July 16, 2021
Parks and greenspaces are at the center of so many experiences and memories. Raleigh’s system of over 200 parks is a huge part of what makes our city so special.
As Mayor, I understand the value of building and maintaining world class parks in our growing city.
July is Parks and Recreation month and there is so much progress to celebrate on Dix Park, Chavis Park, Barwell Road Park, and future parks and recreation spaces. Check out some of what we’ve been working on below.
Pennies for Parks
In our recent budget, we funded critical park needs, including $38 million in desperate park maintenance over five years. The first improvements will be made at Laurel Hills Park, Pullen Park and the Pope House Museum, the only African-American house museum in North Carolina.
We have the opportunity to build the best destination park in the world. And we can’t mess it up. It is imperative Raleigh wisely develops Dix Park into a world-class attraction and community area.
The design for the first phase of the park, 18-acres of land called "Plaza and Play" was unveiled at a community meeting last Tuesday night. When completed, it will include attractions such as a “grand stair” that incorporates greenery leading up to the plaza and a waterfall. There will be a gorgeous playground with wooden towers, a sand bowl and slides, and a picnic area surrounded by trees and lights. There are also plans for cookout areas, gardens, mazes and a pedestrian path along Lake Wheeler.
Carolina Panthers and Barwell Road Park
The Carolina Panthers came to Raleigh this week to unveil a new Play 60 Challenge Course at the Barwell Road Community Center in Southeast Raleigh. It features a climbing wall and ropes course. We are thankful to the entire Panthers organization and the NFL for making this a reality.
Re-Opening of Historic Chavis Park
Last month we celebrated the re-opening of Historic Chavis Park in Southeast Raleigh. I was proud to see the unveiling after many years of hard work by community leaders, city staff, and city council. Built in 1937, Chavis Park has a storied history and we know that it will continue to serve the community well. Included in the renovations are a brand new community center building, plaza, children's splash area, and playground.
Devereux Meadow Park
The Parks Department is currently in the planning and design stage for a new urban park north of Downtown. The proposed designs are beautiful and would create a vibrant addition to our community. You can learn more about the history of the area and see proposed designs on our "Virtual Open House".
We also would like to hear from you! Fill out our public survey before July 23rd to give the city staff and council input on the current concept plans.
July 7, 2021
When I ran for Mayor, I proposed a 10 point plan to encourage housing affordability and create more housing choices. Yesterday, the City Council continued to deliver on those promises.
- We approved TC-5-20, which permits more housing types to be built in certain residential districts, amends the methodology for determining how many units can be built on a lot or site, and adjusts minimum lot and site sizes. For the first time in many decades, people will be able to build townhomes, duplexes, triplexes and small apartments in more areas of the city. This will make housing more affordable and significantly expand housing choices throughout Raleigh.
- Multiple, new affordable housing projects were approved. In the Lane-Idlewild community, 17 affordable cottage courts will be built by Raleigh Area Land Trust and their partners. We also directed the city to seek a developer for two properties we are rezoning around Moore Square, one of which will require affordable housing. The second will be sold at its appraised value but the money received will be dedicated to our affordable housing fund.
- We also approved policies that will allow us to land bank along transit corridors, and set aside funds to prevent evictions.
These are major steps forward for our city and I am grateful for the hard work of the council and city staff to help get this done. But as always, there is still more to do.
I greatly appreciate your support as we continue our work together to build a Raleigh that works for everyone.
May 24, 2021
At last week’s City Council meeting, City Manager Marchell Adams-David released a proposed budget for the next fiscal year titled, “Raleigh on the Rise.” It’s a fitting theme for this moment as we make tremendous progress on key issues in our city. We are moving forward on housing affordability and choice, commuter rail and bus rapid transit, and Dix Park. But there is still much more we need to do. That is why this budget is so critical. We must make investments in our future to ensure that Raleigh is affordable, accessible and equitable.
