Erin Salmon and the City – Part One

On Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 4:40 PM, Nick Sadler  wrote:

Ms. [Erin] Salmon

My name is Nick Sadler and I work as a Policy Analyst in the City Council Office.

We understand that you have been contacting various departments throughout the City in an effort to gather information about the Lorimer Drive Street and Sidewalk Improvements that was approved by council in September. To better serve this effort I have been asked to  be the point of contact for you moving forward. Any request for information should be sent to me. Once I receive the request I will ensure that it gets to the correct staff  and ensure that you get the information you request.

I appreciate your understanding of this. If you have any questions please let me know.


Nick Sadler, Policy Analyst

City of Raleigh | City Manager’s Office

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On Sep 29, 2015, at 12:09 AM, Erin Salmon wrote:

Hello Nick,

Thank you for your email.  I am curious who asked you to be the point person for directing my questions.  Prior to your email, I spoke at length with Chris Johnson, and he asked that I direct my questions to himself and to Jimmy Upchurch.  To oblige you all, I will copy the three of you on future emails.

In any case, I believe your assistance will be invaluable for my neighborhood’s future.  This project has created a huge divide within our quiet streets, and I have been working hard since September 1 to bridge this divide, to find common ground where neighbors can work together to address concerns and issues.  The petition process itself has generated much of the contention that residents feel.  I believe that this could have been avoided had the city been more involved during that time before the petition was submitted and before the resolution went before the Council.  I know that many residents did email and call the appropriate city staff to ask questions and voice concerns, myself included. However, not all calls and emails were answered, and the information that was given to various residents was contradictory to some of the information I have gathered from the city’s website as well as from direct conversations with the departments and divisions pertinent to this project.  There continue to be unanswered questions from residents, and as a neighborhood, we have been meeting frequently over the past four weeks to sort through the information that has been gathered since September 1.

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City Council Presentation (David Simonton, 1/5/2016)

A video of the 1/5/2016 evening session is HERE.

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Good evening, I’m David Simonton, 1218 Lorimer Road.

I’m here to ask Council to review the current citizen-initiated sidewalk petition policies. For whatever reason, the City has two very different policies now in place.

If a citizen wants a sidewalk on a UDO-conforming road, they can request one by contacting the City. Staff reviews the request and contacts all residents who will be affected. This letter includes the engineers’ recommendation for the location, width and placement of the sidewalk, along with a Petition Form, which, in this case, is a kind of ballot.

The City takes responsibility for the process, acting as a neutral, objective, information gathering and disseminating entity. Using this method, the city assures due process—all residents are notified in a timely manner, and the specifics of the project are clear.

But in the case of a non-conforming road (say, an older road, like Lorimer Road), the Petitioner controls the process, with little or no oversight by the City. The City doesn’t require timely notification of property owners. And there’s no requirement for neighborhood meetings. The Petitioner (who’s patently biased) is assumed by the City, and trusted, to handle the process responsibly; but, in our case at least, she did not.

The difference between these two policies is stark—and troubling. Why does the City cede responsibility when street upgrades are necessitated by the request for a sidewalk? Upgrades come with assessments, and these are costly to residents.

And why does the City turn a blind eye when its own lack of oversight results in acrimony and division in a once-harmonious neighborhood like ours? Door-to-door petitioning is known to have numerous problems associated with it—look at Laurel Hills Road; and now, Lorimer Road.

Given the likelihood of abuse, why is there no easy appeal process in place for the average citizen, to help assure the veracity and validity of this type of petition—some recourse short of having to sue the City?

The City of Charlotte has an appeal process built in, and it mandates that at least two informational meetings be held.

Finally, I believe Council should be required to table a proposal when an instance of abuse of the petition process is brought to its attention, instead of proceeding to a vote.

In conclusion, I hope you’ll look closely at these policies, and in particular the often-contentious door-to-door policy for sidewalks on a non-conforming road; consider changing it to a mailed ballot. And please revise the petition document itself, so it clearly states the measurements of sidewalks, setbacks and the City easement required for a project so that no one can misrepresent this information ever again.

Doing so will add credibility to the process, and help put Raleigh on track to becoming a truly progressive city.

Thank you.

INDY Article (1/27/2016) & Comments

January 27, 2016 (INDY Week)

A divisive street-improvement plan raises questions about Raleigh’s citizen-petition process

By Jane Porter

Ryan Barnum lives at 1300 Lorimer Road, a shady, narrow street in west Raleigh. When he bought his 1950s house last April for $284,000, he’d never heard of an in-the-works proposal to install a 6-foot sidewalk on a stretch of that street, along with curbs, gutters and storm drains.

Soon after he closed, a woman named Donna Burford contacted him. A few months earlier, Burford—who lives on an adjacent street—had started gathering signatures on a citizen petition for the street improvements, lobbying neighbors up and down Lorimer to gain the 50-percent-plus-one support the city requires to validate such petitions. Barnum says Burford pitched the sidewalk improvements as a way to fix flooding issues.

“I was very reluctant to sign the petition,” Barnum says. He had good reason: The 14 property owners on the northern side of Lorimer would be assessed a total of $53,600 for the improvements; city taxpayers and property owners on the southern end of Lorimer will pick up the remaining $1.7 million. Because Barnum has the most property fronting the street, he’ll be charged more than $10,000. Later, he says, he learned that he could have started his own citizen petition to have the city merely repave the road and install stop signs for a fraction of the cost. Continue reading