Compiled by Jesse Wood
Rennie Brantz for Boone Town Council
Rennie Brantz is running for Boone Town Council. Below is a prepared candidate statement drafted when he filed his candidacy earlier this summer. Following the statement is Brantz’ responses to a variety of hot-topic questions at the Boone Area Chamber’s “Candidate Forum” held in early October.
Today, I a pleased to announce my candidacy for the Boone Town Council. As a member of the Town Council for the past seven and one-half years, I have worked hard to enhance the quality of life in Boone, to strengthen our sense of community, and to plan for the future. I have supported stronger environmental protections, improved community relations, appropriate economic growth, careful management of our limited resources, and preservation of our rich historical and cultural heritage.
In the process I have learned a great deal. I have learned to listen carefully to our entire community, to work hard to become informed, and to make careful, thoughtful decisions that benefit our entire community.
If re-elected, I will use my experience, vision, training, and common sense to advance a number of goals. Environmentally, I want to introduce more energy efficiency in town facilities., add more walking and biking opportunities, and preserve as many green spaces as possible. To strengthen our community, I will support agencies that meet the needs of the underserved, push for stronger town-gown cooperation, encourage more citizens involvement in municipal governance, and facilitate more neighborhood interaction. In the area of economic development, I will support renewed efforts to solve our traffic and parking problems, push for completion of the Howard Street project, back Boone’s water expansion project, and look for new economic development opportunities. To advance the preservation and celebration of our historical and cultural heritage, I will support the work of the Cultural Resources Board and Historic Preservation Commission.
There is so much to do and I am eager to take on the challenges that face our community. Working together, I think we can make Boone a more attractive place to live and work in, and to visit.
Video: Closing Statement from Candidate Forum
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?
Rennie Brantz: What does a history professor know about business anyhow. You might think that. However, for the last eight years on the council, I have been involved with a great deal of business activity, supporting the DBDA, helping to reorganize the DBDA, strengthening the downtown. A really vibrant downtown cultural life as added to the economy of our community by attracting people from all over the state and the region. I have also encouraged cooperation between the university and businesses in the town during this last eight years. Also been very much supportive of strengthening and updating our infrastructure in town to make business more efficient and more successful. Also, I have tried to streamline as best as possible our regulatory system to make it more efficient. So, those are some of my contributions.
- 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?
Rennie Brantz: I think the tensions result from some personal and political agendas in my mind that seem to have little to do with the quality of life in our community. They have developed over several years. Now one way to perhaps address that is to look at areas where we have common ground, where we can cooperate. Maybe smaller issues that we can resolve together before dealing with some of these contentious issues like sales tax revenue and how that should be distributed. I think I have always been a person that favors cooperation over conflict and sometimes you can want to avoid conflict but you just are not able to because of other persons are unwilling to do that. But I have always wanted to find common ground and I am still looking for that.
- 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?
Rennie Brantz: You can live without a lot of things, but you have to have water. Boone is running out of water. Last month the town council received three proposals from developers on apartment complexes requesting a total of 260,000 gallons of water per day. The town has 190,000 gallons of water a day to allocate, so we are running out of water. That’s not the question. It’s how to deal with this. We’ve faced enormous obstacles in this process. It’s been longer than we wanted. It should have been completed by this point. From Raleigh, from other sources: some obstacles. We are working forward on this. I think it’s going to come to fruition. We just have to push ahead with this project for the well being of our community and the future of our community.
- 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?
Rennie Brantz: The change in the sales tax distribution has harmed the town, and it was a political decision to punish the town for not caving in on a number of things including our property regulations in particular. Now what that means for the town is serious cutbacks in the kinds of things that we’ve supported in the past. For example, the Western Youth Network and the various kinds of agencies that serve underserved persons, children in particular. We have not been able to fund those agencies the same at any level because we have lost this revenue. I think the kinds of things we could do in Boone would improve enormously if we had access to that additional money. We wouldn’t have to cut back on the various public services that our available, the way we are going to have to under the current circumstances.
- 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?
