Statement on Airport Authority

I oppose the RDU Airport Authority’s deal to provide a land-lease to remove rock and stone from the 105 acre Odd Fellows tract at the airport. I oppose this deal for several reasons.

Unlike a lease, a land-lease allows the removal of land resulting in an enormous quarry that will ultimately be hundreds of feet deep adjacent to Umstead State Park. The land is currently forested meaning that building the quarry will require the removal of thousands of trees. In addition to Umstead Park, Crabtree Creek and the East Coast Greenway are literally within feet away. The impacts will be huge, undesirable, and they will be permanent.

Added to this deal has been a recent attempt by the Airport Authority to also weaken the Neuse Buffer rules that protect our water supply. The weakening of the buffer rules would affect not only the buffers near the Crabtree Creek but also throughout the Neuse River basin.

It is my opinion that the Airport Authority is overstepping its authority in its pursuit of the quarry deal and the weakening of the Neuse Buffer rules. The Airport Authority was established to run an airport. Far reaching decisions regarding land-leases and rules affecting the region’s water quality should be left to elected local governments. They are not and should not be the purview of an appointed body such as the Airport Authority.

I support challenging the Airport Authority’s decision to enter into the quarry agreement. We can challenge that decision either by joining a law suit brought by the Umstead Coalition or we can initiate a separate lawsuit. As one of the four owners of the property, I believe we have standing and legitimate claims to pursue such a lawsuit. I am ready to vote in favor of taking such action.

Finally, it is really regrettable that we have to reach this point. The issue of funding the airport could have been discussed. The Airport Authority expects to earn $24 million from the quarry deal over the next 30 to 40 years with much of that money earned many years into the future and without guarantees. At the end of that time area citizens – our children and grandchildren – will be left with an enormous hole in the ground that could cost far more than $24 million in the long run to manage.

We could find alternative funding – both private and public sources. Indeed, the Conservation Fund – a national environmental organization – has offered $6.4 million up front. The four local governments could each contribute $150,000 a year to make up the difference – a very modest sum given the economic importance of the airport and given the importance of Umstead State Park, Crabtree Creek, the East Coast Greenway, our water supply, and environment.

By finding alternative funding we can ensure the success of the airport and the protection of our environment and a better future for our children and future generations.

My Life as a Renter

Today 53% of residents in Raleigh live in multifamily housing. Going forward we need to ensure that our processes within City government and City Council include everyone, including renters. Renters are no different than anyone else. They want good homes, good schools, green spaces, trees, parks, sidewalks, restaurants, and places to shop. In short, they want good neighborhoods as much as anyone.

Citizen engagement means all citizens. And I am committed to ensuring that happens.

I am the oldest of my siblings. When I was born my parents lived in a small apartment on Oneida Avenue in my hometown. With another mouth to feed, my parents moved to another less expensive apartment.

We lived in a duplex in the downstairs apartment. My parents were middle class, blue collar workers. My dad was a telephone installer and my mom worked in an office. We were lucky enough in those days that my mom was able to stay at home for a time when I was young. My sister and I walked one block to our elementary school. Everyday we got an hour to walk home for lunch. Some of my fondest memories are having lunch on school days with my mom in our little apartment.

Our duplex was on a corner lot in a residential neighborhood. Architecturally, our home looked very much like a single family house. But if you look closely at the above picture, you will see two doors. One entered the downstairs apartment and the other opened to a staircase to the second floor apartment.

Our street was a mix of single family and multifamily homes. Across the street on the opposite corner was a larger building with two businesses on the first floor and two apartments on the second floor. Next to it was another duplex – a side-by-side. But looking up the street, there were single family homes.

We lived in our duplex until I was 15 years old. By then our family had grown to six. We needed a bigger place and by then my parents were financially able to buy their own house – a three bedroom, one bath house just a few blocks away.

Three years later, I moved out of the house and entered college and dorm life. After college I moved to Rochester, NY and my first place was a studio apartment in a three story building that was part of a larger apartment complex.

When the rent went up I moved into another apartment above a doctor and dentist office in a large, converted house. Four of us lived there and shared a kitchen, bathroom, and living room but we each had our own bedroom.

A few years later I married and my wife and I moved into our first apartment together – again the upstairs of a duplex in a residential neighborhood a few blocks from my in-laws house. Like me, my wife grew up in a residential neighborhood that was and is a mix of single family homes, duplexes, triplexes, and small apartment buildings.

For the next several years my wife and I lived in various apartments. Eventually, we were financially in a position to afford our first house – a small three bedroom, one bath house, just three blocks from our first apartment.

