What is a Citizen Advisory Council (CAC)?

If you pay taxes in Raleigh North Carolina, you’re part of a local organization there’s a good chance you’ve never heard of before. Raleigh’s Citizen Advisory Councils (CACs) have been around since they were established by the City Council in 1974, and they’re one of several ways to start your journey into community involvement. So in the trend of getting readers in Raleigh to commit to more community service for 2018, let’s figure out how to attend your first CAC meeting.

Not political gerrymandering, this is a map of each CAC district.

First, you need to figure out which CAC you belong to. For some of you, the map above may be all the reference you need. For others, that live close to a CAC border, you’ll want to use the “Find Your CAC” feature on the City of Raleigh website (click here). There are 19 CACs in total as you can tell from the map. Originally, when created, each CAC was meant to service 7,000 to 14,000 citizens (1974), but with the city’s growth, most of these areas encompass well over double that number. Once you figure out your CAC visit this page on the city’s website, expand the section called “CACs in Raleigh” and click the link matching your CACs name. That will take you to your CAC’s City of Raleigh webpage which contains contact information for the CAC’s leadership, the time/date/location of the next meeting, and a downloadable agenda of what will be discussed.

When CACs were established, they had three main goals:

  1. To educate the public about city, county, state, and federal policies, regulations, and programs
  2.  To provide a structure for two-way communication between city government and its neighborhoods
  3. To involve neighborhood groups in projects, plans, and regulatory changes

Every CAC has its own bylaws, but for the most part, they’re all run about the same way. The meetings are run according to Robert’s Rules of Order (easy to understand cheat sheet), but in my experience, those rules don’t generally come into play unless things get out of hand. Each CAC has a board of officers, but the number of officers and their titles also vary from CAC to CAC, mainly depending on how many people regularly show up for each meeting. The agendas for each CAC’s meeting are posted on the CAC’s page on the City of Raleigh website (example Central CAC webpage) and outline what is planned to be discussed at the meeting. Every CAC meeting is a public meeting, so anyone is welcome to attend. To vote in a CAC meeting, however, you must be a member (resident) in that particular CAC.

So what do you vote on? Lots of things, but the most important votes for a CAC are during a rezoning. You may remember the rezoning process from my post on granny flats (ADUs), but the CAC plays an important part in any rezoning hearing. Anyone requesting a rezoning, be that a developer, private citizen, or even city staff, must set a date to present information on the rezoning, and a vote taken by the CAC membership at that meeting. This vote is presented to City Council along with reports from city staff and relevant commissions when Council votes on the rezoning application. It’s important to note, that while a CAC vote must occur and be presented to Council prior to Council voting on a rezoning, the Council itself isn’t bound to abide by the CAC vote when voting for the application. You can see in the city’s rezoning process flow below where the CAC vote comes in.

Your local CAC is a great place to start your journey to getting engaged with your community. Each CAC is citizen lead, so unlike city commissions which are appointed by city council members, CACs decide their own leadership by a vote of members present. The members and leaders at your CAC are likely to have been involved in civic activities for some time. Some members of my own CAC (Central) have been attending meetings since CACs started in the 70s! They can also get you connected to other parts of city government, community groups, volunteer activities, and more. They also have social events as well so it’s a good opportunity to connect and meet new people.

Have you attended a CAC meeting before? Have any tips or advice for those who haven’t attended a CAC meeting yet? Visit our Facebook page and leave comments on the post here!


One Comment on “What is a Citizen Advisory Council (CAC)?”

  1. Very good article about CAC’s. The voting on rezonings happens at the 2nd presentation by the applicant (or their representative) along with a Raleigh Planning Department staff member who educates the CAC’s about the applicable rules. The CAC members discuss the issues and then vote.
    The other important part about this process is that since the applicant comes to a first meeting, they get to hear what are some of the issues that affect the neighbors and usually come up with some conditions that mitigate their concerns. It is rare that a rezoning doesn’t get approved after the applicant and CAC works things out.

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