A postscript to what I wrote yesterday about Mayor Nancy McFarlane's "team" on City Council. McFarlane's committee assignments unfolded as I thought they would. In Raleigh, the mayor names committee members, usually based on what they want but not always; the seven councilors don't vote on it, however. McFarlane's appointments were made without comment.
But the council does vote on the mayor pro tem. I'd forgotten that, because under Mayor Charles Meeker, no council member ever questioned his choice of which council member it would be.
And yesterday, when McFarlane attempted to name Russ Stephenson as her pro tem, her choice was questioned — and changed.
Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin jumped in as McFarlane was asking for approval and offered her own pick: Councilor Eugene Weeks.
Baldwin's pitch: Diversity. Weeks is the council's only black member. He's been on council just one year (he was appointed to fill a vacancy, and was just elected to his first term in October). Stephenson's served three terms and is beginning his fourth. He's either the council's hardest-working member or I'm badly misinformed. Still, Baldwin said, "diversity needs to be celebrated in terms of leadership." She'd been asked by constituents in Southeast Raleigh to put Weeks' name forward, she said. "No affront" intended to Stephenson.
No affront to Stephenson, but this was McFarlane's very first act as the newly seated mayor. And Baldwin was challenging it, suggesting that the new mayor was insufficiently attentive to her black constituents.
Baldwin's nomination was contingent on Weeks wanting the post, she said. Weeks, who might've demurred, didn't miss a beat. He did want it, he said. John Odom promptly seconded Baldwin's motion.
Councilor Thomas Crowder, who'd seconded McFarlane's nomination of Stephenson, just as quickly jumped in with a "friendly amendment" — Stephenson and Weeks could share the job, Crowder said. One year each.
McFarlane swallowed hard, said she nominated Stephenson in recognition of his past contributions, and said all of her appointments were designed to draw on councilors' strengths. But she didn't fight the compromise (did she have five votes to back up her nomination?) and it passed unanimously.
The whole episode unfolded in about two minutes and whatever attention it might've drawn was subsumed later when the Council voted to oppose the anti-LGBT constitutional amendment.
Yesterday I said Stephenson and Weeks would be the key members of McFarlane's inner circle. Both supported her mayoral candidacy. She'd picked them to be chairs of important council committees — the comp-plan committee and public woks, respectively — and in addition was giving Weeks a seat on the Budget and Economic Development Committee, another plum.
Add Councilor Randy Stagner, McFarlane's hand-picked successor in District A, and Crowder to that group and you'd have a working five-member majority under McFarlane's leadership.
But maybe not.
Baldwin, who is not a McFarlane ally, is close to Weeks. Along with Odom, the council's only Republican, and Bonner Gaylord, the four of them could prove to be the real power center on council, especially on planning and development issues.
I don't want to read too much into one quick vote. But watching it, I was reminded of the councils under Meeker that were really controlled, not by the mayor, but by Councilor Jessie Taliaferro.
Like Baldwin, Taliaferro was a pro-developers Democrat, progressive on social issues but laisssez-faire when it came to giving the real estate industry whatever it wanted.
Meeker faced a choice of fighting Taliaferro's bloc of at least four pro-industry Republicans and Democrats ... and at best getting a stalemate ... or joining them and abandoning whatever smart-growth, pro-neighborhoods inclinations he might've had. He generally joined them, calling it "governing from the middle."
McFarlane, an independent with a progressive, pro-neighborhoods bent, says she wants to move the Council away from its laissez-faire past toward a "smart growth" future. (Thus, this headline on her interview the other day with WRAL.)
But on the eight-member Council, you need five votes to get things done. Four is only enough if you want to get nothing done.
[Update, Tuesday, 3 p.m. The newly installed Raleigh City Council, led by new Mayor Nancy McFarlane, voted 6-2 this afternoon to go on record in opposition to the proposed anti-LGBT constitutional amendment. The action was swift. Councilor Eugene Weeks made the motion to follow the recommendation of the city's Human Rights Commission (see below). His motion passed by a 6-2 vote.
