Triangle Politics A weekly look at the local political scene

Durham manager honors longevity of absent council member

May 24, 2013 

Durham City Manager Tom Bonfield took a moment during a council meeting last week to recognize a milestone: the 30th anniversary of Councilman Howard Clement’s tenure on the City Council.

Clement was not on hand, though, due to the extended illness that has kept him away from almost all council meetings since late 2011.

“Thank you for this longevity of service to the City Council and this community,” Bonfield said, addressing Clement, who had promised to be watching on television.

Clement was appointed to a council vacancy in 1983 and has won election to the Ward 2 seat seven times. His current term expires this year.

“We miss your presence and hope to see you back with us soon,” Bonfield said. “Mainly, we want you to know this great milestone was not missed … because you could not be with us.”

Raleigh hires Isley to lobby

The Raleigh City Council has hired former City Councilman Philip Isley as its lobbyist at the General Assembly.

Isley, who served on the council from 2001 to 2009, represented the city on Jones Street this week as its lease on the Dorothea Dix property was up for debate. A compromise bill introduced Wednesday has Raleigh leaders’ support.

Isley is an attorney focused on litigation matters and was a lobbyist for the Dix Visionaries group until earlier this month when he began working for the city, according to state records. His other clients include Election Systems & Software and Total Wine & More.

Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane requested a lobbyist in April, saying it would be helpful to have someone “proactively involved” at the legislature because of a number of bills that might harm the city’s interests. City Manager Russell Allen expects the lobbyist to cost the city about $5,000 a month, meaning Isley could earn up to $60,000 a year for his help.

School bond push goes on

Wake County school board members say they’re trying not to let the fight over who will control school construction affect their efforts to get a potential $810 million bond referendum passed this fall.

The state Senate has approved a bill allowing the Wake County Board of Commissioners to take authority for school construction away from the school board. This week, the school board discussed a resolution that will request the bond referendum.

School board member Jim Martin said he’s worried the bill will result in commissioners building lower-quality schools. He proposed amending the resolution to include asking for “some kind of a guarantee that these facilities are going to be built to the quality that needs to be built.”

But other board members rejected the idea, saying it would be a “mistake” and “muddy the issue” as they try to get a bond passed this fall.

“We’re going to have to trust the public to hold them accountable for the same level of quality and making sure they’re respecting the recommendations of the Board of Education about program needs – and then it’s their show,” said school board member Tom Benton. “I hate that we’re at that point, but I think it’s clear the law is going to pass.”

Bush presses tech concerns

Town Councilwoman Lori Bush wants Cary to make its data more accessible to the public, but she’s running up against budget concerns.

In two council work sessions, Bush has complained that the town has dedicated no money this year to fulfilling the suggestions of the Technology Task Force, a committee she initiated. The group called for a broad slate of changes, but the focus now is on the increasingly popular concept of open data.

At a meeting last week, Bush pushed for a pilot program for open data, suggesting that the town could bring on a contractor or test software that would make its massive municipal databases available for public use.

With open data, developers could create apps such as RGreenway, which tracks local greenways, or programs to monitor such things as traffic and crime.

Open data isn’t free data, though. Raleigh voted last year to put $50,000 toward an open data manager and a data portal. Cary doesn’t have the money or staff in its current budget for such a project, town staff told the council.

Political Trails

• Carol Teal, director of the Lillian’s List political action committee, and Durham Democratic Party activist Cathy Moore are speaking at a Durham Democratic Women meeting at 3 p.m. June 2 at the Durham Public Library Main Branch on Roxboro Street downtown. Their topic is “What We Can Do, Starting Now, to Turn N.C. Blue Again.” Discussion follows. Information: Sondra Stein, 919-309-4720 or email durhamdemocraticwomen@gmail.com.

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

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