Candidate Questionnaire: Jack Smith, Cary Town Council, District C
Name as it appears on the ballot: Jack Smith
Party Membership: Not affiliated
Campaign website: www.jackforcary.org
Profession & employer: Owner, CGT, LLC (Custom International Travel)
Years lived in Cary: 36
1) In 300 words or less, give us and our readers your elevator pitch: Why do you run? Why should voters give you this job? What are your priorities and what would you like the city council to do differently or better during your term?
I initially applied for this office because I felt that the Council at the time was not responding to the concerns of citizens and that they were forgetting who they were working for. This “how things are done” was not transparent and the voice of citizens was stifled. I wanted to change that, and I did. We’ve grown from 20,000 to 180,000 and a lot has been accomplished since I joined the board. We are now a more welcoming and diverse community, which more than 60 nationalities call home. Although we have retained our small town charm and appeal, remain one of the safest cities in the country and the most family friendly place to raise our children, there is still much to do. This election is about the future, and I’m up for the challenge of helping Cary grow better as he ages. Cary needs a citizen rights advocate with experience and a proven track record of accomplishment, to protect the city’s long-term financial interests while simultaneously fighting for people and neighborhoods. I am that person and with your support, I pledge to stay above myopic political partisanship and dedicate my time to listening to and addressing your concerns.
2) Given the direction of the municipal government of Cary, would you say things are on the right track? If not, what specific changes will you advocate for if elected?
We are on the right path. But I’m concerned that partisan party politics will encroach on municipal elections, diluting the integrity of local decision-making. Keeping municipal elections non-partisan on the ballot helps promote a collegial and collaborative approach to common sense problem solving and fosters a thoughtful and strategic approach.
3) What are the three most pressing issues currently facing the city? How would you propose to fix it? Please be specific.
With the area’s explosive growth, affordable housing has clearly become my top priority. Expanding our environmental protections and improving our sustainability come next. Next, the focus was on public safety at the neighborhood and small business level (cybercrime). There is no magic bullet that will solve the backlog of affordable housing overnight.
The challenge for Cary is compounded by the fact that we are 85% built and 50% of our residential units are part of an HOA, which limits our ability to pursue programs such as “grandma’s apartments.” in large scale. “Apartments” and similar schemes will help, but our best opportunity to provide more immediate impact affordable housing is infill redevelopment, especially in areas where malls are struggling. A good example is Glenaire Senior Living’s recent expansion into a struggling mall, which ended up being a win-win situation for all. I have a 32-year history of proven environmental deliverables – from my early years of achieving doubling of our buffers, clear-cutting protections, and instigating a plethora of environmental initiatives such as water quality water and conservation guidelines, Cary’s use of reclaimed (grey) water, championing Adequate Public Facilities Ordinances, to activities over the past decade leading stormwater management efforts and championing programs composting, solar installation, municipal electric vehicles – and my personal pride and joy – my tree planting initiatives. As a liaison with our Environmental Advisory Board (EAB) and through our efforts, we are now the only town in Wake County to grow our canopy! Our innovative Project Phoenix program ensures that all of our affordable housing is safe and suitable for families.
4) What is the best or most important thing the city council has done in the past year? You can also name a decision you think council got wrong or an issue you think the city should have handled differently. Please explain your answer.
We can never rest on our laurels and recently Cary established a community task force to focus on human relations, inclusion and diversity issues in Cary with the sole mission of ensuring a treatment fair and to promote mutual understanding and respect among all our citizens. . I hope this effort will ensure that racial injustice never finds its way into our community. Cary has a habit of reviewing major decisions every 3 years to ensure there are no unintended consequences. This practice “nips in the bud” decisions that have gone wrong.
5) What previous experience will make you an effective council member and advocate for the issues listed above?