Councilors Bonner Gaylord and John Odom dissented. Gaylord said he was torn. His 10-year marriage needs no defense, he said, from an anti-gay amendment to the constitution allegedly aimed at "defending" marriage. But he said the Raleigh council was "outside its purview" in addressing the issue. Gaylord's vote may indicate that, while he is an unaffiliated voter, he sees his political future on the Republican rather than the Democratic side of the fence. Odom, the other no vote, is the council's lone Republican. He said he was voting to defend his 40-year marriage and the idea of marriage as "one man and one woman."
Speaking for the action, Councilor Russ Stephenson said it was indeed within the council's purview to oppose an amendment that could put Raleigh at a competitive disadvantage in attracting new businesses. A non-discriminatory environment for all employees is something many companies look for when making location decisions. Putting Raleigh's opposition in that framework should allay Gaylord's concerns about "getting off the page" and onto extraneous federal or state issues, Stephenson said.
Chris Moutos, chair of the Human Relations Commission, hailed the vote and said it's evidence of Raleigh becoming a progressive city for human rights issues. Jimmy Creech, a leading gay rights advocate, called it an important step that will help to energize Raleigh opponents to the amendment as it heads toward a referendum at the 2012 primary elections.]
The original post from Saturday, Dec. 3 is below:
Equality North Carolina is asking its supporters to pack the Raleigh Council chambers Tuesday afternoon in hopes the Council will take a position against the proposed state constitutional amendment to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. The anti-LGBT amendment, billed by its supporters as anti-gay marriage, would also bar the state from enacting laws to recognize civil unions or any form of domestic partnership unless it consists of one man and one woman. The amendment was approved by the Republican-led General Assembly and will be on primary election ballots in 2012.
The Raleigh Council, newly seated following the fall elections, will be considering a recommendation from the city's Human Rights Commission that it oppose the amendment and support gay equality. Here's the agenda item:
The City of Raleigh Human Relations Commission recommends that the City Council make a public pronouncement against the “anti-gay” marriage amendment recently passed by the General Assembly and which is scheduled to appear on the May, 2012 ballot. The language which is to appear on the ballot is as follows: “Marriage between a man and a woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this state. This section does not prohibit a private party from entering into contracts with another private party; nor does this section prohibit courts from adjudicating the rights of private parties pursuant to such contracts.” Representatives from the Commission will be present to respond to questions.
The Council meeting begins at 1 p.m. It will be the first meeting for the members elected in October, and the first led by Mayor-elect Nancy McFarlane, who will be sworn in Monday night at ceremonies in the Raleigh Convention Center. McFarlane replaces outgoing Mayor Charles Meeker; the only other change in council personnel is in District A, where Randy Stagner was elected to replace McFarlane. So, eight members — including the mayor — and one new face.
Meeker, according to Councilor Russ Stephenson, offered a ringing declaration in opposition to the anti-gay amendment this morning at the Mayor's Unity Breakfast. (I wasn't there.) Of course, Meeker won't be in office Tuesday when the issue comes up for discussion.
Stephenson said he's been flooded with emails asking him to oppose the amendment, which he's ready to do, he added.
So far, Stephenson said, he doesn't think anyone on Council has drafted specific language for a resolution. That could happen Tuesday after the Human Relations Commission makes its report.
A majority of the Council, including Mayor-elect McFarlane, took pro-gay rights positions during the elections. However, this cast of councilors (with the exception of Stagner, who's new) has never voted, in connection with city employee benefits, to accord equal treatment to employees' married spouses and same-sex partners.
Durham and Chapel Hill do treat their employees' spouses and same-sex partners equally for purposes of benefits, policies that would — not incidentally — be outlawed by the constitutional amendment.
Equality NC's website details what the amendment says and the case against it.
This is from the email Equality NC is sending to supporters:
[A] great chance to make a very public difference in fighting NC's family-harming, job-killing, discriminatory, anti-LGBT amendment will come on Tuesday.
The Raleigh City Council is set to vote on a public pronouncement against the amendment. The matter comes before the Council on Tuesday, December 6, at 1 p.m., in the municipal building located at 222 W. Hargett Street in downtown Raleigh.
Please join us in the audience as we all come together to support our capital city leaders in this important proclamation so that Raleigh can go "on the record" as opposing this discriminatory measure.
