Today is the last meeting of the 2017 Raleigh City Council. As I look back on the past two years, I realize that together we have accomplished much.
- We have made City Council and city government more transparent and accessible with televised and video recorded work sessions and free parking for those who attend our public meetings. Our weekly manager updates are now posted and publicly available on the city’s website.
- We reached decisions on backyard cottages and short term rentals ending years of stalemate.
- We regulated scooters allowing them as an alternative means of transportation while respecting our pedestrians, particularly our elderly and disabled.
- We supported numerous neighborhoods with conservation overlay districts.
- We established the Oberlin Village Historic Overlay District.
- We established the first on-street accessible parking downtown.
- We approved our first affordable housing projects paid for by our dedicated 1 cent property tax.
- We revised our sidewalk petition process and now consider pedestrian generators such as schools and parks when prioritizing sidewalk projects.
- We tightened the rules regarding stormwater runoff.
- We approved the Dix Park Master Plan ensuring that the park will be realized without commercial development in the park.
- We stopped the practice of granting variances to our forestation rules to protect our watersheds.
- We reaffirmed Raleigh’s unique institution of citizens engagement, our Citizens Advisory Councils and strengthened them under the leadership of RCAC Chair Shelley Winters and the dozens who volunteer their time and talents to lead and manage them.
We accomplished much. But much more remains to be done. We need an affordable housing bond that will allow the city to acquire land for future affordable housing. We need to advocate for help from the state legislature to require including affordable housing particularly when large residential projects are constructed. We should no longer be complacent with the construction of hundreds to thousands of units solely for the wealthy. And we should no longer be complacent with laws that allow the easy eviction and displacement of large populations of city residents as a tool and precondition for new construction.
We need to address our homeless population and those living in hotels and motels. We need to ensure that every child in Raleigh has a safe and healthy home. We need to end the days of school busses picking up and dropping off thousands of children at Motel 6, the Budget Inn, and others along Capital, New Bern, and elsewhere.
We need to protect our environment. We need a regional policy and a regional board for planning and deciding our resource needs including our needs for stone. We need a regional approach to deciding if we need additional quarries, how large they should be, how they are operated, and where they should be located. Such decisions have far reaching environmental and community impacts. These decisions should not rest with bodies such as the Airport Authority whose charge is to fly planes and passengers and not to protect our environment or manage our resources.
We have entire census tracts in southeast Raleigh that census records say are largely devoid of young black men. Either they have hidden from the census takers or are in jail. Either way this is an unacceptable situation and we need to find solutions that encompass education, jobs, and community support. We can no longer continue to lose generations of young people to poverty and crime.
Raleigh is a wealthy city . Let us move beyond airbnb, backyard cottages, and scooters and continue our work to make Raleigh a city for everyone.
I thank my colleagues for their incredible service and dedication and the privilege it has been to work with them. And, I look forward in a few days to working with the incoming Council to meet the many challenges that lie ahead.