McFarlane Backs Down on CACs

Droves of supporters of Raleigh’s citizen advisory committees descended upon last Tuesday night’s city council session to speak out in opposition to a new community engagement board created by the council May 2. And in the end, Mayor Nancy McFarlanea chief proponent of this new systemappeared to back down.

McFarlane, part of a 5–3 majority that created the CEB, showed in her opening remarks that she had already heard clearly that the CACs, which have advised the city council on zoning and other matters for decades, felt sidestepped by the proposed new layers of committees.

“I do want to take a few moments now and acknowledge the concerns that have been circulating in the community regarding the future of the CACs,” McFarlane told the packed council chambers. “The CACs have not been disbanded or changed in any way. I believe every member of this city council understands and values the important role the CACs have had and continue to play in citizen engagement.”

The mayor called for a reboot of the process that took into account the decades of work members had put into CACs. Specifically, McFarlane suggested a council work session that would get help in smoothing out the process from an outside consultant. This appeared to be a different stance from the one that mayor had taken in May, when she described the advisory councils as representing far too few members of the city’s burgeoning population.

“What we’re doing now is starting a community-wide discussion on how we can better communicate and engage with the public now that we are a community that is approaching a half a million people,” she said. “And I apologize that our communication efforts have failed in conveying that message.”