During the Raleigh City Council’s June 2 standing-room-only budget hearing, citizens of Raleigh flocked to voice their opinions on the proposed FY 2009/2010 budget. Read the full budget and capital improvement proposals at the end of this article. Below are summaries and quotes from some of Raleigh’s concerned denizens:
Rick Armstrong, representing the Raleigh Police Protective Association, spoke at length regarding the elimination of merit raises and other salary-related funds for his department while a number of police officers and their families stood in a show of solidarity. “Pay for all city employees should be competitive,” Armstrong asserted, and posited that his department has remained loyal to their Raleigh department even when offered higher salaries elsewhere. He continued that, for the city to “maintain and retain its most valuable asset, our employees,” it is important for the city to recruit and retain employees, and not drive them away with low salaries and no raises.
Keith Wilder, who spoke on behalf of the Raleigh Professional Firefighters Association, directly followed Armstrong. His points were nearly identical to Armstrong’s: the current proposal’s elimination of merit raises is demotivating to employees, and that reinstating even a 1.2 percent raise would constitute .16 percent of the total city budget.
Two Raleigh City Workers, whose names were drowned out by the din of exiting police officers, fire department employees, and supporters, asserted that they are currently seeing “more absentees than before because of this proposal.”
They were followed by the President of the Raleigh Chapter of the North Carolina Police Benevolent Association. He maintained that, with the budget’s proposed elimination of pay increases, 363 officers will be working for less pay due to increases in health insurance premiums. He asked that council consider: “are we doing the right thing at the right time in the right way for the right reasons?”
Representatives from Kids Vote in Wake County requested to be included in the FY09/10 budget so as to continue to educate kids “on being an informed citizen and voting.”
The loudest applause of the evening came after Mike Mitchell spoke on behalf of seniors and disabled citizens who use Raleigh’s Tier 1 transportation program; the proposed elimination of this program “won’t make or break the budget, but it will make or break lives.”
Two representatives of the Interfaith Food Shuttle spoke next, declaring that 24,000 Raleigh residents receive “perishable, nutritious food” which goes to 83 agencies, 120 Raleigh programs, and 3400 Raleigh housing authority dwellings at 13 different sites, totaling 3.7 million pounds of food distributed annually. Interfaith representatives requested that City Council reconsider providing $150,000 to continue operations, and retain the current budget level at $100,000, which “amounts to only $6 per resident per year.”
Brad Thompson asked for more public safety, reduced home foreclosures, and for council to keep in mind that, especially with regard to Southeast Raleigh, “where you spend time and money is indication of what you value most.”
A behatted, female Raleigh citizen asserted that civil rights has fallen by the wayside in Raleigh, and demanded affordable housing and the continuation of Tier 1 transportation. Furthermore, she wondered why the city provides a free bus to an area where taxicab drivers thrived based on short trips. “When I look at my New Bern Avenue, I don’t have no Wi-Fi, I don’t have no bus coming every 15 minutes…I want my free fair housing back in the budget…eliminate the R Line.”