Council Roundup: Fiber for Raleigh

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City Councilors Tuesday approved an agreement with AT&T to bring ultra-fast Internet service to Raleigh and several surrounding communities.

The agreement is part of the North Carolina Next Generation Network initiative, which is a collaborative agreement led by a number of cities and institution in the Triangle, including Raleigh, Durham, N.C. State University, Duke University and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. City officials in each area must approve the agreement.

The goal of the initiative is to encourage Internet providers to deliver high-speed Internet service at affordable prices to ensure North Carolina remains competitive in the fast-moving online economy.

Gail Roper, Raleigh’s chief information officer, said the city plans to work with AT&T to secure the permits necessary to install its network of fiber optic cables.

“This is really a construction project in many ways,” Roper said.

Councilors praised the project and expressed their excitement about its development.

“This is a big step forward,” said Councilor Bonner Gaylord. “It’s wonky, but exciting.”

City Manager Proposes Organizational Realignment
Raleigh City Manager Ruffin Hall wants to reorganize the way city government is run. He told Council members this week his plan would streamline the city’s management structure, increase efficiency, clarify accountability, and better align leadership around focus areas identified by City Council.

He wants to do make the changes without adding any positions or spending any additional money.

City Councilors approved changes to several positions that will reallocate existing positions and funds to help Hall do just that.

Three Assistant City Manager positions will be created. Each position will focus on a specific area: services, community, or economic development. Each will drive organizational improvements in that area.

Hall also plans to create a Chief of Staff position that will coordinate the administrative work of the City Manager’s office, Mayor’s office and City Council offices.

Combining the Community Development, Community Services and Code Enforcement departments will create a new Housing and Neighborhoods Department. Affordable housing and neighborhoods are two priorities for the city, and combining these departments, Hall said, will help them use limited resources and make more significant impacts in distressed neighborhoods.

The Office of Economic Development, whose goal is to promote and enhance economic opportunities for all aspects of the community, will be moved under the Assistant City Manager for Economic Development.

Hall told Councilors he plans to have an open and competitive process to fill all open positions and will consider both external and internal candidates.

Hall said he wants the changes to take effect July 1, but admits that deadline may not be met given the number of people he still needs to get on board.

Expanding Art in Raleigh
The city is developing a plan to examine and expand the future of arts and culture in Raleigh, but some Councilors questioned the decision to bring in an out-of-state firm to do the job.

Councilors authorized negotiations with The Cultural Planning Group, a San Diego-based firm, to help lead the city through the creation of the Raleigh Arts Plan.

Councilors John Odom and Eugene Weeks questioned the selection of an out-of-state firm for the project.

“I am always pushing for state and local people to be involved in this. Did we have any proposals from in the state or in the city for this?” Weeks asked.

City Manager Ruffin Hall said the city received one or two proposals from North Carolina, but they were not recommended for the job.

The $150,000 Raleigh Arts Plan will focus on engaging the community in arts and culture as well as developing the future of arts and culture in the city.

The goals of the Raleigh Arts Plan include:

  • Identify art forms and activities valued by Raleigh residents, and the role art plays in communities
  • Increase participation in the arts as a means of improving quality of life
  • Increase funding for the arts
  • Nurture artists and arts organizations
  • Determine the role of the arts in supporting cultural tourism and promoting Raleigh
  • Motivate elected officials, business and community leaders, and residents to invest in and advance the strategies of the Raleigh Arts Plan

Odom remained unconvinced that the out-of-state firm was necessary and voted against the authorization.

“I think within our arts community we have the expertise to make this happen,” Odom said. “I know the things that have happened in the past 20 years are because of local art groups.”

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