New Raleigh City Council Begins With a Spat | News

New Raleigh City Council Begins With a Spat

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"Cry 'Havoc!' And let slip the dogs of war!"
Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 1

OK, maybe the drama at Monday's Raleigh City Council meeting didn't quite rise to Shakespearean levels.

But the meeting and aftermath were unusually complicated and contentious and may portend a rocky path ahead for Mayor Nancy McFarlane and the reconfigured City Council. With members Stefanie Mendell and Nicole Stewart on board following their election in October, McFarlane faced a rebellion from incumbent members Russell Stephenson, David Cox and others who voted with them.
Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane celebrates her election to a fourth term in office following a runoff election Nov. 7, 2017. - THOMAS GOLDSMITH
  • Thomas Goldsmith
  • Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane celebrates her election to a fourth term in office following a runoff election Nov. 7, 2017.


The first indication was a five-three council vote to bypass the mayor's list of committee chairs and members for one submitted by Cox and supported by Stephenson. In the confusion, at least one media organization initially misidentified the person who had made the motion.
Raleigh City Council Member Russ Stepenson - BY THOMAS GOLDSMITH
  • By Thomas Goldsmith
  • Raleigh City Council Member Russ Stepenson


Member Corey Branch, who said after the meeting that he was ill with a sinus condition, had stepped without being excused, so his vote was counted as a yes under council rules. Dickie Thompson and Nicole Stewart sided with the mayor.

During a break, McFarlane and Stephenson got into a brisk exchange over whether he or Cox had made the motion changing the committee lineup.

Stephenson: "This motion was proposed by David Cox."

McFarlane: "You did propose it!

Stephenson: "I didn't."

McFarlane: "Yes you did; you laid it out".

Stephenson: "No, I did not. David Cox laid it out and made the motion!"

McFarlane: "No, you made the motion."

Stephenson: "I did not make the motion; David Cox made the motion."

McFarlane: "I thought it was you."

Cox texted the INDY later Monday that he had indeed made the motion, which was seconded by Mendell.

Under Cox's list, the new committee chairs remained the same as in McFarlane's recommended slate, but other members were moved around or added to committees.
David Cox - PHOTO BY ALEX BOERNER
  • Photo by Alex Boerner
  • David Cox


The list added Stephenson to the growth and natural resources committee, which often deals with controversial issues such as backyard cottages, and replaced Stewart with Mendell on the panel. On the transportation committee, Cox gets a seat the mayor had designated for Mendell. And on the neighborhoods committee, Stewart replaces Cox.

The list was accompanied by an unsigned, somewhat cryptic explanation of its introduction. Stephenson offered the statement when asked about the new assignments.

"While there may be individuals and groups that are unhappy with the outcome of the 2017 Council election, it is nonetheless the new Council's solemn responsibility to form a working majority that can take effective action on behalf of the entire City of Raleigh, while balancing all legitimate interests in conformance with Raleigh's adopted Comprehensive and Strategic plans," the statement read in part.

McFarlane said she had several conversations with members in an effort to arrive at committee lineups that were acceptable to everyone.

"We've had multiple conversations about it," she said. "I wanted us to have a really good working relationship with each other and with the staff. The staff is the ones who do the work."

Branch caused some speculation when he wasn't present for a key vote, but texted after the meeting that he was indeed sick. How would he have voted?

"I was working on a compromise, so not sure," said Branch, who was unanimously elected vice chair of the council near the beginning of the meeting.

The council's new lineup is being characterized in some quarters as being in favor of slower growth. But that's not likely to change what's happening in Raleigh, McFarlane said.

"Growth is coming," she said.

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