Times of Change

(On the decision to appoint At-Large Councilor Russ Stephenson to the GoTriangle Board of Trustees)

Every new City Council brings change. Change happened after the 2015 election when Corey Branch, Dickie Thompson, and I joined the Council. And change continued after the 2017 election with Nicole Stewart and Stef Mendell joining Council. Prior to 2015 Kay Crowder had served only part of a term. Compared to 2013 all but two of the members of Council are new.

After the current Council was seated, we began discussions regarding assignments to boards and commissions. These discussions were happening as early as January with some of them documented in the January 9th City Council minutes regarding transit:

Councilor Stephenson expressed the opinion that Council should have a stronger voice in ensuring that planning for transit is in sync with the current Council’s vision. GoTriangle was specifically cited and Councilor Stephenson noted that getting transit funding and projects rolling out is painfully slow. Councilor Stephenson asked about accelerating the process of getting service on the ground. Council specifically discussed the Raleigh Transit Authority, TPAC, CAMPO, and the GoTriangle board and Council’s memberships and relationships to these organizations.

Since January individual Council members have continued to review the memberships of these organizations. Councilor Branch serves as liaison to the Raleigh Transit Authority, Mayor McFarlane serves as member of the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) that oversees roads and highways,  and Councilor Thompson serves on the Airport Authority. TPAC (Transit Planning Advisory committee) is a staff-level advisory committee. The only regional transportation or transit organization that Raleigh does not have Council representation is GoTriangle (formerly known as the Triangle Transit Authority).

From the GoTriangle website:

GoTriangle is governed by a 13-member Board of Trustees. The region’s principal municipalities and counties appoint ten (10) members to staggered four-year terms. The North Carolina Secretary of Transportation appoints three (3) ex officio nonvoting members. By law, the Board of Trustees is authorized to make decisions and enact policy for the agency.

Representation of municipalities and local governments by elected officials is as follows:

  • Cary: Jennifer Robinson, Cary Council Member
  • Chapel Hill: Michael Parker, Chapel Hill Council Member
  • Durham County: Ellen Reckhow, Commissioner
  • Durham County: Wendy Jacobs, Commissioner
  • City of Durham: Steve Schewel, Mayor
  • Orange County: Mark Marcopolos, Commissioner
  • Wake County: Sig Hutchinson, Commissioner
  • Wake Forest: Vivian Jones, Mayor

Appointed by the Secretary of Transportation:  Valerie Jordan, Nina Szlosberg-Landis, and Andrew Perkins, Jr.

The City of Raleigh had no Council representation and the majority on Council decided to appoint At-Large Councilor Stephenson. Moving to this decision was no secret. Raleigh is limited to two positions on the Board of Trustees. Given that Mary Ann Baldwin had been a member since 2009, was previously Council’s representative but gave up her seat on Council, it was logical to replace Ms Baldwin with Mr. Stephenson.

I think it is unfortunate and, frankly, unfair for Ms. Baldwin to publicly characterize this decision as political retribution. I have had no personal conflict with Ms. Baldwin. On the issues of the day such as granny flats we mostly agree.  I acknowledge that I have been a much stronger supporter of protecting neighborhoods from the negative impacts of commercial development. However, any differences of opinion on these or other issues certainly do not rise to the level of exacting political retribution.

City Council did change in 2015 and again in 2017. More than 90 million dollars a year are now being collected for transit. In my view it is important that this Council’s direction be represented well and that those tax dollars be spent responsibly and in a manner that reflects that values and goals of the current Council and the electorate.

Like Ms. Baldwin, Councilor Russ Stephenson is an At-Large Councilor elected by all the citizens of Raleigh. As an architect and urban planner Mr. Stephenson has long been involved in transit. He is well qualified to represent Council’s interests on GoTriangle’s Board of Trustees.

Councilor Stephenson’s qualifications include:

  • Professional urban design and planning experience for communities from Virginia to Florida including work incorporated in Raleigh’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan (Stanhope Village Small Area Plan)
  • Received NC American Planning Association awards for multiple town plans
  • As Planning Commissioner in 2003-2005, led efforts to draft Raleigh’s first Transit Oriented Development (TOD) Ordinance
  • Since elected to Raleigh City Council in 2005, led every Council discussion on transit and land use, including transit and land use elements of Raleigh’s 2009 Comprehensive Plan and Raleigh’s 2013 Unified Development Ordinance
  • Directly responsible for incorporating “Complete Streets” policies in Raleigh’s Comprehensive Plan to promote multi-modal mobility.
  • Directly responsible for incorporating all transit modes in the UDO’s “Infrastructure Sufficiency” standards

It is my honor to support Councilor Stephenson’s appointment to the GoTriangle Board of Trustees.

Thank you.

David Cox, PhD
Raleigh City Council, District B