Saturday, May 31, 2008

Week in Review 5/24/08 - 5/31/08

This week was a pretty light week as far as council responsibilities are concerned...not so light in regards to work and the "honey do list" however. ;-)

On Tuesday I met with Cary Police Chief Pat Bazemore and key members of the Cary Police Dept. to discuss gang related issues in Cary. I wanted to better understand this issue, and learn more about what Cary P.D. was doing to address this ever growing problem in our region. There isn't a whole lot I can say about what was actually discussed at this meeting due to security concerns - some gang member could be reading this blog on a stolen computer ya know ;-) What I can say however is that I left this meeting encouraged that Cary's finest are doing everything in their power to address this issue before it becomes the problem it is in communities such as Wilmington and Durham. It is always better to be proactive than reactive. Last year, of the 6793 crimes committed in Cary, 33 had some connection to gang activity - that is down 33% from the previous year. Obviously Cary P.D.'s initiatives are working.

Coincidentally, Cary released this press release this week regarding gangs.

On Wednesday I met with a group of citizens who were looking for more information on what Cary was working on in regards to the schools/reassignment issue. I spent a great deal of time explaining Cary's legislative agenda, at-large school board elections, and council's roundtable schools initiative.

Thursday evening was our council meeting. One of the highlights was a proclamation to former Cary Town Council member Marla Dorrel renaming Kids Together Park in her honor. Marla was very instrumental in bringing this park to reality back in 2000, and to this day continues to stay involved by her service as President of Kid's Together.

Public hearings were held regarding the proposed Land Development Ordinance (LDO) amendments and changes proposed to the Southwest Area Plan and the Conservation Residential Overlay District. We heard from a number of residents and property owners in the affected areas who were not happy to say the least. They were concerned the proposed changes would decrease the value of their property by reducing the amount of development that could occur. Council agreed with my recommendation to hold a worksession on the proposed changes before we make a final decision. We still have work to do on this one.

I was however very pleased with the proposed signage amendments relating to the downtown area. I swear I think someone is listening every now and then. ;-)

Council also voted to send the Green Level Stream Restoration and Greenway Project back to the Planning and Development Committee for further review - we still have work to do on this one also.

Well, unless ya'll want to hear about my exciting experience plumbing up a bathroom on Saturday - and I'm pretty sure you don't - then that's about it for now. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

Memorial Day

As you all enjoy that extra day off from work this Monday, please take the time to not only thank and honor those veterans who may be a member of your family, a friend, or a neighbor, but also pray for, and honor those who you never met. Pray for their families. Pray for those who lost a mother or father, brother or sister. Pray for those who paid the ultimate price. Pray for our troops, and pray for peace.

Freedom isn't free.

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived" -- General George Patton

Week in Review 5/19/08 - 5/23/08

On Tuesday I had a couple of meetings. The first was part 2 of council’s budget worksession process. Council finally agreed on 33 cents as our new revenue neutral tax rate (which it is). We also began discussions on proposed capital improvement projects such as roads, the downtown Cary streetscape project, Cary Elementary renovations, aquatics, and the performing arts center. We also discussed previous bond referendums approved by voters in years past, and the coming debt service associated with them. I'll have more to talk about regarding the budget after our next worksession I am sure.

My second meeting was with folks from the Cary YMCA. I was given a tour of their facility off of Cary Parkway, and got a chance to see first hand, and learn more about the Y’s programs for underprivileged and at-risk children. I was very impressed with their efforts to provide classes and programs to these children who otherwise would not have such an opportunity.

On Wednesday I attended a grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony for Hummingbird Creative Group – a successful small business who has relocated into a new facility near the Maynard and Harrison Ave. intersection. They also happen to be the recipients of the 2007 Cary Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Award.

Wednesday evening Council member Gale Adcock and myself met with a group of citizens regarding the schools issue. The council will soon be meeting with elected officials from all Wake County municipalities (or at least those who choose to meet with us) to discuss school related issues. Before these meetings take place however, council wanted to create what we call a “white paper” (ya, I know, we’re creative) ;-) This white paper would consist of facts pertaining to issues of capacity, reassignment, growth, and funding. We wanted factual data prior to our meetings with other municipalities so there would be no emotional "opinion" - just the facts mam. Council members created a list of questions and submitted them to WCPSS (months ago) to answer. Unfortunately WCPSS has been unwilling to provide us with answers to our questions. Realizing hell would freeze over before WCPSS would assist us in this regard, we instead decided to enlist the assistance of citizens who have shown a keen interest in this issue, and have already done much research themselves. It was good meeting, and I look forward to seeing the results of their efforts.

