Doors at 6:30 pm, program 7-8 featuring Q&A with the candidates. Wine and appetizers after — free — the public is invited.
A separate event for the endorsed candidates in Cary will follow, they tell us. The list is below.
For mayor of Raleigh, the group is backing City Councilor Nancy McFarlane, an unaffiliated voter, against a pair of Republican opponents. To replace McFarlane in District A (North Raleigh), the group endorsed a political newcomer, Randy Stagner, a retired military officer who also an unaffiliated voter, over his Republican opponent.
In Raleigh's at-large Council race, the two incumbents are seeking re-election, but only one of them has the Sierra's Club's seal of approval. That would be Councilor Russ Stephenson, a hard-working champion of sustainable development practices and a Democrat.
The Club did not endorse Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin, who is also a Democrat, nor did it pick the one challenger, Republican Paul Fitts.
In the at-large race, voters can cast one or two votes. The top two finishers are elected if they receive 25 percent of the total number of votes cast. In a three-way race, the top finisher is mathematically assured of receiving at least 25 percent; a runoff is conceivable if the second- and third-place finishers are close.
In the five-way race for the District C (Southeast Raleigh) seat, the Club endorsed incumbent Democrat Eugene Weeks.
It also endorsed District D Councilor Thomas Crowder, who is unopposed for re-election, but it did not endorse either of the other two incumbents running opposed — District B's John Odom and District E's Bonner Gaylord.
In Cary, the Sierra Club is endorsing Mayor Harold Weinbrecht, a Democrat, for re-election against his Republican opponent. For the vacant at-large Council seat formerly held by Erv Portman, who is now a Wake County Commissioner, Lori Bush won the Sierra Club nod.
In the District D race, incumbent Democrat Gale Adcock got the group's endorsement. It made no endorsement in the District B race.
Raleigh, N.C. — Following a careful review and consideration of candidates’ positions and public record, where available, the NC Chapter of the Sierra Club endorses the following candidates for Raleigh City Council and Cary Town Council. Endorsements are based on candidates’ expressed and demonstrated support of conservation and sustainability practices that promote smarter energy use, smarter growth and transit alternatives, creation of greenways, preservation of open space, and improved water and air quality.
“These are the candidates that will help promote and protect our quality of life as they insure we retain our top rating in the nation to do business,” said Timothy Reed, a spokesperson for the group.
RALEIGH CITY COUNCIL
Nancy McFarlane - Mayor
Russ Stephenson - At Large
Randy Stagner - District A
Eugene Weeks - District C
Thomas Crowder - District D
CARY CITY COUNCIL
Harold Weinbrecht - Mayor
Lori Bush - At Large
Gale Adcock - District D
Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling in Raleigh spells out the voters' views in a short, very understandable piece that confirms everything else I've seen in other surveys: Ask NC voters if they're for gay marriage, and mostly they're not. Ask them if they support an amendment to the state constitution declaring gay marriage and civil unions "invalid" and for most, the answer is also no — because that would be discriminatory.
A lot of people (obviously) view marriage as a religious sacrament. In that sense, they may be opposed to gay "marriage." On the other hand, most folks don't think the laws should be discriminatory, so they're OK with civil unions, or civil marriages, whether gay or straight.
And then, one-fourth of the voters are fine with gay marriage however it's defined.
But here's Jensen, who has the numbers to back it up:
North Carolinians strongly think that same sex marriage should be illegal. They also strongly oppose the proposed amendment to write that into the state's constitution.
Voters' view about expanded rights for gay couples could be well described as 'complicated.' 61% think gay marriage should be illegal to only 31% who believe that it should be legal. Republicans (86/7) and independents (55/35) are both pretty strongly against it and even Democrats (47/44) are only narrowly supportive of legalized gay marriage.
However when you throw civil unions into the mix as an option 54% of voters support legally recognizing gay couples (25% for marriage, 29% for civil unions) while only 43% are opposed to any sort of legal recognition at all. Voters appear to be more hung up on appending the word 'marriage' to the relationships of gay couples than they are on actually giving those couples the same legal rights as heterosexual couples. Democrats (68/27) and independents (63/35) both strongly support extending more rights to same sex couples.