Because Raleigh is only the beginning,
Mayor Nancy McFarlane's inaugural speech last night was cheery. Raleigh's the greatest city anywhere; she plans to keep it that way. Better transit is needed. The Dix tract should be our Central Park one day. A new zoning code — the so-called Unified Development Ordinance — is coming. Details of these and other issues TBD.
Well, not the time perhaps.
More interesting, to me anyway, was the list of Council committee choices McFarlane circulated yesterday. She'll make them public at the Council table this afternoon. At-large Councilor Russ Stephenson and District C Councilor Eugene Weeks, both early and enthusiastic supporters of her mayoral candidacy, will constitute McFarlane's inner circle, clearly. Both are Democrats. McFarlane, who ran with Democratic backing, is nominally independent.
That goal is often in conflict with the goal of major developers, which is to build whatever wherever it will make them the most money quickly regardless of any long-range city plans. Whether the new code will tighten things up and move Raleigh in the direction of urban, transit-oriented development is a major question facing the new Council.
In that vein, Stephenson promises to be a positive force. However, McFarlane's CPC won't have the services of the other positive planning force on council, District D member Thomas Crowder. McFarlane will leave Crowder off and instead put District E member Bonner Gaylord and her District A replacement Randy Stagner on the CPC with Stephenson. Gaylord and Stagner are independents. Both are capable; neither, though, has shown Crowder's passion for strong planning, at least so far.
Weeks, meanwhile, will chair the Public Works Committee, taking over there from Stephenson. Public Works handles all the infrastructure issues — roads, streets, water and sewer lines — which are the nitty gritty of city government. Crowder will have a seat on Public Works, as will Councilor John Odom, a Republican.
Weeks will also have a seat on the Budget and Economic Development Committee, the third major council committee. McFarlane, as mayor, chairs this one, and Crowder will serve as co-chair as he did under outgoing Mayor Charles Meeker. The fourth seat on this committee — it's the only one with four — is expected to go to Stagner.
The Law and Public Safety Committee, usually the least active committee, will again be headed by at-large Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin, a Democrat. It made news last term as it thrashed out an ordinance allowing food trucks on a very limited basis.
I've heard that McFarlane will also move to create a new technology committee, with Gaylord in charge. He's already busy — throughout his first term — figuring out how to make city government more accessible to citizens with websites, apps and such. As McFarlane also said, "The key to a successful city is the participation of its citizens."
Apps should help citizens get and transmit information about city services. Whether better tech will translate to more active citizen involvement in decision-making ... we'll see.
[Update, Tuesday, 11:20 a.m.: I just got off the phone with Joe Huberman. The committee voted 3-0 against the idea of allowing Occupy Raleigh to occupy any part of the City Hall/Police Department block. The three: Mary-Ann Baldwin (chair), Eugene Weeks and John Odom. The issue now goes back to the full Council, which meets next Tuesday. It would be unprecedented in my experience for the Council to vote yes when a committee was unanimous the other way.
Huberman said he was disappointed but not surprised. He expressed some optimism, however, at the news he heard this morning that Mayor-elect Nancy McFarlane — who was not at the meeting — is actively looking for private property close to the Capitol where (with the owner's consent) the Occupy group could encamp. Huberman said he's heard talk about the little triangle of land where Edenton Street comes up the hill to meet Hillsborough Street. You'd think it's public but it's actually privately owned.
Update by Indy intern Maggie Smith, who attended this morning's meeting:The request for a permit was sent to the Law and Public Safety Committee after City Attorney Tom McCormick raised legal concerns at last week's City Council session about overnight encampment at City Hall.
"There is essentially a $700 million corporation at this building," McCormick said at the meeting this morning. "It needs to be treated as a business location."
Assistant City Manager Dan Howe echoed McCormick's concerns about protecting assets at the municipal building, citing the presence of private offices and equipment. "The municipal complex is public, but there is no such thing as unlimited access."
Howe went on to express concerns about the liability of housing protesters on public property, and the costs to the city. So far, Raleigh has spent about $61,000 on round-the-clock security during the 25-day protest, and would spend approximately $400—$800 each day going forward if the permit had been granted.
Citizens also expressed concern at the meeting over safety. One woman related her experience with a group of protesters in Washington D.C., who beat on the windows of her restaurant while she was eating. "I'm sure they also started out saying they were going to be peaceful," the woman told the committee. She also expressed concern that the protesters would block the city's Christmas Parade "if they wanted to."
