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Raleigh city politics are getting more party-centered. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

But Raleigh Democrats may be heading in a direction that is plenty wrong.

An important test will come next Tuesday. The City Council is scheduled to appoint two new members of the Planning Commission then.

The appointments have become the battleground between two Democratic camps:

· A faction on the Council led by Thomas Crowder and Russ Stephenson, which is close to being anti-growth;

· A faction led by Jessie Taliaferro and Joyce Kekas that is being condemned by the Crowder-Stephenson crowd as too pro-growth.

I’m siding with Jessie and Joyce.

I believe they are on the right side of a battle that could mark Raleigh politics for the next two years – through fall 2007 municipal elections.

It also happens to be the right side of a battle for the Democratic Party’s political survival.

Some see the battle as the “purists” versus the “pragmatists.” That’s how the purists, like supporters of Crowder and Stephenson, see it. Many of them flooded into the state Democratic Party last year as Howard Dean-inspired antiwar voters.

I see the battle as the “elitists” versus the “commoners.”

The elitists gave the Democratic Party Mondale, Dukakis, Kerry, Dean and never-ending defeats.

The commoners gave us Clinton, Hunt and political hope.

Raleigh’s growth is an ideal cultural battleground for these two groups.

The elitists see growth in terms of Greedy Developers and Big Real Estate.

The commoners see growth in terms of jobs and opportunities for people who work – or would like to work – for a living.

The elitists – at bottom – don’t like most of Raleigh – at least, that part of Raleigh outside the downtown-N.C. State-Five Points axis.. They think we should all live near downtown and ride a bicycle or take a train to work. They really want to live in Manhattan.

The commoners know that we like where we live and live where we like. We like our suburban neighborhoods. We like driving to work and going home when we please, not when the train comes.

The Planning Commission appointments are the first skirmish in this civil war between Democrats.

The elitists have been assailing Kekas and Taliaferro for supporting Charles Walker over Renee Bethea.

Now, I don’t know either candidate. But my understanding is that Walker is in the development business and has served on the commission before. Bethea is a community activist from the Method Road community. She’s supported by Crowder and Stephenson.

The elitists argue that Kekas, Taliaferro and Councilman James West should vote for Bethea because she’s a woman, an African-American and a Democrat.

In other words, identity trumps experience and balance.

The Jessie-Joyce-James group apparently wants more balance. And all three support Paul Anderson, the African-American Democrat who nearly beat Councilman Tommy Craven last fall in his heavily Republican district.

I know almost nothing about the Planning Commission or growth issues.

What I know is politics.

And the elitists are making the classic political mistake of overreaching.

Flush with success in last fall’s elections, they appear determined to impose an anti-growth label on the City Council and the Planning Commission.

They are trying to write the only scenario that can elect a Republican mayor – the way Democratic miscues helped elect Tom Fetzer a few years ago.

Here is how Democrats could make that happen:

· Polarize city politics between those living inside the Beltline and those living outside, which drives the fast-growing outside-the-Beltline voters away from Democrats;

· Pursue costly and controversial projects like the downtown Convention Center and the TTA light-rail project;

· Drive away African-American voters, who are the most pro-growth and pro-job voters in the city;

Voila, you have a Republican mayor again.

There is a better way for Democrats: Support jobs and economic opportunities for all Raleigh residents, balanced by sensible environmental regulation. Invest in better roads and less crowded schools. Stop wasteful spending, like the Marriott Hotel subsidy downtown.

Voila, you have an enduring Democratic majority in Raleigh. And an object lesson for Democrats across the state and nation.


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One comment on “Democrats Wrestle Over Raleigh Growth

  1. gpearce says:

    I wonder when the job market in Raleigh will be good enough where everone who wants a F/T job with benes can find one?? The influx of new residents is growing faster than the numer of new good jobs.

    Comment by Louie — December 28, 2005 @ 12:29 pm

    I wonder when the job market in Raleigh will be good enough where everyone who wants a F/T job with benes can find one?? The influx of new residents is growing faster than the number of new good jobs.

    Comment by Louie — December 28, 2005 @ 12:31 pm

    Respectfully Gary and Carter, you know not what you are talking about.

    Mayor Meeker was warned against over reaching when he was first elected, yet was just re-elected with over 70% of the vote with substantial majorities outside of the beltline.

    And frankly, how rude of you to call Russ Stephenson an elitist without even talking to him. BTW, he won with significant support outside of the Beltline.

    Our council is not anti-Growth, but want good growth that is sustainable 20 and 30 years from now.

