Response to INDY Article (1/27/2016)

This letter was sent to The INDY by David Simonton. An edited version appeared in the Backtalk column of the print edition on XXX:

The City of Raleigh’s response to Jane Porter’s article, “Cracks in the sidewalk plan” (January 27), typifies the bald-faced misrepresentation employed throughout this petition process—by the Petitioner, Donna Buford, her sister, Sharon Mixon and a City staff member, Donetta Powell with the Public Works Department.

The City responded, “…staff takes on a neutral perspective during the routing of the petition for signatures.” While that may be true in some or even most cases, it was not true on Lorimer Road, as reported in the article. Donetta Powell played an active and vigorous role in pursuing and securing a property owner’s signature, Ryan Barnum’s; emails to Barnum from the Petitioner herself confirm this fact.

Also, “Staff addresses questions from residents according to City policies and does not try to persuade anyone as to whether they should sign or not sign.” This statement too is contradicted by the facts. Barnum, in his sworn affidavit, wrote: “I was given misinformation by Powell…. I was told…there would be three design meetings after the petition passed where we could negotiate down to a 25’ road, a 2’ setback and 4’ sidewalk; [that] at [these] meetings we could discuss putting the sidewalk on the opposite side of the road.” He singed. Now that he’s learned that little if anything Powell told him is true, however, he’d like his name removed from the Petition.

Finally, “Property owners are being assessed only for the street improvements, not the sidewalk improvements.” That’s some “only!” $5,700, $6,900, $10,600, etc. Burdensome assessments, even as six residents face no assessment whatsoever; a seventh faces a reduced assessment of $256. All seven signed the Petition—and yet their signatures counted as much as everybody else’s.

“…The petition met all requirements.” But was the process legitimate? Are the (questionable) results valid?