"My greatest disappointment of the day is that there are people in the city who are afraid of us," said Huberman. "We've been here 25 days and shown no tendencies of violence or destruction." Members of Occupy Raleigh vowed to the committee that they would work with the city to maintain peace and order.
Still, the committee ultimately was fearful of setting a precedent. Howe insisted that this was because Raleigh policies already prohibited overnight stays on public property. "We have plenty of other opportunities for people to exercise their First Amendment rights." They can picket on sidewalks, he suggested, or start a parade if they want to.
But committee chair Mary-Ann Baldwin touched upon a larger and thornier issue: if the Occupy Raleigh group was granted permission to indefinitely camp out downtown on City Hall property, then other interest groups would have the same rights in the future, who might be more controversial. An example? "Neo-nazis," she offered. "This precedent could be damaging. We wouldn't be able to stop other parties [from staying overnight], and this is the main concern by citizens."
If private property is offered, Huberman said, Occupy Raleigh would take it under consideration at a General Assembly session. If you haven't seen one, it's a kind of pure-democracy thing where unanimity is sought or, short of that, no one "blocks" the general consensus.
To this point, Huberman said, the General Assembly meetings have focused on occupying public spaces, not private property, since people want to make the point "that government is not* functioning properly — and maybe you (the government) should do something about it."
(* Corrected to add the critical word "not" to the quotation.)
"The search continues?" I said.
"The search continues," he answered.
Here's the original post from this morning:
The Raleigh City Council's Law & Public Safety Committee is meeting this morning to consider Occupy Raleigh's request for permission to encamp at City Hall. Two sites are expected to be discussed:
* A small, grassy plaza behind City Hall at the corner of Morgan and Dawson streets — two blocks from the Capitol along the Morgan Street sidewalk.
* A paved plaza (see the picture above) located below street level on the corner of Hargett and McDowell streets — it's below street level, at the entrance to the basement of the old police department building, now empty, right next to City Hall. It's a bit closer to the Capitol as the crow flies, but that big blank building across the street (it's an AT&T switching facility) is in the way.
The first site is much preferred by the Occupy Raleigh group. The second was suggested by Mayor Charles Meeker as an alternative. According to Joe Huberman, Occupy Raleigh's General Assembly discussed the two sites on Sunday evening and decided that, while Meeker's alternative might be acceptable, they'd continue to request the first one and consider Meeker's idea only if their preferred site is denied.
Advantage of the Meeker site: It's not under the windows of condo owners on Dawson Street.
Advantage of Occupy Raleigh's preferred site: It's more visible to the public, and it has trees and grass — making it a much nicer place to encamp.
Occupy Raleigh is essentially looking for a way to keep tents and other "stuff" in one place while they continue to picket at the State Capitol. At the Capitol, officials have made it clear, the demonstrators are welcome to be on the sidewalk, but their "stuff" — bed rolls, chairs, supplies — isn't.
Whether City Council will allow an occupation of its property isn't clear. Put it this way: It will a bold departure from the Council's usual risk-aversion if it takes a protest group to its bosom.
On the other hand, some House Democrats, members of Rep. Bill Faison's business caucus, welcomed a trio of Occupy Raleigh folks to the legislative building yesterday. Readers will recognize the names: Stacie Borrello, the writer/young mom who helped get things started; Kurt Zehnder, the indefatiguable waiter; and Joe Huberman, the Boylan Heights leader of many good causes, past and present.
Here's what they had to say (h/t, Joe Huberman):
Hello and Thank you. First, please understand that we are delivering this message today as individuals and not speaking for the Occupy Raleigh group as a whole. Our group has no appointed officials or spokesperson and is not ready to release its official goals. We have, however, collaborated on these remarks with more than a dozen other participants in the group.
I am pleased that you would like to better understand our group and why we have been occupying the Capitol sidewalk around the clock since Oct. 15.
The Occupy movement is a powerful, non-partisan, people’s uprising focused on socio-economic issues. As of mid-October, occupations were underway in 1,500 cities worldwide. According to recent national polls, just over half of Americans say they support the Occupy movement — a group that is bigger than any one Party’s voting base.
