Rules of Decorum at City Council

Hello everyone,

Several months ago City Council agreed unanimously to create and provide to the public a summary how to present a citizens petition to Council. This summary is provided to everyone coming to speak and is referred to as Rules of Decorum.

The Rules of Decorum is a summary of rules previously established in the City Charter which describes how the City runs public meetings. One rule that was left out of this summary is “All remarks shall be addressed to the Council as a body and not to any member thereof.” (The full text from the City code is provided below).

Recently, it has been suggested or implied that Council included this as a “new” rule to purposely silence people by infringing on First Amendment rights. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The following is from Robin Tatum Currin, Raleigh City Attorney, regarding the rule of decorum that Council adopted.

The rule of decorum is not a First Amendment problem. It has gotten misconstrued because of mistaken perception it was directed at Eric Braun. This is not true. This rule of decorum is a common rule for boards and commissions everywhere. Specifically:

Council’s action yesterday was to add a provision to its Rules of Decorum that has long been a part of the City Code (see Code Section 1-1031 below).

There appears to be some misunderstanding as to the purpose of the Rule, which in no way limits the content of a person’s speech, but instead simply assists in maintaining order in the meeting. This Rule does not control in any way what a speaker can say or who the speaker can talk about; it instead directs speakers to address his or her comments (regardless of the content of the comments) to the entire City Council that is holding the public meeting, and not to specific individual members.

This rule is not uncommon (e.g., the Town of Cary has the same rule). Also, and importantly, when City Council meets, it can only act as a single body, and requests are made to the Council as a whole, and decisions are by majority vote. Therefore, addressing remarks to only one member is not productive for this reason as well. I hope this helps to address your concerns.

Sec. 1-1031. – SAME—MANNER.

Each person addressing the Council shall give the person’s name and address in an audible tone of voice for the records. All remarks shall be addressed to the Council as a body and not to any member thereof. No person other than the Council and the person having the floor shall be permitted to enter any discussion, directly or through a member of the Council, without the permission of the presiding officer. No question shall be asked a Council member except through the presiding officer.

(Code 1959 , §2-1D)

Raleigh has One of the Best Managed, Highest Rated Water/Sewer Utilities

A little history…

For fiscal year 2019 (which began July 1, 2018) Raleigh’s Public Utilities recommended a increase in our water/sewer utility rate of 3.2%. The recommendation was to maintain this rate increase for at least five years. Several of us on Council questioned the need for such a long term rate increase. For 2019 we agreed to hold the rate increase to 1.6% while we looked more deeply into the financial needs of the utility.

After a year of study, Raleigh’s Public Utilities staff was able to find ways to better control costs. Going into the 2020 fiscal year staff recommended an even lower rate increase of 1.3% than was adopted in 2019. This increase amounts to a 75 cent per month increase on the base sewer rate.

Importantly, there will be no usage rate increase for sewer and no increase for the base or usage rates for water. This recommendation was presented in March and unanimously adopted by Council.

Where does Raleigh stand on the quality of its water and sewer utility? Compared nationally it is tops. In 2019 we had a record low sanitary sewer overflow rate of less than 1 per 100 miles of pipe compared to four times that rate nationally and to seven times that rate in the southeast.

Our public utility has also received continued its record of 100% compliance with industry standards.

In short, Raleigh has one of the highest rated water and sewer utilities that is well funded with an eye on effective cost control.

D-Day 75 Years Ago

Franklin Roosevelt led the Country in Prayer…

My fellow Americans: Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far. 

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer: 

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our Nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity. 

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith. 

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph. 

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest-until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war. 

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and good will among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home. 

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas — whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them–help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice. 

Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts. 

Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces. 

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be. 

And, O Lord, give us Faith. Give us Faith in Thee; Faith in our sons; Faith in each other; Faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose. 

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogancies. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister Nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil. 

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Amen.

Important Sidewalk Policy Change

Special thank you to the residents of the Neuse Crossing community who recently met with me to discuss issues important to their neighborhood. It is through such meetings and discussions that policies can be changed and improved. Here is their story…

Within Raleigh citizens can request sidewalks for their neighborhoods. When doing so, the request is ranked with other requests and placed on a list for implementation.

However, there was an important exception. For various historical reasons, some neighborhood streets are state maintained. The City’s policy regarding sidewalk requests did not extend to state maintained streets even though those streets are in the city limits and serving Raleigh citizens.

To me this was a contradiction because the City does, in fact, install sidewalks on state maintained streets. There are sidewalks on roads such as Falls of Neuse, Atlantic Avenue, and even Capital Blvd. In fact, the City recently installed sidewalks on Capital near Triangle Town Center through a city initiated project.

