Tim Niles is a founding member of Livable Raleigh and has been a resident of Raleigh for over 30 years.

At the February 21, 2023 City Council meeting he delivered these public comments:

Today marks day 1,111 since CACs (Citizen Advisory Councils) were defunded with no plan for replacement.

I’ve been following the progress of the Community Engagement Department through their presentations.

I spoke to the Community Engagement Board earlier this month and want to share the same message with you today.

CACs were important resources because they provided a one-stop-shop for staying informed.

I say “were” because although some CACs are still operating, we lost over half of them. The most devastating of those losses came from Raleigh’s minority neighborhoods. And, those that remain no longer have full access to City Staff and resources.

At monthly meetings attendees would hear a police report, a Parks & Rec report and City Staff reports about current issues. You would hear Planning Department topics.

There were 18 local neighborhood meetings each month providing an opportunity to speak with a local police representative.

That has been replaced with one annual “Coffee with a Cop” event offered at 6 locations. There is no comparison to what we lost.

Roughly 200 opportunities across the city throughout the year reduced to 6. Think about the disasterous impact of this self-inflicted loss of interaction between the community and police.

Previously a person did not have to monitor the city website to find out when budget time arrived. Budget personnel automatically came to your CAC. So too with bond proposals, city services and so much more.

You didn’t have to constantly monitor the Planning Department website to find zoning cases in your area. They were automatically brought to your monthly CAC.

Now you are only notified if you live within 500 or maybe 1,000 feet of the property. Maybe not notified at all if the zoning case is considered too inconsequential to bother.

CACs offered an email list for you to receive a monthly newsletter highlighting what would be on the next meeting’s agenda.

I hope your ultimate engagement program will bring this type of regularly scheduled, monthly meeting back.

To speak in the analogy used by the Community Engagement Department at your recent retreat, I hope you will offer a regular “All You Can Eat Buffet” of engagement so people can attend one regularly scheduled, local meeting to stay informed of city issues as they arise.

I didn’t see anything like that on the “Menu of Choices” brought to you.

Instead, what I saw was an expectation that residents will be required to search out information from different departmental “silos” requiring attendance at multiple meetings, at various locations across the city, on an irregular cycle.

Yes, it’s valuable to add more opportunities for engagement centered around communities of common interests and departmental meet-n-greets instead of only geographic neighborhoods.

But these should NOT replace the meetings we used to have.

It should be  BOTH/AND  not  EITHER/OR

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