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On the agenda: Policing, Airbnbs and making Raleigh a ‘Sanctuary City for the Unborn’

Vigil remembers Raleigh man killed in police shooting

Family, friends and activists mourn Soheil Antonio Mojarrad, 30, who died in a fatal encounter with a Raleigh police officer Saturday night in an officer-involved shooting near New Bern Avenue.
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Family, friends and activists mourn Soheil Antonio Mojarrad, 30, who died in a fatal encounter with a Raleigh police officer Saturday night in an officer-involved shooting near New Bern Avenue.

Activists will renew their call for a police oversight board and body cameras that activate automatically in light of a recent fatal shooting by a Raleigh police officer who did not turn his camera on.

Several members of Raleigh Police Accountability Community Taskforce (PACT) are signed up to speak during the Raleigh City Council’s meeting Tuesday night.

Raleigh Police Senior Officer W. B. Edwards was wearing a body camera that was not turned on last month when he shot and killed Soheil Antonio Mojarrad, who was accused of stealing a cell phone and brandishing a knife.

Rolanda Byrd, executive director of PACT and one of the scheduled speakers, has said the city may never know the truth about the April 20 shooting. Her son, Akiel Denkins, was shot and killed by a Raleigh police officer in 2016.

“This is unacceptable,” she said during an April 26 press conference. “Trust requires transparency and accountability in officer-involved fatalities. For this reason we are asking the city to change this policy so that officers are required to use body cameras in every interaction.”

The Raleigh City Council has two meeting at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Raleigh Municipal Building, at 222 W. Hargett St.

Here’s what else is on the agenda:

Short-term rentals rules

Supporters and critics continue to weight the options of short-term rentals like Airbnb and VBRO within the city of Raleigh. The City Council debated rules that would ban entire homes from being rented out.

What’s happening: A public hearing will be held on the city’s proposed rules for short-term rentals, made popular by websites like Airbnb and VRBO. The “homestay” rules would limit short-term rentals to one or two rented rooms inside of a home that must also be occupied during the rental by the primary resident, among other rules.

Why it matters: Short-term rentals are currently illegal throughout most of the city, but council members agreed to not enforce the ban until regulations could be put in place. These new rules would allow some short-term rentals but would prevent an entire home from being rented out. Enforcement would begin 90 days after the homestay rules are approved and enforcement would be complaint driven, according to Mark Holland, the city’s planning and zoning administrator.

The council’s Healthy Neighborhood Committee is debating rules for whole-house rentals but hasn’t made a recommendation yet.



Affordable housing

Members of Raleigh City Council and City Attorney Robin Currin discuss voluntary affordable housing conditions for developers.

What’s happening: Raleigh leaders will debate backing six affordable-housing projects that could create 645 units. The total city cost is $8.57 million. The developments include units for people over the age of 55 and entire families. Wake County’s area median income (AMI) is $59,100 for an individual or $84,300 for a family of four. The affordable rooms Raleigh leaders are considering range from 30% to 70% below AMI.

City leaders will also discuss the possibility of adding an affordable housing bond for the 2019 election or 2020 election. No other information about the proposed bond was available before Tuesday’s meeting.

Why it matters: Raleigh and most of Wake County is facing an affordable housing shortage some have called a crisis. The North Carolina Housing Coalition considers households cost-burdened when they spend more than 30% of their income on housing. There are nearly 100,000 cost-burdened homes in Wake County, and 41% of renters have a hard time covering their rent. Raleigh plans to add 500 affordable housing units each year.

Abortion

Anti-abortion speakers attended Raleigh's April 2 city council meeting and plan to speak during the May 7 meeting. They asked for city leaders to create a sanctuary city for the unborn.

What’s happening: Five people have signed up to speak during the public comments portion of the 7 p.m. meeting asking Raleigh to become a “sanctuary city for the unborn.” A handful of the anti-abortion speakers were also at March’s meeting. David Buboltz, who has signed up to speak, said he’d like to see Raleigh close all clinics where abortions are performed, stop the sale of Plan B (Plan B can be taken after sex to prevent a person from becoming pregnant but doesn’t end a pregnancy) and stop in vitro fertilization procedures within the city.

The people speaking are all Christians, he said, and consider themselves abolitionists instead of pro-life advocates. The pro-life movement has compromised its values and worked to end abortions incrementally, he said.

“Murdering a child is wrong,” he said. “And it needs to end at every level and we should not compromise on that.”

Why it matters: Abortion continues to be a contentious political issue at the local, state and federal levels. President Donald Trump has said he intends to appoint Supreme Court justices that will overturn Roe v. Wade, which upheld both a woman’s right to abortion and the government’s ability to regulate it.

More than $1 million was included in the North Carolina House’s proposed budget for an anti-abortion nonprofit and Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed a controversial abortion bill that would create criminal and civil penalties for doctors that kill a baby that has survived an abortion attempt. Democrats argue this is a political bill with no proof that babies are killed after an abortion attempt, while Republicans say they are trying to fix a loophole because the doctors don’t currently have a legal duty to care for the newborn babies.

Oxford Road Sidewalks

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What’s happening: Raleigh leaders are once again considering adding sidewalks to a portion of Oxford Street near Fallon Park. This request was brought by a resident in 2014 and was officially dropped as a project during a Jan. 8 meeting. After public outcry, the issue was referred to the Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Commission. It recommends adding sidewalks and adding an arborist to the team to prevent or minimize damage to trees in the park.

Why it matters: The project was dropped in early 2019 at the request of council member Stef Mendell who said a petition showed 80% of residents didn’t support the project. After the decision, many people who live near the street felt slighted for not being included in the decision on whether to add a sidewalk. The city normally surveys residents who live on the street where the sidewalk would go and not the neighborhood. This prompted a community meeting where it was discussed whether the city should change how it approves sidewalk projects.

Mobile retail

House of Swank Store
Customers look at clothes in the House of Swank storefront in downtown Raleigh on Sept. 27, 2018. Anna Johnson ajohnson@newsobserver.com

What’s happening: A public hearing will be held on an update to the city’s mobile retail ordinance that would let trucks and push-carts sell clothing and other goods out of a vehicle with some restrictions.

Why it matters: City leaders debated adding clothing to its mobile retail ordinance for a year before it was removed, at the request of council member Kay Crowder, who couldn’t reach the original applicant. There was community backlash, so the council began looking at the ordinance again.

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