Saturday, September 27, 2008

Week in Review 9/22/08 - 9/27/08

As always this was a very busy week. I spent a good amount of time answering email from citizens, visiting sites and reviewing reports in preparation for council's worksessions on Tuesday and Thursday night's council meeting.

My week started off by attending the Western Wake Republican Club’s monthly meeting at Bentley’s Restaurant at Crossroads. This month’s featured guest was Robert Hunter who is running for the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Council held two worksessions on Tuesday evening to discuss the downtown Cary streetscape project and aquatics. The aquatics worksession was very positive. We received a presentation from Triangle Aquatics Center President Mike Curran on a proposal to partner with their existing facility to provide recreational and leisure aquatics for Cary citizens. Council directed staff to work with TAC to develop a proposal to bring back to council for decision. The streetscape worksession was for council to review the final plan, give direction on any changes we feel necessary, and vote on whether or not to accept the plan. I am pleased to report that council approved the streetscape plan by a vote of 6-1.

Wednesday was a really fun day. I attended the Cary Chamber of Commerce’s candidates forum at McGregor Downs Country Club. I really enjoy political events such as these – especially when it isn’t me in the hot seat! ;-) Afterwards Mayor Weinbrecht and I met at town hall to tape the October edition of the Cary Matters TV Show. It turned out pretty well….I think. ;-) Tune in to Cary Channel 11 to learn more about changes to our boards and commissions appointment process, guano, and trick or treating….seriously. You’re dying to watch now aren’t you??? ;-)

Thursday evening was our council meeting. Highlights include approving the comprehensive transportation plan, approving the transportation improvement waiver request at the Dry and Harrison Ave intersection (see previous post for more info on this), denying changes to the Walnut Street Corridor Transition Zoning District, and denying redistricting of council districts at this time.

I already spoke to the need to redistrict in an earlier post so I’ll spare you the details. We all showed up to the council meeting knowing the decision to redistrict now would fail by a vote of 4-3. No surprises there. What was surprising to me however was council didn’t vote to redistrict after the 2009 election either. The majority of council instead prefers to redistrict after the 2010 census - prior to the 2011 elections. Let me tell you why I think this to be a bad idea. Cary will not receive the results from the 2010 census until April/May of 2011. Council will then have to review the data, decide on new district boundaries, hold the required public hearings, and then notify the board of elections and our citizens of the changes….all before the election in October. To me, redistricting 2 years before the 2011 election makes much more sense than a few months before the election as it gives us a full two years to inform and educate our citizens of the change. Cary’s population data is just as accurate as that of the federal government (after the last census it was within 1%) - and considering how well our federal government is doing these days - I actually have more faith in our town government to get it right. ;-)

Another interesting thing that happened at our council meeting was I learned how stupid six of us are – I mean, Councilman Portman told us so, so therefore it must be true right? (Sarcasm off now) You see, everyone on council except Councilman Portman voted against the Walnut Street Corridor Transition Zoning District Amendments. Well, after he lost 6-1 he commenced to hopping on that soapbox of his (again) and berated council for not seeing things his way – that we “didn’t understand”. Now I respect the opinions of all my colleagues, and we have agreed to disagree on many occasions, but I won’t continue to bite my tongue during his rants much longer. It is long past time Councilman Portman realized there are seven members of council – not one.

On Friday Mayor Weinbrecht, Councilman Jack Smith and myself attended the Cary High School IMP Club Hall of Fame Banquet. This was very special for me as the Cary High School family is our extended family. My wife, and five of our children have attended Cary High School. We presented Proclamations honoring the inductees into the Cary High School IMP Club Hall of Fame.

Afterwards I attended a fundraiser for NC House Member and candidate Nelson Dollar at the Mathews House in Cary. This was a very fun event, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that one of my friends is an incredible piano player!

That's about it for this week. As always, thanks for reading!

Monday, September 22, 2008

How soon the media forgets

From the New York Times:

September 11, 2003

New Agency Proposed to Oversee Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae

The Bush administration today recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis a decade ago. Under the plan, disclosed at a Congressional hearing today, a new agency would be created within the Treasury Department to assume supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that are the two largest players in the mortgage lending industry.

Significant details must still be worked out before Congress can approve a bill. Among the groups denouncing the proposal today were the National Association of Home Builders and Congressional Democrats who fear that tighter regulation of the companies could sharply reduce their commitment to financing low-income and affordable housing.

