Wednesday, December 24, 2008

New Blog Layout

No you aren't seeing things. I changed the layout of my blog. I had wanted to find a really cool Christmas background but apparently blogger doesn't have one. I decided on this one instead. I hope you like it!

Christmas Humor

Now I am sure you get lots of joke emails like I do. Most are lame, some are actually funny, and some can be downright offensive...even to me! :-) But this one I found hilarious. I apologize in advance if It offends anyone.

When four of Santa's elves got sick, the trainee elves did not produce toys as fast as the regular ones, and Santa began to feel the Pre-Christmas pressure.

Then Mrs. Claus told Santa her Mother was coming to visit, which stressed Santa even more.

When he went to harness the reindeer, he found that three of them were about to give birth and two others had jumped the fence and were out, Heaven knows where.

Then when he began to load the sleigh, one of the floorboards cracked, the toy bag fell to the ground and all the toys were scattered.

Frustrated, Santa went in the house for a cup of apple cider and a shot of rum. When he went to the cupboard, he discovered the elves had drank all the cider and hidden the liquor. In his frustration, he accidentally dropped the cider jug, and it broke into hundreds of little glass pieces all over the kitchen floor.

He went to get the broom and found the mice had eaten all the straw off the end of the broom.

Just then the doorbell rang, and irritated Santa marched to the door, yanked it open, and there stood a little angel with a great big Christmas tree. The angel said very cheerfully, 'Merry Christmas, Santa! Isn't this a lovely day? I have a beautiful tree for you. Where would you like me to stick it?'

And so began the tradition of the little angel on top of the Christmas tree.

:-) :-) :-) Thanks to "Harry" for this one.

I Wish You a....


But for those who may be offended by such language I offer the following:

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral celebration of the WINTER SOLSTICE holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

In addition, please also accept best wishes for a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2009, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make this country great (not to imply that this country is necessarily greater than any other country or area of choice), and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual orientation of the wishers.

This wish is limited to the customary and usual good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first. " Holiday " is not intended to, nor shall it be considered, limited to the usual Judeo-Christian celebrations or observances, or to such activities of any organized or ad hoc religious community, group, individual or belief (or lack thereof).

Note: By accepting this greeting, you are agreeing to these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher at any time, for any reason or for no reason at all. This greeting is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. This greeting implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for the wisher her/himself or others, or responsibility for the consequences which may arise from the implementation or non-implementation of it. This greeting is void where prohibited by law. Please check with your physician before accepting this, or any other greetings.

Now wasn't MERRY CHRISTMAS! easier? :-)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Week in Review 12/14/08 - 12/20/08

My week started out with a meeting with representatives from a national company (sorry, I can’t say who they are yet) who are looking at Cary as a possible location to open a regional office. We discussed Cary’s economic outlook, demographics, and capital improvement plans in detail. Our meeting went well and I believe they now have a good understanding of all the positives Cary has to offer should they decide to set up shop here in town.

Mayor Weinbrecht and I taped the January edition of the Cary Matters TV show this week – and this was really a lot of fun. The show’s main topic was Cary’s amateur sports venues, and we also discussed flooding and the upcoming council retreat. A lot of good information - including the answer to the age old question “does size really matter?” (and yes I’ll probably regret this one!)

Silverton residents, representatives of Singh Development, members of our town staff, and councilwoman Jennifer Robinson and myself met at the Bond Park Senior Center this past Tuesday evening to discuss whether or not there is support from the community to develop the Cary Parkway/Evans Road/Winfair property as mixed-use instead of commercial. I believe this meeting went well and the developer left with a reasonable understanding of what the key issues were/would be should they decide to pursue mixed use development. I personally support the mixed use concept over the commercial proposal at this site as the mixed use proposal would generate roughly 1/3 of the traffic as the commercial proposal would, and the impact to Winfair Dr. would be significantly less. Mixed use would be more harmonious with the surrounding residential community, and uses such as a gas station or hotel (uses proposed in the commercial plan and adamantly opposed by the residents) would be prohibited. The decision on whether to develop this property as commercial or mixed-use is in the developer’s hands at this point. I hope to hear from them sometime after the holidays.

Thursday evening was our Planning and Development committee meeting. Discussion items pertained to a roadway improvement waiver request from College Park Baptist Church and potential amendments to our town’s sign ordinance to allow for greater flexibility in sign standards.

Afterwards I attended a “Schools Redistricting Brainstorm” hosted by Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears at Holly Springs Town Hall. Upwards of 40 concerned parents and elected officials attended. A number of concerns and action items pertaining to reassignment and the upcoming elections were identified. In my opinion the only way we are going to change the manner in which WCPSS assigns students is to change the make-up of the board of elections plain and simple, and I am committed to doing everything I can to work for and help elect pro-neighborhood schools candidates this coming fall. If you believe as I do and would like to help please send me an email at .

And has been the case for a number of weeks, a good amount of my time this week was spent communicating with WCPSS board members and parents regarding the proposed reassignment plan. The updated reassignment plan also just hit the school system’s website this weekend and I have already spent a great deal of time analyzing node assignments and potential scenarios in the hopes of finding alternative proposals that keep Cary neighborhoods at their neighborhood schools. What a concept huh?

And last but certainly not least, I hope everyone has a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thanks for reading!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Why am I not surprised?

With economy in shambles, Congress gets a raise
By Jordy Yager
Posted: 12/17/08 05:41 PM [ET]

A crumbling economy, more than 2 million constituents who have lost their jobs this year, and congressional demands of CEOs to work for free did not convince lawmakers to freeze their own pay.

Instead, they will get a $4,700 pay increase, amounting to an additional $2.5 million that taxpayers will spend on congressional salaries, and watchdog groups are not happy about it.

“As lawmakers make a big show of forcing auto executives to accept just $1 a year in salary, they are quietly raiding the vault for their own personal gain,” said Daniel O’Connell, chairman of The Senior Citizens League (TSCL), a non-partisan group. “This money would be much better spent helping the millions of seniors who are living below the poverty line and struggling to keep their heat on this winter.”

Read the rest HERE.

Looks like that 18% approval rating can go even lower after all.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Week in Review 12/8/08 - 12/13/08

This week’s work can be summed up in two words – schools and pools. And unfortunately it has nothing to do with teaching a child to swim.

Council held two worksessions this week. The first was a two-fer. We began the worksession with a financial update from our interim town manager Ben Shivar and members of our budget staff. In a nutshell, while our town’s financial status remains healthy, Cary is feeling the effects of a struggling economy like everyone else. We have been and will continue to take steps to reduce expenses and trim the fat to ensure that no matter how long this recession lasts we can weather the storm.

Afterwards council discussed the hotel/meals tax revenue allotted to Cary ($10 million) and qualifying tourism projects proposed by our town staff. The potential projects/investments we discussed were:

Partnering with Triangle Aquatics Center (TAC) to construct an indoor recreational and leisure pool and diving well. Est. cost $14.3 million

Press boxes, stadium additions, locker rooms, concessions and turf at Wake Med Soccer Park. Est. cost $5.8 million

The addition of locker rooms, dormitory space, offices, and an indoor batting cage at USA Baseball. Est cost $3.2 million

A clubhouse and pavilion at the Cary Tennis Center. Est cost $1 million

An office addition, restrooms, and theatrical equipment at Koka Booth Amphitheater. Est cost $1 million

Downtown Performing Arts center. Est cost $60 million

For those of you who may not be aware, the hotel/meals tax is a county wide tax on hotel stays and restaurant meals to generate revenue for tourism type projects that can draw visitors to Wake County. Unfortunately for Cary, the county along with Raleigh (go figure) determines the distribution of these funds – the clear majority of which goes to Raleigh (go figure again) to pay for the convention center…in Raleigh.

Cary contributes roughly 20% of the total hotel/meals tax revenue collected in Wake County. The Cary-Morrisville area generates roughly 35% of this revenue. Yet Cary receives only 5% in return. Morrisville receives nothing, nada, zip, zilch. And if that’s not enough, to rub more salt into the wound, years ago Cary used to have its own hotel/meals tax…until the county decided it wanted that revenue. The county essentially stole Cary’s idea and has been (insert derogatory remark here) us ever since.

