Monday, August 31, 2009

Who's Got Spirit!?

Some of you may remember this was an initiative I championed at the request of a citizen. It is great to see it finally come to fruition.

First recipient of the Hometown Spirit Award to be honored at a fall Town Council meeting

CARY , NC – The Town of Cary is looking for the most community-minded of all to receive the Town’s first Hometown Spirit Award, an annual award that recognizes a citizen who enhances the quality of life in Cary by preserving, promoting and carrying out positive and quantifiable small town community values and traits. Cary citizens can submit nominations today through 5 p.m. on October 9, 2009 using an official nomination form available at Nominations should be submitted to Town Clerk Sue Rowland by e-mail at, by fax at (919) 460-4910 or by mail to Town Clerk, Town of Cary , P.O. Box 8005 , Cary , NC 27512-8005 .

“The Town Council decided long ago that no matter how large Cary’s population grew, the community would always be called a town, not a city, to reinforce our small town heritage and values, and this award is the perfect opportunity to recognize outstanding Cary residents for the role they play in helping keep Cary’s small town charm thriving,” said Town Clerk Sue Rowland.

Cary residents ages 21 and older are eligible for the award. Nominees should demonstrate leadership and integrity and be respected by peers. In addition, nominees should exemplify at least one of the following criteria: helps out neighbors and fellow Cary residents; demonstrates hospitality; promotes and preserves traditional American past-times; shows a concern for preservation and works to preserve traditions and the small-town atmosphere in the community; promotes entrepreneurship through supporting locally owned business; promotes a sense of community in their neighborhood and all of Cary; demonstrates patriotism through promotion and preservation of the country's symbols and dedication to the U.S. military, past and present; and serves the community through business.

During the November 12, 2009 Council meeting, the Mayor will recognize the nominees and announce the winner. The winner will receive a plaque, and the Town will recognize the winner on a perpetual plaque that will be placed in Town Hall. In addition, the award winner and family will be invited to participate in the community Tree lighting event on December 5, 2009 . Immediately following the tree lighting, there will be a reception to honor the award winner.

The Town Council approved the award program on July 23, 2009 . At a cost of $250 per award winner, funding for the program will come from the Town’s General Fund.

For more details on the Hometown Spirit Award, visit or call (919) 460-4941 .

Week in Review 8/24/09 - 8/28/09

This past weekend I attended my 20th High School Reunion in sunny (sort of) Fullerton California. It was great to see all my old friends and classmates again. And seeing the old neighborhood sure brought back a lot of memories. So much had changed, yet so much had stayed the same. I had a great time, but it’s great to be back home in Cary. It took 20 years for me to miss California enough to go back. Once there it took about two days for me to miss Cary. I love this town.

Council had a worksession on Tuesday evening to discuss and vote on our recommended boards and commission appointments. While this sounds simple enough, given the number of highly qualified citizens that applied to serve (82 for 42 vacancies) I must say it was quite a bit of work to get to this point in the process. I personally reviewed each and every application, and determining which candidates to support for which position was no easy task. We are blessed to live in a community with such educated, passionate and creative citizens – the caliber of talent we have here in this town is truly amazing. Unfortunately there simply wasn’t enough vacanies for everyone deserving – and for what its worth I know what that’s like. I applied to serve for three years before finally being appointed to the town’s planning and zoning board. Although politics may have had a little something to do with that. ;-)

While we continually strive to do better, I believe Cary has done a relatively good job engaging its citizens. And I am proud that as a member of this council we have further increased opportunities for citizen involvement through the creation of the Environmental Advisory Board, Issues Advisory Board, and Animal Issues Task Force. We have changed the manner in which mixed use development is approved in order to give citizens a greater voice in the process, and we also created Cary Matters to better inform you, our employer, of the goings on in Cary. The Mayor and I also started blogs to better communicate with citizens – we do work for you after all. But like I said before, we are continually looking to do better. If you have any ideas of how we can further increase citizen involvement in Cary please feel free to let us know.

Council also held a closed session to discuss an ongoing legal issue.

Thursday evening was our council meeting. At our meeting council voted to table the proposed Cameron Pond Revegetation Plan as we just received it the day before and had not had ample time to review it. Council also received the annual reports from our Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Advisory Board, Our Sister Cities Commission, and the Public Art Advisory Board.

The notable discussion item was the rezoning request and annexation petition for roughly 40 acres located at the intersection of O’Kelly Chapel and Pittard Sears Road. The applicant hopes to construct 166 age restricted homes. During the public hearing citizens expressed concerns regarding notification and further stressing of neighborhood amenities. Council members were torn on whether to continue the public hearing or move this forward to the November Planning and Zoning Board Meeting. While all council members expressed concerns regarding the notification process, in the end the majority of council voted to send this one on to P+Z and encouraged the residents to work with the applicant to address their concerns. November is a ways away – much can be accomplished between now and then.

