Council Improves Bike Safety

At Tuesday’s Meeting, Council unanimously approved a recommended bike plan for 11 out of 13 streets by providing striped bike lanes.

In the two remaining cases the recommendation was to eliminate parking on one side of the street and reserve the space for a dedicated bike lane. In those cases, we opted to keep the parking.

The two streets were Glen Eden and Spruce Tree Way.

For Glen Eden there will continue to be a bike lane and parking on one side of the street (as they co-exist today) and parking and a “bike sharrow” on the other side. Spruce Tree Way is a much narrower street and the option was to use bike sharrows only.

It is notable that some studies indicate that sharrows are not correlated with fewer accidents. On the other hand, some studies suggest that they are safer

(e.g. http://safersim.nads-sc.uiowa.edu/final_reports/UI_1_Y1_Final%20Report.pdf)

but not quite as safe as bike lanes with restricted parking.

To play it safe (pardon the pun) we opted to provide the sharrows for the two streets.

Overall, I think that what Council adopted will lead to greater bike safety on our streets.

Thank you!

Here is a list of streets that will get the lanes and markings

  • Arco Corporate Drive, from 8081 to 8001
  • Arnold Palmer Drive from Brier Club Lane to Brier Creek Parkway
  • Common Oaks Drive from Falls of Neuse Road to 370 feet west of Popes Creek Drive
  • Corporate Center Drive from Chapel Hill Road to Trinity Road
  • Country Trail from Pinecrest Drive to Glenwood Avenue
  • Crabtree Boulevard from Raleigh Boulevard to Capital Boulevard
  • Forest Pines Drive from Common Oaks Drive to Wakefield Plantation Circle
  • Glen Eden Drive from Glenwood Avenue to Ridge Road
  • Ileagnes Road from Wyncote Drive to South Saunders Street
  • Lineberry Drive from Joanne Drive to Bliss Street
  • Marvino Lane from Country Trail to Ebenezer Church Road
  • Morningside Drive from Blue Ridge Road to Wycliff Road
  • Spruce Tree Way from Falls of Neuse Road to Wakefield Pines Drive

December 2017 Town Hall

I will be hosting a Town Hall meeting on Saturday, December 2nd at 9am at the Abbott’s Creek Community Center located at 9950 Durant Road.

The purpose of the meeting is to focus on issues important to the portion of District B that I will refer to as Falls North. This is the area north of I540 from Falls of Neuse to Capital Blvd. What is happening in Falls North? What needs to be done to move forward? How can you get involved?

Some topics on the agenda include the following:

  • The widening of Falls of Neuse Road
  • The transformation of Capital Blvd into a freeway
  • Northern Wake County Transportation
  • Public transit in northern District B
  • The Falls of Neuse Small Area Plan
  • Raven Ridge rezoning
  • The next phase of Forest Ridge Park
  • The future of the Leonard Tract
  • Long range development of Falls North

Future Town Halls will focus on other parts of District B. In January I will be planning a Town Hall for the Brentwood area of District B. I will work around the District in the first quarter of 2018 to meet residents throughout District B.

Thank you to Raleigh’s Police and Fire Fighters for your continued support


After the September 5, 2017 City Council vote, I realized a serious mistake had been made. For all the anxiety and uncertainty that this caused you and your families, I apologize. I am extremely grateful for your understanding and continued support as we worked together to correct this mistake.

At the last Council meeting there was an item in the consent agenda for policy changes that were there for implementing the pay structure and raises. What I didn’t catch was that there was some language that affected vacations and holidays. This was unexpected because the policy changes were supposed to only address the new pay structure. Benefits were not supposed to change. Indeed, items on a consent agenda are supposed to be non-controversial business items which this was not – and I am quite concerned that the item was presented to us in this manner.

I did receive criticism for failing to see this before voting. I have been very critical of myself for not seeing this because taking away benefits is not what I stand for. I am very grateful to everyone for working with us to correct this situation.

My dad worked both as a telephone lineman and as an installer and was a member of Communications Workers of America and served as vice-president and union representative. A main lesson he taught me was the importance of working people. Growing up I watched as he went on strike to fight for fair wages and benefits. When he passed away two weeks after I filed to run for Council in 2015, I vowed to do the same as a City Councilor.

I also have two brothers-in-law and a nephew who are firefighters. My wife’s uncle was a fire fight as was her grandfather. I know full well the risks that they take to protect us.

Simply put, had I known that these changes were there, I would not have voted for them. And, I will vote on Tuesday to remove them and fix this.

Now, here is how these changes were reviewed before they came to Council. First, the changes were created by the HR department. They were then reviewed by three groups of people.

They were first reviewed by the Department heads including the Police Chief and Fire Chief. They did not say anything about the loss of benefits. This is surprising because the Police Chief and Fire Chief have reputations for speaking their minds and fighting for officers and fire fighters.

They were also reviewed by the Civil Service Commission which includes two employee elected representatives. One of those representatives represents the Police union. The Civil Service Commission did not catch these changes.

Finally an employee advisory group did not catch these changes.

When the changes came to Council, they were packed together in the consent agenda which is supposed to contain non-controversial, business as usual items. Again, the expectation was that these changes were simply meant to implement the new pay structure. And, I am quite annoyed that they did not. Determining why so many people including those most affected by these changes did not notice them is something I want to find out.

