The Disruption on the New Raleigh City Council Is a Blast from the Past | Triangulator | Indy Week

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The Disruption on the New Raleigh City Council Is a Blast from the Past

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The recent shenanigans of the Raleigh City Council conjure up the disruption that beset Wake County government in 2009, from Commissioner Betty Lou Ward's infamous bathroom trip to the Ron Margiotta-John Tedesco takeover of the 2009 Wake County Board of Education.

The city council had been reasonably placid, if not spectacularly productive, for the past year or so. But with the departures of veterans Mary-Ann Baldwin and Bonner Gaylord, the council sworn in December 1 started to show its own signs of disruption.

(According to some folks, disruption is a good thing. Think Uber. And think of all the things that bill themselves as "Uber, but for [whatever]." And think all the people who now have gigs instead of jobs.)

It was council member David Cox who introduced a measure disrupting the committee assignments that Mayor Nancy McFarlane had compiled. But it was Russ Stephenson who rode herd, getting a different lineup passed while council member Corey Branch was out of the room sick.

For the most part, the committee assignments themselves aren't a huge deal. (Although Stephenson replacing Nicole Stewart with the slow-growth Stef Mendell on the growth and natural resources committee could have some ramifications down the line.) But the rebellion against the mayor's wishes—in contrast to the council's traditions—bodes poorly for harmony on the body, if history teaches us anything.

When Betty Lou Ward left the room during the December 7, 2009, county commission meeting, Republicans seized the opportunity to appoint one of their own, Tony Gurley, chairman. (Commissioner Harold Webb was absent after having a stroke.) Having a GOP chairman leading a majority-Democratic board led to months of conflict over school funding and other matters.

That same month, Republicans Ron Margiotta and John Tedesco engineered a takeover of the school board chairman's position, which went to Margiotta in an unusual midterm switch. The board went on to hire controversial, short-term schools superintendent Anthony Tata and do away with a diversity program for school assignment.

The accreditation body AdvanceEd reported in 2011: "Since December 1, 2009 the actions and decisions of the Wake County Board of Education have resulted in creating a climate of uncertainty, suspicion, and mistrust throughout the community."

Coming months will tell how well disruption will serve the Raleigh City Council—and the public—as the panel confronts sweeping issues of affordable housing, traffic, and rampaging growth.  

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