Sunday, July 26, 2009

Week in Review 7/20/09 - 7/25/09

What a week – a council meeting that lasted until 12:45 am, a worksession, numerous meetings with town staff and residents, and political campaigns….not necessarily in that order.

Monday morning I met with representatives of Infinite Solar Power, our town Manager Ben Shivar and his assistant Lana Hygh. The purpose of me calling this meeting was to introduce Infinite Solar Power to the town in the hopes that we may be able to work together and possibly utilize solar power to help power some of Cary’s buildings and facilities – while saving Cary taxpayers thousands of dollars in the process. It is estimated that one solar installation at a town wastewater facility for example might amount to $50,000.00 in savings without any capital outlay. As with anything, the devil is in the details - I'll keep you posted as this moves along through the process.

Monday evening I attended the Wake GOP Executive Committee meeting to hear from all Republican candidates running for office in Wake County. After hearing from the candidates, the committee then went in to closed session to debate and determine party endorsements. Some were slam dunks – others took a great deal of time and debate to determine who would receive the party’s endorsement. While not every candidate seeking the party’s endorsement received it, everyone one of them is to be commended for their desire to serve, and all are winners in my book.

One candidate that stood out to me was WCPSS District 9 Candidate Debra Goldman. I also had the pleasure of meeting with her for lunch the next day. Hearing first hand her vision of education in Wake County and her passion for increased parental involvement and neighborhood schools was very encouraging. I am proud to support Debra Goldman for WCPSS Board District 9.

Council held a worksession Tuesday evening to receive an update from consultants and staff, and for council to provide feedback regarding Cary’s creation of a Historic Preservation Master Plan. The main goals of the Historic Preservation Master Plan are to preserve, protect and maintain Cary’s historic resources, viewsheds and landscapes; and to discourage demolition of significant structures and promote policies and actions that reinforce downtown’s significance as Cary’s historic core. I was very pleased with the work that has been completed thus far, and am optimistic that when all is said and done we will have a plan in place that protects Cary’s historic resources, while at the same time providing for reinvestment in Cary’s historic districts.

Wednesday morning I met with Cary citizens for a general discussion on a number of regional and local issues which included but was not limited to annexation, incentives, environmental protection and politics. It is our hope to meet on a regular basis and potentially serve in an advisory capacity to local and state government. I’m just hoping we find a better time to meet than 7 too darn early am. ;-) Afterwards I spent the better part of the day in preparation for this week’s council meeting.

Thursday evening was our council meeting. Notable discussion items included a stealth cell tower installation at Greenwood Forest Baptist Church, an economic development incentives contract, round 12 of land development ordinance amendments, a comprehensive plan amendment to a proposed development near Carpenter’s historic district, land development ordinance amendments pertaining to front yard vehicle parking, a potential new low density residential (LDR) zoning district in our downtown area, council’s decision to direct staff to perform a comprehensive review of the town’s sign ordinance, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Council held a quasi-judicial public hearing pertaining to the proposed installation of a stealth cell tower in Greenwood Forest’s bell tower. While council members – myself included – expressed concerns over the potential negative health effects associated with a cell tower (potential radiation exposure), there is no proof that a cell tower poses any health risks to the adjoining community and/or church membership. The proposed cell tower would emit less than 1% of the maximum radiation allowed by the FCC. In a quasi-judicial public hearing the council acts as judge and jury and MUST base our decision on fact – not fear. Given the facts presented to council we unanimously voted to approve the installation.

Council voted 6-1 to approve an economic development incentives contract with Loparex LLC. in the amount of $25,000.00. Yes, I was the lone no vote. I find it very hard to believe that a company such as Loparex bases their decision on which city to set up shop over 25 grand. I voted against the incentive as I believe our quality of life, low taxes, and high demographics are incentive enough, AND I am sick to death that every time we turn around another business wants a government handout at taxpayer’s expense. I aint playing this game.

Land development ordinances pertaining to Cary’s new mixed use development approval process were tabled until our next meeting to give staff time to make a few minor adjustments. The new process for mixed use development approvals has been a long time in the making – we want to make sure we get them right.