Back to the worksession - Unfortunately councilmember Adcock was absent resulting in 6 of us – an even number – deliberating. You can see where this is going right? Needless to say, a majority of council couldn’t decide on whether to partner with TAC, or reinvest in USA Baseball, the Soccer Park, and Tennis Center (the improvements to Koka Booth Amphitheater as well as the Downtown Performing Arts Center were ruled out pretty quick). Three of us wanted to partner with TAC – and three of us wanted to use the funds for baseball, soccer, and tennis. 3 ½ hours later we left this worksession without making a decision…which also by the way made Councilmember Adcock the most popular person on council once she returned from her trip. ;-)

On Wednesday council held another worksession with our public art advisory board to review four art options for the proposed Cary Elementary fly tower (for history on this topic read earlier posts HERE and HERE). Council ultimately decided to instruct the design team and architect to bring back options that focus on architecture instead of applied art. The option was left open that the fly tower could include art, but the primary focus must be on the architecture.

After our worksession council members Adcock, Smith and I met with a concerned parent who lives in the MacGregor Downs area to discuss the proposed school reassignments.

Our council meeting this week included a number of important topics – a rezoning for a proposed office development at Piney Plains near Crossroads, the White Oak Baptist Church rezoning and annexation, approving the Animal Issues Task Force recommendations, and final discussion and decision on the hotel/meals tax revenue.

Now you would think that after having already discussed the hotel/meals tax proposals at length at our worksession that this discussion and decision would go fairly quickly right? Wrong. The good news however is that we did finally make a decision – the bad news is that it wasn’t the decision I had hoped for. I, along with councilors Portman and Robison supported partnering with TAC to complete the vision for aquatics in Cary. I believed this to be the best investment of all the projects before us. Total project cost: $14 million. Minus $10 million in hotel/meals tax money = $4 million investment for Cary. The private sector (TAC) has already built the $20+ million competition venue. Result = $34 million aquatics center in Cary for a $4 million town investment AND no operating loss. TAC would manage and operate the facility. The original aquatics center proposed by the town would have cost Cary taxpayers over $23 million and was projected to lose anywhere from $300,000 - $500,000 a year.

After this motion failed another motion was made to use the hotel/meals tax money for the improvements to USA Baseball, Wake Med Soccer Park, and the Cary Tennis Center. Even though I preferred to use the funds for aquatics, I supported this motion as I believe that all of the projects brought before us were good choices. Then again, if we weren’t getting hosed by the county there wouldn’t have been the need to even have this discussion. But hey, how about that convention center eh?

A number of concerned parents came to our council meeting to speak at the Public Speaks Out portion of our council meeting regarding WCPSS’ proposed reassignment plan. The annual school reassignment fiasco is hands down the most frustrating part of being a member of council. Council has the ability to help Cary citizens regarding an number of quality of life issues. But in regards to schools we are almost powerless. It breaks my heart to see so many families endure such turmoil year after year. Regardless, I promise to continue to represent Cary families and fight for neighborhood schools, increased opportunities for parental involvement, choice, and stability for all our children.

Today I had the honor of riding in the Cary Jaycees Christmas Parade. Which reminds me – MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY HOLIDAYS CARY!

And finally, today is December 13th. Exactly one year ago today I was sworn in as a member of the Cary Town Council. I know it sounds cliché but it seems like just yesterday. My service on the council thus far has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences of my life. I can’t thank you all enough for the opportunity to serve you, the citizens and business owners of Cary as your representative on the Cary Town Council. It is truly an honor and a privilege.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Week(s) in Review Nov. 24 - Dec. 6 2008

Yes, I know. I didn’t post last week….sorry. It was a very busy week and in all honesty between my council responsibilities, the Thanksgiving holiday (Grandma’s house still doesn’t have internet), my day job (the automotive one) and working with families regarding WCPSS’s student reassignment proposal I just couldn’t find the time. I’ll try and make it up to you some other time I promise. ;-)

But speaking of school reassignments… that is where the majority of my focus has been as of late. I have met with numerous families and neighborhood groups over the last couple of weeks to discuss the proposed reassignment plan, how it affects their families and community, and to give advice on how they can work with WCPSS to change the plan. I have also spent a good deal of time speaking with school board members and school system staff in the hopes of convincing them to implement changes to the reassignment plan. And I also attended the WCPSS community engagement meeting this past Monday at Cary High School. I had actually hoped to speak at this meeting, but since they only allotted time for roughly 40 speakers (over 80 signed up to speak), I felt it best that WCPSS hear from those most directly impacted by the proposed reassignments – the parents.

While I am very pleased that WCPSS has already made some positive changes to the proposed reassignment plan, I am still disappointed that many Cary and Apex children are still slated to be reassigned away from their neighborhood school and sent to another school much farther away – all in the name of “diversity”. It continues to amaze me how such a positive word can wreak so much havoc.

Studies by the National Education Association (NEA) conclude that the most accurate predictor of a student’s achievement in school is not income or social status, but the extent to which that student’s family is able to become involved in their children’s education at school and in the community. Positive results of parental involvement include improved student achievement, reduced absenteeism, improved behavior, and restored confidence among parents in their children's schooling. When parents are involved in their children's education at home, they do better in school. And when parents are involved in school, children go farther in school — and the schools they go to are better.

Moving children away from their neighborhood school makes it increasingly difficult for parents to become or remain involved in their child’s education – it also places more of a burden on teachers. Separating children from their community and neighborhood friends they have grown up with all their lives can also have serious consequences on a child’s mental well being.

Now I believe the goal of balancing the percentages of F+R children at our schools is an admirable one – I really do. I think it’s stupid however to reassign children away from their neighborhood school while continuing to bus in children with similar demographics who live ten miles away. If we need to move lower income students out of a particular school, how about we start with those that are bused in before those within walking distance? But what do I know right?

A few quick notes:

This past week I met with town staff and Singh, the developer of a project in Silverton I have spoken about in earlier posts to discuss their upcoming meeting with area residents over the possibility of a mixed use proposal instead of the commercial plan they have proposed. This meeting will be held on December 16th and it is my hope that both the residents and developer can work together to craft a plan that all stakeholders can live with.

I also spent a good deal of time this week reviewing applications for vacancies on both our Environmental Advisory Board and Information Services Advisory Board, as well as reviewing staff reports to prepare for our upcoming council meeting. Council members were also tasked with recommending 4 citizens for the recently approved Site Design Focus Group. After speaking with a number of highly qualified and involved citizens I recommended Lindsey Chester, Glenda Westbrook, George Dohanich, and Cynthia Sinkez. Each one of these individuals would serve our town well.

Well that’s about all for now. Thanks for reading and thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you as a member of the Cary Town Council. It is truly an honor to represent you.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Week in Review 11/17/08 - 11/23/08

This was a very busy week. There is no way I can cover everything this week without writing a novel so I’ll just hit the highlights (or lowlights depending on how you look at it) ;-)

Tuesday evening council held two worksessions. The first was an update from town staff regarding the Western Wake Water Reclamation Facility (WWWRF). Elected officials from Morrisville and Holly Springs attended the WWWRF worksession as they are partners in this project. The second worksession was to further discuss our search for a new town manager with the two firms council hired to assist us in our nationwide search. The good news that came out of this worksession is that we now have a timeline. The search process and candidate evaluations should be completed and reviewed by council on Feb 27th. I would hope that council could make a decision by mid-March.

On Thursday I had the honor of attending the Town of Cary’s Employee of the Year Reception at the Herb Young Community Center. Sixteen outstanding employee of the year nominees were honored before the five finalists were announced. Now I’m a business owner myself, and a large part of why our business is so successful is our incredible staff. Yes I am biased…honest, but biased ;-). I learned a long time ago that you are only as good as the people who work for you. If you want to be the best – you hire the best. The Town of Cary believes this as well. The nearly 1200 professional, dedicated, and responsive employees at the Town of Cary are directly responsible for our town being the premier community to live, work, and play in that it is. It darn sure isn’t us seven yahoos on council. ;-) (it's a joke guys!)

I spent a great deal of time this week reviewing documents and corresponding with staff and citizens in preparation for Thursday evening’s council meeting. Notable topics included an annexation in Silverton (denied), Habitat for Humanity funding (approved), resolutions to begin the process for a number of town initiated annexations (approved * both myself and Mayor Weinbrecht voted nay) and a transportation waiver improvement request from WCPSS (see previous post). Council also created a site design focus group, but we added two more citizen positions than were recommended by town staff – you just can’t have enough citizen involvement.

On Friday I had the pleasure of participating in the Heartwood Montessori School’s landscaping dedication ribbon cutting. This was a lot of fun – cold, but fun – and it was great to learn more about the school and its curriculum. I was very impressed with their focus on the environment. They even turned an old swimming pool into a rain garden. Good stuff.

I spent a great deal of time this week reviewing WCPSS’s draft reassignment plan and communicating with parents. While I applaud the school system for crafting a multi-year reassignment plan for the first time ever, I am glad that this is just a draft plan, and I hope that after the board receives citizen input a number of common sense changes can be made. I have sent one letter to WCPSS already regarding two nodes off of Maynard and Wicklow (a little over a mile away from Cary High School) that have been reassigned from Cary High School to Apex High School.

