How many ways can you say no? It depends on who is listening. I understand our city is in flux. It seemed to have the dilemma of managing growth with citizen engagement. A response seemed to have been, it is easier in a democracy to limit the number of voices so decision makers can get to the end result faster! So far this solution has worked. The messy democracy needed to forge a city’s soul has been cast aside. We citizens are effectively on our own individual protest box, which could get attention or not. No more group initiatives or influence. Apparently we have pockets of people who are still dedicated to the success of our city. Autocratic styles with capitalistic tendencies can overlook citizen engagement as a bother. Incompetence is not completely ruled out and restrictive positions like an ideology could also be at play. Ultimately the word on the street or the result of smashed downtown buildings may reflect sensibilities of connection between our City Council and its Citizens. Raleigh has had a good run with solid leadership sustaining community participation. With the coronavirus, dismantled Citizen Advisory Councils, installation of new staff, policy changes and practices could almost alienate the active and caring resident. Will my voice really be heard? Will it be slotted, into an indistinguishable muffled tone which are hard to hear, from acceptable clear ones that are embraced?

Is what is good for the city tax coffers not so good for the community when revenues are down and the federal government is wrapped in the ‘personality of one’ driving incompetence and disconnection of funds for state and local governments? What is the local citizen up against when a rezoning case comes to their corner? Stripping citizen’s voices not only happens at the City level, it also happens at the State legislative level too as our trusted representatives vote to limit citizen rights of appeal on rezoning cases. Why do we find out all this stuff when we see a situation that deserves our attention? Why do we have to become full blown activists?  Government may no longer belong to the all the people. Why does the concept of ‘developer driven’ be a priority over how communities see themselves and what they want around them? This becomes justification for making decisions that are highly beneficial to our city’s tax base leaving communities feeling helpless in what happens to their lives. In times of selfish leadership, zoom transparency, a pandemic, dismantled participatory organizations, citizens must pick their battles and go for the big problems that tend to perpetuate other problems by its mere existence. Z-45-2020 rezoning case is one of those bigger problems. It (a 300+ apartment complex) has no context due to its scale in density and height, surrounded by low rise single family and multi-family homes. Its location at an already troubling intersection exacerbates existing stats for car and pedestrian crashes. It adds only more confusion in DOT directing traffic through major thoroughfares at New Hope and Buffaloe roads.  Navigating is enough with an adjacent grocery store, school buses, exiting feeder streets. Adding increased traffic from a 300+ units brings at least two cars (600) up to three cars (900) more vehicles into that one intersection. Putting a footprint of this size next to another small environmental footprint will not be easily absorbed but rather diminishes sustainability environment of homeownership. There is a much better solution for this corner even better than the 2015 Wal Mart solution. Since the best and ideal are not apart of mutual interests, we must seek balance with an outcome that offers contextual value, quality, and scale of a footprint. Becoming an extension of low rise buildings, micro climates, uninterrupted air space creates balance in an evolving community; showing up as an intrusive footprint that sends a message with the potential to stamp out the local neighborhoods environment which took many years to forge will have negative impact.  

Author, Activist, Artist and photo by Lillian L Thompson,