Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New Blog Layout

No you aren't seeing things. I changed the layout of my blog. I had wanted to find a really cool Christmas background but apparently blogger doesn't have one. I decided on this one instead. I hope you like it!

Christmas Humor

Now I am sure you get lots of joke emails like I do. Most are lame, some are actually funny, and some can be downright offensive...even to me! :-) But this one I found hilarious. I apologize in advance if It offends anyone.

When four of Santa's elves got sick, the trainee elves did not produce toys as fast as the regular ones, and Santa began to feel the Pre-Christmas pressure.

Then Mrs. Claus told Santa her Mother was coming to visit, which stressed Santa even more.

When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two others had jumped the fence and were out, Heaven knows where.

Then when he began to load the sleigh, one of the floorboards cracked, the toy bag fell to the ground and all the toys were scattered.

Frustrated, Santa went in the house for a cup of apple cider and a shot of rum. When he went to the cupboard, he discovered the elves had drank all the cider and hidden the liquor. In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the cider jug, and it broke into hundreds of little glass pieces all over the kitchen floor.

He went to get the broom and found the mice had eaten all the straw off the end of the broom.

Just then the doorbell rang, and irritated Santa marched to the door, yanked it open, and there stood a little angel with a great big Christmas tree. The angel said very cheerfully, 'Merry Christmas, Santa! Isn't this a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Where would you like me to stick it?'

And so began the tradition of the little angel on top of the Christmas tree.

:-) :-) :-) Thanks to "Harry" for this one.

I Wish You a....

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

But for those who may be offended by such language I offer the following:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the WINTER SOLSTICE holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

In addition, please also accept best wishes for a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2009, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make this country great (not to imply that this country is necessarily greater than any other country or area of choice), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual orientation of the wishers.

This wish is limited to the customary and usual good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first. " Holiday " is not intended to, nor shall it be considered, limited to the usual Judeo-Christian celebrations or observances, or to such activities of any organized or ad hoc religious community, group, individual or belief (or lack thereof).

Note: By accepting this greeting, you are agreeing to these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher at any time, for any reason or for no reason at all. This greeting is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. This greeting implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for the wisher her/himself or others, or responsibility for the consequences which may arise from the implementation or non-implementation of it. This greeting is void where prohibited by law. Please check with your physician before accepting this, or any other greetings.

Now wasn't MERRY CHRISTMAS! easier? :-)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Let's Do Lunch.

Wake may boost prices for school meals
While other Triangle schools raised prices, the Wake system held off, but that may change
T. Keung Hui - Staff Writer
Published: Mon, Dec. 22, 2008 12:30AM
Modified Mon, Dec. 22, 2008 05:23AM

RALEIGH -- The recession could cause even more problems for Wake County families: higher school breakfast and lunch prices.

Wake school administrators are warning that gloomy economic conditions will force them to raise meal prices next year unless they receive more state or federal money. Wake has been one of last school districts in the state to hold out against raising prices.....

.....At that meeting, school board member Ron Margiotta grilled Moody about reports in the Carolina Journal, a weekly publication owned by the conservative John Locke Foundation. The Journal reported that a school district audit resulted in 64 percent of families losing or getting reduced lunch benefits.

The federal government requires school districts to audit 3 percent of families receiving subsidized lunches whose incomes are very close to the limits for determining eligibility.

There IS a Free Lunch — In Schools
Review shows many parents misstate income on school lunch forms
By David N. Bass
July 21, 2008

RALEIGH — Many families in North Carolina lie about their income when applying for the free and reduced-lunch program in public schools, and a lack of oversight by government officials allows the fraud to go unchecked, an investigation by Carolina Journal shows.

.....According to child nutrition officials in each district, Buncombe County Schools and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools conducted no verifications for cause during the last two school years. Wake County Schools verified two applicants for cause this school year and less than 10 last year, while New Hanover County Schools verified no applicants for cause this year and an unspecified number last year.....

.....“This really calls into question the school board’s assignment policies,” said Tony Gurley, a Wake County commissioner, in response to the verification data. Gurley and other county commissioners have tussled with the school board over a host of issues, including school construction funding.