Afterwards council held a closed session to discuss a number of legal issues – none of which I can say anything about. Sorry. ;-)

Thats it for this week in review. Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Week in Review 8/10/09 - 8/14/09

This past week I met with a small business owner in our downtown area and members of our town staff to discuss their concerns relating to our town’s sign ordinance. They recently opened up a small scooter sales and service business and would like to place a couple of scooters out front near the road to better advertise their new business. Sounds reasonable – especially considering there are numerous used car dealers in the area who display their vehicles for sale near the road. After meeting with staff it appears a minor change to the business owner’s site plan from retail to vehicle sales may be all that is needed to correct this concern.

On Monday evening I attended the Wake County Young Republican’s monthly meeting in Raleigh. Our guest speaker was Lenny McAlister, author of “Diary of a Mad Black PYC (Proud Young Conservative)” and contributor to numerous media outlets such as Fox News and CNN.

Tuesday evening council held a worksession to review and discuss the town manager’s update on boards and commission’s structure and action plans, council operating procedures, and council communications.

Wednesday I spent the better part of the day reviewing staff reports and our agenda for Thursday evening’s council meeting before heading to the Cary Chamber of Commerce’s Leadership Dinner. The Chamber’s Leadership Dinner is an annual event which brings local, state, and federal officials together for an evening of networking and an opportunity to discuss issues facing our state and region. The highlight – or lowlight depending on your perspective – was when Congressman Brad Miller attempted to turn the event into a health care town hall (which was a bit odd considering the congressman has refused to hold a town hall on health care “out of fear for his safety” - reality is he had scheduled no town halls to start with). Anyways, halfway into his comments an elected official’s wife began to question Mr. Miller’s statements. Brad Miller immediately went on the defensive and began spewing typical pro-government health care statistics and talking points. (NOTE: when politicians resort to quoting statistics when making their argument it’s a good indication they have no real knowledge of the issue). The discussion quickly became heated as others, including her husband, joined in until Chamber officials intervened and asked folks to finish this discussion some other time.

Thursday evening was our council meeting. Notable discussion topics included whether or not to officially sanction a group to study allowing chickens in Cary town limits and report back to council (council denied the request), a decision to award $75,000 in financial incentives to Deutsche Bank to locate a technology development center in town, council’s decision to support a shared sick leave program for town of Cary employees, and a very lengthy closed session to discuss a number of legal issues facing the town.

While I am thrilled that Deutsche Bank is coming to Cary and creating 300 jobs, I voted against granting Deutsche Bank $75,000 in financial incentives as I believe Cary’s high quality of life, our highly educated workforce, and our proximity to RTP, the airport, and numerous educational institutions are already incentive enough. What really makes me sick however is that North Carolina – who is in a budget crisis and cut education funding statewide by 10% - is granting Deutsche Bank $9.4 million in incentives. In Wake County alone our school system is losing over $21 million in state funding and a number of teachers have lost their jobs, $600,000 has been cut from the Sheriff’s dept. budget, and the state is even withholding $500,000 in ABC store revenue from the county in an effort to balance their budget – yet they can somehow magically find $9.4 million for Deutsche Bank….amazing.

Council directed staff to develop a shared sick leave program for Town of Cary employees and bring back to council for decision. Should council approve of the program it would most likely take effect during next year’s budget process.

I spent a good deal of time this week responding to email and speaking with citizens regarding a number of issues such as the Red Letter House on Maynard Road, Flooding concerns in the downtown area, chickens, and the Dorothy Drive Park and Stream Restoration project.

And in all that free time I have ;-) I also worked on a number of candidate’s campaigns for this fall’s municipal and school board elections. I realize that some of you might not be pleased with my involvement in political campaigns given my position as an elected official. While I am an elected official I am a citizen first and foremost and have the same rights as anyone else. I believe it’s long past time our governments started working for us instead of us working for it and I will continue to do anything and everything I can to help those candidates who I believe will work hard for the citizens of Cary, Wake County, and of our state. I encourage you to do the same. We get what we elect.

Well that’s about it for this week in review. I doubt I will post next week as I am leaving for California on Friday for my 20th High School reunion. I am really looking forward to seeing all my old friends and the neighborhood I grew up in. I haven’t been back in 15 years. I am sure a lot has changed. Thanks for reading!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Red Letter House

I’ve received a lot of calls and emails as of late pertaining to the home on Maynard Road whose owner, Mr. David Bowden, determined that the most effective manner in which to voice his displeasure with the town was to spraypaint “Screwed by the Town of Cary” in bold bright red letters on the front of his house. Well, actually he didn’t do it – he paid a painter $200 to do it for him. Mr. Bowden claims that the widening of Maynard Road to 4 lanes has caused significant water damage to his home.

Let me start by saying I feel for Mr. Bowden, and all of the residents negatively impacted by the Maynard Road widening for that matter. I really do. I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like to have a four lane thoroughfare thrown in your front yard and having to live with the increase in noise, traffic, and loss of privacy that comes along with it. While I was not on the council when the project was approved, I don’t believe the project should have caught folks by surprise either as Maynard Road has been planned to become a four lane thoroughfare since the adoption of Cary’s Thoroughfare Plan back in 1967. And while the town’s thoroughfare plan has been updated over the years, Maynard has always been dentified as a four lane thoroughfare or greater. In 1999 voters overwhelmingly approved a bond referendum which listed widening Maynard Road as a potential project.

