Triangle Politics A weekly look at the local political scene

TriPol: Former Wake manager David Cooke likely to manage Fort Worth, Texas

From staff reportsMay 16, 2014 

Former Wake County Manager David Cooke is now in line to run the city of Fort Worth, Texas.

The Fort Worth City Council announced Friday that it had instructed its consultant to begin negotiations with Cooke to become city manager. City officials cited Cooke’s “extensive experience in high growth urban areas” in their announcement.

Cooke would take over a city with a $1.4 billion budget and 6,300 city employees. That compares to Wake County’s $982 million budget and 3,600 workers.

Cooke, 54, retired in November after a 30-year career in municipal government that began with the city of Charlotte. He came to Wake in 1996 as deputy county manager, then was appointed to the top job in 2000.

He’s currently director of business development for Mulkey Engineers & Consultants.

Cooke was previously a finalist for city manager in Dallas before a local candidate was hired in January.

Cooke told the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram that he applied for the Dallas and Fort Worth jobs because he is “excited and fired up” about the public service jobs and unique challenges they present.

Pizzas to make a point

John Burns, a Democratic candidate for Wake County commissioner, is asking taxpayers, “Would you trade four pizzas to pay your child’s favorite teacher a fairer salary?”

Burns is pointing to the Wake County school board’s budget request that includes a 3.5 percent pay raise for all employees. Superintendent Jim Merrill says it’s the first step toward raising teacher pay to the national average by 2020.

Burns created a website, www.4pizzas.org, to persuade commissioners to support the plan. He says the pay raises will cost the average Wake taxpayer about $60 a year, or “the price of four pizzas.”

“It’s a website dedicated to showing the county just how crucial this vote is,” Burns says in a YouTube video.

Burns has also established a petition asking Commissioner Paul Coble, his Republican opponent in November, to support the school board’s budget request. Burns says he’ll present the petition at commissioners on June 2.

New County Manager Jim Hartmann will present his budget plan for the coming fiscal year, along with his recommended school appropriation, on Monday. Commissioners will vote on the budget in June.

Sears leaves the GOP

One word is noticeably absent on Dick Sears’ new voter registration card: Republican.

Sears, the mayor of Holly Springs since 2001, says he changed his party affiliation from Republican to unaffiliated shortly after he won re-election in November. He didn’t announce the change publicly because he says it doesn’t reflect a change in his political philosophy, but in his feelings toward some GOP leaders.

Sears began contemplating his affiliation after the Wake County Republican Party endorsed his opponent, Vinnie DeBenedetto, in the last election.

Sears said Wake GOP chairwoman Donna Williams never gave him “a good reason” why the group snubbed him.

Williams declined to elaborate on why the party didn’t endorse Sears. “We’re not picking on him,” she said. “And he knows this.”

A committee of about 70 people voted on endorsements after evaluating whether candidates “lived up to the core values of the Republican party,” she said.

Sears thinks he may have lost the party’s support because he hasn’t “toed the party line” when it comes to supporting local Republican candidates or Republican-authored legislation in the General Assembly.

Brown opposes tree bill

Durham City Councilman Eugene Brown got his dander up this week about a draft bill in the General Assembly that would restrict a city’s authority to protect trees on private property.

The draft ( bit.ly/1jhCdWo) was presented April 30 to a study commission of legislators, which recommended its introduction to the General Assembly. So far it has not been introduced.

According to the N.C. League of Municipalities, which opposes the bill, it would eliminate local authority to enact tree ordinances, including those protecting trees during construction, trees in municipal rights of way and trees deemed historic and “heritage.”

“Here’s a (legislature) that primarily got elected on an anti-government platform and look at what they’re doing to us,” Brown said to other council members.

“It’s just totally absurd. For us to have to be sitting here talking about the state coming in ... telling us we can’t have a tree ordinance? What’s going on here?”

Political events

• The Wake Senior Democrats will meet Wednesday, May 21, at the Crabtree Marriott. The meeting starts at 11 a.m. with lunch followed by the program at 11:30 a.m. Speakers will include the Democratic candidates for Congress: Brenda Cleary, 13th District, and Clay Aiken, 2nd District.

• Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy NC, will speak to the Democratic Women of Wake County on Thursday, May 29, at the NCSU University Club, 4200 Hillsborough St. in Raleigh. Buffet line opens at 11:30 a.m., followed by the program at noon. Lunch costs $20; the program is free. For lunch reservations contact Mary Ellin Eisele at 919-303-7100 or homework1@nc.rr.com by May 26.

Compiled by Paul A. Specht, T. Keung Hui and Jim Wise.

Got a tip, item or coming event? Fax Triangle Politics at 919-829-4529, or send e-mail to metroeds@newsobserver.com. Send items by noon Thursday.

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