Three Things I Used to Love About Living in Raleigh
By Gregg Stebben
On Saturday afternoon, I began to fall out of love with living in Raleigh.
I don’t think of myself as an outlaw or criminal. I don’t think of people who are like me as outlaws or criminals. We’re just people who want to enjoy and share the city where we live.
But on Saturday afternoon, I learned that yet another one of my favorite things to do in Raleigh is so heinous that it is now a punishable offense and requires a new level of regulation and enforcement.
Here are the top three things I (used to) love most about living in Raleigh:
1. How downtown Raleigh used to be like one giant outdoor cafe (before the “Drunktown” non-issue became an issue):
Long before Greg Hatem had a hissy-fit in front of the City Council in 2015 and got the Drunktown non-issue issue started...I wrote the following in an email to a fellow editor at Men's Health Magazine who was getting ready to take a press trip to Raleigh and Durham:
Yes, outdoor dining is still allowed in Raleigh. But today, it’s a mess of over-regulation.
2. How Jody and I could share our love for Raleigh with out-of-towners who were staying in our little Airbnb, without being treated like criminals:
Offering the “granny unit” in our house on Airbnb was never about the money. We started offering an Airbnb in our house because we thought it would be fun. We did it because we thought it would be a great way to meet some cool people. And we did it because we thought it would be a great way to introduce new people to the great city that had recently become our home, too.
To date, 278 individuals or couples have stayed in our place and 95% of them have given us a 5-star review on Airbnb:
That’s 278 individuals or couples over the past three years with whom we’ve been able to share our love for Raleigh, and we often get reviews and comments like this:
Meanwhile, if you know only one thing about me...what you probably know is that I have become one of those outspoken citizens who has been fighting to make short-term rentals permanently legal in Raleigh over the past three years. Yes, three long years and no end in sight. Another non-issue that the City of Raleigh has turned into an issue; a non-issue that has consumed many, many hours of City Staff and citizen time unnecessarily.
3. How, until this Saturday, you could let your dog run off-leash at Dorothea Dix Park:
I don’t have hard data on this, but I go to Dorothea Dix Park almost every day and based on observation I would guess that the single most popular use for the park is people using the wide-open spaces to let their dogs run free.
One large field in particular, by the Dix cemetery, has become an unofficial meeting place for a large group of people and their dogs. The dogs run around and play, the people chat. And this happens every day.
I can’t speak for the other dog owners, but I can tell you that my almost-daily trip to Dix is not really for my dog; it’s for me. My dog Benny is just a beneficiary. My time at the park every day is (was) precious to me. Over the past three years, it’s been a great way to get outside and chill out and decompress and take a walk and throw a ball or a stick for my dog. But truthfully (and there’s research to show this is true for lots of other people, too, like the study cited in the NPR story below) I probably wouldn’t make the time for this trip to the park every day for myself if I didn’t have a dog.
But on Saturday afternoon, a group of us learned from Raleigh Animal Control that dogs will no longer be allowed off-leash in Dix Park.
Please forgive me for asking the obvious: If letting dogs run off-leash is in fact one of the most popular uses of the park, shouldn’t the City of Raleigh be looking for ways to encourage more of that use, instead of eliminating it?
It might be easy to write me off as a crank and write these three cases of over-regulation off as trivial. But I think doing so would be missing an opportunity to ask some important questions:
1. If these are trivial matters, why has the City of Raleigh devoted so much Council and Staff time to at least two of them (outdoor dining and short-term rentals)?
2. In fact, it’s worth asking just how many hours of Council and Staff time have been devoted to the outdoor dining and short-term rental issues over the past few years? By way of comparison, how many hours of Council and Staff time have been devoted to an actual important issue like affordable housing?
3. At what point do lifestyle issues like these three matter? Are there consequences to over-regulating? And is there a pattern here of over-regulation that should concern us?