Compiled by Jesse Wood
Andy Ball for Mayor
Andy Ball, a current Boone Town Council member, is running for mayor. Below is a prepared candidate statement drafted when he filed his candidacy earlier this summer. Following the statement is Ball’s responses to a variety of hot-topic questions at the Boone Area Chamber’s “Candidate Forum” held in early October.
Two-term Council member Andy Ball filed for Mayor of Boone today at the Watauga Board of Elections office. Ball, 30, brings leadership experience at Appalachian State University, advocacy on neighborhood and environmental issues, and service leadership on the Boone Town Council and in civic organizations. “The next few years are very promising for Boone,” Ball said, “and I’m asking for the opportunity to serve as Mayor to help lead the way.”
With his first election in 2009, Ball became the second ASU student to serve on the Boone Town Council. Councilman Ball studied Government and Public Policy at ASU, and has worked for years in the local hospitality industry and as an independent consultant. He was most recently elected 3rd Vice Chair of the North Carolina Democratic Party. Ball Serves on the Board of Directors of AppalCart Transit Authority, and PHARMN, a nonprofit collaborative supporting the Watauga County Farmer’s Market. Ball also serves as Council liaison on the Boone Transportation Committee and the Watauga Economic Development Commission.
In addition to the Mayor’s primary function as presiding officer of the Town Council, another role has been to establish and communicate a clear vision for Boone’s future, a discussion Ball sees many opportunities for. “As University enrollment steadily increases, new questions arise for Town leaders as to how we manage our resources, and plan our growth. We have to retain our small town culture and vibrant downtown areas, while making improvements to our transit infrastructure for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicle traffic. We must do more to protect our air and water quality, while encouraging more housing density closer to the University. These are important discussions, and they require a forward thinking Council and proven leadership to bring everyone in our community to the table.
“My goal is to find new ways to protect the quality of life for all those who live, work and study in Boone. Toward that end, residents can expect a continued commitment to environmental stewardship, ongoing water conservation measures, infrastructure investment including expanded sidewalk and bike lane routes, and a focus on protecting existing single family neighborhoods from incompatible development.”
“Mayor Clawson has set a tremendous example, and I will work to continue her advocacy for road improvements, more trees and green space, support for Boone’s cultural heritage, and a fiscally responsible approach to the budget.”
Ball has remained involved with the North Carolina League of Municipalities, being selected for their Local Elected Leaders Academy. He also serves as Deputy State Director for the Young Elected Officials Network, and as an elected delegate to the 2012 DNC in Charlotte, NC.
Video: Closing Statement from Candidate Forum
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CANDIDATE FORUM Q&A
- Moderator: Given the fact Boone operates a multi-million dollar budget, what is your business experience and how will that benefit you in this position and what’s your best financial experience as well?
Andy Ball: Thank you for the question. My business experience would be in the service industry here in the area. I have worked for nearly 10 years as a bartender as a server, working for tips, also in the management of those industries as well. Also, I have experience creating an environment in the town that’s conducive for relocation for businesses and being attractive community for families to relocate, and so I am very excited about continuing to work on those priorities and making the town a more business friendly place. The DBDA partnership we have and the reinvestment we made two years ago through the reorganization of that process as been extremely beneficial for our downtown community and I think that’s the way to go moving forward to.
- Moderator: Having witnessed disturbing and disruptive conflicts between the Boone Town Council and the Watauga County Board of Commissioners, what is your plan to work with other governing bodies with the best interest of the taxpayer and greater community in mind?
Andy Ball: A number of good points have made so far about just sitting down at a table and talking in a public setting. That is exactly what the town council proposed this past year to deal with the sales tax distribution issue. We wanted to meet in a public forum setting immediately after we had a mediated session to resolve the sales tax distribution issue with the county and the reason for a mediated session is that both parties get their ideas on the table and are able to come towards each other’s views and come with a compromise rather than just a public meeting, free-for-all where we don’t get anything accomplished because there are ideologies on both sides. The current leadership with the town and the county have vastly different views on the role of local government. That’s what precipitated this situation we are in. We have different constituencies. The town of Boone voters, Boone residents support a healthy environment, protected mountainsides, greenways and green space, sidewalks, bike lanes, a vibrant downtown and safe neighborhoods. And we are not going to hold Boone residents hostage, not going to hold our own ordinances hostage and give away protection for neighborhoods and communities based on county commissioners majority who has an ideology of a certain persuasion. The relationship I think will begin to improve when the town and county come to a resolution on the sales tax distribution issues, and on Matt’s point, the town and ASU relationship has never been stronger.
