By Tyria McCray
Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin has made history. Granted she is the 62nd mayor of Raleigh, but she is the first mayor to face a recall.
This decision came after much deliberation after Mayor Baldwin took it upon herself to add eight more months to her term. This would then move the election from October 2021 to November 2022.
Thus, people are more upset over the fact that Mayor Baldwin has made this decision without telling the public. There was no public notice, no public hearing, and no public vote on the matter.
Also, the mayor went on to change the form of the city election. This change would lead to the election requiring a “plurality” rather than a “majority’’ for victory. This would generally eradicate a runoff election.
Members of the public and local elected officials have voiced their frustration over this matter.
“I support the campaign to recall Mayor Baldwin for a number of reasons, but primarily because of her leading an undemocratic and secretive move to delay elections to November 2022 rather than March 2022 as most other municipalities are doing,’’ says Stef Mendell of Livable Raleigh.
Everyone agrees that the census delay means that elections can’t be held as scheduled in October 2021, but the additional delay is seen as a blatant power grab.
Livable Raleigh, a collective of volunteers whose main goal is to ensure that citizens’ voices are heard, and maintaining exceptional governance, began this recall effort.
“We weighed all of it and decided we could not wait, we had to do it,” says Susan Maruyama, Livable Raleigh’s chair. “The decision to delay the election, some people interpreted it immediately as voter suppression. We felt we cannot sit by and let it happen. This will not go away.”
There are many other concerns that the public has expressed about the mayor and city council. Mayor Baldwin chose to defund Raleigh’s Citizens Advisory Councils, as well as ignoring concerns about the environment related to rezoning.
Also, under the Mayor’s leadership, property taxes have risen but many developers are still getting up to $5 million a year due to tax increment grants. Thus, her campaign was financed by developers and she is seen as paying them back for their investment but ignoring the concerns of the residents of Raleigh.
Lastly, citizens have said that the city council has repeatedly lied about their position on issues and the justification of their actions. All of these concerns are adding more fuel to the fire.
However, there is one problem with this effort: the petition cannot be signed online. The city’s recall rules were written during the 1950s and have not been updated since.
Hence, Livable Raleigh cannot use any digital tools to obtain more signatures. Signatures must be witnessed by the petition circulator which means that it needs to be printed out and signed by anyone willing.
Nonetheless, Livable Raleigh expects to have about 14,000 notarized signatures by the end of October. Comparatively, they would need 25 percent of the total voters that participated in the 2019 municipal election.
“There is no good reason for this council majority, under the Mayor’s leadership, to delay the election beyond March and give themselves almost an extra unelected year in office. They say they need the extra time to draw new maps, but they would have had six months (from April to October) to draw new maps if the census data had come in on time,’’ said Mendell.
“Instead they could redraw maps in six months from September (when the census data is coming in) until March 2022. No reason to delay until November 2022.
“They also claim they need more time to get a Parks Bond ready, but the Parks Bond was supposed to be ready for an October 2021 election and has nothing to do with census data.”
There has been some scuttlebutt about who would run against Mayor Baldwin. So far, Terrance Ruth is the only candidate that has committed to challenging Baldwin. Ruth, a North Carolina State University lecturer and social justice advocate, has not spoken on the Mayor’s recall.
Most importantly, Livable Raleigh and others are still working to recall the Mayor. Time is winding down for those signatures. We will see what happens in a few months.