Monday, December 20, 2010

Week in Review 12/11/10 - 12/18/10

Last Saturday I had the honor of participating in the Cary Jaycees Annual Christmas Parade in Downtown Cary. Unfortunately Mother Nature didn’t cooperate and it rained all day, but a great crowd still braved the cold to come out and watch. This was a lot of fun and congratulations to the Cary Jaycees, volunteers, sponsors and businesses for another job well done!

Tuesday evening the council held a worksession to discuss two items; Tax Increment Financing and Land Dedication requirements.

Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a public financing method typically used as a subsidy for redevelopment and community improvement projects and relies on projected increases in tax revenue from new development to fund current projects. When public amenities such as an arts center, a town park or other public amenity are developed, there is often an increase in surrounding property values and increased private investment. Increased values lead to increased tax revenue. The “incremental” increase in revenue is committed to finance the debt of the public amenity, which – in theory – incented the new development and associated revenue increase.

Yes it’s complicated – and risky. We’ve all heard the phrase, “if you build it, they will come”. Well, sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. Sometimes things work out as planned and a $30 million public investment nets $400 million in new development. And then sometimes projections are wrong or the private sector doesn’t respond as anticipated – or the economy goes south or financing falls through or… well, you get the idea.

Obtaining the necessary approvals from the state, the Local Government Commission and Wake County is time consuming and costly, and TIF interest rates are higher than that which we can obtain through traditional debt financing thanks to Cary’s excellent credit ratings and fiscal health.

The bottom line is that while TIF might work in some instances for some communities, it doesn’t work for Cary.

Council also reviewed new legislative authority granted to Cary that would require land dedication as a component of multi-family housing development. Our current ordinance and practice has only applied to single family housing. The council saw this as an equity issue – one type of residential development is paying for their “impact” while the other is not. The council directed staff to begin drafting an ordinance requiring land dedication of all residential development.

Our Council meeting on Thursday lasted six hours – four of which was spent on a special use public hearing for a cell tower at the intersection of Cary Parkway and Old Apex Road. This was a quasi-judicial hearing so the council acts as judge and jury and can only receive factual information. Both sides – for and against – are allowed to make their arguments, rebut and cross-examine witnesses. There are no time limits on presentations or length of comment like regular public hearings.

After all was said and done a motion to deny the tower passed 5-2. I voted against the motion as I could not support one of the motion’s findings of fact. I could have voted to deny the tower based on their request for set-back reductions. We have set-back and buffer requirements in this town for a reason, and this proposal was asking for a significant waiver of that requirement.

I have a whole new respect for Judges after this hearing.

Other notable items on our council agenda included the adoption of our new ethics ordinance, Land Development Ordinance amendments, a Comprehensive Transportation Plan amendment, and whether or not to opt out of the 2009 Permit Extension Act.

The North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation requiring municipal governments adopt a code of ethics. Cary already had a code of ethics, but it did not meet the criteria set forth in the NCGA’s legislation. While I agree that governing bodies should have a code of ethics, I find it just a wee bit odd that the elected body in North Carolina whose had more members in prison than we have on the council is legislating ethics…but I digress…

After revisiting the decision of whether or not to opt out of the 2009 Permit Extension Act, the council supported a modified plan that would honor the approval of development plans except site and subdivision plan approvals, and that buildings must meet current building code.

Lisa, Elizabeth and I left for Florida early Friday morning to attend our son, Jordan’s graduation from the University of Central Florida. We heard ya’ll got some snow? It was 70 in Florida…but it rained. CONGRATULATIONS JORDAN!!! We are so proud!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Cary Matters

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! Ours was great – family, food and football! (not necessarily in that order) But can you believe Boise State lost to Nevada? - and I thought we were in for a BCS shake-up until Auburn came back from 24 down to beat Alabama.

My council responsibilities were light this past week due to the holiday. The highlight of my week was taping the December Cary Matters television show with Mayor Weinbrecht. Maybe I shouldn’t say highlight – I haven’t seen the show yet. It’s supposed to be HERE, but it hasn’t been posted at the time of this blogging. Maybe that says something? ;-)

A lot of you have inquired about the show at one time or another, so I figured this post would be a good opportunity to give you a behind the scenes look at the cinematic masterpiece we like to call, Cary Matters.

Cary Matters was created over two years ago in an effort to keep you, our citizens better informed and involved in the issues that we, the members of your town council, are working on as your elected representatives.

The show’s content focuses on initiatives and activities supported by the council as a whole. The program cannot be used to advocate for a particular individual, minority opinion, idea or position.

The key phrase there is “supported by the council as a whole”. Majority rules. What does or doesn’t get done in our town happens by a vote of council. Not every decision is unanimous, but once a decision is made, the decision is made.

Those decisions often become discussion topics for Cary Matters.

Council members rotate as “guest hosts” with the Mayor on Cary Matters. The show is scripted and is written by the Mayor with input from council and our public information office. Prior to taping the script is sent to participants for review and comment.

Most of the time there are no issues regarding program content – it’s usually the, “I would rather say it this way” kinda stuff. However, once in a while a guest host finds themselves scripted to speak positively about an initiative they did not support. Majority rules remember?

So what do you do if you are that council member? Well, you first lobby for changes to the script and or discussion topic, and if that fails you change the names on the script so the Mayor says that part. ;-)

The show costs about $5000 a year to produce and utilizes existing town resources and outside contractors. It requires four people (excluding hosts) to tape and produce the show. Taping time can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and a half and yes, we use a teleprompter.

Some totally useless Cary Matters trivia for you: I am the only council member besides the Mayor or Mayor Pro Tem to host Cary Matters. Why? I wrote the script.

There is no make-up or wardrobe department and the beverage in the coffee mugs is water. I promise. ;-)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Week in Review 11/15/10 - 11/20/10

Council held a worksession on Tuesday to discuss two items; potential changes to the town’s sign ordinance as recommended by the town’s Sign Ordinance Review Task Force, and transit oriented development. The transit oriented development portion was a joint session with our town’s Planning and Zoning Board.

The council accepted a number of recommended amendments to the town’s sign ordinance, rejected others and asked for more information and discussion on few others. The council will meet again on this topic once more before we present the final version for public hearing.

The transit oriented development worksession was more presentation than discussion. As a result the council agreed to hold another session on this topic so that we may discuss in greater detail. The council has been holding these worksessions to better understand how the proposed light rail, regional rail, and high speed rail projects will impact and shape how our town grows.

I haven’t been shy with my concerns about the rail projects. The high speed rail project is a $5 billion boondoggle that has the potential to devastate our existing highway and road network should a number of at-grade crossings be closed. Yet at the same time I believe that planning for a light rail/regional rail system in our region makes sense, I just don’t believe it is needed now, or anytime soon for that matter. We simply don’t have the population densities to support it.

That’s the real question that needs to be answered, and the discussion that we as a council haven’t had. Do we want that density? Do we want to see Cary grow from a predominantly suburban community to something more urban? Do we want to encourage higher densities along and around the rail corridor? How much of a factor do we want rail to play in our future land use decisions?

Whether or not rail comes to Cary is really out of our hands. This is a regional project. We do however have a voice in how much of a stakeholder we want to be. The majority of council has indicated its support for regional and light rail, and has asked TTA for four rail stations between Cary and Morrisville.

Rail will encourage a significant amount of dense development. Consultants and industry professionals agree that in order for rail to be successful (as successful as it can be I guess) it needs density to generate ridership. They have also made it clear that if we as elected officials support rail, we must also support land use decisions and zoning that encourages dense development along the rail corridor.

This is where I see conflict. The biggest supporters of rail on the council are often the same who consistently vote against the type of projects which would support rail. The argument most often used to vote against them? Density.

This conflict needs resolution before we can adequately and honestly plan for the future of our town. It is disingenuous to send the message that we support rail when the majority of council’s actions – up to this point – says otherwise.

My thoughts: While density has its place in Cary, I don’t believe that place is along every inch of railroad track from Raleigh to Morrisville. Cary didn’t become one of the greatest places to live in America by trying to be something it isn’t. We are a safe, family oriented suburban community. Heck, we’re even Martha Stewart approved, and that’s a good thing. ;-)

Yet should the rail projects materialize, we must work to ensure that they are a benefit to our community, not a burden. This will not be easy, but I believe it can be done in a manner which protects and preserves the character and charm of our community, and in the spirit of that which makes Cary such a great place to live, work and retire.