This budget does that. Some key areas of investment include:
- The preservation and development of new affordable housing units. We recently approved hundreds of new affordable housing units and last year’s affordable housing bond will pave the way for thousands more to be built over the next five years.
- Approval of the “Penny for Parks.” This will provide approximately $7 million per year to maintain our parks and greenways and modernize aging facilities, including community centers.
- The prioritization of pedestrian safety and bicycle lane improvements. Funding is provided for multiple forms of transportation and transit but will also ensure that we focus on Vision Zero – an effort to make our streets safer.
- The establishment of the new Office of Community Engagement, reporting to the City Manager’s Office. This investment will re-imagine how all of our citizens can have their voices heard with a focus on inclusion and equity.
- The addition of three new staff members to the Office of Equity and Inclusion. This effort will help support social justice and civil rights efforts, as well as provide funding for new citywide equity training.
- Additional funding to support our homeless community. If anything, Covid has shined a light on the need for improved services to our homeless residents, especially related to housing, shelter and supportive services. This will be a major effort, working with our partners in Wake County.
- Funding for a disparity study to review procurement with Minority, Women and Disadvantaged Small Businesses. This effort will help ensure equity in contracting and procurement, ensuring that our efforts are equitable and inclusive.
This is just the start of our budget process, and I invite all Raleigh residents to participate in the upcoming public hearing on June 1 to share your thoughts on city priorities. You can sign up to speak on the City’s website at raleighnc.gov.
I’m grateful for your support on these critical issues. This budget will help us build on the successes of the past year and allow us to get ahead on challenges we will face in the future by making smart investments now.
December 31, 2020
I hope all of you had a restful holiday season and were able to distantly connect with friends and family. Needless to say, 2020 was not what we expected or hoped for. But as we begin a new year, I wanted to take some time to reflect on what we’ve accomplished together in this tumultuous time.
As we continue to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Raleigh has worked closely with our state and county to ensure that our community has access to testing services, face coverings and other supplies. In June, Raleigh was the first municipality in Wake County to mandate face coverings and the City worked in partnership with WakeMed to distribute more than 100,000 masks to those in the high-risk areas. Nearly $3 million in federal CARES Act funding has gone toward assisting those in our community facing homelessness and economic hardship.
Raleigh and Wake County are also continuing to support our small business community. At the start of the pandemic, I worked with the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce to create a Small Business Grant Program with the city contributing $1 million, and another $600,000 raised from our corporate community. We also created a new program to allow restaurants to expand seating on city sidewalks, streets, parking lots and other public spaces, helping bring in much needed revenue. And within 24 hours of the first Stay-at-Home order issued by the Governor, city staff had established curbside pick-up spots to aid our restaurant community. Local businesses can find additional
Housing Affordability, Transit & Parks
Housing affordability was the central issue of my campaign for Mayor last year, as well many of our Council members. And we are delivering on our promises. With overwhelming support of the voters, Raleigh passed an affordable housing bond in November that that will fund more than 3,200 new housing units over the next five years. It will also allow us to partner with non-profits to provide stable housing to our most vulnerable residents; provide mortgage down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers; offer home rehabilitation loans for low-income seniors and the disabled; and secure land along transit corridors for future affordable housing.
Along with the affordable housing bond, we approved Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) by right throughout the city and expanded cottage courts. We also eliminated the ban on short term rentals and eliminated minimum parking requirements in downtown and in transit overlay districts. This change will allow housing to be built less expensively and moves us toward creating a less car-dependent city. We have also taken steps to allow more “missing middle housing,” such as duplexes, triplexes, and quads, in more zoning districts throughout the city, creating housing choices that benefit all our residents. We are working on ways to encourage the construction of ADUs and will work on ways to incentivize more mixed-income housing through the private development community.
We were also successful in our efforts to secure a $35 million federal grant for the City’s first bus rapid transit project on New Bern Avenue. This was one of the key goals of the Wake County Transit Plan, approved by voters in 2016.
