Stormie Forte gets District D seat (no surprise); what will she do about John Kane’s massive upzoning bid?

Stormie Forte

Raleigh attorney and political manager Stormie Forte is the new District D Council member by a 6-1 vote. Councilor David Cox (District B) voted for Carmen Cauthen.

Forte was Mayor Baldwin’s choice virtually from the day Saige Martin resigned, which was June 26. Almost immediately, Forte was telling friends that she had the Council vote sewn up.

Weirdly, Baldwin announced an elaborate application process a few days later, with a virtual candidates forum thrown in. Some 56 people applied, including Forte, Cauthen and former District D Councilor Kay Crowder. Two weeks of breathless suspense ensued, with the outcome in as much doubt as a Hallmark holiday classic (“Will She Find Happiness?”). Yesterday, the saga ended with Forte’s no-surprise selection. Baldwin pronounced it “historic,” and it was — Cauthen and Forte were vying to be the Raleigh Council’s first-ever African-American woman. Forte claimed that honor, and she is also the first LGBTQ woman.

LR supported Cauthen’s candidacy after it became clear that Council would reject Kay Crowder. We don’t really know Forte, whose work to date has been in the state government arena rather than the city. She clearly has skills. They’ll be tested almost immediately by a massive development project proposed for District D.

 

Kane’s giant project looms in South Raleigh

We’re talking about Z-13-20, John Kane’s bid to have 133 acres of land up-zoned around the intersection of South Saunders Road and I-440 (see the map in the linking zoning application).

Kane is the developer of North Hills and of the massive buildings downtown on the south side of Peace Street. (40-story tower approved but not built as yet.)

But his so-called Downtown South plan–the South Saunders tracts, touching South Wilmington Street on the east–would dwarf Kane’s other projects if approved as submitted.

This is the plan with the stadium that may or may not be built for a major-league soccer team that so far does not exist. (Kane is seeking a big city-county subsidy for the stadium, but so far hasn’t gotten it.)

The stadium, frankly, is a kind of shiny object in an application that asks for an open-ended right to build 40-story buildings, 20-story buildings and 12-story buildings adjacent to Swift Creek, in a part of town with serious flooding issues.

So far, nothing in the application promises a stadium, or affordable housing, or stormwater management beyond the minimal requirements of city code. Nor does it say how the community will benefit from the fact that the location is in a federal Opportunity Zone, that Trump-created developer boondoggle that is supposed to benefit the poor but seems actually to  be a handout to the rich.

In fact, the only thing that’s promised in the application is no strip clubs, car repair shops, gas stations or prisons. Otherwise, it’s an open-ended “ask” for the right to build whatever.

In a Zoom meeting with residents yesterday, Bonner Gaylord — Kane’s representative — offered no specifics, and he insisted that no specifics, no design details, nothing can be decided until after the up-zoning is approved. Let us build to the max, and THEN we’ll consider what you want, seemed to be his message.

Carmen Cauthen was on the Zoom and asked whether Kane will enter into a Community Benefits Agreement with South Raleigh residents as part of the up zoning application.

Gaylord put her off.

Such an agreement — a CBA — might pledge enhanced flooding controls. It might pledge affordable housing units. It might pledge an inclusionary zoning approach so that existing low-income residents won’t simply be pushed out of South Raleigh in a new wave of gentrification.

Does South Raleigh really want a stadium? Didn’t sound like it from the Zoom meeting. They might prefer a library. Or a school.

What Will Stormie Do?

Stormie Forte’s first job as District D rep, if she’s up to it, will be to take the side of residents and wring some promises out of Kane, while also considering whether 40-story buildings in a flood-prone area makes sense for this part of the city. The application for Z-13-20 was filed in February, but a study of traffic impacts was lacking. According to Gaylord, that study has now been sent to city staff and the application is ready to move through channels this fall.

This fall meaning September. Meaning it’s coming fast.

City Council meets just once in August. Before you know it, the Kane project will get to Council, where Mayor Baldwin has long since promised to support it, whatever it is.  That, of course, is Baldwin’s history: She’s all-in for the developers.

Forte was hand-picked by Baldwin. On the other hand, if she plans to seek election in District D next year, Forte may want to declare her independence.

 

For District D, Council should name the first African-American woman ever: Carmen Wimberley Cauthen

Carmen Wimberley Cauthen

City Council will choose a new member tomorrow to represent District D . It’s an historic opportunity to appoint the first African-American woman ever to serve on the Council. We believe that Carmen Wimberley Cauthen is fully worthy of that honor, and we recommend her without hesitation.

We thank everyone who supported our efforts on behalf of former District D member Kay Crowder. But the current Council wanted someone new, and they rejected the idea that Kay’s experience would be helpful to them. So Kay will not be appointed.

