Back from break! July and August meeting summaries, campaign updates

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After a few weeks of “summer break,” City Council is back to business, and I’m back with some updates on City Council activity and my re-election campaign!

1. At our last meeting prior to break, we approved creation of a social district, called the “Sip n’ Stroll Downtown.” The social district began last Monday, August 15, and will operate 7 days a week, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. More than 70 businesses within the social district boundaries are participating. You can learn more about the social district here: https://raleighnc.gov/doing-business/sip-n-stroll-downtown

2. We appointed the first 16 members to our inaugural Community Engagement Board. The Community Engagement Board will help to develop, evaluate, and implement the City of Raleigh’s community engagement efforts. Each Council member nominated 1 appointee (for a total of 8 appointees from City Council) and city staff nominated 8 appointees. When selecting my nominee, I sought someone younger, a renter, who had never served on a city board or commission before, as I believe those experiences were traditionally lacking in access to the decision-making table. I’m excited to see what this board will accomplish!

For too long, I think community engagement in Raleigh was a noun, a place you had to go to engage. It should be a verb, an action embedded in all of our processes and continuously worked on for improvement. In person meetings are important and will continue to play a role in that process. The city still offers a neighborhood registry program where groups can register to get access to staff resources and community centers. But we must take steps to engage with a more diverse, representative community and provide greater access. Establishing this Community Engagement Board builds upon the progress we’ve made in that direction, including adding renters to all mailed and posted notices for city issues (rezonings, street projects, etc.), creating and funding an Office of Community Engagement, and funding a Community Engagement Bus to go into traditionally disengaged communities to meet people where they are.

3. We approved a procedure to allow more remote-type public comments at our City Council meetings. In July, I asked the City Attorney to look into whether, despite the current lack of authority, there are any legal options to allow for virtual public comment during City Council meetings subsequent to the expiration of the Governor’s COVID state of emergency. Our City Attorney opines that under current North Carolina law, there is no express authority for the City Council to allow the public to participate in Council meetings remotely, unfortunately. However, Asheville has developed a model where individuals may appear in-person and provide public comment to the City Council, or for individuals who cannot appear in person to provide public comment, they can call and leave a message on a “public comment voice mail line”. We adopted this model too, and we added the issue of virtual public comment to our legislative priority agenda so that our city lobbyist can continue to seek changes to the law to allow public comments truly virtually.

 

4. We approved more than $2 million in funding for a multifamily affordable housing development called Milner Commons, located on New Bern Avenue, just east of Raleigh Boulevard, on the planned Bus Rapid Transit line and next to Longview Shopping Center. This development will provide 150 affordable senior apartments, with all of the units affordable at or below 60% AMI and a portion affordable below 30% AMI.

5. My campaign has received several endorsements over the past few weeks, including endorsements from the Wake County Democratic Party, Equality NC, and NC State AFL-CIO! Community support for my re-election campaign continues to grow, and as I begin focusing on direct voter engagement, I need your help! If you’re interested in helping place yard signs in Raleigh, knock doors, make calls, or if you want a yard sign for your home or business, please complete this form:

https://jonathanmelton.com/volunteer/

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