Improving Southeast Raleigh is focus of City Council’s District C race

Taken directly from News & Observer. Read more here:

The two candidates who want to represent Southeast Raleigh on the City Council have different ideas about how to help the area.

Incumbent Eugene Weeks, who has represented District C on the council since 2010, will face challenger Corey Branch in the Oct. 6 race.

Both candidates say the city has neglected Southeast Raleigh. The area has not seen the growth and economic development that other parts of the city have experienced.

Weeks, 75, said he has been pushing for improvements, but the process can be slow.

Branch, 37, said Southeast Raleigh shouldn’t have to wait any longer to catch up.

“Sometimes we’ve looked at the major problems and forgot about the smaller things,” said Branch, who challenged Weeks for a council seat in 2011. He came in third in the race, winning just over 1,200 votes.

Branch has spent his whole life in Southeast Raleigh, except for his time in college at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro. He said he has watched businesses leave, emptying shopping plazas.

Now, Branch’s campaign isn’t focusing on keeping Raleigh vibrant or promising smart growth, like candidates in other districts. He simply wants Southeast Raleigh to catch up.

He envisions a place that is appealing to developers and businesses. He’d like to see a major chain grocery store.

Weeks has been an advocate for Southeast Raleigh for more than 20 years. In the early 1980s, when he was a teacher at Broughton High School, he attended City Council meetings to lobby for the neighborhood.

In 2010, the council appointed him to fill the seat left vacant by James West, who became a Wake County commissioner.

As a council member, Weeks doesn’t take unexpected or controversial votes. He likes to take his time on issues, gathering public input along the way.

“The city might not be as fast (as people want), but at least we’re listening,” Weeks said.

He said the key to building up Southeast Raleigh will be convincing investors that the area is ripe for development and business.

“The city is not doing what they can to help promote economic development in Southeast Raleigh,” Weeks said, faulting staff for not touting the potential of undeveloped land.

Affordable and workforce housing is another issue in District C, which also spans East Raleigh.

The city owns dozens of plots of land in the district, and Weeks and Branch both say that land should be used for affordable housing.

But the city needs to be careful not to fill District C with every affordable housing project it takes on, Weeks said.

“We need it,” he said. “But it shouldn’t be confined to certain districts.”

Branch said he was less concerned about where affordable housing is located and more interested in the ways Raleigh will fund and build it.

He said bringing in nonprofits is a good way to help with costs. DHIC, the nonprofit that redeveloped Walnut Terrace, has also started the process of revamping Washington Terrace, an affordable housing community in East Raleigh.

But projects are still too expensive, poorly located and burden the city’s low-income population, Branch said.

The recently redeveloped Walnut Terrace, which has income-based and market rate units, starts its market-based rent at $775 a month.

“$700 a month is a lot of money for people making $30,000 a year,” Branch said.

Mechelle Hankerson: 919-829-4802@mechelleh

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