From the Ground Up Citizens Push Back But Questions Remain


The evening of June 6 so many people showed up at Raleigh City Council, that they overflowed into the lobby and into a conference room on the floor above where they could watch on TV.  The reason?  On May 2nd Council voted 5 to 3 to begin implementing a recommendation to create a new organization that will “become the second generation” (in other words replace) Citizen Advisory Councils.  And, citizens came to object.

I voted against this recommendation as did Council Members Kay Crowder and Corey Branch.  I voted no because the intent of these recommendations is to replace Raleigh’s current grassroots Citizens Advisory Councils with top-down, Council driven Citizens Engagement Councils. 

For more than 40 years Raleigh has been the home of a unique form of citizen involment.  Started by then Mayor Clarence Lightner, citizens began gathering to discuss issues important to them.  Those issues ranged from school assignments to rezoning proposals to trash collection.  Referred to as Citizens Advisory Council meetings, these meetings were a place where citizens could come, discuss, and ultimately advise City Government about how to proceed on the issues of the day.

Typically, Citizens Advisory Council (or CAC) meetings happen once a month.  Because Raleigh is large and occupies about 145 square miles, there are 19 such meetings.  To organize the meetings the citizens elect a Chair, Vice or Co Chair, and solicit volunteers to help out.  CACs are truly grassroots.  For its part the City Government provides space in community centers and some money to help get the word out.  Otherwise, the citizens run their own meetings.

On May 2nd Council adopted a recommendation by a task force to create a Council appointed board that would oversee the creation of about 12 Citizens Engagement Councils (CECs). The board would set standards for how the CECs should operate.  One recommended standard is that the CECs would meet quarterly rather than monthly.  Furthermore, the CECs would not be advisory in nature.  Citizens Advisory Councils actually vote on issues and report the results of those votes to government bodies such as the Planning Commission as well as to City Council.  Those votes would not continue with CECs.

So, on June 6th Citizens came in large numbers to express their opposition to the May 2nd adoption of these recommendations.  Council listened to some 30 people who had filed petitions to speak on the topic.  And the Mayor offered the following statement:

Before we start tonight, I do have a few comments that I would like to make. I do want to take a few moments now and acknowledge the concerns that have been circulating in the community regarding the future of the CACs. The CACs have not been disbanded or changed in any way.  

I believe every member of this City Council understands and values the important role the CACs have had and continue to play in citizen engagement. I’m very glad that you’re all here tonight. The CAC Chairs, and those that work through the CACs, are the resource that we need to figure out how to improve citizen engagement in this growing city. I want everyone to know that I am committed to a citizen engagement process that includes everyone. And I mean everyone. 

What we’re doing now is starting a community wide discussion on how we better communicate and engage with the public; now that we are a community that is approaching a half a million people. And I apologize that our communication attempts have failed in conveying that message. I know that it has come across as an attempt to disband the CACs, and that is not the intent of this process.   

I would like to reiterate that I appreciate the work of the Citizen Engagement Task Force, however, we need to acknowledge that at this time, that those that have been actively involved in citizen engagement through their CACs, feel that their voice has not been heard…and has not had the opportunity to be heard. 

So before we move forward, I would like to say ‘let’s pause and take a breath’; it’s more important to get this right than it is to rush through a process that people have concerns about right off the bat. So I would like to suggest that our next step be a Council work session that includes a consultant that will facilitate an open dialogue and help bring a consensus around how we proceed. And how we move forward. I think we can all agree that we do share a common goal and that is “how do we improve citizen engagement in Raleigh?” 

This statement reads like a reaffirmation of Citizens Advisory Councils. However, many questions are unanswered. Yes, Mayor McFarlane says the CACs will continue.  But, in what capacity will they continue? What oversight is the City going to institute?  Will CACs remain grassroots and independent?  Is the City going ahead with creating CECs that will eventually overshadow CACs?

The vote to begin implementing the recommendations of May 2nd remains in force.  If Council wants the trust of citizens and really wants to begin improving citizens engagement with a clean slate, then Council should repeal the vote of May 2nd.

