Welcome to the INDY's Raleigh City Council live blog | News

Welcome to the INDY's Raleigh City Council live blog


Sir Walter Wally
  • Sir Walter Wally

Happy Groundhog's Day, everyone! Raleigh's old reliable groundhog, Sir Walter Wally, did not see his shadow outside the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences this afternoon. You know what that means: spring is right around the corner!

This report says Sir Wally gets it "more wrong than right," which is just rude. I will have to respectfully disagree with those facts, based on my and every American's prerogative to disagree with climate science, but you don't have to take it from me. Hear it straight from the groundhog's mouth, as Sir Walter Wally defends his record on his 100 percent legit, official Twitter account

We've got some exciting things on the city council agenda today, including a ten-year arts plan for Raleigh, and our chance to compete for a $40 million Smart Cities grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

A team of incredibly smart people from N.C. State has been working with city staff on a plan that uses emerging technology "to improve safety, enhance mobility, protect the environment and give people better access to jobs, schools and other essential services," according to le agenda. The application is due on Thursday, and I for one am dying to know, whatever have they come up with??

And we've also got three historic landmark applications, for homes on Cowper Drive and South Blount Street, and for the Wilmont Apartments on Hillsborough. 

1:01: Chambers are filling up. My hypothesis is, a lot of people here to show support for the arts plan. The consent agenda is quite lengthy. Apparently we will soon get a monthly musical installment to be called the "Oak City Sessions Music Show," which sounds like a TV spot highlighting a local band. Production cost: $25k.

1:07: There will be nearly $500,000 put towards renovating the inside of the Duke Energy Performing Arts Center. 

1:10: And our meeting is called to order. 

1:12: Here's a presentation, or "live performance," from the Burning Coal Theater. Last year they had the highest attendance rates in their 19-year history, with nearly 90 percent capacity for shows. They're collaborating with CAM on a show called "Blue Sky," which is showing at CAM. 

1:15: Burning Coal does a lot of things with WCPSS, and in April, they're hosting a Shakespeare marathon!! Will be reading all of Shakespeare's plays. Awesome.

1:16: Consent agenda passes. Planning Commission schedules two hearings for Feb. 16.

1:17: We're on to the Safelight Local Agreement, which was pulled last time because $800,000 is going to WCPSS and Councilman Thompson wanted to know more. Basically, the city gets money when people run red lights and the proceeds of those tickets, usually $50, go to WCPSS. Clearly a lot of red light runners out there. Councilman Thompson makes a motion that those proceeds go to (I believe) drug use prevention in schools.

1:19: Toxey Drive 2-hour parking is holding until this evening when Councilor Branch is here. Spring Forest Road/Atlantic Avenue rezoning is approved.

1:20: Manager's report. First, Municipal Service District Service selection. Meaning staff has proposed a draft "Scope of Work" for municipal services. At some point, after an optional public hearing, Council can adopt the draft or not. "We will want to make it known you're inviting public input," Ruffin Hall says.

1:24: MAB mentions retail recruitment. You the public can provide input on this on Feb.

1:25: Next up: compensation system study, in order to "recruit and retain a high-performing, diverse workforce." So they're studying how city employees are paid. This is Phase 1 of the study. Steve Jones, from human resources, says we need a dependable pay structure to keep good workers.

1:27: Jones: "This is a pretty massive undertaking." They want to attract and retain. And it affects everyone. Everyone who works or the city. It will take into 2017 to complete. 

1:28: Inclusive and collaborative approach. Phase 1 Diagnostic: September-December. They need a "formal defined compensation philosophy," basically a guideline to make decisions about paying people. Which Raleigh does not currently have. Also need to benchmark compensation against other cities and recommend a pay structure to support recruiting, rewarding and retaining good workers. 

1:31: Next up is Phase 2, which includes "development and reassessment" of job descriptions and collecting salary data for benchmark and recommendation.

1:32: It's been ten years since this has been undertaken, so it's "well overdue," says compensation consultant from Gallagher Benefits Services.

1:37: Also, job descriptions are old and need to be updated to reflect what city employees actually do. Like, this needs to be done immediately. 

1:44: An employee advisory group was involved in representing the 4,000 or so city employees to give input on compensation. They gave a lot of feedback. David Cox applauds that. MAB makes motion to approve and move to Phase 2. That's what happens.

1:45: Next up: Smart Cities! Eric Lamb, Raleigh Transportation Manager, is here to speak on that.  Associate vice chancellor for partnerships at NC State is here too. 

