Raleigh’s citizen advisory councils have been around for decades. And while some people seem to think they’ve outlived their usefulness, the CACsdesigned to advise the city on planning and other areashave enough clout to be an early issue in the October 10 mayoral election.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane, expected to file for her fourth term this week, will face at least one opponent, Raleigh banker and attorney Charles Francis. After filing his papers Friday at the Wake County Board of Elections, Francis called the mayor “aloof” and “disengaged” from many parts of Raleigh.

He cited her backing of a task force report that originally would have meant the end of CACs as they’ve long existed. The proposed community engagement board, which critics said would have led to a top-down approach, had most of its detail stripped out before council members, including McFarlane, passed it on a 5–3 vote.

A full council chamber of neighborhood activists heard McFarlane say on June 6 that she supports the CACs and will make sure their voices are heard as the council commences a two- or three-year process to fill in the framework of the new CEB on August 28.

“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,” McFarlane said.

Francis, who grew up and attended public schools in Raleigh, says the mayor hasn’t responded to people’s basic concerns, citing traffic and affordable housing among other problem areas. McFarlane campaign consultant Perry Woods shot back, accusing Francis of launching his campaign with an “inaccurate personal attack.”

It’s hard to know how much partisanship will affect the off-year race, but Francis proclaimed himself a “proud Democrat,” while McFarlane, who’s won by wide margins in previous races, is unaffiliated.

Additional candidates can still file until July 21.

Among the city council races, early filings found at-large member Russ Stephenson opposed by Shelia Alamin-Khashoggi (formerly Shelia Jones), District C incumbent Corey Branch facing James G. Bledsoe, District D incumbent Kay Crowder squaring off against Bobby Plott Jr., and District A incumbent Dickie Thompson running (so far) unopposed.

This article appeared in print with the headline “AND THEY’RE OFF”