Triangle Politics: A weekly look at the local political scene

TriPol: Raleigh councilman cancels meeting, claims success in Walgreens project

Staff writersAugust 16, 2013 

Raleigh City Councilman Russ Stephenson has canceled a controversial council committee meeting set for Tuesday after city planners resolved a Walgreens developer’s questions.

Stephenson took the unusual step of calling for the meeting earlier this month, saying city planners had failed to respond to inquiries about the planned drugstore in Northwest Raleigh.

Deputy Planning Director Ken Bowers issued a one-page response to the questions Aug. 8, two days after Stephenson brought up the topic at a council meeting. Planners and developers came to an agreement Thursday on changes to Strickland Road in front of the store.

Stephenson has championed developers’ plans for a pedestrian-friendly look, with parking close to the street and sidewalks directly in front of the store. Planners, however, had worried the unique design could affect traffic on the suburban thoroughfare.

The issue got heated when Stephenson made his request Aug. 6. He lashed out at planners for not giving developers “a predictable process.”

Stephenson’s action fed into concerns that the city council might be micromanaging department heads and taking a hands-on role in daily operations. Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin pointed out that the special committee meeting wouldn’t “follow protocol” and was too “down in the weeds.”

Stephenson said he has been talking with Planning Director Mitch Silver about the Walgreens project and said Thursday that he sees his involvement as a success.

“I’ve accomplished my job, which is to bring people together to get things done,” he said.

Fletcher’s nonendorsement

Wake County school board member Bill Fletcher is downplaying the Wake County Republican Party’s decision to endorse his opponent in this fall’s election.

Fletcher had sought the Wake GOP endorsement for the District 9 seat that covers much of Cary. But the group’s executive committee instead backed Nancy Caggia, a longtime school volunteer in her first campaign for public office.

“I’m running to serve the kids in Wake County,” said Fletcher, a real-estate agent. “Not having the Wake GOP endorsement won’t stop me from doing that.”

Fletcher isn’t particularly well liked in some Republican circles, being tagged a “RINO” – Republican in name only – by some. He was elected in 1993 as a critic of busing for diversity, but later became a vocal supporter of the policy during his 12-year tenure.

When Fletcher was reappointed to the board in March to finish out Debra Goldman’s unexpired term, he didn’t get a vote from Deborah Prickett or John Tedesco, the two other GOP board members.

Fletcher and Caggia, both registered Republicans, are the only two candidates in District 9.

Beasley’s endorsement

Bail bondsman and track coach Omar Beasley has won the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People’s endorsement to succeed retiring City Councilman Howard Clement as the council’s Ward 2 representative.

Members voting at the committee’s endorsement meeting last weekend chose Beasley over retired educator Eddie Davis, funeral-home owner Franklin Hanes and financial adviser Del Mattioli.

In the Ward 3 race, the committee endorsed former County Commissioner Pam Karriker over incumbent Don Moffitt. And for mayor, the committee favored incumbent Bill Bell for a seventh term over challengers Michael Paul Valentine, a business consultant, and minister Sylvester Williams.

Cora Cole-McFadden, the Ward 1 council member and mayor pro tem, won endorsement although she is running unopposed for a fourth term.

Clement’s retirement ends an era in Durham politics. His tenure in the Ward 2 seat since 1983 makes him the longest-serving council member in the city’s history. Failing health, though, has caused him to miss all but a handful of council meetings since late 2011.

The Committee on the Affairs of Black People has been around since 1935 and is one of three major political-action organizations in Durham, along with the business-oriented Friends of Durham and the Durham People’s Alliance, a self-described “progressive” organization. The other two groups are expected to make their endorsements later this month.

Political events

• Wake County school board candidate Zora Felton and state Sen. Josh Stein will speak Wednesday at Brier Creek Clubhouse, at Falkwood and Glen Autumn roads in northwest Raleigh. Refreshments will be served at 6:30 p.m. with the speakers at 7:30 p.m. To RSVP, call 919-630-0115.

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

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