1:47: Lamb: look at what does it mean to be a smart city? what kind of transportation system does a smart city have? 65 cities in the US could qualify for this grant, including Greensboro and Charlotte. 

1:48: Our proposal is called "Smart Raleigh:" how to grow transportation network without congestion. 3 key areas: smart travel (address congestion); smart fleet (improve fleet tech to improve safety and reduce gases) and First/Last mile automation (extending the reach of transit using small, autonomous vehicles)

1:49: So there is a lot of technology we can use, data we can collect to provide feedback on transportation flow. Use communication technology and use smart signage. 

1:50: Smart fleet: using natural gas buses, other electric charging schemes for buses, using collision warning devices, sensor data and autonomous transit technology, 

1:52: First/Last automation: this is something NC State has been working on, designing and testing small autonomous vehicles. They're working on this at Centennial campus. 

1:53: NC State partnership makes Raleigh a strong contender, and other partnerships bring things to the table as well: IBM, Cisco, Red Hat, SAS etc. can all be partners. 

1:54: So they submit the application on Thursday and then they will develop an implementation plan "in anticipation of finalist status." MAB is super stoked about this. Dickie Thompson too. 

1:55: We're onto Six Forks Corridor study, a holistic master plan for the Six Forks corridor. This has been in the works for a while, says Carter Pettibone from city planning. They came up with a vision, got donations for the study. Kicked off in May 2014. Early last year, a drat plan was ready.

1:58: People want a unique sense of place and enhanced fluidity of movement. They want connectivity, pedestrian/bike safety etc. There was a of public input, obvi. Pros and cons were weighed, of course.

2:00: The plan will alternate between two different types of streetscapes: urbanized mixed use, and then to more suburban (bigger setbacks etc) as you move northward.

2:02: There will be complete streets, for all modes of travel: six lanes of traffic, narrow median, bikes and pedestrians have their own separated zones. (Bike lanes and wide sidewalks.)

2:07: Public art will be included! Mayor Nancy: It's ok, you can applaud. People applaud. Environmental responsibility will be included= trees, streetscapes designed to manage stormwater.

2:16: You can read the study here. 

2:18: Russ Stephenson asks what service improvements are being anticipated on Six Forks if we pass the transit referendum this fall? Eric Lamb: 15-minute services from North Hills, but higher quality of transit stops in the corridor could happen. RS: I appreciate the bike and pedestrian amenities, but is putting tens of millions into road widening a 20th-century solution to a 21st-century problem? Lamb: Traffic volume is such that six lanes are needed, bus lanes aren't dedicated based on feedback from the public. 

2:22: RS cites Cameron Village, says it is successful because we didn't expand to a five lane commuter roadway as was considered at one point. He questions if road widening north of Rowan Road is a good solution. 

2:23: Kay Crowder: citizens might not know about the benefits of bus lanes yet, but would we not do that anyway because we are trying to get to a more transit immersed city? Lamb says the customers just aren't into the bus lanes. "We're trying to create something that satisfies different competing needs." KC: I think at the end of the day we will feel sorry we didn't incorporate a dedicated bus lane through this corridor." 

2:25: David Cox: Likes sidewalks and bike lanes being above the curb and away from the road. There are 3 different scenarios the council has to choose from. He asks if there are opportunities to use a multi-purpose bike and pedestrian path so roads wouldn't have to be so wide, therefore impacting fewer structures, therefore being cheaper? It could be a possibility, but the goals was to separate them. Also buses would be blocking traffic still when picking up and dropping off, which "is a concern."

2:30: Lamb says we don't support pullovers for buses as a policy in general. Cox continues: Obviously North Hills is booming. Any thought about having a pedestrian bridge at that location so people can cross the street? Pettibone says it would be really expensive and would require a lot of land, that would need a public-private partnership. Cox: I think we need to revisit that, my big concern is people crossing a six lane highway for people to cross from one side of North Hills to the other. 

2:32: RS: He does not like the six-lane option. "If we continue to design our city for cars and not people..."

2:33: MAB: "We don't know what technologies will be available in 5 to 10 years, maybe we should think about what we'll have then instead of planning for five to ten years from now."

2:35: Pedestrian bridge would have to be approved by NCDOT. Next steps: Comprehensive Plan, FLUM changes would determine the direction of the corridor master plan. KC: Suggests bringing the study to a workshop to make the plan better, come to a consensus and then give direction to staff. 

2:37: Ruffin says that is possible and it can be brought back. RS says he is hearing that citizens want to go in a different direction than the options that are being presented. New technology provides new opportunities. 

