Name: David L. Howard
What office are you running for? Charlotte mayor
Neighborhood: Steele Creek
Political Experience: I have served as an at-large Charlotte City Council member since 2009. I currently chair the council governance and accountability committee, and am a member of the intergovernmental relations and environment committees. I formerly chaired the council transportation and planning committee and serve as the alternate council representative for the Charlotte Regional Transportation Planning Organization (CRTPO). I have served as the co-chair of the Transit Finance Working Group alongside Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain since 2013. Although not elected positions, I also have served or currently serve on the following quasi-governmental/policy boards: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission – Past Chair; Mecklenburg Planning Coordinating Committee – Chair; CONNECT Sustainable Growth Cabinet – Past Co-Chair; NBC LEO Board of Directors – First Vice President; North Carolina League of Municipalities Planning and Environment Legislative Action Committee – Past Vice-Chair; The ‘Committee of 21’ Road Funding Solutions Committee; Mecklenburg County Environmental Policy Coordination Committee; Urban Land Institute – Charlotte Council; Mecklenburg Union Metropolitan Planning Organization (MUMPO).
Family: Wife (Mary Walker-Howard), three daughters, one son, two grandchildren
Work Experience: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership, senior vice president of special initiatives and public policy, 1997-present.
1) Why are you running for office?
I'm running because I believe that increased opportunities in Charlotte should extend to everyone willing to work for them. I love this city because it has helped shape who I am and because it provided opportunities to this child of a single mom who was raised on the west side of Charlotte. I graduated from West Charlotte High School, Central Piedmont Community College and UNC Charlotte. Charlotte is where I got my first job, got married and it's where my wife and I are raising our kids today. I recognize that it's getting harder to get by, let alone get ahead. I'm running for Mayor of Charlotte to change that.
2) What would be your top priorities if elected?
▪ a. JOBS: At the heart of everything I work for on council, and will work for as mayor, are jobs. Education is about preparing our children for the jobs of the future. Transportation solutions create jobs right now. Economic development creates jobs now and down the road. As it relates to crime and property values, jobs give people with no way out hope. Please see more on this in question 9 below.
▪ b. TRANSPORTATION/TRANSIT: We must have transportation systems that are modernized for our companies and residents who depend on them. That means pressing forward to build out a holistic system for cars, light rail, bikes and pedestrians as outlined in the Transit 2030 plan. I served as chair of the transportation and planning committee my first four years on council, and have been filled with pride as our own U.S. Secretary of Transportation, former Mayor Anthony Foxx, has pointed to projects I had the privilege of working on with him as examples of successful transportation solutions. While still here in Charlotte, he appointed me as co-chair of the Transit Finance Working Group alongside Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain. Together we’ve led a team of elected officials, staff and stakeholders over the past two years to develop innovative funding solutions that will allow us to develop public-private partnerships that move us closer to our transportation build-out. A vibrant, well-planned transit system is vital to everything: economic development, jobs, being an international city and more.
▪ c. TRANSFORMING THE EAST-WEST SIDES: To fully strengthen this city, we have to turn the east and west sides - where families have often felt forgotten both before and after the recession - into centers of opportunity. They need to know that that their city is working to provide every neighborhood with development that equates to good paying jobs and an economic development plan for the next few decades, not just the next few months or years. In more technical terms, that means working with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Department on policies that promote quality redevelopment and working with business and community leaders to bring strong economic development opportunities to those areas.
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?
It is absolutely wrong to demonize or discriminate against anyone. As mayor, I will lead and continue a thoughtful and open dialogue that moves us towards an inclusive and welcoming future for all residents of Charlotte. During the transgender bathroom issue, I received thousands of e-mails on this issue in fewer than seven days. I tried, as much as I could, to speak with a broad cross-section of our citizenry. I tried my best to synthesize all of the information I received and act in the best interest of all of our citizens, and will continue to do so.
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?
Of course I would prefer general purpose lanes everywhere. However, with our state having the second largest road network in the country, we have real pressures as it relates to growth and our infrastructure needs. In order to deal with this issue, we have to use an “all of the above” strategy. That has to include public-private partnerships and innovative financing approaches.
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 the leader of a 10-person delegation to the Barcelona Smart Cities conference last year (see #9 below), one of the opportunities we had was to attend an FC Barcelona soccer match when Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick against Sevilla to reach 253 La Liga goals, becoming the all-time top scorer in La Liga. Bringing international soccer to Charlotte was a major topic of conversation that day, and, as evidenced by the exhibition games here recently, is ongoing. I am fully supportive of the City of Charlotte, Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club of Charlotte and others’ efforts to make Charlotte a world soccer hub. It will benefit our city tremendously by opening pathways for international economic development (please see #9 below).
