Does Raleigh's Mayor work for the citizens or for Dix Visionaries?

Here is my email and the attached letter sent to Mayor Nancy McFarlane, members of the Raleigh City Council, and members of the city staff and the state's DOA staff today.

To: Members of the Raleigh City Council and staff of the City of Raleigh, Gail Smith, City Clerk's office,
Ruffin Hall, City Manager

Please see my original request to speak at the meeting on Tuesday of the Raleigh City Council sent by email on Monday. I am attaching a letter which provides a detailed explanation of why I had planned to speak.

The City Council's Agenda as posted on the City of Raleigh web site does not accurately reflect my request. I had planned to focus on the lack of transparency in the planning process and to ask when or if the City would hold hearings on the question of the future of the Dix Hospital Campus property.

Please read my letter in the attached file and respond by email or by phone. I feel that I and my fellow mental health clients in NC deserve at least that much, as we have had to only sit idly by while a valuable and historic property that has meant so much in the history of our state is treated like a private property to be traded behind closed doors.

Sincerely,

Martha Brock
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Here is the letter in the attached file sent with the above email message:

Letter regarding Dix Hospital Campus Property

To: Mayor McFarlane and City Council Members, City of Raleigh, NC

CC: Gail Smith, Clerk, City of Raleigh, NC
Ruffin Hall, City Manager, City of Raleigh, NC
Stephen Bentley, City of Raleigh, NC
Michael Williams, City of Raleigh, NC
Dept. of Administration, State of North Carolina

From: Martha C. Brock
Date: March 14, 2014
VIA EMAIL

I sent an email on Monday to the Assistant Deputy Clerk for the City of Raleigh requesting to be on the agenda for the Tuesday, March 18, 2014, meeting of the City of Raleigh. My email was brief and explicit; I asked to address three issues, the third being the most important. The third issue deals with transparency in government and allowing for public involvement and input in policy making.

The agenda now posted on the City’s web site does not accurately reflect my “petition and request” as sent to the clerk’s office. To be sure you get my input without further filtering; I am sending this letter in lieu of speaking on Tuesday.

The transparency issue, the lack of involvement of the public--outside of park boosters (mainly those in the so-called “Dix Visionaries”)--in planning for the use of the Dix Hospital Campus for future decades really bothers me. I literally scoured the City of Raleigh website for any mention of public hearings, committee reports, or other items specific to public involvement in the process. I found one line out of thousands in the report from January 2014, “Your Parks, Your Future,” which mentioned the Dix property and its use as a “destination park.”
I see that there will be public meetings on that report, but I don’t believe folks outside of Raleigh will be invited or have their input considered at those meetings. I contacted a member of the city’s Parks Committee, who told me that committee has not discussed Dix at any time.

The reality of all this is that while the Mayor of Raleigh has been on TV speaking on behalf of the private group, and the Dix Visionaries claim they are asking for input, the decision-making is being left to a private organization with no real authority and no requirements for following normal government processes.

I would like to know if and when the City of Raleigh and/or the State of North Carolina plan to ask for any opinions other than what was provided in a limited way to the Wake Legislative Delegation one year ago at the NC General Assembly

I would welcome any opportunity to meet with City Councilors, City Council Staff, and NC Dept. of Administration staff before a unique and historic campus with special meaning for many of us across the state of North Carolina is either totally destroyed or rendered of little to no value to those with mental illness and their families and friends. Once the historic buildings like the Dix Chapel and the McBride Building, which is on the Historic Registry, are gone, there is no going back and replacing them.

Furthermore, there is an historic cemetery with over 1000 grave sites on the site of the Dix property. What plans do the City and the State have for preserving that area of the campus? I have seen no one address that issue, except a quick mention in the appraisal(s) of the property, which consider the cemetery as a possible impediment to development.

Both the state and local government have assumed that the Dix Visionaries represent all citizens of not only the City of Raleigh, but the state. They do not. Public Policy Polling polled Raleigh citizens, and only a slight majority of those polled approved of the plans for a “destination park.”

