1/5/2021 and 1/12/2021 meetings summaries: corner stores, equality

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We had two Council Meetings last Tuesday, January 5, 2021 and a work session yesterday, January 12, 2021. Below is a summary of these meetings. I am sorry for the delay in posting this summary.

The attempted insurrection and violence at the Capitol happened the day after our meetings last week, and I could not focus on writing. I was at a loss for words that day but shared a message by Congresswoman Deborah Ross with which I agree entirely; she said, “Today’s dangerous events, incited by hate and misinformation from the highest levels, are heartbreaking and wrong. They have no place in our political discourse.”

1. At our work session yesterday January 12, we received a presentation and recommendations from the consultant we hired to improve community engagement, Mickey Fearn. Upon his recommendation, we directed staff to assemble a “Core Team” composed of staff from different departments to audit the structure and culture of our organization, including current rules and engagement practices. Final recommendations and a new structure will be presented in March.

We also received an update on the Affordable Housing Bond, which was passed by voters by 72% in the November election. Staff is budgeting $24.8 million of the $80 million bond for fiscal year 2022, with $3 million already allocated to Healing Transitions (for services to homeless, uninsured, and underserved individuals with alcoholism and other addictions), $7 million for permanent supportive housing, and $2 million for small scale projects with 1/3 targeted at 30% AMI (area median income).

2. At our Council Meetings last Tuesday, January 5, we sent to the Economic Development and Innovation Committee (EDI) the issue of “Community Centered Economic Development/Strategic Small Business Investment” or in simpler terms, corner stores. It is important to make changes to provide goods and services where people live and to create a more walkable city. Corner stores can also be instrumental in providing retail where food deserts exist. EDI will review and discuss land use issues and potential financial incentives to encourage development of corner stores. I am the chair of the EDI committee and look forward to guiding this work.

3. At my request, Council also sent Raleigh’s HRC Municipal Equality Index report to EDI committee to review ways to increase our score. Each year, HRC (Human Rights Campaign) publishes a Municipal Equality Index, which examines how inclusive municipal laws, policies, and services are of LGBTQ people who live and work there. Cities are rated based on non-discrimination laws, the municipality as an employer, municipal services, law enforcement and the city leadership’s public position on equality. Some of the criteria falls under State law and is out of our control. Raleigh’s score has increased since 2019, but there is much room for improvement. You can review our 2020 MEI here

4. We approved a rezoning request to bring more retail and housing to Cameron Village. The project is at the intersection of Oberlin Road and Cameron Street, on the backend of the existing retail in Cameron Village. The rezoning allows mixed use buildings up to 6 stories with retail. I am excited about this project as it will add density and services near the edge of Cameron Village, closer to Peace Street, where we’re also seeing a great deal of new activity. These types of projects help connect pockets of our city and help us become more walkable and dense.

5. We updated our existing Policy on Nondiscrimination. Raleigh has had a nondiscrimination policy for decades, which has been updated by Councils periodically to add protected classes and expand protections. Our existing policy directs city officials to use their power and resources against discrimination and requires nondiscrimination provisions in every contract and grant the city issues. We voted to reaffirm these policies and also added a provision to strengthen the city’s commitment to nondiscrimination. The added provision emphasizes the benefits of an inclusive community, acknowledges equity and diversity as components of a strong economy, and encourages the business community to oppose discrimination.

 

To be clear, this change does not expand our nondiscrimination protections into additional areas after expiration of HB2/HB142. There is much more work to be done. Reaffirming and updating the existing policy was only the first step.

Beginning this week, a few smaller municipalities have voted, and will vote, to extend nondiscrimination protections into public spaces and private businesses, including hotels, stores and restaurants (federal law already protects employment). It is my plan and goal for Raleigh to follow suit. I am ready to act now but understand the desire to take a measured approach to ensure that when Raleigh acts we pass a thorough and substantive policy that will stand up to legal challenges.

This issue is deeply personal to me; most of you know I got engaged in July and my fiance moved to Raleigh. Families like ours deserve to know that when we are together in public we can rely on the safety of calling a taxi. When we travel, we deserve to know we will have shelter for the night at a local hotel. Families traveling through Raleigh deserve the same confidence in their safety as well. I am committed to this cause and will keep you updated on our efforts.

Our next Council Meetings are Tuesday, January 19, 2021; we have a work session at 11:30 a.m. and a regular meeting at 1 p.m.

 

jonathan.melton@raleighnc.gov

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