Friday afternoon I met with two parents to discuss the reassignment plan, and on Sunday (today) I attended a community meeting in Wessex with parents whose children have been reassigned from Panther Creek (a good thing) to Athens Drive (what???) While this community is not happy they are being reassigned again (4 times in 7 years I think), the majority understands that reassignment away from Panther Creek makes sense – the school is very overcrowded and over ten miles away. They had hoped however to be reassigned back to Cary High School (where they were reassigned to Panther Creek from only 2 years ago). They never dreamed they would be sent to Athens. Who would? I did my best to give advice and answer questions. Depending on how the numbers work out there may be a solution to this mess – keep your fingers crossed.

That’s hardly it for this week, but it’s all I figured you’d want to read about. ;-) Now can somebody turn the heat on please – I’m freezing!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The 64 Million Dollar Question

There has been a lot of discussion lately regarding a request from WCPSS for Cary to waive a $1.4 million road improvement associated with the addition of mobile units (22 classrooms) at Panther Creek High School. What WCPSS fails to realize – even after meeting with our town staff - is that Cary can’t legally grant a waiver for roadway improvements. The improvements are required by law per our adequate public facilities ordinance for roads. Cary can’t break its own laws. Cary could decide to pay for the improvements ourselves – like we did with Alston Ridge earlier this year – but given the current economic climate, our budget is just as tight as everyone else’s. We simply don’t have the extra cash right now, nor do we desire to place this additional burden on the back of Cary taxpayers.

After explaining this to folks, their next question is, “What has Cary done for the school system over the years anyways?”


That’s right – since 2000 the Town of Cary has given $64 million to WCPSS in the form of cash, land, infrastructure, parks, shared facilities, etc...

Examples include:
$1,424,240 in assistance to purchase the land for Panther Creek High School
$5,229,600 in economic development assistance (cash paid to WCPSS)
$929,666 for Green Hope Elementary Park
$1,110,366 for Middle Creek Water Infrastructure
$2,067,323 in Middle Creek Street Infrastructure
$6,155,416 for School Resource Officers
$2,800,000 for 20 acres of land at the Hawes Tract donated to WCPSS for an elementary school
$886,544 for a collector road associated with the Hawes Tract
$1,350,000 for Roadway improvements associated with Alston Ridge
$185,110 in water infrastructure (water line) at Panther Creek
$620,550 for two ballfields, lights, and a comfort station at Davis Drive Middle

I could go on and on and on….But I think you get the picture. In fact, Cary has given more to WCPSS over the years than any other municipality in Wake County – including Raleigh.

We’ll probably be slammed for not granting the roadway improvement waiver request. The media loves to beat up on Cary for some reason (jealousy). The reality however is we have done more than our fair share. Maybe if other municipalities (cough… Raleigh…cough) were as generous over the years as Cary has been, WCPSS might have the money to pay for these improvements? Then again, I am sure I could find $1.4 million worth of cuts in WCPSS’s budget. Hint: it’s yellow.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Old Cary Elementary Fly Tower Art

Some of you have contacted me wanting to see what the proposed artwork installation on the soon to be constructed fly tower at old Cary Elementary would look like if approved. Here are two images. Please feel free to email me at with any feedback.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Week in Review 11/10/08 - 11/16/08

Monday evening council participated in a joint worksession with our town’s planning and zoning board to discuss proposed changes to the town’s land development ordinance (LDO) – specifically the conservation residential overlay (CRO) in the Southwest Area Plan (SWAP). Ya, I know – too many acronyms. ;-) In a nutshell, staff has recommended changes to the density bonus formula that currently exists within the CRO. My first concern is that the proposed formula is very complex and difficult for the average Joe like myself to understand. I just don’t like it when staff can make numbers work but I can’t – it throws up red flags...makes me worry.

The SWAP has six guiding principles – the first of which states, “Preserve Rural Character”.

Under the recommended changes, a developer could utilize the overlay and cluster their development (smaller lot sizes/increased density) in exchange for preserving a greater amount of open space. Studies show that this is in fact better for the environment and water quality (another guiding principle of the SWAP) than large lot single family home development. But it darn sure isn’t very rural in character. Sure, you could surround the development with the open space to hide it, but once inside you would be in a development that resembles most every new subdivision built in Cary over the last 10 years. Is this in line with the vision of previous councils, residents, and land owners for this area? I don’t know, but the worksession did help answer a lot of questions I had, and I really valued hearing each of the P+Z board member’s thoughts. I’m just not sure yet if the proposed changes are the right balance between environmental protection and preserving the rural character of the area.

Thursday and Friday I traveled to Newnan Georgia in Coweta County with members of the Wake County Public School System to visit Central Educational Center (CEC) – a vocational high school that has become a model for other communities both in the United States and throughout the world. CEC’s mission is simple – “to ensure a viable 21st century workforce”. CEC is a charter school designed and operated by a partnership of business and industry, Coweta County Schools, and West Central Technical College. Students voluntarily enroll from one of the three area high schools. Students take core classes at their base high school then travel to CEC for career education courses such as dental assistant, automotive repair, welding, aviation, cosmetology, CAD, video editing/3D animation and a host of other career prep courses. Students may also take dual-enrollment courses as early as age 16 - simultaneously earning credit towards their high school diploma and a technical college associate degree.

What was also unique was that the teachers at CEC were not your typical educator – they were industry professionals. The dental assistant course instructor is a dentist – the aviation course was taught by a pilot- the auto repair instructor was an automotive technician and so on. By not having to hire “certified teachers” CEC is able to hire those most qualified to teach a specific trade. Another interesting point- students are not only graded on course work, they also are graded on work ethic.

To say I was impressed with what I saw at CEC would be an understatement. I was blown away is more like it. So were representatives of WCPSS. It is my sincere hope that somehow, some way we can replicate CEC here in Wake County. It will be difficult, and it will be expensive. But if we really want to address the dropout rate and truly provide a workforce education we must invest in career training education. Municipalities, county government, WCPSS, Wake Tech, industry and business, our chambers of commerce, and the community will all need to work together to make this happen. But as we saw in Newnan Georgia, it can be done! Many thanks to WCPSS Board Members Eleanor Goettee and Horace Tart for inviting me to go along. I only wish other elected officials and business leaders would have attended (I was the only attendee not associated with WCPSS). I also valued the opportunity to get to know the school board members better. We sure don’t agree on everything, but it’s nice to know we are able to put differences aside and work on things we do agree on.

As always, I also spent a good amount of time this week answering email - I try my best to answer every one I receive. I believe every Cary citizen who takes the time to contact me deserves a response. The bulk of emails this week pertained to the proposed fly tower art at Cary Elementary (which I have spoken about in earlier blog posts), Habitat for Humanity funding, and the Singh development in Silverton.

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

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Week In Review 11/3/08 - 11/9/08

Next time I have a light council schedule remind me NOT to tell my wife about it. ;-) Other than a couple of meetings, an election, one special event and a lot of discussion with residents in the Silverton area regarding a proposed development, a bathroom remodel dominated this week. Note to readers – when shower walls show signs of rot and need replacing you WILL also find rotten subflooring. The vanity cabinetry will NOT come out in one piece, and you WILL end up replacing ALL the plumbing. And if your wife is anything like mine, you WILL also smooth the ceiling – no ifs ands or buts about it. And since we all know that if momma aint happy aint nobody happy, we now have smooth ceilings in the bathroom. After about 10 trips to Lowes it’s done, and I must say it looks pretty darn good!

On Election Day I worked the polls for NC State Representative Nelson Dollar – and what a cold and rainy day it was. Nonetheless, I had a good time, spoke to a lot of voters and friends, and Nelson won reelection. Afterwards I came home to get warm and watch the Presidential election returns/coverage. While I was disappointed that John McCain didn’t win, the American people have spoken. I wish Barack Obama the best and will support him as President until he gives me reason not to. Regardless, I am sooooooooo glad the election is finally over!!!!! ;-)

This week I met with representatives of Singh, the developer of a proposed commercial project in Silverton that I spoke about in my last week in review to further discuss resident’s concerns. We also discussed whether or not the developer would be interested in bringing back their original mixed use proposal instead of developing the property as commercial (the mixed use proposal will generate roughly 1/3 of the traffic, and be less of an impact to the adjoining residents than the commercial proposal will). Singh expressed an interest in revisiting the mixed use project, but understandably also expressed concerns due to previous neighborhood opposition of the project. Now I wasn’t on council when the mixed use proposal came through, but I can tell you from the dozens of residents I have spoken to recently, a clear majority support working with the developer on the mixed use project instead of seeing the property develop as commercial. It is my hope that a compromise can be reached that all stakeholders can live with – but compromise is a two way street. Everyone must come to the table willing to work together for this to be successful. We will have a neighborhood meeting soon – I’ll keep you posted.

