April 2016 Highlights

In April, we continued our progress in implementing major bond construction projects, and received a preview of prospects for the FY 2016-17 city budget.

Sidewalks and greenways update:     April continued our forward progress on major pedestrian and cycling projects.  Here are some of the April highlights:

--Multi-Use Path grant application:  The city council gave final approval to our application for a federal grant of $5 million to help complete this ambitious safe biking and pedestrian facility from the WFU/BMC main campus area to the east side of downtown.  It will serve neighborhoods in four city wards directly, including the Southwest Ward, and act as a key central link for a growing citywide safe bike/pedestrian network. 

--University Parkway sidewalk:  As part of discussions with other council members on the multi-use path, we also agreed to press forward a proposal for two additional sections of needed sidewalk on University Parkway.  This will be included in the funding package for consideration in May by the Winston-Salem Urban Area Transportation Advisory Committee.  (And to my constituents in the Griffith Road neighborhoods, don’t worry, your sidewalk is still on that list too.)

--Cherokee Lane sidewalk construction:  Construction is nearing completion on this important safe walking link from Magnolia Street to Ebert Road, on the otherwise narrow, winding, and high-traffic Cherokee Lane.

--Cedar Trail Greenway Connector:  The city council approved the contract for construction of this long-awaited major link to the popular Muddy Creek Greenway.

 

Advance budget review and salary issues:     In April, the city council received an advance briefing on the prospects for our FY2016-17 budget for Winston-Salem city government.  Overall prospects for city revenues look good.  However, there are continuing problems with salaries for city staff in some job categories falling far below competitive markets in our area.  This is resulting in difficulty retaining the best experienced staff in a number of jobs.  At the consensus direction of council members, the city manager and financial staff are developing responsive action proposals for our consideration.

 

Spraygrounds in parks:     On April 18, the city council approved contracts for construction of two more of the bonds-financed spraygrounds for children in city parks.  These will be built in Little Creek Park and Hathaway Park.

 

House Bill 2 resolution approved:     The city council on April 18 approved a resolution setting out several specific concerns about the controversial House Bill 2, and calling for its reconsideration by the legislature.  As reported last month, HB2 was passed March 23 by the N.C. General Assembly (state legislature), during a one-day special session supposedly held to deal with an alleged public safety concern related to public restrooms in Charlotte.  In fact, however, HB2 went much further and did the following:
--Repealed and prohibited all local ordinances in North Carolina dealing with discrimination in public accommodations or employment.
--Left North Carolina without any state or local laws protecting citizens against discrimination on the basis of marital status, familial status, sexual orientation, or gender identity.
--Prohibited local governments from enacting ordinances to improve minimum wages, benefits, or working conditions by employers in their communities, or even to require such conditions as a part of contracts with companies for work projects paid for the local government.
--Stripped employees in North Carolina of their previously-held right to sue an employer under state law for termination or other discrimination on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, or sex. 

These are sweeping cutbacks of the rights of individual employees to protection from discrimination, and of the ability of local governments to promote better working conditions in our communities.  They have nothing to do with safety or privacy in bathrooms or locker rooms.  This “bait and switch” attack by the legislature on workplace rights, and broad rollback in protections against discrimination, have created a strong adverse reaction to HB2.   

 

Regulating adult business hours of operation:     In response to continuing complaints about noise and disturbances outside some adult businesses very late at night, the city council adopted operating hours restrictions on these establishments.  They must now be closed from 2:30 a.m. to 7 a.m.

 

May events:    There are several noteworthy events planned for May:

--Historic Preservation Month starts May 1, with activities in Winston-Salem starting that day including local historic property tours.  See the details here:  http://www.cityofws.org/News/ID/15611/May-is-Historic-Preservation-Month   

--National Bike Month also opens May 1 with a downtown biking and walking festival (“Walk & Roll Winston-Salem”) that day.  See those details here:  http://www.cityofws.org/News/ID/15612/Celebrate-National-Bike-Month-in-May   

--Applications for the Youth Citizens Police Academy are due by May 30 for the program to be held June 20-24.  See more information about this event for young people possibly interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement here:  http://www.cityofws.org/News/ID/15599/Police-Accepting-Applications-for-Youth-Citizens-Police-Academy 

 

That’s my report for April.  As always, you are welcome to email me at danbesse@danbesse.org with comments or questions.  Thanks.