Raleigh resident Tim Niles delivered the following comments at City Council’s Jan 19 meeting during the public comment period. Following Mr. Niles’ transcribed comments is a discussion of likely Councilor violations of Council’s own Code of Conduct.
Tim Niles: Last week Councilor Stewart made one of the most offensive remarks I’ve heard from the Council table.
“There are folks who show up at every space, every venue we offer. We are hearing the same voices in all of these different spaces. I have heard from folks who don’t engage who say these folks turn them off.”
Using the term “space” sounds as though she is offended to have citizens violating her personal space.
Stewart and this council have been so successful vilifying engaged citizens and discrediting their opinions that she has people telling her even the sound of their voices turns them off. Well done Councilor!
This is not new for Stewart. At her Renters’ Forum she welcomed the attendees with this:
“The city has been really good at engaging with white homeowners for a really long time through history.”
She justified her vote to end CACs saying she wanted to “right-size” the voices being heard.
She is such a champion of engagement she published a survey almost a year ago asking how people wanted to engage and has never released the results. Must have been the wrong sized voices.
It sounds as though she wants to gerrymander the voices heard by Council.
We get it Councilor. You think that by now these obstinate, old, white, homeowners would have figured out that you don’t care what they think and they would just go away. At least until you can convince a larger group who agrees with you to start engaging to drown out their voices.
8 of the 18 CACs you abolished were located in majority Black neighborhoods. In 2017 47% of the CAC chairs were Black. Your characterization of the CACs being a bunch of old, white, homeowners is not and never has been accurate.
Yes, the city should encourage more participation.
You don’t do that by demonizing those who are engaged, telling them you have heard enough from them as Stewart did in her Council Committee, refusing to allow the public to speak. A homeowner wanted a sewer line moved by 50 feet. The move was approved by staff as acceptable. It would have saved trees and wildlife habitat on the resident’s property. But, Stewart, the self-described environmentalist, denied the homeowners the right to speak to protect her property from being unnecessarily destroyed.
You also don’t encourage more participation by appointing the same older, white, male homeowner to three different boards.
Stewart should be thankful citizens do show up at her “spaces”. Her Renters’ Forum was not a HUGE success. I was there encroaching on her space. By my count there were 31 attendees. 3 were councilors, 7 staff and 1 reporter. Of the 20 actual attendees I identified 7 as regular CAC attendees. Only 2 of the remaining 13 identified themselves as renters.
A city-wide meeting she hailed as a great success had less attendance than a monthly CAC meeting for a neighborhood. But, those CAC attendees are the people she and her friends are turned off by.
END OF COMMENTS
Prior to starting the Public Comment portion of a council meeting, Mayor Baldwin has a habit of asking those who plan to speak to “be kind.” She deploys this as a shield to protect herself and the councilors from hearing any valid criticisms from the public. This time, because it was the day after the MLK Holiday, she decided to go the extra mile and invoked a simplified and inverted view of Dr. King’s message. Yes, Dr. King preached a message of non-violence. But, he always advocated for speaking TRUTH to power. For Baldwin to insist that Dr. King would rather speak KINDNESS to power, instead of speaking TRUTH to power is a detestable inversion of Martin Luther King Jr.’s teachings and his legacy.
Nowhere in the Rules of Decorum speakers agree to abide by are there any instructions to “be kind.” And, nowhere in the Rules of Decorum are citizens restricted from voicing valid criticism to members of council. You can read these Rules of Decorum for yourself.
On the other hand, the Raleigh City Council has a formal “Code of Conduct” which defines acceptable behavior for the Mayor and councilors. One section of the code defines how they are expected to behave in interactions with the public.
CONDUCT WITH THE PUBLIC
Public meetings and hearings can be an unnerving experience for some people as they are appearing in an unfamiliar setting and for something that is important to them in their daily lives. Therefore it is important to treat every person appearing before city council with the following courtesies:
- Be welcoming to speakers no matter the person’s point of view.
- Be an active listener. The speaker is there because the speaker feels strongly about the issue. The respectful thing is to pay attention.
- Avoid debate and argument with the public. It is never appropriate to belligerently challenge or belittle a speaker. Council members’ personal opinions or inclinations about upcoming votes should not be revealed at public hearing until the hearing is closed. Council members should remember that their body language and tone of voice can also appear to be intimidating or aggressive.
- Make no personal comments about other council members. Disagreements are fine but do it in a civil way.
Throughout my statement Councilor Stewart was making faces, rolling her eyes and reacting negatively to my comments in a clear violation of the council’s Code of Conduct Rule 3 above which discusses body language.
At the end of my remarks BOTH Mayor Baldwin and Councilor Stewart violated the Code of Conduct by not showing respect for my point of view as directed in Rule 1 above and by belittling me in their remarks a violation of Rule 3.
If you can’t stand criticism from the public, you have no business representing constituents on City Council.
If you are as shocked and disturbed as I am by the conduct of Mayor Baldwin and Councilor Stewart, contact them and the rest of the council. Point out their violations of the Code of Conduct they are sworn to abide by. Tell them you expect better treatment of the public by them. You can contact them at CityCouncilMembers@RaleighNC.gov
Click on the image below to watch the interaction.