Sunday, August 31, 2008

RNC update #1

Hello from Minneapolis - St. Paul!

We arrived on Saturday morning and I must say that from what I have seen of the Twin Cities thus far I am very impressed. The North Carolina and New Mexico Delegations are staying at the Holiday Inn Metrodome in Downtown Minneapolis. I'm on the 8th floor and have a great view of the I 35 bridge rebuilding efforts. This is the bridge that collapsed August of last year.

I want to thank local law enforcement for their outstanding police work in uncovering possible riots planned by an anarchist group calling themselves the "RNC Welcoming Committee". Weapons such as bows and arrows, a pistol, and baseball bats, as well as tire spikes and even 5 gallon pales of urine were seized from these "peaceful protesters". See related story HERE.

Holly Springs Councilman Vinnie Debenedetto and I had lunch at "The Corner" across from the hotel - killer pizza! And after a much needed nap :-) members of the NC Delegation and Young Republicans went to the Spaghetti Factory for dinner. The Spaghetti Factory building used to be an old tractor factory - very cool atmosphere. After dinner we went to the Hard Rock Cafe, and Trocadero's.

Gotta run pick up credentials and get ready for our first meeting. Talk to ya later!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Week in Review 8/24/08 - 8/30/08

It’s been a busy week – and It’s about to get a lot busier. I’m writing from about 35,000 feet in the sky on my way to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis St. Paul. Hey, I think I can see my house from here! ;-)

I am really looking forward to seeing the twin cities. I have heard many wonderful things about Minnesota – even despite the fact it’s where MattD is from. (Hi Matt!) ;-)

Anyways, I plan (key word is “plan”) to give daily updates on the convention and associated events so please remember to check back often to see what’s new. Now on to the week in review!

This week consisted of a lot of correspondence between citizens and neighborhood groups, members of town staff, and council.

Monday evening I attended the Western Wake Republican Club’s monthly meeting at Bentley’s at Crossroads. NC State Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry was our guest speaker. She spoke about her duties as our states labor commissioner, changes she has made to the department since assuming the position, and her upcoming reelection campaign.

Tuesday evening council held a worksession to discuss potential council district redistricting. In a nutshell the districts are out of balance. For example: District A has over 47,000 people in it while District D has only 26,000 – it’s not fair for one representative to have nearly twice the population as another. Council reviewed numerous redistricting scenarios, and in my opinion developed a great proposal to move forward for public hearing and citizen input. One councilor however wanted more time to “gather more information” so we directed staff to find out the answers to a couple of questions and get back to us. Some on council have made it clear they are opposed to redistricting at this time – and that’s fine. But we need to decide on this sooner than later, next year’s elections will be here before you know it.

Wednesday I met with a newly formed downtown neighborhood group comprised of residents in the Waldo Road/Hunter and Clay Street area. About 20-25 downtown homeowners were in attendance, as were representatives of the Cary Police Department. The group has been formed to better address issues of neighborhood decay and crime, as well as to foster a positive working relationship with the town. I spent the majority of time at this meeting educating folks on our downtown plans, our citizen boards and commissions, local non profit groups, and town processes in general. I was very impressed with how motivated and committed these folks were, and I was especially pleased – all things considered – that they have very positive attitudes. That will go a long ways towards working for positive change in one’s community.

Thursday was our council meeting. There were a number of public hearings on the agenda. The one that received the most discussion however was a proposal to rezone property from low density residential to medium density near Cary Park. It will be interesting to see how this one moves through the process, and what changes are ultimately made to the project before it comes back to council for decision.

The most interesting topic of discussion however was the proposal to locate an “art tower” where the water tower currently sits across from Cary Elementary School. The water tower has been decommissioned and will be removed soon. The idea is to replace the water tower with public art.

Great idea - wrong art.

