Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin really stepped in it at the first City Council meeting of 2023. It was announced that Day One of the council’s retreat, an annual event of team-building and setting their collective direction for the year, will be held at an undisclosed location in Durham that has no ability to live stream the event for public access. Worse yet, the venue can’t even record the event for viewing after the fact. So much for improved community engagement!

This is a move that would be funny if it weren’t so emblematic of the hypocrisy of Mayor Baldwin. One of the first moves Baldwin made after becoming Mayor in 2019 was to defund the Citizen Advisory Councils (CACs), Raleigh’s 50-year-old official organization for two-way communication between residents and the city. She did this based on her claims that CACs were not inclusive.

The defunding of CACs eliminated the city’s official channel of citizen engagement. This was one of the biggest issues in the 2022 City Council election which resulted in only two of the original council members who voted to defund the CACs being re-elected to city council. (Jonathan Melton joined Baldwin in voting to defund the CACs on Feb 4, 2020 making similar claims about lack of inclusiveness of CACs.)

As recently as in the December issue of Raleigh Magazine, Baldwin was still being quoted with complaints about the perceived lack of inclusiveness of CACs saying:

In short, CACs were intended to be nonpartisan advisory boards representing different geographical regions of the city, comprised of nonelected citizens. These councils routinely held meetings as a way of dispersing information and gathering public input. The CACs were disbanded without public input or notice in early 2020, a move for which Mayor Baldwin took much ire in the media. But, she says, her goal was to actually make community engagement more inclusive—not eliminate community engagement altogether. “My feeling is that CACs were exclusive, not inclusive, and we’re looking at ways to make community engagement inclusive.”

We have no complaints if council wants to spend a day of their retreat in Durham where they will have the opportunity for social networking, as they described it, with their Durham City and County counterparts. But, there MUST be a venue in Durham that is capable of broadcasting the event or at a minimum, recording the event to be watched after the fact.

As it stands the residents of Durham will have greater access to engage with the city because we are assured people will be able to attend in-person. But, we can’t even be sure of that because the location in Durham has not been revealed, only its technical deficiencies.

When the city originally published an announcement of the Council Retreat on the city website events calendar, they did so by stating the public could watch the event live while in session. That entry on the calendar has since been changed to note the event will NOT be live streamed.

Through the magic of the “Wayback” machine, we have the original calendar entry as it appeared on December 16, 2022.  View it here: Wayback Machine. Or check our screen shot below:

Here is a shot of how the entry appears on the city’s events calendar as of January 3, 2023:

Livable Raleigh Editorial Team

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