What I really struggle to understand however, is that the proponents of rail claim it will alleviate traffic congestion by removing up to 5% of vehicles off the road. Yet in order for rail to succeed we must increase population? That makes absolutely no sense to me. Increasing our population will in turn increase the number of vehicles on the road as the majority of all those new residents will have a car; not to mention the increased impact on our area schools, water supply, environment and overall quality of life. What good is removing 5% of the cars when you’re adding 20%? You would think that if we were going to invest billions in a transportation initiative, we might look for one that will actually reduce traffic. But I digress…

Thursday evening was our council meeting. Notable items included:

A reception honoring Cary’s Hometown Spirit Award nominees and announcement of this year’s winner who is, drum roll please……Kay Struffolino! Kay is an amazing woman who gives so much of herself to help make Cary one of the greatest places to live. Kay currently serves on our town’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Advisory Board and volunteers countless hours of her time at Cary’s Senior Center, Koka Booth Amphitheater and town events and festivals. Thank you and congratulations to all the nominees. Cary is a better place because of you.

Also on our agenda was consideration of whether or not to move forward with Cary’s Comprehensive Annexation Program. Ten areas previously identified were recommended for Town initiated annexation by our staff. After a lengthy discussion I made the motion not to proceed with annexation. My motion passed 4-3.

The council also discussed whether or not to opt out of the 2009 Permit Extension Act. This legislation, passed by the NC General Assembly, extends the period of validity for previously approved development projects. The act was amended this past year to add an additional year to the previous extension period, but local governments have the option to “opt out” of the additional extension. The council voted 4-3 to not opt out. However, after our closed session meeting, council members Adcock and Robinson made a motion to reconsider. That motion passed 4-3. A follow-up motion was then made to consider another alternative at our December meeting. This alternative would support the extension for previously approved development plans and site plans, but that buildings would have to be constructed to today’s standards. We will consider that request in December.

I opposed the request to reconsider for two reasons; first, these are trying economic times and this legislation provides a little more economic opportunity to projects that were already approved at Cary’s high standards, and secondly, for the council to reconsider something we already publicly debated and voted on – after coming out of a closed session on a different topic – is bad governance and lacks transparency. The Mayor had already announced prior to going into closed session that there was no further business, and that at the conclusion of our closed session we would adjourn the meeting. That did not happen. How then could anyone watching not come to the conclusion that the permit extension act was discussed behind closed doors?

Friday evening I had the honor and privilege of speaking at the Graduation Ceremonies for 16 of Cary’s newest Firefighters. Being a firefighter is not just a job, it’s a calling. A job is something that folks do from 9-5 to earn a living. A calling is a career with purpose – it goes beyond a monetary pursuit. It takes a very special person to respond to a calling. Over 850 people applied for these 16 positions, and after meeting and speaking with the new cadets and learning more about their backgrounds I am confident that we hired the best of the best. Thank you for answering the call.

That’s all for now - as always, thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Who's Got Spirit?

Cary Announces Hometown Spirit Finalists Winner to be Announced During November Council Meeting

CARY, NC – After reviewing numerous nominations, the Town of Cary is proud to announce the finalists for this year’s Hometown Spirit Award. The Hometown Spirit Award is bestowed annually on one Cary resident who enhances the quality of life in Cary by preserving, promoting and carrying out positive and quantifiable traditional small-town community values and traits. The 2010 Hometown Spirit Award finalists are: Michael Carlton, George Dohanich, Jason Harloff, Rosalind Heiko, Ruth Merkle, Gay Purvis, Cynthia Sinkez and Kay Struffolino.

“All eight nominees actively demonstrate the core principles of the award program. They are all dedicated to enhancing Cary’s quality of life and preserving the small town atmosphere that makes our community such a great place,” said Cary Town Clerk Sue Rowland.

The Cary Town Council will host a reception in honor of all of the finalists on November 18 at 5:30 p.m. Immediately after, the 2009 award recipient, Alisa Wright Colopy, will join Mayor Harold Weinbrecht in announcing this year’s winner during the regular Town Council Meeting at 6:30 p.m.

To learn more about each finalist, visit Hometown Spirit Award at or call (919) 460-4941.

Congratulations to all the nominees! Cary is a better place thanks to you.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Council Meeting - 10/14/10

I apologize for going so long between posts, but my campaign for NC House has required so much of my “free time” as of late – and given my work, family and council responsibilities, I didn’t have much free time to begin with! ;-)

My council responsibilities this week consisted mainly of reviewing staff reports in preparation for Thursday evening’s council meeting.

Highlights from our meeting included a discussion on staff recommended sidewalk construction projects and changes to the sound level limit at Koka Booth Amphitheater.

Bottom line regarding sidewalk construction projects; there are more desired projects than money. Staff did a good job in ranking these projects based on need and cost resulting in 8 projects able to move forward within budget. You can see a list of the approved projects here.

Regarding the sound levels at Koka Booth; council voted to increase the sound level limit from 92 decibels to 95. We did this for two reasons.

1) SMG (our management company) has had a difficult time recruiting some big name bands to play at Koka Booth given current noise restrictions. (a couple of bands who did play even complained while on stage that the levels were too low)

2) In surveying concert patrons, the overwhelming complaint has been the low sound level.

Hopefully this change will not only provide a better concert experience for our patrons, but also improve our chances of booking big-name artists; resulting in increased concert ticket sales and revenue to Cary. Koka Booth Amphitheater, while doing much better than years past, continues to be subsidized through tax revenue. I would love to see this facility not just break even, but turn a profit.

Regardless, you would be hard pressed to find a more beautiful and fan-friendly concert venue in North Carolina. Many thanks to our staff and the hundreds of volunteers who work so hard to make Koka Booth such a huge success.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Saving Money

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 16, 2010

Bond Refinancing Saves Town of Cary Over $700K

CARY, NC – Thanks to current market conditions and a competitive bid process, the Town of Cary has successfully refinanced a portion of the 2003 voter-approved Public Improvement general obligation bonds, saving the Town and its taxpayers $728,000 in debt service, $217,000 of which will be realized in the current fiscal year. The action has a present value savings of almost $645,000 or 4.3 percent.

This transaction is the second bond refinancing opportunity the Town has taken advantage of this year. In June, Cary refinanced a portion of the 1999 voter-approved Cary Community general obligation bonds as well as a portion of the 2002 Certificates of Participation valued at $25.4 million, saving Cary taxpayers $1.5 million, with $795,000 of that also being realized this fiscal year. To take advantage of a refinancing opportunity, staff constantly monitors the market to ensure debt savings of at least three per cent.

“The Cary Town Council is always challenging staff to remain financially smart, and we are constantly monitoring the market for opportunities to save our taxpayers money,” said Karen Mills, Town of Cary Finance Director. “In this situation, bids were competitive, resulting in a great rate and emphasizing the importance of the Town’s AAA bond rating and sound financial practices.” Mills added that while only five to seven bids were expected, 12 bids were received and Citigroup presented the best refinancing option.

In May, Moody’s Financial Service, one of the three major bond rating agencies in the U.S., upgraded the Town of Cary revenue bonds to a Triple A rating, the highest possible. As a result, Cary now boasts the AAA rating from all three agencies—Moody’s, Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s—on all revenue bonds. Cary has been rated Triple A by all three rating agencies for its general obligation bonds since 2001. In North Carolina, Cary and Charlotte are the only municipalities to share the prestigious ranking of Tripe A for both general obligation and revenue bonds. Cary’s AAA ratings help its taxpayers save hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest over the years.

To learn more, visit Municipal Bond Sales and the Finance Department at or call (919) 469-4380.

PRIMARY CONTACTS: Karen Mills, Finance Director, (919) 469-4110 Carrie Roman, Public Information Specialist, (919) 481-5091 Susan Moran, Public Information Director, (919) 460-4951

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Week(s) in Review: 8/22/10 - 9/3/10

To say the last couple of weeks have been busy would be an understatement! But I’m not complaining - it sure beats the heck out of the alternative.

Council held a worksession last Thursday prior to our council meeting to discuss recommended board and commission appointments. All appointments were unanimously approved, however I did express dissatisfaction regarding appointments to the Environmental Advisory Board – NOT because of the appointments themselves, but because the council wasn’t given time to review them as the liaison submitted them less than 24 hours before the worksession. Every other council member had their recommended slates in a week prior, giving council members ample time to review and voice any concerns they may or may not have. Believe it or not, the same thing happened last year also.

The main discussion item at our council meeting last week was the consideration of a plan that would resume issuing building permits in the Peninsula at Amberly development. The town had placed a hold on the issuance of building permits as the developer has not completed the required infrastructure improvements, and fails to respond to the town’s requests to do so.

Realizing that developers can and sometimes do go out of business, the town requires that they (developers) submit financial guarantees to the town to ensure these improvements are completed. This developer did submit a financial guarantee in the form of a letter of credit from a bank. So no problem right?

Wrong. The town was notified through FDIC that this bank has been placed in receivership and closed.

A number of builders – local custom home builders I might add – and private citizens purchased lots from the developer and have been trying to get building permits for months. But the town’s land development ordinance will not allow issuance of building permits without financial guarantee for the required infrastructure improvements.