I appreciate the hard work of our public art advisory board, the artists, and our town staff on this project. I really do. I just did not approve of the proposed piece, and neither did most everyone else I spoke with about it – even the majority of online comments were negative. It is a 150 foot tall bronze/orange metal girder industrial looking thing shooting up high into the sky that would “tower” over the existing residential community; becoming a permanent back yard view for many. Art is one of those things that people like, or don’t like. But it shouldn’t be forced upon folks. It’s like that body world exhibit that came around a while back – gross! But hey, some people liked it, and those who didn't weren't forced to look at it so it’s all good. The majority of folks surrounding this piece didn’t like it, yet they would be forced to see it each and every day. It’s a150 feet tall – you couldn’t not look at it if you didn’t want to. I also have public safety concerns. This piece screams “climb me!” Sure you can put a fence around it, but unless the fence is 20 feet tall and covered with barbed wire you aren’t keeping determined 16 year old boys off of it I promise you.

I made the motion to not approve the art advisory board’s recommendation, and to instruct them to work on a design that was more in character with the surrounding community and utilized more traditional materials; think clock tower, bell tower, or even a carillon - something that would complement the old Cary Elementary building and our downtown’s historic district. Thankfully the motion passed 4-3.

Council also officially decided to “seek candidates” for the soon to be vacant town manager’s position. We also appointed Assistant Town Manager Ben Shivar as Interim Town Manager until our search is complete. I voted against the search as I do not believe it is worth the $30,000.00+ it will cost when I believe we already have the best candidate for the job right under our noses in Mr. Shivar. Council will decide what kind of search (national, statewide, hired firm, etc..) to do at our next meeting once we receive more information from human resources.

Friday was spent catching up on email and reports in preparation for being out of town for nearly a week, and Staurday (today) morning I was up at 5:45 am to get ready to catch my morning flight to Minneapolis St Paul. 5:45 on a Saturday morning is WAY too early for me let me tell you. ;-)

Chat with you more tonight hopefully – take care and as always, thanks for reading.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Week in Review 8/18/08-8/23/08

Before I begin this week in review I want to take a minute to thank all of you who continue to visit my blog each week to learn more about what it is I actually do as a member of the Cary Town Council. It is very important to me that I communicate with you as much as I can. You deserve to know where I stand on the issues, what initiatives I am working on, and why I ultimately voted the way I did. Now I’m no wordsmith by any means – and writing this journal actually takes more time than you might imagine. But when I see visitor traffic steadily increase with each passing week, it lets me know you value communication as much as I do, and that my time on this journal is time well spent.

On Monday evening I met with residents in the Wicklow and Wrenn Drive neighborhoods regarding issues of crime, rental decay, and other nuisances in their community I spoke of in an earlier post. About 25 residents were in attendance as well as two of Cary’s finest to speak on behalf of the Cary Police Department. Clearly the majority of problems stem from a certain apartment complex or two, and existing housing that has, over the years become increasingly rental. I have had it with deadbeat landlords that care about nothing more than collecting their rent checks each month. It will take all stakeholders – including the apartment complex owners - working together to address these issues. As a member of the council, I am committed to doing my part to ensure the town does everything we possibly can to help.

While Cary PD is and has been doing a lot to address the resident’s concerns, I believe many of the issues can be corrected through zoning and code enforcement. It is long past time Cary gets tough on deadbeat landlords who have allowed their property to decay to the point where adjoining homeowners are seeing their property values decrease as a result of what’s next door. I have asked council to consider an ordinance that would prohibit residents from parking their vehicles in their yards for any length of time (washing the car is one thing – overnight parking is another). This ordinance, should it pass, will at least begin to address problems we are seeing at rental houses which appear to be used for nothing more than “human storage”, and whose tenants do not care about the health and quality of life in the community they live in. This will come before council at our September 11 meeting. It may not sound like much, but it’s a start.