Read the rest of the story HERE

And then there is Senator John McCain's speech on the Senate floor in May of 2006:

Mr. President, this week Fannie Mae's regulator reported that the company's quarterly reports of profit growth over the past few years were "illusions deliberately and systematically created" by the company's senior management, which resulted in a $10.6 billion accounting scandal.The Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight's report goes on to say that Fannie Mae employees deliberately and intentionally manipulated financial reports to hit earnings targets in order to trigger bonuses for senior executives. In the case of Franklin Raines, Fannie Mae's former chief executive officer, OFHEO's report shows that over half of Mr. Raines' compensation for the 6 years through 2003 was directly tied to meeting earnings targets. The report of financial misconduct at Fannie Mae echoes the deeply troubling $5 billion profit restatement at Freddie Mac.

The OFHEO report also states that Fannie Mae used its political power to lobby Congress in an effort to interfere with the regulator's examination of the company's accounting problems. This report comes some weeks after Freddie Mac paid a record $3.8 million fine in a settlement with the Federal Election Commission and restated lobbying disclosure reports from 2004 to 2005. These are entities that have demonstrated over and over again that they are deeply in need of reform.

For years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--known as Government-sponsored entities or GSEs--and the sheer magnitude of these companies and the role they play in the housing market. OFHEO's report this week does nothing to ease these concerns. In fact, the report does quite the contrary. OFHEO's report solidifies my view that the GSEs need to be reformed without delay.

I join as a cosponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, S. 190, to underscore my support for quick passage of GSE regulatory reform legislation. If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole. I urge my colleagues to support swift action on this GSE reform legislation.

It's amazing you aren't hearing anything about this in the mainstream media isn't it?
Oh, and as an fyi - Senator Elizabeth Dole was also a cosponsor of S.190.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Week in Review 9/14/08 - 9/20/08

Usually I don’t meet or participate in any functions on Sundays as I try to reserve this day for family, faith, and NASCAR races ;-) – but this past Sunday my wife and I were honored to attend BJ Lawson’s Freedom Rally at the VFW on Reedy Creek Road. BJ is a candidate for the US House of Representatives in the 4th Congressional District. BJ is running for Congress to advance a constitutional federal government that lives up to the ideals of our Declaration of Independence. A proud father of three, BJ strongly believes we must stop catering to corporate and special interests and instead focus on our nation’s constitutional responsibilities. If you live in the 4th district and are looking for a change in business as usual in Washington, give BJ Lawson a try – his opponent has been part of the problem in Washington for over 20 years.

My first meeting of the week was a follow up discussion with the downtown steering committee. We discussed what each of us took away from our downtown visits to Clayton, Smithfield, Salisbury, Raleigh and Greenville, what initiatives those municipalities have implemented that we believe might work well here in Cary, The different ways in which those municipalities structured their downtown economic development departments and partnerships with non-profit organizations, and how Cary should move forward from here. It was a very good discussion and I believe we are headed in the right direction. Staff will now be preparing a recommendation for council review and action in the near future.

Wednesday evening nearly the entire council attended the Cary Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Banquet. Three awards were presented that evening. Cindy Smith won the Ambassador of the Year Award, Crescent State Bank won The Business of the Year Award, and Michael Curran of Triangle Aquatics Center won the Citizen of the Year Award. Congratulations to everyone above for your commitment to making Cary a better place for all to live, work, and play! Town Manager Bill Coleman, who is retiring next month, was also recognized for the over 20 years of service he has given the Town of Cary. He will surely be missed.

Thursday was a double-header. Staff and I first met with a downtown resident regarding concerns she is experiencing in her neighborhood as a result of the increase in rental properties and the Cary Convenience Center (more commonly referred to as the “dump”). Many of the concerns we can address quickly – other issues will take time, and some Cary is, and has already been working on. It was a good meeting for both sides - we all left better informed.