The town has worked to create a temporary ordinance amendment to address this unprecedented issue. This temporary ordinance amendment would charge lot owners a per lot fee to cover their cost of the infrastructure improvements. It would also allow them to pay half of the fee when the building permit is issued, and the remaining half before issuance of certificate of occupancy to help with cash-flow concerns.

While all of council supported this proposal, the majority of our discussion centered on at what amount to set the fee level. The council ultimately decided by a vote of 6-1 to set the fee amounts based on the original letters of credit since this is the amount the town would have received from the bank had they not gone under. The town will also continue to aggressively pursue collection from the developer to include legal action.

I feel sorry for the builders and lot owners who have been put in the position of having to bear someone else’s financial responsibility. They already paid their “fee” when they purchased the lots from the developer as we all know that that amount was factored into the lot price. This isn’t the builder’s fault. It’s not the town’s fault. It’s not the citizen’s fault. Yet someone has to cover the costs of the infrastructure or else it falls on the backs of Cary taxpayers – and that’s not acceptable.

It is my hope that through legal action we can get the developer to comply and/or that maybe another developer will purchase the project and complete these improvements; allowing us to refund those fees back to the builders and lot owners. In the meantime, builders can start building again and those folks who were trying to build their dream home will realize that dream sooner than later.

I had the honor of attending the annual neighborhood picnic at Meadowmont this past week. This was a blast as over 100 people gathered for food, fellowship and fun. I spoke to those in attendance about a number of initiatives in the old Cary area and answered questions from area residents.

I also had the pleasure of attending a baby shower for soon to be Grandma Sue Rowland (our Town Clerk). Sue is an amazing woman who works very hard to keep Cary organized and legal. She dots every i and crosses every t. For those of you who may not know what the town clerk does, they are the custodian of all permanent town records, responsible for noticing and recording all of our meetings, manages our boards and commissions, and provides support services for the council and staff… and a bazillion other things that aren’t in their job description. ;-) I have learned a great deal working with Sue and I will forever be in her debt. Congratulations Sue!

Council held a special meeting on Thursday to consider actions needed to refinance some of the town’s existing debt obligation. We approved refinancing about $15 Million in general debt obligation saving Cary taxpayers about $875,000. Great meeting! Council also held a brief closed session afterwards to discuss a legal matter.

That’s all for now – as always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

8/11/10 Council Meeting

I apologize for not posting my week in reviews as frequently as I would like, but with work, my council responsibilities, a campaign and trying to find some time for my family… well, there just haven’t been enough hours in the day.

This post will focus on our council meeting which was held on 8/11/10.

Our meeting had 2 notable discussion items: Consideration of a traffic light at the intersection of Kildaire Farm Road and Loch Highlands Drive, and whether or not to apply for a federal grant to assist with funding a section of the White Oak Greenway.

After NCDOT completed a road widening project and installed a new bridge on Kildaire Farm Road, citizens have been contacting the town regarding their concerns for pedestrian safety. The project resulted in an asphalt trail being removed that residents had used for safe pedestrian access. A new sidewalk was instead installed along the roadway and bridge. This section of road curves slightly, and residents feared that if a motorist took their eyes off the road for a second, or if a traffic accident occurred, vehicles could end up on the sidewalk – seriously injuring or killing a pedestrian. They asked the town to look into a guardrail or some other form of barrier.

Numerous attempts to work with NCDOT in an attempt to get a barrier installed failed. NCDOT was unwilling to modify the bridge, and informed Cary that any modifications would be the town’s responsibility as the bridge met state standards.

After further review, town staff recommended that a traffic signal with crosswalks be installed at the intersection of Kildaire Farm Road and Loch Highlands Drive. This would allow residents a safe manner in which to cross the street and use the multi-use path on the other side of the street…which has a concrete barrier between it and the road. Yes you read that correctly.

You see, NCDOT “cheaped out” on the bridge. The southbound side of the bridge was constructed with a multi-use path. However, in an effort to reduce costs that section of the bridge was not engineered to hold the weight of vehicles, so NCDOT installed a concrete barrier to prevent maintenance or emergency vehicles from parking on it. Nice huh?

After investigating numerous options, our town staff determined that installing the traffic signal would cost less than installing a parapet wall or barrier on the bridge, and once installed the signal becomes NCDOT’s responsibility. Staff’s traffic data also indicated that this intersection meets warrants for a traffic signal.

The traffic signal was approved by a vote of 6-1. I voted against it. While I do support the signal installation, I have grave concerns regarding next year’s budget and economic outlook. If this is truly a “need to have”, which I believe it is, then we should be willing to give up a “nice to have” to fund it. I also believe, as does our town staff, that we have numerous pedestrian safety issues throughout town (the bridge on Walnut Street at Crossroads and the lack of a crosswalk and sidewalks on Cary Parkway near North Cary Park are two that come to mind) that might be of higher priority. Without conducting a study there is no way to know.

I made a motion to table this for 2 weeks to give staff time to determine which already funded project(s) we could postpone to cover costs. No one supported my request.

Prior to this decision the council considered whether or not to apply for a $2.7 million federal grant to fund a section of the White Oak Greenway….in Apex’s jurisdiction. Yes Apex. If Cary receives the grant we are on the hook for $675,000 to cover our portion of the project. The decision to apply for the grant passed by a vote of 5-2. Councilman Smith and I voted no.

$850,000 spent in about 20 minutes.

I like greenways as much as anyone, but these are difficult times we’re living in folks, and I don’t see it getting better any time soon. Sure, $2.7 million in “free money” might sound hard to pass up. But I fear, as Councilman Smith so eloquently stated, “that we could go broke trying to save money”. Hopefully we are wrong.

That’s it for now – as always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Week(s) in Review 7/26/10 - 8/7/10

Busy Week!

Monday began with our monthly Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Advisory Board Meeting. The main discussion topic was an update on the bad bug problem at the Hemlock Bluffs Nature Preserve. Aggressive Woolly Adelgids were discovered as the town was conducting an inventory of the Hemlocks. The bad bugs feed on the base of the tree’s needles which prevents nutrients from flowing to the needles - the needles drop and the tree dies. The town is currently working with a number of experts and agencies to develop treatment and management plans including the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, The United States Forest Services, NC State University, and Bartlett Tree Experts.

Rest assured the town and partnering agencies will do everything we can to protect and preserve our Hemlocks. Cary will also be releasing information to the general public soon so that those who have Hemlocks on their personal property will have the necessary resources to protect their trees as well.

On Monday evening Councilwoman Jennifer Robinson and I were the honored guests at a dinner with the Cary Chapter of the NC Police Benevolent Association. We were presented a plaque of appreciation for our work on the Town of Cary’s new shared leave policy. Councilwoman Gale Adcock was also recognized but was unable to attend.

National Night Out was this past Tuesday. National Night Out brings law enforcement agencies and citizens together with the goal of fostering partnerships for safer communities. I visited two neighborhood events with members of the Cary Police Department – Dutchess Village and Silverton. This annual event is always a huge success and a lot of fun, especially for the kids! The officers allow the kids inside the police cars and even let them play with the lights the siren! Heck, I’m 39 and I look forward to doing that! ;-) It’s always fun to see the looks on the resident’s faces as five police cars roll up with lights and sirens going.

I met with three different property owners this week to discuss their plans and my/citizen’s concerns regarding their proposed development projects. Two will be coming to council soon and one is still in the discussion/neighborhood meeting stage. I was pleased to see how hard they had been working to alleviate neighbor’s concerns and ensure that these projects benefit – not burden – their surrounding community.

I am also working with a resident regarding their concerns related to a proposed sidewalk installation on Walnut Street and will be meeting with staff next week to discuss further. Sidewalk installations in communities that were not developed with sidewalks in mind are always difficult. The public safety benefits of sidewalks are obvious, but folks are often hesitant to give up part of their property to accommodate them. We must be sensitive to the impact on property owners and design accordingly.

Over the last few weeks I have been working with our town staff to address an issue that has been negatively impacting certain small businesses looking to come to Cary. Cary’s water and sewer impact fees are calculated based on the type of use and square footage. The town uses a state of North Carolina chart that categorizes different uses and estimates their water consumption per 100 sq. feet to calculate peak water usage and determine the amount of fee. The problem is some businesses don’t necessarily fall into any of the categories, or the category they are placed in doesn’t accurately reflect the amount of water they use (over estimates) resulting in that business being overcharged for their “impact” to our water and sewer infrastructure.

Yes I do believe growth should ultimately pay for itself. But when the water and sewer impact fees for a 15,000 sq. ft. gym for kids that has no showers or kitchen (only restrooms) are calculated to be $150,000 we have a problem. When the fees for a 6,700 sq. ft. dance studio are calculated to be over $40,000 we have a problem. This discourages small businesses from locating or expanding in town and negatively impacts job creation.