On Tuesday and Wednesday Council member Jennifer Robinson, members of our town staff, the Heart of Cary Association, Cary Chamber and myself traveled to Salisbury NC and Greenville SC to visit with and learn from members of their respective town’s Economic Development Departments, Downtown Development Associations, and elected officials regarding their efforts to spur economic activity and reinvestment in their downtowns. Now I have taken a lot of visits to numerous downtowns over the years, but I have to say this was hands down the most educationally valuable downtown trip I have ever been on. We spent a significant amount of time speaking to folks who have spent years working to revitalize their downtowns, and we brought back a host of ideas that may work for us here in Cary.

On Thursday I met with the representative of the proposed Walnut Place development so that I may better understand the project before it comes to council. The property is currently zoned high density residential and they are proposing a retail/office development so there are a few issues we need to work through.

Thursday evening was our planning and development committee meeting and there were two topics of discussion. One pertained to issues the Russell Hills neighborhood is experiencing regarding the subdivision and redevelopment of residential lots, and the other was the proposed artwork which would replace the old water tower near Cary Elementary which will be decommissioned soon. I was very pleased with the outcome of the meeting. P+D directed staff to immediately pursue amending the current TCAP-LDR zoning designation in the Russell Hills subdivision to help better protect the character and charm of the neighborhood. We also sent the proposed art tower to council for discussion with a recommendation to deny. The majority of the P+D committee believed the art tower to be out of character with the downtown community.

Friday council had a breakfast meeting to discuss the qualifications and qualities we want in our next town manager. This was a productive meeting and I believe we created a good framework from which to select Cary’s next chief executive. Council will discuss how to proceed from here this coming Thursday.

Friday evening I met with citizens regarding their concerns over a proposed water supply line that – if approved as-is - will be placed on their property. I will meet with town staff next week to discuss further.

Saturday was Cary’s 32nd annual Lazy Daze festival in downtown. This was a lot of fun, and I think that for the first time in the event’s history the temperature was less than 95 degrees! The town’s festival committee members and cultural arts department did an incredible job coordinating and planning the event. It’s no wonder Lazy Daze is one of the premier arts and crafts festival in the nation.

Well that’s about it for this week. Next week’s schedule is already packed and on Saturday I leave for the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis – St. Paul. It is my hope to give daily blog updates from the convention. We’ll see how it goes. ;-)

Friday, August 22, 2008

No Class

Many of you may have seen the WRAL news story regarding the capacity crisis at Panther Creek High School. This Monday, Panther Creek High School in Cary will start the school year with an additional 500 students over last year, and no classroom space to put them in. The mobile units needed to house these students are not yet even on site. Why??? Well that depends on who you ask. Ask WCPSS and they will tell you it is Cary’s fault – that we cannot approve the required permits for the 22 additional classroom units fast enough. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Here are the facts:

WCPSS knew about the need for these mobile units in 2007.

WCPSS filled out the application for permits on April 23, 2008 (that's when it was dated). However, Cary did not receive this application until May 16. It took WCPSS nearly a month to get Cary their application.

The application however was incomplete. It left out required information such as the number of units/site plan detail/etc...

After reviewing the application, Cary responded on June 9 that we needed more information, and also informed WCPSS ahead of time that a traffic study would be required if the additional units generated over 50 vehicle trips.

After WCPSS finally responded with the required information, Cary informed WCPSS on July 15 that a traffic study would most definitely be required.

WCPSS completed the required application for a traffic study, and on July 30 Cary contacted our traffic consultant for a price quote.

On Aug 1 that quote was sent to WCPSS.

On Aug 13 (2 weeks later) WCPSS finally paid for the traffic study and the consultant was instructed to proceed.

The traffic impact analysis, which is required by law, will be completed no later than Sept 10.

As you can clearly see, this is not Cary’s fault in any way shape or form – but that of WCPSS’s inability to plan accordingly. Cary has ordinances that we must follow, and WCPSS knows this. This is by no means the first time WCPSS has applied for permits, and this is by no means the first time trailers weren’t ready to go the first day of school due to PPPP.

It’s disappointing when folks can’t own up to their mistakes or take responsibility for their actions…or lack there of. Nobody wins in this situation; certainly not the children at Panther Creek High School.