With the May 2nd vote in force, the question remains, what is the fate of Clarence Lightner’s experiment in Democracy?  What is the fate of Citizens Advisory Councils?

Update on Defective Sprinklers at 616 Oberlin

I received the following update on the defective sprinkler system at 616 Oberlin from the City Manager’s office:

Recent activity on social media outlets described the relocation of residents of the multi-family apartment complex, and implied that construction did not meet code. The facts of the situation began approximately three weeks ago when the Office of the Fire Marshal was contacted by a contractor regarding the replacement of sprinkler system piping at 616 at the Village apartments, 616 Oberlin Road.

Fire Marshal staff was informed that the piping used in the fire sprinkler system had developed “pinhole-type” leaks at the joints of the fittings within the piping. The fire sprinkler system is live and has been code compliant. The existing fire sprinkler system will remain active during the repair process except for the time when the new system is actually tied-in to the existing system, projected to be a two or three hour period during the daytime. The fire alarms system will remain live at all times. The building owner and contractors are in the process of obtaining necessary permits to conduct the repair work. Below is an outline of the plan for life-safety during repairs:

  • Relocate the residents from the upper floors to the 1st and 2nd floor apartments while the work is ongoing in the upper floors. Once the work is completed on the upper levels, move the residents to the completed and inspected upper floors and make repairs to the lower floors. 
  • Replace the existing CPVC fire sprinkler piping with an identical new system to be run directly adjacent to the existing system. 
  • Tie-in the new piping to the system. This will occur during the daytime and will take a few hours. 
  • Fire watch will be provided for the entire duration of work. The fire sprinkler system will be live at all times except when the tie-in is actually performed. 
  • Remove existing piping once the new piping has been installed, tested and put into service. 

Fire Marshal staff has been contacted by four news agencies and has worked with the Communications department to provide accurate information to the media. The structure received a certificate of occupancy (CO) in February 2017, all inspections prior to issuance of the CO were completed and per the North Carolina Building Code, and the leakage began subsequent to the CO being issued. The cause of the piping leaks has not yet been determined and is not a regulatory or life-safety matter.

Thoughts on Citizen Engagement 

Note: CAC is the existing Citizens Advisory Council. CEC is the new proposed Citizens Engagement Council.  CEB is the new propose Community Engagement Board.

According to the task force recommendations, “The complete system of CECs is intended to be a ‘second generation’ of the CAC system in place currently.”

The new CECs will serve at the pleasure of Council – not citizens. A proposed Community Engagement Board (to be appointed by Council) will act as a body of overseers. Rather than a citizen driven organization, the recommendations state, “The CEB will recommend recognition of the CECs by City Council when they meet the standards and guidelines developed by the CEB.”

In short, this philosophy about citizen engagement is top down, Council directed oversight rather than grassroots, bottom up, citizen led and driven. We can innovate a citizen led approach. But, innovating a citizen led approach is not what is recommended and not what is happening.

Having helped turn out 600 people at one CAC meeting and 300 at another, and orchestrated an election to replace the previous Mayor Pro Tem, I think I know something about engaging citizens.  

The issues with CACs are not so serious that we require a whole new structure. Rather the CACs could use help better communicating with citizens and hosting effective meetings by providing them some resources and training. Importantly, we do not need a permanent board to accomplish this.

Many CACs have, in fact, taken steps in the past year to improve communications. These steps include better outreach through emailings, display of signs in neighborhoods announcing meetings, holding more regular and, therefore, predictable meetings, and spreading the word through other organizations such as HOAs. Some are also live streaming meetings for those who are unable to attend and can watch at their convenience. I, personally, have noticed an increase in attendance at CAC meetings and a much more engaged public.

Sadly, neither the task force nor some on Council knows this because they didn’t and do not attend CAC meetings. Indeed, during our City Council retreat it was proposed that the recently adopted code of conduct be amended to prohibit Council members from attending CAC meetings.

When the task force was formed, I submitted the names of five people to be on the task force. It was communicated to me by the Mayor that those five were not acceptable specifically because they were regularly involved with their CAC. 

I argued that these people would bring insights to the task force precisely because they have been involved in citizen engagement. However, the names were vetoed. I finally was able to submit the name of someone with no CAC involvement.

