Local Politics

Meeker: 'Time for community to move forward'

Posted March 14, 2011 4:45 p.m. EDT
Updated March 14, 2011 5:42 p.m. EDT

— Mayor Charles Meeker said Raleigh needs to regain momentum after the nationwide recession, and he said sustainability efforts and plans to improve transportation and affordable housing are two steps in that direction.

Raleigh has trimmed its payroll by about 200 people in the past two years and has deferred some infrastructure projects to balance its budget without raising taxes, Meeker said Monday during his annual State of the City address.

Now, the recession appears to be over as local unemployment levels are starting to decline and spending by Raleigh residents is picking up, he said.

"But the recession is really not over in terms of our attitude and our will to move on," he said. "For so many reasons, it is time for our community to start moving forward. It is time to let our dreams be big. It is time to create a world-class city of which we can all be proud."

Raleigh's effort to become a more sustainable city is attracting visitors and conventions, the mayor said. He cited the city's 4-year-old program to install LED lighting, which saves more than $200,000 in annual energy costs, as well as programs to replace city vehicles with hybrids and all-electric cars, install solar arrays to generate electricity, including one planned atop the downtown convention center, and design more energy-efficient city buildings.

"Raleigh really has changed. The (city) government has become a leader in sustainability," Meeker said. "Sustainability is key for us and something that really distinguishes this city."

The mayor also said that the City Council is considering having the city fund sidewalks and no longer make homeowners pay for new sidewalks and subsequent repairs. The effort is part of a $25 million to $35 million bond issue focusing on "people-friendly projects" slated for the November ballot, he said.

"I'm hoping to move in that direction so we can get sidewalks into our transportation network so people can walk or ride bikes," he said.

Other projects that would be included in the bond issue are greenways and bike lanes.

The council also is considering a $15 million bond issue for affordable housing. Meeker said there are about 7,000 affordable residences in the city but about twice as many are needed.