Midtown Raleigh News

Three seek Northeast Raleigh’s District B council seat

Two Democratic candidates in Northeast Raleigh’s District B are vying to unseat longtime incumbent John Odom, the Raleigh City Council’s lone Republican.

Insurance firm executive Brian Fitzsimmons and real-estate agent Sam Smith will be on the nonpartisan Oct. 8 ballot with Odom, a Vietnam War veteran who owns three Raleigh auto shops.

Odom served five terms on the council starting in 1993, then took a hiatus before returning in 2009. As he seeks another term, he’s touting his record in Northeast Raleigh – from stopping a controversial Sheetz gas station to the creation of the Buffaloe Road Athletic Park.

Neighbors had opposed the idea of a 24-hour gas station at the corner of Buffaloe and New Hope roads, and Odom agreed.

“I’m not against service stations and gas stations, but I didn’t want it to be the first thing people saw going down that road,” he said.

Fitzsimmons agreed with the decision.

“There’s no way there should be a 24-hour establishment a stone’s throw from a residential neighborhood,” he said. “We still have a lot of undeveloped land in District B. The next couple years is going to be making sure it’s developed the right way.”

But Fitzsimmons and Odom disagree about the situation with food handouts in downtown’s Moore Square.

Odom said he supports the charities’ work but wants the feedings moved out of the park.

“We need to move that project to another location,” he said, adding that he’d back city funding to help establish a new spot. “We want to use (Moore Square) for its highest and best use.”

Fitzsimmons, however, said he’s opposed to any restrictions on where people can feed the less fortunate.

“I think we should be tripping over ourselves to find ways to feed the homeless,” he said. “We shouldn’t be raising the question of should we limit citizens’ ability to feed the homeless.”

Fitzsimmons also said the city should update its nondiscrimination policy to ensure workers of all races and sexual orientations are protected. He said the language hasn’t been updated since the 1990s and fails to protect workers from discrimination based on gender identity. A city-appointed board would probe any violations.

“It would give a little more teeth to the Human Rights Commission,” he said. “One of the bigger issues I’m running on is the idea of equality.”

Odom said he’s not familiar with Fitzsimmons’ proposal and doesn’t know whether he’d support a change.

Fitzsimmons says the city council should embrace more transparency, making data and statistics readily available online. He’s also critical of the move toward secrecy in the city manager search, pointing to the decisions to announce finalists for Wake schools superintendent and Raleigh police chief.

“I certainly think there were opportunities for this process to be more public than it was,” he said.

Odom, however, defended the move toward secrecy. “Eight of those 10 (top applicants) probably would not have applied had it been open,” he said. “I think we did the right thing.”

Smith did not respond to calls seeking comment for this story, and he’s been absent from many of the candidate forums, complaining that they shouldn’t be held in churches.

Earlier in the campaign, he said he’s noticed the city council sometimes funds unnecessary projects, such as an expensive refurbishing of the Pullen Park carousel. He also opposes what he calls “excessive ordinances,” such as a dead-end street in his district that was denied permission to install a security gate.