Saturday, July 19, 2008

Week in Review 7/14/08 - 7/19/08

On Monday council member Jennifer Robinson and I met with Mayor Weinbrecht to discuss our differences regarding the possible redrawing of council districts this year. Council had directed town staff to look into redistricting back in February, and late last week staff notified council that they had completed their preliminary analysis, and were requesting further direction on how to proceed. Council agreed to hold a worksession on this topic in August to discuss further.

Why redistrict? Well in a nutshell, growth in Cary – especially that in the western portion of town – has created a significant imbalance in the populations of council districts. How much an imbalance you ask? District B and D for example have roughly 26,000 people in each one. District A has over 44,000 people and counting. District A now stretches from Academy Street in downtown all the way into Chatham County…seriously. I believe it is simply not fair for one district representative to have nearly twice the citizens - and twice the responsibility - as other district representatives.

There will be those who claim redistricting to be politically motivated. Some already have. And there will be those who claim not redistricting to be politically motivated. Some already have. I just believe it is the right thing to do - and quite frankly it should have been done years ago before things got so out of whack.

Tuesday evening was our Planning and Development Committee meeting. Nothing terribly exciting to report there except that we did agree to move the next round of Land Development Ordinance Amendments to council for further discussion and possible adoption – after our worksession of course.

Wednesday I met with the developer of two projects in Cary - the first is a proposed office development at Piney Planes and the second dealt with proposed changes at Weldon Ridge, a residential development at New Hope Church Road in west Cary. Originally, part of the property in question at Weldon Ridge was to have a Catholic School sited there. Unfortunately that project has fallen through. The developer has since met with the Wake County Public School System to see if they were interested in the site. They weren’t. I advised they speak with the folks from Thales Academy to see if they might be interested in that location, and it has since been confirmed to me that a meeting between Thales and the developer has been set for next week.

Thursday evening I attended the Wake County Growth Issues Task Force meeting in downtown Raleigh. The topic of the evening was schools – specifically, how do we turn WCPSS into a “world class school system”? Our guest speaker was Ann Denlinger from the Wake Education Partnership. She was a good speaker, and I really enjoyed her presentation… up until she said, “We expect everyone that comes to America to learn our language, but we don’t expect our kids to learn theirs – that’s very arrogant”. Let’s just say I disagreed with that assessment. ;-) For the record, I do believe children should study a foreign language in school – but NOT because we expect immigrants who come to America to learn English. If I moved to Germany, I would be expected to learn German. I wouldn’t expect Germany to learn English to accommodate me.

After Mrs. Denlinger’s presentation we broke up into small groups where we participated in a brainstorming exercise. Each group was tasked with coming up with two recommendations that we believed could better help WCPSS become that world class school system. Our group, which consisted of Councilors Tom Murray and Liz Johnson from Morrisville, Tim Sack from Holly Springs, Dale Beck from Zebulon, and yours truly ended up recommending that municipalities work with our local Chambers of Commerce and business community to create and support more vocational education programs, and encourage increased involvement from the private sector regarding mentoring and internship programs. All in all it was a productive meeting.

Friday I met with town staff and consultants regarding affordable housing in Cary. My concerns focused on the need to better disperse affordable housing/low income projects throughout town instead of always locating them inside the Maynard Loop – and what types of incentives the town could be looking at to encourage developers to site some percentage of affordable housing within new development. I also believe the town’s housing rehabilitation program should be more of a priority. I think we can all agree that a diverse housing stock in Cary is desirable, and we should do all we can to ensure there is quality affordable housing available for folks such as service employees, teachers, police officers, and town employees. It is my belief that Cary will be better served by having affordable housing projects dispersed throughout town instead of concentrated in one geographic area.

Well that’s about it for this week in review. As always, thanks for reading!