Locally, the Occupy movement has thousands of supporters. The Raleigh group currently has more than 8,000 followers on its growing social networks. About 1,000 supporters attended our occupation kick-off rally on Oct. 15.
The Occupy movement is not aligned with any political party or elected officials. Our allegiance is to the people of this nation whose voices are silenced by the power of corporate money, whose homes have been illegally foreclosed upon by bailed-out banks, and whose financial security is in jeopardy due to historically high unemployment that lawmakers everywhere have not adequately addressed.
While the Occupy movement supports national and global economic justice, we have focused our remarks today on State-level concerns. The points that follow do not encompass all of our group’s concerns and should NOT be interpreted as the definitive goals of the local Occupy movement.
We are alarmed that stringent voter documentation and registration requirements, if enacted, will effectively block citizens from exercising their right to vote.
We are distressed that State education cuts will put college education out of reach for many residents, make North Carolina less attractive to families and businesses, and result in serious long term repercussions, particularly for our children.
We are alarmed that critical State infrastructure is deteriorating and will put our safety and our economy in jeopardy.
We are alarmed that State budget cuts will contribute to keeping North Carolina’s unemployment rate above 10% for the foreseeable future.
We are alarmed that many people in our State who work full-time jobs still do not earn enough to enjoy basic financial security or reliable access to health care.
We are alarmed that banks have failed to make good faith efforts to modify home loans and are even illegally foreclosing on North Carolinians’ homes.
We are agitated that the bearers of accumulated wealth exercise disproportionate influence over politics and the needs of the vast majority of Americans are ignored for the benefit of the top 1%.
We are alarmed that current approaches to deficit reduction burden the middle and lower classes with job and program cuts but don’t require added sacrifice from the top 1% of income earners.
We are outraged that over 40% of the financial wealth in this nation is owned by only 1% of the population, an imbalance which we believe is largely responsible for our collective economic stagnation.
We are all witnesses to gross injustices in our nation. Wall Street tycoons broke the national economy. Their unethical business practices set off a chain reaction that put millions of Americans out of work and out of their homes.
Still, the people running the financial institutions responsible for the economic collapse have not spent a day in jail for their crimes. Meanwhile, people across the nation who are calling attention to this grave national tragedy are being arrested and denied peaceful assembly rights.
I am troubled by national and local attempts to limit citizens’ free expression of core political speech. On Oct. 27, North Carolina Capitol police told Margaret, a disabled Occupy Raleigh participant, that she must relinquish her chair even though it was not blocking the right of way.
Margaret explained that her disability prevented her from participating in the demonstration while standing. Instead of making an accommodation, the Capitol Police arrested Margaret and seven peaceful citizens sitting in solidarity with her.
This marks the second time Occupy Raleigh peaceful protesters have gone to jail for exercising free speech rights without impeding the public right of way or threatening any property.
We feel these actions are an attack on our Constitutional rights and we call on you to support our concurrent appeals to the city and the State for a secure Occupation location.
I hope this is just the first step in a continuing dialogue with our elected representatives from both sides of the political spectrum.
We encourage you to visit the Capitol sidewalk to better understand the concerns and goals of demonstrators. We will continue our work to draw attention to our country’s gross economic imbalance and the corruptive influences in politics.
I firmly believe that the public outreach the national Occupy movement is conducting will impact the 2011 election and shape the ongoing economic debate.
Occupy Raleigh supporters did their part last night, turning out 100 strong for the 7 p.m. City Council session. Asked by spokesman Joe Huberman to issue a two-week, renewable permit to OR for a 24/7 staging area in the little park space behind City Hall, however, Mayor Charles Meeker hemmed and the Council hawed, bucking the question to its Law & Public Safety Committee, which meets Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the Council chambers.
Q: Will OR get its permit? A: Where there's a will, there's a way.
But the will of the Council last night was far from clear. Huberman, who made a strong case for saying yes, said afterward he was "a little disappointed" that the Council sent the issue to L&PS without first indicating that its intent was to get the permit issued, not denied or entombed in perpetual committee deliberations. (This is the same committee that took a year figuring out how to let food trucks operate in the city.)
On the other hand, Huberman said, it looked to him like the Council was headed in an affirmative direction.