- Moderator: Do you support moving forward with New River intake project and if not what do you see as alternative plan to ensure adequate water availability for growth and development of the area?
Andy Ball: This project is not widely opposed by town voters because they approved it in 2008 with a referendum on the ballot by 73 percent of the vote. The Town of Boone residents and voters at that time decided and agreed with the town that water was needed for growth and everybody in the room and every developer can tell you water drives growth and all of you should know that two. The best sites of the 27 options considered was the site along the New River, where it is proposed. It is planned and in an environmentally responsible way, reducing noise output and blending in with the farmland in the community. We also added WS-4 level protections for high-level resource waters to the New River, so it added extra protection, so there is no measurable impact on the flow levels as well. The one request that we had of representative Jordan coming into his first term a few years ago was that he help us and partner with us on this project and support it. Then he introduced a kill bill for the project to stop it two years ago in the legislature and so that caused a lot of problems for us locally. In addition, I wouldn’t be in favor of handing this asset, 25 million asset, to an independent regional [water authority].
- Moderator: How do you see the change to the ad valorem sales tax distribution and the pending real estate revaluation impacting the town’s budget and how should it be addressed?
Andy Ball: On an annual basis, the town of Boone is responsible for bringing over 60 percent of the area’s sales tax in the area. We already feed the smaller communities and the county that sales tax money, so the switch to ad valorem ended with a $2 million shortfall in a $20 million budget for the town. It is a severe decrease there, representing more than 10 percent of our operating funds and we had to cut and cut and cut for infrastructure, for capital outlay, for all kinds of issues. We couldn’t fund any nonprofits as Rennie mentioned. We couldn’t do anything for sidewalks, bike lanes, none of that gets priority. This conversation needs to take place soon. It is very, very important for the future of the town and when you talk about cooperation, you really need to look at the situation and what happened. We marked 150,000 gallons per day for the old high school site. We revised the draft affordable housing ordinance to exempt the property and they still switched it.
- Moderator: The Chamber, of course, is very interested in what happens to business here in this community. How do you see the UDO impacting the business that currently operate in or wish to operate in the Town of Boone, for example, the old Watauga High School property?
Andy Ball: The 2030 smart growth plan, the master plan for the Town of Boone was passed in 2009, and the next two planning retreats, the town council had we instructed town staff to begin a massive overhaul of the UDO to begin streamlining the document, making it easier to use, easier to reference, easier to cross reference. You’ve got transitional zone, incredibly complex matters in that document. It’s a big process to do in-house, but we wanted to save a little bit of money and do that. It’s been two years since we commissioned that revision. Not five. And it does accomplish the goal of beginning to integrate our smart growth strategies of walkability of mixed-use properties of more density in town, bike-ability. All those things that we want as a community and into our development ordinance. The 2030 plan is just a plan, and we have to codify and make those principles into laws before we enforce them.
- Moderator: Many vacant properties exist in Boone what would seem desirable tracts and many on major roads near the center of town. What would you propose to help move these properties from eyesores to useful properties?
Andy Ball: We see blighted properties across town and reinstruct our building inspection department to go forward to inspect for any fire, building code issues and make sure property is safe for the public. We did so at Scottish Inn in the middle of town three years ago and successfully secured the property to make it safe for the area and pedestrians walking through. That property now has a contract is looking to develop fortunately. The Downtown Boone Development Association through the town provides services for folks who are looking at properties throughout downtown and list of available of storefronts in the downtown area. That’s a service town provides. Through Watauga Economic Development Commission, partnership with the town, there is an online resource that the county funds for identifying available commercial properties around the area. I am also in favor of incentives written into the UDO for redevelopment of brownfield sites. There are a lot in town and we need to do more about that. And I heard a lot about in the last two questions from candidates about UDO revisions and about how we need to make it more streamlined and make a lot of changes and suggested even the new draft may not be sufficient enough. Now is the time for public comment right now. So if you have suggestions, come into the planning department, come to a council meeting, come to a public hearing.