I also had the pleasure of attending the “Paint the Town Drug Free” Red Ribbon Awards Banquet this week (last week I served as a judge). This was a lot of fun. Police Chief Pat Bazemore and every School Resource Officer (SRO) we have were in attendance. While not every entry could win an award, everyone who competed in this contest was a winner. They all learned about the benefits of staying drug free, and had a great time doing it. The grand prize winner even walked away with a Playstation Portable – how cool is that?! Heck, next year I might submit an entry. ;-)

Well that’s about it for this week in review – sorry for keeping it short but I’m beat. I’m going to grab a shower…hopefully all the paint will finally come off. ;-)

Monday, November 3, 2008

T minus 5,4,3,2.....

Well here we are - election eve. Tomorrow our nation finally decides who will lead this country for the next four years. I pray we get it right.

No matter what you are doing tomorrow GO VOTE!!!!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Week in Review 10/26/08 - 11/02/08

This was a very busy week.

On Monday town staff and myself met with residents from the Russell Hills subdivision near downtown to discuss proposed changes to the low density residential (LDR) zoning designation throughout the town center area. When the Town Center Area Plan was adopted, new zoning designations were implemented throughout downtown. Properties that were previously zoned R-12 changed to LDR. The biggest difference between R-12 and LDR is that the minimum lot sizes and property set-backs of LDR zoning are less than that of R-12. What happened in Russell Hills – a well established neighborhood with large lot sizes – was that builders began to buy homes in the neighborhood and then subdivided the existing lot to construct two homes where one once stood. This was significantly altering the character and charm of the existing neighborhood. To address the neighborhood’s concerns town staff has recommended increasing the minimum set-back restrictions of LDR zoning – effectively eliminating the possibility that any more lots may be subdivided as there are no lots large enough in Russell Hills that can be subdivided while meeting the new minimum set-back restrictions. The residents were pleased with the proposed changes, and staff will soon be bringing them forward for public hearing and council decision.

Council held a worksession on Tuesday to discuss issues/changes in regards to Koka Booth Amphitheater. The discussion mainly centered around excessive noise and it's effect on the adjoining neighborhood. After much discussion council agreed to change the manner in which we monitor sound levels from a ten minute average to a five minute average. I am not sure if this is the best approach - in my opinion we just need to increase the amount of the fine. If the fine is significant enough to where the bands will lose money if they exceed our noise limits, the bands won't exceed the limit. We'll give this a year and see how it goes I guess. I am however very pleased with the direction the amphitheater has been going over the last couple of years.

Wednesday morning I attended the Cary Senior Center Memorial Garden and Plaza Remembrance and the A. Marie Kappen Media Center Dedication. It was an honor to attend and learn more about A. Marie Kappen’s selflessness and dedication to our town. Everyone I met spoke very highly of her – I wish I had had the opportunity to know her.

Afterwards residents of the Silverton community, town staff, and myself met with representatives of Singh – the developer of a proposed commercial/office development at Winfair, Cary Parkway and Evans Road - to discuss resident’s concerns over the project. Previously Singh had proposed a mixed-use development at this location which would have required a rezoning and council approval. That proposal received significant neighborhood opposition resulting in the developer pulling the project. The developer has now brought forward a commercial project which conforms to the existing zoning, meets town ordinances, and requires only administrative approval - yet this project impacts the surrounding community much more so than the mixed use proposal would have. The town and myself continue to work with the developer towards addressing the neighborhood’s concerns, and staff and I have a follow up meeting with the developer this week to discuss the resident’s concerns further.

Thursday morning I had the pleasure of serving as a judge for the Red Ribbon “Paint the town drug free” art contest. I must confess that this was much more difficult than I imagined it would be because of the creativity and talent displayed in all of the entries. Regardless of who wins (I’m not the only judge so I don’t know), everyone who participated in this contest is a winner. If you happen to be near the Herb Young Community Center over the next week or so, stop by and check out the artwork for yourself – it’s really good!

Thursday afternoon council held a worksession before our council meeting to discuss the search process for our new town manager. After much discussion council decided to hire two separate firms to aid us in our search. The first specializes in national recruiting. They will conduct the national search for us and then make a first round cut of applicants. At that point the second firm who specializes in executive candidate evaluations will then take over and further analyze, interview, and conduct simulation exercises to widdle the number of applicants down to 6-8 or so. Council will then interview and evaluate the remaining candidates before making our final decision.

Thursday evening was our council meeting. The main topics of interest included public hearings for an annexation and rezoning for property owned by White Oak Baptist Church in Cary’s southwest area. After hearing from a number of concerned residents, council referred the rezoning request to our Planning and Zoning Board for review. Council also spent a good amount of time discussing a proposed comprehensive plan amendment to our South West Area Plan to include uses such as life care communities and nursing homes. Council ultimately denied the comprehensive plan amendment request. Council believed it best to not “blanket approve” some institutional uses in an area planned as rural and would prefer to judge each request on a case by case basis. Council also approved designating the Guess-White-Ogle House (the pink house on Academy St.) and the John Pullen Hunter house (also on Academy) as Cary historic landmarks.

The meeting I had requested between council, the public art advisory board, and staff to discuss the proposed art on the fly tower at Cary Elementary was held at noon on Friday. I am pleased to report that after a healthy discussion regarding the proposed art – as well as process – that council agreed to instruct the architect/design team to bring back a number of different options for council to consider along with the existing proposal. Regardless of which design is finally approved we will be making changes to the process in which public art projects – especially those of significance – move along in the process. It is a waste of time and resources to allow a project to move from concept to final design if council is just going to vote it down. I believe the manner and timing in which this meeting took place to be a good model to use going forward.

Friday evening Mayor Weinbrecht and I attended the Cary Band Day’s 50th Anniversary reception at Cary High School. Nearly every previous band director for the last 50 years was in attendance, as was former Cary Mayor Koka Booth. On Saturday morning the Mayor and I also attended the Cary Band Day Parade.

Afterwards council participated in a 3fer – the official dedication ceremonies for the name change of Kid’s Together Park to Marla Dorrel Park, the opening of the Hinshaw Greenway, and the artwork on the pedestrian bridge over US 1/64. All three dedications took place at Kid’s Toget….oops, I mean Marla Dorrel Park. ;-) A bagpipe band escorted everyone from the park to see the pedestrian bridge – this was really cool as I like bagpipes. ;-) Then finally on Saturday evening I attended Sophie’s Social – a benefit event for Heaven Sent Adoptions - at the Page Walker Hotel. Heaven Sent Adoptions is a non-profit organization with the primary goal of awarding grants to adoptive families to assist with adoption expenses.

That’s all for now – until next week, thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Week in Review 10/19/08 - 10/25/08

Wow, you’d think with all the politicians I hung out with this week there would have been enough hot air to keep me warm – I’m freezing! ;-) Just kidding!

Apex town councilman Bryan Gossage, Morrisville town councilman Tom Murry, and yours truly hosted a Regional Issues Forum Monday evening at the Cedar Fork Community Center in Morrisville. The goal of this forum was to provide an opportunity for area residents to speak with local officials regarding opportunities and challenges facing our region, so it was no surprise that transportation, schools, and regional partnerships dominated the discussion. It is our hope to host a number of these “idea raisers” in the future. Government works best when everyone is involved.

On Tuesday I met with representatives from the Cary Farmers Market and the Heart of Cary Association to discuss alternative site locations for the market. The train depot - the Farmers Market’s current location – is experiencing significant increases in ridership largely due to increasing fuel prices, and has plans to expand their services resulting in a greater need of their parking. We identified a number of potential alternative sites downtown that may work and have begun discussions with property owners. Eventually the Farmers Market will be located on Park Street when the downtown park is completed, but unfortunately that is years away.

Afterwards I attended a Republican Party precinct meeting on behalf of House Member Nelson Dollar. This was the first time I had ever served as a campaign surrogate for a candidate. It was an honor to speak on Nelson’s behalf. Nelson is a good man; a man of principle and integrity who fights hard for the little guy. I can’t say this about most politicians these days, but Nelson has earned another term in office.