And we approved the construction of the new Plaza & Play area at Dix Park, a children’s destination area that will attract visitors from around the country. We will be looking at a Parks Bond in 2021 to support this effort, and build and renovate additional neighborhood parks in our City.
We took steps to make our city more accessible to residents to ensure their voices are heard. Early this year, we eliminated the two-week advance sign-up period previously required to speak at City Council meetings and we moved to include renters in mailed notices from the City. Following a town hall hosted by Councilors Melton and Stewart, we will be looking at new ways to engage renters, as they have often been left out of planning discussions. The City of Raleigh also formed a new Hispanic and Immigrant Affairs Board to ensure a vital part of our community has a voice in city affairs. And we continue to work towards revolutionizing community engagement in Raleigh through a system that would replace Citizen Advisory Councils. That plan is being developed by Consultant Mickey Fearn, a Raleigh resident and national leader in public engagement and innovation. He will be reporting these efforts to City Council in January.
Public Safety and Equity
After significant community input, we created Raleigh’s first Police Advisory Board and appointed a diverse group of residents to review Raleigh Police Department policies and build trust between our police and the community. RPD also announced significant reforms to policing practices, including amending their use of force policies and changing how police respond to some emergency calls. We hired 21CP to conduct an independent review of the Police Department’s response to events in May. That response is currently being examined by the RPD and will be reviewed by the Police Advisory Board with recommended actions.
In August, we announced a new policing program called ACORNS that will allow us to better serve our homeless and those with mental health and substance abuse issues. The new unit will feature police officers and social workers who will work together in partnership to assist those in crisis and get individuals the support they need.
In November, we announced a partnership with Shaw University’s Center for Racial & Social Justice called “Courageous Community Conversations.” Shaw will lead this effort and create a 10-point plan to address social and racial justice issues in Raleigh. The partnership was created with a $50,000 grant I requested from the City Council contingency fund, and approved by Council.
Many glass ceilings were shattered in 2020 – including in Raleigh. In July, we appointed Stormie Forte to represent District D on the City Council – making her the first Black woman and first LGBTQ woman to serve on the City Council. She has proven to be a tireless worker and advocate for her district.
After a national search, we named Marchell Adams-David as our new City Manager, effective January 1, 2021. She is the first woman and first African-American to serve as City Manager in the city’s history.
Marchell will replace Ruffin Hall, who is retiring after 25 years in public service, the last seven of which he served as City Manager. We want to thank Ruffin for his leadership and for all he has done to promote organizational excellence, strategic planning and citizen input, and move us forward in areas of housing, transit and equitable pay for employees.
Job Creation and Economic Development
Raleigh has a lot to look forward to in 2021 and in the years ahead. After a public hearing earlier this month, the City Council voted to approve the rezoning for Downtown South, which will be a transformative project for Raleigh that brings more affordable housing, workforce development and economic development opportunities to the community. We are also excited that Bandwith will be building a new headquarters campus in Raleigh, creating 1,200 additional jobs. Our entrepreneurial community continues to thrive, as evidenced by our home-grown companies such as Red Hat and Pendo.
Happy New Year!
While we accomplished a lot in 2020, even in the face of unprecedented challenges, there is still much work to do to build a more equitable community. That’s why I’m running for re-election as Mayor in 2021.
I am grateful for all of you who do so much to make Raleigh a thriving community. For my part, I will continue to ensure that Raleigh is committed to being a city of innovation, compassion and progress. May the New Year bring you joy and blessings.
October 15, 2020
Early voting is now open, and one of the most important votes you will cast is listed last on your ballot.
After significant public input, the Raleigh City Council in June approved an $80 million Housing Affordability Bond, with the goal of providing more housing choices and affordable options for our residents. The bond will invest $28 million in public-private partnerships to provide permanent housing for the chronically homeless and very low-income individuals. It will also provide $24 million in gap financing to support the construction of mixed-income communities throughout our city. We will also make a significant investment in land acquisition along transit corridors to ensure that affordable housing is built in the future. Another $6 million will be set aside to help low-income seniors and disabled residents with home rehabilitation, easing the stress of gentrification. And another $6 million will be allocated to our down payment assistance program, giving residents earning below 80 percent of the average median income an opportunity to purchase a home.
