Name: Greg Phipps
What office are you running for? Charlotte City Council - District 4
Neighborhood: Back Creek Forest
Political Experience: • Incumbent Charlotte city council member with nearly 3-yrs of council service representing District 4; • Current Charlotte city council Budget Committee Chair; • Serve on the Community Safety, Governance & Accountability, and Transportation & Planning Committees; • Served 4-yrs as a Charlotte-Mecklenburg planning commissioner; • Board member – University City Partners; • Former Chair – Keep Charlotte Beautiful.
Family: My wife Lemair and I have three adult children, Alex, Tristan, and Micaela.
Work Experience: Retired national bank examiner – Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, U.S. Treasury Department – Large Bank Supervision.
1) Why are you running for office?
I am running for re-election to my District 4 seat because I enjoy community/public service and I want to see Charlotte-Mecklenburg prosper. Most importantly, I’m running because my work on City Council is not done. When re-elected I want to continue to showcase District 4 as a destination for academic research, job creation, business retention and expansion, to promote economic opportunity and upward mobility for all. I want to solidify the district’s image as a great place to work, play, and raise a family. I want to ensure thoughtful execution of District transportation, infrastructure, and growth strategies, including delivery of expanded light rail service on time and within budget. As Budget Committee Chair, I want greater efficiency in City and budget operations to deliver services at reasonable costs to taxpayers. I will also do my utmost to improve communication, trust, and relationship-building with all elected leaders to move the Charlotte region forward. Of great importance also will be my continued advocacy for solid Police-Community alliances to strengthen public safety initiatives throughout Charlotte. Two-years is simply not enough time to acclimate yourself to the position, bring leadership sustainability to the district, and follow-through on issues with consistency for Charlotte in general and District 4 in particular.
2) What would be your top priorities if elected?
I will focus on growth, jobs, and public safety. Charlotte is experiencing strong growth. Recent studies show that 44 new residents move to Charlotte each day. That translates to 1,320 people a month, or 15,840 new residents a year. District 4 is already home to the 6th most moved-in zip code (28269) in the nation. With such influx of new residents, growth must be properly managed, not just allowed to happen. We must plan for diverse housing options for people to live, strengthen our transportation network, provide for greater connectivity for our streets, neighborhoods and communities. Traffic is a growing problem for many Charlotte citizens. People want more streets, sidewalks, and bike lanes. They want a more walkable, pedestrian-friendly community. Developers want to build more homes, office buildings, and retail establishments. As a council member, I want to make sure Charlotte’s growth is done decently and in order with proper balance to support a vibrant community that’s on the move. It is critical that both the University City and Prosperity-Hucks Area Plans be implemented consistent with the vision embraced by the community.
University City is a key economic driver for Charlotte. It is home to the University of NC at Charlotte, a major research institution, and several Fortune 500 and multinational companies. Small businesses also comprise a significant portion of the employment base. As a city council member, I routinely participate in sessions where incentives to lure companies to Charlotte-Mecklenburg are discussed. A key provision in all these discussions is the number, quality, and compensation levels of jobs that would ensure delivery of a living wage and benefits for local employees. Attracting good jobs to Charlotte is extremely competitive. States that surround NC are very aggressive when it comes to the use of incentives. While incentives are controversial, so long as other southeastern states continue to include this tool in their arsenals in attracting jobs, we in NC should not unilaterally withdraw from this approach. We also need to build capacity to empower citizens to be properly prepared to compete for jobs in the marketplace. I will emphasize skills training through local community colleges by linking specific company skill needs to the jobs.
We are living in times of increased volatility with police-community relationships across the Nation and here in Charlotte. Improving environmental conditions, whether it be through equipping officers with body-worn cameras or deliberate community dialogue; these are intentional efforts that demonstrate a commitment to bring about positive community change and understanding. I believe in strong community policing strategies and support increased funding for such initiatives to keep neighborhoods and businesses safe. Just as important however, is the need for the general public to show more respect for law enforcement, and the critical work that they do in trying to keep our communities safe. More cooperation by the public is needed to help resolve crimes. I will continue to use my office to promote strong police-community dialogue, fund police initiatives, and ensure enhanced training to foster understanding and trust.
3) Would you support the city's proposed expansion of its non-discrimination ordinance to include the LGBT community, including a provision that would allow transgender residents to use the bathroom of their choice?
