Last week for print, Jasmine Gallup wrote about the City of Raleigh’s plan for community engagement and its decision to bring back CACs after the council voted abruptly to disband the neighborhood groups three years ago.

Stef Mendell, a neighborhood activist and former District E city council member, sent us a response to our story via email:

Thanks for covering the ongoing saga about CACs.

A few points of clarification:

1. “… many continue to criticize the three-minute time limit for all public comments.” 

Speakers don’t have a problem with the three-minute time limit. The problem is when the Mayor cuts the time back to two minutes, or even one minute, as she has repeatedly done over the past three years.

2. “… hosting regular meet and greets between residents and city departments that offer services …”

The best way to accomplish that goal was, as was past custom, to have those groups present at CAC meetings. That way residents can go to one meeting a month and get all the updates and information they need instead of filling up calendars with multiple meetings with each of these departments.

3. “The community engagement department is asking for enough funding …”

The City was getting a real bargain through the previous CAC model, but now the Community Engagement Department is requesting a lot of resource to do essentially the same job. This in a time when there are other pressing priorities (housing, first responder and other City staff pay, stormwater issues, road repairs, etc). 

If the City had only been responsive to the previous requests from CACs for some minimal additional support to improve outreach, this wouldn’t be necessary.

Bottom line

CACs were defunded on February 4, 2020, because developers didn’t want to have to interact with residents and developers bought 7 of the 8 seats on the council that was elected in 2019. 

It’s important to note that CAC votes were NOT binding on Council, just as Planning Commission recommendations are NOT binding. 

It’s also important to note that, while one of the pretenses for defunding CACs was that they were not diverse enough, about half of the 18 CACs were in minority neighborhoods and led by people of color. The CACs that continued to function after February 4, 2020, were largely in white neighborhoods. With their action three years ago, the Council disenfranchised the very population they allegedly were advocating for.

Correction: Stef Mendell formerly represented District E, not D, on the Raleigh City Council as an earlier version of Backtalk stated.

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