This year has not been what any of us expected it to be. We have faced unprecedented challenges amid an economic downturn and global pandemic that will be with us for the foreseeable future. But these challenges only make expanding access to housing even more urgent. Lower-income and chronically homeless residents are most at risk in our current recession. And over the long term, Raleigh will continue to grow at an exponential rate as families move here to take advantage of our quality of life. This affordable housing bond tackles these issues, increases our housing supply and will provide stable housing to those in need.
As INDY Week noted in its endorsement of the housing bond, a significant investment in affordable housing is long overdue. Now more than ever, we need to focus on helping people and make space for our neighbors to live. That’s exactly what this bond does, and what the City Council promised to do when we ran on a platform of housing affordability. Doing nothing is not an option.
If you haven’t already, make a plan to vote. Not just for the affordable housing bond, but for every single race on the ballot. This is the most important election in our lifetimes. Please make sure your voice counts. And VOTE YES to support our neighbors in need.
August 21, 2020
The City Council held our regular meeting and work session this week to receive updates on Raleigh’s economic recovery, our COVID-19 response, as well as new policing practices from Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown. It was also our first meeting with our newest council member Stormie Forte, who was appointed to fill the vacant District D seat last month. We are grateful for her willingness to serve and all look forward to working together.
During the meeting, the Carolina Panthers announced a $150,000 donation to create a challenge course at Barwell Road Park in southeast Raleigh. This will be the first NFL Play 60 course in the Triangle. The course is expected to be completed next spring. You can learn more here. Thank you to the Carolina Panthers for your support and partnership!
Chief Deck-Brown provided an update on how the Raleigh Police Department is changing the way it responds to emergency calls dealing with mental health, homelessness or substance abuse issues. As a part of reimagining policing in Raleigh, spots originally designated for police officers will be filled with social workers, who will work in partnership with police to assist those in crisis and get individuals the support they need. This is a step in the right direction, and I look forward to seeing the program developed and implemented. You can watch Chief Deck-Brown’s full presentation at the City Council meeting here.
The City Council also voted to move forward on options for bringing micromobility (such as scooters) back to Raleigh. The Transit and Transportation committee will approve new language for agreements with these companies next week.
The City Council is also seeking to fill five vacancies on the Human Relations Commission. The Human Relations Commission works to promote equal opportunity and diversity in Raleigh. You can learn more and apply here if you’re interested in serving. Specifically, we need a representative between the ages of 16 and 21 years old. Please share if you know someone in this age group who may be interested.
In the interest of public health, we made the decision to cancel all city-permitted major events through the end of the year. We are working with Artsplosure to come up with a First Night event, either virtual or drive through, to celebrate ringing in 2021.
As NC State and other universities in the Triangle are again moving to remote instruction due to COVID-19 breakouts, I want to remind everyone to please continue to wash your hands, practice social distancing, and wear a mask in public. We are starting to see some encouraging trends, which means it’s more important than ever that we act responsibility to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Wearing a mask is no different than wearing a seat belt or a helmet. It is meant to protect all of us.
July 8, 2020
Big changes are coming to Raleigh. Yesterday, the City Council took major steps forward to make our City more equitable, affordable, safer, and welcoming to all.
After several months of staff research and planning, we followed through on our promise to allow the construction of accessory dwelling units (ADUs), also known as granny flats, by right in every residential district of the City. At the suggestion of Councilor Stewart, we eliminated a rule limiting occupancy and will allow live-work units as well as short-term rentals. I’ve asked staff to look at ways that we can encourage the construction of more ADUs. Not only does this give Raleigh residents more control over their own property, it will increase housing choices and availability. We also expanded cottage courts – an example of the “missing middle housing” we are encouraging -- and eliminated minimum parking requirements downtown and in transit overlay districts. The latter change will allow housing to be built less expensively and moves us toward creating a less car-dependent city.