Recently, residents of the Neuse Crossing neighborhood pointed out to me that their request for sidewalks several years ago was denied. This neighborhood is at the corner of Mitchell Mill and Louisburg roads and has curb and gutter neighborhood streets but no sidewalks. And, yes, after looking into the situation, I discovered that the reason was because the Neuse Crossing neighborhood streets are state maintained.

I am pleased to announce that yesterday I introduced a motion to revise our policy to accept sidewalk requests even for state maintained streets. There aren’t many such neighborhoods in the city. But with this policy change they, too, will be able to request sidewalks for their neighborhoods and for their safety and the safety of their families.

We can Afford 2%

After the recession of 2008 hit, salary increases stopped for several years for fire fighters and police. When the pay system was revised a few years ago, police and fire fighters were brought up to market rates. What about the lost pay during the intervening years?

We have not received a full accounting about lost pay. According to some, the City, despite issuing raises, continued to increase the amount of money in the budget that is classified as “unallocated”. Some say that the unallocated money in the budget grew $100 million during the time that raises were not issued.

The current budget proposal does not address this lost pay issue. Unfortunately, the budget for 2020 lacks, in my opinion, fairness. Fire Captains and Police Sergeants are singled out and treated differently from every other fire fighter and police officer.

Most fire fighters and police officers who currently earn less than the midpoint of their pay range (these are typically younger, less experienced personnel) will receive a 5% merit increase upon receiving a favorable review. Those higher than the midpoint will receive 3%.

In contrast, Fire Captains and Police Sergeants who earn less than the midpoint will receive 3% rather than 5% upon receiving a favorable review – 2% less than all the others who are similarly classified.

When you go for years without raises and the city continues to grow its amount of unallocated funds and now face merit increase policy that discriminates between Captains and Sergeants and everyone else, it is no wonder that people feel the system is unfair.

2% won’t fix everything. But increasing the merit increases for Captains and Sergeants another 2% from 3% to 5% like everyone else, will help.

I think we can afford it.

Consistency with the City’s Comprehensive Plan for Neighborhoods

Raleigh’s 2030 Comprehensive Plan formally states the City’s goals to guide future development. When a rezoning request comes to the City, the Planning Department uses evaluates the request’s consistency against the stated goals and policies of the Plan.

Regarding development Downtown, the Comprehensive Plan says the following:

Central Business District – This category applies to the Raleigh Central Business District, and is intended to enhance Downtown Raleigh as a vibrant mixed use urban center. The category recognizes the area’s role as the heart of the city, supporting a mix of high-intensity office, retail, housing, government, institutional, visitor-serving, cultural, and entertainment uses. Multiple zoning districts might apply within the CBD, corresponding to the different character and vision for its various neighborhoods, with DX being the primary district for the mixed use core of downtown.

But the Comprehensive Plan is as much, if not more, about neighborhoods as it is about downtown.  The Plan calls for tapering heights as we move from the downtown core toward the surrounding neighborhoods:

Heights in the downtown could reach as high as 40 stories in the core, but would taper down to meet the adjacent neighborhoods as a height of three to four stories.

The downtown core has long been recognized as Fayetteville street and as we move away from Fayetteville street we approach neighborhoods such as Glenwood South, Mordecai, South Park, Oakwood, and others.  Following the Comprehensive Plan, heights on Peace and Capital currently allow 12 stories just a few blocks from Glenwood-South.  In between there is a buffer that allows 3 story structures.  To the east, heights taper down to 7, 4, and 3 stories before reaching Mordecai and Oakwood.

Today, two zoning requests are moving towards City Council for consideration to allow 40 story structures.  Approval of this request will signal a major change in direction for Raleigh. If approved, there will effectively be no tapering down to meet the Glenwood-South neighborhood.  If approved, we will have set the stage to eliminating tapering down from the core to meet the adjacent neighborhoods.

Whichever way Council chooses for the future, make no mistake that the decision will be critically important for Raleigh’s future.

In keeping with my commitment to neighborhoods, it is this choice that I will consider when evaluating rezoning requests for Downtown.

On Gentrification

I received this email from Gregg Warren, President of DHIC, Raleigh’s premier developer of affordable housing. He asked that we share his message.

Good evening—

I hope that you had a wonderful and fulfilling Mother’s Day. Below is an Op-Ed that I recently sent to the N&O. Apparently, the editorial staff chose not to publish it. So, I’m putting it out there for anyone to share. There is much mis-information regarding the changes that are occurring in our neighborhoods that adjoin downtown Raleigh so I thought I would offer my perspective having worked at DHIC for 30+ years.

Feel free to post this elsewhere if you find it helpful.
Gregg Warren
President
DHIC | HOME TO OPPORTUNITY
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Subject: Let’s not debate whether gentrification is good or bad – it’s action that counts

Downtown Raleigh recently made the front page of the New York Times as an exemplar of gentrification – the process that dislocates traditional low-income residents, typically people of color, and changes the social fabric of a neighborhood. South Park, the historically black Raleigh neighborhood near Shaw University, was cited for its steep increase in higher income white residents in the past five years and the resulting fears of longtime black residents that their neighborhood will become both unaffordable and unrecognizable. 

