Local News

Raleigh council rejects crowd-funding for city projects

Posted January 16, 2013 1:09 p.m. EST

2012 Downtown Raleigh Skyline

— Raleigh residents won’t be paying for bike racks and other small endeavors after City Council members on Tuesday rejected a pilot program through which residents privately fund neighborhood projects.

In a 4-4 vote, council members sidestepped the crowd-funding program operated by SeeClickFix, a mobile app and website through which residents report non-emergency problems.

Mayor Nancy McFarlane voted in favor of the program, along with councilmen John Odom, Bonner Gaylord and Russ Stephenson. Council members Eugene Weeks, Randy Stagner, Thomas Crowder and Mary-Ann Baldwin cast no votes.

Had it been approved, Citizens Advisory Councils would have managed the program for one year. In that time, each CAC would be permitted one project. Residents would have been able to fund city projects now waiting for funding or suggest their own neighborhood fix-its.

Credit cards would only be charged when the project is fully funded and only fully funded projects would go forward, similar to the popular Kickstarter system.

The city wouldn’t have to pay extra for the program since it already uses SeeClickFix. Administration fees for the new software would be built into the project’s cost.

New Haven, Conn., uses the software for small projects, such as bike racks, but is the only city currently doing so. SeeClickFix is based in New Haven.

Gaylord suggested the program last week in the Technology and Communications Committee.

During that committee discussion, Baldwin said she liked the idea and found it innovative, but voted against it because residents can do this on their own without city involvement.

“Do it privately. Then the city isn’t involved,” Baldwin said. “It’s citizen driven and not government driven.”

Baldwin also said said she isn’t comfortable with the issue of neighborhood equality. Wealthy neighborhoods would have more money to spend on neighborhood projects while less affluent neighborhoods would not.

She said it’s a common problem seen with parent teacher associations. Schools with wealthier, involved parents have stronger PTA programs and students benefit. The opposite is seen in poorer schools.

Gaylord said he doesn’t think equality would be a big issue. He reasoned that if wealthy neighborhoods took on the cost of small projects, such action would free up city funds for projects in other parts of the city. Operating the program for one year would help the Council determine if there are equality issues or any other problems, he said.

At both the committee and the full council meeting, Baldwin suggested her own pilot program that would fund small projects at the newly acquired Dix Park because it would benefit the entire city rather than one neighborhood. The recommendation never came to a vote.