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Pro Sprawl Mayor wins Cary election


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Cary, NC voters have done a total 180 and elected a Pro Sprawl Mayor to replace their current smart growth mayor. This is bad news for Cary, an already sprawlopolis will now become even moreso.

Right next door in Raleigh, the voters elected a good smart growth council and mayor.

Full details below from today's News-Observer:

McAlister wins in Cary

Proponents of stronger growth take mayor, at-large council seat

By DEMORRIS LEE, Staff Writer

CARY -- Cary will move in a different direction, voters decided Tuesday. By choosing Ernie McAlister as their mayor over Town Council member Julie Robison, voters signaled that they want to loosen the reins on growth and turn more attention to the town's finances.

"It's been a long four months, with people working very hard to achieve this," McAlister said Tuesday night. "Clearly the support we got for our primary campaign message of fiscal responsibility was a message that resonated with Cary citizens."

Robison, 44, a public administration specialist, remains on the council, with two years left on her at-large seat.

McAlister garnered 8,700 votes, 54 percent, and Robison 7,501 votes, or 46 percent, according to final, unofficial tabulations from the Wake County Board of Elections.

Meanwhile, in his third attempt to win a seat on Cary's council, Michael Joyce defeated incumbent Harold Weinbrecht, receiving 8,062 votes, 52 percent, to capture an at-large seat. Weinbrecht received 7,305 votes, 47 percent.

In 1999, current mayor Glen Lang was elected on a slow-growth promise, and he delivered. In the early '90s, Cary was experiencing rapid population growth. Now the pace has slowed to a little more than 1 percent annually. Lang was eliminated in his bid for re-election in the October first-round balloting.

After retiring from a 24-year banking career in January, McAlister, 46, chose to run for office for the first time. He left the banking business after he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and found he couldn't maintain the 10- to 12-hour days the job demanded.

With the election of McAlister and Joyce -- both Republicans -- the council will have to decide how quickly to restart the town's growth engine. McAlister said Cary's high impact fees, which developers pay when they build, have slowed growth too much. Cary has the highest impact fees in the region.

During the campaign, Joyce, 42, an author and small-business owner, said developers should not be responsible for paying for infrastructure 10 to 20 years in the future, and for areas not affected by their projects.

McAlister also told voters the town is spending more money than it is bringing in, which ultimately would lead to higher taxes.

Although Cary enjoys three AAA bond ratings, the town's debt has jumped from $13.7 million in 2000 to an estimated $111.1 million today.

"Fiscal responsibility is not a message I dreamed up on my own," McAlister said. "It's a message I gleaned from others while contemplating running."

Weinbrecht, 47, a software developer who was first elected in 1999, said the "public has spoken."

"We have to respect the public's decision, and I will do my best to help Mike and Ernie get started. I will try to help them get going in their new roles and hopefully benefit the citizens of Cary. But I think the town of Cary is leaning more conservative now."

The local Republican Party took a keen interest in the race, with U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole recording a message on McAlister's behalf that was delivered by phone to Cary residents. The N.C. Republican Party PAC contributed $500 to McAlister's campaign. In addition, the Wake County Republican Party, along with the Wake County Young Republicans, set up phone banks for McAlister and Joyce.

"Cary is the sixth-largest city in the state," said Tracie Jordan, chairwoman of the Wake County Young Republicans. "There were a lot of folks in there that have been doing different things with growth and city government that hasn't really taken care of the city as a whole. The people we endorsed, their policies will reflect a broader spectrum of the community and will help the Cary area."

Voters said they had fiscal responsibility and growth on their minds when they went to the polls.

"I know they [McAlister and Joyce] are for growth, but they are for smart growth," said Chris Mondragon, 41, as he left the South Hills Baptist Church on Holly Springs Road. "Anybody that's been in an economy that's not growing knows it's better to be in an economy that's growing."

Cary has been the latter for most of the past two decades. In the 1990 Census, the town's population was 49,369. Today, there are an estimated 104,211 residents.

Linda Brown, 36, mother of a 2-month-old and a 2-year-old, said Robison would do a better job managing growth.

"Cary is getting huge, and we need some good direction," Brown said. "I liked Julie's style. She seemed extremely organized and qualified."

At the Cary Family YMCA, Larry Esbenshade was giving his daughter, Rachel, 17, an early civics lesson on voting. He took her to the polls with him. After casting his vote, Esbenshade said he wants the new mayor to follow up with what Lang "did with slow growth." Esbenshade would not say whom he voted for.

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I don't think that we can generalize that conservatives are the "bad" guys and liberals are the good ones, although this may seem to be the trend in urban planning. In Raleigh, we have many democrats/liberals who oppose good projects and conservatives who want them. The Oberlin Village was a classic case, even though some people may say that it was too big of a project for that area. The "good" guys (overwhelmingly democrats) went as far as dragging the nearby Afro-American community into their "battle", making a racial issue out of nothing; yes, I heard that too. Conservatives supported that project, while democrats defeated it. No, I don't think that either side can be labeled as good or bad, right or wrong. Cary is different story, altogether. The city has a good planning department, but they have allowed too much sprawl in their area. They want to escape the "stigma" of being a suburb, so I am not surprised they voted for someone who is pro-"growth"... whatever that means. If growth comes at the expense of the land, then it will be bad. On the other hand, if growth comes in the form of higher density and infills, then Cary may be going to the right direction. It won't take long to see the results.

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