Our town staff shares my concerns and has worked diligently to address this issue by allowing businesses to challenge the rate assumptions through data certified by an engineer that proves what their actual usage will be. I have proposed that Cary create its own fee calculation chart that better estimates usage, but unfortunately this may require hiring a consultant and conducting an extensive study which would cost thousands of dollars that we just don’t have right now. In the meantime our staff will work to better explain available options to small business owners until this issue can be resolved permanently.

Well that’s about it for now. As always, thanks for reading!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Week in Review 6/20/10 - 6/25/10

This week was a bit light in regards to council responsibilities.

On Tuesday I met with our town Budget Director, Scott Fogleman to discuss a couple of outstanding concerns I had regarding the proposed FY 2011 budget.

I first want to thank all of our town staff - especially the budget department for all their hard work in presenting council with a very conservative budget that holds the line on taxes and keeps garbage, recycling, and yard waste fees unchanged. Water and sewer fees unfortunately will increase about 7% to fund the state-mandated Western Wake Water Reclamation Facility.

My concerns are that appropriations exceed projected revenues by roughly $1 million, and that council members decided to increase each council member’s travel allowance $326 a year (Mayor Pro Tem gets a $390 increase). Each council member’s annual travel allowance is already $9300 a year.

The FY 2011 budget was adopted as presented by a vote of 5-1. Mayor Pro Tem Julie Robison was absent again.

I voted against the budget.

After meeting with Scott Fogleman, some (not all) of my concerns pertaining to appropriations vs. revenues were satisfied. Cary has a healthy fund balance (reserves) and ended this past year with about a $4 million surplus. So while we are still in very good shape, I still have concerns about how reducing fund balance now might impact us in years to come should the economy not improve. I also have concerns how the state’s $3 billion shortfall next year will impact Cary’s budget in following years (see previous post for more on this)

I remain disappointed that during these tough economic times the council chose to increase their compensation. Yes I know that in the grand scheme of thing it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the total budget, but it’s much bigger than that to me. It’s about principle.

Council last received travel allowance increases in 2008 and 2006. The average fuel cost in 2008 was $3.27 a gallon with a peak price of $4.11. In 2010 the average cost of a gallon of gas is $2.76. Gas costs less now than it did in 2008.

This was about increasing compensation without calling it a raise. I could not support that. If the council believes they deserve an increase in pay – as evidenced by one of my colleague’s “we don’t even make minimum wage” comments at our meeting - then they should call it what it is.

That’s about all for this week. As always, thanks for reading - I hope everyone is staying cool and safe during this heat-wave.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What an Honor!


June 24, 2010

CARY, N.C. – Frantz Automotive Center, the Triangle’s premier automotive repair and service center has been recognized as one of the Top 100 North Carolina Small Businesses for 2010 by Business Leader Magazine at an awards ceremony in Raleigh on June, 24.

“It is an extraordinary honor to be recognized as one of the top small businesses in North Carolina,” said Don Frantz. “We are especially grateful to all of our customers and employees who have contributed to our success.”

Frantz Automotive was ranked number 13 by Business Leader Magazine in its annual list of top 100 small businesses and was selected for demonstrating significant business achievement, community involvement and business advocacy.

About Frantz Automotive Center:
Located in downtown Cary, N.C., Frantz Automotive Center is a nationally recognized automotive repair and service center providing motorists and business fleets throughout the Triangle with a cost effective, reliable alternative to the automotive dealership. Locally owned and operated by Don and Lisa Frantz, Frantz Automotive Center is committed to making your automotive service experience as pleasurable and professional as possible. For more information please visit or call (919) 469-5423.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Week in Review 6/7/10 - 6/12/10

Council held our final budget worksession on Tuesday. Staff provided clarification on a few items that council had requested at a previous worksession and we discussed a few outstanding issues before we approved bringing the budget to our council meeting for final discussion and vote on June 24th.

While our town staff has done an amazing job at crafting a very conservative budget that continues to maintain the high levels of service Cary citizens expect without increasing taxes, I am undecided at this time whether or not to support the proposed budget.

Appropriations exceed revenues by roughly $1 million. And although conservative budgeting, reducing last year’s budget 26% from the previous year and the postponement of $89 million in capital projects has allowed Cary to maintain a healthy fund balance to cover this, I am concerned how this may position the town in the years to come. I am not optimistic that the economy will rebound any time soon and I have concerns regarding the state’s financial situation, and how that will impact Cary.

North Carolina’s reliance on federal stimulus funds and “temporary” (ya right) tax increases combined with increases in spending will result in our state facing a $3 Billion hole next year when all that “free money” runs out. North Carolina is already withholding a number of funds from municipalities in an effort to balance their budget. What other revenues might they decide to withhold next? We must ensure we are prepared for the worst and pray it doesn’t happen.
I meet with the Town Manager on Monday to discuss my concerns further.

Council also held 3 closed sessions to discuss town employee performance reviews.

The agenda for this past Thursday’s council meeting was light in content – long in discussion. There were really only 2 notable items on the agenda – a public hearing on the proposed FY2011 budget, and a quasi-judicial hearing for a special use permit for a proposed cell tower installation. The hearing regarding the cell tower lasted 2 ½ hours. In the end, the council voted 7-0 to deny the special use permit.

This past Thursday and Friday I had the honor of attending the graduation ceremonies of Green Hope High School, Panther Creek High School, and Cary High School…or as Principal Thilman likes to say, “THE Cary High School”. ;-) Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht and WCPSS Vice-Chair Debra Goldman attended all three graduations as well. It was wonderful to see so many family friends receive their diplomas and hear the reactions from proud parents as their son or daughter’s name was called. Very few parents complied with the request to remain silent as each graduate’s name was announced. Five of our six children have graduated from Cary High School – we didn’t comply either. ;-)

As I sat on the stage staring out at hundreds of young adults wearing long gowns and funny hats I thought to myself, “In front of me sits our nation’s future doctors, scientists, engineers, lawyers, and service technicians. They are our future United States Servicemen and women who will defend our nation in time of need and fight for freedom around the globe. I saw future business executives who will lead fortune 500 companies and entrepreneurs whose innovative ideas will transform small businesses into large corporations. I was among the next generation of teachers and professors who will pass along to hundreds of other students the wisdom and knowledge which others had passed along to them. I saw our future police officers, firefighters and emergency medical service professionals who will protect us and rush to our aid at a moment’s notice. I even saw a few elected officials whose leadership will guide our state and our nation for years to come. I was looking at the future – and the future is bright. Congratulations Class of 2010!

On Saturday I attended Alex Joiner’s graduation party. Alex is a very bright and talented young man who will be attending UNC Chapel Hill this fall. He also happens to be the producer of two of my campaign for NC House’s YouTube videos. See? I told you he was talented. ;-) Afterwards I attended a campaign rally for 4th Congressional District Candidate BJ Lawson in Apex.

Well those are some of the highlights from this past week. As always, Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Remember why we celebrate Memorial Day

As we celebrate Memorial Day I want to share a poem written by Mary Castaldi. It is a tribute to her father who was killed in Korea when she was six years old.

Over 1 million brave men and women have died fighting for freedom, liberty, and democracy since 1775. Over 400,000 were killed in WWII alone. Many were husbands, wives, sons and daughters who never returned to their families. We are forever in their debt. Freedom isn't free.

World War II called out to him
And that was all it took
But he was there when I was born
I saw my baby book.

When I was six he left again
He looked into my eyes
"I'll be back with hula skirts"
And then he said good-bye.

His uniform was crisp and green
He held me in his arms
I knew he wasn't coming back
No Dad, no skirts, no charms.

And though I was a little girl
I cried upon his shoulder
I knew deep down this was good bye
He wasn't getting older.

I felt so old, so wise that day
I still can feel the shame.
The family gathered round and played
I thought they were insane.

Twas Christmas day and he was gone
Korea was the name
Two months later MIA
No words can share the pain.

Fifty years have come and gone
Since we received the letter
He never came back home to us
It never does get better.

I need to tell the story
Because old men forget.
It's not just soldiers that we lose
their families are bereft

They hold a family update
To pacify our hurt
And then they send more babies
Out to die on foreign dirt.

It's not that I'm a pacifist
I'm not against all war
But I'm for talk and talk and talk
And then you talk some more.

The wars may be inevitable
And we will be prepared
But war should be the last resort
So little girls are spared.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

What an Honor!

Don Frantz named 2010 NFIB NC Small Business Champion

Monday, May 17, 2010

Week in Review 5/9/10 - 5/14/10

Monday was our monthly Parks Recreation and Cultural Resources Advisory Board (PRCR) meeting. I serve as the council liaison to PRCR. The highlight – or maybe lowlight is a better word? – was a brief retirement reception for Cary’s outgoing PRCR Director Mary Henderson. Mary’s passion and dedication to making Cary a better place to live, work and especially play will be sorely missed.