Thursday and Friday were spent working (hey, I have to earn a living ya know) ;-), answering email, and reading through documents in preparation for next week’s meetings. Sunday is the Coca Cola 600 – woo hoo! I gotta date with friends and a margarita…or two. ;-)

Well that's it for now. Thanks for reading!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Week In Review 5/12/08 - 5/18/08

Monday started off with with a meeting between Town Manager Bill Coleman and myself. We mainly focused on questions I had regarding the proposed town budget, and specific capital expenditures such as the downtown streetscape project and the Cary Elementary renovations, and their potential impact on the town's future tax rate. While Bill and I have a scheduled meeting once a month, I find myself needing to meet with him much more often than that. His door is always open and I really appreciate his willingness to discuss whatever questions or concerns I may have.

Tuesday evening was our first budget worksession of many to come, as well as a discussion and action on the town's Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) fund distributions. The CDBG discussion was a very positive one. In the end council decided to move funds from a project that was not yet ready to begin, and instead decided to allocate those funds towards more housing rehabilitation and the Carying Place. There is already a lot of "affordable housing" in the downtown area; that with a little help could make great starter homes, or affordable housing for seniors and those with fixed/low incomes.

I found the budget part of the worksession very frustrating however. The town's budget department and key members of town staff had already held small group meetings with council members to explain exactly how the town arrived at a recommendation of 33 cents as our new tax rate after revaluation. Yet we spent the better part of our worksession going over this same data once again - which quite frankly in my opinion was a waste of time due to the fact that even if the town does not spend a dime on any capital expenditures next year, our tax rate will most likely have to increase to cover debt service. Previous councils have authorized a number of capital improvements/projects in the past - some at the will of voters in bond referendums - and those bills are coming due. I can't believe I am saying this, but wouldn't it be better to find out what THAT rate will need to be, and adjust our tax rate accordingly now instead of later to avoid a spike in the tax rate in the next year or two?

Wednesday evening was our Planning and Development Committee meeting. Nothing terribly exciting there except directing staff to move forward with a concept plan and associated public hearing regarding a railroad closing/opening. I would prefer to hear the citizen's input on this before council spends too much time on it - we can learn so much by listening to those most directly impacted by this proposal. See here for more info.

Thursday My wife Lisa and I attended the Cary Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Awards Luncheon. While I already blogged this in an earlier post......FRANTZ AUTOMOTIVE WON SMALL BUSINESS OF THE YEAR!!!!! (sorry, had to toot the horn again) ;-)

Thursday night I had ASE testing to renew my Master Automobile Technician Certification status. Six recertification tests and four new tests. 350 questions in all. Man I don't miss being in school anymore. ;-)

Sunday (today) I had the honor of representing the Friends of the Page Walker Hotel at the Capital Area Preservation's annual celebration. The Page Walker Hotel received a new plaque recognizing the hotel as an historic landmark. Today is also my birthday, and I couldn't think of a better gift to receive. Wake County Commissioner Joe Bryan and former Cary Councilor Marla Dorrell were also in attendance, as were a host of "friends" of the Page Walker.

Well, that's it for now. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I'm Speachless.

No seriously - I am. For once in my life I really don't know what to say. The Cary Chamber of Commerce - the voice of business in Cary - held their annual Small Business Awards Banquet today, and the winner of the 2008 Cary Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year Award is........

Frantz Automotive Center.

What an honor this is. Thank you Cary Chamber!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Week in Review 5/5/08 - 5/11/08

Now I don't watch much TV - but one thing I noticed on Monday - Cinco de Mayo - was there weren't hardly any commercials or online advertisements hyping Mexico's national holiday commemorating the Mexican Army’s defeat of French forces on May 5, 1862, like in previous years. Interesting...

Monday afternoon I met with downtown business owners and key members of town staff regarding the downtown streetscape project and it's potential impact on their business's parking. Parking is already a huge problem downtown, and staff has been working diligently to address the issue. Staff has also been working with a parking consultant over the last 4-5 months to see what solutions they might be able to come up with. The biggest problem relating to parking we face - in my opinion - is that employees are taking up most of the parking nearest their business, and not leaving much, if any, available for customers. Businesses and employees must realize they need to keep "front door parking" available for customers. There are numerous parking spaces available behind businesses or a short walk away that employees can utilize. The Methodist Church for example, has agreed to allow the public to use their new parking lot during the week. The Town of Cary has agreed to let business employees park in the train depot's parking lot and town hall's parking deck. Town staff is also looking into how many parking spaces could be created by reconfiguring parking behind businesses.

Businesses must also be willing to share parking with one another. A great example of this is my business, Frantz Automotive Center - had to get a plug in! ;-) and Havana Grill next door. Havana Grill needs a lot of parking at night and on weekends. Our business needs parking during the day Monday through Friday. We use a few of their spaces during the day, and they will use some of ours at night or on weekends. They scratch our back, we scratch theirs.

Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty light in regards to meetings. I used this time to answer email and read through documents in preparation for Thursday's council meeting.