Note: Cary High School, where many of the students now attending Panther Creek were reassigned from is 300+ students UNDER capacity.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Week in Review 8/11/08-8/17/08

This was a very busy week for me. It was also a very emotional week as we learned that our town manager Bill Coleman will be retiring come October. I am very sad to see Bill leave as his leadership, vision, and work ethic are largely responsible for Cary becoming the premier town to live and do business in that it is.

One of the marks of a great leader is their ability to assemble a great team – to put the right people in the right positions. Sure, that sounds easy enough – but as someone who has spent years doing the same thing in my business, without the assistance of a recruiting agency I might add, I can assure you it isn’t. Team members must not only possess the skills needed to do the job correctly, but must also have the right attitude, work ethic and willingness to learn. The incredible team we have at town hall is a direct result of Bill’s leadership and vision. Bill has also been a great ambassador for the town; earning the respect and trust of citizens, business leaders, elected officials, and civic groups across our region and state. Another thing that has always impressed me with Bill is that he has never sought the spotlight. He always gave credit to someone else – even when we knew it was he who deserved it.

Please take the time to call or send Bill an email and say “thanks” for everything he has done to make Cary the great place to live that it is. His email address is bill.coleman@townofcary.org

While Bill will be sorely missed, I am very thankful for the professional, responsive, and dedicated town staff he has assembled over the years that will keep things moving right along while Council works diligently to hire a new town manager – and I must confess that I am not looking forward to this process. Why? Let’s just say that I believe some will try and make this process way more complicated than it really needs to be.

On Monday I met with town manager Bill Coleman to discuss neighborhood concerns of crime, property decay, and other nuisance issues in the Wrenn Drive and Wicklow Drive area. Cary PD and our zoning enforcement department will first be creating a detailed report that outlines these issues so we may better craft a comprehensive plan to combat them. Increased police presence alone will not completely solve the problem. I think it is clear however that the majority of concerns are originating from a particular apartment complex. Unless there is willingness from the property owner to cooperate and assist us in addressing these issues, we may be forced to pursue drastic measures.

On Tuesday council toured a couple of affordable housing developments prior to our affordable housing worksession that evening. Staff felt it important that council see first hand a couple of successful projects before we discussed the matter in detail, so that we may have a better understanding of what a current affordable housing project “looks” like. I wish we had also toured a couple of not-so-successful projects in town so council could have also seen what a bad affordable housing project “looks” like…but I wasn’t driving the bus. In our worksession I requested that our next tour include this. I am however glad to see the quality of product being delivered as affordable housing these days – a huge improvement over just a few years ago.

Wednesday evening was the Cary Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Dinner with numerous elected officials from across our region and representatives from the Chamber. The entire Cary Council was in attendance, as were members of the County Commissioners, NC House and Senate, US Congress (it’s an election year), and WCPSS Board of Education. This was a fun evening, and a great opportunity to speak with other elected officials regarding regional issues. It did however get kind of warm in there due to all the hot air…thank goodness for air conditioning! ;-)

Thursday evening was our council meeting. Council agreed to have town staff review our current ordinances regarding home day cares in residential neighborhoods as a result of concerns expressed by citizens. Council also agreed to hold the public hearing open until the next council meeting regarding the Alston Ave. comprehensive plan amendments to give stakeholders in the area the opportunity to meet with staff and better understand the proposed changes. Nothing else terribly exciting unless you consider map error corrections an item of debate….which some did. It’s amazing what folks choose to grandstand over. We also had a closed session after the council meeting.

Friday morning was the NFIB’s press conference announcing their support of Pat McCrory for Governor – see posts below. And on Saturday evening we went to the Collective Soul / Blues Traveler / Live concert at Koka Booth Amphitheater. I swear there isn’t a better facility to see a show at than Koka Booth Amphitheater. If you haven’t been you need to go! I am spending much of today catching up on email. Council receives lots of email.