Maybe. Mayor Meeker, who virtually invited OR to apply, seemed to back off last night after City Attorney Tom McCormick did what city attorneys do, which is raise the legal problems that could ensue. Meeker wondered aloud whether OR couldn't just find some private property for its staging grounds — maybe a church?
Meeker's a lame-duck mayor, of course, and his term ends in a month. But Mayor-elect Nancy McFarlane sounded, if anything, even more nervous than Meeker about letting the occupiers use city property. Echoing McCormick's main concern, she worried aloud that welcoming Occupy Raleigh would set a precedent for other groups "that may not be as pleasant."
On the plus side for OR, though, Councilor Russ Stephenson said other cities have apparently figured out a method of letting their Occupy forces occupy public property. It's worth Raleigh's time, Stephenson said, to study how they were able to get to yes.
Also on the plus side, Councilor Mary-Ann Baldwin, who heads the L&PS Committee, didn't hesitate at all about taking the issue into her committee. No fending it off or accepting it reluctantly. This morning, I noticed, she tweeted the world asking what we think the city should do.
The question before the committee, it seems, boils down to "What about the Nazis? Or the Ku Klux Klan?" If the Council issues Occupy Raleigh a permit to set up shop on City Hall land, can it say no to the these other, unpleasant groups?
The answer is, yes, of course it can. I'm not a lawyer — though I have played one on ... oh, never mind — but the Council would seem to be well within its prerogatives to let Occupy Raleigh use the little City Hall space (including being able to duck under the portico in front when it rains) while telling the Nazi Party, if and when it should apply, that it can't use City Hall, but it is welcome to make its views known in another city park where its safety can be assured. How about Lake Wheeler Park? (It's w-a-a-y out there in South Raleigh.)
Here's how I'd distinguish the two cases.
Occupy Raleigh is asking to set up what amounts to an encampment in close proximity to the State Capitol, where it has conducted a continuous demonstration for, now, 19 days, and where it plans to continue demonstrating — as Huberman said — until there's economic justice in the United States. That could be awhile.
Now suppose the Nazis made the same request: They're picketing the Capitol, and they'd like the right to encamp at City Hall while they do. What then?
The Nazis have, in fact, been issued at least one permit previously to demonstrate on the Capitol grounds, and a couple dozen of its brotherhood, or whatever they call themselves, showed up. If the Nazis ask again, presumably their request will be granted again, because the Capitol is a public place of great importance to our First Amendment rights to assemble peaceably and and petition the government regarding our grievances — regardless how odious.
But the fact that the Nazis might have a permit to be on the Capitol grounds for a four-hour stint does not equate to what Occupy Raleigh is doing. Occupy Raleigh, over the past month, has turned out crowds of +/-300 in Moore Square twice and a crowd of two or three times that number at the Capitol on October 15. Since October 15, OR has conducted daily General Assemblies with 30-80 people in attendance in addition to its continuous pickets.
In other words, as Occupy Raleigh exercises its First Amendment rights over an extended period of time, it has experienced a problem — or rather, the Capitol is experiencing a problem with crowds on its grounds and sidewalks — that the city is in a position to alleviate using reasonable discretion.
In First Amendment terms, the city is not "preferring" or "endorsing" Occupy Raleigh's message over the Nazis' or KKK's; rather, it is extending its help to any group which seeks to make a political statement at the Capitol, has done so for weeks beforehand, and has demonstrated its ability to bring large crowds to the Capitol which, in the professional opinion of the Capitol police, pose a safety concern for the public.
This wasn't Huberman's argument, exactly. He spoke eloquently about the city's regular practice of endorsing commercial speech via sidewalk closings, street closings, banner hangings and the like — the city helps businesses get their message out all the time, Huberman said. Shouldn't it also assist political speech, which has a higher standing under the First Amendment in terms of public importance?
And yes, Occupy Raleigh could turn to a private property owner or church. But the whole point of the Occupy movement is to occupy public space to underscore the importance of the 99% reclaiming government power from the 1% with all the money.
True, Huberman said, letting Occupy Raleigh encamp at City Hall would mark Raleigh as a place where free speech is given wide latitude, even support. Isn't that what we want? he asked. To be known as a vibrant, creative city — an "interesting city?"
