Triangle Politics

Public Safety Center details are online

February 6, 2010 

One of the complaints about the Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center, a proposed $205 million project to combine Raleigh's emergency responders in one 17-story building, is that folks just didn't know it was coming.

With the possibility that saying yes to the project could mean a tax increase, public interest has skyrocketed in recent weeks, and the city got flack for not putting out more for taxpayers to learn about it.

Mayor Charles Meeker, a Democrat and the project's strongest proponent on the eight-member council, told The News & Observer this week that more could have been done to let residents know about the project. City Manager Russell Allen didn't seem to agree, saying that the project had been talked about for a few years in the sparsely attended City Council meetings and that he thought citizens could have combed through old council agendas if they were curious.

That changed somewhat Thursday, when the city's Web site, www.raleighnc.gov, added a Lightner Center information section with links to press releases and presentations about the project.

Stay tuned. The fate of the Lightner Center is anything but assured, with at least three councilors calling for a re-do on the project and a fourth, John Odom, siding with the Wake County GOP and asking that voters decide in a bond referendum.

Matthews will run

Phil Matthews, a Garner Republican, announced this week that he will run for the Wake County Board of Commissioners District 2 seat currently held by Lindy Brown, a Democrat, also of Garner.

Matthews, 60, said he'll make opposition to tax increases a cornerstone of his campaign as well as working with the new Republican majority on the Wake County school board.

Matthews served on the Garner Board of Aldermen from 1999 to 2007 and owns a sound and lighting company.

Name and address, please

Is it a violation of the First Amendment for the Wake County school system to require speakers to say their names and addresses out loud before speaking at school board meetings?

That's the claim made by Katherine Lewis Parker, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, in a letter to the school board this week. Parker says requiring speakers to state their names and addresses is a form of censorship, in violation of the First Amendment, because speakers may fear retaliation because of their views.

Parker says it also doesn't appear to be required by the General Assembly when it passed the public comment period law. She told board members, "We strongly urge you to abandon this requirement."

Most of the speakers at recent meetings have been critics of the new school board majority.

Also as part of her letter, Parker asked for all e-mails between and among current school board members from Oct. 1 through the present that are related to school board business; a list of people who've signed up to speak at school board meetings since Dec. 1; and a list of people who have up signed up to serve on community advisory committees.

Library decision due

Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton is losing patience with talk over how Chapel Hill is going to pay for its library.

The library is the most heavily used, per capita, in the state. But an expansion is on hold until Chapel Hill figures out how to pay additional operating costs that could raise annual town property tax bills $30 a year.

The problem? Forty percent of items circulated go outside Chapel Hill, but Orange County government contributes only 11 percent of operating costs. Chapel Hill has tried to get the county to pony up more and even floated the idea of asking Carrboro for money.

Now Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt, stuck on county negotiations, wants a meeting with Carrboro. Alderman Lydia Lavelle e-mailed her colleagues on the Board of Aldermen, suggesting they set something up.

"I suppose we have to, although I do not look forward to it," Chilton replied in an e-mail.

Libraries are a county function, and that's where Chapel Hill needs to solve its problem, the mayor said.

"I am no way - no how - never going to vote to put Carrboro into the same dysfunctional relationship with either the County or Chapel Hill that the two of them already have with each other," he wrote.

Vanderbeck to run again

Chatham County Commissioner Tom Vanderbeck announced this week that he is seeking re-election.

"In 2006, I ran on a campaign of open, honest government, sustainable economic development, thoughtful growth and quality schools," said Vanderbeck, a Democrat in District 4. "I believe that we have turned Chatham County in the right direction and have made significant progress; however, there is much more to do to make Chatham the sustainable community we all desire."

Political trail

Triangle Republican Women meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday at Nantucket Grill, 5925 Farrington Road in Durham. Speaker is Marianne Suarez, health-care policy analyst with the Civitas Institute. All welcome. For information, send e-mail to Marilyn Flanary at j-mflanary@msn.com.

The Northern Raleigh Republican Club meets at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Events at Newton Square, 230 Newton Road in Raleigh. N.C. Appeals Court Judges Barbara Jackson and Sanford Steelman will speak. Dinner is $13 and includes a $4 admission charge.

The Wake County Democratic Party hosts its 30th Annual Valentine Fundraiser from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Friday at the N.C. Association of Educators Building, 700 S. Salisbury St. in Raleigh. Gov. Bev Perdue will be the keynote speaker. Tickets are $25 in advance, or $30 at the door. For more information, call 828-5656 or visit www .wakedems .org www.wakedems.org .

The Orange County Republican Party is hosting a Reagan-Lincoln Day Dinner on Feb. 19 at Sunrise Church, 1315 New Hope Trace in Chapel Hill. Tickets are $25; students pay half price. Call 618-6430 or send an e-mail to virginia.ferguson@allentate.com for more information.

Compiled by staff writers Sarah Ovaska, Thomas Goldsmith, Mark Schultz and T. Keung Hui

Triangle Politics is a weekly look at the local political scene. Fax Triangle Politics at 919-829-4529, or send e-mail to sarah.ovaska@newsobserver.com or metroeds@newsobserver.com.

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