Sunday, July 26, 2009

Week in Review 7/20/09 - 7/25/09

What a week – a council meeting that lasted until 12:45 am, a worksession, numerous meetings with town staff and residents, and political campaigns….not necessarily in that order.

Monday morning I met with representatives of Infinite Solar Power, our town Manager Ben Shivar and his assistant Lana Hygh. The purpose of me calling this meeting was to introduce Infinite Solar Power to the town in the hopes that we may be able to work together and possibly utilize solar power to help power some of Cary’s buildings and facilities – while saving Cary taxpayers thousands of dollars in the process. It is estimated that one solar installation at a town wastewater facility for example might amount to $50,000.00 in savings without any capital outlay. As with anything, the devil is in the details - I'll keep you posted as this moves along through the process.

Monday evening I attended the Wake GOP Executive Committee meeting to hear from all Republican candidates running for office in Wake County. After hearing from the candidates, the committee then went in to closed session to debate and determine party endorsements. Some were slam dunks – others took a great deal of time and debate to determine who would receive the party’s endorsement. While not every candidate seeking the party’s endorsement received it, everyone one of them is to be commended for their desire to serve, and all are winners in my book.

One candidate that stood out to me was WCPSS District 9 Candidate Debra Goldman. I also had the pleasure of meeting with her for lunch the next day. Hearing first hand her vision of education in Wake County and her passion for increased parental involvement and neighborhood schools was very encouraging. I am proud to support Debra Goldman for WCPSS Board District 9.

Council held a worksession Tuesday evening to receive an update from consultants and staff, and for council to provide feedback regarding Cary’s creation of a Historic Preservation Master Plan. The main goals of the Historic Preservation Master Plan are to preserve, protect and maintain Cary’s historic resources, viewsheds and landscapes; and to discourage demolition of significant structures and promote policies and actions that reinforce downtown’s significance as Cary’s historic core. I was very pleased with the work that has been completed thus far, and am optimistic that when all is said and done we will have a plan in place that protects Cary’s historic resources, while at the same time providing for reinvestment in Cary’s historic districts.

Wednesday morning I met with Cary citizens for a general discussion on a number of regional and local issues which included but was not limited to annexation, incentives, environmental protection and politics. It is our hope to meet on a regular basis and potentially serve in an advisory capacity to local and state government. I’m just hoping we find a better time to meet than 7 too darn early am. ;-) Afterwards I spent the better part of the day in preparation for this week’s council meeting.

Thursday evening was our council meeting. Notable discussion items included a stealth cell tower installation at Greenwood Forest Baptist Church, an economic development incentives contract, round 12 of land development ordinance amendments, a comprehensive plan amendment to a proposed development near Carpenter’s historic district, land development ordinance amendments pertaining to front yard vehicle parking, a potential new low density residential (LDR) zoning district in our downtown area, council’s decision to direct staff to perform a comprehensive review of the town’s sign ordinance, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Council held a quasi-judicial public hearing pertaining to the proposed installation of a stealth cell tower in Greenwood Forest’s bell tower. While council members – myself included – expressed concerns over the potential negative health effects associated with a cell tower (potential radiation exposure), there is no proof that a cell tower poses any health risks to the adjoining community and/or church membership. The proposed cell tower would emit less than 1% of the maximum radiation allowed by the FCC. In a quasi-judicial public hearing the council acts as judge and jury and MUST base our decision on fact – not fear. Given the facts presented to council we unanimously voted to approve the installation.

Council voted 6-1 to approve an economic development incentives contract with Loparex LLC. in the amount of $25,000.00. Yes, I was the lone no vote. I find it very hard to believe that a company such as Loparex bases their decision on which city to set up shop over 25 grand. I voted against the incentive as I believe our quality of life, low taxes, and high demographics are incentive enough, AND I am sick to death that every time we turn around another business wants a government handout at taxpayer’s expense. I aint playing this game.

Land development ordinances pertaining to Cary’s new mixed use development approval process were tabled until our next meeting to give staff time to make a few minor adjustments. The new process for mixed use development approvals has been a long time in the making – we want to make sure we get them right.

A proposed comprehensive plan amendment pertaining to a development proposal adjacent to Carpenter’s historic district was also tabled over concerns that the proposed changes to the buffer language in the plan’s note would potentially reduce the buffer’s effectiveness and provide less protection to the historic district. Considering the devastation that has occurred to Cameron Pond’s buffer the council has grave concerns about changing any buffer restrictions at this time. I can also promise you we will be looking to increase the effectiveness of our buffer restrictions in the very near future.