Thursday morning council had a breakfast meeting at 7:30 (way too early for me btw). We discussed state owned roads in Cary that are falling below our standards, and what the financial impact would be should Cary decide to address this issue. We had asked staff to look into this at a previous meeting. Their answer? $45 million to $202 million dollars. Ouch!!! Council decided we must do better at lobbying our state officials to get them to handle their responsibility.

We also discussed the animal shelter issue regarding the SPCA and the county shelter. Council agreed that the SPCA is the most humane and best option for Cary. It was determined it would cost around $25,000 to continue to use the SPCA. Council discussed having Cary sign a long term contract with the SPCA to help keep costs down. Staff does have concerns however that the SPCA could possibly increase costs in the future - regardless of contract.

And last but not least we discussed the schools issue. I could write a novel on this one, but in a nutshell we will be meeting with other municipalities in the next week or two. Council has already had three meetings with WCPSS (2 small group meetings and 1 with the entire council and representatives from Morrisville and Fuquay-Varina).

Thursday afternoon Council members Jennifer Robinson, Julie Robison (No, no one ever gets those two confused right?) :-) and myself attended the Regional Transportation Alliance's "Regional Transportation Solutions Forum" It was a good presentation on solutions to help alleviate traffic without just adding lanes.

Thursday night was our council meeting. Good meeting in my opinion but not exciting enough for it's own post. The only real "issue" was a townhome proposal near the Davis Dr. and High House Rd. intersection. In the end it passed by a vote of 4-3. The majority of council felt this development would create LESS traffic in an already congested area than an office/retail development would. It also conformed to the town's land use plan.

Council also postponed approving Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) until we can discuss the issue further at our work session coming up this Tuesday evening.

Friday Mayor Weinbrecht and myself were interviewed by WRAL regarding the schools issue. It continues to amaze me what sound bites the media chooses to air, and what gets left out. The "sensational" story intro they chose was a bit over the top also. I was also interviewed by NBC17 regarding the town's FY2009 budget.

Saturday was spent sheet rocking a basement and watching the NASCAR race...what I could stay awake for anyways. And Today is Mother's call your mom now!!!! :-)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

0 for 17

The land transfer tax goes down in flames once again.

When the most progressive county in the state says "no"....well, I think that says it all.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Week In Review 4/28/08 - 5/4/08

What a busy week it was!

Monday evening I attended a North Carolina Republican Party fundraiser in Raleigh where the guest speaker was none other than Vice President Dick Cheney. There were numerous local and state officials, business, and community leaders in attendance. Unfortunately there isn’t a whole lot I can say about this event due to security concerns.

I realize some of you reading this may not like the Vice President – heck, I don’t agree with everything he and the President have done during their terms in office either. But I respect him, his service to our country, and the office nonetheless.

Afterwards a bunch of us rushed over to the Western Wake Republican Club’s monthly meeting. Numerous local and state officials and candidates were in attendance including House Minority Leader Paul “Skip” Stam, House member Nelson Dollar, Apex Councilman Bryan Gossage, and School Board Member Ron Margiotta.

Tuesday evening council had another worksession on transportation. The main focus of this meeting was to discuss Council’s vision regarding future road construction, levels of service, and median/roadway widths in town. Council had previously indicated to town staff that we would like all thoroughfares to be no more than 4 lane median divided highways – we have no desire to have any 8 lane Capital Boulevards in Cary. The reality however is that in some areas of town that is wishful thinking. Some roadways in town also already have sections with six lanes, and future growth projections indicate that restricting roadways such as Davis Drive, Highway 54, Tryon Road and other high volume corridors to 4 lanes would result in a level of service “F”. That is unacceptable to me. Please see the staff report for more detailed information.

I also attended a fundraiser for Republican candidate for Governor Pat McCrory. Pat is a proven leader who has succeeded in bringing both sides of the aisle together. I believe North Carolina could use his leadership right about now.

Thursday through Saturday Council members Jennifer Robinson, Julie Robison, and myself – along with Wake County Commissioners Kenn Gardner, Harold Webb, Lindy Brown, and Joe Bryan traveled to the Chicago area with representatives from the Cary Chamber of Commerce to meet with city officials and business leaders from the villages of Naperville and Lombard (suburb communities of the Chicago area that are very similar to Cary) to learn more about their downtown revitalization and economic development efforts. This was a very informative and inspirational visit to say the least. The opportunity to see firsthand what other municipalities are doing/have done to accomplish their vision is invaluable. But maybe even more important is learning about what efforts didn’t pan out as expected – so we don’t make those same mistakes. Special thanks go to Elaine Smith, Sal Cammarata, Joe Milazzo and Jeff Ulma for all their hard work in organizing this event.

We got home today (Sunday) a little before 2:00. After unpacking and spending a little time with the family, I spent the last 4 hours answering and organizing email. No, I’m not kidding. A council member receives a lot of email, and when you can’t check it as often as you’d like it piles up pretty fast. Oh well, off to bed – I’m pooped!