Instead, the Council will choose from among their 5 selected finalists.

In our view, Carmen Cauthen stands out in that group as a lifelong activist for racial justice and a servant-leader in the African-American community in Raleigh.

♦♦

Carmen Cauthen’s roots in the community go deep and wide.

Her work with children and parents, always as a volunteer, spans her entire adult life.

She’s been a missionary—a quiet, determined force—in a multitude of faith-based, school and community projects to advance racial equality.

She was the founder of the NAACP chapter at N.C. State University.

Carmen Cauthen: A Life of Service to Raleigh

As co-founder of the Wake Housing Justice Coalition, she’s helped change the conversation about affordable housing in Raleigh to focus it on helping those in the greatest need.

By accident of birth, Carmen comes from a Raleigh family legendary for their work on civil rights. Her lived experience, as a daughter, mother, wife and community leader, follows in their footsteps. If appointed to City Council, she would be more than equal to the moment when our city, and our country, are finally able to say that Black Lives Matter.

We especially want to recognize Carmen Cauthen’s commitment to community engagement as a vital element in creating change. “Growing up during other periods of civil unrest,” she told Council in her application, “I know that change is difficult.

“But with openness, transparency and civic engagement, change and growth are possible. I am eager to help facilitate those changes here.”

♦♦

Again, thank you to the more than 1,300 people who signed the petition asking Council to return Kay Crowder to her District D seat for the remainder of this 2019-2021 term only. Kay made it clear she would fill the unexpired term and then step down in 2021 to allow the voters of District D to choose their own new representative.

We appreciate Kay’s willingness to pitch in on a temporary basis to help the city and the residents of District D, and we know that Kay appreciates everyone who got behind her.

Nonetheless, the reality is that District D’s new representative will be chosen by the Council. They can do themselves proud by appointing our first-ever African-American woman, Carmen Wimberley Cauthen.

Why District D residents want Kay Crowder to represent them again.

Councilor Crowder in 2019

1) Kay has the experience and knowledge.
2) She has a great record of constituent service and community involvement.
3) 100% focus on City Council (won’t be distracted by re-election campaign).
4) It’s the right thing to do (an online petition says so).
5) Righting a wrong.

1) Right now Raleigh is experiencing a budget crisis due to the coronavirus epidemic. The City could really use Kay’s knowledge and experience. As a councilor for 5 years, Kay worked on many City of Raleigh budgets. In fact, under her leadership in 2019,  the City Council ushered in its first billion-dollar budget; and did so with no tax increase.

2) We District D residents were used to seeing Councilor Crowder at our neighborhood meetings, our CAC meetings, and other events. If our neighborhoods were experiencing a problem or had an issue to be addressed, we could email or call Kay and she would get involved and make things happen. That level of constituent service has been missed in 2020.

3) Kay has promised not to seek re-election after she is appointed to fill the District D seat. That means she can devote her full attention to the issues facing Raleigh, her duties on City Council, and serving Raleigh residents. She will have no need to be fundraising and running a campaign. Most likely, anybody else appointed to the District D seat will seek re-election, and spend a great deal of time in that effort. Kay will have our full attention.

4) Kay Crowder was elected twice before to represent District D. She finished second in the 2019 election, and could have called for a runoff, but didn’t (sparing Raleigh the time and expense). There is an online petition that was started by District D residents, which has over 1,300 signatures as of Saturday morning. Kay has the support of more District D residents than any other candidate. Appointing her is the right thing to do.

5) In 2019, Councilor Crowder ran an honest campaign based on real issues and her record of civic involvement, Saige Martin did not. He lied about his voting record, and he lied about Kay Crowder. His campaign did push-polls* that perpetuated a series of lies and half-truths. These lies angered the LGBTQ community as well as the residents of District D who (like Kay) support the LGBTQ community. The Friday before the election, when it was too late for Crowder to respond, Martin dropped a mailer full of cruel and untrue allegations against Councilor Crowder. The postcard’s fear-mongering was a standard Jesse Helms technique, just done in reverse. Jesse routinely stirred up anger against gay people to win elections; Saige stirred up anger within the gay community to win an election. While Saige was working the LGBTQ community for political purposes, he is now accused of working them for his own sexual predator purposes. These deceptions have caused a lot of hurt and sense of betrayal. Let’s start the healing process by righting this wrong, we need Kay Crowder as our District D representative. We know her and trust her.

There is no better choice for Raleigh’s District D than Kay Crowder. The next 17-months of City Council business is going to be intense with difficult decisions to be made, Kay has the experience and knowledge to handle it. Kay has earned the trust of voters over the years and has proven herself as an advocate of our concerns. She will commit herself 100% to the public service of her constituents in District D, and for no other purpose than doing the right thing.

