept to the UDO but there are a few areas that I feel need to be better revised for the long-term benefit of our entire community. For TODs to be effective we need to consider first mile/last mile needs for those that may not be within a short walk to transit stops. For TODs to work we need park and ride options and nearby places for people to refuel themselves and the vehicles they need to arrive to the transit stops. The UDO needs to be updated in a way that exceptions will not be commonplace and allowed only in situations that benefit the local community.

Braxton Winston II (D, At-Large)(i): Yes

Victoria Watlington (D, District 3)(i): It is the responsibility and privilege of the residents of this city to, through their representatives, determine how we want to grow. I respect the democratic process of reviewing each case on its on merit, engaging the public regarding the preferred path forward, and voting. As a representative of communities who have seen government policies desecrate their neighborhoods in the name of progress, I will always be diligent to review each request, taking into account the unique circumstances of the surrounding community.

Marjorie Molina (D, District 5): I support the vision of the Comprehensive Plan and many of the stated objectives within the UDO.  These plans will give the City Council a road map for how to manage growth and compatible land use, going forward.  I will absolutely utilize these plans to guide my decision-making on the City Council.  Still, I believe Council reserves the right to make exceptions based on community feedback and the possibilities that new technologies, consumer habits, and building amenities may require adaptations to these plans over time. 

Question # 2 Transformational Mobility Network

In 2020, the Charlotte Moves Task Force recommended a  “transformational mobility network” (TMN) of transportation projects and proposed a funding strategy for the network that centers on a “One Cent for Mobility” countywide sales tax. However, there has been little visible progress on moving this forward, even as new federal funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill will create 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 build the TMN? If so, what will you do as an elected official to move the process forward? If not, what do you propose as an alternative to support mobility for all residents? 

Kyle J. Luebke (R, At-Large): I do not support the one cent countywide sales tax for the TMN. Not only will the General Assembly not even consider allowing us to implement that sales tax, the towns of Huntersville, Davidson and Cornelius are against the tax because they have not seen, nor will likely see, any of the transportation benefits. Instead, we should be looking at unique funding plans for our transportation system (such as tax increment financing) that will allow us to leverage the property development potential of fixed transit routes. The biggest failure of the Blue Line was that the private sector received all of the benefit for the light rail through increased development and land value, but relied upon public funds to make that private benefit happen. If elected, I would want us to work to ensure that the private benefit is paying into the public cost.

LaWana Slack Mayfield (D, At-Large): Charlotte like the Nation has been impacted with our working poor/working class neighbors feeling the financial burden of rising housing, utility and transportation costs. I will commit to working with our Mecklenburg Delegation, Council-colleagues and building relationships with our towns to create a strong shared cost model that will disburse the cost of transportation expansion.

David Merrill (R, At-Large): I support a partnership to secure the funding on transportation networks within the city and municipal, county, and state partnerships for expansion outside the city limits. To move this process forward I will propose a bond to expand the city network which will be repaid by development along the corridors.

Braxton Winston II (D, At-Large)(i): Yes I do. city council must engage with communities and leaders in and outside of Charlotte on a personal basis. The Council decided not to do this instead relying on consultants to lead the way. We should change that approach.

Victoria Watlington (D, District 3)(i): Though I would much prefer a funding model that did not include a regressive tax, given a limited set of funding options, a sales tax increase may be appropriate to generate revenue for transit. However, we have learned from previous transit projects, as well as peer cities, that we must ensure that public dollars are used for public good. This means that any funding structure should include a shared-cost model with the private sector development along the transit lines, economic opportunity for minority and small business, and anti-displacement protections for residents living along future transit lines. In addition, any tax increase cannot be for transit alone. It must include greenways, bike lanes, and sidewalks, to connect communities beyond transit routes. We should prioritize projects that create new connections to mitigate congestion and provide non-car alternatives for moving about the city. I will continue to engage the residents of District 3 to understand their needs, and articulate them to stakeholders in an effort to create a plan with broad support.

