Monday, February 14, 2011

Hostage Situation

I am sure you have heard of the attempted bank robbery and hostage situation that occurred at the Wachovia Bank on Green Level Church Road in Cary this past Thursday. After a three hour standoff with law enforcement officers, 19 year old Devon Mitchell of Cary was fatally shot when he exited the building holding what appeared to be a gun pointed at one of the hostages.

We now know that was not the case. Devon Mitchell was not armed.

“Despite what the 911 call reported, despite what he said to the hostages, despite what he told our hostage negotiator, despite what we all thought we saw when he came out of the bank with something pointed at one of the hostages’ head, we know now that there was no gun,” said Town of Cary Police Chief Pat Bazemore.

It doesn't matter - he made everyone believe he was armed and a threat.

Devon Mitchell played – and lost - a sick game with law enforcement. He claimed to have a gun and threatened to use it. For three hours Devon Mitchell instilled fear and terror in the lives of his hostages and their families. He had plenty of time to realize the error of his judgment and give himself up to authorities. He didn’t. He continued his charade until the very end, and now four outstanding law enforcement officers have to live the rest of their lives knowing they killed an unarmed 19 year old.

While the loss of this young man’s life is unfortunate and the outcome was not what we had hoped for, I could not be prouder of the Cary Police Department and supporting law enforcement agencies for the manner in which they handled this situation given the information available to them at the time, and my prayers go out to everyone involved and their families.

A number of citizens in the Cary Park area have contacted the town about their concerns regarding increased crime in their community. Some of the actions the town is working on include:

• Increased police patrols.

• The District 2 Commander for that area has begun implementation of a new effort called DDACTS (Data Drive Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety). This is a national based model that uses high visibility patrols and law enforcement presence to reduce social harm and improve quality of life.

• Cary is following up with the Grove apartment complex to encourage them to be a part of next month’s launch of Project Phoenix. This is a new crime prevention program that is being designed especially for multi-family communities.

• The town manager will meet with the police chief and the command team today to evaluate additional steps. They will brief council immediately after the meeting.

• The police chief, town manager, Mayor, I, and others will meet with the homeowners of Cary Park at their homeowners meeting on February 23rd at Panther Creek High School at 6:30. I look forward to hearing from area residents and any ideas that we as a town can do to improve folk’s quality of life in this area.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Week in Review 2/7/11 - 2/13/11

Our council meeting agenda this past Thursday was relatively light, with the notable discussion item being Cary’s state legislative Agenda.

Cary’s legislative agenda is a list of goals or legislation that we as a town want to see our state leaders address while in session.

Recommended items on this year’s state legislative agenda include:

1) A request by Cary and the Wake County Mayor’s Association to grant Cary and other Wake County Municipalities the authority to enter into long-term leases (up to 20 years) without treating those leases as sales. This will enable municipalities to enter into public-private partnerships for the generation of renewable energy on municipal property.
2) Support of the Wake County Mayor’s Association Legislative Agenda.
3) Support of the North Carolina League of Municipalities Core Municipal Principles and Advocacy Goals.

The council unanimously supported agenda items 1 and 2 minus one item on the Wake County Mayor’s Association agenda that council requested more information on before making a final decision.

After a lengthy discussion the council did NOT vote to support the NCLM Advocacy Goals or Core Municipal Principles. Needless to say, I am thrilled!

Why? Because the NCLM’s Advocacy Goals included the following:

· Seek legislation to revise the local land transfer tax so that it can be adopted without a referendum.

The land transfer tax has already appeared on the ballot 23 times in 21 counties in North Carolina since 2007. Each and every time voters rejected the proposed tax hike. That apparently doesn’t matter to the NCLM who believes that local governments should have the authority to implement this tax regardless of what the voters say. Ridiculous.

· Support legislation providing municipalities with the authority to impose a fee to recover the costs of vehicle accident and fire response from at-fault drivers and parties responsible for fires, up to a statutory maximum amount.

Yes, you read that correctly. The NCLM wants to give local governments the authority to charge you a fee for fire and accident response – on top of the tax dollars you already pay for this service. Never mind that you may have just lost your home and all your worldly possessions to a fire, now they want to send you a bill for fire response…assuming there is still a mailbox left to put it in. Absurd.

· Seek legislation reforming annexation laws that ensures the ability of a city to grow in a reasonable manner, while providing quality municipal services on a timely basis.

This statement is too vague. If you are going to request annexation reform I believe we should say what kind of reform we hope to achieve. Examples could include requiring a vote of county commissioners, or more importantly, those targeted for annexation. It could better define meaningful services or perhaps even require that the annexing municipality cover the cost of water and sewer hook-up. The above statement says nothing to that effect.

The reality is that the NCLM has consistently opposed any real annexation reform and have opposed any efforts to give those most greatly impacted a voice in the process. The above statement from the League is political pandering and rings hollow to those of us who have experience with the League’s position on annexation.

· Seek legislation to allow municipal creation or extension of extra territorial jurisdiction (ETJ) without county approval.

I find this request problematic as it could result in a land grab competition between municipalities. While obtaining county approval for ETJ extension can be difficult at times, it also ensures that municipalities grow in a reasonable and fair manner.

· Support legislation to expand the sales tax base to include services.

Here a tax, there a tax, everywhere a tax tax. The NCLM has never met a tax they didn’t like. While I understand there is an effort to reform North Carolina’s tax code – to possibly include a reduced sales tax rate combined with a tax on services (this COULD reduce the overall cost to taxpayers IF done correctly) – the above statement says nothing to that effect. It simply states a request to tax services. North Carolina already has the highest combined tax rate in the Southeast and the NCLM wants us to pay more???

· Seek legislation to increase the existing municipal vehicle fee for public transportation from $5 to a maximum of $20, and allow it to also be used for pedestrian and bicycle projects.

Here we go again – we need more money!!! A 300% increase in vehicle fees is outrageous – especially in this economy – and to pay for non-vehicle related expenditures???

Now in all fairness to the NCLM, some of their agenda requests were reasonable. That being the case the council first attempted to approve those items which we could support, and deny those which we did not. Halfway through our debate however, the council ultimately decided not to support any of the League’s agenda, and directed town staff to acknowledge receipt of their agenda, but not endorse it.

I opposed this proposal as I believe we need to send a message to the NCLM and make clear our concerns regarding these specific agenda items.

Afterwards council held a lengthy closed session to discuss a number of legal matters ….that I cannot discuss. Sorry. ;-)

That's all for this week's blog. As always, thanks for reading!