In retrospect, I should have stuck to my position. However, I relented when a compromise was reached that allowed Carole Meyre, Chair of the RCAC, to participate. Sadly, Council did not hear from her to understand her reasons for voting against the recommendations.

I Announce that I will Seek Election Again to Raleigh City Council

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

For the past year-and-a-half I have been privileged and honored to represent District B on the Raleigh City Council.  I am extremely grateful for the support that I have received from so many throughout these many months. In recent weeks, many people across the city have graciously reached out and asked that I consider another term in office. In answer of these requests, today I announce that I will seek election again to Raleigh City Council this October.

Citizen Engagement

Many of the reasons I ran for political office for the very first time in my life in 2015 remain driving factors in my decision to run again.  In my time representing District B, I’ve done my best to serve my constituents and the interests of all Raleigh residents.

To make myself available to more people I have used technology such as social media to help District B residents stay connected – with me and with each other.  Rather than simply issuing statements and occasional press releases, I have facilitated conversations where people share ideas, and opinions as well as voicing concerns and/or questions to me. To that end, nearly 500 people have joined me in the District B Facebook group for near daily discussions about countless topics.

As a city councilor, I also receive hundreds of emails nearly every week, with the majority thoughtfully reflecting people’s genuine concerns for their neighborhoods and the city. Since taking office in December 2015, I’ve also met in person or spoken by phone with many more residents. I appreciate meeting others who share a common desire for citizens and government to work together for the betterment of Raleigh.

Beyond connecting through technology, I regularly attend meetings of Citizen Advisory Councils (CACs), civic groups, HOAs, and neighborhoods. I’ve noticed that people are coming out in greater numbers because of a concern that their voices are not being heard.  I view my role as Council Member as being the voice of all citizens. To be the best that Raleigh can be, and the best that City Council can be, we must listen to citizens and govern accordingly.

Where Do We Grow from Here?

Raleigh continues to grow because it is a great place to live, work, play, and raise a family. We have great schools, colleges and universities; excellent venues for the arts, music, and sports; parks and greenways and an outstanding quality of life. Raleigh is a world-class city that is literally the envy of much of the country. It didn’t happen by accident.  Raleigh is great because of its citizens with their diverse backgrounds, wide-ranging interests, skills and strengths that they bring to the community.

One of the most common concerns that people share with me is growth and development.  The city continues to grow at an astounding pace. And, with astounding growth comes disruptive change. What will Raleigh be like in ten or twenty years?

In my view, the key to Raleigh’s future is a partnership of government and residents. The key to growing responsibly is citizens’ involvement and my message to Raleigh residents is simple:  YOU should frame what is the right growth for your neighborhood and for the city. As elected officials, our responsibility is to respect and reflect your vision.

Therefore, to me it’s straightforward:  the future of Raleigh depends on all of US. The future cannot simply be in the hands of a few wealthy and/or influential individuals. The simple truth is Raleigh has run out of land. We face many factors as a rapidly growing city, like bigger and taller buildings, large shopping centers, sprawling parking lots, light pollution, noise, increasing crime, traffic congestion, air pollution, and limited environmental resources.

Deciding how we grow, where we grow, and the quality of that growth requires the involvement of all of us. I am committed to ensuring that the people of Raleigh have the opportunity to speak up, be heard, and be included on important issues – especially how Raleigh grows.

To that end, I support strong citizen engagement including grassroots, citizen-led Advisory Councils – a Raleigh institution for citizen engagement for more than 40 years. Through Raleigh’s 19 CACs, citizens have participated in a wide range of issues and contributed to the city we are today. I want to see this process strengthened and ensure that Raleigh residents will participate for the next 40 years as well.

Message to Raleigh Voters

By truly engaging you, the people who have helped make Raleigh the best place to live in America, I know we also can grow Raleigh great for tomorrow. I am committed to ensuring that your voice continues to be heard and that your right to vote on and participate in important matters will continue as we grow the city together.

Citizens’ voices must be heard not only in private at the kitchen table but also publicly at the Council table. That idea inspired my decision to seek office in 2015. This October I seek re-election to Raleigh City Council to continue the work we have started together.

