Wake County

Downtown rules could become issue in City Council races

Every Raleigh City Council seat is up for election on Oct. 6, and the vote to institute new sidewalk rules has become a talking point for some challengers who are targeting younger voters, specifically.

“People are concerned about the direction Raleigh is going,” said Ashton Smith, who’s running against incumbent Kay Crowder in District D in southwest Raleigh. “At a time when we’re growing, this feels a little small-town.”

Smith and Matt Tomasulo – who’s running for one of two at-large seats against incumbents Mary-Ann Baldwin and Russ Stephenson, among others – say they would have voted against the new rules.

While Baldwin joined District E Rep. Bonner Gaylord and District C Rep. Eugene Weeks in voting against the rules, Crowder and Stephenson are two of the five council members who voted for them.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane, District A Rep. Wayne Maiorano and District B Rep. John Odom were the others who supported the move. All but Maiorano are seeking re-election.

Smith posted a questionnaire on her campaign website and found that an overwhelming majority of respondents strongly oppose the new sidewalk rules. She claims the council should have based its decision on clearly understandable data – not the emotions of some residents.

Tomasulo said the city could have cleared the sidewalks sufficiently enough for walkers if they enforced rules that were already on the books.

“It seems like this was rushed,” he said. “People are experiencing unforeseen revenue losses ... and some of my favorite places now have limited seating.”

The council members who voted for the rules stood by their decision, but some said they’re willing to consider tweaks.

Stephenson, for instance, agreed that city staff could have better enforced existing rules and said he’s open to pursuing other enforcement options, such as eliminating the rules Sunday through Thursday since those nights aren’t as busy.

Paul A. Specht: 919-829-4870, @AndySpecht

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