Rennie Brantz: I think the UDO is in the process of being updated and streamlined and I think that is going to help businesses, help developers move forward with projects much more swiftly than in the past. With the high school property, there is more information that needs to be shared that the town went overboard in trying to help sell this property. We exempted it from certain regulations and tried in everyway we could to make it a deal. It didn’t go through because the person who had made the offer kept upping the ante, asking for more water, asking for more exemptions from regulations. It seems to me that even though that prospect has ended, the prospects of selling that property are very real. There are four or five organizations that are actually very, very interested in purchasing it, and I think it will happen in the next year.
- 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?
Rennie Brantz: I think downtown restrooms would be a great idea. I am for that along with you. We agree. But this issue of dilapidated buildings is a complicated issue. I think sometimes we expect the town to move in and clean it up and start building something new, but you have to respect the rights of ownership. The Scottish Inn, for example, has been a difficult situation because of legal aspects, because of changes in ownership, because of a number of things. Permits to tear the thing down have to be required from the state, some have to be required from even the federal government. It takes a long time frequently to do this, but if we do it right, then we will have new businesses that understand the rules that understand how to become partners within our community. So I think incentives are a great idea, but we also need to be aware of the difficulties and complications that face this kind of renovation.
- 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?
Rennie Brantz: I think we need to use our resources. I agree with a number of things people suggested. One is the DBDA and encouraging the DBDA to reach out and recruit and provide information for new businesses in town. The Chamber itself is also another tool in this whole drive to improve and increase the number of high-paying jobs. Again, I think ASU offers lots of opportunities in terms of developing high-tech industries or companies, small companies. I think it is really a training ground for young, aspiring professionals who want to develop, who want to stay here in this beautiful area and want to develop businesses of their own. I think there are resources in our communities. If we can encourage and support those resources, I think it will help.
- Moderator: What are your views concerning the Daniel Boone Parkway to relieve traffic congestion in the Town of Boone?
Rennie Brantz: Nobody has mentioned a fact that if there was a Daniel Boone Parkway somebody would have to pay for it. You are talking about many millions of dollars and I don’t know where that money would come from. I don’t think it’s a good idea. We need to address this traffic problem as best we can using perhaps the AppalCART and new routes for that, biking paths, walking sidewalks, more across town. We need to try to deal with a problem that isn’t going to be resolved. It’s one of those issues we are going to face. If Boone had just built four-lane roads along King Street in 1900 or something we wouldn’t be. But that wasn’t what Boone was. We’ve changed a lot and sometimes we can’t get away from the past. It haunts us no matter what we do.
- 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?
Rennie Brantz: The problem’s been here a long time and we’ve discussed it on council for several years, and I think at one point we were waiting for the state of North Carolina to issue a mandate on storm water. But that hasn’t come forward and I think we are going to have to take the lead on this and establish a storm water authority that begins to explore some kind of better approach than we’ve had so far, and I think that is in the works and unfortunately it’s going to be an increase in taxes if we go that route. But I don’t know how else we can undertake to resolve this issue of constant flooding that’s been going on here and seems to be getting worse.
- 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?
Rennie Brantz: ASU is a great university. Having been there employed there for all these years, I know that and can say that the opportunities, ASU has been a motor force for development in Boone and has a brought expertize. Maybe not as much as suggested that we could handle every problem that comes along, every study that needs to be done. However, there is a lot that is being done by faculty members on ASU for the town of Boone, serving on committees, serving on the town council. The students here at Appalachian through organization like ACT, literally thousands of students do service projects that benefit the people of Boone, the community. This is an enormous asset. I think we are in better shape in our communications through the town and the university now. The fire truck that Andy mentioned was an important symbol of that kind of progress and cooperation between the university and the town.
- 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?
Rennie Brantz: I don’t know if any of you were downtown last Friday with the first Friday and all the people and the Appalachian Theatre were having tours through the theatre and all sorts of musicians on the street, the jones House was open for an exhibit. It was a vibrant, lively exciting downtown Friday evening. It seems to me if we could complete that Howard Street project, which I have supported from the very beginning despite everything and all the obstacles facing it, we could expand the vibrancy of our downtown enormously. Maybe it is a more modest kind of project. I think that has opportunities for our town, for improving the cultural life in our downtown area.