A proposed comprehensive plan amendment pertaining to a development proposal adjacent to Carpenter’s historic district was also tabled over concerns that the proposed changes to the buffer language in the plan’s note would potentially reduce the buffer’s effectiveness and provide less protection to the historic district. Considering the devastation that has occurred to Cameron Pond’s buffer the council has grave concerns about changing any buffer restrictions at this time. I can also promise you we will be looking to increase the effectiveness of our buffer restrictions in the very near future.

Council also directed staff to begin a comprehensive review of the town’s sign ordinance. While Cary has weathered the recession better than most communities, many businesses and residents are feeling its effect nonetheless. Businesses are having a harder time making ends meet and homes are taking longer to sell. It is our hope that we may find areas where we can be a bit more flexible in our ordinance while at the same time continuing to protect Cary’s visual landscape. Times change and it’s been ten years since our sign ordinance was last reviewed. This process will take time and I will do my best to keep everyone abreast of our progress. I was also interviewed by WRAL and NBC17 regarding this topic.

Town Manager Ben Shivar also announced this week his selection of Mike Bajorek as the Town of Cary's new Assistant Town Manager. Mike replaces Ben Shivar as assistant who was selected by council to serve as Town Manager; replacing retiring Manager Bill Coleman. Congratulations Mike and Good Luck!

That’s all for this week in review. As always, thanks for reading and thank you very much for allowing me the opportunity to serve you.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Please Support Jack Smith and Jennifer Robinson for Cary Council

Instead of my usual week in review I will be taking this opportunity to speak about the upcoming Cary Town Council elections….since that’s what everyone is asking me about lately. My phone hasn’t stopped ringing….until I turned it off. ;-)

I proudly support Cary Town Council members Jack Smith and Jennifer Robinson for reelection to the Cary Town Council.

Why you ask? That’s easy.

Jack has served as the district C representative on the council for 20 years. During that time Cary NEVER raised taxes – not once. In fact, thanks to Jack and Jennifer’s leadership Cary actually lowered taxes in 2000. Cary’s tax rate of 33 cents per $100 of valuation is the LOWEST tax rate of any municipality in Wake County and one of the lowest in North Carolina. Cary continues to have a AAA bond rating. Cary has been nationally recognized for its fiscal health – and is in the top 2% - of all cities in the US. Cary’s cash reserves exceed even that of Charlotte’s and far exceed the minimum required by the State.

Jack led Cary’s efforts to create an Economic Development Commission, including a strategy to have a dedicated professional focus entirely on bringing businesses to Cary. During the current economic slowdown Cary has recruited 24 companies to move here or expand (including 5 headquarters), resulting in 1600 new professional jobs at salaries averaging greater than $75K.

Jennifer Robinson has served on the council for nearly ten years. During her time on council Jennifer has always been an advocate for careful planning, economic development, environmental protection and fiscal conservancy.

Understanding the importance of sustainable development, Jennifer Robinson was the driving force behind Cary’s lower density Southwest Area Plan which counterbalances higher density development near employment areas and protects our environment. Jennifer also led Cary’s first land banking effort to purchase land ahead of time for future parks, community centers, libraries, fire stations, and schools. Banking and preserving this land now for future use saves Cary taxpayers millions of dollars in escalated land costs. Jennifer has also been a strong advocate for Cary’s downtown and older neighborhoods inside the Maynard loop.

Cary has achieved the very best Fire, Police & Parks/Recreation Personnel. All are nationally accredited and have been recognized as ‘best of the best’ – no other municipality in the State has achieved this recognition. Cary continually is nationally recognized as one of the most livable cities in the U.S & annually is recognized as safest community in the Southeast. This didn’t happen by accident folks.

And last but surely not least, I have had the pleasure of serving with council members Jennifer Robinson and Jack Smith for two years now. I have known them both personally for seven years. I have witnessed firsthand their impressive work ethic, commitment to excellence, and passion of making Cary an even better place than it is today. While we may not always agree on every item that comes before council, I trust that both Jack and Jennifer are making the decision that they believe is best for Cary – NOT what is best for their next reelection bid. They have given me no reason to believe otherwise.

You will hear a lot of cries for the need for “change” this year. You will surely read letters to the paper claiming the sky is falling and that Cary is doomed unless we elect new district A and C representatives. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Look around you and judge for yourself – are things really that bad in Cary right now? There is a reason Cary is continually ranked one of the best small cities in the country to live work and play - leadership. Can we do better? Absolutely. I am confident that Jack and Jennifer will continue to work hard to make Cary an even better place than it is today.

