Name: Alvin ‘Al’ Austin
What office are you running for? District 2
Neighborhood: Third Ward
Political Experience:I am serving in my first term on Charlotte City Council representing the residents of District Two. I serve as Vice Chairman of the Housing and Neighborhood Development Committee; Economic Development and Global Competitiveness Committee; Public Safety Committee; Co-Chair of the Council Retreat Committee, National League of Cities - NBCLEO and LGBTLO. Former President of the Young Democrats of Mecklenburg County, member Black Political Caucus, and member of Mecklenburg County Black Elected Officials and worked on varies local, state and national policitcal campaigns.
Work Experience: Current - Major Gifts Officer - Johnson C. Smith University; Prior - Executive Director - McCrorey Family YMCA; Executive Director - Hillcrest Family YMCA in Cleveland, Ohio; Senior Financial Development Director - Dowd and Stratford Richardson Family YMCA Branches; Financial Development Director - McCrorey Family YMCA; Assistant Director of Public Relations - Charlotte Housing Authority; National Public Relations Director - American Association of Minority Businesses
Campaign contact: Vote4AlAustin.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; Committee to Re-Elect Al Austin, P.O. Box 16507, Charlotte, NC 28297; Facebook - Al Austin - make sure you select the one in Charlotte- there is another al austin in Florida.; Twitter - aaustincha; Gary Leake - Campaign Manager - 704-905-9425
1) Why are you running for office?
The residents in Charlotte City Council District Two voted for me for my first term in office in 2013. I committed then that I would "take care of home." I have done that. I am proud of my work to represent the residents' needs and joining with them in our shared vision for the community. I have been Responsive, Resourceful and Reliable to my residents.
I am running for re-election to continue my work on behalf of District Two, especially in the areas of Public Satefy, Homelessness and Economic Development. Charlotte has had a lot of success in recent years, but not every community is enjoying this success. I believe in "One Charlotte, One Success." This means all communities should prosper and enjoy the fruits of our City's success.
2) What would be your top priorities if elected?
Public Safety is a top priority for me. There are communities that are ravaged by crime and criminal behavior. We cannot police our way out of this. We need to look at a comprehensive and holistic approach to resolving this issue. This includes: (1) Community policing to include more foot patrols with intentional conversations and relationship building with residents and business owners; (2) Secure Mecklenburg County Social Services and local non-profit agencies that work “on-the- ground” to change the lives of those who might find criminal behavior as the only way to make a living; and (3) Community engagement where residents stand up for their communities and not allow criminal elements to take over.
Homelessness is also a top priority for me. Charlotte has had a lot of success in recent years and is one of the South’s fastest growing cities. However, homelessness still plagues families, veterans and the mentally challenged, among others. This cannot be accepted. It saddens me to see a person in a dumpster looking for food or sleeping under a highway. There are many great agencies committed to helping our homeless neighbors; but Charlotte needs more affordable housing options, jobs that pay a living wage, and job training to secure the jobs of tomorrow.
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?
Yes. I voted for the original ordinance earlier this year. There are many more incidents of members of the transgender community who experience assault and battery when they are not allowed to use the bathroom with which they self-identify. Also, in my personal calls to community leaders and elected officials in nearby cities like Charleston and Columbia, these ordinances have been on the books for some time with no negative implications. In addition, many Charlotte City/Mecklenburg County facilities permit members of the transgender community to utilize the bathroom with which they self-identify.
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 am not a fan of toll lanes. I think they that are designed only to serve the wealthy in our community who will be able to afford the fees. NC DOT needs to look at funding the 2030 Transit Plan. The Charlotte region is growing and adding more cars onto our streets and highways is not a characteristic of a global city. We need options to move more people around this area to access entertainment, educational and residential options.
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?
As a current member of City Council, we have not seen any briefing or presentation around this idea. Major League Soccer is an exciting opportunity and idea. However, 1) I would need to determine if we have the capacity with the remaining hospitality tax funds; 2) I would need to understand the overall cost of a new facility and what is the projected economic impact-direct and indirect; and 3) I believe that this is a county owned building; therefore, I think that the county should lead this economic development initiative.
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?
I think we need to exhaust all options such as: federal matching grants, public private parternships, and marketing dollars before we have a conversation about a sales tax. I support the 2030 Transit Plan because it is an important long range plan that is designed to provide transportation options for this region. The Charlotte region is growing and we cannot build more highways and roads to accommodate more cars. We must have options. This plan would spur economic development in multiple communities, connect universities, connect entertainment venues and housing choices.
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?
It is a shame that the historic characteristics that make many of the neighborhoods that are close to uptown Charlotte so desirable are being eliminated and destroyed because market forces are dictating high-rise and high rent apartments. Current market forces are geared towards millennials and empty nesters who don't want a house and the responsibilities that come with this asset, and they want to live in urban centered cities with transportation, housing and entertainment options.
Currently, there are some neighborhoods that have designations as historic districts and city staff and council are able to save these neighborhoods from over-reaching development. Last year, we even added more staff who work in this space to address concerns and to safeguard neighborhoods.
Other communities don’t have these designations; therefore, we need to look at equitable redevelopment of our neighborhoods that are experiencing excessive re-development and gentrification. Equitable redevelopment seeks to bring residents, planners, government officials and developers together to decide how to address harms from the past while creating a new vision for investing in the future. The key here is resident inclusion in the process and development.
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 City Council considers re-zoning requests on a case by case basis. The area plan provides a guide for Council and staff to determine the long-range build out of a community. However, current market realities, environmental impacts, and many other factors must also be taken into consideration when we ultimately make decisions on re-zoning requests.
Affordable housing is a major need in this city. We must ensure that our entire work force, including police officers, nurses, and teachers, have access to housing that is affordable and available throughout the community. Affordable housing needs to follow the housing locational policy and distribute affordable housing in all districts to ensure that it is not concentrated in one location.
9) Should the city change its guidelines for offering Business Investment Grants for companies considering expanding or relocating to Charlotte?
The current council has had numerous conversations and debates around the Business Investment Grant Program. I sometimes view the program as a necessary evil as we compete with other cities and states to lure major corporations and businesses to Charlotte to create jobs. All of the requests are examined closely by council to ensure that tax dollars are used wisely. I support additional language to: (1) ensure that local residents are hired for the newly created jobs; (2) more clearly define expectations around local philanthropic support; and (3) clarify the test(s) used to determine if the business really meets the "but for" clause. I want to make sure that new businesses benefiting from Business Investment Grants are committed to Charlotte and its residents.
10) What makes you the best candidate?
During my first term as District Two representative, I have been responsive to my constituents and to the various issues facing my District and Charlotte as a whole, resourceful in solving problems and building needed community partnerships, and reliable in fulfilling my responsibilities with timeliness and integrity. I have truly taken care of home.
While my first term has been more tactical in resolving issues and problems and gaining the trust of my residents, my second term will focus on developing strategic initiatives to advance the overall condition of my communities.
We are One Charlotte, One Success. Everybody wins.
11) What else should voters know about you?
This is one of the most rewarding and toughest jobs I have ever had. My willingness to serve is about making positive change in my community using the gifts and talents that God has given me.
I have given my best and will continue to do that.