Well that’s it for now, and as always thanks for reading!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Links to NFIB/McCrory Endorsement Stories

Quite a few media outlets covered todays NFIB press conference. Here are some links:

Triangle Business Journal

News and Observer Under the Dome

WPTF

WRAL/Associated Press

NFIB Endorses Pat McCrory for NC Governor

Last week I left you all hanging regarding an upcoming announcement by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) regarding their endorsement of a candidate in North Carolina’s statewide elections. Hey, I couldn’t give away the ending or you’d never go see the movie right? ;-) Well, today was the big day.

NFIB, the voice of small business, officially announced their endorsement of Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory for Governor of North Carolina in a press conference at your favorite automotive shop and mine, Frantz Automotive Center. Over 60 small business owners, local residents, elected officials, and representatives from NFIB were on hand to take part in the event. The place was packed! But hey, Pat McCrory was here – where would YOU rather be? ;-)

I could give a detailed report of events, but I’m not reporting – I’m blogging. ;-) In a nutshell: NC NFIB State Director Gregg Thompson spoke about NFIB and their membership, I spoke from a small business owner’s perspective, NFIB Leadership Council Chair Claude Pope officially announced the endorsement, then Pat McCrory -batting clean up - drove us all home with a great speech. See? You feel like you were here already don’t you?

Everyone had a great time and really appreciated the opportunity to meet the next Governor of North Carolina. He was very gracious with his time making sure to speak to everyone in attendance - he ended up leaving well after his scheduled departure time. We helped maximize his time the best we could by changing the oil in his car while he was here. And yes he paid for the service.

Many thanks to NFIB for all they do to support small business not only in North Carolina, but all across our great nation, and many thanks to North Carolina NFIB members for electing to support Mayor Pat McCrory as our next Governor. As the Grail Knight in Indiana Jones said, “You have chosen wisely”.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Week in Review 8/4/08-8/10/08

I’d like to start off this week’s blog entry by thanking the dozens of folks who have contacted me over the last couple of weeks to offer their support and appreciation regarding my opposition to allowing folks to keep chickens in Cary. Numerous citizens have called, spoke to me at work or out in the community, and have even stopped me in the store to say “thanks” for voting against the initiative. I really appreciate that. I realize not all are happy with my position, but I believe the majority of Cary is.

On Tuesday morning we received a very exciting phone call at work. The National Federation of Independent Business owners (NFIB) - the voice of small business - have selected our business to host a very special event regarding a particular race in this fall’s elections. While I can’t let the cat out of the bag, what I can say is NFIB will officially endorse a candidate at my business this Friday at 8:45 am. What’s that? You want to know who??? Well come by Friday morning and see for yourself. The candidate, representatives from NFIB, and other honored guests will be in attendance.

Tuesday evening was National Night Out and I had the privilege visiting the Silverton and Weston Pointe neighborhoods with numerous Cary police officers. I must say a caravan of police cars with the lights and sirens going is a hoot! – Especially when they aren't coming after you ;-)

I had a great time speaking with the residents of both neighborhoods and the officers really seemed to enjoy themselves as well. No one had as much fun as the kids however. Seeing the looks on their faces as they climbed in to a patrol car and played with the lights and radios was priceless. Everyone really appreciated the opportunity to speak with officers regarding issues and crime trends in their neighborhoods.

Thursday was a very busy day. In the morning I attended the Heart of Cary Association’s (HOCA) monthly meeting at the Cary Chamber of Commerce building. For those of you that may be unfamiliar with the HOCA, they are a group of downtown business owners, property owners, and residents whose mission is to preserve, protect, and enhance the character and charm of downtown while ensuring it remains a vibrant, prospering community of businesses and residents. I had the honor of serving as the association’s president in 2006-2007 prior to joining the council. I am still a proud member. The meeting mainly focused on the upcoming Lazy Daze festival.