Frantz News: We Report - You Decide.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Week in Review 12/14/08 - 12/20/08

My week started out with a meeting with representatives from a national company (sorry, I can’t say who they are yet) who are looking at Cary as a possible location to open a regional office. We discussed Cary’s economic outlook, demographics, and capital improvement plans in detail. Our meeting went well and I believe they now have a good understanding of all the positives Cary has to offer should they decide to set up shop here in town.

Mayor Weinbrecht and I taped the January edition of the Cary Matters TV show this week – and this was really a lot of fun. The show’s main topic was Cary’s amateur sports venues, and we also discussed flooding and the upcoming council retreat. A lot of good information - including the answer to the age old question “does size really matter?” (and yes I’ll probably regret this one!)

Silverton residents, representatives of Singh Development, members of our town staff, and councilwoman Jennifer Robinson and myself met at the Bond Park Senior Center this past Tuesday evening to discuss whether or not there is support from the community to develop the Cary Parkway/Evans Road/Winfair property as mixed-use instead of commercial. I believe this meeting went well and the developer left with a reasonable understanding of what the key issues were/would be should they decide to pursue mixed use development. I personally support the mixed use concept over the commercial proposal at this site as the mixed use proposal would generate roughly 1/3 of the traffic as the commercial proposal would, and the impact to Winfair Dr. would be significantly less. Mixed use would be more harmonious with the surrounding residential community, and uses such as a gas station or hotel (uses proposed in the commercial plan and adamantly opposed by the residents) would be prohibited. The decision on whether to develop this property as commercial or mixed-use is in the developer’s hands at this point. I hope to hear from them sometime after the holidays.

Thursday evening was our Planning and Development committee meeting. Discussion items pertained to a roadway improvement waiver request from College Park Baptist Church and potential amendments to our town’s sign ordinance to allow for greater flexibility in sign standards.

Afterwards I attended a “Schools Redistricting Brainstorm” hosted by Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears at Holly Springs Town Hall. Upwards of 40 concerned parents and elected officials attended. A number of concerns and action items pertaining to reassignment and the upcoming elections were identified. In my opinion the only way we are going to change the manner in which WCPSS assigns students is to change the make-up of the board of elections plain and simple, and I am committed to doing everything I can to work for and help elect pro-neighborhood schools candidates this coming fall. If you believe as I do and would like to help please send me an email at don.frantz@townofcary.org .

And has been the case for a number of weeks, a good amount of my time this week was spent communicating with WCPSS board members and parents regarding the proposed reassignment plan. The updated reassignment plan also just hit the school system’s website this weekend and I have already spent a great deal of time analyzing node assignments and potential scenarios in the hopes of finding alternative proposals that keep Cary neighborhoods at their neighborhood schools. What a concept huh?

And last but certainly not least, I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Why am I not surprised?

With economy in shambles, Congress gets a raise
By Jordy Yager
Posted: 12/17/08 05:41 PM [ET]

A crumbling economy, more than 2 million constituents who have lost their jobs this year, and congressional demands of CEOs to work for free did not convince lawmakers to freeze their own pay.

Instead, they will get a $4,700 pay increase, amounting to an additional $2.5 million that taxpayers will spend on congressional salaries, and watchdog groups are not happy about it.

“As lawmakers make a big show of forcing auto executives to accept just $1 a year in salary, they are quietly raiding the vault for their own personal gain,” said Daniel O’Connell, chairman of The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), a non-partisan group. “This money would be much better spent helping the millions of seniors who are living below the poverty line and struggling to keep their heat on this winter.”

Read the rest HERE.

Looks like that 18% approval rating can go even lower after all.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Week in Review 12/8/08 - 12/13/08

This week’s work can be summed up in two words – schools and pools. And unfortunately it has nothing to do with teaching a child to swim.

Council held two worksessions this week. The first was a two-fer. We began the worksession with a financial update from our interim town manager Ben Shivar and members of our budget staff. In a nutshell, while our town’s financial status remains healthy, Cary is feeling the effects of a struggling economy like everyone else. We have been and will continue to take steps to reduce expenses and trim the fat to ensure that no matter how long this recession lasts we can weather the storm.