Voters say that if the election was today they would vote against the marriage amendment by a 55/30 margin. That 55% figure opposed to the amendment closely tracks the 54% of voters who support legally recognizing gay couples. The opposition to the marriage amendment holds true across party lines. Democrats (63/23), independents (52/35), and even Republicans (47/37) say they would vote against it at this time.
It's not like North Carolina voters have become big fans of gay marriage all the sudden. They just don't seem to think putting it in the state constitution is necessary, especially if that precludes giving gay couples more legal rights short of the ability to get 'married.'
Pushing this issue is not doing much for the popularity of legislative Republicans. Their approval this month is 33% with 50% of voters disapproving of them, matching last month's record low numbers for them. The Democrats' numbers aren't much to write home about either though with 38% of voters giving them good marks while 43% disapprove.
With both parties unpopular the generic legislative ballot comes out basically as a tie with Republicans at 46% and Democrats at 45%. That represents an improvement for Republicans since last month, when they trailed 46-42 on that question, reflective of the shift in the national political climate toward the GOP over the summer. But it also represents a significant improvement for Democrats from last fall when they trailed by 11 points on this question right before losing control of the legislature.
Crowder's not a fan of food trucks setting up shop in a business district that borders a residential neighborhood — a commonplace in his District D, especially around N.C. State University — and being allowed to operate until 3 a.m., which is what the ordinance permits unless a house is located within 150 feet of the truck. In that case, the trucks must close down at 10 p.m.
(A last-minute change put the food trucks on the same late-night, 3 a.m. closing plan as stationary food carts — e.g., hotdog carts. The penultimate version of the food-truck ordinance had them closing at 1 a.m.)
Odom said he's on the side of the restaurant owners who fought having food trucks anywhere near their establishments. "I don't think the city of Raleigh is going to fall apart if we don't have food trucks, Odom said. He added, a bit gratuitously, that's he's not interested in Raleigh being like Durham, where food trucks are a happening thing.
On the other side, Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin, who chairs the Law & Public Safety Committee, worked for a year to fashion a compromise that the restauranteurs didn't hate and the food-truck operators could live with. In the end, she couldn't quite manage to satisfy either, but she did manage to get a version of the ordinance out of her committee even though Odom and Eugene Weeks, the other two members of her committee, both opposed it. For that, food-truck proponents gave her the credit.
And when the ordinance came to the Council table today, lo and behold Weeks was for it, saying he likes the six-month trial period that Baldwin added at the last moment. Mayor Charles Meeker, mayoral candidate Nancy McFarlane, Bonner Gaylord and Baldwin's fellow at-large Councilor Russ Stephenson all voted yes as well.
So where will the trucks be allowed under the ordinance? It's easier to say where they won't be allowed: In a residential zone; in most office zones; within
150 100 feet of any restaurant's front door or outdoor eating area; and in any vacant lots.
They will be allowed in parking lots that are part of a big shopping center, a neighborhood-business district, a thoroughfare-business district, or an industrial-business district, as long as the owner of the parking lot wants them there — and there's no restaurant within 100 feet or house within 150 feet.
No more than three food trucks will be allowed in the same lot, however, and three only if the lot is an acre or more.
Food trucks are prohibited on all streets, including in marked parking spaces.
In short, the ordinance designates no areas where they trucks are invited to go, and no areas for the multi-truck rodeos that draw the big crowds. Rather, it's a set of rules about where they can't go.
But if a food-truck vendor can find a host business in a place that's not off-limits, an annual permit can be had —- by the host business — for $224.
All the rules, said Travis Crane, a planning staff member who's been working with Baldwin, means a night-life district like Glenwood South "would be largely tied up" — that is, no food trucks will get in.
Odom, though, thinks there are plenty of places on Boylan Avenue, at the edge of Glenwood South, where food trucks will be able to operate even though they shouldn't be allowed — because of their proximity either to restaurants, residential neighborhoods or both.
We'll see if he's right. But even if he is, if the point of a food-truck ordinance is to welcome the trucks to downtown Raleigh, this version doesn't seem to fill the bill.
Rather, it prevents food trucks from setting up in most of the places where people are, which of course is where the restaurants are.
Still, a few food trucks may gain a toehold and prove their worth, paving the way (so to speak) for others.
It'll be awhile before we know: The ordinance taken effect until October 1.