I voted no on this ordinance last March 2015. My “no” vote was based on a fatally flawed public input process that essentially sought and solicited comments, views, and approaches exclusively from the LGBTQ community. As a consequence, a large segment of the community felt left out of the vetting process in crafting the ordinance as there was no attempt to include divergent views and opinions from the broader public, relying exclusively on input from one group. There was little to no discussion by the public on the merits of amending the ordinance to include so-called protections on the basis of marital status, familial status, and sexual orientation. It seemed like the entire discussion focused on bathroom use issues, so much so that the debate was characterized as the “bathroom ordinance” at the expense of much broader ordinance considerations. Among council members, I believe there was broad consensus support for adding marital status, familial status, and sexual orientation as protections under the ordinance. This was the case even with deep reservations by some over the lack of documented evidence to support systemic allegations of discrimination under those areas. Charlotte is a welcoming city. Many businesses have already embraced full protections for the LGBT community without need for an ordinance to do so. For me personally, a more inclusive, broader public engagement process is needed to move forward.
4) Do you support the N.C. DOT's plans to add express toll lanes to Interstate 485 in south Charlotte and U.S. 74? Or would you prefer to widen the highways with general-purpose free lanes?
I have not yet reached a definitive position on express toll lanes for I-485 in south Charlotte and U.S. 74 as the matter is still being reviewed and evaluated by the Planning and Transportation Committee of which I am a member. Any tolling would be a last resort option for me weighed against the costs of road widening, prospects for inclusion and timing of any widening projects within transportation selection and funding criteria, and the estimated costs of tolls to the driving public.
5) Would you support spending hospitality tax dollars to renovate or rebuild the county owned Memorial Stadium in hopes of the city winning a Major League Soccer franchise?
6) Would you support an increase in the general sales tax to support more transit projects, such as additional miles of streetcar and a commuter train to Lake Norman?
No. Recent expansion of sales taxes on goods and services by the NC Legislature will already add to the tax burden for local citizens. Also, redistribution of local sales tax revenue to other areas of the State adds to the uncertainty of any additional dedicated tax to fund transportation projects.
7) There has been a significant amount of redevelopment in neighbors close to uptown, with older, sometimes historic buildings being demolished for new apartments. Would you support more restrictions on tear-downs?
I believe each tear-down project should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Care should be taken to determine if older structures qualify for historic designation status, and if so, whether efforts are being considered to seek such a designation. It is important to maintain the character of neighborhoods through appropriate renovation and repurpose of older historic buildings and residential structures. More often than not, highest and best use for a piece of property is a major consideration in any redevelopment project. A growing concern for me is when older apartment buildings with more affordable units are demolished and replaced with more expensive market-rate units. Every effort should be made to provide more of a balance in affordable/workforce housing stock when the effect of tear-downs displace or eliminate available affordable units.
8) A goal of the city is to increase affordable housing. In some instances, however, the City Council is asked to approve rezoning requests for low-income apartments, even when an area plan says single-family homes should be built on a site. Should the council follow the area plan recommendations or approve multi-family projects to increase affordability?
The area plan represents a guide for growth that is not an absolute blueprint for development. The single-family housing market is still very much in recovery mode, and qualification criteria are well out of reach for many citizens post-recession. Even so, I believe that there should be balance in workforce housing options to include a mix of single-family and multifamily units. There is a significant need for more affordable/workforce housing in Charlotte. Multifamily mixed-income units represent the most efficient method to reach the City’s affordable housing goals. Transportation policies, specifically as they relate to construction of the light-rail line, is jump starting redevelopment and revitalization in some older neighborhoods within its path. What's missing, however, is adequate workforce and affordable housing construction as a complement to significant market-rate apartment development. Effective use of transportation and housing policy could serve as an impetus to facilitate such growth. Also, specifically designated enterprise zones should be looked at as a way to incentivize developers to initiate projects in older neighborhoods. As is routinely the case, community engagement is very important to public policy in promoting a mutual vision that all can embrace. Targeted use of Housing Trust Funds is being used with good results, and remains an effective tool for future housing projects.
9) Should the city change its guidelines for offering Business Investment Grants for companies considering expanding or relocating to Charlotte?
Business Investment Grant criteria are routinely assessed and evaluated by our economic development staff and the council. As the major focus is on bringing new local jobs to Charlotte that pay a living wage and benefits, I remain sensitive to high unemployment rates within certain segments of the community. I advocate for more proactive discussion around company-sponsored apprenticeship programs to attract applicants and employees to the workforce.
11) What else should voters know about you?
I am honored to receive the endorsement of the Charlotte Fraternal Order of Police – Lodge #9, the Charlotte Regional Realtors Association, the Charlotte Firefighters Association #60, the Southern Piedmont Central Labor Council, the Real Estate and Building Industry Coalition (REBIC), and the Black Political Caucus of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.