Please note any mentions you have received that you consider important. As an organizational development professional, I’ve helped companies improve productivity by identifying critical priorities to address, how to hire a large, culturally diverse workforce, and then training their management to achieve them. I was fortunate to be able to “apply my craft” by helping Cary grow up in a responsible way. Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht and his predecessor, former Mayor Ernie McAlister, supported me. Also, the former mayors of Raleigh, Apex and Cary contributed to my campaign.
6) Given Cary’s rate of growth, how will you ensure that growth is well managed and improves the city rather than harming it? Where do density and height fit into planning decisions, if any? How do you plan to reconcile growth and sustainability?
Our growth rate over the past decade has been between 2 and 3%, which is still a challenge but manageable. Our biannual citizen surveys reflect record satisfaction scores across all categories. We are doing something right, particularly in the areas of safety, parks and recreation, and the environment. Density and height are an integral part of our Cary Community Plan and a key part of our transit efforts. We are a national leader in sustainability programs and these are documented in more detail elsewhere in the questionnaire.
7) Like most places in the Triangle, Cary struggles with affordable housing issues. How would you like the city to address affordability issues over the next few years? Should it favor apartment, duplex and/or triplex living? Encourage density in single-family housing? What do you think the city does well? What could he do better?
Much of how we approach affordable housing is explained above, particularly the challenge of adding density in single family areas. We need to increase our affordable housing stock by expanding our partnerships with not-for-profits and provide more funding beyond the 4% we currently plan. We have had tremendous success partnering with Habitat for Humanity and DHIC and we must continue to do more to empower all of our nonprofit colleagues to act faster. Additionally, we need to explore the availability of additional municipal land similar to the 7 acres we are converting to affordable housing.
8) How should municipal leaders work with large organizations moving, expanding or investing in Cary? What obligations, if any, should these businesses/enterprises/facilities have to the city?
What the companies have learned is that the citizens of Cary value their lifestyle and quality of life so much that they won’t budge. When considering coming to Cary, one of the negotiation tactics is “what are you going to do to help ease the housing crisis you are helping to create”. It’s always a tough sell, especially when neighboring towns don’t keep them at the same high standard.
9) In your opinion, how can Cary be safer and more accessible by using different modes of transportation? What is your vision for public transit, pedestrian and cyclist safety?
We have a large amount of multimodal options identified and explained in detail in the MOVE section of the Cary Community Plan. In the past, many of these components were treated as “silos” and I am happy to say that the integration of all these aspects (cycling, pedestrian, etc.) into our land use plan has helped to complete our public transit efforts. And it pays off. Over the years, our strategic planning has resulted in more than half of Cary’s residents now working in Cary. Going forward, to have a more efficient and meaningful transit program, it is essential that we work in partnership with the county.
10) What are your goals for downtown Cary and what does the city need to do to achieve those goals?
Downtown Cary is now basking in its “overnight” success (20 years in the making). Phase 2 of the downtown park, slated for completion next year, includes extensive underground stormwater upgrades that relieve the many older areas surrounding the park. Downtown is walkable, safe and family-friendly, a testament to our good planning.
11) Cary residents love their parks and greenways. How should the city go about preserving, improving or expanding them?
The city’s nationally accredited Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department oversees a park system of more than 2,400 acres of combined parkland and open space. This system consists of 22 landscaped parks, 58 miles of greenways, 3 community centers, 13 staffed facilities, and 4 major sports and entertainment venues. All are meticulously maintained with more arriving every year.
12) If there is anything else you would like to discuss, please do so here.
I was born in Germany and received my citizenship in 1967. I am the only veteran of the Council. In this country I grew up in poverty and I grew up in a blue collar area surrounded by wealth I know what it’s like to be a foreigner When I joined the Council it was one of my passions is to make Cary a welcoming and inclusive community for everything. Today over 60 nationalities call Cary home and I am proud of my efforts to ensure that every person living in Cary enjoys all the benefits Cary has to offer. No matter where you live or your income, you can feel safe and part of our family quality of life with all of our amenities.