Since taking office I have met with a number of Maynard Road residents – including Mr. Bowden – and have worked to help address their issues and concerns. Some were relatively minor problems – others a bit more complicated. A couple of times it was simply a matter of putting the resident in contact with the appropriate staff member or department.

After being contacted by Mr. Bowden I gladly met with him at his home to hear his concerns and to see things for myself. While there were obvious signs of water damage to Mr. Bowden’s home (rotted siding, mold, etc…) a number of things just didn’t add up with Mr. Bowden’s claims that the widening of Maynard Road was responsible for his water problems. The rotted siding in the carport area for example had clearly been rotting for years. I asked Mr. Bowden if he had any photographs of his home taken before the road widening project began. He did, and low and behold one photograph clearly showed rotting siding in the carport area.

When the town performed a survey of Mr. Bowden’s home in 2008, it was determined that a clogged gutter downspout was most likely responsible for water entering his crawlspace. Mr. Bowden claimed this was not the case as he “had never had a problem with his gutters”. However, seeing first hand the trees – yes trees – growing from Mr. Bowden’s gutters I respectfully disagreed and asked when the last time he had them cleaned was. Come to think of it, I don’t remember ever getting an answer to that question. Anyways, it does appear however that sometime between my visit to his home and the media’s he has since had his gutters cleaned…or at least removed the trees. Maybe the ‘sign painter’ removed them, I don’t know.

There were other obvious signs of neglect such as mildew/mold growing all over the siding (you can clearly see it here), the back yard was littered with limbs and tree debris and the grass hadn’t been cut in ages. Siding all around the home was rotting (gotta love masonite) and in desperate need of paint. It was clear that regular home maintenance was not high up on Mr. Bowden’s ‘to do list’.

The town also states they have observed Mr. Bowden’s property during heavy rainfalls and have witnessed only normal water levels in the yard – no standing or deep water.

I promised Mr. Bowden I would do what I could to help. I met with our town manager and engineers to discuss the situation and possible solutions. Staff determined that constructing a trench drain would help divert water away from his home, and that the town was willing to cover the costs. NOTE: Town engineers do not believe this to be necessary as the engineering study shows the water situation to be better now than pre-road widening. However I was very glad to learn that the town, in an effort to satisfy Mr. Bowden's concerns, was willing to implement a fix, and I “assumed” (ya, I know) Mr. Bowden would be pleased as well. I never heard back from him…until now.

Mr. Bowden has refused to allow Town of Cary employees on his property to construct the drain, and instead is demanding that the town buy his house for $170,000 and pay him $80,000 for his “troubles”.

A few more FACTS to consider:

Mr. Bowden admits knowing that his home had water issues when he purchased it. The previous owner had installed a sump pump in the crawl space.

Mr. Bowden stated that shortly after purchasing his home he excavated the foundation to further waterproof.

Simply put – this house has had water issues from day one.

Looking back at my meeting with Mr. Bowden what I find most interesting now was a more casual disussion we had in which he spoke about his online ‘friend’ and his quest to buy a Dodge Viper. I remember thinking to myself, “Really? What does a 60+ year old retiree need a Dodge Viper for? I get the friend part. ;-)

But now I get it. It all makes sense. Mr. Bowden isn't looking for help. He's looking to leave - quick. What he wants is a new life and he is trying to strong arm the town into buying it for him. He’s unhappy living in his current home. He’s tired of dealing with ongoing water problems and feels he cannot sell his home for what it is, or was once worth. (NOTE: home was purchased in 1986 for $88,000 – Tax value currently $177,000) He hates living on a four lane thoroughfare. He even went so far as to tell the media he wants to use the money buy a motor home to travel the country. And yes, he was serious about the Dodge Viper because a beautiful new Plymouth Prowler ($35,000+ sports car) has recently appeared in his driveway. This man doesn’t want a new house, he wants a new life. He hasn’t invested in or maintained his home for years because he hasn't cared about it for years. He just wants out, and in all honesty I can’t say that I blame him. But it is not the town’s responsibility to send him on a permanent vacation.

As I said earlier I have spoken to and worked with many along Maynard Road and heard loud and clear their disdain of having to live through the construction, and in some cases having to live there now. Quite frankly I’ve never heard of any road widening/construction project that was ‘pleasant’. While they typically benefit the masses, they often punish the few….a lot. I do believe however that the town has tried very hard to address concerns and issues that have arisen, while at the same time working under state and federal regulations.

The town is, and has been very willing to help address Mr. Bowden’s water problems. Heck, some general repairs here and there, paint and a little landscaping it could be a real nice home again…if he wanted it. The 35 grand spent on the Prowler might even cover the costs. But I guess it all depends on what your priorities are.

While I do not approve of what Mr. Bowden has painted on the side of his home, I do support his right to free speech. There are however more appropriate ways in which to get your point across.

If nothing else good comes out of all this, I at least hope this serves as a lesson to other potential homebuyers. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Take the time to review transportation and land use plans. Speak with a planner or engineer in the city you are buying in. Ask questions – lots of them. What you see today may not be what is planned for tomorrow.