    As to the Planning Commission, the issue with Mr. Walker is not really his party, but two fold. One, he has a direct business partner already on the Commission. Two, he has served three terms already, traditionally all that is allowed. There are others, including Matthew Brown, whom the Mayor nominated that are as qualified, and want to serve.

    As to advocating Balance on Planning Commission, that is exactly what Mayor Meeker, Russ Stephenson, and Thomas Crowder want. Since you admited you know nothing about it, you may check and you will find that it is currently heavily weighted towards devolopers, (and Republicans btw).

    Also, many of the so called elitist you refer to, are from outside the beltline, worked hard for Joyce Kekas and Paul Anderson, and want balance on the Planning Commission. Since you know politics, you would understand if they felt poked in the eye if Mr. Walker was appointed to the Commission right after all their hard work, and make them less likely to participate in the future.

    On the the TTA. It is not the end all and be all solution to our transportation problems, but a piece of the puzzle and an integral part of our regions planning process. It’s purspose is not to force people to move out of neighborhoods, but provide an option to others and capture some of our regions growth so we do not continue to sprawl unabatted, and make a condidtion where people can’t even get out of their neighborhoods due to traffic. Carter’s friends solution of a elevated highway on top of I-40 would be even more costly, and continue to worsen our air quality. We should not put all our eggs in the car basket, and choices are always a good thing.

    In the future, before you speak on something you admittly don’t know about, you may wish to do a little more research.

    Comment by Perry — December 30, 2005 @ 12:53 pm

    For all of you out there who don’t know who Perry is, let me enligtned you.

    Perry Woods…operative for Meeker, Russ, Paul Anderson, and the Service Employees Union. He caters to the far left, and the liberal union agenda. Nough said.

    Comment by Robert — January 2, 2006 @ 10:24 am

    Perry Woods, certainly an operative for Mayor Meeker and Russ Stephenson, does not work for the Service Employees Union. Characterize his politics as you want, but 70% of Raleigh agreed with him this year.

    Comment by Justin — January 2, 2006 @ 1:51 pm

    That would be 70% with less than 15% turnout. Most of Raleigh stayed home…so I’d be careful about slinging those kind of asserstions.

    Comment by Robert — January 2, 2006 @ 9:54 pm

    Perry Woods was a paid legislative liason for the Police Benevolent Association whom he got to endorse Julie Robison in Cary after she voted to cut their annual pay raise. Neat trick.

    Perry Woods is certainly in the Deaniac camp. Which I
    applaud. I love the comedic aspect of the far left
    driving the Democratic Party off the rhetorical cliff.

    Comment by johnb — January 3, 2006 @ 5:10 pm

    hope to see you guys on the CAT Connector buses sometime soon! who the hell can afford a gas guzzlin SUV which costs 15 grand a year to keep on the road.

    these couples that have his and hers SUVs are gonna be in a world of hurt when gas prices resume their upward climb.

    Comment by Louie — January 4, 2006 @ 12:34 pm

    I don’t know if the “elitists” want to ride a bike to work and live as if in Manhattan, but, even if they do, why would you assume they want to force everyone to do it? Maybe they (and I) just want to have that opportunity. Lord knows, just about everything that has been built in Raleigh in the past few decades caters to you free-marketers who want everyone to get in their big cars and drive everywhere. Who’s forcing a lifestyle on whom here?

    Comment by Larry — January 5, 2006 @ 1:34 pm

    “The elitists see growth in terms of Greedy Developers and Big Real Estate.

    The commoners see growth in terms of jobs and opportunities for people who work – or would like to work – for a living.”

    Nothing could be further from the truth. Growth in Raleigh is about big business interests spurred on by elitist whom are profiting from growth at the expense of the commoner. The commoner is sick and tired of seeing jobs he use to have being taken by illegal immigrants working for minimum wage and no benefits. The commoner is tired of watching growth gobble up every inch of open space in Wake County. The commoner is sick of spending an hour in traffic to make a drive that use to take under 30 minutes 10 years ago. The commoner is disgusted with watching his children get bussed around to a different school every couple years. The commoner hates watching his taxes go up to pay for the infrastructure required to satisfy out-of-control growth. I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Greedy builders, contractors, and land developers in the Raleigh area are only interested in one thing – and that one thing is their profit margin. They have absolutely no interest in what is good or bad for Wake County and they certainly don’t care about the commoner (just his/her money).

    Comment by Rocky — March 24, 2006 @ 12:45 am

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