By Nathan L. Walls

  • Sunset, Jan. 2, 2021/Williams Township
  • On Bougher Hill/Williams Township
  • Sunrise, Dec. 19, 2020/Williams Township
  • Sunset, Dec. 27, 2020

A hoped-for 2019 Raleigh city council platform

Updated: June 24, 2019

Oct. of 2019 is going to bring around another biannual election for city council and mayor in Raleigh. There’s quite a bit of hot button issues:

  • Concern that Raleigh is quashing “innovative business models” by regulating electric scooters and restricting what manner of AirBnB rentals will be allowed
  • Zoning
  • Gentrification
  • Traffic

So, at the forefront of thinking for a few minutes, but really the result of lots of background thinking, here’s some of what I’d like 2019 city council candidates to get behind:

  • Affirm that scooters pay their way for using public infrastructure
    • Private businesses cannot appropriate public infrastructure
    • Sidewalk use for scooters, bikes, etc. are subject to permitting and usage fees
  • AirBnB pays hotel tax for short term whole house rentals
    • My complex proposal here is “if it quacks like a duck, treat it like a duck”
    • “But why do you love hotels over homeowners, Nathan?” Because when you treat your personal assets like a business, you get the responsibilities of acting like a business and hotels charge and pay through occupancy tax
  • Vacancy tax
    • Encourage folks sitting on vacant property and vacant lots to develop them
    • If property owners want to keep houses or office buildings or lots bare for years on end, put a surcharge on their property taxes
    • Offer property owners who have vacant property the opportunity to sell to the city at a fair-market rate. The fair market rate doesn’t budge, however, after the property tax surcharge kicks in.
  • Traffic prioritization: Pedestrians then bicycles then mass transit then cars
    • Raleigh is lousy for sidewalks outside of the downtown core. A whole lot more of the city could be walkable
    • Instead of expanding the number of traffic lanes on a given road, the city should first opt to add or expand multi-use paths for cycling, walking. Increase bus coverage and service frequency as well. Give buses protected stops and traffic priority.
  • Allow multi-family structures in residential zoning
    • The proverbial mother-in-law suite, yes, but also, allow two address/two front-door buildings anywhere they currently aren’t
  • City acquires and leases-back housing in East and Southeast Raleigh to local residents
    • Instead of watching what a lot of folks think is inevitable, that the predominantly black neighborhoods east and south of downtown are bought up by developers, residents evicted and redeveloped into suddenly much higher “market rate” housing, the city ought to acquire housing at-risk of gentrification, rent the houses back to their current occupants and help those occupants make improvements to the properties. Grant occupants equity
  • No public tax money for exclusive private benefit
    • The city should forswear using public money to be offered as tax incentive for private businesses. E.g. the city was part of a pitch team trying to land Amazon HQ2 and part of that was likely to have been significant breaks on property taxes and providing other incentives for Amazon to locate here. Meanwhile, every regular business and homeowner pays property taxes.
    • The city should focus on answering problems around affordable housing and transit ahead of contributing money, land or other in-kind consideration for new sports facilities
    • The city should definitely not publicly finance a new professional sports arena and let a private ownership group reap the rewards of operating the arena

I want Raleigh to grow inclusively. That a resident who needs the bus to get to work, child care and other errands and fun has robust access to the city. That not only do we not gentrify historically disadvantaged neighborhood residents, but we robustly protect them and help them. That we think about getting around the city more creatively than how fast we can get sport utility crossovers down Six Forks and Falls of Neuse.

Are these the best ideas? Probably not. I fully expect there are better expressions of them, and I’ll add them and source them as I find out about them.