March 2018 Highlights

Opioid crisis interventions and Business 40 closure mitigation strategies were among the city’s work actions in March.

Opioid crisis resolution and actions:     At our meeting on March 5, the city council approved actions to help address the opioid crisis in Forsyth County.  The council approved a resolution declaring the opioid crisis to be a public nuisance in Winston-Salem, and authorized City of Winston-Salem participation in a multi-jurisdictional lawsuit against certain manufacturers and wholesale distributors of opioids who may have violated the laws governing opioid distribution.
The number of opioid-related deaths in Forsyth County jumped from 13 in 2005 to 53 in 2015.  As of March 5, eight had died this year.  Also, as of that date in 2018, city emergency response staff (fire, police, paramedics) have this year administered at least 32 doses of the overdose-countering drug Naloxone.  First responders themselves are at increased risk of overdose from skin contact with contaminated clothing or other surfaces while responding to drug-related emergencies. 
The targeted companies are believed to have marketed their prescription opioids in ways that overrepresented their benefits and underrepresented their risks, resulting in dangerous overuse, and then failed to properly monitor their distribution for clear signs of abuse patterns.  By participating along with many other cities, counties, and states in the lawsuit, we hope to recover financial assistance for the resulting local need to deal with the overdose crisis and responsive addiction treatment efforts.  The litigation should bring economic pressure on the manufacturers and distributors for reforms in the way they handle advertising, distribution, and tracking of their drugs. 

Business 40 work and mitigation strategies:    At our March 26 meeting, the city council approved city participation in a joint Business 40 closure mitigation strategy with the Winston-Salem Transit Authority (WSTA), Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation (PART), and the N.C. Dept. of Transportation (NCDOT).  NCDOT is expected to use federal assistance to fund this strategy, designed to help reduce traffic congestion resulting from the planned 20-month closure of Business 40 through downtown.  WSTA, PART, and the city Department of Transportation will help set up park & ride locations and arrange vanpools and transit connections to get more commuters out of their single-occupant vehicles and into shared transit.  More information will be published on the details once they’re approved by NCDOT and the Federal Highway Administration.

In the meantime, more lane closures will be coming on Business 40 through downtown as work continues on the interchange with Peters Creek Parkway.  You should be able to keep up with planned closures here:  www.business40nc.com 

Miller Street sidewalk project:     At our March 26 meeting, we also approved final right of way acquisition for the Miller Street sidewalk extension, from Cloverdale Avenue up to the Five Points intersection.  This sidewalk extension will provide safer pedestrian access from nearby residential neighborhoods to the offices and stores on the east side of Miller Street. 

National League of Cities conference:     I participated as a representative of Winston-Salem in the annual National League of Cities (NLC) conference in Washington during the second week of March.  Among other work, I took part in the NLC Transportation Infrastructure & Services Committee meetings on shaping national transportation policies to assist cities; participated in briefings on strategies for affordable housing development; and helped represent the city in meetings with administration officials dealing with transportation projects and ‘food desert’ mitigation strategies.  The contacts developed and information brought back from these conferences are always valuable for my year-round work on Winston-Salem issues.  For example, this year I picked up information on the newly approved federal “opportunity zones” designations intended to encourage new development interest in challenged urban areas.  I used that information to advocate for the inclusion of the area around Peters Creek Parkway and Academy Street in the city’s application for opportunity zone designations.  If approved, that should boost proposed redevelopment efforts for some of the area’s most run-down property.

Reporting streetlight outages:     There’s a new faster way to report streetlight outages in Winston-Salem.  For years, residents have had the option to report a streetlight that’s out through the CityLink system.  As a practical matter, however, that just means that CityLink staff have taken the report and passed it on to the Duke Energy office that is actually responsible for replacing the light.  Starting this month, residents are being encouraged to use Duke’s newly upgraded interactive web page that allows residents to report the exact light on a map and file the report online.  Here’s the link:  https://www.duke-energy.com/customer-service/request-light-repair  Residents without convenient web access can call Duke at 800-769-3766 (800-POWER-ON).

Bulky item pickup schedules:     Winston-Salem bulky item pickup for 2018 began the week of March 5.  One of the Southwest Ward’s subsections was collected during March, and the rest are scheduled for weeks during June and July.  To find out when your neighborhood is scheduled for collection, plus all the other details of what is collected and how, start here:  http://www.cityofws.org/News/ID/20576/Bulky-Item-Collection-Returns

Upcoming events in April:     Events of interest coming in April include these:

--Long Branch Trail opening:   On Wednesday, April 11, starting at 11 a.m., the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter will host an opening event for the new 1.7 mile Long Branch Trail greenway.  It provides a new bike/ped travel and recreational trail between the east side of downtown and the Salem Creek Greenway.  The opening event will take place at the trailhead near the intersection of Third Street and N. Patterson Avenue.  https://www.facebook.com/events/411680979274244/

--Empty Bowls:  I and other city officials always take part in this annual major fundraiser for the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina.  This year it includes a dinner on Tuesday, April 17, and a lunch event on Wednesday, April 18, both at the Benton Convention Center.  See the details here:  https://emptybowlsnc.org/  Come help us feed hungry children and families in our region.  

--Fair Housing Month:    As part of Fair Housing Month, the city Human Relations Department will host the 2018 “Fair and Affordable Housing” panel discussions on Thursday, April 19, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Benton Convention Center on 5th Street downtown.  http://www.cityofws.org/HumanRelations

 

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

###