Triangle Politics: A weekly look at the local political scene

TriPol: After 12 years, Raleigh city manager makes quiet exit

Staff writersJune 28, 2013 

Friday was Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen’s last day on the job, but there were no farewell speeches or cake at city hall to mark the occasion.

Allen, who was fired by the city council in April, wanted to make a quiet exit after overseeing city government for 12 years. He asked his staff not to schedule any send-off festivities, and he declined all interview requests from the news media.

He did, however, make brief farewell remarks at his last city council meeting earlier this month, garnering a standing ovation from employees and council members. He thanked employees and said he hopes three things will be said about his tenure in Raleigh: “He worked hard; he cared about the people, and he left the place a little bit better.”

Allen will remain on the city’s payroll. Because his contract hadn’t expired, he is due to be paid the remainder of his $232,000 salary through March 30 next year.

Human Resources Director Stephen Jones has been working out the details of Allen’s severance with Mayor Nancy McFarlane, according to emails between the two. “I want to be sure the transition is handled correctly from both a pay and benefits perspective,” Jones wrote.

Allen was known for working late evenings and weekends, so it’s unclear whether he called it quits at 5 p.m. Friday.

Gaylord works social media

Raleigh City Councilman Bonner Gaylord wants supporters of his reelection bid to help him out on social media websites.

Gaylord’s campaign has launched a “Social Media Ambassador” program, which he says is the first of its kind. Supporters are asked to visit his website and sign up for email links to campaign information with instructions to share them through social media platforms.

“Conversations on social media have a large impact on public debate,” Gaylord wrote in an email to supporters. “We want to keep the campaign conversations positive, so I hope you will consider joining our group of Social Media Ambassadors. … As we coordinate our efforts we will help shape the debate and keep Raleigh moving forward.”

It’s not the councilman’s only high-tech initiative. He is also launching a program called Raleigh+ Discussions, where he’ll host regular meetings with constituents through the video chat service Google+ Hangouts. The first was held Thursday.

“We’ll be discussing Raleigh issues ranging from public safety to mental health, from small business development to university connections,” Gaylord writes on his campaign website.

Gaylord, who is also the general manager of North Hills, is seeking another term in October. So far, he has no opponents.

Felton will run for Wake school board

Zora Felton, a long-time teacher, announced this week she will run for a seat on the Wake County school board.

Felton said she will seek the District 7 seat that currently represents northwest Raleigh, Morrisville and part of Cary. Felton, who will retire Monday, said her 25 years as a Wake County teacher means she can put students first.

The seat is now held by board member Deborah Prickett, who has said she expects to run for a second term. Prickett is a former Wake guidance counselor who now works for the state Department of Public Instruction.

Prickett is a registered Republican. Felton is a registered Democrat who had been a leader in the Wake County chapter of the N.C. Association of Educators. The seat is officially non-partisan.

The filing period opens at noon on July 5.

Chapel Hill’s town council faces challenges

An update this week on how a part of northern Chapel Hill should grow showed the challenge the town council will face as it tries to balance neighborhood concerns with broader needs.

Neighbors in the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard-Estes Drive area want to make sure roads can handle future traffic and that development serves the immediate area instead of outsiders.

The town wants to see roads that give Chapel Hill more interconnectivity and mixed-use development that adds to the tax base and provides a diversity of housing options, including affordable housing.

“Democracy’s messy,” Councilman Jim Ward said after listening to nearly a dozen concerned residents. “It’s painful. It’s (also) the best thing out there. I think this process is reflective of that.”

But Councilman Matt Czajkowski lamented the neighbors’ concerns, noting the council had signed off on a 17-member steering committee precisely to involve those who live there and would be affected most.

“So it’s really sad to sit here this evening with a fairly significant number of citizens saying, ‘Our voices are not being heard,’” Czajkowski said. “I really don’t understand that.”

Compiled by Colin Campbell, T. Keung Hui and Mark Schultz.

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