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.