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!