Residential address: 235 New Drive, 27103
Incumbent or challenger? Incumbent
Campaign website or blog: danbesse.org (link)
Occupation and employer: Self-employed lawyer
Previous elective experience(including election campaigns): Winston-Salem City Council, 2001-present
Endorsements: NC Police Benevolent Association, NC AFL-CIO and Triad Central Labor Council
Civic and volunteerexperience (including service on city commissions and boards): Boardof directors, National League of Cities, previously served on large citiescouncil; vice-chair, Winston-Salem Urban Area Transportation AdvisoryCommittee; board of directors, Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation;city council liaison to Ten Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness; ArdmoreNeighborhood Association; volunteer experience with Domestic Violence AdvocacyCenter, Twin City Track Club, Legal Aid Society of Northwest North Carolina andMediation Services of Forsyth County; appointed by governor to the NC CoastalResources Commission (1985-1993), NC Emergency Response Commission (1987-1992),NC Emergency Management Commission (1993-2005), NC Sedimentation ControlCommission (1994-2002); member, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship ofWinston-Salem
Education (highest degreeattained and name of institution): JD, UNC-Chapel Hill
Party registration: Democrat
Where were you born? Hickory
When did you move toWinston-Salem?1993
Paid consultants working oncampaign: None(as of July 1)
Campaign manager: None (as of July 1)
Treasurer: Jack H. Campbell Jr.
Articles about thiscandidate:
• Urban circulator, jobs and regional competition mark fault lines between candidates (link)
• Progressive councilman goes on offensive against Raleigh (link)
The majority of Winston-Salem City Council declined tointervene in Kalvin Michael Smith’s federal petition for a new trial althoughcitizens have requested that the city take responsibility for a flawed policeinvestigation that arguably undermined the judicial process leading to Smith’sconviction in the brutal beating of Jill Marker. What is your position on thismatter?
The council majority adopted a statementexplaining that the city council’s opinion on Mr. Smith’s habeas corpuspetition was not legally relevant to the federal court’s consideration. That islegally correct. However, I supported going one step further and explainingthat the council did not oppose Mr. Smith’s request. I subsequently wrote, andco-signed with the mayor, a letter to Attorney General Roy Cooper expressingour personal views that public confidence in the administration of justicewould be better served by a full review of Mr. Smith’s claims on their meritsby the federal courts.
The distinction between taking that personalposition, and an attempt to intervene as the city council in the federal case,is two-fold: One, the city council as a politically elected legislative bodyhas no business attempting to intervene in individual criminal justice cases.There is enormous potential for political abuse in such attempts. Two, theweaknesses in the case against Mr. Smith were known, or were discoverable, byhis attorney at the time. In my view, the primary question for appellate reviewin Mr. Smith’s case should be whether he received adequate assistance ofcounsel in his defense.
Finally, I believe that the key responsibilityof the current city council in this matter was to review whether improvementsin police investigatory procedure have been made to address the problems thatappeared in the Silk Plant Forest case. We also should make available to thecourts and the case parties all relevant evidence turned up by that review. Thecity has taken both of those actions.
Do you support the proposed Urban Circulator (streetcar orenhanced bus) that would connect Baptist Hospital and East Winston throughdowntown? Please explain why or why not.
I support developing an Urban Circulator forWinston-Salem. Properly designedand located, modern streetcar systems are powerful economic growth magnets forlarge and mid-sized cities. Theexperience of other cities around the nation, including Portland, Memphis,Little Rock and Tampa, prove that they work to attract new development, taxbase and jobs to cities that install them. Return on investment in modernstreetcar systems ranges from 14 to 1 in Little Rock, to 34 to 1 in Portland.That’s because fixed rail attracts dense new commercial and mixed-usedevelopment to locate nearby. Environmentally, a streetcar system is also apowerful anti-sprawl tool. By attracting new development to the urban center,it draws it away from eating up green space at the edges of the city. Ofcourse, a key question has to be how to finance the system. I am committed toseeking ways to make it pay for itself and return financial gains to our wholecommunity.
City council has focused on revitalizing downtown over thepast 10 years, most recently approving the first entertainment district in thecity. Should the city continue to promote intensification of shared commercialand residential uses in downtown or slow growth to protect existing businessesand homeowners?
Downtown is one of our chief economic engines,creating new tax base and jobs to benefit our entire city. Existing businessesshould benefit by continued growth of economic activity and customer base in thedowntown/central city area. Residents in a downtown area are usually thosedrawn to living in a more active and lively environment. There are plenty ofother great neighborhoods in our city for residents who enjoy a slower pace anda more purely residential home environment.
While downtown is vibrant and beautiful, areas to theimmediate north and east are uninviting, underdeveloped and lacking inpedestrian-scale retail amenities. What, if anything, should be done to extendthe vitality of downtown into outlying areas?
Downtown has a unique role to play in buildingthe social and economic vitality of our entire city, but the other parts of ourcommunity deserve individual, focused attention as well.
There are two particular approaches I advocateand use: 1) Residential neighborhoods need individual attention to their issues(safety, parks and amenities, streets and sidewalks, housing quality). I workwith neighborhood associations in my district, encourage their formation,ensure that they have direct access to city departments and services, andensure that neighborhood infrastructure and service needs are attended to. Isupport similar efforts citywide. 2) Existing older commercial areas also needindividualized attention, including careful investment of city resources inimproving adjacent public-street and pedestrian infrastructure to leveragebusiness investment. Our RUCA (Revitalizing Urban Commercial Areas) programfocuses on this.
What role should city council play in the Business 40improvement project, including recommendations for traffic alignment throughdowntown when the project is completed?
We’re working with the state Department ofTransportation to ensure that local voices are heard in the selection of theexits to retain and improve as permanent gateways into our downtown. We’re also pushing to ensure that thesurface street routes around downtown are made ready to handle additionaltraffic while Business 40 is closed during construction. Finally, we’ll pressfor the fastest, most efficient completion of construction possible.
What is your position on the use of incentives to promoteeconomic development? If you support incentives, why? If not, what other toolsdoes city government have for promoting job growth?
Unfortunately, incentives have become anecessary tool to compete effectively for new economic projects that are mobile— that is, those which can select from multiple locations in other cities andstates. In evaluating incentives packages, I will only support those which morethan pay for themselves in net return to our taxpayers, and which provide netnew local jobs and investment. More critical than incentives to our overalleconomy and job growth is our maintenance of good local infrastructure,services, and quality of life. That means maintaining and improving ourtransportation system, water/sewer/stormwater systems, public safety, parks andrecreation, and other services and amenities.
What is your proudest achievement?
In my career overall so far, it has been helpingto negotiate the writing and adoption of North Carolina’s wetlands conservationrules. They’ve helped protect clean water and critical ecological habitat in ourstate for the past 15 years. In Winston-Salem so far, it has been improvementsto our transportation system in new greenways, sidewalks, bike lanes, andintersection safety. I’m still working for more!
What’s your favorite way to unwind in Winston-Salem?
Running and walking on our greenways, in ourparks, and around our neighborhoods.