Terrance Ruth: A Breath of Fresh Air

Terrance Ruth: A Breath of Fresh Air

In a recent interview with mayoral candidate Terrance Ruth, the Indy’s Jane Porter began by asking why he is running. His answer was plain and to the point: “because I have seen the slow dissolving of public trust in our city.”

Mickey Fearn has a lot to say about trust too. He is the consultant currently under contract to improve community engagement in Raleigh. In the course of his research, he has twice reported to Council that there is a pervasive lack of trust between citizens and Council. In both instances Fearn advised that restoring trust with Raleigh citizens is the key to creating an authentic and effective community engagement system. At last week’s Council presentation, Fearn’s message about trust seemed to once again fall on disinterested ears.

It has been almost a year since Council’s shocking dissolution of the Citizens Advisory Councils, and Raleigh residents still have few avenues for community engagement. One of the last remaining opportunities to discuss community issues is to sign up for a 2 to 3 minute slot to virtually address Council at one of their regular meetings.

Unlike the respectful treatment afforded commenters by previous mayors, the current mayor peppers public commenters with snips and sneers, and routinely cuts them off. Meanwhile, the rest of Council seems unwilling to call for an atmosphere of respect. Over time, Council’s collective behavior has created an environment where disrespect for citizens has become normalized, undercutting the public’s trust in Council’s ability to act with civility and professionalism.

Respect, humility, empathy and trust are qualities rarely seen in politics these days, but they are very much on the mind of Terrance Ruth. While his Indy interview responses are varied and thought provoking, his fundamental theme throughout is the need for Council leadership based on trust. No matter what challenges are ahead for Raleigh, the task of becoming an inclusive, equitable and prosperous city begins, in the words of the mayoral candidate, “by restoring, rebuilding and reuniting Raleigh”. Terrance Ruth is the right person for the job.

Watch Terrance’s Announcement Video

Campaign website Truth For Raleigh

Facebook Truth For Raleigh

Twitter @TruthForRaleigh

Instagram @TruthForRaleigh

Lack of Progress and Accountability in Raleigh’s Community Engagement Project

Lack of Progress and Accountability in Raleigh’s Community Engagement Project

On Tuesday, January 5th I spoke to the City Council about the progress of the City’s community engagement project. Below are my comments. — Michael Lindsay

Hi Mayor Baldwin and City Council members. Thank you for this opportunity to speak with you. I hope all of you had a good holiday season. 

This evening, I want to talk about Mr. Fearn’s community engagement project. My focus will be on accountability and transparency. As my chart indicates, today, January 5th 2021, we are into the 8th month of Mickey Fearn’s $72,000, 10-month contract. How do we citizens know what progress has been made, and how can we be sure our money is being well spent?

(next slide please)

Here are two screen-grabs I made on New Year’s Day; one from the City’s website page titled “Raleigh Seeks to Revolutionize Community Engagement” and one from Mr. Fearn’s website. In both images we see that the last published report on the progress of Mr. Fearn’s community engagement project is September 25th. The previous two reports had “bi-weekly” in their titles. The last report didn’t use that phrase. Are there other bi-weekly reports since September 25? Are there any monthly reports that have not been made public? We are now well over 3 months since the last public report.

Also, the City website has a link to Mr. Fearn’s website, and says to visit his site for additional details. Well, there are no additional details on his site. It is the exact same information as on the City website. Raleigh residents were promised back in the summer of 2020 that as a part of Mr. Fearn’s community engagement project we would have a website where we could go participate in this process. We still don’t have it. 

(next slide please)

So where are we now? According to the contract between the City and Mr. Fearn, by the end of January (which is month 8 in my chart) we are to have designed new community engagement functions and implemented them. They should based on bringing citizens in as co-creators (Task 4 from Phase 1) and synthesis of data and lessons learned from the inventory, discovery and research (Task 5 from Phase 1).

Early on in this community engagement project, I participated in several Zoom meetings with Mr. Fearn. Also, I networked with many other residents who are actively involved. After Christmas, I starting asking around about what, if any, progress has been made since the last published report on September 25th. I have found little evidence that we have moved beyond Tasks 1, 2 and 3 of Phase 1. Task 4 may have been started, but hasn’t gone very far.

As of today, over 70% of the time and money associated with this effort to “revolutionize community engagement” has been spent. Have goals been met? Has the money been well spent? The residents of Raleigh have no idea since we’ve been kept in the dark for over 3 months.

