In November, work continued on city bond projects and other key local issues, including competitive salaries for our police officers.
Police salaries should be raised: At our November 18 city council meeting, a delegation of city police officers attended to discuss their concern that excessive officer turnover is related to salary levels that have not kept pace with those in other nearby communities. Those officers are right, and I and my city council colleagues recognize that we need to do more to address that problem. While we raised city employee salaries this year, and targeted a number of underpaid positions for additional market pay adjustments, other cities were doing the same. This left Winston-Salem still behind the curve in that area. I support including additional market pay raises for police officers and firefighters in particular in the coming year’s budget.
The questions we must wrestle with include how much to increase salaries, how to structure the raises for fairness, and how to get the most competitive bang for taxpayers’ bucks. In an effort to start developing the answers to those questions, Mayor Joines has asked City Manager Garrity to prepare a report and initial proposal for discussion at the Public Safety Committee on December 14.
Bond projects update: Progress on three projects of interest to Southwest Ward residents deserve highlighting this month.
Miller Park renovations: There is now an online option for submitting additional or follow-up comments on the Miller Park renovations. Access that option here: http://www.cityofws.org/Departments/Recreation-Parks/Recreation-Centers/Miller-Park/Miller-Park-Improvements As I reported in October, comments at the initial public input session highlighted protection of the existing character of the park—its natural habitat (especially for migrating birds), historic structures, and green feel—while repairing the many problems with the trails and carefully fixing the extensive stream bank erosion issues.
Hanes Park renovations: While Hanes Park is not physically located in the Southwest Ward, its extensive tennis courts and center, and its heavily-used public running track, make it of citywide interest. Some park renovation proposals could affect those facilities. To learn more and to participate in the planning process, you can attend a public information and input meeting on Wednesday, December 9, starting at 6 p.m. at Wiley Middle School.
Old Vineyard Road sidewalk extension: There will be a public input meeting on the proposed extension of the Old Vineyard Road sidewalk across the bridge over US 421 to connect with the Healy Drive sidewalk. The meeting will be Wednesday, December 16, from 6 to 7:30 p.m., at the South Fork Community Center, 4403 Country Club Road.
Southwest Area Plan Update process continues: The current Southwest Area Plan was approved by the city council back in October 2009, and this month we started on the review and update process for that plan. The next public review and comment meeting will be held Thursday, December 17, starting at 6 p.m. at the Miller Park Recreation Center (400 Leisure Lane). More details on this ongoing process can be found here: http://www.cityofws.org/Departments/Planning/Area-Plans/Southwest
Bus system overhaul: The Winston-Salem Transportation Department, Winston-Salem Transit Authority, and the City Council Public Works Committee (which I chair) have been working for over a year on a redesign of the bus routes and service in our city. We’ve worked through multiple public input meetings for bus riders, studies of origin-destination and usage patterns, and crunched the numbers on making the system more efficient while providing better service. I think that we’re about ready to approve the new routes structure. If you’re interested in hearing the deliberations, it will be on the Public Works Committee agenda for Tuesday, December 15, at 6 p.m. at City Hall, for discussion and a possible vote. The meeting can also be followed live online or via cable TV 13.
National League of Cities conference: I helped to represent Winston-Salem at the National League of Cities annual conference this month in Nashville. I have posted my report from that meeting here: http://www.danbesse.org/Issues/CurrentTopic3.aspx
Cloverdale Apartments/Ardmore Terrace update: Unfortunately, I cannot yet report concrete progress in the ongoing discussions with owners of the Cloverdale and Ardmore Terrace apartments. We have discussed options for retaining a significant amount of affordable workforce housing there, consideration for limited-income seniors and other long-term residents, mature trees, and historic structures, but no commitments have been made. Several residents have asked me about updates, lease renewals and time frames. Other than the owners’ stated commitment to honoring existing leases, I do not have additional information yet. I will report to residents and neighbors as soon as either there is a proposed settlement which I can support, or discussions conclude without one. I am still working on the problem.
Terrorist violence and our response as a community: The world was outraged earlier this month by the terrorist attacks in Paris. Just last week, we were jarred again by another act of political terror, this one in our own nation. I encourage my neighbors to join me in declaring both that terrorism of any political stripe is unacceptable, and that we will respond in ways that are in keeping with our nation’s and community’s historic values. If you would be interested in my thoughts on this topic in more detail, I have posted them here: http://www.danbesse.org/Issues/CurrentTopic2.aspx
That’s my report for November. As always, you are welcome to email me at email@example.com with comments or questions. Thanks!