The City of Raleigh will hold elections for Mayor and City Council on October 6th.
Matt Tomasulo is a candidate for one of the two at-large City Council seats currently held by incumbents Mary Ann Baldwin and Russ Stephenson.
The DLA asked Matt a series of questions.
Here are his answers:
What factors need to be balanced in providing for downtown Raleigh’s growth as a vital, sustainable, creative environment for both residents and businesses?
Raleigh is a great place to live, to work, to play – but we can’t stand on the sidelines – we need to continue to challenge ourselves and keep moving Raleigh forward. I believe we can only do that with a city government that truly listens to its citizens. From speaking with residents, too many people feel disconnected from our city today – but they don’t have to be. For the past 5 years I’ve been traveling around the country, building a nationwide movement called Walk [Your City] that connects people to their communities, street by street and block by block. I learned that improving a city doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive – you just have to listen, to learn, to adapt. You just need the courage to take risks and approach challenges creatively.
I believe that fundamentally, cities aren’t about policies or projects – they’re about people. I’ve traveled the country and I’ve seen some incredible communities. But I’ve never seen anywhere with as much potential as we have right here in Raleigh.
Our city can do so much more to bring citizens into the conversation about how to turn our hopes and dreams of today into a city of tomorrow. There are conversations about bike sharing, sidewalks, patios, affordable housing, and transportation, where critical voices are missing. Raleigh leaders don’t have all the answers – and that’s ok. But what’s not ok is the way certain voices are not heard.
Urban planner Mike Lydon coined the term “tactical urbanism” to describe projects like your “Walk [Your City]” project. He suggests that “Instead of creating huge, costly 20-year master plans for civic improvements, cities can try a piece-by-piece “see what works” approach, incorporating public feedback.” How would you approach balancing your guerrilla pop up style with the traditionally risk-averse attitudes of city government?
Projects like mine, and other Tactical Urbanism projects are now becoming a tool to test, study and make longer term investments and impacts. The term I like is “test before you invest”. Despite the initial headlines, all of my work now is sanctioned and part of broader, health, safety and/or accessibility planning for pedestrians. As more information and decisions come to the table faster these days, this approach can begin to help government act faster, with lower risk, while achieving critical feedback and understanding faster.
What other ideas for citizen – initiated improvements and fixes would you promote if elected to a Raleigh City Council, at-large position?
There are a lot of grassroots projects happening right now in Raleigh. Some projects I am really appreciative of are the “cool walkings” work that Donna Belt is organizing in concert with the city, to provide temporary crosswalks as art where there are not any. This simple project is a great example of working WITH the city as a citizen to test something that could really grow across all corners of Raleigh. Additionally, a lot of the urban food projects, from community gardens to food trucks fit into this conversation for me as well. Folks across Raleigh know their neighborhoods well and see positive opportunities to improve them, and we have the opportunity to be a great partner in figuring out how we can do that at scale.
What three adjectives would you use to describe what you love best about downtown Raleigh, and what is needed most to further develop those aspects?
Community-driven: The quality of life, enthusiasm and support for “Raleigh” right now is at an all time high. People are engaged, care about where they live and where Raleigh is going. Its exciting to see so many folks contributing to neighborhood projects and putting real energy into making Raleigh a better place, and we need to continue supporting those efforts – whether it be a community garden or little retail shop.
Dynamic: So much is happening right now in Raleigh, it is an excited place to be. You can certainly feel the energy in Raleigh. The people here are excited and we have momentum. We need to keep up with that energy and need to make decisions by utilizing a test before you invest mindset – using data to confidently keep up with our changing needs at the pace of our changing city.
Pedestrian-friendly: The more infrastructure and opportunity that people have to ditch their car, the easier growth will be. The City has done a great job of providing infrastructure to increase the experience, safety, and accessibility for people on foot. Ground floor retails is starting to pick up and with more and more folks living downtown, we are starting to see some real street activity that brings the city to life. I’d love to see more investment in public space, particularly for the diverse neighborhoods that are developing in, around and outside of downtown.
Candidate’s website: www.mattforraleigh.com.