- Moderator: In the Town of Boone long-term plan related to economic development, it states area residents support different and more expanded economic activity only if it increases the opportunity for stable, higher-wage jobs and enhances the quality of life for existing residents. What specifically would you propose to do to accomplish this type of development?
Andy Ball: We do need to attract higher wage jobs to the area and that starts I think with what I think is the town’s central role in terms of business relations, which is creating a healthy and vibrant attractive community that is desirable for relocation for everybody. In 2012, we made the U.S. News list in Top 10 places to retire, great accomplishment for community. In 2007, Money magazine named us Top 10 places to live. ASU has gotten many, many accolades over the years for its programming. We need to do more to attract higher paying jobs, and we do that through investing in our community, infrastructure and our local needs.
- Moderator: What are your views concerning the Daniel Boone Parkway to relieve traffic congestion in the Town of Boone?
Andy Ball: The Daniel Boone Parkway proposed project does route traffic south of town and totally bypasses the Town of Boone with access points on 321 at the Elk Motel and then on N.C. 105 towards the intersection of 105 bypass. I was not in favor of this project years ago when mentioned, and still not in favor. I actually had to vote against the comprehensive transportation plan about three moths ago because this project was the highlight and featured in the plan. It may decrease the congestion in town if we can find ways to mitigate that. We can find ways to address parking, congestion and traffic. The bottom line on the parkway is it routes traffic around Boone. Whether stopping for gas, [inaudible], lunch, a show or whatever you are shopping for, we want your tax revenue. We talk about solutions of the town to increase its tax base and this is going to kill the tax base, so I don’t support the project at all.
- Moderator: In light of projected 10-20-100 year flood maps, what are your thoughts on surface water mitigation in the Town along U.S. 321?
Andy Ball: Surface water mitigation: We have had a serious and severe flooding in the community as you all are aware in the past couple years. It has led to injuries and more severe incidents in the town. I started a conversation with local business owners about eight months ago for starting a community conversation about surface water mitigation and what we do about this serious problem in our area. We have more impervious surface area than ever in town precipitated by development in downtown area and at ASU and we don’t have enough catchment systems, enough retention pools and enough infrastructure system built in to our storm water management plan that was recently revisited in 2007 to do that kind of catchment, to create this underground facilities so it can catch the water and retain for a while and release it gradually. It’s a conversation need to start in the community. It’s not a cheap solution. It will be an investment on the town’s part any track we go.
- Moderator: Share your vision on how you would like the town and ASU work together in the future. What major issues do you see htat need to be addressed and how would you work toward solutions?
Andy Ball: The ASU town has never been stronger in my opinion. Last year the town and ASU partnered on a ladder extension truck, on a purchase on a fire truck to reach the highest dormitory on the ASU campus. That was a great example of partnership between the two entities. The ASU student government president does serve as an ex-officio member of the town council. We encourage those dialogues often. I’ve served on university committee for years working with administrative officials and some of the toughest issues the university faces. I think those conversations are ongoing right now. We have a lot of work to do on this. We’ve done a lot so far. The town and gown have a partnership committee formed between the ASU Office of External Affairs and the town to approve relations. We also have internship programs in town manager’s office and also in the P&I Department among others.
- Moderator: Regarding Howard Street: You know the only change taking place in 22 years is a one-way road from Depot Street to Water Street. As a businessperson in this community, I am frustrated that there is an awful lot of talk regarding and not a lot of action. Comments?
Andy Ball: Ten years ago the town council recognized a safety need for pedestrians and an issue of congestion in the center of downtown on Howard Street. A study was commissioned and completed that involved the two-lane stretch from Appalachian to Water Street along Howard. It involved water and sewer improvements. It involved streetscape improvements, lighting, benches, new pavement and raised sidewalk and all of those amenities. We then sought ought the engineering and contract and sought out the easements for the property owners to give a couple feet of their project to help out on the project’s completion. To date, after about six or seven years of trying, at least four or five attempts we have gotten 11 of the 22 easements signed over and that is not enough buy in from the Howard Street property owners to make this project happen. In that time materials cost have increased, the cost of the project and estimate have increased, so we are looking at $5 million to $7 million project for two blocks. We have a $22 million budget annually, it isn’t feasible to do in one year in one special project, have to finance that project over time. There hasn’t been a feasible way especially without having Howard Street property owners on board to give this project underway.