In Historic Victory, Hillsborough Becomes First North Carolina Municipality to Pass LGBTQ Nondiscrimination Protections Since Sunset of HB142. What About Raleigh?

In Historic Victory, Hillsborough Becomes First North Carolina Municipality to Pass LGBTQ Nondiscrimination Protections Since Sunset of HB142. What About Raleigh?

Monday, Jan 11 the Board of Commissioners in Hillsborough, North Carolina voted to pass an ordinance broadly protecting members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination. The vote makes Hillsborough, a town with a population of 7,000 people, the first municipality in the state to pass LGBTQ-inclusive nondiscrimination protections in recent years; from 2016 until December 1, 2020, the state laws HB2 and HB142 banned municipalities from protecting their residents from discrimination.

On Tuesday, Jan 12, the town of Carrboro became the second municipality to pass a new LGBTQ-inclusive non-discrimination ordinance after a state ban on such ordinances expired last month.

On Wednesday, Jan 13, Chapel Hill became the third local town in North Carolina to approve a policy that protects LGBTQ residents from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations, including stores and restaurants.

On Tuesday, January 19, elected officials from the Orange County Commission and Durham City Council will consider similar protections.

Conspicuously absent from this list of municipalities advancing protections for the LGBTQ community is Raleigh, NC, the capital city.  At the Jan 5 City Council meeting the only move made was to reaffirm existing protections with a statement saying Raleigh will not tolerate ILLEGAL discrimination. Of course, the problem there is that it leaves LEGAL discrimination tolerated. And, it is still legal in NC to discriminate against the LGBTQ community in housing, healthcare, and public spaces. The City Council took no action to provide any added protections.

At-Large Councilor Jonathan Melton, himself a member of the LGBTQ community, mentioned in his council concerns that he would work to improve Raleigh’s HRC Municipal Equality Index score.  This council was given a guide to improving that score by Equality NC in December 2019. Melton thanked Councilor Cox for bringing the proposal from ENC forward and expressed his excitement in getting it done.  Every proposal in that guide was legal to implement even while HB142 was still in place. Yet Melton and the council have taken no action on that proposal to this day. INDYWeek noted in their reporting that Raleigh lost the most points on their HRC report card for failing to create an LGBTQ Task Force for law enforcement, as well as not having an LGBTQ liaison in the mayor’s office. Ironically, had they just been willing to publish the contact information for the existing LGBTQ police liaison on the city’s website, where it could be accessed by the community, (one of the recommendations made by ENC in 2019 ) their score would have jumped 10 points to 74. Now that election season is getting started and Melton has announced he is staying in Raleigh and not relocating to NYC, he’s making promises to burnish his image one more time.

Click on this image to see what you can do

Equality NC has joined with Campaign For Southern Equality to launch a new digital portal, NC IS READY, to help connect you with your local elected officials and easily voice your support! Click on this image to see what you can do to help.

Raleigh’s Leaders’ Moment to Listen

Raleigh’s Leaders’ Moment to Listen

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 Terrance Ruth.

 

By Terrance Ruth

Raleigh is at a pivotal moment, a moment where leaders must listen. For a city that has received so much praise for its quality of life as a great place to live, work, and raise a family, Raleigh’s leadership is being questioned by its most important stakeholders, the community.

Beneath the glory and buzz of startup hubs, amazing restaurants, and continuous development, lies this difficult question: Who is benefiting from Raleigh’s success and who is Raleigh’s success ignoring?

2020 has challenged the depth of Raleigh’s success and community leaders are calling for new city leadership. We have seen a diverse group of protesters for weeks. We have seen council meetings saturated with residents’ speeches. We have seen council members resign and be asked to resign, by residents. What is at the core of this relentless citizen dissatisfaction? Why have so many taken to the streets in a city that has such a promising outlook?

This outcry by community members can be partially attributed to a systematic silencing of the community’s voice. From all that has occurred so far in this defining year, the consistent thread is the request by community members to be taken seriously and to be heard by Raleigh’s leadership.

Many low-income people of color live in the most neglected areas of our city. These communities have been systematically shut out of wealth-building opportunities of the last century. Gentrification, environmental neglect, and other negative side effects of Raleigh’s never-ending growth have come at the expense of those who have been the most excluded from policy decisions on how Raleigh develops and how it cares for all of its residents.

It is time for Raleigh to become a city where growth decisions are intentionally embedding equity and respect for community voices, allowing benefits to be shared by the least among our citizens. It is time that Raleigh’s leadership implements policies and practices that dismantle barriers to residents’ engagement and empowerment.

As a city, we must equip residents with the opportunities and resources they need to meet their basic needs: jobs that pay livable wages, efficient transit, safe and affordable communities, and a sustainable, livable environment. Equally important is that leaders create a sense of community that is based on a shared vision of how to create and nurture a well-managed city that is accessible to all.

I believe Raleigh can do this by becoming more inclusive, just, and human-centered. Our city leaders can and must restore the public’s trust and allow more citizen voices to be at the table to help create solutions that reflect the needs and rights of all of Raleigh’s residents.

I stand with those who seek to amplify, deepen and multiply efforts to build an equitable, thriving Raleigh that values the voices and participation of our residents. Raleigh leaders, do not miss this moment to listen. 

Terrance Ruth, PhD

Dr. Terrance Ruth has been an advocate for public education, serving as a teacher and principal, and is the parent of a son who attends public schools in Wake County. Dr. Terrance Ruth has worked in K-12 schools across Florida and in Wake County. A former Administrator for Wake county Public Schools, he continues to serve as an Education Consultant to numerous nonprofits.

Dr. Terrance Ruth has led social justice organizations at the national, state, and local levels with a reputation for being the implementation expert.  He served as the NC NAACP Executive Director under Dr. Barber and Dr. Spearman and has served as National Director of Programming for the Repairers of the Breach.

Terrance is a Lecturer at NCSU and serves as President at Justice Love Foundation.  

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.

Planning Commission votes 8-0 to deny current Downtown South Project and calls for a revised and improved project.

Planning Commission votes 8-0 to deny current Downtown South Project and calls for a revised and improved project.

After six weeks of special meetings and intense analysis, the Raleigh Planning Commission found the Downtown South Project, the largest development proposal ever in Raleigh, to be fundamentally inconsistent with Raleigh’s adopted policies for environmental protection, traffic mitigation, affordable housing, gentrification and equitable development.

Their comments are highlighted in this video.

I feel like the Planning Commission has a received pressure to move this case along in an extremely expedited manner.

I feel strongly that a vote in favor of this case would be a vote against equitable development.

They voted 8 to 0 to deny the case. In doing so, they recommended that Council not approve this rezoning, but direct the applicant to resubmit their proposal as a Planned Development, to provide more details and resolve the incomplete and inconsistent elements in the current application.

I’ve been really disturbed by the equity washing in this project’s marketing materials and I believe they obscure the content of its legal documents. This rezoning application shows a vicious disregard for equity and fairness.

The application’s refusal to acknowledge and mitigate the upheaval and damage that this project will bring to our social fabric is not healthy for our city.

The Planning Commission’s frustration at the applicant’s lack of candor or responsiveness was reflected in comments accompanying their unanimous vote to deny the Downtown South Project.

Their comments are highlighted in this video.
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.