Marjorie Molina (D, District 5): "Yes. I support the need for a local funding source for transportation investment. I believe the Silver Line and Gold Line extension will deliver incredible benefits in mobility and connectivity for District 5 residents.  I’m also focused on ensuring CATS busing (routes, frequency, technology) and bicycle/pedestrian access remain a priority for funding. The Mayor and Council must be unified in their ask of the General Assembly for enabling legislation for a local funding option. I believe we will only be successful with the NCGA, if Councilmembers and their constituents are fully aware of the plan’s components and have confidence in the financials.  Transparency is key."

Question # 3 Vision Zero

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

Kyle J. Luebke (R, At-Large): Vision Zero is failing in Charlotte because we are looking at the issue the wrong way. Currently, we look from the perspective of vehicles and how pedestrians can keep themselves safe (example – wear reflective vests). Instead, we should be having a pedestrian focus, and view our streets through someone walking or biking. Having biked and walked throughout Charlotte, I can tell you firsthand how we can realize our Vision Zero goals. We must work with CDOT to rethink how we engineer roads - both arterials and in our neighborhoods. We must work with neighborhoods to understand pain points in those neighborhoods and how we can slow down our streets through beautification. And we must work with advocacy organizations – like the Metrolina Association for the Blind – who have a unique perspective of what it is like to navigate our streets. Only by changing the structural realities of our built environment so that our City is safe for everyone, can we fully reach our Vision Zero goals.

LaWana Slack Mayfield (D, At-Large): I feel we can allocate greater investment towards community outreach/education as of now the residents who are familiar with Vision Zero are those following climate/sustainability impacts. I have spoken. to numerous residents over the last few weeks who have no idea this is a priority. With so many new residents moving to Charlotte we need a multi-level joint government & business campaign to educate the community.

David Merrill (R, At-Large): We have a lot of great and safe streets, and we have many more that are not. There is an elementary school a few blocks away on my street and drivers constantly travel over 60-mph in a 35-mph zone and run though stop signs without stopping. We need CDOT to do a better job of placing traffic control devices such as speed humps in the communities that request them while remaining within the requirements set by Charlotte Fire. We also need to better mark cross walks, and improve our sidewalks placing them several feet away from the street curbs. We also need more bike lanes on our neighborhood arterial streets, around our greenways, and parks.

Braxton Winston II (D, At-Large)(i): We need a master plan on how we will connect our sidewalk network. We have greatly increased our public investment in sidewalks over the past 5-years and updated policy to create complete streets that are safer for pedestrians and cyclists. However, we still rely predominantly on private development for bike/ped improvements. The scale of the issue is too large to deal with project to project which is why we need a master plan.

Victoria Watlington (D, District 3)(i): Traffic impact studies should be executed at an area level, rather than in a piecemeal fashion with each rezoning. Our growth is outpacing our infrastructure, and our streets are becoming more crowded (and dangerous). We need to rework the speed hump policy to allow residents (not just property owners) to petition for speed humps in dangerous areas, and lower the speed threshold for eligibility. We've got to invest in complete streets in high traffic areas to ensure the safety of pedestrians. And yes, we need traffic cameras.

Marjorie Molina (D, District 5): I stand behind the Vision Zero goal and will work to promote it among my constituents, if elected.  I believe City investment is critical, as so many of our neighborhoods in District 5 still lack adequate sidewalk infrastructure or protected bike lanes, and I will work to ensure District 5 neighborhoods are prioritized in the City’s Community Investment Plan.  We need to continue to rely on the data to identify problem-areas – based not just accidents/incidents, but understanding where there are bus/transit corridors and employment centers with more bike/ped traffic.  We should also work to empower our neighborhood associations to identify areas of concern and recommend solutions.

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 bikes, pedestrian, and transit connectivity. What would you do as an elected official to support residents’ access to outdoor recreational opportunities and green spaces?

