Monday, January 19, 2009

RETREAT! 2009 Day Two

Most of day two of the retreat focused on reviewing the progress of specific goals or priorities council identified at last years retreat (55 in total). While many of the items on that list have been completed or are in progress, some have not yet been completed and council still has a lot of work to do. But hey, what’s the point of setting goals if we aren’t willing to work hard to achieve them right?

Some examples of priorities identified at last year’s retreat which council discussed at length were better roads, reinvestment in downtown/old Cary, increased openness in government, greater citizen involvement, better education/neighborhood schools, and protecting our environment. Here is an action summary of what your council and I have done to work towards achieving these goals:

Better Roads/Transportation: FY2009 budget includes over $40 million in transportation funding including over $8.1 million worth of road improvements to Cary Parkway alone. Increased advertising for C-Tran has resulted in a 25% increase in ridership. Completed 2 mile section of White Oak Greenway west of NC 55. Comprehensive Transportation Plan Update completed.

Reinvestment in Downtown/Old Cary: Downtown Streetscape Project and Cary Elementary renovations fully funded for FY2009 (finally!). Working with Wake County to develop a plan for the new downtown library. Land acquisition (purchasing) is ongoing for the downtown park. Directed staff to move forward in selecting a downtown development director/manager.

Increased Openness in Government/Greater Citizen Involvement: Both Mayor Weinbrecht and I keep an online journal to better communicate with Cary citizens – you’re reading mine ;-), The Cary Matters TV show was created to better educate and inform citizens of what council is working on. Created the Citizen Issue Review Commission, made boards and commission appointments more transparent.

Schools: I could write a novel on this one but I’ll keep it short. Numerous meetings with and lobbying of school board members and legislators, as well as meetings with parent groups, PTAs, schools advocacy groups. Added at-large school board elections and taxing authority to our state’s legislative agenda. Working to bring all Wake County municipal and community leaders together for a schools roundtable discussion/forum. We still have A LOT of work to do here.

Environmental Protection: Changes to Cary’s land development ordinance (LDO) to prevent mass grading/preserve rolling hill natural environment/strengthen erosion control standards underway. Council created a new Environmental Advisory Board. Planning Staff working with EAB to create development incentives in exchange for reductions in energy consumption. Interdepartmental team established to review town operations and facilities for possible energy and water savings as well as ways to become more environmentally responsible.

This is just a brief list – council has many other goals and priorities. I chose to speak on these as they also happened to be a big part of my campaign platform. Rest assured your council and I will continue to work as hard as we can to improve the quality of life in Cary while keeping taxes low. And on a related note – Cary has the lowest tax rate of any municipality in Wake County.

After so much progress the end of the retreat ended on a down note. One councilor apparently didn’t pay attention during day one’s session where council agreed (again) that after a vote, the issue was over (unless there is support to revisit of course…which there wasn’t). For the umpteenth time he again wanted to revisit a council decision – this time it was council’s support for at-large elections on our states legislative agenda – an issue where he has previously voiced his opposition on numerous occasions - as long ago as last year and most recently at this past Thursday’s council meeting. During discussion it also became obvious that some of his frustration stemmed from the fact he hadn’t read our state’s legislative agenda, nor compared it with last year’s agenda for discrepancies. Frustrating….

Before we ended the retreat council did finally decide to direct staff to move forward with narrowing the list of consultants for the Community Visioning initiative then bring back a proposal to council for final decision on whether or not to move forward with the visioning process. Some councilors wanted more information before deciding whether or not to move forward with this initiative and that is fine. I didn’t and opposed it for the reasons I spoke of in day one’s post. I lost. But I promise not to have a tantrum and bring it back up every week for the next year ;-) You win some, you lose some.