When it comes to staying in touch, Raleigh has been through a tough year. The COVID-19 situation has left many people isolated; some folks are struggling financially while others are simply lonesome. Many of us have lost loved ones and good friends because of the pandemic. The winter months were a trying time.
And yet, the darker days gave me time to reflect, to consider how Raleigh might come together. Vaccines and the warm weather of spring give me hope that we will see more of one another soon.
How we engage as a community has also been a big topic of discussion for the City of Raleigh. In February 2020, the Raleigh City Council formally disbanded citizen advisory councils (CACs) — neighborhood-based umbrella organizations that represented the interests of area residents.
CACs used to help Raleighites stay informed of changes proposed or planned for their neighborhoods. They allowed neighbors to get to know one another, talk with police officers, and hear from city staff. Some CACs are still informally fulfilling those functions, but they are no longer evenly spread across Raleigh, nor do they have the same resources or capacity. The West CAC which represented my area has not met for over a year. This loss contributes to a vacuum of communication.
Another benefit of CACs is that neighbors met with developers, city staff and councilors before a zoning decision was made. Developers were required to attend two CAC meetings prior to approval of a zoning request. Now the developers decide when and who they will meet with, leaving a lot of folks in the dark.
Raleigh benefits from a bottoms-up approach to steering the city forward. About half of the original 19 CACs that remain active continue to connect neighbors and inform them about key city issues.
In District D, the Hillsborough-Wade CAC and Southwest Raleigh CAC hold monthly, virtual meetings. The Raleigh West CAC is waiting on direction from the city to determine next steps. The Five Points CAC, which covers a small portion of District D, meets every two months. The Raleigh CAC acts as an umbrella for all of the other groups and meets monthly.
For those who have never attended a CAC meeting, this is where folks discuss:
- Pedestrian safety
- Zoning petitions
- Stormwater infrastructure
- Community Events
- Long-term city planning
- Anything that’s important to you and your neighborhood
Even if your CAC no longer meets, CACs that continue to operate are open to anyone. Check out a meeting to connect and get to know your city.