I am running for City Council to ensure that Raleigh’s citizens – all of us – have a voice in Raleigh’s future. Please join me and together, we can grow Raleigh great!

David Cox, Ph.D.
Raleigh City Council Member, District B

Citizens Led Engagement or Council Oversight?

Last fall City Council voted to form a Citizens Engagement Task Force. I voted in favor of this effort with the assumption that the task force would provide recommendations for improving our Citizens Advisory Councils.

I have attended and participated in countless CAC meetings. Citizens Advisory Councils are grassroots, citizen driven organizations. Historically, the City has provided them very minimal resources: often just a place to meet and staff members to provide information on various topics such as neighborhood crime, parks and recreation, and pending zoning cases.

Often there is no sound system making it difficult for the audience to hear during large meetings. There is no video equipment to record meetings. There is no standard mechanism for efficiently voting on zoning cases – most often just a show of hands and no validation that those voting actually live in the CAC district. And, if there is a large turnout for a controversial rezoning case, then all bets are off because these deficiencies become greatly magnified.

My hope in voting for the Citizens Engagement Task Force was for recommendations to address these deficiencies. I support without question CACs because of their inherent nature of being citizen led, citizen directed organizations.

But, the task force’s recommendations go way beyond addressing deficiencies in the support that the City provides CACs by recommending an entirely new organization that is led and directed by City Council and City Staff. The proposal is to create a new Community Engagement Board – essentially a group appointed by City Council to oversee 8 to 12 Citizen Engagement Councils (in contrast to today’s 19 CACs).

This system is clearly designed to replace Citizen Advisory Councils. According to the recommendations, “The complete system of CECs is intended to be a ‘second generation’ of the CAC system in place currently.”

The new CECs will serve at the pleasure of Council – not citizens. The Community Engagement Board will act as a body of overseers. Rather than a citizen driven organization, the recommendations state, “The CEB will recommend recognition of the CECs by City Council when they meet the standards and guidelines developed by the CEB.”

Importantly, the tradition of citizens voting on rezoning requests is glaringly absent from the recommendations.  Presumably, under the new system citizens will never be able to indicate to Council when a rezoning request should be adopted and when it should be rejected.

In my view, these proposals are the opposite of citizen engagement. Our job as City Council is to be facilitators – not overseers. Our job is provide facilities, resources, and personnel to help citizens run effective meetings and to help them set their own agendas. City Council should not through a proxy Community Engagement Board preside over citizens. The two approaches are very different.

But, enough of my opinions. You be the judge. The final report contains 7 pages of recommendations plus more than 400 pages in appendices. I have extracted the recommendations into a separate file. Otherwise the file will be too big to download – particularly on a phone or tablet.

Here are the recommendations:
http://dcoxforcouncil.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/cetf.pdf

Here is the entire report (95MB in size):
http://www.raleighnc.gov/…/16ReportCommunityEngagement.pdf

 

The CACs in Raleigh present a conundrum. On the one hand, the City Council and the City Manager want citizens to know what they’re doing. They also want feedback from citizens about what they, the Council and Manager, should be doing — don’t they? 

That’s what the CACs — the 19 Citizen Advisory Councils in Raleigh — are for: To “advise” city government, and be a forum for citizens to meet with our elected and appointed officials about the issues of concern in our respective neighborhoods.

But what if some of the CACs, when they meet, should decide they don’t like what the Council and Manager are doing? That can get old pretty fast, especially if you’re an elected official!
And it could just cause some council members to wonder why they shouldn’t get rid of those pesky CACs.

Which is the backdrop to a report about to be issued by a Citizen Engagement Task Force appointed by City Council at the end of 2016. The task force is recommending that the CACs be replaced by a different system of citizen groups, with the new groups to be organized by a board (a citywide Citizen Engagement Board, or CEB) that the Council would appoint and the Manager would staff. 
How the new groups, called CECs (Citizen Engagement Councils) would differ from the current CACs is left deliberately unclear, but one recommendation is that there be fewer of them — between 8 and 12 CECs, as opposed to the current 19 CACs. 

