Triangle Politics: A weekly look at the local political scene

TriPol: Magazine's critique could impact Raleigh's city manager hunt

Staff writersJuly 5, 2013 

The Raleigh City Council will discuss a harsh critique from Governing magazine at a special meeting Monday. They’re worried the magazine’s suggestion that Raleigh “is overdoing hands-on government” could harm the search for a new city manager.

“We face a public relations issue (or maybe it’s a reality) that this council wants to be totally hands on,” Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin wrote to fellow council members in an email Monday. “If this is the perception, we will lose some quality candidates.”

The director of the Governing Institute, former Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser, penned the critical article in this month’s magazine.

Funkhouser points to a May 12 News & Observer article that highlighted emails showing several City Council members want a more hands-on role in the city’s operations, from protecting reserved parking spots to meeting directly with department heads. One email detailed a council member’s request for a specific staff member to work on a project that hadn’t yet been approved by the full council.

“When individual council members are allowed to direct staff, it might seem to empower the legislative body, but in fact it diminishes its ability to work at a scale that can have real impact on community-level outcomes,” Funkhouser wrote, comparing Raleigh’s council to an audit that showed Oakland, Calif., has a “culture of interference” at city hall.

Baldwin noted that Governing “serves as the Bible for city managers,” and she asked to discuss its impacts in Monday’s weekly meeting to discuss the manager search.

Crowder returns to action

Raleigh City Councilman Thomas Crowder is back in action as he wraps up treatments for testicular cancer.

Crowder, who represents southwest Raleigh, has missed most council meetings since his diagnosis in late March – though he’s participated by phone in some of the bigger votes of recent months.

“I’m glad to be back,” Crowder told the council Tuesday. “My chemotherapy treatments are over now, and I’ll hopefully be getting back in the saddle.”

Crowder said he has received hundreds of supportive notes from constituents and city staffers. “It was a very humbling experience,” he said.

Tedesco lukewarm about Merrill

Wake County school board member John Tedesco wasn’t exactly effusive in his praise of incoming Superintendent Jim Merrill or the board majority in a radio interview this week.

In an interview Monday on the Bill LuMaye Show on WPTF, Tedesco told the conservative talk show host that Merrill is a “nice enough fellow” who can do a “fair job in many areas.” Tedesco had backed Ann Clark, deputy superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools, over Merrill, superintendent of Virginia Beach City Public Schools.

“I was really hoping for someone who can continue to bring in some fresh ideas and somebody who wasn’t necessarily a fan of our old busing for quota-based diversity model,” Tedesco said. “Somebody who was supportive more of parental choice and a few other elements. But, in general, he’s a nice man.”

Tedesco, a Republican, said he has “some serious philosophical differences” with the Democratic majority on issues such as busing for diversity.

“My personal belief is the system needs to be designed around meeting the needs of the individual children and our families and our taxpayers – not around packaging and selling the system for awards and competitions so we can sell ourselves as this wonderful system that’s attractive for the marketplace,” he said.

Compiled by staff writers Colin Campbell and T. Keung Hui.

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