Afterwards council discussed the hotel/meals tax revenue allotted to Cary ($10 million) and qualifying tourism projects proposed by our town staff. The potential projects/investments we discussed were:

Partnering with Triangle Aquatics Center (TAC) to construct an indoor recreational and leisure pool and diving well. Est. cost $14.3 million

Press boxes, stadium additions, locker rooms, concessions and turf at Wake Med Soccer Park. Est. cost $5.8 million

The addition of locker rooms, dormitory space, offices, and an indoor batting cage at USA Baseball. Est cost $3.2 million

A clubhouse and pavilion at the Cary Tennis Center. Est cost $1 million

An office addition, restrooms, and theatrical equipment at Koka Booth Amphitheater. Est cost $1 million

Downtown Performing Arts center. Est cost $60 million

For those of you who may not be aware, the hotel/meals tax is a county wide tax on hotel stays and restaurant meals to generate revenue for tourism type projects that can draw visitors to Wake County. Unfortunately for Cary, the county along with Raleigh (go figure) determines the distribution of these funds – the clear majority of which goes to Raleigh (go figure again) to pay for the convention center…in Raleigh.

Cary contributes roughly 20% of the total hotel/meals tax revenue collected in Wake County. The Cary-Morrisville area generates roughly 35% of this revenue. Yet Cary receives only 5% in return. Morrisville receives nothing, nada, zip, zilch. And if that’s not enough, to rub more salt into the wound, years ago Cary used to have its own hotel/meals tax…until the county decided it wanted that revenue. The county essentially stole Cary’s idea and has been (insert derogatory remark here) us ever since.

Back to the worksession - Unfortunately councilmember Adcock was absent resulting in 6 of us – an even number – deliberating. You can see where this is going right? Needless to say, a majority of council couldn’t decide on whether to partner with TAC, or reinvest in USA Baseball, the Soccer Park, and Tennis Center (the improvements to Koka Booth Amphitheater as well as the Downtown Performing Arts Center were ruled out pretty quick). Three of us wanted to partner with TAC – and three of us wanted to use the funds for baseball, soccer, and tennis. 3 ½ hours later we left this worksession without making a decision…which also by the way made Councilmember Adcock the most popular person on council once she returned from her trip. ;-)

On Wednesday council held another worksession with our public art advisory board to review four art options for the proposed Cary Elementary fly tower (for history on this topic read earlier posts HERE and HERE). Council ultimately decided to instruct the design team and architect to bring back options that focus on architecture instead of applied art. The option was left open that the fly tower could include art, but the primary focus must be on the architecture.

After our worksession council members Adcock, Smith and I met with a concerned parent who lives in the MacGregor Downs area to discuss the proposed school reassignments.

Our council meeting this week included a number of important topics – a rezoning for a proposed office development at Piney Plains near Crossroads, the White Oak Baptist Church rezoning and annexation, approving the Animal Issues Task Force recommendations, and final discussion and decision on the hotel/meals tax revenue.

Now you would think that after having already discussed the hotel/meals tax proposals at length at our worksession that this discussion and decision would go fairly quickly right? Wrong. The good news however is that we did finally make a decision – the bad news is that it wasn’t the decision I had hoped for. I, along with councilors Portman and Robison supported partnering with TAC to complete the vision for aquatics in Cary. I believed this to be the best investment of all the projects before us. Total project cost: $14 million. Minus $10 million in hotel/meals tax money = $4 million investment for Cary. The private sector (TAC) has already built the $20+ million competition venue. Result = $34 million aquatics center in Cary for a $4 million town investment AND no operating loss. TAC would manage and operate the facility. The original aquatics center proposed by the town would have cost Cary taxpayers over $23 million and was projected to lose anywhere from $300,000 - $500,000 a year.

After this motion failed another motion was made to use the hotel/meals tax money for the improvements to USA Baseball, Wake Med Soccer Park, and the Cary Tennis Center. Even though I preferred to use the funds for aquatics, I supported this motion as I believe that all of the projects brought before us were good choices. Then again, if we weren’t getting hosed by the county there wouldn’t have been the need to even have this discussion. But hey, how about that convention center eh?