Thank you for listening. 

 

 

Please click on the below image to see all 3 pages of presentation.

Citizens Speak Out: When Council Silenced the CACs, Black Communities Suffered Most

Citizens Speak Out: When Council Silenced the CACs, Black Communities Suffered Most

During the holidays we are re-posting some of our most impactful guest blogs while we take some time away from our hectic schedules. Here is an important message from the community.

At the June 2nd City Council meeting, Hillsborough-Wade CAC Chair Donna Bailey shared a video about the CACs that was produced — ironically — by the City itself before the new City Council abolished them.

https://livableraleigh.com/why-did-they-kill-our-citizen-advisory-councils-the-secret-video/

Four more Raleigh residents registered their dismay at what Council did.*   One, John Frederick Turner, is the son of one of Raleigh’s first black Council members and a strong CAC proponent. We’ve excerpted their comments below.

John Frederick Turner: Don’t allow greed to gleam brighter than charm

I present this dialog by first injecting the name of my father, Frank Lewis Turner. My father sat on the Council I’m addressing in the early 1980s. He was one of the “at large” councilmen (and one of the first Black members of Council).

Now-a-days it seems that many politicians will promise me exactly what I wish to hear. That’s during the campaign. I believe a change of heart doesn’t occur overnight without some ultimate Divine persuasion, or the human kind — favors or cash. Was the CAC a wrong voice for Raleigh’s residents? Was there 40+ years of the wrong things? How was it deemed detrimental to Raleigh? Detrimental enough to disband without debate, without consultation of the community?

It’s the people, not the developer’s buildings, that make Raleigh attractive to not only those coming in, but also to the older souls that made it what it is. Yes, I call Raleigh a big country town. Whoever wants to turn it in to a metropolis has no idea the heartache that will eventually be forcibly injected, whether you like it or not. To have not hired a consultant, done the research, had this virtual council apparatus in place, leaves Raleigh’s heart open to knives that will cut neighborhoods and communities up. Don’t allow greed to gleam brighter than charm.

Donna Bailey: This council silenced the Black community

Trust is something that has to be earned. In disbanding the CAC’s, the ONLY community-based voice in Raleigh, you got rid of a valuable place where citizens and police got together on a regular basis to discuss important issues. It was the BEST at building relationships with the police and having a dialog with neighbors.

Forty percent of the CACs (8 of 18) were in predominantly Black neighborhoods. Your actions of disbanding them silenced the very voices that you now say you want to hear from. I ask you why would anyone trust your actions now?

Chantelle Miles: Buffkin reneges on campaign promise

There is an alarming discrepancy between what Patrick Buffkin said about the CACS during his campaign and his vote as an elected official to dismantle them. This discrepancy comes across as a political bait and switch in a process that can be best described in INDYWEEK’S words as carrying “a stink that won’t wash off.” It has been 4 months, and I assure you, the stink has not worn off.

Even worse, our city is in turmoil after a weekend of impassioned protests over the murder of another unarmed person of color at the hands of law enforcement officers. Now, more than ever, Raleigh needs to come together. But how can it? With the exception of David Cox and Corey Branch, this council has disempowered the community by taking away its main forum for engagement, the CACs, and there does not appear to be a replacement in sight.

David P. Stratton: Knight, funded by developers, plots against public interest

Councilor Knight, as a candidate for your current councilor seat, whose vital interest are you serving when you plot in secret with other council members to eliminate the CACs?  Just how will you serve to represent the public’s interest and hear all of their views about what is important to them in your district until a replacement is found and implemented?  What’s your big plan to engage and participate with your community until your hired consultant tells you what to do?

May I remind you, Mr. Knight, that although you and your campaign may have been funded by big developers and their bottomless bank accounts, it is your JOB as a councilor to serve the public’s interest and not your own.  Your hypocrisy on this issue is blatant, unethical, and wrong.

John Lambert: Council with no mandate attacks democracy

I did not invest years of my professional life in the armed forces of this country and participate in two wars only to sit back while citizens are denied the right to participate in and comment on the conduct of OUR government. Democracy is a two-way street.

This council certainly enjoyed no mandate in the last municipal election, in which far less than a majority of the electorate participated. It is therefore outrageous that you have taken action to eliminate the most economical and reliable forum for communication among Raleigh’s citizens and the officials who nominally represent them. This is not a monarchy that governs by fiat. Restore the voice of the citizens, let them be heard, and LISTEN to them.

