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Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker must decide whether he wants to be mayor of all Raleigh – or just part.

Tom Fetzer got elected mayor in the 90s by mobilizing North Raleigh against Inside the Beltline. With Carter Wrenn’s help, Fetzer tapped into a feeling that the city was spending too much money downtown and paying too little attention to the rest of the city.

A lot of North Raleigh folks feel that way today.

They see millions of tax dollars being spent downtown – a place many of them rarely go.

They see good things happening in their part of the city – at North Hills and around Crabtree Valley. All of that comes from private, not public, investment.

But that investment doesn’t seem welcome to the Mayor and some other Council members.

  • The Mayor opposes special financing for a North Hills parking deck, for example, then wants downtown developers exempted from open-space requirements.

  • There always seems to be tax money available for downtown projects, but not for North Raleigh.

Council member Jessie Taliaferro – who proves you can be a good Democrat and a good North Raleigh resident – says park and recreation sites there “are bursting at the seams.”

There is a historical cultural and political divide at work here.

Inside the Beltline, Raleigh is a heavily Democratic city. A lot of residents work for government.

Outside the Beltline, the population is more business-oriented, more likely to be from somewhere else (often the North) and more Republican.

The result can be two separate worlds. Believe me, I know both of them.

I’m old enough to remember Raleigh before the Beltline. I once lived in the most Democratic neighborhood in the city (Cameron Park), and now I live in the most Republican (North Ridge).

There is a big gap. The Mayor needs to help close it, not widen it. If he doesn’t, he may face a tough reelection fight this year. Even if he wins, he may find himself increasingly in the minority the next two years.

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