Cary, NC — Continuing our Candidate Questionnaire series, we hear from Jennifer Robinson who is running as the incumbent for Cary Town Council, District A.
As we have done in previous election cycles, we sent a list of three short questions to all the candidates for office in Cary. We do not edit the answers but provide a forum for the candidates to speak to our readers in their own words.
Read all the candidate answers to our questionnaire under Elections.
We encourage all citizens to go to the polls in Cary on Tuesday, October 8, 2013.
Q1 – Why are you running?
I am running because I truly enjoy serving our community. My experience, knowledge, and common-sense approach are valuable in making the key decisions that shape Cary’s future. With years of experience, I understand the intricacies of the challenges we face. I know which measures we can take that are legal and feasible. I understand the solutions that will help advance our goals and those that will harm us fiscally and economically. I’ve studied communities that succeed and communities that fail – and I have helped create the healthy, thriving Cary that we have today.
I’m grateful to have the endorsement of so many of our citizens, community organizations, and several of my Council colleagues. Like many communities, balancing our budget during the recession has been difficult. I’m proud of the solutions we have created that allow us to provide excellent services and amenities for our citizens while maintaining our fiscal health. I believe it is important to have a true and proven fiscal conservative in office at a time when it is challenging to maintain Cary’s quality of life with constrained financial resources.
My opponent recently said to a crowded room that he doesn’t really want to serve on council. (Cary Chamber of Commerce Forum, September 25, 2013) and when the Independent Weekly endorsed me they noted that he did not decide whether to run until a few days before the filing deadline. I can tell you that he and I differ greatly in that regard. I am personally dedicated and pleased to be able to add to the quality of life that we enjoy.
Our town needs to go forward with an approach that enhances our environment, strengthens our fiscal position, and protects the well-recognized aspects of Cary that we love. I’m running because I have made that happen in the past and I am whole-heartedly dedicated to making that happen in the years to come.
Q2 – What are your top 3 priorities and how will you get it done?
1. Fiscal Protection
The Council has shown tremendous fiscal restraint throughout the recession. I will continue to support the three guiding principles that we have applied to our budget. First, I will maintain our debt ceiling so that the Town does not spend too much of its operating budget on the carrying costs of debt. While our self-imposed debt ceiling is established at spending no more than 15% of operating expenditures for debt payment, the Town presently is spending only about 10% of its operating budget to pay off debt. Second, I will vote to keep our standard of four months of reserves over the State-required two month reserves in our general fund. I believe this reserve is important to enable our Town to nimbly address emergencies or special economic opportunities. Should that reserve need to be drawn upon, we should work to restore it to four month level. Third, I will continue to work to have a lean operating and capital budget. I will do what I can to keep Cary’s tax rate the lowest in Wake County. Similarly, I will continue to vote to refrain from raising our trash, water, and sewer fees unless needed to cover the cost of operations. For example, this year, we raised the trash collection fee in order to cover maintenance and replacement of our vehicles and the increased cost of fuel so that we could bring cost recovery closer to our 100% goal.
2. Land Use plan
The success of Cary’s future is dependent on three elements: our land use plan, our policies and ordinances, and our municipal authority. I will work hard to make sure that our land use plan reflects the values of our citizens so that the densities and development patterns enhance Cary. However, our work to protect Cary’s future does not end with the land use plan. Over the years, we have implemented policies and ordinances to shape development by addressing factors such as buffers, storm water detention, wetland protection, and parkland dedications. I think that we need to implement new ordinances that help achieve the vision that our citizens have in the land use plan. We need to look at how gross densities are calculated, land is graded for development, and trees are protected. Finally, towns and cities in North Carolina operate at the will and direction of the State. I will continue to advocate to our State representatives on behalf of our citizens. I will work fight to keep the Jordan Lake Rules which protect our drinking water supply, to keep our ability to implement environmental ordinances, and to keep our Town’s ability to make ordinances that protect our aesthetics. These rules will be necessary to achieve the vision that our citizens have for the future of our Town.
