Triangle Politics: A weekly look at the local political scene

TriPol: Raleigh council committee backs city's panhandling rules

Staff writersMay 17, 2013 

Raleigh City Council members this week rejected a request from Occupy Raleigh members to loosen the city’s panhandling rules.

The council agreed to review the issue after a dozen or so people from the group – once known for round-the-clock protests downtown – appeared at a recent meeting seeking to “decriminalize poverty.”

In email correspondence with the Occupy group before the meeting, Councilman Randy Stagner told members they wouldn’t get much “traction” with an earlier request to remove a Wells Fargo ATM from City Hall because it charges fees. But he encouraged the panhandling petition.

“The balance between public safety and societal compassion is almost always worth a look,” he said.

Occupy members told a council committee that restrictions on begging near businesses puts an unfair burden on the poor. “That cuts out a large chunk of the downtown area, and there aren’t a lot of other services to help these people downtown,” Mike Harmon told the council.

After hearing from Occupy and Raleigh police officials, the committee, including Stagner, voted 3-0 to leave the rules unchanged. Stagner said the city should foster better coordination to get Raleigh’s homeless to the services they need.

But, he said, “I think our policy is sound.”

Town ponders at-large council

Some people want Morrisville to change the way voters elect members of the Town Council.

Morrisville leaders are considering a switch to an entirely at-large council. Now the council is made up of three at-large seats and four district seats, in which candidates must live in certain parts of town.

Unlike in Raleigh or Cary, though, Morrisville voters can cast a ballot for every open seat, regardless of where they live.

During two recent public hearings, some residents asked Morrisville leaders to change the town charter to create an at-large council system. The current voting system is too confusing, they said.

The Town Council is expected to make a decision on May 28.

Wake board chair vindicated

Joe Bryan, chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners, has the last laugh for his repeated questioning of the price tag for renovations at Fuquay-Varina High School.

During recent joint meetings of the commissioners and the school board, Bryan has been skeptical of why school officials said it would take $82 million to renovate Fuquay-Varina High. School board members defended the staff estimate, citing how expensive it is to do work at existing schools.

But Joe Desormeaux, the school system’s assistant for facilities, told school board members at their last meeting that the actual projected cost for the work is $63 million. He said “we found an error in our program on the cost per square foot” that resulted in a significant change.

“I guess I’m not so stupid after all,” Bryan said later.

), started last fall, has garnered 322 signatures.

Town to fight for war funds

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt’s office will work with the Orange County Peace Coalition to craft a town resolution supporting the fight to bring war dollars home.

Roughly $480 million in tax dollars from Orange County have been spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, coalition member Ann Powers said. That money is desperately needed at home, she said.

“Look at that petition,” she told the Chapel Hill Town Council this week. “You know those folks. Nearly 150 of our local activists and community members know that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to remain silent and do nothing.”

Leaders in Orange County, Raleigh, Burlington, Durham city and county, and 15 other states have signed the “Bring Our War Dollars Home” resolution.

The group next will ask the Carrboro Board of Aldermen for its support at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Carrboro Town Hall and the Orange County Schools Board of Education at 7 p.m. May 28 at 200 E. King St. in Hillsborough.

Compiled by Colin Campbell, Aliana Ramos, T. Keung Hui and Tammy Grubb

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