City Council please listen to the residents of District D,
Mike Lindsay
District D resident

* Push polls are a form of telemarketing-based propaganda and rumor mongering, masquerading as an opinion poll.

Forecast for District D appointment by Council: Clear through the weekend, Stormie Forte on Tuesday

Forecast: Clear Thru Weekend, Stormie on Tuesday

As of this morning, 34 “hopefuls” have submitted their applications to be the next District D representative on Council, replacing the ill-fated Saige Martin. The deadline to apply is today at 4. It’s quite a contest.

Poring through these many, bulky submittals is unnecessary, however. When the appointment is made on Tuesday, it will go to Raleigh attorney and Democratic campaign consultant Stormie Forte.

Forte’s had the nod from Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin virtually from the time Martin resigned. And with the fractious Martin off Council, only District B’s David Cox ever questions — or crosses — MAB.

Forte will be the first African-American woman ever to sit on the Raleigh Council, which is truly shocking. Formerly a lawyer with the state, she is now in private practice. As a political consultant, she helped state Supreme Court Justice Mike Morgan win his seat in the 2016 elections, unseating Republican Justice Bob Edmunds and shifting control of the Court from GOP to Democratic.

Forte had not applied as of close of business yesterday, so her resume is not online as yet.

♦♦

By the way, if you’re wondering why Baldwin insisted on having all these applications, and told the Council to read them carefully by Saturday morning, when they are supposed to choose (by secret ballots) five panelists for a virtual candidates forum on Sunday at 3 pm — we have no idea

But then, we could be wrong. Maybe Forte isn’t a lock, and watching on Sunday won’t be a complete waste of time.

Or, you could watch Hamilton. Again.

So you want to be appointed to Raleigh City Council?

 

During a routine election for Raleigh City Council, a handful of candidates step forward every two years to run for each of the eight seats. However it’s apparently a much more attractive proposition when you don’t have to run or campaign, but merely raise your hand to be appointed to fill a vacancy. That’s the situation now that Saige Martin has resigned in disgrace as the District D representative. More than thirty candidates have expressed interest to date.

It’s critical to understand what’s involved in serving on Council. To get an idea of some of the issues the successful applicant will face, District B Council member David Cox has posed a set of questions to prospective candidates.

The breadth of issues and the depth of understanding required leads Livable Raleigh to advocate for former District D representative Kay Crowder to be appointed. Ms. Crowder has already agreed that, if appointed, she would not run for the seat in 2021, meaning she will be able to devote her energies to serving rather than running for re-election. Ms. Crowder’s previous experience on Council means she can step in on day one to serve the constituents of District D. Those constituents have elected her twice before to the seat, and she came in a close second in the last election.

If you agree that Kay should be appointed to the District D vacancy, please sign the petition at https://www.change.org/p/raleigh-city-council-kay-crowder-for-district-d

The following are David Cox’s questions for all who have applied for consideration to fill the vacancy on Raleigh City Council in District D.

  • Is gentrification good or bad for Raleigh? Why or why not?
  • What should be the City’s policy regarding how to spend the proposed affordable housing bond?
  • Should City Council have held public meetings and invited public discussion before taking any action on Citizens Advisory Councils?
  • Should Raleigh’s Police Advisory Board have subpoena power? Why or why not? If so, how should subpoena power be implemented?
  • Would you vote in favor of a City council resolution opposing the Wake Stone quarry? Why or why not?
  • Do you support Neighborhood Overlay Conservation Districts? Why or why not?
  • Should backyard cottages be used as AirBnB-style short term rentals? If so, will this help or hurt the availability of affordable housing?
  • What does “defund the police” mean to you? Do you support defunding the police based on your definition?
  • Under what circumstances would you vote against a rezoning to increase density?
  • Do you support ending single family zoning districts? Why or why not?
  • Would you support taking legal action against the Wake Stone quarry?
  • Do you support Historic Overlay Districts? Why or Why not?
  • Have you attended CAC meetings? If so, what was your experience?
  • Should public tax dollars be used to finance sports arenas? Why or why not?
  • Should Raleigh’s Police Advisory Board have disciplinary power? Why or why not? If so, how should disciplinary power be implemented?
  • Would you vote to reinstate Citizens Advisory Councils?
  • Should Raleigh eliminate at-large Council members and go to all District Council members? Why or why not?
  • What does “protecting a neighborhood” mean to you?
  • Should Raleigh increase the number of people on City Council as a way to increase and diversify representation? Why or why not?
  • Should Raleigh City Council go to four year terms? Why or why not?
  • What is your definition of democracy?