On Thursday I attended the Cary Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Awards Luncheon at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Cary. Council members Jack Smith, Jennifer Robinson and Julie Robison were also in attendance. A good time was had by everyone – especially the folks at S&A Cherokee, the 2010 Cary Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Award Winner! Other businesses and community partners receiving awards were:

· Carolina Auto Spa: Award for Innovation
· Avcon Inc.: Community Service Award
· Tri-Clean Inc: Employer of the Year
· Green Hope High School: Entrepreneurial Award in Education
· Triangle Aquatics Center: Charitable Partners Award

Congratulations to all the award winners and thank you for everything you do for our community!

Afterwards was our council meeting. Two notable topics included whether or not to pursue LEED certification for Cary Fire Station #8 (being built soon) and a shared leave policy for Cary Town employees.

The council voted 4-3 to not support pursuing LEED certification due to the additional $41,000 it would cost Cary taxpayers. The council did however agree to pursue a green-build. In a nutshell, the fire station will be built to LEED standards, but without the certification due to cost. These are trying economic times. To fund this initiative would mean we would have to cut somewhere else and our budget has already been scraped to the bone. Make no mistake, the council takes environmental protection seriously. The definition of environmental protection is just that – protecting our environment. By constructing the fire station to LEED standards that’s exactly what we are doing.

The shared leave policy is a program that allows an employee to donate some of his or her vacation time to another employee if that employee or an immediate family member experiences a catastrophic medical event. For example, if a town employee was diagnosed with cancer, and after using up their own sick leave and vacation time, town employees could donate some of their own vacation time to help the individual meet his or her financial obligations while they recover. Since an employee is donating time that they would otherwise be paid for to another employee, it costs the town nothing. The discussion centered on how much time an employee may ever receive. The council approved the town staff recommendation of 160 hours (4 weeks) and directed staff to investigate the effects of expanding that to 480 hours like that of many other area municipalities.

That’s about it for this week. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Week in Review 4/26/10 - 5/2/10

On Monday afternoon Mayor Weinbrecht and I taped the May episode of Cary Matters – the monthly program designed to help keep you informed about and involved in the issues that we, the members of your town council, are working on as your elected representatives ;-) Taping Cary Matters is always a lot of fun and who knows, maybe the Mayor and I will win another award!

Afterwards I attended the Western Wake Republican Club’s monthly meeting at Ragazzi’s near Cary Town Center.

On Tuesday I met with the developers of a potential project in northwest Cary. While they are in the early planning stages, and most of what they are proposing makes sense, I encouraged them to meet with the area residents to better understand whatever concerns they may or may not have. Things tend to work out for the best when all stakeholders have a voice up front in the process.

Afterwards the council held a worksession to discuss stormwater runoff and flooding. The council has worked hard over the last couple of years to strengthen our stormwater runoff and retention ordinances which are now the strongest in the state. While I am confident they will better protect area residents from any runoff associated with future development, unfortunately these ordinances were not in place 5, 10 or 20 years ago. Some of the older areas of town that didn’t used to have any stormwater issues now do.

The majority of council felt that Cary’s current policies (policies 35 and 146 which enable residents to petition the town for assistance) are working well and that we did not need to make any significant adjustments. While I too believe these policies are working well, I believe we can do better.

What council ultimately directed staff to do was:

· Better incorporate flood control measures into future stream restoration projects
· Reevaluate the 50/50 cost share associated with policy 35
· Perform a FEMA Floodplain study and report back to council

(note – it appears that Cary will be receiving a $750,000 federal grant to perform this comprehensive study. When council approved our Federal Legislative Agenda a few months back I had requested we include a request for federal assistance to address stormwater/flooding issues. It appears that request was successful)

On Wednesday I attended the Civitas Poll Luncheon in Raleigh and the Cary Chamber of Commerce Elected Officials Reception at the Matthews House in downtown Cary. Thanks to everyone at the Chamber and the Matthews House for their hospitality. Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time…, well, almost everyone ;-)

Our council meeting was Thursday evening. Notable agenda items included five annexations – all voluntary, two comprehensive transportation plan amendments, one comprehensive plan amendment, a rezoning, the award of contract for C-Tran services, and a partridge in a pear tree.

The discussion regarding the C-Tran contract award took much longer than expected as one council member believed this to be a good time to try and reengineer and expand the current program. While that discussion may or may not have merit, that was not what was on our agenda. The town’s contract with our current service provider is expiring and it was council’s responsibility to review the eligible bids received, and award a new contract. That was all. The council selected MV Transportation as our new service provider, replacing First Transit as MV offered increased services at a lower cost than what we are paying now.

After a healthy discussion, the council voted to deny the Weldon Ridge Planned Development District rezoning. The property in question was previously restricted to a school or church use during a previous rezoning and the applicant was requesting a change to allow age restricted (senior) housing. Council members that were on the council when the original rezoning was approved stated that their basis of support for the original rezoning was the reservation of this site for a school – and that had they anticipated this site being developed as residential they never would have supported the original rezoning in the first place.

On Friday morning I spoke to a group of area businessmen and women about the economic climate in Cary and North Carolina and my work during the last 2 ½ years on the council. I also answered a number of questions from those in attendance regarding business and town policies.

On Sunday I had the pleasure of attending the Historic Landmark Plaque Presentation Ceremonies hosted by Capital Area Preservation and the Wake County Historic Preservation Commission at the Guess-Ogle House in downtown Cary. It was truly an honor to be a part of the event’s festivities recognizing four area historic properties, including the old Carpenter Farm Supply Complex located on Morrisville-Carpenter Road in Cary. Thanks to Carroll and Sheila Ogle for opening up their home for this special event.

Before I wrap it up I want to take a minute and say, “Good Luck” to all the candidates running for office who have a primary election this Tuesday. It has been a pleasure to get to know each and every one of you, and while everyone can’t win, you’re all winners in my book. Anyone with a desire to become involved in their government and the guts to stand before the voters will always have my respect. May the best man or woman win!
That’s it for this week. As always, thanks for reading!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Week in Review 4/11/10 - 4/17/10

What a busy week!

On Monday I had the honor of participating in Cary’s National 911 Appreciation Week Kickoff. National 911 Appreciation Week (April 11-17) recognizes and honors all telecommunications personnel in the public safety community for their hard work and dedication towards making our communities a safer place. Cary’s 911 calltakers and dispatchers provide a vital link to our public safety personnel in the field so they may respond to emergencies faster and better prepared. I spoke to those in attendance about a personal experience I had with Cary 911 about 7 years ago when I was thankful to have a calm and professional 911 operator on the phone. I caught a burglar breaking into a downtown business and I held him at gunpoint as best I could while Cary PD was in route. Unfortunately he got away (Crackheads run fast let me tell you!) but Cary PD caught up with him two days later. I also presented a proclamation in honor of National 911 Appreciation Week and Cary’s telecommunicators.

Afterwards I met with Town Manager Ben Shivar to discuss a couple of items related to our upcoming council meeting and an issue I have been working on with a downtown business owner. It is so frustrating sometimes when something that should be so simple becomes so complicated.

On Monday evening I attended Cary’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Advisory Board Meeting. Notable discussion Items included a review and recommendation of approval for Cary’s proposed Historic Preservation Master Plan and a review of Cary’s Biennial Survey results.

On Tuesday I met with two separate business owners to learn more about their plans to open a business in town and provide them with feedback. Both proposals are very exciting and would add significant value to our community. I hope they decide to move forward with their plans and I wish them both the best of luck.

Cary’s Sign Ordinance Review Task Force met on Wednesday evening. Main discussion topics included canopy, wall, awning and window signage. We were supposed to discuss neon signs as well, but time was running out and that one’s sure to generate quite a bit of discussion. ;-)

Thursday stunk. Not only was it tax day - and boy did we get hit hard again this year – but our council meeting was very disappointing to say the least.

The two main discussion items at our council meeting were the consideration of a resolution in support of public campaign financing for municipal elections, and Cary’s state legislative agenda.

I have already blogged about my position regarding public campaign financing here, but it’s worth saying again. I adamantly oppose public campaign financing of municipal elections for the following reasons:

· Loss of Freedom: A citizen’s tax dollars would be used to fund a candidate’s campaign that citizen might not otherwise support.

· Public campaign finance does not help candidates spend more time campaigning and less time fundraising as advocates claim. We see this with Judicial candidates who utilize a similar version of public financing (the majority of which comes from attorneys btw). They spend all their time traveling the state trying to collect enough contributions to meet the program’s requirements and deadlines.

