Election 2013

Raleigh City Council endorsements: Staying on a progressive course

September 26, 2013 

This Capital City of ours has had a good run when it comes to leadership. The Oct. 8 election hands to voters the chance to support the direction the city has taken and is likely to take for the next two years by choosing leaders of conviction and dedication. Here are the recommendations of The N&O’s editorial page, based on news coverage of the candidates and in some cases interviews. Raleigh has come far in the past decade, with a new convention center and the reopening of Fayetteville Street among many good strides. We do not want to lose the hard-won momentum.

Mayor: McFarlane

Talk about tough acts to follow. Nancy McFarlane, a soft-spoken, two-term city council member, won the mayor’s office after 10 spectacular years with attorney Charles Meeker in the post. McFarlane, a successful business owner, had been relatively low-key on the council but believes herself to be effective behind the scenes, and she’s kept the council and the city on a progressive even keel, despite setbacks on issues such as the Dorothea Dix park, which was no fault of hers. McFarlane could stand, in a second term, to raise her profile and to be more vocal on issues facing the council. That said, the mayor’s quiet manner is welcome on issues such as the charity food giveaways in Moore Square, something that required diplomacy and consideration.

McFarlane has been a mayor in the Meeker tradition, and that’s a proven way.

Opponents are Venita Peyton, a real estate broker who has sought this office before, and Robert Weltzin, a chiropractor and Army reservist. Neither has offered good reasons to replace McFarlane.

District A: Maiorano

Wayne Maiorano, an attorney, prepared himself for public service by working as a full-time volunteer for Habitat for Humanity before getting started in a corporate law career. He got interested in city politics after the abrupt firing of Raleigh City Manager Russell Allen last spring. Maiorano disagreed with that, a major point of difference with his opponent, one-term incumbent Randy Stagner, a retired Army colonel who currently represents this North Raleigh district.

Maiorano has a tremendously positive attitude, a belief in moving forward with mass transit improvements and a commitment to downtown but a desire to bring all parts of the city together. He’d be a good, positive force on the council.

Our endorsement last time out went to Stagner, who stumbled last spring when he made an issue of Allen’s failure, in his view, to act quickly enough after Stagner’s parking space near City Hall was pirated. The issue got out of hand, and along the way other council members with gripes against the veteran manager joined forces to fire him. It was not a good move, and along the way Stagner reacted badly to criticism. A council member has to keep calm in such situations, take blame if it’s due and move on.

District B: Odom

Incumbent John Odom brings a conservative balance and experience to the council. A local business owner, Odom takes care of constituents in this northeast Raleigh district, which is why he’s likely unbeatable. We like his plain-spoken approach to issues, and his sometimes dissenting voice is reasonable.

But a word of praise is due his challenger, Brian Fitzsimmons, the chief operating officer of an insurance group. At 31, Fitzsimmons is young, energetic and thoughtful. We hope to see him in city politics in the future.

District C: Weeks

Here again, there’s another veteran incumbent, and Eugene Weeks, a retired military man and educator from this Southeast Raleigh district, has been a credible representative for his good neighbors. He stays in touch in his community, he speaks up for Southeast Raleigh concerns if he believes the council is not paying enough attention to them and he works hard.

Weeks’ challengers, Marcus Hill and Racquel Williams, are to be commended for their interest in service.

District D: Crowder

Another veteran is architect Thomas Crowder, who has had a lock on District D in southwest Raleigh since his election 10 years ago. Why? Because he’s constantly out and about in his district, stays close to constituents, is up to date on district and citywide issues and doesn’t hesitate to speak up even when some of his fellow council members don’t like it. There’s not much contentiousness on the council, but members shouldn’t be afraid of it. Crowder is a progressive who doesn’t hesitate to chart his own course. He supports downtown revitalization, though he doesn’t want the council to neglect specific needs of districts, whether that’s a focus on safety, roads or responsible development with affordable housing.

Opponent Jim Kemp Sherron is an apartment building manager. In his first race, he is a commendable opponent, but he can’t offer credible reasons for Crowder to be replaced.

District E: Gaylord

Bonner Gaylord, general manager of North Hills, is seeking a third term and is unopposed.

At-large: Baldwin, Stephenson

Mary-Ann Baldwin, a marketing executive, and Russ Stephenson, an architect, with six and eight years respectively on the council, are like the mayor in representing the entire city. They might get calls for constituent service from any district; they attend events all over Raleigh and have to have a good general knowledge of it.

Baldwin and Stephenson were allies of Meeker, and they are philosophically pretty much in agreement with McFarlane. Both support progressive ideas on conservation of natural resources, on sound growth and on land-use planning and in improving affordable housing, helping the disadvantaged and being business-friendly with caution toward stemming urban sprawl. They have both done a sound job and have earned another term.

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