Let’s get ready to rumble!!!! Bright and early Wednesday morning was the Cary Chamber of Commerce’s Congressional Candidates Forum for districts 4 and 13. David Price vs. BJ Lawson and Brad Miller vs. Hugh Webster. The most impressive candidate award goes to BJ Lawson. BJ was confident, articulate, and demonstrated a clear understanding of the issues facing our state and nation. The most unimpressive candidate award goes to Brad Miller. After 6 years in congress you would think the guy could answer a question regarding transportation, yet when asked one he said, “I wish David could have gotten this question first” before struggling to provide his answer. Throughout the debate it became clear who pulls Congressman Miller’s strings.

The Town of Cary’s School of Government Graduation was Wednesday evening and I wouldn’t have missed this for anything. It was truly an honor to present the graduates their diplomas and I hope all of them apply to serve on one of our town boards or commissions. Increased citizen involvement is very important to council. The more involved our citizens become in our government the more our government works to serve our citizens.

Our Planning and Development Committee meeting was Thursday afternoon. The only topic of discussion was whether or not to issue RFPs for consulting services for the town’s community visioning project. This initiative is an extensive community visioning project to engage our citizens in defining the long term future of Cary. While a worthwhile project, it is my sincere hope that staff’s cost estimate is high, or else we just may have more discussion by the time this comes back to council for final approval.

Afterwards I attended the Western Wake Republican Club's Annual Pre-election Jitters Party at the Bass Lake Retreat House in Holly Springs. This was a huge success with nearly 200 people in attendance. Good food, drink, and candidates making stump speeches – where would you rather be? ;-)

Friday evening we went to the Cary High School / Apex football game at Cooper Field. It was a good game with Apex coming out on top 24-17. Ok…almost a good game. ;-) Saturday afternoon I had two events. The first was another campaign rally in Apex. While I had a good time, I think I can speak for nearly everyone (especially the candidates) when I say I will be so glad when November 4th finally comes and goes.

Later that evening my daughter Elizabeth and I had the honor of attending the Deepavali / Diwali Celebration at Sri Venkateswara Temple in Cary. While I was invited as a member of the town council, I elected to bring Elizabeth along so she – a seven year old – could experience and learn more about Indian culture. As parents it is very important that we teach our children tolerance and respect, and I can’t think of a better way for our children to learn about other cultures and religions than by experiencing them firsthand. We both had a great time, and I can’t thank the folks at Sri Venkateswara enough for having us.

Well, that’s about it for this week. I’m gonna finish watching the Penn State game…they should win this one easy. Hi Brent! ;-) Until next week, thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

News Advisory - Regional Issues Forum


October 17, 2008

For Immediate Release

Area councilmen invite public to issues forum MORRISVILLE, NC – Understanding the regional nature of many issues that confront western Wake County, Apex Councilman Bryan Gossage, Cary Councilman Don Frantz, and Morrisville Councilman Tom Murry invite the public to a Regional Issues Forum at the Cedar Fork Community Center in Morrisville on Monday, October 20th, at 7pm.

The council members plan to discuss issues such as resource management, transportation planning, and economic growth.

Citizens of Apex, Cary, and Morrisville are encouraged to participate in the discussion, and share their own ideas on how to best address opportunities and challenges facing our region.

Area residents can RSVP to Apex Councilman Bryan Gossage at or (919) 249-3303.

# # #

Councilmen Bryan Gossage and Tom Murry serve on the Triangle “J” Council of Governments

Councilmen Murry and Don Frantz serve on Wake County’s Growth Issues Task Force.

Week in Review 10/13/08 - 10/18/08

Highlights of my work week as a member of the Cary Town Council included meetings with WCPSS and our public art advisory board, as well as meetings with town staff and our town council meeting. Lots of meetings! :-)

Members of council met with the Wake County Public School Board and staff on Tuesday. WCPSS presented an update regarding current and future building construction and renovations, and how the deteriorating economy factors into future construction plans, land acquisition and student assignment.

After WCPSS's presentation there was a good amount of time for open discussion between the board and council. Most of my comments/questions centered around curriculum - specifically vocational education. In my opinion, the best way to address the ever increasing drop out rate is through increased opportunities in vocational education. Let's face it, the majority of high school drop outs are not college bound kids to start with. They don't care about learning a foreign language or advanced level math. School is boring for them, and they would much rather enter the workforce. While we would like to believe every child should go to college, the reality is that isn't reality. Expanding vocational education (courses such as auto shop, construction, welding, or plumbing) in our high schools will give non college bound students a reason to want to come to school - they will be learning a trade that will ultimately lead to a good career instead of a job behind the counter at Burger King.

How many of you reading this realize a automotive technician (mechanic) can earn anywhere from $40,000 - $100,000 a year? Yet there is a shortage of automotive technicians in the workforce. Why? Kids aren't exposed to trades as a possible career path that's why. This needs to change or before too long there won't be anyone to fix your car, or your plumbing, or your air conditioning, or....

On Wednesday I attended the Public Art Advisory Board's monthly meeting to learn more about the proposed art for the fly tower and lobby area at Cary Elementary. It is my hope to avoid another scenario like we saw with a certain art tower a couple of months ago. I believe there to be a problem with process. Currently the council isn't periodically updated on projects as they move along through the process to ensure that council approves of the direction in which the board is heading. This is what happened with the art tower. By the time council was made aware of the project, it was 3 weeks until final approval and design was completed. I believe that council will be addressing the process issue in the near future, but in the meantime I felt that attending the Public Art Advisory Board's meeting would be wise in case it turned out I had any concerns...which I do. At our council meeting I recommended council table this project until such time that council and the Public Art Advisory can schedule a worksession to give everyone a chance to learn more about the projects and provide direction. It is better for all parties involved that council give input sooner than later.

Thursday evening was our council meeting, preceded by a reception for outgoing town manager Bill Coleman. The reception was a great time as many councilors and staff members both past and present were in attendance. It was good to see everyone and the amount of people in attendance was indicative of the amount of respect folks have for Bill.

The council meeting was an up and downer however. During the meeting everyone was given the opportunity to say their goodbyes to Bill and for me that was difficult. I have only worked with Bill as a member of council since December, but I have known him for years. He's not only a great leader but also a friend. I will miss him. Council did however honor his service by presenting him with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine from Governor Easley, as well as a proclamation naming the main baseball field at USA Baseball the William B. Coleman, Jr. Field. Bill is a huge baseball fan - he seemed pretty stoked with that one. :-)

I also spent a good amount of time this week working with town staff and communicating with residents in the Silverton area regarding a proposed commercial/office development at Cary Parkway, Winfair, and Evans Road. Residents in the area and myself have asked a number of questions and have expressed concerns over the project and our town staff is working diligently to address all of them.

I also want to let folks know about an upcoming Regional Issues Forum hosted by Apex Councilman Bryan Gossage, Morrisville Councilman Tom Murray, and myself. This will take place this Monday the 20th at 7:00 pm at the Cedar Fork Community Center in Morrisville. We plan to discuss issues such as resource management, transportation, and economic development. Please feel free to come and share your ideas about how to best deal with opportunities and issues facing our region.

That's about it for this week. As always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Week in Review 10/6/08 - 10/11/08

This week was relatively light in regards to council responsibilities - and after our east coast tour last week I needed some downtime! :-) Along with answering loads of email and a few meetings, I also had the pleasure of meeting Mary Jean Eisenhower, granddaughter of our 34th President Dwight D. Eisenhower. I was also privileged to attend the 8th Annual Diwali Festival at Koka Booth Amphitheater.

Most folks typically hate Mondays -and I am no exception. That's why I decided to shake it up a bit and do something fun for a change. I went to go visit my good friends at the dentist. I mean, nothing says "fun" like sitting upside down in a chair while two lovely ladies with power tools rearrange the inside of your mouth right? I even got a new toothbrush after it was all said and done - how cool is that??? :-(

On Tuesday - when I could finally feel the left side of my face and could control the drooling - I met with long time Cary resident and businessman Roy Mashburn. This was an informal meeting in which he presented his thoughts and concerns on Cary's future - especially relating to issues with the condition of our nation's economy. I in turn spoke to his concerns, as well as my vision for the future of Cary. It was a good meeting.

That evening I watched the Presidential Debate between Barack Obama and John McCain. I can sum up my thoughts on this debate in one word: BORING. I learned nothing new about either candidate or their positions, and quite frankly after their pathetic performances I now think LESS about the both of them than I did before the debate. I want a refund. :-) Seriously - can we have a "do over" with the primaries or something?

On Thursday Mayor Weinbrecht, Councilor Adcock and myself, along with key members of our town staff met with business owners in the downtown area regarding parking issues pertaining to the downtown streetscape project. It was a very productive meeting and I am optimistic that we are much closer to a solution than we have been in the past.