Altogether, I lived more than 25 years of my first 30 years in apartments.

Today 53% of residents in Raleigh live in multifamily housing. Going forward we need to ensure that our processes within City government and City Council include everyone, including renters. Renters are no different than anyone else. They want good homes, good schools, green spaces, trees, parks, sidewalks, restaurants, and places to shop. In short, they want good neighborhoods as much as anyone.

Citizen engagement means all citizens. And I am committed to ensuring that happens.

Pavement Markings

Numerous citizens have noted the difficulty in seeing the markings on area roads especially at night and when it rains. Here is a report issued from City staff on this issue:

Background/Current Practices

Pavement markings are installed on roads to help delineate lanes, channelization, right-of-way controls, pedestrian crossways, and other scenarios. Markings are typically comprised of a material called thermoplastic. This material is very durable and has imbedded reflective beads to increase visibility. Thermoplastic markings typically last 7-10 years in high wear areas but can last much longer if subjected to minimal traffic. Special reflective paint can also be used, however as its life span is only a year, this paint is rarely used for permanent installations. Pavement markings are generally installed on higher volume roads and are less frequently provided on residential streets. In Raleigh’s corporate limits, roads generally fall into one of three categories: private roads, City-maintained roads, and roads falling on the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) State Highway System. Pavement markings are primarily present on NCDOT State Highway System roads, since these are typically multi-lane facilities and act as thoroughfares.

Pavement marking maintenance has historically been an interim measure to sustain the markings and delineations between roadway resurfacing projects. This practice has become problematic as NCDOT (like the City) is dealing with funding constraints which have decreased the frequency at which roads are resurfaced. The State does have operational funds for pavement markings; however, the amount is not substantial compared to the growing need of long-term maintenance. The City has a municipal agreement with NCDOT which allows City forces to assist with maintenance on NCDOT roads; this agreement has a pre- set reimbursement rate. Each year some City funding is allocated for contractual services for pavement marking maintenance work. This contracting work is supplemented with in-house forces. Over the past three fiscal years, equipment has been procured to help increase the output of pavement markings installed by in-house forces. Some of this equipment includes special vats that keeps heated thermoplastic ready for installation and a motorized installation machine that is more conducive to the replacement of longer sections of double yellow or skip lines.

Challenges and Initiatives

At this time, NCDOT does not appear to have plans to increase their rate of resurfacing roads. This situation – combined with the added growth of new infrastructure (new roads) – will result in the continued deterioration of pavement markings. If the quality of pavement markings are to be kept at the same level or improve, the City may need to play a larger role. This can be accomplished in two ways: increase the amount of pavement marking work contracted to others or increase the pavement marking output of in-house staff. Unfortunately increasing the amount of contracted work does not seem to be an option. Over the past four years, pavement marking contracts have required numerous advertisements to get a response from even a single bidder. The abundance of work in the area has resulted in a shortage of pavement marking contractors and/or has made contractors more selective about the profitability of the work they pursue.

The second option is for city crews to perform more maintenance work. In addition to the procurement of additional equipment, as noted, staff has evaluated options to obtain a thermoplastic installation truck. These trucks are rather expensive (approximately $700,000); however, they are set up to install a large amount of pavement markings relatively quickly and efficiently. Many larger cities in North Carolina (including Charlotte, Greensboro, Durham and Winston Salem) have these types of trucks. The truck would require two new additional staff members and a crash attenuator (needed for higher speed roads) in order to fully realize any new increased capacity for these installations. Constricted budgets have prevented staff from procuring this equipment to date.

NCDOT is ultimately responsible for maintenance of the pavement markings on their roads, which comprise most of the thoroughfares in Raleigh. As maintenance levels have decreased, motorists continue to experience fading pavement markings. Staff is aware of this issue and have taken some steps to better prepare internal staff with equipment to help increase our pavement marking output. Staff will also discuss this situation with NCDOT to investigate other potential options to help improve conditions for our roadway users.

Celebrating Liberty and Freedom

Hello Everyone,

Happy Fourth of July!

Here is a picture of a mug that belonged to my great, great grandfather Marcus Manuel Jeffords. Marcus’ father was born in 1813 and was named Liberty Jefferds. In 1815 Liberty’s younger brother was born and was named Freedom.

Naming one’s sons Liberty and Freedom was not uncommon after the American Revolution and highlights the importance the Country placed on these values and the liberty and freedom from Great Britain gained at great sacrifice.

Once secured, liberty and freedom brought us the Constitution, and our unique form of self-governance. American self-governance is based on the social compact. The earliest form of social compact in America is the Mayflower Compact.

