Proposed Changes to Raleigh City Council Terms and Compensation
Why does this matter?
Over the past several years, the City Government of Raleigh has demonstrated a pattern of anti-democratic and anti-Black behavior. This includes, but is not limited to, abolishing Citizen Advisory Councils and limiting time for public comment. Earlier this year, the City Council set back the democratic process by eliminating runoffs, thus allowing candidates to win without a majority vote and preventing run-off elections from taking place. Additionally, the proposed changes by the study group can be placed on the ballot by the City Council, but public pressure is needed for this to happen.
We believe, as members of this community, that we should have our voices heard. For this reason, we ask that you reach out to members of the study group and City Council members to let them know how you feel about changes to the City Council’s terms and compensation.
What changes are the study group proposing?
Change 1: “The City Council should transition from 2-year to 4-year terms.”
Our Stance: A healthy democracy should have a high frequency of citizen input, and extending the terms from 2-year terms to 4-year terms prevents this input from taking place. We oppose this change as an anti-democratic measure meant to shelter the City Council from accountability to the residents of Raleigh. Raleigh is a fast-growing and rapidly changing city. The City Council should reflect these changes, and in order to do so, 2-year terms would give citizens the opportunity to ensure ongoing representation of their communities during these periods of growth and development. City Councilmembers should be accountable to their constituents and shorter terms ensure that this accountability can take place, especially given that there are no limits to how many times City Councilmembers can run for office.
Change 2: “City Council should adopt staggered terms whereby all District City Councilors are elected on one side of the cycle, and the Mayor and all At-Large City Councilors are elected on the other side of the cycle.”
Our Stance: Staggered terms are only necessary if terms are extended to 4-year terms. Because we oppose the extension of Councilor terms to 4-year terms, we also oppose implementing staggered terms. Additionally, if each group has staggered elections every 4-year terms, then one group would always be elected during the general election, with the other group elected during the midterm election. For this reason, voter turnouts between the two groups would be unequal and would not accurately represent the needs of Raleigh citizens.
Change 3: “Increase total compensation for the Mayor and City Council.”
See this table for a comparison of Mayoral and City Councilmember compensation across North Carolina.
Our Stance: We support this change as a first step toward encouraging increased representation from working class and lower-income residents for inclusion on the City Council. The City Council positions are a substantial time commitment and the compensation should reflect that. This would make it more accessible to people who have children, work full-time currently, and are working class.
Change 4: “City Council should increase its size to 9 by adding one district seat vs. at-large seat”
Our Stance: We support the change to add one district seat as opposed to an at-large seat. An increase to the number of districts makes the number of residents per district smaller, allowing Council Members to better represent their constituents. As always, the manner in which these districts are drawn should be open to public discussion and citizen input so that districts are drawn in a fair and transparent manner.
Furthermore, we support increasing the size of the City Council by adding one district seat as opposed to adding another at-large position. The campaigning effort for an at-large position is often extremely expensive, thus making it inaccessible to low-income candidates. Furthermore, the at-large system has been known for “excluding minority voters from the polls.” This is the case in Jones County, where no African-American has been elected to the board of commissioners since 1994 despite making up ⅓ of the county’s voting age population. To date, Mayor Lightner is the only Black mayor ever elected in the City of Raleigh, serving from 1973 to 1975.
What can I do about this?
Action Letter: You can send letters to the study group and your City Councilmembers here to let them know what you think about these changes.
Public Comment: The deadline to sign-up for the next public comment period is Friday, December 31st at 5:00 p.m.
Public comment will take place on Tuesday, January 4th at 7:00 p.m. at the next City Council meeting. Please note that the public comment will take place virtually.
Wednesday, January 5th at 6:00 p.m.- Virtual Listening Session
Monday, January 10th at 6:00 p.m.- Virtual Study Group Meeting
Survey: You can take this survey indicating your position on each of the proposed changes.