Dependable Erection

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Coffee with Council

Every year around this time, Durham City Council members meet with their public, usually in conjunction with the various Partners Against Crime (PAC) meetings held monthly around the city. the idea is to listen to what various citizens consider to be funding priorities as the Council puts together the budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

I made my usual appeals for enforcing speed limits on residential streets, enforcing noise ordinances, implementing the pedestrian and bike plans that Council spent so much damn money on developing over the past 4 years, and maybe finding some money to fix the Roxboro/Markham/Mangum intersection before the new downtown theater opens up and people from north Raleigh start coming to Durham for a night on the town.

I mean, really, is there another city of our size on the east coast that puts a traffic sign mounted on a cut steel barrel in the middle of a busy intersection?

The folks from the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association brought about 80 supporters to request more funding for greenways in general, and the Pearsontown and West Ellerbe Creek trails in particular. Very impressive presentation.

One thing that both surprised and disappointed me was the number of neighborhood representatives requesting sidewalks. Come on, Council, this is why you spent $315K on developing a pedestrian plan. Much of the money went for creating an inventory of existing sidewalks, and developing a priority list for constructing new sidewalks, improving existing sidewalks, and creating connections where sidewalks end. Take that blueprint, and put together a five year plan that says, these are the sidewalk projects that are going to be funded in each of the next five years, and this is why we've prioritized them in such a way. Otherwise, we're still back in the same old situation where whoever yells the loudest or is the best organized gets the goods. You basically guarantee continued inequity when it comes to infrastructure throughout the city. Some neighborhoods have the resources to lobby for improvements, others don't.

The best proposal i heard all night, though, came from the Durham People's Alliance, who called for a new position to be created at the Assistant City Manager level for Neighborhood Advocate:
We ask the City Council to hire a Neighborhood
Advocate at the assistant city manager level. The neighborhood advocate should be an attorney or an experienced city planner who would help tackle many of the issues raised at the Coffee with Councils.

The new position would assist neighborhoods and would evaluate rezonings, planning initiatives, and board of adjustment matters -- independently of other departments.

The neighborhood advocate would serve as a liaison between City and County governments and neighborhood groups –and provide support and staffing for a new neighborhood advisory committee.

I hope Council can find the money to create this position. Ten years from now, it will be looked back on as one of the best decisions made, if they do it.

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  • Thank you for continuing to hammer on the speeding issue. Just today I was yelling at some idiot going a minimum of 70 mph down E. Trinity Ave.

    If there wasn't a good chance this moron will end up harming somebody else, I'd just wait until Darwinism takes care of the problem...

    By Blogger sgraff, at 6:28 PM  

  • From those of us who were unable to attend the meeting, thanks again for raising the speeding issue.

    Now if we can only get the council to approve the "yardbirds" law (NC SEEDS wants to allow residential chickens).

    By Blogger dcrollins, at 6:33 AM  

  • The neighborhood advocate idea is a good one. It's all too common to have an issue that crosses department or even city/county lines, so you get shunted from one department to another and the issue doesn't get resolved.

    It would also be good if there were some sort of feedback mechanism in place so that residents know when a complaint has been acted upon.

    By Anonymous mrs dependable, at 8:24 AM  

  • I like the neighborhood advocate idea as well. Developers are able to pay for attorneys and other professionals to advocate for them and help them negotiate the complexities of negotiating w/city & county departments and regulations. For citizens & neighborhood associations, developing this expertise is more difficult and unpredictable--we depend on volunteers and our expertise can disappear if our resident experts move, fall ill, take more demanding jobs that preclude time-intensive involvement on these issues.

    Maybe Melissa Rooney wants a job . . . .

    By Blogger kjj1, at 12:12 PM  

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