On Friday I met for lunch with Cary's Sister Cities Commission and Mary Jean Eisenhower at the Page Walker Hotel. Mrs. Eisenhower is the President and CEO of People to People International (PTPI), an organization founded by her grandfather President Dwight D. Eisenhower over 50 years ago. The purpose of PTPI is to enhance international understanding and friendship through educational, cultural, and humanitarian activities involving the exchange of ideas and experiences directly among peoples of different countries and diverse cultures. They cooperate with any and all organizations of similar nature and purpose. Our Sister Cities Commission is one of those organizations. Being a history buff, the highlight for me was listening to Mrs. Eisenhower speak about her life experiences growing up the granddaughter of a President. It also reminded me of my time as a child with my grandfather - a career Marine and WWII veteran. I could listen to him tell stories for hours, and as soon as he would finish one we would beg for another.

Friday afternoon I met with members of the Cary PD and a concerned resident over issues they are experiencing in their neighborhood.

On Saturday I had the honor of officially beginning the Diwali Festival by reading a proclamation designating October 11, 2008 as the 8th Cary Diwali Celebration. Diwali is the Indian celebration of good versus evil. It is a festive occasion celebrated in almost all regions of India and it is looked upon as the beginning of the new year. Over 10,000 people attended this day long event at Cary's Koka Booth Amphitheater. The folks from Hum Sub were very gracious hosts and spent a great deal of time educating me on India's history, the meaning behind Diwali, and even convinced me to sample some of the food...which I did...which was great! This was a beautiful event, and all the performances were wonderful. I can't wait until next year's event!

Well that's about it for this week in review and as always, thanks for reading. Tune in again next week - same bat time, same bat channel! :-)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Week in Review 9/29/08 - 10/5/08 - ;-)

Good evening Cary! And welcome to Don Frantz’ Cary Town Council Journal coming to you live from Interstate 95 near Manning, South Carolina. We’ve decided to take this show on the road on an east coast state to state tour – beginning in Cary, North Carolina and finishing up in sunny Orlando Florida. Why? Because confidence in government is at an all time low and Americans are demanding openness and accountability from their elected officials. Folks want to know more about “that councilman from Cary” – who is this guy? And why does he blog?

Our first stop was a “town hall discussion” sponsored by a successful small business called “Shell” in Florence, South Carolina. Feedback was overwhelmingly positive – and “Wanda”, the store manager even asked for my autograph. One gentleman waited outside all day for us to show up – and as soon as we arrived he begged us for “change”. I shook his hand and promised him that I am working as hard as I can to change politics as usual. I also recommended he buy a wallet since carrying around one’s money in a tin can didn’t seem very smart. After our forum I thanked everyone for their hospitality - and the use of their facilities - then we boarded “The Straight Blog Express” en route to our next destination.

Unfortunately due to security concerns I cannot reveal our next stop at this time. Security is already upset with me as it is – something about sub par refreshments at “Shell” – and the last thing I want to do is agitate them any more by revealing top secret information. I did call ahead however and made sure our next stop has Gummi Bears and YooHoo.

I figured I would write this week’s “Week in Review” in between stops.

On Tuesday I met with Torrey Dixon from FairVote. As many of you know I am the first candidate in the State of North Carolina elected utilizing Instant Runoff Voting (IRV). I’m also not shy with my thoughts. ;-) This was a rather informal discussion – a coffee table chat if you will discussing the pros and cons of IRV. In the afternoon I met with representatives of the Cary Police Department to discuss an ongoing neighborhood issue.

Wednesday was a very busy day. First was the Cary Chamber of Commerce’s Wake County Commissioners Candidate’s Forum. This event was well attended and a great opportunity to hear from all the candidates on issues relevant to Cary such as revisiting the hotel/meals tax distribution formula (Cary get’s the short end of the stick on this one big time). The convention center is great for Raleigh and good for the county, but it isn’t really doing much to benefit Cary (no matter how much they say it is). The Cary / Morrisville area contributes roughly 38% of the total amount of hotel/meals taxes collected in Wake County – but thanks to Raleigh we’re lucky to get 5%. We’re getting scr… um…treated unfairly. ;-)

Afterwards was our monthly Friends of the Page Walker Committee meeting. I serve as the council liaison to the Friends – but I have been a proud member long before ever joining council. If historic preservation is important to you – you need to join the Friends. Please visit their website here. Following the meeting I met with EMS Chief Cohen and Board of Directors Chair Brent Miller to discuss EMS funding and deployment strategies.

Thursday morning I attended The Heart of Cary Association’s monthly meeting. Our guest speakers were Kyle Hubert and Denise Dickens from the Town of Cary who provided the group with an update on the downtown streetscape project – which council officially approved at last week’s worksession.

Alright – we just completed stop #2 on the tour. This was an “Eat n’ Greet” hosted by a lovely lady named “Ruby” (I think her last name was Tuesday…maybe Thursday?). She had a lovely restaurant in Palm Coast Florida that, except for her inability to make a decent margarita, provided us a great opportunity to again speak to Americans about the need for more openness and transparency in government. They even had a podium and microphone waiting for us! After speaking with the citizens of Palm Coast, one lady (who obviously showed up late) asked for a “tip”. I told her not to leave your car windows down when it’s raining…like she did. We said our goodbyes and climbed aboard the “Straight Blog Express” to head to our next stop – sunny Orlando Florida.

Unfortunately word leaked out that we were coming to town (remind me next time to make sure I get the phone number right before I text message someone), so staff hastily worked with the folks at the University of Central Florida to arrange for a larger venue than the 4th floor dorm room we had reserved. Hearing of the record crowds we were drawing up and down the east coast, they allowed us the use of Brighthouse Networks Stadium. We figured what the heck, if Barack Obama (never thought you’d see that name on this blog did you?) could speak to thousands of folks in a stadium – why couldn’t we? It turns out it was a good call – about 35,000 people showed up to hear what we had to say. Coincidentally there also happened to be a football game between UCF and SMU scheduled at the same time. UCF – who even more coincidentally our son plays linebacker for won 31 – 17!!! Woo Hoo!

Last stop on the “Open Government World Tour” was held Sunday at Sea World. Security insisted that after reaching thousands of Americans it was now time to reach out to animals – mammals in particular. And after the refreshment fiasco at Shell I wasn’t about to say no. I’m glad we took her advice. Dolphins and Orcas were literally jumping out of the water when they heard what I had to say regarding openness and accountability in government. The seals however weren’t nearly as receptive – I had to buy $10 worth of dead fish to get their attention, but once I got it I had to shout as they wouldn’t stop cheering or applauding. ;-)

We’re now on the long road home. Security is asleep in the back of the “Straight Blog Express” and its staff’s turn to drive. I hope you enjoyed the humor this week…and yes it can get boring riding in a car for 18 hours. ;-)

Until next time! Thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Week in Review 9/22/08 - 9/27/08

As always this was a very busy week. I spent a good amount of time answering email from citizens, visiting sites and reviewing reports in preparation for council's worksessions on Tuesday and Thursday night's council meeting.

My week started off by attending the Western Wake Republican Club’s monthly meeting at Bentley’s Restaurant at Crossroads. This month’s featured guest was Robert Hunter who is running for the North Carolina Court of Appeals.

Council held two worksessions on Tuesday evening to discuss the downtown Cary streetscape project and aquatics. The aquatics worksession was very positive. We received a presentation from Triangle Aquatics Center President Mike Curran on a proposal to partner with their existing facility to provide recreational and leisure aquatics for Cary citizens. Council directed staff to work with TAC to develop a proposal to bring back to council for decision. The streetscape worksession was for council to review the final plan, give direction on any changes we feel necessary, and vote on whether or not to accept the plan. I am pleased to report that council approved the streetscape plan by a vote of 6-1.

Wednesday was a really fun day. I attended the Cary Chamber of Commerce’s candidates forum at McGregor Downs Country Club. I really enjoy political events such as these – especially when it isn’t me in the hot seat! ;-) Afterwards Mayor Weinbrecht and I met at town hall to tape the October edition of the Cary Matters TV Show. It turned out pretty well….I think. ;-) Tune in to Cary Channel 11 to learn more about changes to our boards and commissions appointment process, guano, and trick or treating….seriously. You’re dying to watch now aren’t you??? ;-)

Thursday evening was our council meeting. Highlights include approving the comprehensive transportation plan, approving the transportation improvement waiver request at the Dry and Harrison Ave intersection (see previous post for more info on this), denying changes to the Walnut Street Corridor Transition Zoning District, and denying redistricting of council districts at this time.

