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!