I consider the lack of openness and inclusion of the public in the Dix Campus planning process by the City and the State shameful. I would like a direct response to my questions.

Sincerely,

Martha C. Brock

Comments

Response to N&O editorial: 'Do the Dix deal'

I have been reluctant to speak out of late on the Dix situation, as I was hoping once new appraisals and an environmental study were available, there would be some report made that would inform the public on the Dix property lease situation. However, that has not happened.

I wrote the letter posted above before reading the Raleigh News and Observer's latest editorial published Friday. Here is the link to the editorial published with the title "Do the Dix deal."

I want to be as direct and explicit as possible. I do not, and most of my friends who also oppose a deal that is "all land, all park," do not support either of the alternatives now under consideration by the attorneys for the state and the City of Raleigh. I oppose most strongly the idea of leveling every building and who knows what else (historic tree groves?) to make the land available for sale to the highest bidder. This idea that the market should prevail in every decision in state government offends me.

But I also oppose the proposal that has been put forward by the Dix Visiionaries, which WRAL and the Raleigh N&O have repeatedly pushed in the pages of the N&O and on the airwaves of Capitol Broadcasting. Equal time be damned! Just keep repeating the same message and attack anyone who has a different opinion or additional information to bring to the debate.

I am a big supporter of public parks. I am also a big supporter of historic preservation. In this situation, these two interests clash. Despite what the Dix Visionaries and their ads with Mayor McFarlane would have us believe, there are other and better ways to honor the vision and legacy of Dorothea Dix than buidling a park on the hill Ms. Dix asked to be named "Dix Hill" to honor her grandfather.

To the credit of reporters at WRAL, Laura Leslie and Mark Binker, there is a wealth of information on the issues involving the Dix campus and the legislative history of what has happened going all the way back to the mid-1800s, when the first state hospital in North Carolina for the "mentally insane" was built--complete with a large acreage for a farm that sustained the patients in those early days.

For those who think that folks like NAMI Wake County members and I are late to speak up, I can assure you that is not the case. Unfortunately, the reporting done by local media make it appear that way. We still have until June until the "standstill agreement" reached by the Governor and the Mayor last year come to an end. We still have time to address the issues that I have repeatedly raised in private calls and private emails for months.

There does not have to be choice between the two put forward by the NC Senate leaders and the plans for "all land, all park." This is a false dichotomy perpetuated by the editors of the Raleigh newspaper. It deserves to be treated with scrutiny and skepticism by the public. At least until the powers that be in Raleigh open up the decision-making process on the Dix Hospital Campus Property to the light of day, so everyone has a chance to evaluate the choices for themselves.

Martha Brock

Mental health advocates upset with Raleigh City Council

Mental health advocates upset with Raleigh City Council--
from front page of the News and Observer today

Pointing to the land’s historic use and the cost of an agreement to taxpayers, some speakers at a Tuesday council meeting called for a ballot referendum and public hearings.

“I am concerned about the process … you have used to try to acquire the Dix land,” said Louise Fisher, a longtime mental-health advocate whose daughter was a patient at Dix. “Secret meetings and no forums have left Raleigh residents with no voice.”

Fisher and others who spoke – some of whom were from the National Alliance on Mental Illness – said they were concerned by last week’s release of new appraisals and environmental reports.

“The appraisals failed to mention all the hazardous sites on the campus,” Fisher said, pointing to asbestos issues, medical waste dumps and underground oil drums.

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/03/18/3712901/mental-health-advocates-upset.html#storylink=cpy

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There is still a definite slant of the reporting by local media on the subject of future uses of the Dix Hospital Campus, at least the N&O reported on what was said on Tuesday. None of the other local media did so, at least as far as I can tell.

There is definitely an inaccuracy in the reporter's comment on the environmental costs estimates. I have pointed that out to him and his editor, John Drescher, and I asked to speak to them. I have gotten no reply.

Martha Brock