Long-time Raleigh resident and Midtown CAC Chair Larry Helfant delivered the following comments to the Community Engagement Board at their retreat on August 26, 2023:
Thanks for the opportunity to attend and speak today.
Let me introduce myself. I am Larry Helfant, Chairman of the Midtown CAC.
I am here for two purposes.
The first is for a better understanding of the relationship of the Community Engagement Board and CACs.
When the CACs were removed from City processes in 2020, a powerful communication attribute to the community was also lost.
At that time, the estimated cost to support 18 CACs was about $20,000.
What has been established in its place is a City Community Engagement group that, for the current fiscal year, has a best guess budget of about $500,000 dollars and a formal staff that has doubled in the process.
On top of this bureaucracy, we have an intermediate organization called a community engagement board.
After three years, I am still asking the same question – what can either the board or department provide our CAC that we don’t already have – dollars? Meeting place? Enough to justify these hoops that we have to go through to get additional community support?
My second purpose is to understand process.
I have a simple request today but I am not sure how to get my voice heard and a proposal executed in a timely manner.
Previously, with Council support, CACs were given permission to meet at one designated District community center, without a City rental fee. Since most CACs were operating virtually, this was a big step forward, especially after the pandemic.
At the last Council meeting, Councilor Harrison made a motion to revise the previous agreement so that each CAC has the ability to meet at a community center of their preference. This motion was based on a letter to Council from Robert Rice, Chairman of the Raleigh CAC organization, with full support from all of the active CACs.
Instead of pursuing the motion, Councilor Jones requested that this request go through the CEB.
Apparently there is a process!
So, I am here today to ask that you support this request and modify the previous allowance of one designated community Center per District to the preferred Community Center for each CAC.
The preference is based on previous meeting history and a convenient location within the bounds of the respective CACs.
In the end, it still comes down to the purpose and relationship of Community Engagement and the CEB. Will you consider requests that come from the public or will you just follow the direction that you are given by City staff?
On behalf of the active CACs, which represent the voices of the residents in their respective communities, we hope that you favor listening and endorsing the public request put before you today and in the future.
Assuming that there is a process, let’s follow the lead of Councilor Jones. Let’s support and promote this request to allow CACs the use of community centers of their preference. After your actions, the proposal can then be forwarded to Council so that Councilor Harrison can make her motion again, buoyed by both your support and the existing and future CACs of Raleigh.
Let’s hope that this is the process and pathway forward for the betterment of the residents of Raleigh, Community Engagement and the CEB.
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