Ask Anything: 10 questions with Raleigh Mayor Meeker
Posted May 13, 2008
Updated March 19, 2009
What are you doing to stay ahead of the curve to remove and/or prevent the influx of illegal/undocumented workers that have flooded our state? – Debbie Lepper, Raleigh
Undocumented workers are a national issue, which needs to be addressed by Congress and the president of the United States. No state or city can prevent this problem or remove all illegal workers. When an arrest is made here of an undocumented person, the Wake County Sheriff's Office reviews whether deportation should be requested.
Which other mayors do you emulate, and why? – Keith Herrmann, Durham
I do not have a single mayor in mind in terms of following anyone's lead. My sense is that successful mayors listen closely to their citizens, pay attention to management costs and, on occasion, take significant steps to strengthen the identities and economies of their cities.
With the recent uproar over the now-reversed garbage disposal ban, it was clear to many of the citizens that that particular decision was not researched to any degree, neither technically nor politically. Many citizens of Raleigh are now concerned that many other decisions are similarly being created in a perceptive vacuum, and the level of trust between the citizenry and its government is at a very low level. What do the mayor and the city council plan to do to restore trust from the citizens and to enlighten the decision-making process? – Yontz Sucre, Raleigh
The City Council considers 40-50 matter every two weeks, approximately one-half of which are on a consent agenda. I understand your point about disposals. On the other hand, it is also notable that many controversial issues are discussed and decided with a large degree of acceptance by our citizens. Impact fees, infill development and water conservation are three of these issues discussed in the past few months where our citizens have different opinions. Right now, Raleigh is highly rated as a place to live and work, which, in part, reflects on how our government is functioning. From time to time, the council does get out of step with the public and, fortunately, is willing to correct its course when it does so.
Knowing that the capacity of the lake is not able to sustain the amount of people currently on it, why does the Raleigh City Council continue to hand out building permits like candy? It is understood that there is responsible growth. However, after last year, the conclusion would be that the City Council has been irresponsible with infrastructure and growth over the last 15 years. – Marcus, Raleigh
With the current conservation measures in place, the City of Raleigh and other municipalities on the system are using about as much as water as we did 10 years ago. Except in times of severe drought, such as last summer and fall, the City has had adequate water even without the conservation we are now undertaking. In addition, a new water treatment plant of approximately 18 million gallons a day is being built at Lake Benson and should be finished the first quarter of 2010. The River Little Reservoir in East Wake will have a similar capacity when it is completed. Finally, we are working with the Army Corps of Engineers to manage Falls Lake seasonally so that there is approximately 20 percent more drinking water available in the late spring or early summer.
When you initially campaigned for mayor, you stated that you were in favor of completing the entire I-540 loop. Once elected, you changed your mind and said that the southern half should not be built. Why, under your leadership does Raleigh concentrate its road developments in the northern half of the city and leave the southern part of the city and Wake County with their needs unmet but still left holding the tax bill? – Charles Boyer, Raleigh
The premise of your question is not correct. I have supported building the entire I-540 loop, both at the Council table in requesting funds from the state and at the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, making the same request. What has changed is that while the North Carolina Department of Transportation funded the northern half of the loop, it is now declining to fund the western and southern half. This is a state issue. There are no city funds in any part of the loop, including the northern part of I-540.
Why is it that Raleigh is more concerned with attracting outside attention than focusing on the needs of its citizens? For example, the parking situation downtown. The city wants to build a man-made river but can't make more places to park on Fayetteville Street. – Afton Mosley, Raleigh
The idea of a river was mentioned in the newspaper, but the City Council has not discussed such a proposal. While the number of parking places on our streets is inherently limited by the number of streets, the City is building approximately 2,500 additional spaces in decks in the center city to accommodate future growth. These spaces are paid for by parking fees, not general fund revenues.
Months ago, you issued a bid of $10 million dollars for the Dorothea Dix property and its potential use as a world-class park. With mental health issues being documented statewide lately, would you be open to keeping the hospital completely operational until the continuum of community services promised can reach the patients? – Steve Church, Willow Spring
I, and just about everyone else involved, agree that mental health treatment is the top priority of the Dorothea Dix property as long as it is being used for that purpose. However, should the state close some or all of that facility and no longer use the land for mental health treatment, the city has taken the view that a large public park would be more beneficial than office buildings or commercial development.
What do you anticipate the "range adjustment" (formerly known as a cost of living raise) to be for the coming year? With inflation increasing at 4 percent plus or minus each year, it's getting tougher to keep up with living expenses when our range adjustments are 1 to 2 percent year after year. Can we expect an increase, outside of merit increases, that will actually keep pace with the cost of living in the Raleigh area? – Jeff G., Garner
The city manager will make a recommendation on the range adjustment as part of his budget on May 20. This is an issue since inflation, including the recent run-up in gas prices, is more than the range adjustment has been in years past. My understanding is that the manager is also looking at adjusting the salaries of certain categories of employees to make their compensation more competitive.
With the City of Raleigh growing so fast, what plans are in place to incorporate more sustainable designs into buildings, storm water cisterns, downtown transportation and alternative energies? – Dan Porter, Raleigh
The Convention Center and new police headquarters are incorporating a number of sustainable design features. The Convention Center itself is expected to receive Silver LEED certification. The City is also increasing bus service and has encouraged citizens to install rain barrels to conserve drinking water. Finally, the city is acquiring more fuel-efficient vehicles to attempt to reduce consumption of fuel. There are, however, many more steps to be taken on these environmental issues.
My question is this: How do you and other Raleigh City leaders plan on tackling the shortage of police officers at RPD? Their turnover rate is terrible, with almost 30 officers leaving so far this year. There is already a shortage of officers, and Raleigh officers are leaving for other area departments that pay better, and RPD just can't compete. RPD is one of the lowest paid in the area, and with the most crime per capita that just doesn’t make sense. They are way overworked, understaffed, and underpaid. Why has this issue not been addressed? Why have their salaries not been raised to become competitive with other departments? – Concerned Citizen, Raleigh
While there has been some turnover, much of that relates to officers who are retiring or who decide not to complete the police academy. The council has authorized a lateral entry program, and I anticipate that the city manager's budget will include a upward adjustment in salary for younger officers.
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