According to a national pollster, 72% of Raleigh voters say city government is too beholden to developers. City Council has tried to hide the corrupting influence of big money in a series of backroom decisions, but three out of four Raleigh voters see it and feel it every day – as rapid growth drives up their cost of living, drives down their quality of life and drives modest income families out of town.
Many of Council’s developer deals happen right out in the open: First, Council rubber stamps hundreds of lucrative high-rise upzonings, asking nothing in return except vague notions of future trickle-down benefits. In exchange, the development industry is posting record campaign donations to Council incumbents – eclipsing all other donors combined – to keep the development profit pipeline flowing at full capacity (see chart).
The Backroom Votes
With so much quid-pro-quo activity in full view, it comes as no surprise that even more influence peddling is going on out of sight, as Council systematically eliminates citizen input on growth and development policies — choosing to hear ONLY from development interests. When pressed to explain these backroom decisions, Council members either don’t answer or simply change the subject.
With six months left before the 2022 election, this year’s mayoral campaign donations have already exceeded 2019’s record donations.
But Livable Raleigh and other observers of transparent governing and voting rights have never bought their excuses:
- Indyweek said Council’s decision to terminate the Citizens Advisory Councils by ‘ramming it through behind closed doors means it will always carry a stink that won’t wash off.’ [https://indyweek.com/news/northcarolina/good-bad-awful-021220/]
- Voting rights watchdog, the Southern Coalition for Southern Justice said Council’s flawed redistricting process misled voters and failed to protect their voting rights [https://livableraleigh.com/city-council-misstates-law-and-mischaracterizes-public-input/]
- Democracy NC co-founder Bob Hall said council’s efforts to suppress citizens’ voices was ‘deplorable’ and ‘a con job’ [https://livableraleigh.com/bob-hall-comments-on-raleigh-city-councils-abuse-of-democracy/]
Council’s secret decision to give themselves an extra year in office – without any public notice, public comment, or public vote – drew criticisms like these:
- NC Senator Dan Blue said ‘the citizens of Raleigh haven’t had an opportunity to comment on any of this … It’s not a public resolution because it was done in a closed meeting’
- The N&O Editors said ‘the last thing we need is for city council members to emerge from a figurative smoke filled room with a decision bearing no public input’
- Even North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper, criticized Raleigh’s mayor and council: ‘decisions about local elections like these should involve more open discussion and public input’
It is no surprise that three out of four Raleigh voters want a change from this council’s corrupting developer money and backroom deals that are driving up our cost of living, driving down our quality of life and driving modest income families out of town. Voters want new leaders who will reinstate democracy and transparency, giving everyday citizens an equal voice in Raleigh’s future.
Stay tuned for Livable Raleigh’s clean government solutions in Part 2: Eliminating Big Money Influence
Livable Raleigh Editorial Team