· It would not prevent outside interest groups from spending money on the candidate(s) of their choice. They just could not give directly to the candidate.

· We have much more important items to spend tax dollars on.

· Candidates might not use public funds as responsibly as those which were given directly to them by a known supporter.

· The argument that an average citizen can’t beat money is a crock. The following municipal election results prove this.

In 2007, Harold Weinbrecht spent roughly $60,000 in his bid for Mayor. Incumbent Mayor Ernie McAlister spent nearly $200,000. Weinbrecht won.

In 2007, Durham Mayor Bill Bell spent $52,000 in his bid for reelection. Challenger Thomas Stith spent nearly $200,000. Bell won.

In 2007, Cary Councilman Nels Roseland spent nearly $38,000 in his bid for reelection. Challenger Vickie Maxwell spent roughly $12,000. I spent $8,000. I won.

In 2007 Cary Councilwoman Gale Adcock was outspent in her bid for a seat on the council. She won.

After discussion and debate the motion to approve the resolution passed 4-2. One councilmember in particular surprised me by supporting the resolution once language was changed to imply – but not guarantee – that a referendum (public vote) would be held to gauge citizen support before council approved such a program. State law however would only require that Cary hold a public hearing. Assuming the state grants Cary the authority to use public campaign financing this year, the earliest Cary could hold a referendum (without a special election) would be in 2011. Four council members are up for reelection in 2011. Three of the four supported the resolution endorsing public campaign financing and just might want the program in place before their election. I sincerely hope I am wrong.

Approval of Cary’s state legislative agenda – specifically whether or not to support the North Carolina League of Municipalities (NCLM) position on involuntary annexation - also proved to be contentious debate. I oppose the League’s position on annexation because:

· The NCLM does not support providing the affected residents a vote in the process.

· They do not support requiring that the annexing municipality covers the cost of water and sewer hook-ups (this can cost individual property owners upwards of $20,000)

· They do not support requiring county commissioner approval (County Commissioners are an unincorporated resident’s only locally elected official)

· And the NCLM does not adequately define “meaningful services”.

What was really disappointing to me however was that during our legislative committee meetings the committee agreed to compromise in order to get an agenda we could unanimously support. I agreed to state that we would support a municipality’s authority to annex (vague statement I know), and they agreed to not support the league’s opposition to referendum. Yet once the issue came to the council table, that all changed. The Council ultimately supported the NCLM’s position on annexation by a vote of 5-1. I was the 1. It is absolutely stunning to me that we can support policy that significantly impacts people’s lives and financial situation without even allowing them a voice in the process.

On Friday I had the honor of attending a reception honoring Cary’s Animal Control Officers in celebration of Animal Control Officer Week. Long-gone is the stereo-type of the dog catcher who did little more than round up loose dogs and put them in his truck. The reality is that Animal Control Officers save the lives of dogs and cats - and make their communities a safer place for people and animals every day.

According to National Animal Control Association, Animal Control Officers face more one-on-one contact with the public than any other public safety employee. They risk their safety and health on a daily basis dealing with aggressive and dangerous animals. Additionally, they are exposed to multiple zoonotic diseases through contact with infected animals. It was an honor to attend and show my appreciation for all their hard work and dedication.

Well that’s about it for this week in review. I hope that what I’ve shared has been of value to you and as always, thanks for reading!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Week in Review 3/29/10 - 4/4/10

Cary’s State Legislative Agenda Committee met again this week to finalize our agenda and discuss a few outstanding issues that we had requested more information about from our staff. Most of the discussion however focused on whether or not Cary should support a number of items agreed upon by all Wake County cities and towns, and the North Carolina League of Municipalities’ (NCLM) legislative agendas. My concern pertained to NCLM’s position on annexation, which other municipalities were endorsing as well.

I cannot support the NCLM’s position on annexation for the following reasons:

· The League does not believe affected residents deserve a vote in the process.
· The League believes annexed residents should bear the cost of water and sewer hook-ups instead of the annexing municipality.
· The League does not support legislation that requires county commissioners also approve the annexation (county commissioners are the only unincorporated resident’s locally elected officials) *NOTE – if unincorporated residents were allowed a vote in the process this probably would not be necessary.
· The League has yet to define what they believe to be “meaningful services”.

After hearing my reasons for opposing the League’s position on annexation, the committee agreed to not include support the NCLM’s position on annexation on Cary’s State’s Legislative Agenda.

I do value much of the support that the NCLM offers to cities and towns throughout North Carolina, but we must always keep in mind the League’s primary goal is to assist municipalities – not those citizens residing in the unincorporated areas. Those folks have rights too.

I had the pleasure of attending the Friends of the NRA Banquet in Raleigh this past Wednesday. I saw a number of old friends and even made some new ones – which is pretty easy to do when everyone in the room shares the same values of liberty and freedom. This was a lot of fun and everyone had a great time.

I also attend the North Carolina Heroes Fund Breakfast at the VFW this past week. U.S. Senator Richard Burr and State Senators Neal Hunt and Richard Stevens were also in attendance.

The North Carolina Heroes’ Fund was created in 2007 with the mission of aiding North Carolina servicemen and women, or those serving at one of North Carolina’s many military installations. The vision of the Fund began with its founder, Scott Stone, and his drive to help those that are defending our freedom. It was devastatingly clear to Stone that many of our men and women were returning from active duty and facing very difficult transitions as well as financial hardships.

The support is primarily centered on hardships in which these men and women, or their families, may be enduring as a direct result to their service overseas. In addition to financial hardship assistance the Fund has established an educational grant process to assist the dependents of our military men and women with the cost of continued education. For more information about the NC Heroes Fund please visit .

Other events I attended this past week included the Republican Women of Cary and Southwest Wake’s monthly meeting and the Civitas Poll Luncheon in Raleigh.

I took a break from work and our campaign this weekend to celebrate Easter with family and friends. Good times! I hope your Easter Holiday was as joyful as ours!

Well that’s about it for this week – Thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Week in Review 3/21/10 - 3/28/10

On Tuesday afternoon I had two meetings: Cary’s State Legislative Committee meeting and our Town Council Meeting.

Cary’s State Legislative Committee members this year are Mayor Weinbrecht, Council Member Adcock and myself. We reviewed a number of topics but most of the discussion centered around two items in particular; public financing of municipal elections and annexation.

The committee discussed whether or not Cary should add support of HB120 – which is currently still in committee - to our legislative agenda. This legislation would grant municipalities with a population of 50,000 residents or greater the authority to use public financing (taxpayer funded) for municipal elections. Just so we are clear, if HB120 were to become law it does not mean that Cary would automatically begin utilizing public campaign financing. Cary would still have to hold a public hearing and then decide for ourselves if this is right for us.

I adamantly oppose public financing of municipal elections for the following reasons:

· A citizen’s tax dollars could be used to fund a candidate’s campaign that citizen would not otherwise support.
· It would not prevent outside interest groups from continuing to spend money on the candidate(s) of their choice. They just could not give directly to the candidate.
· We might not get a true read on citizen support at the public hearing (all committee members acknowledged this at our meeting). We witnessed this during the IRV debate. Only elections advocates such as the League of Women Voters or Fairvote came to speak.
· We have much more important items to spend tax dollars on.
· Money doesn’t buy you love. The following municipal elections results prove this.

In 2007, Harold Weinbrecht spent roughly $60,000 in his bid for Mayor. The incumbent Mayor Ernie McAlister spent nearly $200,000. McAlister lost.

In 2007, Durham Mayor Bill Bell spent $52,000 in his bid for reelection. Challenger Thomas Stith spent nearly $200,000. Stith lost.

In 2007, Cary Councilman Nels Roseland spent nearly $38,000 in his bid for reelection. Challenger Vickie Maxwell spent roughly $12,000. I spent $8,000. I won.

The committee agreed to not place this item on our legislative agenda.

The committee also discussed whether or not to support the North Carolina League of Municipalities Legislative Agenda and Wake County’s Joint Legislative Agenda. I opposed both of these given the League’s position on annexation, and that Wake County’s Joint Legislative Agenda also includes support of the League’s agenda. I believe we need comprehensive annexation reform in North Carolina. You can read more about my position on annexation here.

The committee also unanimously recommended including the request to exclude municipal email listserv databases from being classified as public information. This would hopefully prevent folks from requesting the town’s email list of thousands of citizens for the sole purpose of spamming them. To be clear, we are only requesting that the email addresses themselves not be classified as public information – not actual emails or other public information.

