Council Roundup: Raleigh Data to be “Wide Open”

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Those looking to access city data will have an easier time doing so from now on.

Tuesday the City Council approved a resolution that will put city data on the Raleigh website and make it easier for open source software companies to bid on city contracts.

The first part of the resolution, which passed unanimously, calls for the creation of a page on the city’s website that will feature city data, such as budget information, map data, or public art data. Users will be able to download the data and use it as they see fit.

The second part of the resolution will make it easier for open source software companies like Raleigh’s Red Hat to bid on city projects. “Open source” means the source code for software is open and can be tweaked and changed by users. It also means the software itself is free and companies such as Red Hat make most of their money from supporting the software.

For example, Red Hat makes open source Linux operating systems for business and personal use. Conversely, Windows or Mac operating systems are not open source.

The resolution doesn’t apply to the city’s Enterprise Resource Planning software, which was purchased two years ago, but Gail Roper, the city’s IT director, said that it would apply for all projects going forward.

Lightner Center Take 3?
Talks of a new public safety facility have resumed; it’s the first mention of the Lightner Center since a new council and a new mayor have taken office.

The hotly debated Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center would have housed all of the city’s emergency services, from the 911 call center to the fire department, in the middle of downtown. The project seems to have finally been laid to rest after two years of controversial discussion.

The council Tuesday approved seeking another location for what is being called Critical Public Safety Facilities. The new location, on the corner of Brentwood Road and North Raleigh Boulevard, would house the Emergency Communications Center, Emergency Operations Center and an information data center. It could also house a district police station.


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All councilors are on board with providing a new space for the 911 call center, which is now located in the basement of the municipal building.

The $600,000 cost of the first phase of planning will cover a Phase 1 and Phase 2 Environmental Site Assessment, a preliminary site threat assessment and geotechnical testing and subsurface utility investigation. About $300,000 will be spent on the planning and design process. Councilors could see a conceptual design six to nine months from now.

More Hillsborough Bike Lanes Debated
Councilors will soon consider two options for a resurfacing project on Hillsborough Street. One option will result in bike lanes; the other will result in sharrows.

"Sharrows" remind motorists to share the road with bicyclists.

The stretch of Hillsborough Street between Woodburn Road and Park Avenue is scheduled to be resurfaced. Staff from the city’s traffic department worked closely with residents and community organizations to consider eight re-striping options. The restriping changes do not add any additional cost to the project, but it could be eligible for a larger-scale streetscape plan in the future.

Ultimately two options were chosen to move forward for council review.

The first, Option 2, would feature two travel lanes, one in each direction, with turn lanes in the center. There would be on-street parking on both sides of the street and sharrows, or shared arrows, to alert drivers of bicyclists. This option was endorsed by the Cameron Park Neighborhood Association, the neighborhood on the north side of Hillsborough Street where the changes are proposed.

The second, Option 3, would also include two travel lanes and center turn lanes. On-street parking would only be on one side of the road, but instead of sharrows, there would be marked bike lanes on each side. This option was endorsed by the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

On pedestrians, Deputy Transportation Director Eric Lamb said that staff observations show that most people are not crossing at the street light, but in the middle of the road closer to the YMCA. He suggested repainting the pedestrian crossing closer to the YMCA and removing the street light completely.

Councilors sent the bike lane question to the Comprehensive Planning Committee, which will meet at 5 p.m. Feb. 15. in room 305 at City Hall.

Deluxe Overlay Update
A Historic Overlay District for the area around South Blount and South Person streets remains in limbo after councilors Tuesday moved the issue to the Comprehensive Planning Committee.

In December, Councilor Eugene Weeks requested the Raleigh Historic Development Commission hold another public meeting in January so residents and community groups could get more information on the endeavor. Following the Jan. 18 meeting, Weeks said he would like the commission to look at redrawing the boundary lines.

The Historic Overlay District would extend from Davie Street to East South Street, between South Blount and Bloodworth streets. This would be the sixth historic district in the city, joining Oakwood, Boylan Heights, Moore Square, Blount Street and Capitol. The area would be named the Deluxe Historic District after a now-demolished hotel established as one of the first hotels for African-Americans during segregation.

Because these overlay districts are meant to protect the character of the neighborhood, many changes or additions to homes or businesses would require city approval.

Supporters say that the overlay would enhance the area and protect the character of the oldest African-American neighborhood in the state, while opponents say it would stifle development in a highly valuable part of downtown.

Extended Terms for Councilors?
Councilor John Odom asked that the city attorney look into extending the term limits for city councilors from two years to four years. There was also some talk among council members of staggering the terms. Currently, all seats are up for re-election at the same time.

One thought on “Council Roundup: Raleigh Data to be “Wide Open”

  1. Just to be clear, the open source policy does not mandate the use of open source, it’s giving it equal footing and making it part of the IT procurement process. The policy indicates that it wants to encourage the use of open source.

    Jason Hibbets
    Disclaimer – I work for Red Hat

    PS – Here is a related post on the topic:

    How to get your city to pass an open government policy
    http://opensource.com/government/12/2/how-get-your-city-pass-open-government-policy