Raleigh City Council members agreed Tuesday to start discussion on a new community engagement board in an October 30 meeting that will occur almost six months after the panel’s creation.

But even setting the day for the meeting didn’t happen without a scuffle. At-large member Russ Stephenson suggested delaying the meeting until the members who are elected in the October 10 municipal balloting can take part.

That date would have left out the other at-large member, Mary-Ann Baldwin, who has decided not run for her seat again.

“Oh, no,” Baldwin said in a “don’t-try-it” tone. “I’ve invested too much time in this, I’m sorry.”

The engagement board was endorsed at a May 2 meeting in a split vote, but many of its details remain to be worked out. Mayor Nancy McFarlane says the point of developing a new process on zoning issues is to promote more two-way conversations between staff and community members.

Russ Stephenson called developing the new board “a very important citywide process,” maintaining his call to postpone the meeting until new council members could take part.

“What, to cut me out of it?’ Baldwin said.

The council members considered different approaches in their conversation. If the date remained October 30, any newly elected members could attend before swearing in. If it got put off, former members such Baldwin could attend in a sort of advisory capacity.

District A representative Dickie Thompson drew attention to Baldwin’s ten years of service on the council while taking her side on the meeting’s timing.

“As a matter of courtesy, we should allow her to take part in this,” Thompson said. “Let’s go ahead and have that meeting.”

At that, members agreed to hold the initial planning meeting for the community engagement board from four to six p.m. on October 30.

The idea of establishing a new board has drawn draw criticism from some neighborhood activists, who saw it as an attempt to dilute the power of the decades-old citizen advisory councils.

In other action, the council voted unanimously to accept the recommendation of the Raleigh Historic Development Commission to designate as Raleigh Historic Landmarks the following sites: Berry O’Kelly School Campus, 512 & 514 Method Road; Lillie Stroud Rogers House, 616 Method Road; Rev. Plummer T. Hall House, 814 Oberlin Road (boundary change); H. J. Brown Coffin House Building, 200 South Salisbury Street/105 West Hargett Street; and Fisher’s Bakery & Sandwich Company, 1519 Brookside Drive.

Members also celebrated Raleigh’s successful role as host of the recent International Bluegrass Music Association gathering.

“Bluegrass was awesome, CityCamp was awesome, the Hall of Fame was awesome,”
said District E council member Bonner Gaylord. “Raleigh is awesome.”

Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly quoted Council Member Bonner Gaylord’s remarks in part.