Two other key differences that I perceive:

1) The current CACs are citizen-organized and run. The new CECs would be subject to greater control by the Council and the Manager’s staff, according to rules that the CEB would devise and the Council adopt. 

2) The current CACs have a defined role in rezoning cases, which gives citizens a window into growth and development issues; the CECs would have no such role. The CACs’ role is advisory, and it includes the opportunity for any citizen, after a developer presents his case for an up-zoning, to express an opinion by voting aye or nay. The final decision, of course, rests with City Council. The task force recommendation is that developers present their case to citizens at a meeting run, not by a CAC, but rather by the Manager’s planning department, with the department collecting and summarizing citizens’ comments, if any. The opportunity for a citizen-run meeting and for citizens to vote would be eliminated.

In sum, I think the CECs, as envisioned by the task force, would be a useful vehicle for city government to “get its message out” to citizens, but not as useful when it comes to  citizens getting a message to city government.
**

The task force report will be given to Council tomorrow. Apparently, no action will be taken right away, and the report may sit on a shelf until the Council elections have come and gone this fall.

After that, who knows?

I began by citing the obvious tension when elected officials create citizens’ groups that may criticize them and when appointed officials are asked to meet with citizens groups that may or may not like what they’re doing. 

For this reason, the CACs, though they’ve been around since the 1970s, enjoy little support from most Council members today, and periodic efforts by the CACs to get some help from the city with marketing, for example, have fallen on deaf ears. (Our District D Council member, Kay Crowder, District B member David Cox and at-large member Russ Stephenson are strong CAC supporters, however.)

Yes, the Council funds the CACs — to the tune of $1,000 a year, money that can’t be spent unless the Manager’s staff approves it. There is no money for serious outreach — no TV ads, no mailings, not even a mention in the utility bills — or to tell residents that the CACs even exist, or that every resident who comes to a meeting is automatically a “member.” What marketing does exist is done by the CAC officers, who are volunteers.

The point I want to make is that the CACs are far from perfect, and can be strengthened in many ways. 

But eliminating them and starting over with groups that the Council and Manager control is unlikely to improve things. 

With this in mind, I drafted a letter to Council that I’m hoping other CAC officers will join me in signing. (CAC officers meet monthly, and this month’s meeting is Wednesday night, when this will be discussed.) Here’s the draft:

“The process of citizen engagement in Raleigh has evolved with the city’s growth. In 1974, as Raleigh’s population soared past the 100,000 mark, Mayor Clarence Lightner led the formation of the first Citizen Advisory Council, asking citizens across the city to step up and help. A year later, Lightner took pride that the CAC was integral to every aspect of Raleigh’s government, from community development to better bus routes to recommending the first bike lane in Raleigh on Ridge Road. The CAC advised on zoning cases, worked on the first comprehensive plan and helped to create the Downtown Housing Improvement Corporation (DHIC) for affordable housing.

“Today, as Raleigh’s population nears 500,000, we have 19 CACs established across the city, but with the same goal as Lightner’s: Helping interested citizens to realize the democratic ideal of government “by the people and for the people.” Through the CACs, citizens are in continuing discussions with every department of city government, so that as needs arise in the police department, say, or in water and sewer services, there’s a shared perspective on what to do and how to do it. 

“As CAC officers, we welcome the report of the City Council’s Citizen Engagement Task Force and concur with its conclusion that engaging citizens in the work of self-government is a far more complex task now than it was when Raleigh was small enough that “everyone could know everyone else.” The task force report contains a lot of useful ideas, some of which CAC leaders have advocated for years. The report did not specify, however, how these ideas should be implemented, leaving those details to a new Citizen Engagement Board that the Council could create. 

“We’re receptive to the idea of a CEB, depending on its mandate. If its purpose is to draw more citizens into the work of self-government, good. But there’s an inherent danger whenever a board is inserted between the elected and appointed officials of city government, on the one hand, and the citizens they serve on the other. Of critical importance is that the board’s mission be to empower citizens in their relationship with decision-makers, not to keep them at arm’s length. For that reason, we think the membership of an effective CEB board should be drawn from the ranks of people who’ve shown interest in Raleigh’s major vehicle for citizen engagement since the days of Clarence Lightner, namely the existing CACs.

