Sunday, March 15, 2009

Week in Review 3/9/09 - 3/14/09

This week council finally made what I am sure will turn out to be one of, if not the most important decision during our time on the council. After nearly 5 months of conducting a nationwide search of candidates for Cary’s Town Manager position council unanimously selected Assistant Town Manager Ben Shivar to serve as Cary’s newest Town Manager. Congratulations Ben!

I originally opposed “casting a net far and wide” and conducting a national search for two reasons. First and foremost I believed in Ben’s ability to lead and was confident he was the right person for the job. And second, I was concerned about the cost ($35,000) - especially in this economy. Well, after conducting the search I do believe there was value in the process. $35,000 value? Probably not, but value nonetheless.

Council wisely chose to conduct search and assessment process blind – we didn’t know the names or cities of any of the candidates. Therefore there could be no bias towards one candidate or another - Nobody could have lobbied for Ben, or any other candidate if they wanted to. Ben’s qualifications and experience along with his performance in the assessments and screening process are why he ended up one of two finalists for the job. And after council interviews it became crystal clear to everyone – we had the best man for the job right under our noses all along. Ben can now lead knowing he went up against the best of the best and came out on top and nobody – I mean nobody on council can ever question this decision. Ya…there’s value in that.

This week council held a worksession to discuss three items; affordable housing in Cary, our soon to be implemented roll out cart recycling program, and automated water meter reading. The affordable housing worksession consisted of follow up with staff and consultants and a review of their progress based on the previous input from council. It’s now our job to review the Consolidated Housing and Community Development Plans and Cary’s Affordable Housing Plan so that we can provide further input on those documents before final adoption.

Cary’s Public Works Director Mike Bajorek provided an update on Cary’s roll out cart recycling program. Citizens will soon be receiving notices on their garbage containers about a week or so before you are to receive your new roll out recycling container. And guess what??? It’s beige!! ;-) Mike calls it “taupe” …he’s in denial. The new recycling program will not only allow citizens an easier way to recycle phone books, chip board and junk mail, but will also save Cary taxpayers roughly $613,000 a year after about 4 ½ years.

Cary will soon be switching over to an automated water meter reading system for greater accuracy and to reduce costs. This system will replace meter readers with technology and eliminate 10 paid positions with the town. While a very expensive system to initially implement, this will eventually save Cary taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and reach full cost recovery in about 9 years.

Thursday evening was our council meeting. Besides the announcement that we had hired Ben Shivar as Cary’s Town Manager, our agenda had three notable discussion items; a public hearing regarding which type of election method to this fall and whether or not to utilize instant runoff voting, an update and recommendation on traffic safety at Panther Creek High School, and my request to direct town staff to review our impact fee rate structure in the downtown area.

A number of Cary and Wake County citizens, as well as members of special interest groups such as Fairvote spoke both in support of and against IRV. While I am the first candidate ever elected in North Carolina utilizing IRV, I spoke against using IRV for the following reasons:

· 2nd and 3rd place votes must be hand counted and sorted.
· Ballots are sorted and counted away from where they are cast as the machines are unable to do so resulting in a greater risk of human error/tampering.
· Does not increase voter turnout as proponents claim. Election methods do not increase turnout – better candidates who motivate the electorate do.
· Any time special interest groups lobby so hard for “better ways to elect candidates”, that throws up all kinds of red flags to me.
· Mistakes were made during the 2007 election – I am not confident the BOE has taken steps to ensure those mistakes won’t happen again.

Council decided to utilize non-partisan plurality elections this fall, and will further discuss the use of IRV. Plurality elections allow each voter one vote and provide for no runoff election. The candidate with the most votes wins. It will also save Cary taxpayers almost $100,000 vs. a traditional runoff election. Durham is also looking to switch to plurality elections in an effort to save their taxpayers $185,000. One vote – one voice. What’s more democratic than that?

Council received an update from staff regarding traffic concerns at Panther Creek High School after eliminating of left hand turns out of the drop off driveway last month. While school officials and town staff believe the majority of concerns have been addressed, staff further recommends the town install delineator posts to better direct traffic into the school and further prevent the left turn movement responsible for vehicle collisions at this location.

Council also chose to direct staff to review the downtown impact fee rate structure and look into possible incentives for redevelopment/infill development and will report back to council in the future.

March 15-21 is Sunshine Week – a national initiative to promote the importance of open government and freedom of information. As you all know openness and transparency in government is very important to me. It’s one of the main reasons I started this blog – to keep you, the citizens of Cary, informed about what it is I am working on as a member of the council. You may not always agree with everything I do as a member of the council, but you darn sure have a right to know what it is I am doing. The town takes openness in government as seriously as I do. And while the town actively participates in Sunshine Week activities, the sun shines at Cary Town Hall 365 days a year as Cary works very hard at serving our citizens. For more information of Sunshine week and the town’s participation please click here.

Well that’s all for this week. Thanks for reading!