Raleigh City Council held their annual retreat at Dix Park Chapel. While the meeting was viewable remotely, members of the public were not allowed to attend, which is curious considering Council now requires in-person attendance for individuals who want to speak at Council meetings.

It also might be a violation of the Open Meetings Law.

The retreat facilitator was Michelle Ferguson from Raftelis.

Council member Buffkin was absent and excused for the first part of the first day.

Council member Cox was absent and excused the first day.

It was often difficult to hear the council members, speakers, and presenters as they were not diligent about using microphones.

Also council members alluded to having meaningful conversations at breaks and during lunch. These conversations took place away from cameras and microphones.

Day One: Friday, March 4 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM


  • Welcome and introductions
  • Agenda review
  • Norms and expectations for the retreat

Processing the Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically altered our world and the context for establishing policy. We will spend some time reflecting on how the pandemic has affected the City, the community, and individual views as a policymaker.

  • Council members congratulated themselves on their efforts on housing reform, hiring a new City Manager, hiring a new Police Chief, and staff response to the pandemic.
  • Mayor Baldwin noted that she felt there was more anger and hostility and that it was hurtful. (Notable in that she and several of her fellow councilors were supported by PACs and individuals who introduced hostility and deceit into the 2019 campaign.)
  • Several councilors spoke about how districts are so large that councilors represent more constituents than members of the legislature. (Note that Councilor Cox had proposed dividing each district in half so that councilors could be closer to a smaller group of constituents. However most others on council only wanted to consider adding one additional at-large seat, which does nothing to reduce the number of constituents each represents and, according to a City survey the general public supports adding an additional district rather than another at-large councilor.)
  • The facilitator noted that because the group had a strong history of working together, they were able to work effectively in dealing with the pandemic. (Considering that four of the councilors were only a few months into brand new roles at the beginning of the pandemic, and considering that the mayor had only previously served with one of the current councilors, it seemed like a strange observation.)

Strategic Plan Update and Innovation

The City’s new Office of Strategy and Innovation was formed in December 2021. Staff will share an overview of the work and ideas that have been generated thus far, including future planned programs and initiatives. One of the responsibilities of the Office of Strategy and Innovation is to manage the City’s FY2021-2025 Strategic Plan. Staff will share highlights of progress that has been made.

  • Current total of three staff will increase to five. (Interesting budget priority when we are significantly understaffed in first responders and when many residents are severely housing vulnerable.)
  • They did a creativity exercise to build things with a box of paperclips. Mayor Baldwin quipped that a paperclip could be used as a roach clip. (Many will remember that she posted a photo on social media at the beginning of the pandemic in which a vape pen was clearly visible.)
  • Some new innovations that will be introduced include a mobile “City Hall on the go” bus, a mapping project to more easily identify stream deterioration, and incentives for ADUs.
  • Mayor Pro Tem Stewart said it was important that sidewalks not just be built where residents make the most noise. (Ironic considering her support for the loud voices that wanted a sidewalk on Oxford Road when Oxford Road residents did not.)

Budget and Finance Update

Staff will provide a budget and financial outlook for the City.

  • Next property tax reappraisal will take place in January 2024.
  • Borrowing will be more expensive, fuel costs have increased, and new staff have been added in two new departments – Strategy & Innovation and Community Engagement.
  • Revenues will exceed what was budgeted, but expenses are outpacing revenues.
  • Budget work sessions will be held on 3/24 and 4/11. A budget will be presented on 5/17 and there will be a public hearing on 6/7 with weekly work sessions in June until the budget is passed.

Council Priorities for Upcoming Year

Each member of the Council will be asked to share with their colleagues the three most important policies or initiatives they wish to accomplish this year. We will then consider individual priorities and understand the shared priorities among the governing body in the context of the FY2021-2025 Strategic Plan.

  • Councilor Melton’s priorities include supporting the Wake County Transit Plan, permanent free bus fare, land use, and neighborhood retail. (Note that allowing retail in residential neighborhoods would effectively eliminate residential zoning in its entirety.)
  • Mayor Baldwin wants to focus on housing affordability and choice, transit, and climate change, as well as gun violence and innovation. She also questioned why the City is in the parking business.
  • Councilor Branch mentioned making sure City structure met community needs, reinvesting in Pathways Center, job creation and workforce development, and utilizing community and business partnerships. (Too bad the community partnership with CACs has been dissolved for more than two years and it’s expected to be another year and a half — Fall 2023 — before any kind of replacement is put into place.)
  • Mayor Pro Tem Stewart’s priorities are tree conservation and climate change (truly laughable in light of her many rezoning votes that are detrimental to the environment and her support of the RDU Quarry), as well as support for renters.
  • Councilor Knight mentioned climate change (again laughable in light of his many rezoning votes that are detrimental to the environment), pedestrian safety and connectability. Another priority he stated is organizing within neighborhoods through vehicles like Municipal Service Districts (which largely cater to businesses and not residents). (Clearly CouncilorKnight is not interested in organizing residents within neighborhoods through CACs.)
  • Councilor Forte stated her concern that infrastructure, including broadband, be adequate to support development. (Yet this council majority refuses to take the initiative to ensure community benefits, including infrastructure support, are offered as part of rezoning requests.)
  • Councilor Buffkin’s priorities include getting back to basics after Covid, significant raises for public safety workers, closing the transportation funding gap, and ending chronic homelessness.
  • Mayor Baldwin suggested that council hold work sessions while riding bicycles, hold listening sessions at parks, getting out in the community.
  • The facilitator stated that many groups she works with are still holding hybrid meetings to increase opportunities for involvement for more people. (Unfortunately this council majority is pretending that hybrid meetings are illegal despite the UNC School of Government advising that they are allowed and despite the Town of Cary holding hybrid meetings since before the pandemic.)