When I learned of these changes and their impact, I immediately issued a statement explaining what had happened and that I will seek to rescind them. I also was able to visit 13 fire stations and personally explain this situation.

I am proud of the fact that I led the efforts to raise pay for our first responders for the first time in years. I am proud to have been able to correct years of neglect. Cutting benefits is not what I am about.

Thank you for listening.

Thank You to the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association for Their Endorsement!

I am very grateful to receive the endorsement of the Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association.

The RWCA has been a longtime non-partisan advocate for improving life for minorities and and underserved communities. In August the RWCA sponsored a Candidates Forum in conjunction with the Wake County Voter Education Coalition, NC Black Women Empowerment Network and members of Raleigh/Wake Pan Hellenic Council.

Candidates answered questions pertaining to a host of issues affecting Raleigh ranging from citizens engagement to affordable housing. It is an honor to be recognized by the RWCA as someone who can help lead the city in addressing these important issues.

Candidates at the SE Raleigh Community Candidates Forum. Photo Credit: Edward Jones

Candidates endorsed by the RWCA general membership for Raleigh City Council include:

Charles T. Francis, Mayor

Shelia Alamin-Khashoggi – At Large Member

Russell Stephenson – At Large Member

David Cox – District B Representative

Corey Branch – District C Representative

Kay Crowder – District D Representative

Stefanie Mendell – District E Representative

The RWCA meets monthly on the third Thursday of each month at Martin Street Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC.  Residents of Raleigh and Wake County are invited to meetings to share concerns, receive information, and to advocate for progressive policies that positively impact the community.

The Need for New Roads was Yesterday

Last night I attended an “open house” on a planned widening of a section of Falls of Neuse Road between I540 and Durant road.  This section of road serves the many residents of northern District B as well as communities such as Wake Forest.

I travel through this section of road everyday as it is on my way to and from work.  And, yes, there is a traffic jam most mornings.

The traffic jams are invariably from drivers waiting to enter I-540. At Falls of Neuse there is a single ramp onto I-540 that serves both the northbound and southbound Falls of Neuse traffic.  A traffic light stops vehicles in one direction to allow vehicles from the other direction to turn onto the interstate. The single ramp combined with the stopping and starting of traffic are huge contributors to the morning backups.

A more fundamental problem is that I-540 is regularly jammed with traffic. Drivers on Falls of Neuse as well as Six Forks, Creedmoor, and Leesville roads have no where to go. Often it is a crawl to get onto I-540.

Very simply, we have come to depend on a single road, I-540, to move traffic in northern Wake County.  Yet, growth continues unabated.  Last night’s open house was to learn about and discuss a plan to widen Falls of Neuse in the vicinity of the I-540 interchange.  It sounds reasonable enough.  But there are many concerns that the project does not address the fundamental problem – unabated growth without a well-planned road network.

There was a very large number of people at the open house. Most people had the impression that the widening project is a “done deal” and that they were only being asked to pick between two possible options for widening the road – both highly impactful.

Let’s be upfront about it.  With this project, there will be losers in terms of lost homes, lost businesses, and lost aesthetics from lost landscaping and trees. This project is guaranteed to turn this section of Falls of Neuse into another Capital Blvd.  The result will be six lanes of asphalt, a concrete sidewalk, and where business can remain, asphalt parking lots with few, if any, trees or landscaping.

So, let me begin by dispelling a myth. The project is not a “done deal”. I am in the process of arranging to meet with Governor Cooper’s office to discuss the many concerns that I heard expressed Everything, as far as I am concerned, is on the table including postponing or cancelling the project.

Repeatedly, I heard that this project does nothing to address the fundamental problem – whcih is no more room on I540.

I agree. Widening Falls of Neuse (with its many negaitive impacts) to bunch up as many cars as possible on Falls of Neuse is not the answer. Where will they go? It will still take just as long to get onto the Interstate.

The real issue is that we cannot have a future where an ever growing population north of Raleigh drives south to I540 to get to places like RTP. To support the level of growth that is happening, we need another road. In my view, the obvious choice is route 98. Route 98 needs to be improved so it can also serve as a path to places like RTP, Brier Creek, etc.

The area is growing rapidly but the roads are not keeping up. We also need to improve other arteries such as Creedmoor and Six Forks and move forward as quickly as possible with the planned improvements to Route 1/Capital Blvd.

Our road infrastructure shouldn’t be one and only one road – Interstate 540.

The time for a workable network of roads has come – and it was yesterday.

To express your views on this project, please send email to NCDOT Project Delivery Team Lead Ben Upshaw, PE, at bjupshaw@ncdot.gov. Please do this by September 7th. And please copy me at david.cox@raleighnc.gov.

On Charlottesville

I grew up in a small conservative town well before the Internet and all the electronic diversions that we have today. I spent much of my time attending Church be it regular services, Sunday School, Sunday night youth groups, etc.

The lesson stressed by my parents, my grandparents, my teachers, and my mentors more than any other was, love your neighbor as you love yourself.

There were no qualifications to this lesson. It was not love some neighbors better than others. It certainly was not hate some neighbors.

When people march in support of one race over another or one religion over another, or one group over another, that is an affront to the most important lesson that I learned as a child and is an affront to what I stand for today.

I will do what I can as a Councilor, as a citizen, and as a person to fight hate and to ensure that all our children will have a future of equality and compassion – hard as that might seem today.

Thank you for listening.

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.