Happy New Year!
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 resources here.
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 hope to have your support again.
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.