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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Raleigh City Council: A battle for James West's seat?

Posted by on Thu, Sep 23, 2010 at 6:02 PM

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There's no betting line on this (that I know of), but the reported coronation of Eugene Weeks as District C's new representative on the Raleigh City Council isn't the absolutely sure thing it's been made out to be. The reason: Women in Southeast Raleigh are stirring with the complaint that Weeks is just the latest in a long line of "Old Guard" men from the African-American community who've held office in the city to the exclusion of the other sex. Younger, female talent should be considered, they're saying.

At least one other candidate has emerged: The Rev. Sheila Jones, who's a member of the city's Human Relations Commission and director of the J.T. Locke Resource Center, a community center in the historically black Method Community in West Raleigh. Weeks is a retired school teacher who's been active in the Democratic party for years as well as a leader in Southeast Raleigh neighborhood groups. He's currently chair of the city's Parks, Recreation and Greenway Advisory Board.

Some other female names are being floated as well.

And here's an interesting development: Danny Coleman, head of the Raleigh Wake Citizens Association (RWCA), has scheduled a forum for prospective candidates for the District C seat on Saturday morning at 10 a.m. in the New Science Building auditorium at Shaw University.

Also scheduled for Saturday morning, at 9 a.m.: The big NAACP event at Christian Faith Baptist Church at which state NAACP President the Rev. William Barber and national NAACP President Ben Jealous are expected to reveal their plans for a lawsuit against the Wake County school board and its five-member Republican majority.

Coleman, who seems to be aligned with the Republican school board, is obviously not interested in helping boost the turnout for the NAACP meeting. Nor interested in a big turnout for his own forum, apparently.

***


The issue arises from Wake Commissioner Harold Webb's resignation and his replacement by James West, who held the District C seat on Council for 10 years. (Webb, elected once in his own right, was originally a mid-term replacement for the late Vernon Malone, who'd been elected to the state Senate).

So now, who should replace West? And should it be another man — in a seat formerly held by Brad Thompson, Charles Francis, and Ralph Campbell?

A few African-American women have been elected to office in Wake County, including current Wake Commissioner Lindy Brown and former state Rep. Linda Coleman, a past commissioner as well. But Brown lives in Garner and Coleman in Knightdale. Unless I'm mistaken, I don't believe any woman has ever come out Southeast Raleigh or the RWCA to hold elected office. [I was mistaken: Southeast Raleigh has elected women to the Wake school board, and one, state Rep. Rosa Gil, was subsequently appointed to fill a vacancy in the General Assembly. She's up for election this year.]

The RWCA forum on Saturday is also sponsored by the Wake County African American Caucus, headed by Marshall Harvey. Anyone interested in being a candidate for West's old seat is asked to contact Anthony Blalock — blalocklaw@msn.com, 919-832-2918 — and if possible, supply him with a bio and photo.

The City Council will choose West's replacement. West left office officially on Monday. On Tuesday, Mayor Charles Meeker set a schedule for replacing him by October 5. Candidates should apply to the City Clerk's office by October 4 under Meeker's timetable. At the Council meeting the next day, any candidates who want to speak will be given 4-5 minutes. The Council would vote a few hours later at the evening session.

"What's the rush?" one Southeast Raleigh woman complained privately. She hopes Meeker will allow more time for candidates to emerge and political discussions to occur in District C.

And on the record, one Southeast Raleigh leader, Lonnette Williams, has gone after Weeks in an email sent to Meeker and the City Council. Williams, chair of the Central Citizens Advisory Council (CAC), complained that Weeks "failed to show leadership" on parks issues important to her community, including improvements to Chavis Park.

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