Raleigh ends Citizens Advisory Council, makes push to 'modernize' community engagement

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Raleigh City Council voted to eliminate the city's Citizens Advisory Council.

Citizens Advisory Council members served as a liaison between the city council and residents. Some members said they felt blindsided because they didn't know the motion was going to be proposed.

"I was in tears," said Christina Jones, who is the chair of Raleigh Citizens Advisory Council, which is made up of representatives from the 19 regional Citizens Advisory Councils in the city. "It hurt. It was very hurtful."

The council voted instead to hire a consultant to help the city figure out how to modernize and revolutionize their community engagement process and make it more inclusive.

The city's ultimate goal is to have an office dedicated to community engagement.

"Right now, we don't do a great job reaching the number of people we need to reach," Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said. "Citizens Advisory Councils have been the vehicle for engagement since 1974. When you look at who we're reaching, more than 90 percent of our population is not attending Citizens Advisory Council meetings or engaged in a Citizens Advisory Council, so we want to find a better way of doing things."

Jones said those engaged in Citizens Advisory Councils are volunteers and that they could have improved the structure already in place. She said they want the community groups reinstated. Jones said each council had a $1,000 annual budget and the Raleigh Citizens Advisory Council has an annual budget of $15,000 to go towards expenses such as meeting spaces.

"It took away the voice," Jones said. "What has been said is that we don't reach enough people, which is true. Believe me, we're not blind to the fact of our flaws. But I am part of that demographic that they're trying to reach. I'm that working mom who makes time for this, and carves out time of every day. It felt like they said that my voice doesn't matter."

Citizens Advisory Councils get information from developers and gather input from residents about rezoning requests and then advise the council how to move forward.

Rezoning cases already scheduled to be heard could continue, but not after 45 days from Tuesday's city council meeting.

Citizens Advisory Council representatives are holding a news conference Saturday about the council's decision.
Copyright © 2020 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.