As mayor, DaQuanta Copeland would focus on those struggling amid Raleigh’s rapid growth

The second of three columns on Raleigh’s mayoral candidates.

Much of the political debate in Raleigh revolves around accommodating the people crowding in, but DaQuanta Copeland is running for mayor to help those who are being crowded out.

Many see growth as bringing jobs, tax revenue and amenities, but Coleman says growth is also driving up rents, gentrifying Southeast Raleigh and forcing low- and even middle-income residents to move out of the city even as they continue to work there.

“The natives are being pushed out,” she said.“Our city is very welcoming to newcomers without supporting those who are already here.”

A resident of Southeast Raleigh for 25 years, Copeland, 42, has watched the historically African-American area adjacent to downtown lose its naturally affordable housing as older residences are replaced by new apartments and homes. She’s not opposed to growth, but she thinks it shouldn’t come at the expense of those who cannot afford to keep up with the city’s rising cost of living.

“We can’t help the fact that Raleigh is continuing to grow,” she said. “There’s no way to tell someone, ‘Don’t move here.’ But what we can do is stop waving the flag and advertising that you should ‘come here, come here’ when we still have so many homeless people who are here.”

Copeland is vice chair of the Wake County Health and Human Services Board, a panel that advises the county on community needs. She works at the College Foundation of North Carolina, which promotes access to education and assists students with applying to and paying for college.

A single mother and a renter, Copeland said she speaks for a portion of the city’s population who are struggling, even as home values increase and new office towers and apartment buildings rise across Raleigh. “It’s time for us to have one of us in office, someone who knows what it feels like to be despaired, to not know how to locate resources, to struggle, to need to maneuver, to need to budget a little different,” she said. “We need that and that’s my motivation.”

Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin has celebrated growth while overlooking its effects on people who are just getting by, Copeland said. But Copeland isn’t running only for one part of the population or one part of the city. She said she is running to be a mayor who sees all sides of the city.

“There are homeless teachers out there, police and firefighters who can’t afford to live in the city where they risk their lives everyday,” she said. “It’s deeper than a Southeast Raleigh situation. Southeast Raleigh has its own issues, true, but this is a citywide issue.”

Baldwin and the City Council members say they have been responsive to the city’s low-income residents. They point to the recent passage of an $80 million affordable housing bond and a new bus rapid transit system that will run along New Bern Avenue through Southeast Raleigh. But Copeland said the income formula for affordable housing still leaves many lower-income people ineligible. Meanwhile, the new rapid bus system may only speed gentrification along the New Bern Avenue corridor.

The city government would do better if it listened better, she said.

“To continue to build for our future and not protect or enhance our present is not beneficial,” Copeland said. “So bring the people back into the room to communicate and find our where we need the help, who needs the help and help them the way they need will be the only way we can truly turn the situation around.”

Mayor Baldwin has a clear advantage in name recognition and fundraising over her two challengers, Copeland and Terrance Ruth, but Copeland thinks she is tapping into the stronger political force – a sense of unease with the speed and inequity of the city’s growth.

“At this point, the hurt we are facing in Raleigh is not just a Black and white thing. It’s not just a low-money or no-money situation anymore,” she said. “We are hurting as a city.”

Associate opinion editor Ned Barnett can be reached at 919-829-4512, or nbarnett@