Axios Raleigh

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May 09, 2024

👋 Movin' right along. It's Thursday.

🌦️ Weather: Mostly cloudy with a high near 87°. Showers and thunderstorms in the morning.

Today's Smart Brevity™️ count is 891 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Raleigh changes term length for City Council members

Election signs seen outside a polling place in 2022 in Raleigh. Photo: Allison Joyce/Getty Images

The Raleigh City Council will move to four-year terms and staggered elections starting in 2026, the council decided in a vote this week.

Why it matters: The council had debated this potential move for years. One of the biggest reasons for switching from two-year terms to four: a desire for more continuity in city government.

What they're saying: "I think in terms of the governance complexities of managing a city of 500,000 people, it's really important to have some continuity," Raleigh council member Jane Harrison said before the vote.

  • "When we look at ordinances that have to go from City Council authorization to drafting to review by the planning commission to adoption ... the process that anything takes is a long period of time," she added.

Driving the news: The decision to move to four-year terms passed 5-2, with members also declining to vote on adding three more seats to the City Council.

  • The council considered putting the term duration change up to a ballot referendum in the fall, but decided to forego doing so during its Tuesday vote.

What's next: The decision could still end up as a referendum on 2024 ballots if Raleigh residents collect 5,000 signatures within 30 days of the change.

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2. North Carolina's teachers' pay rank falls

Map showing average teacher salaries by U.S. state for the 2022-23 school year. The average U.S. teacher salary was $69,544. California, New York and Massachusetts had the highest average salaries at over $90,000 while salaries were lowest in West Virginia, Florida and South Dakota at around $53,000.
Data: National Education Association; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

Teachers in the state made an average $56,559 during the 2022-2023 school year, according to an analysis by the National Education Association.

  • North Carolina's average teacher salary ranked 38th among all states, a drop from No. 36 the previous year.

Why it matters: Raises for teachers have been a priority for North Carolina politicians during recent legislative sessions — and the analysis shows most states are increasing the average pay to teachers.

State of play: In the state's last budget, passed last fall, teachers were given on average a raise of 7% over the next two years — though the largest portion of the raises went to beginning teacher salaries, which are set to be $41,000 in the next school year.

Yes, but: There seems to be interest in additional raises for teachers among legislators.

  • Gov. Roy Cooper's budget proposal calls for an 8.5% raise for educators.
  • And Republican House Speaker Tim Moore told reporters earlier this year the legislature could consider raises for teachers and state employees, though he didn't give an estimate of how much.

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3. The Tea: $5M for homelessness pilot program

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

💡 Fluctuations in natural gas were responsible for two-thirds of Duke Energy's rate increases for North Carolina users, according to a study from the Environmental Defense Fund. (WUNC)

The N.C. General Assembly is considering a bill that would broaden the definition of antisemitism under state law. (WRAL)

💵 Raleigh City Council is putting $5 million toward a pilot program to address homelessness in the city. (ABC11)

  • Some of the money would go directly to homeless people to help them get into permanent housing. Each person experiencing homelessness in Raleigh costs the city around $35,000 per year, per city officials.

🪲 Durham residents are mistaking the hum of cicadas for sirens and car alarms, Durham County Sheriff's Office says. (WRAL)

4. "Forever chemicals" regulation delayed in Raleigh

Photo: Leonard Ortiz/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

A regulatory board for environmental standards in North Carolina is delaying efforts to set new rules for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, collectively known as "forever chemicals," in ground and surface water.

Why it matters: The state has not yet set enforceable rules for the presence of PFAS in surface water despite evidence showing they can have adverse health effects, the News & Observer reports.

State of play: The rules would regulate PFAS discharges at their source, like an industrial facility on a river, to lessen the amount of water that needs to be treated at local water utilities.

Driving the news: The delay on setting rules for PFAS comes after two Republican-appointed members of the Environmental Management Commission stalled a potential vote, WRAL reported.

  • The two members, Tim Baumgartner and Joseph Reardon, said the state's Department of Environmental Quality, which is pushing for the new standards, hadn't provided enough information to make a vote.
  • The N.C. Chamber, a pro-business lobbying group, also pushed for a delay in the new standards, saying in a letter it wants to see more research on how much it could cost for businesses and local governments to comply with the rules.

What they're saying: Elizabeth Biser, secretary of DEQ, responded in a letter that she "was deeply disappointed" it isn't taking up the standards, noting that the state has more than 300 public water systems that have PFAS levels above federal standards.

Go deeper with the N&O's report on the delay ... Share this story

5. Administration Building under demolition

Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios

Demolition work is underway on the state government's Administration Building in downtown Raleigh, as the state prepares to build a new education campus at 116 W. Jones St.

Context: The state legislature earmarked around $400 million to build a new education campus on the site of the Administration Building, part of a larger effort to replace older state government buildings around downtown Raleigh.

  • The new education campus will be home to the UNC system, the N.C. Community Colleges System and the Department of Public Instruction.
  • Built in the 1960s, the Administration Building was home to governor's office staff and other executive branch agencies, which have had to find new offices amid demolition.

What's next: Construction is expected to begin on the education campus later this year, according to the Downtown Raleigh Alliance.

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💡 Zachery saw his first lightning bug of the season, one of his favorite annual sightings.

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This newsletter was edited by Katie Peralta Soloff and copy edited by Lucia Maher.