“It was therefore concerning that the task force didn’t reach out either to CAC leaders or to any of the thousands of people who’ve participated in CACs in recent years. The Citizen Engagement Task Force, in other words, made the mistake of failing to engage with citizens. We caution against the creation of a Citizens Engagement Board if it would operate in a similar fashion.
“Citizen engagement in Raleigh can be strengthened, and we are eager to participate in the work of making it stronger. We think the first step to doing so is to recognize the historic role of the CACs as principle forums for citizens to be involved, review the work of CACs with city agencies, and commit to maintaining the CACs’ viability going forward while bolstering their ability to be as effective in Raleigh’s future as they have been in the past.

“Thanks for your attention to this important issue.”

And thank you if you’ve read to the end. I want us to discuss the task force report at our HCAC meeting on Thursday — and hear your thoughts, if you’ve been coming to CAC meetings for awhile, about how the system works and how it might work better.

We’ll be meeting upstairs in the Cameron Village Library, 7 pm, Thursday, April 20.
– Bob Geary, HCAC chair

History Lesson – Let’s Have an Investigation, Part 2

In the first part of this history lesson, I noted how John Odom as a board member of the non-profit, Passage Home, brought to City Council a Citizens Advisory Council meeting where the CEO of Passage Home was confronted with difficult and heated questions about how the non-profit was conducting part of its operation.  One consequence of that Council meeting was that Odom called for an investigation of the CAC.  All of this was described in detail in a 2015 News & Observer article.

That same article described an incident where I attended a meeting of the CAC chairpersons (collectively, the group of chairpersons is referred to as the RCAC).  The purpose of my attendance was to give a brief presentation on height limitations near property lines – particularly, height limitations near residential property.  However, my presence was protested.  According to that same N&O article:

“The board (RCAC) originally scheduled time at a meeting for David Cox, a leader of the North Raleigh resistance to a Dunn Road development plan. Cox was to speak after Planning Director Ken Bowers.

This peeved Will Allen, the Hillsborough CAC chair. Allen blasted out a mass email arguing that Cox wasn’t a planning expert and that he was too politically biased to deserve a place on the agenda, calling it a misuse of city resources.

A few days later, Cox disappeared from the agenda, reportedly because of time constraints.

Yet on March 18, the Raleigh CAC found itself in a lengthy debate about whether to hear from Cox, who was eventually allowed to make his presentation about height restrictions near property lines under the new zoning ordinance. His talk was about as long as the debate that preceded it.

Afterward, Allen said it was proof the whole system has to go.”

Pause for a moment… Yes, the article says that the Hillsborough CAC Chairperson protested my request to speak to the RCAC.

Moreover, the article claims that the Hillsborough CAC Chairperson said that my request to speak was proof that the whole system has to go – I, as a citizen (albeit not a planning expert), had requested to give a presentation to fellow citizens who volunteer their service to a system that they presumably believe has value by giving a voice to citizens.

Fast forward to the present…

Today the Hillsborough CAC has a new Chairperson.  Indeed, the Hillsborough CAC has an entirely new board consisting of three people that I greatly admire and respect as champions of citizen participation and neighborhoods:

Bob Geary, Chair
Will Hooker, Vice-Chair
Francesco Visone, Secretary

Postscript:

It does happen, apparently, that some people will volunteer to serve a system that they fundamentally do not believe in.  Some go so far to try to destroy that system.  The thought never seems to occur to make the system better. By 2015 the seeds had been sown within certain circles that the CACs are bad and must be eliminated.  And, if not eliminated, then replaced with something else that is just effective at silencing the voices of citizens.

Sadly, that effort, I fear, is ongoing.

You can read the entire N&O article here:
http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/counties/wake-county/article16848911.html

History Lesson: Let’s Have An Investigation

This is our first history lesson.  It begins not at the beginning but somewhere in the middle. This lesson has two parts.  I begin, naturally, with part one…

It is morning, March 30, 2015.  People are retrieving their newspapers.  The night before at 6:13pm a story appeared online from N&O reporter, Andrew Kenney.