2:39: Bonner Gaylord says people are looking for minimal widening and impact but also wants pedestrian bike lanes. It was a point of where something had to give. MAB says stakeholders should come to the work session. That's what will happen. 

2:40: There's a proposal to have a work session every second Wednesday monthly at 2 p.m. from now on, so committee meetings won't happen that week, for scheduling ease. And from now on, agendas and backup materials will be posted online on Thursdays for meetings scheduled the following week. 

2:44: Next up: Raleigh Arts Commission and Public Art and Design Board will present the ten-year arts plan. The original purpose of the ten-year plan was to strengthen arts and culture for all the city's many communities and people. 

2:48: Their vision is Raleigh as a connected city of art and culture where every citizen is empowered to lead creative lives. The arts plan is aligned with the city's other plans, including the Comprehensive Plan and the  2015 Strategic Plan and its goals. Lotta community engagement: 4,000+ people participated.

2:50: Feedback: arts and culture should be present in every neighborhood, across the city. Support the arts community and broaden the support system for the arts (through an Arts and Culture Foundation to partner with the city). More public art, and more public art out in the neighborhoods.

2:52: Residents were asked, what should the city's role in the arts be? Lead, major, minor, none at all? 92 percent of citizens surveyed said either a lead role or a major role. 

2:54: 8 goals: everyone should be able to participate in the arts how they want to; get the youth involved; equity, access and inclusion needed; support artists and cultural organizations, because they are the heart of creative life, by ratcheting up partnerships; make arts and creative districts, create "nodes" of art; public art master plan; desire to explore a new performing arts venue 1,500-1,800 seats (a long term goal); consolidate arts programs and link to economic and cultural development; come up with marketing and promotion strategies so people know what's going on with the arts; sustainable, reliable, predictable source of funding!!!!, by creating the Arts and Culture Foundation. 

3:00: There are lots of supporters of the "Creative Life" plan here today. About 30 people stand up and applaud. Mayor Nancy says she appreciates the action steps. 

3:02: David Cox mentions the "Before I Die" project that was on Fayetteville Street last summer. He says he wrote on it "Before I die I want to run for City Council." Dickie Thompson appreciates that it is for the whole city now just downtown. The plan is adopted to lotsssss of applause. Kay Crowder: I love these votes. 

3:03: Council approves all the historic landmark applications on the agenda. 

3:05: RS makes a motion to rename the Safe, Healthy, Vibrant, and Healthy Neighborhoods Committee to "Healthy Neighborhoods" committee. KC says she would call it "Guns and Roses." MAB says the committees were renamed to reflect the Strategic Plan. She says RS can call it whatever he wants, no matter the official name. RS says he doesn't want people to be confused by the name of the committee. MAB says she thinks we'll remember this conversation. 

3:07: No one knows what the motion is any more. MAB makes a motion to do nothing and RS can call the committee whatever he pleases. "I don't know why we need a motion to change anything." RS says he just wants to make sure the public is aware that the Healthy Neighborhoods committee is indeed the "long, verbose" committee name. His motion: let people know that when he refers to it as the Healthy Neighborhoods Committee it is the same thing as the committee name that is too long to say.

3:10: Mayor Nancy: We are just making the statement that "Healthy Neighborhoods" is the Safe, Vibrant, And Healthy Neighborhoods Committee. To be known henceforth on this blog as the "Guns and Roses" committee. 

3:12: KC makes a motion to give $5,000 to the Raleigh City Cemeteries organization to digitize photographs of the city's cemeteries in case of natural disaster or other emergency. Upper Neuse Clean Water Initiative Group wants to come to a work session as soon as possible. Staff will follow up with them on what they want to update on. 

3:16: BG will host monthly meetings for District E at Glen Eden Pilot Park, 7pm, last Thursday of the month, for six months. The group will be called the District E Neighborhood Alliance. Dickie Thompson says "atta boy, atta girl" to city staff for handling the ice storm. He reiterates need to study input of transit and bus rapid transit for Six Forks Road. The study fell short on that, and if we're going to have a transit referendum we need to look at that.

3:20: MAB says we need feedback from Convention Center Commission on how to go about creating signage to showcase all the events going on there. Mayor Nancy says we tend to get wrapped up in "what's a sign; we have an opportunity to work with artists to be creative." But MAB says visual cues are severely lacking on advertising what's going on there, and at Red Hat amphitheater. She wants recommendations on how to move forward with that. Ruffin Hall says they'd have to look at the sign ordinance. But there will be a report on how events are currently advertised.

That's it. 

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