I think most everyone reading this blog knows who I am and what I stand for. I have no problem speaking my mind or holding elected officials who aren’t doing their job accountable - regardless of party affiliation (that can be a full time job sometimes). Good, honest elected officials seem harder and harder to come by these days. So when I see one – or two – who I believe have earned another 4 years, I am going to do everything I can to help and support them.

Please join me in supporting Jack Smith and Jennifer Robinson for reelection to the Cary Town Council.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Frantz News

Hello Cary! Sorry I have missed a couple of weeks posting – what with kids home from college, vacations and the July 4th holiday it’s been a bit busy lately and all my “non-council time” I have tried to spend with the family …and Mrs. Frantz finds the laptop in bed to be a turnoff. ;-) Hope everyone had a great 4th of July!


The last couple of weeks have been pretty busy to say the least, but all of us (me) here at Don Frantz’ Cary Town Council Journal are going to do our very best to bring YOU up to speed on the latest news and council decisions across our great town. What do have for us, Don?


Well, Don, clearly the big story as of late was the news that the council adopted the town’s FY2010 Budget at their last meeting. Some highlights from the adopted budget includes no tax increase from Cary’s 33 cent tax rate – the LOWEST of any municipality in Wake County, a 26% reduction in spending from the previous year’s budget, and a 62% reduction in the town’s capital improvement budget. The conservative budget adopted by council maintains Cary programs and will continue to provide the high level of services Cary citizens expect.


Wow, Don. It’s good to see Cary budget so conservatively. I hate to ask, but why such drastic cuts over the previous year?


Easy, Don. There isn’t any money. While the ailing economy is largely responsible, reduced revenue projections, and previous capital expenditures are also putting the squeeze on at town hall. Unlike our federal government, however, the council made the wise decision to not go further into debt financing non-essential capital projects, and instead did what most every family and business across the country has had to do – tighten our belts and live within our means.


That’s amazing, Don. But surely it can’t be all sunshine and rainbows, what’s the bad news?


Well, Don, the bad news is that Cary citizens will see a 8% increase in their water and sewer bills due to the costs associated with the new Western Wake Water Reclamation Facility.


And while small potatoes in the grand scheme of things, a big disappointment for us here at Don Frantz’ Cary Town Council Journal was that Cary EMS’ request for $5000.00 in financial assistance (a grant) was denied.


$5,000.00….You mean $50,000 right?


Nope - $5,000.00.


Well surely this was a requested increase over the previous year’s budget correct?


Nope, the Town of Cary doesn’t fund Cary EMS, Don. Cary EMS is funded by Wake County and private donations.


And the town couldn’t find $5,000.00 to help fund a vital public safety service when they financially assist so many other non-profit organizations?


Nope.


That’s amazing, Don.


Yes it is. While Don Frantz and Mayor Harold Weinbrecht supported Cary EMS’ request, the motion to include this expenditure in the FY2010 budget failed 5-2.


So sorry to hear that – but all in all a good budget wouldn’t ya say?


Absolutely, Don. We caught up with Cary Councilman Don Frantz after the council meeting and he had this to say. “While no budget is ever perfect, I am very pleased by the efforts of our town staff and budget department to bring council a conservative budget that focuses on maintaining the level of service and quality of life that Cary citizens expect and deserve while keeping taxes low.”


That sounds like a lot of political gobledegook to me, Don.


Yes it does, Don, but knowing Don like we know Don I am sure he means it. What else do you have for us, Don.


Well, Don, as you know about 3 weeks ago a tragedy occurred in Cary when 16 year old Kailee Birdsong lost her life in a hit and run vehicle collision at Green Level to Durham Road and Cary Glen Blvd. Police are still investigating and the search continues for the driver of what is believed to be a beige van or SUV. Anyone with information about the accident or the driver of the suspect vehicle should call the Cary Police Department at (919) 469-4012.


This surely was a sad day for Cary, Don. What is the town doing to make this intersection safer for motorists and pedestrians?


Well, Don, the town has been working diligently with NCDOT to study the intersection and come up with the best long term solution possible. We recently learned this intersection now meets DOT criteria for a traffic signal and that the town will install signalization within about 60 days. In the meantime through the use of traffic cones the town has limited lane widths to prevent multiple vehicles from lining up side by side creating site distance problems, and Cary has placed an electronic sentry device on GL2D Road to encourage drivers to obey the posted speed limit.