Andy reports (link to Andy Kenney’s entire report is below),

“Tempers are flaring and relationships fraying as the city grapples with a new wave of development.  During the struggles, Raleigh’s 19 citizen councils have become flashpoints in debates about everything from gentrification to suburban development, prompting calls for change in a system designed to link city government and constituents.”

Former Council Member, John Odom, calls for an investigation.  According to Andy,

“In South Raleigh, City Council member John Odom has called an investigation into a contentious meeting between that area’s Citizens Advisory Council and a local nonprofit. East of downtown, another citizen board was the site of a showdown between a City Council member and a neighborhood leader.”

Citizen Advisory Council (CAC) meetings are fluid.  CACs are a gathering place for citizens.  A particular development case arises and those citizens concerned or interested in that case come to the CAC to hear about and – importantly – express their opinions and view.  Development cases range from rezonings to disposition of property that the City owns for redevelopment.

Sometimes CAC discuss other matters that can be equally or more contentious.  Andy Kenney reports on the matter of a building just south of downtown known as the Raleigh Community and Safety Club.  According to Andy, a non-profit known as Passage Home hosts several programs from the building paid in part with grants from the City including $50,000 to “start a program that would employ and train five people at a time” in the building’s commercial kitchen.

Use of the building was discussed at a recent CAC meeting where the Chief Executive of Passage Home gave a presentation.

Citizens from the area were concerned that they were being excluded from the building which had been a long time landmark of the area as a public gathering space.  They were concerned that Passage Home wasn’t serving the neighborhood apparently as intended but keeping the building inaccessible and using it to serve people from outside the neighborhood.

Per Andy Kenney the following sentiment was expressed, “We are the public that you should have collaborated with. Since 2005, you have not collaborated with us, and the community has questions.”

As Andy Kenny writes, there is tension.

 

John Odom learns of the debate and the tension and brings this meeting up at the March 3, 2015 City Council meeting.  Andy notes,

 

“Odom, a member of Passage Home’s board of directors, brought the spat to the City Council on March 3.”

I’ll stop here.  In the second part some more characters enter our story including one named, David Cox.  But, there is no need to get into that just now.

And so it began…

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/counties/wake-county/article16848911.html#storylink=cpy

 

History Lessons

Last fall City Council formed the Citizen Engagement Task Force (aka CETF). Soon, a recommendation from CETF will be presented to City Council (spoiler alert: no provision for citizens to vote on rezoning requests).

When the CETF recommendations become available we will all have a chance to discuss and debate them. To aid the discussion and debate, it is important to review the history that led up to the formation of the CETF and the resulting recommendations.

The history is just long enough and complex enough that it cannot be easily summarized in a single post on Facebook. It will have to be presented as a series of several posts. You will recognize these posts because they will each begin with the words HISTORY LESSON.

Because this is a Facebook group, you will be able to contribute to these lessons. You will be able to add information and perspective. You will be able to correct mistakes or inaccurate information. You will be able (aghast!) to provide your opinions.

Here are some tentative titles for these lessons:

Let’s Have An Investigation
There’s A Storm In North Raleigh
Old People And Their Home Made Signs
Amateur Night at the RCAC
Strangers On A Train To Charlotte
A Modest Proposal
Just Because Others Go To CAC Meetings Doesn’t Mean You Can

Statement on Downtown Fire

Note: these are my own comments and not official comments from the City of Raleigh

First and foremost, I am extremely grateful for this City’s first responders. Despite the enormity of this fire, our fire fighters, police, emergency teams worked together in exemplary fashion to get the fire under control and ensure that there was no loss of life or serious injury. Raleigh is a top rated city and our first responders are at the top of the class.

Second, as the Fire Chief acknowledged during the press conference, this was Raleigh’s largest fire since the 1920’s. The fact that it happened indicates that our knowledge is incomplete and that there will be lessons to be learned.

Obviously, there is an investigation that is ongoing. Eventually, we will learn what happened. And we will learn what we must do differently to prevent something like this from happening again.

Thank you.
David Cox
Raleigh City Council Member