Triangle Politics: A weekly look at the local political scene

Triangle Politics: Raleigh may hire lobbyist to make its case

Staff writersApril 5, 2013 

The Raleigh City Council could become the latest local board to hire its own lobbyist at the General Assembly.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane floated the idea at a budget workshop this week. “Can we get some numbers on getting some lobbying help for our city attorney?” she asked City Manager Russell Allen. “It would be helpful to have someone down there being proactively involved.”

McFarlane and other city officials have had their hands full this legislative session. They’ve been fighting bills that would reduce cities’ power to set design standards for residential housing and eliminate a tax on businesses – not to mention efforts to revoke Raleigh’s lease on the Dorothea Dix property.

If Raleigh makes the hire, the city would be in good company. The Wake County Board of Commissioners and the county school board recently hired lobbyists as they squabble over legislation.

Wake GOP leader seeks unity

Donna Williams is calling for unity in the Wake County Republican Party after defeating Dale Cooke to become the new party chairwoman last week.

Outgoing chairwoman Susan Bryant, who had endorsed Williams, accused Cooke of using “misleading advertising” to imply he was being backed by the Wake GOP. After the vote, Williams issued a message saying she valued the ideas of Cooke and his supporters.

“As greatly successful as we were in 2012, imagine what we can do when the energy, heart, drive, and persistence demonstrated by both slates over the past five weeks is now united and refocused directly at our Democratic opposition,” Williams wrote in the Elephant Express, the Wake GOP newsletter.

Williams’ work will include helping elect a new Republican majority on the school board and helping the GOP retain control of the county commissioners. Williams ran for school board in 2011, and Cooke ran for commissioner last year.

Solicitation ordinance criticized

Durham City Councilman Steve Schewel has added his voice to those calling on his colleagues to revisit the city’s new solicitation ordinance.

The ordinance, adopted by unanimous vote in December, put new restrictions on roadside solicitors – including panhandlers who work busy intersections. City Manager Tom Bonfield has said the ordinance is meant as a safety measure, to cut down on distractions for motorists and prevent someone from stepping into busy a street.

But critics say the ordinance “criminalizes poverty” and claim it is clogging courtrooms with people who cannot pay the fines anyway.

“Putting homeless people through the court system and into jail is not serving us well,” Schewel says.

Schewel suggested the city consider a version of the “outreach court” used in Orange County. The outreach court assigns community service to homeless people with misdemeanor convictions, in lieu of fines or jail time, and directs them into treatment for disabilities and addiction if necessary.

Last week, the city-county Homeless Services Advisory Committee agreed to review the ordinance and recommend amendments to the city.

Political Trails

• Randy Voller, chairman of the state Democratic Party, will speak to the Wake Democratic Men’s Club on Monday at the Clarion hotel in downtown Raleigh. Doors open at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the program at 7 p.m. RSVP to awdellingerjd@yahoo.com.

• Susan Myrick, elections analyst with the Civitas Institute, will speak on “Election Reform: What to Expect from the State and County Boards of Election Beginning May 1” at a meeting of All Interested Republicans at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday at Hope Valley Country Club in Durham. Admission is $18. Contact Bruce Thoreson, bthoreson@earthlink.net.

• Triangle Republican Women meet at 6:30 p.m. Monday at The Refectory Cafe, 2726 Chapel Hill Road in Durham. Guests are Students for Education Reform. janie.wagstaff@durhamgop.com

Compiled by Jim Wise, T. Keung Hui and Colin Campbell.

Got a tip, item or coming event? Fax Triangle Politics at 919-829-4529, or send email to metroeds@newsobserver.com. Send items by noon Thursday.

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