September 2016 Highlights

In September, we continued progress on important bond issue projects.  First, let me provide my weekly update on planned street closures in the Southwest Ward.

Planned street closures and traffic cautions:     Residents of (and drivers through) the Ardmore neighborhood should make note of these anticipated street work locations during the week of October 3, in connection with utility lines work.
Three streets will be closed to through traffic between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.:
--Magnolia Street between Fairway Drive and Maplewood Avenue.
--Jefferson Avenue between Collingwood and Kenwood streets.
--Walker Avenue between Ebert and Collingwood streets.
In addition, road bed repairs will affect the following thoroughfare:
--Hawthorne Road between Fenimore and Irving streets will be reduced to one lane of traffic on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. until the repair is completed.  A flagger will help to direct traffic.

Miller Park stream restoration:     The physical work of the Miller Park renovations is expected to start soon, now that the city council (as of September 19) has approved the contract for the habitat restoration work on Miller Creek.  This work will restore the streambed and the undercut banks that have been badly scoured by upstream stormwater runoff, and put long-term mitigation measures in place.  The work has been timed to avoid adverse effects on migratory birds that use the park, and designed to minimize tree loss.  This is stage one of the planned Miller Park renovations funded by the 2014 bond referendum.

Police District 3 station progress:     Construction is well advanced on the new District 3 Police Patrol Station at the intersection of S. Stratford Road and Somerset Drive.  Windows have been installed and the electrical and HVAC installation is underway.

Charlotte’s community crisis:     I have been following with deep concern the community crisis in Charlotte following the officer-involved shooting of Mr. Keith Scott, and the protests and incidents which followed.  As we should all know, this is only the latest high-profile case of a systemic problem involving questions of rules for the use of force, disproportionate impacts on communities of color, and building police/community trust and communication.

There is more than one viewpoint here that deserves consideration and respect.  On the one hand, the alarming proliferation of guns on the street puts our police officers’ lives at increasing risk, and we have to be aware of that.  On the other hand, the recurring pattern of questioned officer-involved shootings in many communities has left a great many Americans, especially people of color, legitimately concerned about the safety of themselves or their family members.

I have reviewed the video recordings released thus far of the incident in Charlotte.  I am troubled by questions of whether the training and rules of engagement for police in such situations are adequate for dealing with individuals of apparently reduced capacity to understand and respond to verbal instructions.  Officers confronted with a potentially life-threatening situation can have only a split second to analyze and react.  Are they receiving the best training and guidance for reducing and dealing with those risks?  Are there better ways to de-escalate some situations before they reach the crisis point visible in the Charlotte recordings?  How do we ensure that unthinking racial bias is not a factor in how officers respond to potential threats?  And in dealing with police video recordings, how do we balance the competing needs for public transparency and community trust versus protection of individuals’ privacy and the integrity of the official investigation process?  Our nation is struggling with these and other related questions. 

I believe that we have a top-rate police department, officers, and training here in Winston-Salem, but we are still not immune to the risk of serious problems.  Community involvement and calm, reasoned dialogue will be critical to reaching satisfactory answers, both nationwide and in our city.

Transportation project local priority comments:     The Winston-Salem Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) is currently in the process of evaluating potential transportation projects to add to our recommendations for state funding.  A lot of preparatory work has already been done, and draft rankings have been released by our transportation department staff.  That information is under review now by members of our Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) (including myself), which will vote on our recommendations to the state Department of Transportation at our meeting on October 20.

There is an official public review and comment opportunity underway now.  Public comments must be made in writing and submitted by October 5.  Details of how to comment are found here:  http://www.cityofws.org/Departments/Transportation/Planning/STI-SPOT-Prioritization 

As a practical matter, only highly-rated projects that have already been studied will be considered for our recommendations at this point.  However, it’s noteworthy that the top-ranked bicycle/pedestrian project in our region for this round of review is the proposed multi-use path along Business 40.  I encourage folks who support this project to submit a comment in its favor through the process linked above.  That will help build a record of public support when we make our case to the state for funding.

International festival and citizenship ceremony:     On September 10 I attended an inspirational event in downtown Winston-Salem.  To kick off our International Food and Music Festival, there was an official naturalization ceremony in which over 20 new Americans from 19 nations (on five continents) took their citizenship oaths.  Witnessing the excitement of our new citizens and their families, from a rainbow of nationalities, was a great moment that underscored what it means to be an American citizen and take our responsibilities as citizens seriously.

Early voting begins Oct. 20:    Early voting for these important national, state, and local elections will begin October 20 at the Forsyth County Government Center at 201 N. Chestnut Street, downtown in Winston-Salem.  Early voting at 16 satellite locations will begin October 27.  For the first time, one of these satellite locations will be in the Southwest Ward, at Miller Park Recreation Center.  For full information on locations and hours of voting, see here:  http://www.forsyth.cc/Elections/Documents/One-stop_early_voting.pdf  

Upcoming October events:     There are a number of great community events coming up in October: 
--Big Sweep:   This Saturday, Oct. 1, from 9 a.m. to noon, Keep Winston-Salem Beautiful is putting on its annual Big Sweep cleanup of local waterways and parks.  This year volunteers will tackle 28 locations such as Peters Creek, Silas Creek, Salem Creek, Monarcas Creek, Mill Creek, Tanner’s Run, Winston Lake and Bowen Branch.  For more info, call 336-771-5161.
--Domestic Violence Awareness Month:   Events for the month will kick off with a candlelight vigil for victims, on Wednesday, October 5, at 6:30 p.m., at the Forsyth Technical Community College location at 525 Vine Street. 
--Ardmore Neighborhood Association (ANA) annual meeting:   ANA members will gather Thursday, October 6, at 7 p.m. at Miller Park Recreation Center to elect officers and update neighborhood residents on activities.
--Community Roots Day:   The annual community tree planting project takes place this year on Saturday, October 15, from 9 a.m. to noon, kicking off at Smith Farm Elementary School on Johnny Knoll off Kernersville Road in eastern Winston-Salem.
--Run Against Hunger:   Ardmore RAH (Run Against Hunger) 5k/10k/fun run will be held on Saturday, October 22, beginning at Redeemer Presbyterian on Miller Street.  For full details, go to www.ardmorerah.com .

And speaking of acting against hunger, I neglected to mention in my August report that September has been Hunger Action Month.  Fortunately, it’s still not too late to get into that action.  Go here for full details:  http://hungernwnc.org/hungeractionmonth/index.html 

 

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

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