Raleigh was once a leading light among American cities, notable not only for its excellent climate for families and businesses, but also for its innovative leadership that sought to improve city services while reducing the burden it placed on municipal taxpayers. Under Mayor Tom Fetzer, for example, Raleigh’s police department grew by 50 percent while taxes, which had been raised seven times in nine years, were cut four times for an overall reduction by 15 percent. Raleigh began appearing in national magazines as “The #1 Place to Live in America” (Fortune Magazine) and “Americaâ€™s #1 City for Business” (Money Magazine).
Raleigh’s reputation persists, but recent events should cause those who love the city to worry where Raleigh is headed. A gang-related brawl involving several hundred teenagers at the (formerly?) upscale Triange Town Center mall and the gang-related shooting two days later of a man and a woman at N.C. State University have caused Triangle residents to realize that Raleigh has, in the words of Police Chief Harry Dolan, a “significant” gang problem.
Meanwhile, Raleigh has a significant leadership problem. As gangs and crime fester, the Mayor and the City Council are busy raising fees on homebuilding, creating cartoon characters to chide residents to conserve water, mulling raising water rates because citizens aren’t using as much water as before, and blowing taxpayer money on posh restaurants that can’t turn a profit on their own.
H.M.S. Titanic had its band, and Nero supposedly had his fiddle, but what swan song are they playing for Raleigh? (Not this one, I hope.)