This is good news. But did I hear you correctly? The town will install the signal? I thought this was a state road?


It is a state road, Don, but the state is more broke than Cary. You want the traffic signal correct?


Of course, but…


Alright then.


As a parent of six children I cannot begin to imagine the pain and sorrow the Birdsong family must be going through right now. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Birdsong family and friends of Kailee. It is my sincere hope that the driver of the beige van/suv in question comes forward so that Cary PD can complete their investigation and the Birdsong family may find closure.


Cary also received more bad news this past week as we learned that Cary Mayor Harold Weinbecht’s mother past away. Please keep the Mayor and his family in your thoughts and prayers.


On to more local news – on Monday, June 29 the main baseball field at USA Baseball’s National Training Center here in Cary officially became Coleman Field – named after retired Cary Town Manager Bill Coleman.


Wow, Don – the home field of the US Olympic team named after one of Cary’s own – how cool is that?


Pretty cool, Don.


Pretty cool indeed. What did Bill Coleman think of it? He had to be stoked?


Pretty stoked, Don.


The highlight of the evening was when the council, members of the Cary Chamber of Commerce, and Bill Coleman all took the field for the ceremonial first pitch.


How was the pitch anyways? Did he get it over the plate?


Sure did – in fact it was probably the best first pitch this sports reporter has ever seen…except for maybe Don Frantz’ first pitch at last year’s USA Baseball vs. Chinese Taipai game. Now THAT had some heat on it, but Bill’s did have good movement.


Speaking of baseball, Don Frantz' Cary Town Council Journal has just learned from an anonymous source that Don Frantz and Mayor Harold Weinbreht were seen taping the July edition of Cary Matters together on June 24.


Well, yes. They did tape the July episode of Cary Matters together. What does that have to do with baseball?


Not a thing, but I needed a segway into the Cary Matters segment of the report. If citizens would like to learn more about what’s going on in or around Cary please check out Cary Matters on Cary TV Channel 11 this month. Don Frantz will be the good looking guy on the left. ;-)


In other news Don Frantz was seen meeting with Cary residents regarding their concerns over the proposed Dorothy Drive Park stream restoration/park enhancement project. We understand that he has presented their concerns to the appropriate town staff members who are in the process of addressing them. We’ll keep an eye on this one and keep our readers posted.


For an email traffic report, we now go live to traffic reporter Don Frantz. What do you have for us Don?


Well, Don, there was quite a bit of email traffic regarding a proposed rezoning of low density residential (LDR) neighborhoods in the town center area (downtown). What began as an attempt to help preserve and protect the character and charm of the Russell Hills neighborhood downtown has turned into a bit of a traffic jam. While support for a change in Russell Hill’s zoning appears to be moving right along, changes to the remaining LDR neighborhoods have encountered a detour as council members, after hearing from concerned residents over the proposed changes, appear to be shying away from such a broad brush approach. The character of Russell Hills is different from that of say, Hunter Street – They have different needs that probably aren’t served well by this change.


We also saw a lot of email traffic – rightfully so btw – pertaining to resident’s concerns over GL2D Road and Cary Glen Blvd, as well as the installation of a modular home whose appearance closely resembles that of a double-wide trailer in the Hillsdale Forest neighborhood. Back to you, Don.


Thanks, Don. On to politics. We now turn to Don Frantz’ Cary Town Council Journal Political analyst Don Frantz. Don, what do you have for us?


Well, Don. Campaign season 2009 is quickly approaching and DFCTCJ has learned that Cary Council Members Jennifer Robinson, Jack Smith, and Julie Robison, have all filed to run for reelection. The big story this fall however will be the school board races in what is sure to become a referendum on diversity vs neighborhood schools. Don’t buy the non-partisan election mumbo-jumbo here folks – this year’s school board elections will be very partisan I promise you. And while both sides will get dirty playing in the mud, in the end the candidate or party that does the best job at selling their message to the unaffiliated voter will decide this year’s winners. Back to you, Don.


Well that’s it for this edition of Don Frantz’ Cary Town Council Journal. Tune in next week as we’ll have an in depth report on the day in the life of a Cary Council Member, and we’ll investigate the allegations that Cary Council Member Don Frantz loves monsters.


Thanks for Reading!