After our Legislative Committee Meeting was our Council Meeting. Notable discussion items included:

· The approval of a special use permit, annexation, and site plan for a church to be constructed at 910 Twyla Road
· Designation of the Old Carpenter Farm Supply Store on Morrisville-Carpenter Road as a Historic Landmark
· Consideration of Cary’s first Historic Preservation Master Plan. Council forwarded this to our Planning and Zoning Board for review.
· Approval of a request by Mayor Weinbrecht and myself to amend Policy 123 regarding guidelines for Cary’s Government Access Channel. You can read more about this issue here. Council decided to create a blackout period that prevents council members from appearing on Town of Cary programming such as the CaryMatters TV show or BudTV 90 days before their general election.

I met with a citizen on Wednesday to discuss his interest in becoming more involved in government; possibly to include a run for office one day. I spoke about the responsibilities of a council member, the time commitment and rigors of running a campaign. I encourage everyone to become more involved in their government and will gladly speak with anyone interested in doing so.

On Thursday I had the privilege of speaking with two 3rd grade civics classes at Saint Michael the Archangel School about local government. The students were very bright and asked a number of great questions. This was a lot of fun and I hope they invite me back.

Thursday evening I attended the “What’s Up Downtown” event at Havana Grill on Chatham Street in downtown Cary. It was great to see so many downtown friends and Heart of Cary Association members. I didn’t have very far to travel either as Havana Grill is right next door to Frantz Automotive. ;-)

On Saturday I had the honor of officially kicking off the Miracle League of the Triangle’s spring baseball season by throwing out the first pitch. The Miracle League provides children with special needs, regardless of their disability the opportunity to play baseball. The Miracle League was started by Robin Rose and Tony Withers, who after seeing an HBO special about a similar program in Georgia, believed the same could be done here in the triangle. A board of directors was soon formed and over $750,000 was raised to cover the costs of field construction and programming. Kenny Moore, owner of Andy’s Restaurants donated $250,000 towards the program. The field is named Andy’s Field in his honor.

The Miracle League has come a long way from the first game held in the Adams Elementary School parking lot with 40 kids. Today the program serves 258 kids and fields 20 teams. They will soon be looking to add a second field to further provide for the special needs children in our region.

The Miracle League is always looking for volunteers and sponsors. Please consider helping out by volunteering your time or donating today.

Well that’s about it for this week in review. As always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Week in Review 3/8/10 - 3/14/10

My week began with a meeting with Town Manager Ben Shivar. We discussed a number of topics including transportation and rail, a signage issue we are trying to work through in the Silverton community, and Cary’s upcoming budget.

Afterwards I visited with a successful business owner in the Raleigh area and was given a tour of their North Carolina manufacturing facility – very impressive. We also discussed the need for increased vocational education and training for service and manufacturing jobs in North Carolina.

A highly skilled and educated workforce is critical to our state and nation’s economic future. Preparing our children to compete in a global economy must include investments in vocational education for those children who do not want to go to college. We must educate not only the next Fortune 500 CEO or pharmacist but also the next electrician, service technician, and nurse. Providing increased opportunities for students to learn a skill or trade not only increases their chances of success once they leave the public school system, it will also significantly reduce North Carolina’s abysmal high school drop-out rate.

Our council meeting was this Wednesday evening. Notable discussion topics included a request to amend policy 157 pertaining to the Citizen Issue Review Commission (CIRC) and a request from Council Members Robinson and Portman to direct staff to prepare a staff report outlining the I-540 impacts on Cameron Pond so that Council may determine the best manner in which to address these concerns. The request regarding Cameron Pond was a no-brainer and passed unanimously. Thanks to council members Robinson and Portman for their work on this.

While I supported the requested amendment to Policy 157, I still have concerns regarding the CIRC process in general. The proposed amendment reads as follows:

Amend Policy 157 pertaining to the citizen issue review commission (CIRC) as follows: (1) All applications will be initially reviewed by CIRC staff liaison to ensure eligibility by meeting the criteria set forward in Policy 157 and then all applications will be forwarded to CIRC with a recommendation. (This replaces current policy which engages Town Manager). (2) CIRC can do one of the following: deny application; or forward application to council with recommendation to form an issue advisory group; or recommend applicants present to other board/or refer town department; or recommend applicants send a written report to council; or table application in order to request more information or to continue assessment of application.

I supported creating CIRC over a year ago because I believed it could better help citizens bring issues of concern to council. I fear I was wrong.

While well intentioned, I believe the CIRC process has created another level of government bureaucracy that lengthens the time it takes to get an issue to council for discussion, increases costs and possibly gives folks false hopes.

We already have a great system in place to determine whether or not an issue warrants forming a task force or issue advisory board. It simply takes the support of two council members (a sponsor and co-sponsor) to bring any issue to the council table for discussion and vote. While not every idea is adopted, every request receives a fair hearing and an up or down vote.

Two examples are the Animal Issues Task Force and the Sign Ordinance Review Task Force – two advisory groups created by council to assist us on two important issues. They didn’t require months of process or have to go through a staff liaison or our town manager and then to a committee before coming to council to be sanctioned.

With the CIRC process we essentially have a committee to study whether or not to form a committee. Why would a citizen or group of citizens want to go through the CIRC process when all they really need to do is earn the support of two council members and their request is on our next agenda for discussion and decision?

We'll see how it goes after these most recent changes.

Council received the unfortunate news this week that Mary Henderson, Cary’s Parks and Recreation and Cultural Resources Director will be retiring effective June 1st. Mary has worked for the town for over 27 years and has given so much of herself to help make Cary one of the best places to live in the country. She will be sorely missed and I wish her all the best in her retirement.

Well that’s about it for this week in review – as always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Week in Review 3/1/10 - 3/6/10

What an incredibly busy but productive week!

The week began with our monthly Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Advisory Board meeting. The board received a number of reports from sub-committee members as well as an update from Joy Ennis and Sal Cammarata regarding the Town of Cary’s Volunteer Banquet, awards presentation and silent auction fundraiser. Thanks so much to everyone who worked so hard to make this event such a huge success!

I had the honor and privilege of reading to students at Kingswood Elementary School on Tuesday for Read Across America. The book I chose to read was one of my all time favorites – Dr. Suess’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The kids were a lot of fun and I can’t thank the staff and teachers at Kingswood enough for all their hospitality.

Cary’s Sign Ordinance Review Task Force met again on Wednesday evening. Main discussion and decision items included monument sign height and required materials, the allowable number of pieces of information that sign may have, text colors, and directory signage. Not all the task force’s decisions were unanimous, which just goes to show how diverse a group the council assembled to perform this important review. I am very pleased with the task force’s work thus far and I believe that what will ultimately be brought to council will be a good reflection of our community’s values. I can’t thank the task force members enough for taking so much time out of their busy schedules to assist us in this endeavor.

Thursday evening I was the guest speaker at the Cary-Kildaire Rotary Club’s meeting. I spoke to the club about ongoing and future downtown projects including the renovations to old Cary Elementary School, the streetscape project (on hold), the recently approved way-finding signage concept and the proposed high speed rail project.

On Friday and Saturday I attended the 2010 Annexation Law and Reform Conference held at the Hampton Inn at Brier Creek. Notable guest speakers included Daren Bakst from the John Locke Foundation, Kathy Hartkopf of FreedomWorks, Tryon NC. Town Council Member Doug Arbogast, Rowan County Commissioner Tina Hall and NC Property Rights Coalition founder Kieran Shanahan.

This was an incredibly informative conference and all speakers did a great job of articulating the issues with the current annexation and eminent domain laws in North Carolina.

The conference concluded with a panel of state legislators who included Representatives David Guice and Bill Faison and State Senators Phil Berger and Larry Shaw – 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans; who all support annexation and eminent domain reform in North Carolina.

It is sad that there is obvious bipartisan support for reform, yet no real reform laws have been passed. It just goes to show how broken our government is when a few powerful people control which legislation comes to the floor for debate and a vote.

Real annexation reform should include the following:

Prohibits municipalities from annexing an area unless that area is in clear need of water and sewer service, police and fire services, and the municipality can adequately provide those services.

County Commission approval of forced annexations.

A simple majority vote of the property owners being annexed.

The annexing municipality – NOT the forcibly annexed citizens - will be financially responsible for water and sewer infrastructure.

Well, those are the highlights from this past week. I’m sorry I didn’t post a week in review last week but given my extra busy schedule these days I hadn’t seen the family much lately and I wanted to spend time with them. I can’t thank Lisa and the kids enough for all their support – I am one lucky man.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Editorial Regarding the Proposed High Speed Rail

I have submitted the following to The Cary News:

The Triangle Transit Authority’s plans for regional and light rail, along with increased bus service have merit, and further planning for additional transit options now so that our region is well positioned to handle the expected growth over the 10-20 years makes sense.

Increased rail service in Cary will also help to spur reinvestment and redevelopment in Cary’s downtown, and in other areas along the rail corridor.

NCDOT Rail’s current plans for high speed rail however, could have just the opposite effect.