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?
b. TRANSPORTATION/TRANSIT: We must have transportation systems that are modernized for our companies and residents who depend on them. That means pressing forward to build out a holistic system for cars, light rail, bikes and pedestrians as outlined in the Transit 2030 plan. I served as chair of the transportation and planning committee my first four years on council, and have been filled with pride as our own U.S. Secretary of Transportation, former Mayor Anthony Foxx, has pointed to projects I had the privilege of working on with him as examples of successful transportation solutions. While still here in Charlotte, he appointed me as co-chair of the Transit Finance Working Group alongside Huntersville Mayor Jill Swain. Together we’ve led a team of elected officials, staff and stakeholders over the past two years to develop innovative funding solutions that will allow us to develop public-private partnerships that move us closer to our transportation build-out. A vibrant, well-planned transit system is vital to everything: economic development, jobs, being an international city and more.
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 have worked with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Housing Partnership for nearly two decades and was fortunate to have been the project lead for the Brightwalk community north of Charlotte on Statesville Avenue where the Double Oaks community was a “tear-down.” Brightwalk now is a highly-replicated national model of what redevelopment close to an uptown can be: mixed use housing with everything from workforce housing to single-family units selling for more than $250,000. At the same time, I do recognize the need for historic preservation and am a champion for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission and pioneers in that area such as Dr. Dan Morrill have done, and continue to do, to preserve the history of our city. In short, we must continually find the balance between old and new.
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?
Area plans are just that, plans. With our city growing as fast as it is, there are times when we have to balance citywide goals with growth and planning initiatives. I believe the best way to approach this issue is on a case-by-case basis.
9) Should the city change its guidelines for offering Business Investment Grants for companies considering expanding or relocating to Charlotte?
I’m proud of the measures I’ve taken on council to help bring increased economic development to our city, however I am also very aware that we need to do more. We can't stop until everyone who wants a job has a good paying job - a well-paying job that can support a family - because nothing is more important. We must support our small businesses that create jobs and our major industries such as banking, energy and healthcare that fuel the economy of our city. As a German Marshall Fellow, BMW Foundation Young Leader and the person who led a 10-person delegation to the Barcelona Smart Cities conference last year, I want to ensure Charlotte is in the same sentence as Berlin and Beijing, not just Atlanta and Raleigh. It means Charlotte continues its course to becoming not just one of America’s strongest cities, but an international city that continues to grow jobs by attracting and retaining international businesses small and large. To be an international city, we have to be a welcoming city that views all new people as new potential. We must invest in research and development so that we can create jobs today and well into the future. What currently separates Charlotte from global cities with strong economies is intentional leadership and a long-term commitment the fields of research and development. As Mayor of Charlotte, I will provide that intentional leadership by working with not only business leaders, but also UNC Charlotte and other area colleges and universities, to bring us cutting-edge technologies, facilities and the companies that rely on them. Doing this will help create jobs at all income levels in and around our region.
10) What makes you the best candidate?
My 22 years of experience on the planning commission, city council, nonprofit boards/committees and involvement in international leadership programs uniquely qualify me to lead the City of Charlotte as a regional, national and international powerhouse that it is poised to be in coming decades. We must create a city in which opportunity extends to every person in every neighborhood. Like many people in our city, I'm grateful for our growth as a city but concerned that it's getting harder for many folks to get by, let alone get ahead. My vision for the city is one in which we continue to grow and constantly improve. That means well-paying jobs, a plan for the next few decades, not just the next few weeks or years. It means transportation systems that are modernized for the residents and businesses that depend on them. It means safe streets, strong programs for our kids and a government that is ethical and accountable to the residents of our city.
11) What else should voters know about you?
In addition to the political experience listed above, some of my additional community/civic experience includes: Mothers of Murdered Offspring (MOMO) – Co-Founder, National Urban Land Institute – National Urban Community Advisor, National Urban Land Institute – Transit Oriented Development Working Committee, Charlotte Mecklenburg African American Community Committee (CMAACC), National African American Leadership Summit – representative of (then) Rep. Mel Watt, YMCA – Steele Creek Board of Directors; Belmont Community Development Corporation, Housing Charlotte 2007 Planning Committee, Mecklenburg County Human Services Council, Trinity Worship Center and Omega Psi Phi.