Charlotte mayoral candidate Jennifer Roberts on the issues

Jennifer Roberts Elevator Speech

Former Mecklenburg County commissioners' chair Jennifer Roberts explains why she should be Charlotte's next mayor.
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Former Mecklenburg County commissioners' chair Jennifer Roberts explains why she should be Charlotte's next mayor.

Name: Jennifer Roberts

What office are you running for? Charlotte Mayor

Party: Democrat

Neighborhood: Elizabeth

Political Experience: At-Large Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners (5 years as Chairman).

Family: Husband, Manley Roberts; Daughter, Montana; Son, Manley, Jr.

Work Experience: High School Math Teacher, 1982-1984; International Business Consultant, 1988-1990; Foreign Service Officer, US Dept of State, 1990-1993; AVP, International Corporate Banking, 1993-1997; Executive Director, Charlotte World Affairs Council, 1997-2002; Adjunct Professor, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, 2002-2008; Commissioner At Large, Mecklenburg County, 2004-2012; President, International House Board of Directors, 2013-present

Campaign contact: www.jenniferrobertsformayor.com, jennifer@jenniferrobertsformayor.com, 704-995-1757; Facebook: Jennifer Roberts for Charlotte Mayor; Twitter: @JenRobertsNC

1) Why are you running for office?

I am running for Mayor of Charlotte to expand economic opportunity into all corners of our city. To achieve this I will promote stronger schools and work to create new, good paying jobs for all Charlotte families. I have worked as a teacher and international business woman and I know that good schools and good jobs go together.

2) What would be your top priorities if elected?

▪ Opportunity. A 2014 study ranked Charlotte last in upward mobility among America’s 50 largest cities. Changing the inequality in our city begins with a dialogue and ensuring that voices from every community in Charlotte are heard, but it cannot end with discussion, we must take action. I will work to make sure that children from all over Charlotte can go to a good school and have the opportunity to get a good job and raise their families right here in Charlotte.

▪ Schools. Currently there is no group in Charlotte that coordinates and monitors after school programs for disadvantaged youth. Working closely with businesses, individuals and public groups, I will work with the community to raise the necessary money for all of our kids to have access to a safe and healthy school and after-school environment.

▪ Jobs. As Chairman of the County Commission, I helped create nearly 5,000 new jobs during the worst recession in decades. I will bring that same energy and focus to recruiting large and small companies from throughout the world to create jobs throughout Charlotte. I will also work with small businesses, start-ups, and women- and minority-owned businesses to make sure they have access to the resources they need for success.

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 was the only candidate for mayor this year to vocally support the proposed Charlotte ordinance extending non-discrimination protections to LGBT people in public contracting, services, and accommodations, including non-discrimination based on gender identity and gender expression. Discrimination is never right.

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?

We know Charlotte is growing fast and our roadways are strained. Toll roads are a viable option for relieving congestion but the process for constructing toll roads must be transparent. Given the controversy and poorly negotiated contract associated with the proposed I-77 toll lanes, I feel strongly that voters must have detailed project information early in the process. I am concerned about the lack of accurate projections and current information on whether new toll roads on I-485 and US 74 will reduce traffic congestion and improve the safety, speed, and reliability of vehicles on these roadways. Unless we see a detailed study clearly stating the benefits of the toll road option I prefer general purpose free lanes.

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?

Investing in sport’s infrastructure has resulted in positive economic impacts for Charlotte and our region. Our sport’s industry generates an estimated $2 billion a year for the local economy. I support the concept of bringing major league soccer to Charlotte but it must include finance options that maximize private funding while minimizing risk to taxpayers. I strongly hesitate to commit to a project without first getting the commitment of a team to locate here. I also want to hear from the Elizabeth community and Central Piedmont Community College about the potential impact on the surrounding neighborhood.

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 support taking this issue to the voters in a referendum. I think anyone who has ever driven I-77 during rush hour knows we need to expand and improve our travel options and I support letting voters decide through a referendum with a clearly defined project and a definitive start and end date for the applicable tax.

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?

Balancing growth with historic preservation has been an ongoing challenge for Charlotte. We must work closely with our neighborhoods and with the Historic Landmarks Commission on identifying which properties and neighborhoods are critical to preserve while focussing growth and development along our transit corridors.

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?

We must be an affordable city if we are to truly create opportunity for all people and I am very supportive of creating affordable housing options for our nurses, teachers, bus drivers and other Charlotte working families. I support adhering to area plans but there may be special cases where affordable, multi-family housing is a viable option in a neighborhood, especially in areas near our transit corridors and if the project preserves the character of the neighborhood.

9) Should the city change its guidelines for offering Business Investment Grants for companies considering expanding or relocating to Charlotte?

Business Investment Grants are an important tool in recruiting companies when competing with other states and cities. But we must protect taxpayers in this process with clear and strong clawback provisions that allow the city to recover investment dollars if the business receiving a grant does not perform to expectations. We must also include the strongest possible provisions for hiring Charlotte residents first, and for requiring that companies that receive grants utilize our local small businesses and women-and minority-owned businesses.

And while I will be a tireless advocate for recruiting companies to locate in Charlotte, I will also work to help our companies and businesses that are already here, making sure they have the information and resources they need to grow and prosper.

10) What makes you the best candidate?

There are three things that set me apart. I am the only woman in the race, I have extensive international experience and I have been a teacher.

11) What else should voters know about you?

As a wife and mother I know what Charlotte families are facing every day. As an international business woman and foreign service officer I know what companies are looking for in a city. I have also been a teacher and commissioner and have direct leadership experience working to make all of our kids’ schools better.

I was captain of the UNC Chapel Hill volleyball team my senior year and still enjoy playing sports and hiking with my family.

I am most proud of my work as co-chair of the committee that raised $8 million to build the shelter for domestic violence on West Boulevard and I continue to work to raise awareness about domestic violence and the shelter through my annual volleyball festival, now in its 6th year.