3. Excellent infrastructure and services for western Cary
Our greatest challenge is providing the infrastructure and services we need within the budget constraints that we have. My highest priority is making sure that western Cary has roads, greenways, parks, and schools comparable to the rest of Cary. I will continue to advocate for improving our road network through the capital building program and through the use of the Town’s impact fees for new development. Use of the impact fees will result in more roads being built by developers similar to that of the expansion of the Morrisville Parkway which is mostly being built by private developers. We have land-banked hundreds of acres in western Wake County to ensure that we have ample parks and greenways. It is now time for us to apply resources to develop some of that land into active parks. I will look for opportunities to include these park projects in our upcoming budgets and will look to the revenues from our recent expansion of our park impact fees to help advance our park system. I will continue to support efforts get parts of the greenway network built and would love for Cary to have at least one entirely grade-separated east/west greenway and north/south greenway. Finally, I will continue to work with WCPSS board members to make sure that we have excellent campuses for our schools. Partnering with Wake County on the development of combined school-park campuses will result in exceptional resources for our students and citizens.
Q3 – Give us a brief bio and tell us about your relevant experience.
My husband, Paul, and I moved from the D.C. suburbs to Cary in 1995 in pursuit of a better quality of life for our family. We found in Cary exactly what we were looking for: a safe place with a sense of community. After moving here, I continued my work as a business systems analyst for government agencies and private companies. Around 1996, I began to have concerns about land use decisions that were being made in Cary so I got involved in speaking to the Cary Town Council on behalf of my neighbors and people in western Cary. I was appointed to the Growth Management Task Force which tackled the complications of increased populations. In 1999, I was selected by the Cary Town Council to serve the last two years of an at-large seat on the Town Council. In 2001, I ran for the District A seat because I believed that the residents of western Cary needed stronger representation.
Since joining the Council, my objective has been to give citizens of western Cary excellent representation and to make living in Cary the best value possible – the highest quality of life for the lowest taxes possible. Representing western Cary has been an interesting challenge because the growth pressures are greatest in our part of Town. Over the years, I have been part of many attempts to “control” growth and have learned those techniques that work and those that do not. Most importantly, I have learned the nuances of the laws that pertain to land use – knowledge which is critical in being able to productive in reviewing development requests and making laws.
In 2001, I stepped away from my career in the software industry in order to dedicate more time to the Council position and to raising my children. Because I believe it is important for citizens to have an active district representative, I meet with citizens and stake holders whenever someone asks to meet. I listen to their concerns and take suggestions. I visit sites and engage the Town staff to address citizen concerns. In addition, I advocate vigorously for the needs of those living in District A. My efforts on behalf of western Cary have resulted in a higher concentration of preserved parkland and greater connectivity of greenways than other parts of Cary, two designated historic areas, a regional library, and a joint fire station/police substation.
I am an involved member of our community and an active participant in solving regional and statewide issues that affect Cary. I am the Council’s representative to its Economic Development Commission and the Triangle J Council of Governments (in which elected officials from seven counties convene to discuss regional issues). In addition, I serve on the North Carolina League of Municipalities Board of Directors and on the Triangle Transit Authority Board of Trustees. I frequently visit the State Legislature Building to talk to our legislators about matters that impact Cary. I am active in Cary’s Chamber of Commerce and give my time to many organizations that promote quality of life for our citizens. I was the founding President of the Cary Community Foundation which gives every citizen and business of Cary an opportunity to give back to our community and started the Cary Women’s Giving Network. I served on the Board of Directors for Read and Feed literacy program and am presently serving on the Cary Family YMCA Advisory Board.
As we go forward in planning for our Town’s future, it is critical that western Cary continue to have a representative that is actively engaged in the community, knows her constituents, and has the experience and knowledge to find workable solutions. I pledge that I will hold firm to the tenants of my father who raised me to “leave a place better than you found it.” My primary objective will continue to be to keep Cary a great place to live.
Cary Town Council