“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves” – Thomas Edison
Much has happened since I took office in December 2015. Here are some highlights including the positions that I have taken.
Early in 2016 Council began work on the next year’s budget. I became aware that the pay for Raleigh’s police, fire fighters, and emergency workers had fallen seriously behind. Despite being the Capital City and the largest community in Wake County, Raleigh had some of the lowest salaries for first responders.
Raleigh is routinely recognized as one of the best Cities in America. And Raleigh’s police and fire departments are rated at the top giving Raleigh some of the best accreditations in the Country. Why, then, had Raleigh fallen so far behind in compensating the very people that we rely on to protect our lives, our homes, our property, and our loved ones? More importantly, what are we going to do about it?
The data that was available by mid 2016 made it obvious that corrective action was long overdue. A consultant had been conducting a study for more than a year and was expected to take another year to complete. Nevertheless, I felt it was important to boost compensation until the pay study could be completed with a one time bonus. I made a motion to fund the one-time bonus that received four votes on Council. However, it did not receive the necessary minimum of five votes to pass.
You can learn more about my proposal and the resulting vote at this link:
Today the pay study is nearing completion and the results are confirming that adjustments are necessary for a system that has stagnated for many years. I fully support making those adjustments to the City’s compensation system and taking the steps necessary to ensure that our system remains current in the future.
The key to community or citizens engagement is citizens. I am a strong supporter citizens engagement and Raleigh has a world-class institution – its citizen-led Citizens Advisory Councils. Begun more than forty years ago, the advisory councils (or CACs) have grown in number to where there is now 19.
The City supports the CACs by providing meeting space usually in conveniently located community centers and an annual budget of $1000 per CAC. Otherwise, the CACs are self-directed. All citizens who live within the boundaries of a CAC are, by default, members of the CAC.
The Citizens elect a Chairperson and officers who serve as meeting facilitators and help the CAC fulfill its role of providing information from the City to the public and, importantly, conveying feedback from citizens to the City and to City Council.
Feedback from citizens on rezoning requests, growth, and development has played an important, central role in Raleigh. As Raleigh continues to grow and bigger development proposals intrude on neighborhoods, it is reasonable to expect that citizen feedback will become increasingly important. CACs provide citizens an important avenue to discuss these issues and make recommendations to Council – often in the form of a vote to either support or reject a proposal.
My pledge has been and continues to be to support citizen engagement and Raleigh’s Citizens Advisory Councils. To that end, we do not need heavy Council oversight. Citizens engagement works best when it is citizen led and directed. I will continue to support this first-in-class institution and provide it with the latest tools and resources to make it even better for the future.
Growth and Development
The Aspens – a new residential community is coming to Dunn and Falls of Neuse Roads. The site of the infamous Publix rezoning that brought about the largest Citizen Advisory Council turnout in Raleigh’s history will soon become home for seniors aged 62 and older. In 2014 a rezoning proposal for a grocery anchored shopping plaza in the middle of numerous neighborhoods was widely opposed and was key to my election to City Council. After nearly two years, the developer pulled the request for rezoning. Shortly thereafter a new developer brought forward a proposal for much needed housing for seniors. With widespread neighborhood support I supported and voted in favor of rezoning for this development proposal. As a result, we can expect ground breaking later in 2017. And, yes, citizen engagement works and has resulted in a project that fits with the community’s vision.
At Triangle Town Center I supported and voted for two development proposals. The first at the intersection of Old Wake Forest Road and Triangle Town Blvd will be for approximately 400 apartments. The second at the intersection of Triangle Town Blvd and Sumner Blvd will be for a new hotel. Triangle Town Center is Raleigh’s newest regional shopping center. The apartments and hotel will bring several hundred new residents and visitors within walking distance of existing shopping. Long-term it is my hope that the Triangle Town area will become a more mixed use, life-style center that combines homes, shopping, leisure, and recreation all within one convenient location.
I support development proposals that are supported by the community and add not only financial value but also add to our quality of life.
Throughout the past year we have seen a significant increase in rezoning requests for short-term storage facilities within neighborhoods and near schools. I (along with others on Council) have not supported these requests including one on Six Forks Road, one on Creedmoor Road, and one on Dixie Forest Road near Litchford. I share the opinions of many that short term storage facilites are not suitable uses for these locations. Unfortunately, in some cases such as on Sunrise Avenue and Sinclair Drive it was not possible to prevent their construction due to actions of previous Councils. But in the future citizens should not face the “industrialization” of their neighborhoods with these types of facilities.
There also has been a rezoning request to convert what is currently 17 acres of residentially zoned land into Commercial Mixed Use – Raleigh’s highest intensity zoning district for commercial development. I have opposed this proposal located on Raven Ridge road. This currently residential land abuts single famiy homes in a number of adjacent neighborhoods and is located in the Richland Creek watershed protection area that is designated to protect the Neuse River. In my view, the proposal for high intensity retail that promises to bring 10,000 vehicle trips a day changes too dramatically the character of the area and negatively impacts the watershed to an unacceptable degree.
As a Council Member my goal is to represent the interests of Raleigh’s citizens and the goals that they have for their homes and neighborhoods. It is fine to propose new developments. I support those proposals that win the support of Raleigh’s citizens but will not support those that do not.
Health and Safety
Safety on our roads is paramount. Many people in Raleigh ride bicycles and ensuring that they can do so safely is why I support bike lanes. At the same time cyclists must respect the State’s traffic laws and recognize that they are subject to the same rules of the road as motorists. Working together responsibly we can safely share the road.
Far too often we do not address dangerous traffic situations until deaths or serious injury occur. We need ways to better predict problem situations and take action before lives are lost.
As Raleigh’s population increases, new roads are constructed and others are widened. What were once safe intersections become dangerous with increased traffic. We have far too many memorial wreaths along our roads. I am committed to ensuring that our roads are as safe as we can make them. As an example, I have supported residents’ requests for traffic lights at Spruce Tree Way and Common Oaks Drive.
I have also supported the installation of a guard rail system on North New Hope Road. Since 2002 there have been 20 crashes where North New Hope curves past Fawn Glen Drive resulting not just in one but several deaths. At least a half-dozen accidents involved the home of Carlo Bernarte. In late 2016 I attended a public meeting for a discussion of possible solutions to this serious problem.
During the meeting it became apparent to me that the only viable solution was to close Fawn Glen thereby allowing a guard rail to be installed the length of the curve on North New Hope. After much discussion with the neighbors who would be affected by the road closing, there was general agreement that a guard rail was necessary to protect lives. Within several weeks, NC DOT began closure of Fawn Glen and installation of the guard rail. According to Raleigh’s City Manager, Ruffin Hall, my policy statement during the meeting in support of the road closure made the difference leading to fast action to resolve a difficult problem.
Parks / Recreation / Amenities
During my first term in office, District B has seen the opening of the Abbotts Creek Community Center. Forest Ridge Park is expected to open this summer. Horseshoe Farm Park has completed construction. And, a Citizens Planning Committee is getting under way to provide citizens’ input into planning the renovation for Brentwood Park. Our parks and greenways provide recreation, appreciation for nature and our natural resources, and healthy life styles. I fully support continued expansion of the City’s park system as one of the avenues to ensure a high quality of life for Raleigh’s future.