In the first part of this history lesson, I noted how John Odom as a board member of the non-profit, Passage Home, brought to City Council a Citizens Advisory Council meeting where the CEO of Passage Home was confronted with difficult and heated questions about how the non-profit was conducting part of its operation. One consequence of that Council meeting was that Odom called for an investigation of the CAC. All of this was described in detail in a 2015 News & Observer article.
That same article described an incident where I attended a meeting of the CAC chairpersons (collectively, the group of chairpersons is referred to as the RCAC). The purpose of my attendance was to give a brief presentation on height limitations near property lines – particularly, height limitations near residential property. However, my presence was protested. According to that same N&O article:
“The board (RCAC) originally scheduled time at a meeting for David Cox, a leader of the North Raleigh resistance to a Dunn Road development plan. Cox was to speak after Planning Director Ken Bowers.
This peeved Will Allen, the Hillsborough CAC chair. Allen blasted out a mass email arguing that Cox wasn’t a planning expert and that he was too politically biased to deserve a place on the agenda, calling it a misuse of city resources.
A few days later, Cox disappeared from the agenda, reportedly because of time constraints.
Yet on March 18, the Raleigh CAC found itself in a lengthy debate about whether to hear from Cox, who was eventually allowed to make his presentation about height restrictions near property lines under the new zoning ordinance. His talk was about as long as the debate that preceded it.
Afterward, Allen said it was proof the whole system has to go.”
Pause for a moment… Yes, the article says that the Hillsborough CAC Chairperson protested my request to speak to the RCAC.
Moreover, the article claims that the Hillsborough CAC Chairperson said that my request to speak was proof that the whole system has to go – I, as a citizen (albeit not a planning expert), had requested to give a presentation to fellow citizens who volunteer their service to a system that they presumably believe has value by giving a voice to citizens.
Fast forward to the present…
Today the Hillsborough CAC has a new Chairperson. Indeed, the Hillsborough CAC has an entirely new board consisting of three people that I greatly admire and respect as champions of citizen participation and neighborhoods:
Bob Geary, Chair
Will Hooker, Vice-Chair
Francesco Visone, Secretary
It does happen, apparently, that some people will volunteer to serve a system that they fundamentally do not believe in. Some go so far to try to destroy that system. The thought never seems to occur to make the system better. By 2015 the seeds had been sown within certain circles that the CACs are bad and must be eliminated. And, if not eliminated, then replaced with something else that is just effective at silencing the voices of citizens.
Sadly, that effort, I fear, is ongoing.
You can read the entire N&O article here: