Local Politics

Raleigh mayoral candidates talk jobs, economy in public forum

Posted September 13, 2011 10:48 p.m. EDT
Updated September 13, 2011 11:35 p.m. EDT

2012 Downtown Raleigh Skyline

— Raleigh's mayoral candidates outlined their top priorities for the city in tough economic times during a forum sponsored by WakeUP Wake County, the League of Women Voters and the N.C. Center for Voter Education Tuesday evening.

City Councilwoman Nancy McFarlane, real estate executive Billie Redmond and obstetrician Randall Williams are running for Mayor of Raleigh after Charles Meeker announced in April that he would not seek a sixth two-year term.

All three said that jobs and the economy are key issues facing the city, but they also weighed in on questions about managing growth, transportation, land use and housing.

McFarlane said she believes the city council has done a good job at managing money during her tenure.

"There is a reason we have a triple A bond rating," she said.

Redmond said she would look for new ways to generate funds and focus on the future.

"I love what the city has done recently," she said. "The focus on the debt for me has been about future planning."

Williams said new revenue should come from people moving to or creating jobs in Raleigh. He said he would make future spending decisions based on each unique circumstance.

"I guess my training as a surgeon is that you take each situation and that you look at the data and make your best assessment," he said.

The three candidates were also asked whether they support the proposed $205-million Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center, a 17-story, 305,000-square-foot building that would replace the current police headquarters on Hargett and McDowell streets.

Construction on the project is expected to take up to two years.

McFarlane said she initially voted in favor of moving ahead with construction to avoid losing the nearly $20 million the city has already spent on the project, but would be open to send the issue to voters to decide. 

"Economic times have changed in the last year," she said. "I'm open to re-evaluating that."

Redmond said that while she thinks the pricetag is too high, she'd like to see a new safety center built, even if city leaders need to go back to the drawing board.

"We need to make it a priority," she said. 

Williams said he would have voted against the Lightner center. 

"I don't think you can justify the expense," he said. 

All three candidates said they would support a half-cent sales tax increase to fund mass transit projects in the city.

The election is Oct. 11. Candidates for city council also participated in Tuesday's forum.