Triangle Politics: A weekly look at the local political scene

TriPol: Oakwood house fight affects board appointments

From staff reportsJune 20, 2014 

A routine city appointment in Raleigh stalled this week in the wake of the Oakwood modernist house kerfuffle.

Two members of the Board of Adjustment – which overturned earlier approvals for Louis Cherry’s under-construction home in a 3-2 vote – were up for reappointment. One of them, Ted Shear, led the board’s opposition to the house, arguing that the Raleigh Historic Development Commission failed to apply its own design guidelines.

The City Council appealed the Board of Adjustment’s decision to Wake County Superior Court, where the case is now pending.

While current city appointees are almost always granted another term if they have good attendance records, Councilwoman Mary-Ann Baldwin voiced hesitation about Shear and another Board of Adjustment member, Brian Williams.

“I’m not sure I’m ready to move on that today,” she said. “I need to think about it.”

A divided council voted 4-4 to postpone the appointments until July, with Thomas Crowder and Russ Stephenson leading half the council in voting to reappoint Shear and Williams immediately.

Parties split on budget

This week’s budget vote by the Wake County Board of Commissioners to give teachers a raise of between $200 and $300 a year drew sharply different responses from the Republican and Democratic parties.

The school board had wanted a $29.1 million plan that would have given all school employees a 3.5 percent pay raise. Commissioners opted instead to use $3.75 million from excess liquor sales to provide a smaller raise to teachers only.

Wake County Republican Party Chairwoman Donna Williams touted how Wake would become the state leader in supplementing teacher pay without increasing property taxes to pay for the raises. She said in a statement that the plan shows the “commissioners remain committed to helping our teachers here in Wake County.”

But Wake County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Blue III focused on how voters were told last year that passage of the $810 million school construction bond issue could result in a property tax rate increase of 4.86 cents for education. He said in a statement that only raising taxes 4.4 cents cost $5.8 million in funding that shows how the GOP majority on the commissioners is working to “short-change our schools.”

Both parties are preparing for the November elections, when all four seats held by Republican commissioners are on the ballot.

Show of support for chief

Embattled Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez received some public support at this week’s City Council meeting.

The chief and Police Department are under scrutiny after a majority of the city’s Human Relations Commission, following months of hearings, found a pattern of racial bias in police practices.

“I’m just a little concerned with some of the things I’m hearing in terms of rumors about getting rid of the chief,” said Hilton Cancél, speaking for the state chapter of the National Latino Police Officers Association.

“I can only say that I’m concerned about these rumors, and I hope this august body will give him a fair shake.”

Iris Ramirez Reese, CEO of Fusion Multicultural Marketing in Durham, said some have called on the city to “to remove Chief Lopez as a ‘solution’ to issues in this city.”

“Please ... don’t let the actions of these individuals make you feel strong-armed to have our chief removed,” she told the council.

“There has also been talk that the Hispanic community does not stand behind their chief,” Reese continued. “I’m using my voice because I want you to know that we will no longer allow anyone else to speak for us. We are articulate and we can speak for ourselves.”

Most of the speakers, though, repeated some of the complaints of police profiling, violence and harassment against black and Hispanic residents that led to the commission investigation last fall.

City Manager Tom Bonfield plans to review the commission report and advise the council on how to respond to it in August.

Political trail

• North Raleigh and Wake Forest Democrats are invited to a picnic from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. June 29 at Honeycutt Park to meet candidates who’ll be on the ballot in November. Email or call 919-538-3912.

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

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