The annexation of 751 South (previously discussed here) came to the floor last night, and by a 4-3 margin the proposal was rejected. Catotti, Brown, Moffitt, and Schewel all voted against the compromise which had been brokered by Bell in an attempt to avoid the wrath of the state legislature.
Bell even pulled out the big guns, bringing his buddy Howard Clement out of quazi-retirement to vote yes (Clement is 79, and he almost never shows up), but to no avail.
But the wild card turned out to be Eugene Brown, who had previously indicated he would vote yes. In impassioned remarks before the vote, Brown said, “Why sell our public soul for a development that’s too big, too close to Jordan Lake and too upsetting to neighborhoods? I don’t like being intimidated by anyone. Bullies are not welcome in Durham.
“To rise up and vote against this development tonight is the equivalent of giving the finger to General Assembly, they may give us their fist,” he went on. “I hope they’re not that petty.”
Oh Eugene. I can assure you, they are that petty.
It’s a weird game of brinkmanship with the legislature, which has been on a quest to strip away local control in favor of expanding state-level bureaucracy in Raleigh. The developers of 751 South had nearly enough lobbying clout to force Durham to provide services even before the GOP takeover, so don’t expect much opposition if state lawmakers decide to press this issue.
Of course, one could reasonably argue that the city didn’t have much to lose here. Bell’s “compromise” wasn’t much of one – just some vague assurance of road funding contributions down the line. A legislature-imposed annexation surely won’t carry an equivalent assurance, but it’s not like this one had much real value to begin with.
The larger risk is that Durham, which has largely escaped the GOP’s war on local government thus far, is placing itself squarely in the crosshairs for future abuse at the hands of the Republicans.
This may be kind of a bad time to piss off Raleigh, you guys. It’s a nice town we have here – shame if something were to… happen to it.