by Bob Geary
How are the members of the Raleigh planning commission appointed? Well, 3 of the 11 are appointed by the county commissioners. The other eight are named, one at a time, by a majority (five votes) of the eight-member Raleigh City Council. They serve two-year terms, but the tradition is that, once on, they can serve up to three terms without any serious consideration of how they're doing -- or not doing -- their jobs. (Not doing? Well, some folks do call it the Raleigh Developers' Commission.)
And no, the eight Council members do not each control one PC appointment -- though that idea has been raised from time to time. To repeat, PC appointments are made by a majority of the Council.
Thus, for the last six or seven years, every member of the PC was named by a Council voting bloc consisting of five conservative councilors who tended to green-light any and all development proposals regardless whether they made sense from a planning perspective. The five were Jessie Taliaferro, Joyce Kekas, James West, Philip Isley and Tommy Craven, plus a go-along Mayor Charles Meeker). Councilors Thomas Crowder and Russ Stephenson were shut out, as was Meeker himself to the extent he might have had nominees of his own in mind.
After the '07 elections, however, the conservative majority was out (Taliaferro and Craven defeated, Kekas retired) and a potentially progressive majority was in, with Crowder and Stephenson joined by new Councilors Nancy McFarlane and Rodger Koopman. Meeker would make five.
But on the first PC opening, Meeker isn't making five. The proposed nomination of architect Heather Vance by the progressive four is currently stalled. Councilor West has his own candidate, Quince Fleming, and when the first vote was taken, it was 4 votes for Vance, 1 for Fleming, with Meeker, Isley and at-large member Mary-Ann Baldwin sitting on their hands. A blogger at NewRaleigh.com wants to know why Meeker doesn't step up and make it five for Vance (and do read the comments--they'll tell you a lot about the politics of this); for background on the players involved, a post at BelowtheBeltline.org is helpful.