I already spoke to the need to redistrict in an earlier post so I’ll spare you the details. We all showed up to the council meeting knowing the decision to redistrict now would fail by a vote of 4-3. No surprises there. What was surprising to me however was council didn’t vote to redistrict after the 2009 election either. The majority of council instead prefers to redistrict after the 2010 census - prior to the 2011 elections. Let me tell you why I think this to be a bad idea. Cary will not receive the results from the 2010 census until April/May of 2011. Council will then have to review the data, decide on new district boundaries, hold the required public hearings, and then notify the board of elections and our citizens of the changes….all before the election in October. To me, redistricting 2 years before the 2011 election makes much more sense than a few months before the election as it gives us a full two years to inform and educate our citizens of the change. Cary’s population data is just as accurate as that of the federal government (after the last census it was within 1%) - and considering how well our federal government is doing these days - I actually have more faith in our town government to get it right. ;-)

Another interesting thing that happened at our council meeting was I learned how stupid six of us are – I mean, Councilman Portman told us so, so therefore it must be true right? (Sarcasm off now) You see, everyone on council except Councilman Portman voted against the Walnut Street Corridor Transition Zoning District Amendments. Well, after he lost 6-1 he commenced to hopping on that soapbox of his (again) and berated council for not seeing things his way – that we “didn’t understand”. Now I respect the opinions of all my colleagues, and we have agreed to disagree on many occasions, but I won’t continue to bite my tongue during his rants much longer. It is long past time Councilman Portman realized there are seven members of council – not one.

On Friday Mayor Weinbrecht, Councilman Jack Smith and myself attended the Cary High School IMP Club Hall of Fame Banquet. This was very special for me as the Cary High School family is our extended family. My wife, and five of our children have attended Cary High School. We presented Proclamations honoring the inductees into the Cary High School IMP Club Hall of Fame.

Afterwards I attended a fundraiser for NC House Member and candidate Nelson Dollar at the Mathews House in Cary. This was a very fun event, and I was pleasantly surprised to learn that one of my friends is an incredible piano player!

That's about it for this week. As always, thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Week in Review 9/14/08 - 9/20/08

Usually I don’t meet or participate in any functions on Sundays as I try to reserve this day for family, faith, and NASCAR races ;-) – but this past Sunday my wife and I were honored to attend BJ Lawson’s Freedom Rally at the VFW on Reedy Creek Road. BJ is a candidate for the US House of Representatives in the 4th Congressional District. BJ is running for Congress to advance a constitutional federal government that lives up to the ideals of our Declaration of Independence. A proud father of three, BJ strongly believes we must stop catering to corporate and special interests and instead focus on our nation’s constitutional responsibilities. If you live in the 4th district and are looking for a change in business as usual in Washington, give BJ Lawson a try – his opponent has been part of the problem in Washington for over 20 years.

My first meeting of the week was a follow up discussion with the downtown steering committee. We discussed what each of us took away from our downtown visits to Clayton, Smithfield, Salisbury, Raleigh and Greenville, what initiatives those municipalities have implemented that we believe might work well here in Cary, The different ways in which those municipalities structured their downtown economic development departments and partnerships with non-profit organizations, and how Cary should move forward from here. It was a very good discussion and I believe we are headed in the right direction. Staff will now be preparing a recommendation for council review and action in the near future.

Wednesday evening nearly the entire council attended the Cary Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Banquet. Three awards were presented that evening. Cindy Smith won the Ambassador of the Year Award, Crescent State Bank won The Business of the Year Award, and Michael Curran of Triangle Aquatics Center won the Citizen of the Year Award. Congratulations to everyone above for your commitment to making Cary a better place for all to live, work, and play! Town Manager Bill Coleman, who is retiring next month, was also recognized for the over 20 years of service he has given the Town of Cary. He will surely be missed.

Thursday was a double-header. Staff and I first met with a downtown resident regarding concerns she is experiencing in her neighborhood as a result of the increase in rental properties and the Cary Convenience Center (more commonly referred to as the “dump”). Many of the concerns we can address quickly – other issues will take time, and some Cary is, and has already been working on. It was a good meeting for both sides - we all left better informed.

Afterwards was our Planning and Development Committee meeting, and I must say I am really beginning to get irritated with the lack of respect and support for downtown from our committee chair. This time it was a roadway improvement waiver request from an applicant who owns a corner house at the Dry and Harrison Avenue intersection in downtown - the old Heater House to be exact. Simply put the homeowner wishes to convert the home to a small office use, and make thousands of dollars worth of improvements to the property in the process. This is EXACTLY the type of redevelopment/reinvestment we should be encouraging downtown. Along with the numerous code improvements being made, our ordinance requires the applicant also install a sidewalk - which they are, and install the required parking and landscaping - which they are. Our ordinance also requires the applicant make roadway improvements that include modifying the radius of the corner (reconstruct curb, gutter, and road to remove 90 degree angle), install a crosswalk and signal heads, and relocate traffic signal utilities/pole resulting in the removal of a very established tree. The applicant requested a waiver for the roadway improvements.

Four very nice historic homes share this intersection. Requiring the roadway improvements be constructed would simply ruin the character and charm of this historic community. It would also bring a road 10 feet closer to a historic home, create an intersection where 3 corners have 90 degree radius' and one does not (looks stupid), and cause such an economic burden on the applicant that it just might kill this project. Yet for some reason this is not going to council on consent. Our chair believes this request warrants the entire council weigh in. Funny - I wonder why we didn't feel this way regarding the other five roadway waiver requests P+D approved this year? Because they weren't downtown - that's why.

I ended my week with a meeting with with Michael Curran of Triangle Aquatics Center to discuss a potential partnership between Triangle Aquatics Center and the Town of Cary to provide recreational aquatics for Cary citizens. Yes it seems like this has been going on forever - but hopefully we can bring closure to the issue soon. Council has a worksession coming up on this topic next week.

I spent a good amount of time this week responding to emails from citizens in the west Cary area after a very misleading email was sent out by a member of the Davis and High House Organization regarding redistricting in which they accused the town of gerrymandering and deliberating in secrecy. Nothing could be farther from the truth and quite frankly I was offended by those accusations. Council will discuss the redistricting issue at Thursday's council meeting.

That's about it for now - as always thanks for reading!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Week in Review 9/8/08 - 9/13/08

I gotta be honest – it’s taken me all week to get back to normal after the RNC in Minneapolis – St. Paul. I’m not as young as I used to be that’s for sure. ;-) While I had a great time in Minnesota, It sure is good to be back in Cary.

My first meeting back in the saddle was with town staff regarding a proposed site plan in the downtown Cary area. The applicant and I had a few concerns regarding required site modifications, and I needed more information before deciding how to further address the matter. We have to be sensitive regarding redevelopment in our downtown as not to create any unfair hardships on property owners who choose to invest in their property or business.

Tuesday evening council had a worksession regarding the boards and commission selection and application process. Our goal is to make the process more open and transparent while also ensuring that those who choose to apply to serve on one of our town boards are treated with the dignity and respect they so deserve. In the past council had sometimes debated candidates and their qualifications at the council meeting, which is televised. Council instead agreed to debate applicants and their qualifications at a worksession prior to the council meeting – which is open to the public – and then announce the newly selected board members at the council meeting.

Wednesday evening I attended the Town of Cary’s School of Government kick off ceremony with Mayor Weinbrecht and Councilman Jack Smith. It was a great to meet this year’s class and welcome them proper. I spoke briefly (as I always do) ;-) about how I became involved in our town’s government years ago, and encouraged everyone to apply for a town board or commission after they completed the class.

Thursday evening was our council meeting. Some of the highlights included a presentation from the Animal Issues Task Force by Chairman David Forvendel, council’s decision to conduct a national search for our new town manager, and council’s approval to direct town staff to create an amendment to our town’s land development ordinance that would prohibit front lawn vehicle parking, and then bring that back to council for public hearing and possible adoption.

I must say I was very impressed with the presentation from the animals issue task force. It was clear that they had spent a tremendous amount of time on their work, and came back with some great recommendations that Cary can implement to ultimately limit the amount of animals that are euthanized. This issue is best addressed on the front end. The more animals we can keep from ending up at the shelter in the first place, the less that will be killed.

Friday I visited the Sri Venkateswara Hindu Temple currently under construction off of Highway 54 in Cary. It was an honor to be invited and witness Vishwa Shanthi Yagam, a religious ceremony to foster peace, health, and prosperity in the community and throughout the world. I was also given a tour of the construction site. This will be a very beautiful facility once completed, and I look forward to coming back to celebrate their grand opening next year.

Saturday I worked on the script for next month’s Cary Matters TV show – Mayor Weinbrecht and I split up writing duties. I also spent much of the day answering email - council gets lots of email - and I work as hard as I can to answer every single one.