Staff at the planning department and their very capable Code Studio and other consultants have been working on a total rewrite of Raleigh's zoning ordinances for the better part of two years. The new zoning code — a Unified Development Ordinance, or UDO — would give life to the concepts embodied in Raleigh's 2030 Comprehensive Plan, which City Council adopted in the fall of 2009. The UDO exists now in draft form online.
Only a very few have read even part of it.
Done well, a new UDO would describe — and show with specificity — the type and scale of development allowed in any given place in the city. Implicit in that idea is the goal of ending the constant battles between developers and neighborhoods over whether a project complies with the code ... and the Comp Plan .. or not.
It could be the best thing that's happened in city government in 25 years. Or the worst disappointment.
The current zoning code, to put it mildly, is so "open to interpretation" and riddled with exceptions, work-arounds and overlays that it's more of a Rohrschach test of what's permissable ("I see 93 units!" "But the comp plan says 14-28!") than it is a useful planning tool.
Will the new UDO be better? How specific is it? How will it be applied to a given site — or is that open to interpretation too? A few weeks ago, I organized an informal meeting of about a dozen folks who were following the UDO process to see what they thought. Like me, they have their fingers crossed on this thing, but they were unanimous that they have more questions than answers at this point.
In that session, we named 19 issues that one or more of us encountered as we [attempted to] read the draft UDO. We went on to rank them, leading to a top 4 issues — and three more with multiple votes. The list of 4 & 3 is spelled out below.
Next Wednesday, Sept. 7, we'll get a chance to discuss the most important issues with planning staff, including Christine Darges, who's managing the UDO effort for Planning Director Mitch Silver. This will be an open public forum, organized
as a meeting of the City Council's UDO Advisory Task Force not as an official meeting of the task force, because the task force was time-limited and no longer exists, the planning department tells me, so consider it an ad hoc meeting that some task force members will attend — but the point is that anyone who comes can participate.
The meeting is at Pullen Art Center, which is in Pullen Park by the intersection of Hillsborough Street and Pullen Road. It starts at 6 pm and we should wrap up by 8.
If it's productive, more such sessions will follow.
Below is a summary I wrote of the issues discussed — the 4 & 3 — at that first gathering:
After everyone voted on their top concerns, our list of 19 issues devolved to four main ones:
Issue No. 1: Context and transitions
There's quite a bit of uncertainty about how the UDO categories will be interpreted by staff and/or City Council, especially with regard to the always critical matters of context and transitions. We're not seeing in the code enough clear standards for assuring that neighboring developments are compatible in terms of form, height and so on. This issue collected 7 votes, and there were 3 more cast for the issue of protecting historic neighborhoods from incompatible infill.
Issue No. 2: No Mapping
This might be considered the prime reason why Issue No. 1 arises. Without a map showing the specific UDO zoning categories for specific properties, it's easy to imagine how the various "RX's" & "NXs" & CXs" could be compatible in a given place; but it's also very easy to imagine that, misapplied, they will NOT be compatible in a given place. The no-map issue received 4 votes, but it was generally perceived a major thorn in our sides.
Issue No. 3: No Modeling or Case Studies/No 3-D Tools.
A variation on Issue No. 2. There was a strong sentiment expressed that the UDO should be accompanied by models showing the scale of buildings, existing and proposed, to give people visual evidence of whether a project is compatible with what's around it — or not. If I understood correctly, some felt the model should show the scale of buildings that would be allowed by the new UDO as mapped. No modeling received 5 votes, and a separate issue of No 3-D tools received 3 votes.
Issue No. 4: Absence of Quality
This received 5 votes and reflects the view that the code consists of form, height and frontage standards but lacks standards for assuring that the new building next to yours will be a boon to your neighborhood and not a Vernon J. Vernon special.
Not covered in this category, but another concern about quality in relation to the mixed-used zoning categories: Why isn't mixed-use required in a mixed-use zoning category? Otherwise, it was felt that the incentives for mixed-use (greater density) could easily be abused.
Other issues receiving multiple votes included:
* Accessory dwellings.
* Building heights (definitions are too expansive — e.g., 3-7 stories max. in OX category, 3-12 stories max. in NX, Neighborhood Mixed-Use, category).
* TOD requirements (It was felt that, in areas of such intensive public investment, some "must-do" elements should be required — not simply allowed — by developers). [TOD is short for transit-oriented development, i.e., what's the proper zoning for land near a rail- or bus-transit station?]
Thus ended our first meeting.