Additionally, Raleigh voters will officially have the opportunity to vote on an $80 million affordable housing bond this November, as we voted to move forward with the bond at our council meeting yesterday. The bond includes funding for the construction of housing through public-private partnerships, low-income affordable housing, a first-time homebuyers program, and a home repair fund.
I, along with many of my fellow council members, campaigned on getting these things done, and yesterday we delivered.
The City Council also voted unanimously to recognize Juneteenth as a holiday in the City of Raleigh following a motion from Councilor Corey Branch. This was long overdue and an important way to honor and recognize those who didn’t gain their freedom until long after our country’s founding. But we know it is not a substitute for the reforms people have been advocating for. The council unanimously approved a letter authored by Councilor Jonathan Melton that begins a dialogue with our state government on how we can work together to increase transparency and accountability and improve the relationship between the police and community. We hope that the Governor’s Task Force for Racial Inequity in Criminal Justice helps foster this conversation.
As a result of the recent damage to downtown businesses (on top of the hit they had already taken from the COVID-19 pandemic), the Council voted to allocate funding to the Downtown Raleigh Alliance to help promote and restore downtown. Through the end of July, business owners can take advantage of an expedited permit process for storefront repairs. You can learn more and apply here.
We also made the tough decision to cancel or postpone all festivals, road races, parades, and other large gatherings in Raleigh through at least the end of October. COVID-19 is not going away and while we are disappointed, it is not safe or responsible to allow such events to move forward.
As you may know, we are currently accepting applications to fill the vacant District D council seat. We are committed to bringing underrepresented voices to the table and hope to have a diverse pool of applicants. If you or someone you know is interested, you can learn more about the process and apply here.
Please remember to wear a mask when you are around others outside your home and practice social distancing. The City of Raleigh has been working with WakeMed to provide free masks to people in the hardest impacted areas of our community. There will be another free mask giveaway this Saturday, July 11th from 12pm to 3pm in Roberts Park.
June 10, 2020
Yesterday, with the support of the City Council, Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown announced the adoption of several new policies, including a ban on chokeholds and strangleholds, to bring our City in alignment with Campaign Zero’s 8 Can’t Wait recommendations for policing. We appreciate the sense of urgency and the transparency with which this was done. The City plans to post police policies on our website shortly for the public to review and is also engaging an independent group of experts to review the police response to the protests.
I want to thank all who have and continue to reach out, advocate, and make their voices heard on these and many other needed reforms. We’re listening, we hear you, and we know this is not enough. This is only the first step of a larger conversation we must continue to have on how we increase accountability and transparency – and build a city that is safe and equitable for our black community. I look forward to discussing the next steps, such as how we can reallocate resources within our police department to add more civilian social workers to aid our homeless community and those who need mental health support. We will also make appointments to our new Police Advisory Board at our meeting on June 16, which will begin reviewing police use of force policies when they convene.
As I said last week, we are living in an important time in history and that becomes clearer every day. I’m committed to working with our City Council and all of you to seize this moment to create real, lasting change in our community. We have a lot of work to do.
Stay safe and please continue to practice social distancing, wear a face covering, and wash your hands to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
May 22, 2020
Today at 5:00pm North Carolina will move into Phase Two – a “Safer at Home” recommendation. Restaurants, personal care services (salons and barbershops), and pools will be allowed to open at 50% capacity with additional restrictions. Bars and nightclubs, museums, playgrounds, gyms and fitness studios, and indoor entertainment venues will remain closed. You can find more details about Phase Two from DHHS on my Facebook page here. While Phase Two allows for a limited reopening of some businesses, please continue to stay at home when possible, practice social distancing, wash your hands often, and wear a face covering when you do go out.