A number of concerned parents came to our council meeting to speak at the Public Speaks Out portion of our council meeting regarding WCPSS’ proposed reassignment plan. The annual school reassignment fiasco is hands down the most frustrating part of being a member of council. Council has the ability to help Cary citizens regarding an number of quality of life issues. But in regards to schools we are almost powerless. It breaks my heart to see so many families endure such turmoil year after year. Regardless, I promise to continue to represent Cary families and fight for neighborhood schools, increased opportunities for parental involvement, choice, and stability for all our children.

Today I had the honor of riding in the Cary Jaycees Christmas Parade. Which reminds me – MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HOLIDAYS CARY!

And finally, today is December 13th. Exactly one year ago today I was sworn in as a member of the Cary Town Council. I know it sounds cliché but it seems like just yesterday. My service on the council thus far has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life. I can’t thank you all enough for the opportunity to serve you, the citizens and business owners of Cary as your representative on the Cary Town Council. It is truly an honor and a privilege.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Week(s) in Review Nov. 24 - Dec. 6 2008

Yes, I know. I didn’t post last week….sorry. It was a very busy week and in all honesty between my council responsibilities, the Thanksgiving holiday (Grandma’s house still doesn’t have internet), my day job (the automotive one) and working with families regarding WCPSS’s student reassignment proposal I just couldn’t find the time. I’ll try and make it up to you some other time I promise. ;-)

But speaking of school reassignments… that is where the majority of my focus has been as of late. I have met with numerous families and neighborhood groups over the last couple of weeks to discuss the proposed reassignment plan, how it affects their families and community, and to give advice on how they can work with WCPSS to change the plan. I have also spent a good deal of time speaking with school board members and school system staff in the hopes of convincing them to implement changes to the reassignment plan. And I also attended the WCPSS community engagement meeting this past Monday at Cary High School. I had actually hoped to speak at this meeting, but since they only allotted time for roughly 40 speakers (over 80 signed up to speak), I felt it best that WCPSS hear from those most directly impacted by the proposed reassignments – the parents.

While I am very pleased that WCPSS has already made some positive changes to the proposed reassignment plan, I am still disappointed that many Cary and Apex children are still slated to be reassigned away from their neighborhood school and sent to another school much farther away – all in the name of “diversity”. It continues to amaze me how such a positive word can wreak so much havoc.

Studies by the National Education Association (NEA) conclude that the most accurate predictor of a student’s achievement in school is not income or social status, but the extent to which that student’s family is able to become involved in their children’s education at school and in the community. Positive results of parental involvement include improved student achievement, reduced absenteeism, improved behavior, and restored confidence among parents in their children's schooling. When parents are involved in their children's education at home, they do better in school. And when parents are involved in school, children go farther in school — and the schools they go to are better.

Moving children away from their neighborhood school makes it increasingly difficult for parents to become or remain involved in their child’s education – it also places more of a burden on teachers. Separating children from their community and neighborhood friends they have grown up with all their lives can also have serious consequences on a child’s mental well being.

Now I believe the goal of balancing the percentages of F+R children at our schools is an admirable one – I really do. I think it’s stupid however to reassign children away from their neighborhood school while continuing to bus in children with similar demographics who live ten miles away. If we need to move lower income students out of a particular school, how about we start with those that are bused in before those within walking distance? But what do I know right?

A few quick notes:

This past week I met with town staff and Singh, the developer of a project in Silverton I have spoken about in earlier posts to discuss their upcoming meeting with area residents over the possibility of a mixed use proposal instead of the commercial plan they have proposed. This meeting will be held on December 16th and it is my hope that both the residents and developer can work together to craft a plan that all stakeholders can live with.

I also spent a good deal of time this week reviewing applications for vacancies on both our Environmental Advisory Board and Information Services Advisory Board, as well as reviewing staff reports to prepare for our upcoming council meeting. Council members were also tasked with recommending 4 citizens for the recently approved Site Design Focus Group. After speaking with a number of highly qualified and involved citizens I recommended Lindsey Chester, Glenda Westbrook, George Dohanich, and Cynthia Sinkez. Each one of these individuals would serve our town well.

Well that’s about all for now. Thanks for reading and thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you as a member of the Cary Town Council. It is truly an honor to represent you.