After Raleigh’s City Council election was completed, Ned Barnett, Associate Opinion Editor, The News & Observer, contacted us to ask how we saw the results and what we expect from the next City Council. Here is our response:
How we saw the election:
- The results reinforced our poll results that voters want change, don’t like undue developer influence, and want more transparency. See the poll results here: Voters want change
- It’s not about no-growth, but balanced growth. It’s time to stop reinforcing the divisive YIMBY / NIMBY narrative.
- No candidate in this election ran on an “anti-growth” platform despite the media’s inability to recognize and report that fact. For example, simply advocating for the council to adhere to the Midtown Small Area Plan that THEY APPROVED 18 months ago is not anti-growth nor anti-density. The approved plan calls for a 20-story max and that is both growth and density.
- See Livable Raleigh’s position on this here: Voting for Growth and Equity, not Growth without Equity
- See Councilor-Elect Mary Black’s statement on the supposed “stalemate” on the newly elected council here: What Stalemate on Council?
- It’s unfortunate that the current council eliminated the possibility for runoffs by changing the format of the election to a plurality without any public input. We note that ONLY 2 of the 8 races were won with a majority vote while NONE of the incumbents received majority support from the voters. (in the At-Large races, 25% is considered a majority) Research shows that plurality elections favor incumbents and that was the point of moving the election to November without including a primary.
- Great to see wider turnout, but the financial impact of running during midterm or presidential elections hurts low-wealth candidates.
- It was great to see the N&O include the financial disparity of the Wake County Sheriff’s race in their reporting but at the same time disappointing the same details were left out of their reporting on the Mayoral and City Council races.
- While you may be tempted to discount the wins in Districts A, B and D as being run for “open” seats, each of those races had a widely identified candidate endorsed / supported by the Mayor and current council majority and those endorsed candidates were ALL rejected by the voters.
What we expect from the new Council:
- Improved Citizen Engagement opportunities with the reestablishing of in-person, monthly, community meetings held free of charge at the city’s community centers.
- Improved Citizen Engagement opportunities at City Council meetings with the implementation of BOTH in-person and virtual public comments. Despite the city attorney claiming these are illegal, they have been and continue to be in use in Cary and have been deemed to be legal by representatives of the UNC School of Government.
- More balanced development (infrastructure, environment, community benefits, equity and affordability). We expect to STOP hearing that inclusionary zoning as a way to include affordability is illegal in NC. Clearly there are ways around that. If it is legal for the city to implement “affordability bonuses” along future BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) corridors, those same types of policies could be implemented city-wide in exchange for increases above the defined base density.
- Incumbents who were re-elected need to understand the message that was sent by the voters. They did NOT receive a mandate to continue their current practices. More voters voted against each of them than for them.
- Change the culture of the City Council and City Staff so developers know they don’t get rezonings approved by right, but need to negotiate and offer TRUE community benefits.
- It’s time to focus density to locations where it benefits the community versus randomly adding density across the entire city for the benefit of developers. Density for the sake of density is not good enough. Without focusing density, you do nothing to reduce dependency on cars.
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