In response, the N&O weighed in with Ned Barnett’s opinion piece, wondering whether gentrification is indeed a “bad thing”. True, our gentrifying neighborhoods make it possible for younger, mostly white professionals to live near downtown and to walk/bike to work and for a vibrant food and entertainment scene. Gentrification can also be a boon for existing homeowners, Black families that have lived in southeast Raleigh for generations who are willing to cash out on their appreciating properties and move out of downtown. That’s if they get a fair purchase offer.

But Barnett makes no mention of the many low-income renters near Raleigh’s downtown who see no upside to gentrification. They are losing their lower cost rentals to the high-priced homes that gentrification ushers in. Given Wake County’s shortage of affordable housing – a gap estimated at 56,000 units – their search for affordable replacement rentals will be difficult indeed.

If we want to get serious about tackling the downsides of rapidly changing communities in and around downtown, we need to understand the challenges and talk about what we are doing to make sure that longtime, low-income renters and homeowners (almost entirely people of color) can afford to remain in their homes and neighborhoods.

The City and County have made creating and preserving affordable housing a priority and have created dedicated sources of funds to make their actions count. Raleigh City Council increased the property tax rate by 1 cent to generate about $5.7 million a year for affordable housing and the Wake County also increased the tax rate by 1 cent, generating about $15 million a year for affordable housing.

Both the City and County invested in the preservation of Washington Terrace, located in east Raleigh where gentrification is rapidly changing the face of the neighborhood. Originally built in 1950 as Raleigh’s first rental community for middle class Black families (who were denied access to predominantly white neighborhoods), Washington Terrace fell into disrepair and was in foreclosure when DHIC bought it in 2014. Today, following a year-long community planning process, the 23-acre property is newly redeveloped with 234 permanently affordable rental units for both families and seniors. More importantly, the redevelopment of Washington Terrace took place without displacement of the original residents.

The City and County are also helping to fund Beacon Ridge, 120 units of affordable rental apartments, at the new YMCA and Southeast Raleigh Elementary School site off Rock Quarry Road, partnering with the Southeast Raleigh Promise and DHIC. After years of worry about what will happen with the affordable Sir Walter Apartments on Fayetteville Street, firm plans are now in place to renovate and preserve these rental homes for seniors, with the help of low-cost City financing.

The City and its partners are also making an effort to mitigate the negative impact of gentrification on renters in the South Park neighborhood so prominently featured in the New York Times.  Last Tuesday, the City Council approve $5 million in low cost loans that will produce 354 units of affordable apartments just a few blocks away from the South Park neighborhood featured in the NYTimes article.

To be clear, more needs to be done to ensure that all residents enjoy the economic and real estate boom around downtown Raleigh, and that starts with not just a theoretical debate on the merits or downsides of gentrification but a real commitment to making sure that longtime neighborhood residents most likely to be hurt by this change have the opportunity to stay in homes they can afford.

Gregg Warren is President of DHIC, Inc, a non-profit developer of affordable housing. With over 2,500 apartments under its ownership, DHIC is the Triangle’s largest owner of affordable rental housing.

For the second time…

For the second time in less than four years there has been another death from an officer-involved shooting. This is a terrible tragedy and my heart goes out to the family of Mr. Soheil Antonio Mojarrad.

The five day report that was released is preliminary. Many questions remain and an investigation is ongoing.

I believe that City Council needs to review this incident carefully. We have had too many violent encounters between police and citizens. To protect citizens and police we need to review our procedures to ensure that body worn cameras are activated and to examine how we respond to situations that too often quickly become violent.

To find solutions let us work together to better understand these situations and prevent them from happening again.

ANNOUNCEMENT

I am humbled and grateful to have served on Council these past four years. Whether it is in emails, phone calls, at Citizens Advisory Council, City Council and Committee meetings, or a chance encounter, I truly thank you for the many kind words, wishes, and encouragement that I have received.

We live together in a great city with great neighborhoods, schools, universities and colleges, art and music venues, parks and greenways. Raleigh is one of the best places to live in the world because of its citizens with their diverse backgrounds and wide-ranging interests who are engaged and bring their skills and strengths to the community.

Because Raleigh is such a great place to live, the city has continued to grow. Growth and development remain the city’s biggest challenges. To ensure that we grow better for all people, City Council needs your input, your guidance, and your support. But for that to matter, you need a City Council that will truly listen and support you in return.

When first elected in 2015, my goal was to listen and be as engaged as possible with everyone. Going forward I renew that commitment and seek another opportunity serve you as your representative on City Council.

Therefore, today I formally announce my candidacy to run for re-election as City Council Member for Raleigh’s District B. Please cast your vote for me this October 2019.

Thank you.
David Cox