* Regarding the Council members who voted to dismantle the CACs, Council members Knight, Buffkin, Martin, Melton and Stewart all said during the 2019 election campaign that they appreciated the value of CACs and wanted to STRENGTHEN and IMPROVE them. They never tipped their hand about getting rid of them. Council members Branch and Cox voted to retain the CACs, but were out-voted 6-2. Mayor Baldwin, for the record, always scorned the CACs.

I helped Mayor Clarence Lightner create the CACs. Why is the current City Council so unwilling to listen to citizens?

I helped Mayor Clarence Lightner create the CACs. Why is the current City Council so unwilling to listen to citizens?

During the holidays we are re-posting some of our favorite guest blogs while we take some time away from our hectic schedules. Here is an important message from Henry Sanoff.
Henry Sanoff, a globally respected professor at North Carolina State University, copied this letter to his neighbors. We have his permission to post it here. The network of 18 Citizen Advisory Councils (CACs) was abandoned by the newly elected City Council on Feb. 4, with no advance notice and no public comment allowed.

To Mayor Baldwin and City Council members,

The key issue, which you have all disregarded during the past few months, is the need to listen.

You initially abandoned a key listening post, the CACs, which I developed working with Mayor Lightner in 1973, and which has been in place for more than 4 decades. Clearly, conflict is part of a normal process of decision making, and there is conflict when citizens discuss the future of their community.

To be fearful of conflict is antithetical to a normal planning decision process. To accept conflict as a norm does require some skills in conflict resolution.

So, the lack of serious communication in the past few days is also symptomatic of an unwillingness to listen. As a faculty member at UC Berkeley in the early 1960s, I witnessed many initially peaceful demonstrations that became violent because the police were prepared for violence without recognizing that their militaristic appearance was a partial cause.

The resort to violence was in part due to a conflict in values between students and the university administration. It required a change in the administration with an interest in listening and a willingness to compromise…and they did.

I was also in the Watts area of Los Angeles when the riots occurred. This was a visibly quiet residential area in the city, but less visible was a lack of public transportation, access to health care, and high unemployment … a tinder box ready to explode … and it did. The area appeared to be a quiet residential area. The pain experienced by the residents was not visible.

More recently, however, there have been several places in the country where local leaders joined the demonstrators in support of their grievances rather than arming for potential violence. They listened and garnered local support. This only suggests that there are problems in a community that are invisible to the untrained eye.

Your proposed approach to sensitivity training of Council members has often been proven to be ineffective. Rather, it would be more effective to identify (advisors or) consultants who are skilled in listening techniques and conflict resolution. Yes, this may require more time than pushing through hasty decisions, but ultimately may earn the support of the community to a city administration that respects the many diverse voices and a willingness to listen.

Sorry for the lecture, an occupational hazard.

Best wishes for a more enlightened future,

Henry Sanoff

Professor Emeritus of Architecture

ACSA/Alumni Distinguished Professor

North Carolina State University

Profiles in Courage

Profiles in Courage

As the largest development proposal ever seen in Raleigh, John Kane’s Downtown South Project challenges all the normal processes for judging community impacts and benefits.

The political pressure for quick approval is equally off the charts, so much so that the City Council has scheduled special meetings designed to force the Planning Commission into wrapping up their Downtown South review in less time than a typical rezoning, even though its complexity and impacts are the largest ever seen.

These Planning Commissioners’ service is a profile in courage and professionalism

Raleigh’s Planning Commissioners are Council-appointed volunteers who review development proposals and regulations. While some commissioners see the work as a stepping stone to political or business advancement, they all bring a spirit of community service. The work is a complex mix of legal, political and financial forces, blended into an endless triage of development analyses and recommendations to Council.

In this pressure cooker, two Planning Commissioners have recused themselves, since they are associated with Kane Realty. For the rest, it would be easy to throw up their hands and punt. But in an extraordinary display of professionalism and integrity, a majority of the remaining Commissioners are taking their oath of public service very seriously. They are working to produce a high quality set of recommendations – for a successful project that serves the public interest according to Raleigh’s community vision of sustainable and equitable prosperity. Their determination to speak up for the best interest of the public is a profile in courage.

You can see clips of them in action in a short video HERE.