This week, the City Council held a productive virtual meeting to take action on a variety of items. We reviewed the recommended city budget from our city manager. While the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a significant toll on our city’s finances, the budget includes no tax increases or cuts to city staff. We are able to save money through a freeze on non-essential hiring, reducing training and travel, and cancelling or postponing some events and projects. Due to the large crowds it attracts, the budget also recommends cancelling the Fourth of July fireworks celebration usually held at the fairgrounds. The budget includes over $6 million for affordable housing as well as funding for our new Office of Equity and Inclusion.
The council is also considering an added public safety package to fund critical needs for our police and fire departments. The package would require a property tax increase of roughly $17 for the median home valued at $255,000, and would fund 50 new police officers and firefighters. The package would also create a special unit to work with our homeless community and those suffering from mental illness and expand services in our domestic violence unit.
The virtual public hearing on the budget will be held Tuesday, June 2nd at 7:00pm. Please share your thoughts at the public hearing on June 2nd by speaking or submitting comments ahead of time. You can also email me anytime at mary-ann.balwdin@raleighnc.
In anticipation of the state moving into Phase Two this week, we discussed the potential for closing sections of streets and parking lots or expanding sidewalk space for outdoor dining, which would allow restaurant employees and their patrons to more safely practice social distancing. We are researching ways to implement this equitabily. No decisions have been made yet, but we plan to continue the discussion with new details at our June 2nd council meeting. Given the increased bicycle and pedestrian traffic, the council also directed city staff to examine how we can restrict vehicle traffic on key streets near greenways to allow for safer shared use of the roads.
The Affordable Housing Bond Advisory Committee presented their recommendations for an affordable housing bond to be placed on the ballot this fall. The presentation included the results of our affordable housing bond survey, which showed strong support for the effort. The committee recommended a bond of $80 million for affordable units at 30% of the area median income with an additional city subsidy. The COVID-19 pandemic has hit low-income families the hardest, and housing affordability will be more important than ever as we grapple with the economic fallout. We are still considering a variety of proposals and will vote June 2nd on whether to place the bond on the ballot this fall and at what final dollar amount.
The city voted to enter a 15-year partnership with the Dix Park Conservancy, a non-profit committed to building Raleigh’s Dix Park into a world class destination park. While we have decided to delay a potential parks bond due to economic constraints, this marks a significant step forward in the build-out of Dix Park.
I’m also excited to announce that we appointed 15 members to our new Hispanic and Immigrant Affairs Board. We created this board earlier this year to give this vital part of our community a voice in city affairs. I’m looking forward to hearing the advice and recommendations of this board.
As we head into Memorial Day weekend, I hope you’ll join me in taking some time to honor and reflect on the lives and service of those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation. Let’s also remember the fallen frontline workers who put everything on the line to save lives during this pandemic.
May 16, 2020
This week, the City Council held a virtual work session to discuss the city budget and receive updates on two new boards we created this year – the Hispanic and Immigrant Affairs Board and the Police Advisory Board. We received 57 applications for the Hispanic and Immigrant Affairs Board and have begun the process of reviewing applications.
We voted to reopen applications for the Police Advisory Board to encourage more people to apply so we can have the most diverse pool of applicants possible to reflect the diversity of our city. This is an important board that will foster needed conversations, review Raleigh Police Department procedures, help create policy, and build trust with our community. Please consider applying or sending the application to someone you know who may be interested. You can learn more here.
The application for the Raleigh Small Business COVID-19 Relief Fund is now live. Up to $10,000 is available to local businesses with 49 employees or less and an annual revenue under $2.5 million. The application will remain available through Thursday, May 21st. You can learn more and apply here.
As a reminder, Raleigh will begin limited curbside yard waste collection on May 19th, following our state’s phased reopening plan. Learn more about how to prepare here.
Next Tuesday, May 19th, the City Council will hold a virtual meeting at 1PM where we will discuss the budget and the recommendations of the Affordable Housing Bond Advisory Committee. As always, you can watch live on the City website, YouTube, and RTN 11. If you aren’t already, you can also follow my Facebook and Instagram pages for updates.