Kyle J. Luebke (R, At-Large): I am a strong proponent of expanded greenways and outdoor recreational opportunities and, though it is rightfully pointed out that this is primarily the responsibility of the County government, there is a role for the City to play here. We can do three things to expand our outdoor recreational opportunities and green spaces. First, we should aggressively expand our protected bike lane network. I used to bike down Tuckaseegee and, though there is a bike lane, I was always taking my life into my own hands until I got to the greenway. I would like to see, at minimum, some form of protection put into place on many of our current routes. If people feel safe to bike, they will get out and enjoy these spaces. Second, I would also be interested in pursuing more pilot programs relating to shutting down certain streets permanently (such as Camden). Other communities around the United States have had great success in converting roads into pedestrian malls and we should be thinking about how we could leverage our existing streets to provide those community spaces. Third, though not necessarily an expansion of outdoor recreation or green space, in the pandemic, City Council allowed for certain parking spaces outside of restaurants to be converted into dining or parklets. I would advocate for this to come back and would give restaurants the flexibility to choose how they want to utilize the outdoor spaces in front of their establishments.

LaWana Slack Mayfield (D, At-Large): This is community led in my opinion,  yes I supported expansion of greenways previously as a district representative and a number of those areas where investment was allocated have seen tremendous growth and local displacement. I will work towards a connected Charlotte that minimizes displacement.

David Merrill (R, At-Large): Yes! I love our greenspaces and think they are a big part of what makes Charlotte such a great place to live. Pardon the pun, but this is one area where we are already on the right path we need to continue our positive efforts in this area.

Braxton Winston II (D, At-Large)(i): We have to engage with the County Commission on two fronts: implementation of the UDO & our rezoning process. Parks & Recreation plays an integral role in both of those City processes. Their involvement in those processes is governed by County policy. I have met with County Commissioners & City staff around this issue and my biggest takeaway is that Parks & Rec can align their policy to get different outcomes. But, we have to get County Commissioners more visibility and knowledge on our City planning and zoning processes so they can better guide staff to update policy to achieve desired results.

Victoria Watlington (D, District 3)(i): As noted above, I will lobby that the TMN not be for transit alone. It must include greenways, bike lanes, and sidewalks, to connect communities beyond transit routes. We should prioritize projects that create new connections to mitigate congestion and provide non-car alternatives for moving about the city. I will continue to engage the residents of District 3 to understand their needs, and articulate them to stakeholders in an effort to create a plan with broad support.

Marjorie Molina (D, District 5): We need to be more creative with City-owned land around transit stations and government buildings, including police and fire stations.  Short term, pocket park installations would go far to improve blight and vacant lots, while increasing green space and recreational use.  While the City has a role to play, I am also committed to cost-effective decision-making and stewardship of the budget that delivers first for the City’s enterprises.

Question # 5 Bus Network

CATS is working on the Envision My Ride Bus Priority Study to increase the reliability of bus service. Do you support the goal of increasing frequency on all core bus routes to run every 15 minutes or less, and pursuing dedicated bus lanes and shared bus/bike lanes in areas identified as suitable by the study results?

Kyle J. Luebke (R, At-Large): Yes. I am a bus rider (used to take the 8 and 34 to work and now take the 19 and 20), and improved service that is frequent, fast and reliable is not just a necessity, it is an economic imperative. We cannot be an upwardly mobile City if we do not have transportation that Charlotteans can rely upon to get them to work. We cannot ensure that people will take the bus if it is unreliable and comes only once an hour. Because I spend a lot of time on the bus and light rail, I recognize the need and, if elected, I will be one of the only people on Council who daily experiences the CATS system.

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

David Merrill (R, At-Large): Yes! Not only do I support this, but it is also a major focus of my campaign. The current city council has had years to make this a priority and they are only starting to focus on this because the Charlotte Republican Slate is pushing hard for something that that should have been accomplishes years ago.

Braxton Winston II (D, At-Large)(i): Yes

Victoria Watlington (D, District 3)(i): YES! The key here is "in areas identified as suitable by the study results."

Marjorie Molina (D, District 5): Absolutely, 100% yes

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