Nancy McFarlane has presided over prosperity in Raleigh since her 2011 election, and she has seen various publications rank the Capital City as one of the country’s best places to live and do business. So her state of the city speech, delivered Monday at a Rotary Club event downtown, might have predictably been a recitation of the city’s points of pride, such as an unemployment rate of 4.1 percent and the booming downtown residential development now in progress.
Instead, and refreshingly, the mayor took on the challenge she believes is a vital one for the city to face: the connection of all citizens and city officials with Southeast Raleigh, home to a large percentage of African-American and other minority citizens (though it is very diverse), and one in long need of financial boosts and a focus on crime prevention and public safety. Those issues have been highlighted of late by a recent shooting in which a Raleigh police officer killed a young man to whom he was giving chase.
Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown has reported, in a timely fashion, that the young man was fleeing and was armed. Other investigations continue.
“When we are reciting our accolades,” the mayor said, “we want to know that we are doing all that we can to make sure that every person, every child in Raleigh, has the support system that they need to have the opportunity to be part of our success story.”
If any statement better articulates what ought to be the goal of any enlightened city, we haven’t heard it.
The mayor signaled she intends to connect the city structure better with the Southeast section to find and confront the challenges in that area. She borrowed a thought, and it is a good thought, from South African Bishop Desmond Tutu: “There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they are falling in.”
Toward that end, the mayor said she wanted some important and productive lessons to emerge from the shooting tragedy, which happened just south of downtown. The city’s core is where much of the city’s current development is taking place.
“I want the world to look at Raleigh,” she said, “and say that we are different. That we faced a tragedy together, we worked together and found ways to bridge gaps and we emerged a better community.”
Hers is an admirable and ambitious message.