On Sept. 13, 2023, Raleigh city council member Jane Harrison visited Meredith College to address students on pressing political issues and environmental policy. Harrison was brought to campus by Meredith College Democrats for the second consecutive year.
Harrison, a representative for District D, participated in discussions with a group of students about running for office, green energy, and affordable housing in the Raleigh area. She further elaborated on her three main platforms during her campaign - community engagement, affordable housing, and environmental stewardship, which is highlighted on her website as being her top goal. “We’re lucky to have protected land in Raleigh'', she stated. “When I think about Raleigh, I think about if Goldilocks were to design a city. Everything is just right.”
These three principles remained central to Harrison’s talk, which lasted approximately thirty minutes. She gave perspective into her work on the Raleigh city council and how these three principles shape her policy perspectives. Apart from environmental stewardship, her top goal is community engagement, stating that “sometimes just the act of showing up and existing people, together [a community] can shape what the goal is.” She invited students at the event to attend a public city council meeting and join the monthly District D neighborhood alliance.
Harrison also works as a professor of environmental economics at North Carolina State University (NCSU), specializing in coastal environment resource management with the North Carolina Sea Grant. Her NCSU work focuses on all aspects of NC environmental issues. Harrison mentioned that she has “been an environmental activist since college”, and powers her home through solar energy.
Harrison’s rise to Raleigh city council began in 2020, after she ran for an unexpectedly opened District D seat. As one of the final five out of the original eighty applicants, Harrison had to be interviewed on YouTube due to COVID-19 quarantine regulations. The interview gained her notoriety with Raleigh voters. Before the interview, she was a familiar figure in Raleigh Democratic politics, having hosted a fundraiser at her Wake County home for NC General Assembly representative Allison Dahle. She also campaigned in Wake County for the Bernie Sanders campaign through canvassing and participating in the Emerge program aimed at female Democrats running for office. Harrison was elected to city council in 2022. She told students, “2020 was a strange year for many of us… [but] for me it did open up more space in my thinking to see what matters to me and how much I value my local community.”
Following Harrison’s talk, she participated in a Q&A session with students. Questions ranged from addressing gentrification in Raleigh, to public housing, to collegiate solar power usage in N.C. and Harrison’s experiences being a woman in politics.
By Kat Whetstone, Contributing Writer
Graphic by Shae-Lynn Henderson, EIC