Legislative Update

Philip Isley with the law firm of Blanchard, Miller, Lewis & Isley, P.A. will provide an overview of the current session of the North Carolina General Assembly. The following members of the General Assembly have been invited to participate in the discussion:

Senator Phil Berger ………………………….President Pro Tem

Senator Dan Blue ……………………………Democratic Leader

Representative John R. Bell, IV ………….Majority Leader

Representative Robert T. Reives, II …….Democratic Leader

Southeast Raleigh YMCA Bus Tour

No cameras or microphones or information about this activity.

Reception at Chapel to follow

No cameras or microphones or information about this activity.

Day Two: Saturday, March 5 from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM

Welcome and Check-In

Courageous Community Conversations

In October 2020, the City and the Shaw University Center for Racial and Social Justice (CRSJ) launched the Courageous Community Conversations initiative to “advance racial and social equity in the City of Raleigh, to work with community leaders, citizens, scholars, and business leaders for a solutions-focused comprehensive plan for positive change.” The CRSJ, in partnership with the Raben Group, took learnings that emerged from a community survey and public forums and incorporated them into a final report. Staff will highlight the many efforts that are underway to address the report’s recommendations.

  • Topic areas of greatest community interest included:
    • Affordable Housing
    • Transportation
    • Employment and Economic Stability
    • Criminal Justice Reforms
    • Mental Health
    • Education

Community Engagement

The Office of Community Engagement was formally established in July 2021. Staff will present the Office’s purpose and responsibilities, milestones to-date, strategic plan involvement, vision, goals, and revisit a proposed Community Engagement Board.

  • Goals include
  • Making it easier to participate
  • Enhancing the engagement process
  • Building staff capacity
  • Increasing diversity of participants
  • A Community Engagement Board will be formed and it is anticipated they will begin operating in Fall 2023 (more than three and a half years after withdrawal of support for CACs).

[It’s a real shame that this Council majority chose to withdraw support from the CACs rather than building upon an existing program and seeking continuous improvement. While building staff capacity is critical, there are real concerns that the top-down Community Engagement Board process will not really represent the community.]

Social Justice Update

As part of a continued effort to promote an inclusive and equitable city, the Department of Equity and Inclusion (DEI) began a series of initiatives to address racial equity. To help build capacity, staff members representing all departments throughout the City were joined to form the City of Raleigh Equity (CORE) Team. Together DEI and the CORE Team have developed and facilitated the Racial Equity Trainings for staff, developed a Racial Equity Lens vs. Racial Equity Toolkit guidance document to ensure a shared understanding of diversity, equity and inclusion tools and to strengthen training. With the arrival of Dr. Aretina Hamilton, the work will continue to look inward, but also consider how we can cultivate inclusion and belonging in the wider community. Staff will further elaborate on these current efforts and begin to lay out priorities for tomorrow.

  • Dr. Aretina Hamilton, Equity and Inclusion, gave a presentation about Reimagining Equity and Inclusion in Raleigh through
    • Engaging in Difficult Dialogues
    • Partnerships with unlikely partners
    • Becoming a leader in building Equitable Cities through Research, Education and Policy
    • Developing culturally competent leaders who have a shared understanding of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
    • Embracing the diversity of communities and geographies in Raleigh

Community Safety & Wellbeing

Chief Estella Patterson, along with Gerald Givens of the NAACP Raleigh-Apex Branch and Tony Cope of Moms Demand Action, will provide an overview of a community safety and violence interrupter program. The presentation will include a discussion on the sweeping gun-violence epidemic in our region and across the country; the costs associated with gun violence; the role of community violence intervention; and their recommendation of the model that best fits the City of Raleigh based on common evidence-based violence prevention models.

  • Mr. Givens gave a very compelling request for $2M for the program from ARPA (American Rescue Plan) funds.

City Manager’s Update

The City Manager will provide an update on key organizational items.

  • City Manager reflected on 2021 achievements including recognition of Raleigh’s safe water program, infrastructure projects, enhanced yard waste collection, community engagement office, convention center comeback, missing middle housing, Chavis Park, five e-busses, community climate action plan, cybersecurity, COVID vaccine tracking, ARPA funding, emergency communications, internal audit results, fire safety program, 32/33 homicides solved, hotel for the homeless, new office of strategy & innovation, equity and inclusion, streetery program.


We will summarize the consensus and discuss next steps.

  • Want to move from a “big little city” to a “big city”
  • Want to reimagine Urban Design Center
  • Apply an equity lens to every budget item
  • Better bond strategies to better manage spend rate
  • Community Climate Action Plan
  • Improve Neighborhood Traffic Management program and Small Area Plan program

What  they would like to see having been accomplished a year from today:

  • Councilor Branch
    • Community Engagement Board
    • A mobile vehicle for “City Hall on the go”
    • Reduction in gun violence
  • Councilor Buffkin
    • Being the most functional and cooperative council (Ironic considering the others regularly shut out Councilor Cox)
  • Councilor Melton
    • Staff support
  • Councilor Cox
    • Re-engaging citizens
    • Re-developing democracy so all have a voice
  • Councilor Forte
    • Community needs
    • Affordable Housing
    • Infrastructure
    • Skills for jobs
  • Councilor Knight
    • Sustainability
  • Mayor Pro Tem Stewart
    • More engagement and support for renters
  • Mayor Baldwin
    • First Bus Rapid Transit line under construction
    • Reducing gun violence
    • Affordable Housing and Housing Choice
    • Engagement

Dix Park Highlights Tour

No cameras or microphones or information about this activity.