Thursday afternoon I met with the developer of a project in west Cary. While I cannot comment on the specifics yet, if all works out as I hope, this will by far be my proudest moment since joining the council. The suspense is killing ya isn’t it? ;-)

Thursday evening I attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Walnut Street Park at the corner of Walnut and Lawrence. This will be Cary’s 22nd park – and it was my first groundbreaking ceremony ever. Community turnout was incredible and thankfully the weather held off until we were finished. What is so great about this park is that it is an infill park being built in an older, established neighborhood of town. The surrounding community spent years working with our parks and rec department designing this park, and in about 9 more months their vision and efforts will become reality.

Sunday I had the honor of attending an Eagle Scout ceremony for James Phillips. The Phillips have been friends of our family for years so this was a real treat. Congratulations James – we are all so proud of you.

Well that’s it for this week – Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Week in Review 7/27/08 - 8/03/08

This week was a pretty light week in regards to council responsibilities. This allowed me to get caught up on quite a bit at work that, until now I just didn’t have time to get to. Serving on council takes a lot of time away from one’s family and work responsibilities and I do my best to balance the three. My family always comes first, but council always seems to place a close second. ;-)

On Monday evening I attended the Western Wake Republican Club’s monthly meeting at Bentley’s Grill at Crossroads. Our featured guest was Wake County Commissioner Kenn Gardner. He spoke to the group about his work this past year as a county commissioner, his upcoming reelection campaign, and the very successful Wake Investment Scholarship for Education (WISE) foster care initiative he started. The program has been such a success Commissioner Gardner was selected to receive the National Association of Counties Courthouse Award because of his passion for helping foster care children attend college, along with his longstanding dedication to environmental stewardship. Gardner created the WISE initiative in 2004, and since that time, more than $100,000 has been raised for foster care, enabling 30 percent of Wake County foster care graduates to attend college. Sometimes one person can make a difference.

On Thursday I attended the Triangle Sports Commission’s Bound for Beijing Banquet with the United States and Canadian Olympic Baseball Teams at the Embassy Suites in Cary. I was honored to deliver the welcome speech on behalf of the Town of Cary. As someone who has been a baseball fan all my life this was a real treat for me. Not only did I get to meet the amazing athletes who will represent our nation on the baseball diamond in Beijing, but also their coaching staff – and in particular manager Davey Johnson. Growing up in Southern California I have been a Dodgers and Angels fan as long as I can remember. Players like Steve Sax, Bob Boone, Rod Carew, and Steve Garvey were my childhood heroes; so much so that my mother had to pay extra to have #52 put on my little league jersey. Jerseys always came in numbers 1-24. If you wanted a different number, you had to pay for it. Steve Sax played second base – I played second base. Steve Sax was #52 (later in his career he changed to #3) so therefore I was #52. Davey Johnson managed my Dodgers in 1999-2000.

I’ve got a lot of faith in Davey Johnson’s ability to lead Team USA to Olympic gold. Davey Johnson also managed the Cincinnati Reds for Marge Schott for three years and won the NL Central in 1995 - the year she fired him believe it or not. Taking on the world must seem like a walk in the park compared to working for Marge. ;-)

On Sunday (today) I met with a newly formed schools advocacy group to review and listen to their powerpoint presentation regarding WCPSS’ reassignment policies. I was asked to attend to offer constructive criticism and any advice before they took their show on the road. They plan to speak with and educate area civic groups and business networks about WCPSS reassignment/diversity policies and results. I was very impressed with their presentation, and only recommended a few “tweaks” here and there.

Well that’s about it for this week. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 1, 2008

Orange County Commissioners Like the Dark

WRAL reports that Thursday the Orange County Commissioners voted to formally oppose the proposed expansion of the Shearon Harris nuclear power plant. They even hired an attorney to file an intervention with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Seriously.

Orange County gets their electricity from Duke Power. Duke Power has two reactors near Charlotte. Apparently it's OK for them to have two reactors, but us in Wake County can only have one. Orange County says so.

So in the spirit of compromise; We'll hold off on the second reactor if Orange County agrees to give us their power. Deal?