Council also directed staff to begin a comprehensive review of the town’s sign ordinance. While Cary has weathered the recession better than most communities, many businesses and residents are feeling its effect nonetheless. Businesses are having a harder time making ends meet and homes are taking longer to sell. It is our hope that we may find areas where we can be a bit more flexible in our ordinance while at the same time continuing to protect Cary’s visual landscape. Times change and it’s been ten years since our sign ordinance was last reviewed. This process will take time and I will do my best to keep everyone abreast of our progress. I was also interviewed by WRAL and NBC17 regarding this topic.

Town Manager Ben Shivar also announced this week his selection of Mike Bajorek as the Town of Cary's new Assistant Town Manager. Mike replaces Ben Shivar as assistant who was selected by council to serve as Town Manager; replacing retiring Manager Bill Coleman. Congratulations Mike and Good Luck!

That’s all for this week in review. As always, thanks for reading and thank you very much for allowing me the opportunity to serve you.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Please Support Jack Smith and Jennifer Robinson for Cary Council

Instead of my usual week in review I will be taking this opportunity to speak about the upcoming Cary Town Council elections….since that’s what everyone is asking me about lately. My phone hasn’t stopped ringing….until I turned it off. ;-)

I proudly support Cary Town Council members Jack Smith and Jennifer Robinson for reelection to the Cary Town Council.

Why you ask? That’s easy.

Jack has served as the district C representative on the council for 20 years. During that time Cary NEVER raised taxes – not once. In fact, thanks to Jack and Jennifer’s leadership Cary actually lowered taxes in 2000. Cary’s tax rate of 33 cents per $100 of valuation is the LOWEST tax rate of any municipality in Wake County and one of the lowest in North Carolina. Cary continues to have a AAA bond rating. Cary has been nationally recognized for its fiscal health – and is in the top 2% - of all cities in the US. Cary’s cash reserves exceed even that of Charlotte’s and far exceed the minimum required by the State.

Jack led Cary’s efforts to create an Economic Development Commission, including a strategy to have a dedicated professional focus entirely on bringing businesses to Cary. During the current economic slowdown Cary has recruited 24 companies to move here or expand (including 5 headquarters), resulting in 1600 new professional jobs at salaries averaging greater than $75K.

Jennifer Robinson has served on the council for nearly ten years. During her time on council Jennifer has always been an advocate for careful planning, economic development, environmental protection and fiscal conservancy.

Understanding the importance of sustainable development, Jennifer Robinson was the driving force behind Cary’s lower density Southwest Area Plan which counterbalances higher density development near employment areas and protects our environment. Jennifer also led Cary’s first land banking effort to purchase land ahead of time for future parks, community centers, libraries, fire stations, and schools. Banking and preserving this land now for future use saves Cary taxpayers millions of dollars in escalated land costs. Jennifer has also been a strong advocate for Cary’s downtown and older neighborhoods inside the Maynard loop.

Cary has achieved the very best Fire, Police & Parks/Recreation Personnel. All are nationally accredited and have been recognized as ‘best of the best’ – no other municipality in the State has achieved this recognition. Cary continually is nationally recognized as one of the most livable cities in the U.S & annually is recognized as safest community in the Southeast. This didn’t happen by accident folks.

And last but surely not least, I have had the pleasure of serving with council members Jennifer Robinson and Jack Smith for two years now. I have known them both personally for seven years. I have witnessed firsthand their impressive work ethic, commitment to excellence, and passion of making Cary an even better place than it is today. While we may not always agree on every item that comes before council, I trust that both Jack and Jennifer are making the decision that they believe is best for Cary – NOT what is best for their next reelection bid. They have given me no reason to believe otherwise.

You will hear a lot of cries for the need for “change” this year. You will surely read letters to the paper claiming the sky is falling and that Cary is doomed unless we elect new district A and C representatives. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Look around you and judge for yourself – are things really that bad in Cary right now? There is a reason Cary is continually ranked one of the best small cities in the country to live work and play - leadership. Can we do better? Absolutely. I am confident that Jack and Jennifer will continue to work hard to make Cary an even better place than it is today.

I think most everyone reading this blog knows who I am and what I stand for. I have no problem speaking my mind or holding elected officials who aren’t doing their job accountable - regardless of party affiliation (that can be a full time job sometimes). Good, honest elected officials seem harder and harder to come by these days. So when I see one – or two – who I believe have earned another 4 years, I am going to do everything I can to help and support them.

Please join me in supporting Jack Smith and Jennifer Robinson for reelection to the Cary Town Council.