That's it for now - Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Week in Review 8/24/08 - 8/30/08

It’s been a busy week – and It’s about to get a lot busier. I’m writing from about 35,000 feet in the sky on my way to the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis St. Paul. Hey, I think I can see my house from here! ;-)

I am really looking forward to seeing the twin cities. I have heard many wonderful things about Minnesota – even despite the fact it’s where MattD is from. (Hi Matt!) ;-)

Anyways, I plan (key word is “plan”) to give daily updates on the convention and associated events so please remember to check back often to see what’s new. Now on to the week in review!

This week consisted of a lot of correspondence between citizens and neighborhood groups, members of town staff, and council.

Monday evening I attended the Western Wake Republican Club’s monthly meeting at Bentley’s at Crossroads. NC State Labor Commissioner Cherie Berry was our guest speaker. She spoke about her duties as our states labor commissioner, changes she has made to the department since assuming the position, and her upcoming reelection campaign.

Tuesday evening council held a worksession to discuss potential council district redistricting. In a nutshell the districts are out of balance. For example: District A has over 47,000 people in it while District D has only 26,000 – it’s not fair for one representative to have nearly twice the population as another. Council reviewed numerous redistricting scenarios, and in my opinion developed a great proposal to move forward for public hearing and citizen input. One councilor however wanted more time to “gather more information” so we directed staff to find out the answers to a couple of questions and get back to us. Some on council have made it clear they are opposed to redistricting at this time – and that’s fine. But we need to decide on this sooner than later, next year’s elections will be here before you know it.

Wednesday I met with a newly formed downtown neighborhood group comprised of residents in the Waldo Road/Hunter and Clay Street area. About 20-25 downtown homeowners were in attendance, as were representatives of the Cary Police Department. The group has been formed to better address issues of neighborhood decay and crime, as well as to foster a positive working relationship with the town. I spent the majority of time at this meeting educating folks on our downtown plans, our citizen boards and commissions, local non profit groups, and town processes in general. I was very impressed with how motivated and committed these folks were, and I was especially pleased – all things considered – that they have very positive attitudes. That will go a long ways towards working for positive change in one’s community.

Thursday was our council meeting. There were a number of public hearings on the agenda. The one that received the most discussion however was a proposal to rezone property from low density residential to medium density near Cary Park. It will be interesting to see how this one moves through the process, and what changes are ultimately made to the project before it comes back to council for decision.

The most interesting topic of discussion however was the proposal to locate an “art tower” where the water tower currently sits across from Cary Elementary School. The water tower has been decommissioned and will be removed soon. The idea is to replace the water tower with public art.

Great idea - wrong art.

I appreciate the hard work of our public art advisory board, the artists, and our town staff on this project. I really do. I just did not approve of the proposed piece, and neither did most everyone else I spoke with about it – even the majority of online comments were negative. It is a 150 foot tall bronze/orange metal girder industrial looking thing shooting up high into the sky that would “tower” over the existing residential community; becoming a permanent back yard view for many. Art is one of those things that people like, or don’t like. But it shouldn’t be forced upon folks. It’s like that body world exhibit that came around a while back – gross! But hey, some people liked it, and those who didn't weren't forced to look at it so it’s all good. The majority of folks surrounding this piece didn’t like it, yet they would be forced to see it each and every day. It’s a150 feet tall – you couldn’t not look at it if you didn’t want to. I also have public safety concerns. This piece screams “climb me!” Sure you can put a fence around it, but unless the fence is 20 feet tall and covered with barbed wire you aren’t keeping determined 16 year old boys off of it I promise you.

I made the motion to not approve the art advisory board’s recommendation, and to instruct them to work on a design that was more in character with the surrounding community and utilized more traditional materials; think clock tower, bell tower, or even a carillon - something that would complement the old Cary Elementary building and our downtown’s historic district. Thankfully the motion passed 4-3.

Council also officially decided to “seek candidates” for the soon to be vacant town manager’s position. We also appointed Assistant Town Manager Ben Shivar as Interim Town Manager until our search is complete. I voted against the search as I do not believe it is worth the $30,000.00+ it will cost when I believe we already have the best candidate for the job right under our noses in Mr. Shivar. Council will decide what kind of search (national, statewide, hired firm, etc..) to do at our next meeting once we receive more information from human resources.

Friday was spent catching up on email and reports in preparation for being out of town for nearly a week, and Staurday (today) morning I was up at 5:45 am to get ready to catch my morning flight to Minneapolis St Paul. 5:45 on a Saturday morning is WAY too early for me let me tell you. ;-)

Chat with you more tonight hopefully – take care and as always, thanks for reading.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Week in Review 8/18/08-8/23/08

Before I begin this week in review I want to take a minute to thank all of you who continue to visit my blog each week to learn more about what it is I actually do as a member of the Cary Town Council. It is very important to me that I communicate with you as much as I can. You deserve to know where I stand on the issues, what initiatives I am working on, and why I ultimately voted the way I did. Now I’m no wordsmith by any means – and writing this journal actually takes more time than you might imagine. But when I see visitor traffic steadily increase with each passing week, it lets me know you value communication as much as I do, and that my time on this journal is time well spent.

On Monday evening I met with residents in the Wicklow and Wrenn Drive neighborhoods regarding issues of crime, rental decay, and other nuisances in their community I spoke of in an earlier post. About 25 residents were in attendance as well as two of Cary’s finest to speak on behalf of the Cary Police Department. Clearly the majority of problems stem from a certain apartment complex or two, and existing housing that has, over the years become increasingly rental. I have had it with deadbeat landlords that care about nothing more than collecting their rent checks each month. It will take all stakeholders – including the apartment complex owners - working together to address these issues. As a member of the council, I am committed to doing my part to ensure the town does everything we possibly can to help.

While Cary PD is and has been doing a lot to address the resident’s concerns, I believe many of the issues can be corrected through zoning and code enforcement. It is long past time Cary gets tough on deadbeat landlords who have allowed their property to decay to the point where adjoining homeowners are seeing their property values decrease as a result of what’s next door. I have asked council to consider an ordinance that would prohibit residents from parking their vehicles in their yards for any length of time (washing the car is one thing – overnight parking is another). This ordinance, should it pass, will at least begin to address problems we are seeing at rental houses which appear to be used for nothing more than “human storage”, and whose tenants do not care about the health and quality of life in the community they live in. This will come before council at our September 11 meeting. It may not sound like much, but it’s a start.

On Tuesday and Wednesday Council member Jennifer Robinson, members of our town staff, the Heart of Cary Association, Cary Chamber and myself traveled to Salisbury NC and Greenville SC to visit with and learn from members of their respective town’s Economic Development Departments, Downtown Development Associations, and elected officials regarding their efforts to spur economic activity and reinvestment in their downtowns. Now I have taken a lot of visits to numerous downtowns over the years, but I have to say this was hands down the most educationally valuable downtown trip I have ever been on. We spent a significant amount of time speaking to folks who have spent years working to revitalize their downtowns, and we brought back a host of ideas that may work for us here in Cary.

On Thursday I met with the representative of the proposed Walnut Place development so that I may better understand the project before it comes to council. The property is currently zoned high density residential and they are proposing a retail/office development so there are a few issues we need to work through.

Thursday evening was our planning and development committee meeting and there were two topics of discussion. One pertained to issues the Russell Hills neighborhood is experiencing regarding the subdivision and redevelopment of residential lots, and the other was the proposed artwork which would replace the old water tower near Cary Elementary which will be decommissioned soon. I was very pleased with the outcome of the meeting. P+D directed staff to immediately pursue amending the current TCAP-LDR zoning designation in the Russell Hills subdivision to help better protect the character and charm of the neighborhood. We also sent the proposed art tower to council for discussion with a recommendation to deny. The majority of the P+D committee believed the art tower to be out of character with the downtown community.

Friday council had a breakfast meeting to discuss the qualifications and qualities we want in our next town manager. This was a productive meeting and I believe we created a good framework from which to select Cary’s next chief executive. Council will discuss how to proceed from here this coming Thursday.

Friday evening I met with citizens regarding their concerns over a proposed water supply line that – if approved as-is - will be placed on their property. I will meet with town staff next week to discuss further.

Saturday was Cary’s 32nd annual Lazy Daze festival in downtown. This was a lot of fun, and I think that for the first time in the event’s history the temperature was less than 95 degrees! The town’s festival committee members and cultural arts department did an incredible job coordinating and planning the event. It’s no wonder Lazy Daze is one of the premier arts and crafts festival in the nation.

Well that’s about it for this week. Next week’s schedule is already packed and on Saturday I leave for the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis – St. Paul. It is my hope to give daily blog updates from the convention. We’ll see how it goes. ;-)