The new Raleigh City Council plans to shoot for the moon. The question is, can they pull it off?
Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin and the new council took their oaths Monday night, laying out an ambitious plan for the next two years that includes affordable housing and Dix Park bonds in 2020.
Baldwin previously served for a decade on the council and succeeds Mayor Nancy McFarlane, who chose not to run again earlier this year after eight years leading the city. Baldwin is joined on the council by incumbents Nicole Stewart, Corey Branch and David Cox, in addition to newcomers Saige Martin, Jonathan Melton, David Knight and Patrick Buffkin.
It felt like a historic moment for Raleigh, and it was: Martin and Melton are the first openly two LGBTQ council members elected in the city.
With the exception of Cox, the new council will likely lean pro-growth—an ideological sea change from the previous development-skeptical council majority.
Baldwin told constituents “to get ready for Raleigh’s version of the moon shoot,” comparing this moment of opportunity to the first lunar voyage as envisioned by President John F. Kennedy,
That begins, she said, with putting ambitious bonds for Dix Park, affordable housing and updating the greenway system on the ballot in 2020. The details, however, will get hashed out in the months ahead.
“This initiative will set the stage for the Raleigh of the future and determine what our city will become over the next decade,” Baldwin said. “It’s our moon shot. Something we, as a city, must do.”
During the speech, Council member David Cox had some serious funeral face, starring at his lap and twiddling his thumbs. Cox bemoaned the election results as “devastating” for the loss of pals Stef Mendell, Russ Stephensen and Kay Crowder, in a post on Facebook.
While Baldwin won’t have much of a learning curve, the new council certainly will, which could stifle their ambitions.
Still, the excitement was palpable Monday, as the diverse crowd sipped complementary craft beers and swayed to a live mariachi band. McFarlane graciously passed the torch to the new council by thanking residents for allowing her to serve, calling it “one of the greatest joys of my life.”
The bibles came out, and vows were taken, after which the Triangle Gay Men’s choir belted out saccharine versions of Broadway tunes. Hamilton the Pig was paraded around and the Wake County Animal Shelter collected donations in memory of Tucker, Raleigh’s late cat about town.
But the night didn’t turn into too much of,a zoo. After all, as Baldwin remarked: “What did INDY Week say again? This Council is young, queer and bold. How can we not have some fun?”
“Tomorrow the moon shoot takes off.”