During a council worksession, NCDOT Rail Director Patrick Simmons stated that the primary goals of high speed rail is “to move people”, and “public safety”

Public safety to NCDOT Rail means eliminating at-grade rail crossings and the train/car conflict. NCDOT Rail has already recommended eliminating 156 at-grade crossings between Raleigh and Richmond. That means 156 roads that may now dead end where they meet Railroad tracks – unless of course the local municipality invests millions in above or below grade crossings.

Think about how many at-grade rail crossings currently exist in Cary, and how much it would cost Cary taxpayers to grade separate (bridge or tunnel) each one of them. Are you willing to bear a substantial tax increase so that a few hundred people can now get to Charlotte an hour faster than Amtrak’s current service?

Would closing crossings at Maynard Road, Academy Street, Harrison Ave, Cary Parkway and other roads throughout Cary be acceptable to you?

What sense does it make to improve an existing transportation system that negatively impacts another? Why invest so much money in a system that only 3% of the population will ever utilize? And who will want to invest in Cary’s downtown if the majority of road access is eliminated?

The congestion on our roads and highways is not because everyone is trying to get to Richmond or Charlotte. The overwhelming majority is caused by folks traveling to and from work each day, to school, and running errands.

TTA’s plans of regional and light rail, and especially increased bus service to major employment and activity centers might help in this regard. NCDOT Rail’s plans will not.

You may see the majority of council support NCDOT Rail’s plans for high speed rail once we are assured that their plans will not negatively impact our community, our road network, and our taxpayers. Unfortunately that hasn’t happened yet.

In the meantime you can be assured that we will do everything in our power to ensure that Cary’s interests are represented to NCDOT. It might help if they heard from you as well. You can contact them at

Monday, February 22, 2010

Week in Review 2/15/10 - 2/20/10

I want to start by thanking all of you who have taken the time to contact me to express your appreciation of my efforts to better communicate with citizens through this blog. It means a lot to me.

I realize that some of you may not always agree with every decision I make, but I have committed to keeping each and every one of you informed about why I voted a certain way, or why I supported a particular initiative. I do work for you after all.

I was sent to town hall to do a job – not to be everyone’s best friend. Heck, that’s government’s biggest problem today. The more government tries to be everything to everyone, the more it becomes nothing to no one and we can’t afford it any longer. But I digress.

Anyways, thanks again – Now on with my week in review.

The Town of Cary’s Sign Ordinance Review Task Force met again on Tuesday evening. Discussion items included potential changes regarding ground signs, monument signs, and directory signage, as well as allowable colors. While at times it seems we are going around in circles, I do believe we are making progress towards Cary becoming a little more business friendly while continuing to protect the visual landscape of our town. One of the challenges we face is Cary’s strict buffer and streetscape ordinances – which no one wants to tamper with. But requiring so much screening of development makes it very difficult for potential customers to see what businesses are in a particular development – often resulting in businesses going out of business due to lack of exposure. One example is Waverly Place (yes I realize Waverly also has topography issues). Unless you regularly patronize a particular business inside Waverly, you have no idea what other businesses are in there.

Cary’s Planning and Development Committee met this past Thursday. We had three consent agenda items and only one discussion item on our agenda. There just isn’t any development occurring in town right now to speak of. While it makes for a rather quick meeting, it doesn’t make for a sound financial situation. Just as business needs to grow to remain financially healthy, so does the town – or any municipality for that matter. A growth rate of around 3-4% provides new revenues to the town to fund new capital projects while at the same time allowing infrastructure to keep pace with development.

Our one discussion item was the re-adoption of Cary’s existing resolution of consideration of annexation. Cary has a comprehensive annexation program and state law requires it be readopted every two years. This program identifies land or properties that may be considered for future annexation. Re-adopting this resolution does not mean that Cary intends to annex these properties any time in the near future, but it does make it a lot easier for Cary to annex when and if the council decides to do so.

I oppose involuntary annexation and believe that affected property owners deserve a voice and a vote in the process. Given the ongoing debate in the General Assembly I also believe that Cary should wait and see what changes the state implements before moving forward with any annexation plans. The committee recommended sending this item to our next council meeting for discussion as we were divided on whether or not to approve it, and because this is a political issue that deserves council discussion. I intend to vote against this resolution.

Friday morning was a lot of fun. I spoke to 5th graders at Davis Drive Elementary School regarding the importance of reading. I spoke both from my experiences as a business owner and as a member of the council. The students were a lot of fun and asked a number of great questions.

Afterwards I attended a follow up meeting with town staff and Councilwoman Julie Robison regarding an issue we have been working on in the Silverton Community. Staff will be following up with us in the near future with potential options.

On Saturday I had the honor and privilege of representing the Mayor and Council at the 12th annual African American Celebration held at the Herb Young Community Center. I spoke to those in attendance about the importance of diversity, encouraging youths to become involved in their community, and that while we have made great progress towards eradicating racism in America; we still have a lot of work to do. I also presented a proclamation recognizing February and National African American History Month.

Well those are the past week’s highlights – as always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Week in Review 2/6/10 - 2/13/10

On Tuesday council held a worksession to hear from a number of presenters regarding the proposed high speed rail, light rail, and regional rail projects. Speakers included Mr. Pat Simmons from NCDOT Rail, Mr. David King from TTA, Mr. Joe Durham and Mr. Tim Maloney from Wake County, and Mr. Ed Johnson from CAMPO. All presenters spoke to the current status and long term goals for these projects.

Council requested this worksession since Cary had received little to no information regarding these initiatives – and given these projects will directly impact Cary, we want to know what is going on – and who is planning what for our town. Sounds fair enough right?

What we learned is simply unbelievable. While the light rail and regional rail projects have merit, and we should be planning for these initiatives now so that in 20-30 years when they really would be an asset to our region we are prepared, the high speed rail project is absolutely absurd.

$5 Billion Boondoggle. The high speed rail project will cost taxpayers $5+ billion. So what do you get for $5 Billion? You’ll get to Charlotte 30 minutes faster than Amtrak currently does. That’s worth $5 billion right? Now I’m not sure what data NCDOT Rail is looking at, but the folks trying to get to Charlotte or Richmond aren’t the ones clogging up our roadways. It’s the folks who are trying to get to work and back each day.

What is terrifying is that NCDOT Rail’s goals are to ELIMINATE every at-grade crossing from Raleigh to Charlotte, and Raleigh to Richmond. Yet they will most likely not be the one’s paying to construct above or below grade crossings. Guess who will have to pay to grade separate should we desire to keep crossings open in Cary? Cary citizens, that’s who. NCDOT Rail has already submitted their recommendations regarding the route from Richmond to Raleigh. Care to guess how many crossings they recommend being closed? 156. That’s 156 roads that will now most likely dead end where they meet a RR crossing.

Mr. Simmons stated their goals are to move people and public safety. Now I can understand their concerns regarding public safety, but how in the heck does this project “move people” when they have shut down every at-grade crossing? How will you be able to drive through Cary – or any other municipality for that matter – when NCDOT Rail has essentially eliminated your ability to cross over RR tracks?

This dark cloud might have a silver lining however. The feds have currently allocated NCDOT Rail $545 Million – they still require another $4.5 Billion to complete the project. Given the current makeup in Washington and their lust to spend, spend, spend they might have a shot at getting it. However, after this fall’s elections I am not so sure that will be the case. For all our sake let’s hope not. In the meantime you can be assured that we will do everything in our power to represent Cary’s interests.

Wednesday morning I attended the North Carolina Community Foundation Breakfast at the Mathews House in Downtown Cary. The guest speaker was James W. Narron, Chairman of the Board of the North Carolina Community Foundation. He gave a great speech on how to better encourage folks to become more involved in their community by giving back through charitable contributions.

Our council meeting was Thursday evening. Notable topics included a potential partnership between SAS and the town regarding the Veteran’s Freedom Park, a comprehensive transportation plan amendment, and our federal legislative agenda.

Council directed staff to work with SAS and prepare a report to come back to council for discussion regarding SAS’s offer to donate the Veteran’s Freedom Park property to the town and their desire to construct a monument in the park honoring our veterans. While the specifics of what may be required of the town aren’t available yet, for us not to consider such a partnership would be criminal. I’ll report more on this item once I know more.

I pulled our federal legislative agenda off our consent agenda for discussion to propose the addition of a request to seek federal assistance regarding stormwater/flood damage protection. Stormwater and flooding problems are a big concern for a number of Cary citizens and I believe any assistance we can obtain from Washington to help assist us in this regard might better help us provide some relief to folks in town. Council unanimously approved my request.

On Friday I attended a meeting with Councilwoman Julie Robison and representatives of Silverton to discuss a signage issue they have been trying to work through with our staff. We will follow up with our town’s Planning Director to discuss further.

Well that’s this past week’s highlights. As always, thanks for reading!