Of the 102 who travelled on the Mayflower, only 41 were true Pilgrims. The remainder were merchants, hired hands, and indentured servants. The male members of this diverse group signed the Mayflower Compact whereby they agreed that they would collectively create laws to govern the colony and that once enacted, they would all obey those laws. Here is the exact language to which they agreed and which remained in effect until the late 1600’s when the colony was incorporated into the larger Massachusetts Bay Colony.

The signatories pledged to “covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil Body Politick, for our better Ordering and Preservation, and Furtherance of the Ends aforesaid: And by Virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal Laws, Ordinances, Acts, Constitutions and Offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the General good of the Colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.’

There has long been tension between individual liberty and freedom and the need for collective governance and laws to which “we promise all due submission and obedience”. We see this play out regularly at the local level through zoning laws. Few things are more personal than one’s property. Some (and they often refer to themselves as libertarians) believe that they should be able to do whatever they wish with their property regardless what others in the community including their adjacent neighbors think.

Some argue that zoning laws should simply not exist because they represent a diminishment of liberty and freedom. But that argument misses the point of liberty and freedom.

This Fourth of July we once again celebrate the Liberty and Freedom that have allowed us to self-govern. Our laws have come from a long history of self-government. And all our laws (including zoning laws), derived from liberty and freedom, are the promises we make with each other with “all due submission and obedience.”

Setting the Record Straight…

Recently, the following was published by Jeffrey C. Billman as a statement of fact. It isn’t fact and I want to set the record straight.

‘(Eric) Braun, no longer on the planning commission, sometimes criticizes Cox on Twitter. Cox has forwarded a few of those tweets—nothing threatening, just links to INDY and News & Observer stories with commentary slamming Cox’s leadership—to the city attorney.’ – Jeffrey C. Billman

I’m a computer scientist. I have a MS and PhD in Computer Science. Thus, when I first ran for Raleigh City Council, it made sense to me to utilize social media to connect with people. One of the first things I did was to create a Facebook group to connect with people in District B which I am privileged to represent today on Council.

Over time the Facebook group has grown to more than 700 members. Although I had created the group and was proud of its success, I decided two years ago to turn the group over to others. I removed myself completely from any administration or oversight and today the group is run independently by a diverse group of individuals.

Most people who start or run a large Facebook group often establish guidelines for posts and comments. They do so to keep the group focused on its area of interest and to ensure that people are treated with respect. No name calling is probably on the most common of these types of guidelines but there are many others such as no advertising, selling, or promoting.

When people fail to follow these guidelines, Facebook has provided various tools to administrators including deleting offending posts or comments. Such a situation happened a few months ago in the District B group.

As sometimes happens when one’s comment is deleted, a person will cry foul and doing so is perfectly fine. Complaints can be directed to those running the group for resolution. Unfortunately, a few months ago, complaints were directed at me even though I have had no oversight of the group for two years.

One person to complain was former Planning Commission Chair, Eric Braun. On May 18th he emailed me complaining that a Facebook comment of another person, Travis Bailey, had been deleted:

‘Feel free to continually remove yourself from my Twitter list.  I see that you and your supporters are also trying to stifle debate by removing comments of Travis Bailey from FB.  Avoiding people you disagree with is not leadership. It shows you are weak and unable to defend your positions publicly in the face of informed and honest citizen engagement’

I want to be clear that I did not remove comments of Travis Bailey from FB. I was not involved in whatever transpired. Nor did I remove myself from any of Mr. Braun’s lists.

Because in my role as a City Council Member I take such accusations seriously, I replied to Mr. Braun and copied the City Attorney:

‘I have no control over your Twitter account and I did not remove comments of Travis Bailey from FB. You are free to tweet or post whatever you want but keep it truthful. For the record, I am copying the City Attorney and I am including the five tweets you posted 22 hours ago.’

My goal in copying the City Attorney was to ensure that she had complete information about Mr. Braun’s accusations. Mr. Braun is a well educated, well trained, and experienced attorney. In contrast, I am not an attorney. Whenever questions or comments concerning legal matters arise, I provide them to the City Attorney for her evaluation. I have done this for legal questions and comments on a wide range of issues. Every Councilor seeks expert advice. There is nothing unusual in doing so.

I have a long history of welcoming debate and engaging with people on the issues. I have tried hard to be respectful. There was and is nothing disrespectful about involving the City Attorney in these debates. Doing so helps to clarify points of law and helps to set the record straight.

David Cox

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.