Afterwards was our Planning and Development Committee meeting, and I must say I am really beginning to get irritated with the lack of respect and support for downtown from our committee chair. This time it was a roadway improvement waiver request from an applicant who owns a corner house at the Dry and Harrison Avenue intersection in downtown - the old Heater House to be exact. Simply put the homeowner wishes to convert the home to a small office use, and make thousands of dollars worth of improvements to the property in the process. This is EXACTLY the type of redevelopment/reinvestment we should be encouraging downtown. Along with the numerous code improvements being made, our ordinance requires the applicant also install a sidewalk - which they are, and install the required parking and landscaping - which they are. Our ordinance also requires the applicant make roadway improvements that include modifying the radius of the corner (reconstruct curb, gutter, and road to remove 90 degree angle), install a crosswalk and signal heads, and relocate traffic signal utilities/pole resulting in the removal of a very established tree. The applicant requested a waiver for the roadway improvements.

Four very nice historic homes share this intersection. Requiring the roadway improvements be constructed would simply ruin the character and charm of this historic community. It would also bring a road 10 feet closer to a historic home, create an intersection where 3 corners have 90 degree radius' and one does not (looks stupid), and cause such an economic burden on the applicant that it just might kill this project. Yet for some reason this is not going to council on consent. Our chair believes this request warrants the entire council weigh in. Funny - I wonder why we didn't feel this way regarding the other five roadway waiver requests P+D approved this year? Because they weren't downtown - that's why.

I ended my week with a meeting with with Michael Curran of Triangle Aquatics Center to discuss a potential partnership between Triangle Aquatics Center and the Town of Cary to provide recreational aquatics for Cary citizens. Yes it seems like this has been going on forever - but hopefully we can bring closure to the issue soon. Council has a worksession coming up on this topic next week.

I spent a good amount of time this week responding to emails from citizens in the west Cary area after a very misleading email was sent out by a member of the Davis and High House Organization regarding redistricting in which they accused the town of gerrymandering and deliberating in secrecy. Nothing could be farther from the truth and quite frankly I was offended by those accusations. Council will discuss the redistricting issue at Thursday's council meeting.

That's about it for now - as always thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Week in Review 9/8/08 - 9/13/08

I gotta be honest – it’s taken me all week to get back to normal after the RNC in Minneapolis – St. Paul. I’m not as young as I used to be that’s for sure. ;-) While I had a great time in Minnesota, It sure is good to be back in Cary.

My first meeting back in the saddle was with town staff regarding a proposed site plan in the downtown Cary area. The applicant and I had a few concerns regarding required site modifications, and I needed more information before deciding how to further address the matter. We have to be sensitive regarding redevelopment in our downtown as not to create any unfair hardships on property owners who choose to invest in their property or business.

Tuesday evening council had a worksession regarding the boards and commission selection and application process. Our goal is to make the process more open and transparent while also ensuring that those who choose to apply to serve on one of our town boards are treated with the dignity and respect they so deserve. In the past council had sometimes debated candidates and their qualifications at the council meeting, which is televised. Council instead agreed to debate applicants and their qualifications at a worksession prior to the council meeting – which is open to the public – and then announce the newly selected board members at the council meeting.

Wednesday evening I attended the Town of Cary’s School of Government kick off ceremony with Mayor Weinbrecht and Councilman Jack Smith. It was a great to meet this year’s class and welcome them proper. I spoke briefly (as I always do) ;-) about how I became involved in our town’s government years ago, and encouraged everyone to apply for a town board or commission after they completed the class.

Thursday evening was our council meeting. Some of the highlights included a presentation from the Animal Issues Task Force by Chairman David Forvendel, council’s decision to conduct a national search for our new town manager, and council’s approval to direct town staff to create an amendment to our town’s land development ordinance that would prohibit front lawn vehicle parking, and then bring that back to council for public hearing and possible adoption.

I must say I was very impressed with the presentation from the animals issue task force. It was clear that they had spent a tremendous amount of time on their work, and came back with some great recommendations that Cary can implement to ultimately limit the amount of animals that are euthanized. This issue is best addressed on the front end. The more animals we can keep from ending up at the shelter in the first place, the less that will be killed.

Friday I visited the Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple currently under construction off of Highway 54 in Cary. It was an honor to be invited and witness Vishwa Shanthi Yagam, a religious ceremony to foster peace, health, and prosperity in the community and throughout the world. I was also given a tour of the construction site. This will be a very beautiful facility once completed, and I look forward to coming back to celebrate their grand opening next year.

Saturday I worked on the script for next month’s Cary Matters TV show – Mayor Weinbrecht and I split up writing duties. I also spent much of the day answering email - council gets lots of email - and I work as hard as I can to answer every single one.

That's it for now - Thanks for reading!