Quite right. If City Hall becomes a venue for semi-regular political free speech — akin to Trafalgar Square in London — then great. And if other groups than Occupy Raleigh show an ability to engage in political free speech for extended periods of time, even better.
One other point, as the holiday season approaches. I recall that, when a Christian group sought the city's permission to put up a Christmas display in Moore Square (state property, but it's controlled by the city), no one on Council said, gee, what'll we do if other groups bring their competing holiday displays? Rather, they said bring 'em on.
So the Christian display went up, and I think it still goes up every year, doesn't it? And so far, nobody's brought a different display, but when the Wiccans show up with theirs, or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, I trust we'll be a vibrant enough place to say, sure, Wiccans have rights too.
Here's a question I'd ask of Occupy Raleigh: Are there other, equally effective or more effective ways of taking the Occupy message to the greater Raleigh public beyond picketing the Capitol? If so, what are they?
I took an Occupy Raleigh bumper sticker from Jim Braman last night. He printed them up, he said. "You're starting to see some other things happening," Braman said, including people taking their money out of Big-Bank accounts and moving them to credit unions.
Braman, who's semi-retired (he has a carwash company, he said, and is active with Step-Up Ministry), said he's taken to carrying cash again to avoid using credit cards for purchases — credit cards that kick a fee back to a Big Bank somewhere whenever you buy something.
"I see this movement as awakening the conscience of citizens about the ordinary things they do," he told me.
The voters in Raleigh and Wake County soundly rejected "neighborhood schools" and Tea Party Republicanism Tuesday in favor of centrist Democratic candidates. Click here for a rundown of the vote totals:
* The Republican majority on the Wake County school board is no more, pending only the result of a likely runoff election in District 3. But Board Chair Ron Margiotta, the Republican leader, was ousted by challenger Susan Evans, a registered Democrat, in District 8 (Southwest Wake), which is generally viewed as THE most Republican of the nine school board districts. Evans won by a solid 52-48 percent margin in what can only be viewed as a stunning repudiation of Margiotta's and the Republican school board's extremism.
* Democratic candidates won or led by wide margins in the other four school board district races. Keith Sutton buried Republican Venita Peyton in District 4 (Southeast Raleigh). Jim Martin was an easy winner over Republican Cynthia Matson in District 5 (West Raleigh and Southwest Wake). Ditto Christine Kushner over Republican Donna Williams and two other candidates in District 6 (Central Raleigh).
* In District 3, incumbent Kevin Hill, a former school principal and a registered Democrat, led Republican activist Heather Losurdo by about 10 percent, but with two other candidates in the race, Hill apparently fell about 40 votes shy of an outright majority. Losurdo reportedly plans to call for a runoff in November.
In the school board races overall, turnout was about 21 percent of registered voters, which doesn't sound like a lot but is twice the turnout of the 2009 elections, in which the Republicans seized their 5-4 board majority.
In '09, Republican candidates won all four seats on the ballot, with John Tedesco winning his District 2 (Southeast Wake) seat in a runoff. Tedesco, Chris Malone, Debra Goldman and Deborah Prickett remain on the board for two more years, but without Margiotta, first elected to the District 8 board seat in 2003, they'll find themselves in a 5-4 minority unless Losurdo somehow is able to unseat Hill in a runoff.
Given Losurdo's nosedive late in the campaign when voters learned more about her, Hill seems in a commanding position going into a runoff. A Public Policy Polling survey of District 3 voters a week ago gave Hill a 16-point edge over Losurdo in a head-to-head contest.
Similarly, in the Raleigh city elections the Republicans lost across the board to Democrats and progressive-minded independents.
The latter term describes City Councilor Nancy McFarlane, who won the mayor's race by trouncing Republicans Billie Redmond and Dr. Randall Williams. McFarlane won 61 percent of the vote in the three-way contest.
In the at-large City Council race, Democratic incumbents held their seats against a lone Republican challenger. Mary-Ann Baldwin and Russ Stephenson were re-elected with twice as many votes as Republican Paul Fitts.
Independent candidate Randy Stagner will replace McFarlane as the District A (North Raleigh) representative on Council. Stager was an easy winner over Republican Gail Wilkins.
And in District C (Southeast Raleigh), incumbent Eugene Weeks, who was appointed to his seat a year ago when it was vacated by now-County Commissioner James West, won a convincing first-round knockout over four opponents, getting 56 percent of the votes.
