Raleigh mayor gives city positive assessment

March 7, 2013 

The State of the Union it wasn’t. But that was good news Monday as Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane offered her State of the City address to a downtown Rotary Club meeting. The mayor demonstrated a clear-eyed and accurate vision of where the Capital City stands.

And where it stands is in a very good spot in a number of ways.

The mayor noted investments in infrastructure such as water and sewer systems. Those aren’t the most glamorous items on any mayor’s agenda, but without them, other good things don’t happen. Under City Manager Russell Allen, the devils in the details seem to be kept at bay.

Indeed, it’s hard to deny that the city is doing well financially. Even in these hard times, Raleigh’s 6.7 percent unemployment rate is substantially lower than North Carolina’s 9.2 percent and the U.S. rate of 7.8 percent. And between fiscal years 2011 and 2012, the city's tax base grew $448 million.

That’s not to say things are perfect. The city needs to do more for the homeless, for example, and the Raleigh City Council must be ever vigilant at the threat of sprawl that wreaks havoc with transportation. and services. More transit options, as the mayor noted, are a must. In addition, entertainment venues such as the Duke Energy Performing Arts complex and the Red Hat Amphitheater should be more in use than they are.

But the mayor had much of which to be proud, especially, the deal for a long-term lease on the Dorothea Dix hospital property. The agreement will give the city a spectacular, Central Park-type oasis close to downtown. McFarlane called that a “once in a lifetime” opportunity, and she’s right.

The mayor also noted the improvements in parks, the expansion of greenways and the increasing number of festivals in the city.

The talk was McFarlane's first State of the City since taking office in December 2011. Her predecessor, Charles Meeker, years ago started the tradition of the annual speech at meetings of the Raleigh Rotary Club.

Can the city get better? To be sure it can, and McFarlane said her hope, and her belief, was that Raleigh is on the way to becoming “the Southern Capital of Arts and Culture.”

The mayor urged citizens to remember that as “we tend our part of that garden, what we see blooming is the city of the future.” That was about the only part of her address that reached for colorful description, but that’s fine. The city is doing well, and Mayor McFarlane seems a good steward. We’ll take that state of the city any time.

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