For a Republican Party bent on holding its school board majority and taking the Raleigh mayor's post after 10 years of Democrat Charles Meeker in charge, Tuesday's results were nothing short of a colossal collapse. Democratic voters, who were asleep at the switch two years ago when the GOP won the school board elections, rose up in big numbers this time to push them out.
After the GOP wins in Wake County in '09 and statewide in North Carolina (and nationally) in '10, do the '11 results in North Carolina's Capital City and County mark the beginning of a Democratic resurgence?
Downtown in Raleigh tonight, it was hard to find anyone who didn't think the answer to that question is yes.
The N&O leads off today with a story about how some people don't know what voting districts they live in for Wake school board elections in particular, but also for Raleigh City Council and Cary Town Council elections. This may because they're getting mail and/or calls (including robocalls) from the wrong candidates. E.g., my wife and I live in School Board District 6, but until this year we were in District 5 — and sure enough, yesterday the phone rang with a robocall from Cynthia Matson, the Republican school board candidate in District 5. Sorry, Cynthia, whoever you're paying to make these calls for you isn't using the correct voter list.
If you're in doubt about which school board district or council district you live in, you can look it up on the State Board of Elections website by clicking here.
When you fill in the blanks — your first and last name and your county — the page that comes up will have a pair of links. The first is to a list of your election districts. The second is to your sample ballot.
The Indy endorsed candidates in the Raleigh, Cary and Wake school board races. Click here for a handy clip-out list.
This year In Raleigh, the ballot is pretty simple. Everything fits on one side.
Elections for Raleigh mayor and at-large Council seats are, of course, at-large — everyone in Raleigh votes in these. The mayor and council members serve for two-year terms, so all eight are elected every other year.
Everyone also votes on the two bond issues — $40 million for transportation, $16 million for affordable housing.
The only contested district races are in District A (North Raleigh) and District C (Southeast Raleigh). In Districts B, D and E the incumbent council members are running unopposed for re-election.
The districts were redrawn slightly this year to bring them in line with the 2010 Census.
Ditto in the case of elections for Wake school board. The nine districts were redrawn a bit this year. Voting this year is in five of them — District 3 (North Raleigh), District 4 (Southeast Raleigh), District 5 (West Raleigh and part of SW Wake), District 6 (Central Raleigh) and District 8 (SW Wake).
The other four districts were elected in '09 for four-year terms.
Don't be confused. Do vote. It's important.
No surprise, but a nice boost for the McFarlane campaign in front of the TV cameras: Mayor Charles Meeker, who's been a Nancy McFarlane supporter from the get-go but never made an on-camera endorsement, did so today at a press conference: He wants McFarlane to succeed him as mayor.
The event was held in a conference room at the Parker, Poe law firm where Meeker's a partner. It was festooned with McFarlane signs — done in the same green & blue motif that Meeker used in his winning campaigns.
For more on the Raleigh elections, and the Indy's endorsements, click here.
With a week to go until Election Day Oct. 11, the announcement helps focus attention on a mayoral campaign that, so far, has played second banana to the red-hot Wake school board elections. Meeker said McFarlane's been a key ally of his during her four years on City Council. (Meeker's been mayor for 10.) But he credited her with leading on stormwater issues, a key rezoning case in North Raleigh (the resulting Whole Foods complex is a whole lot greener than it would've been) and getting an ordinance passed that bars dog tethering, which speaks to the breadth of her interests, Meeker said.
For her part, McFarlane's claimed her role as a Meeker devotee. She says the fact that Raleigh was rated the No. 1 city in America by Business Week recently (among Raleigh's other accolades) speaks to how successful Meeker's been — with her support. She'll continue the policies that put Raleigh on top, she says.
McFarlane, a political independent who is endorsed by the Wake Democratic Party, faces Republicans Billie Redmond and Randall Williams in the Oct. 11 election. If no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote, there will be a runoff election between the top two finishers on Nov. 8.
Early voting is underway now through Saturday; if you haven't registered yet, you're too late for Election Day, but you can register and vote at the same time at Early Voting sites. Information about one-stop voting and registration can be found on the Wake County Board of Elections website.
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
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.