August 2019 Highlights

More gun violence continues nationwide, and Winston-Salem is far from immune.  First, here’s info on sanitation collection changes for Labor Day week, a calendar note regarding a rezoning request of substantial public interest, and a brief update on bicycle and pedestrian safety actions. 

Labor Day week sanitation collection changes:     For the upcoming Labor Day week, here are the key collection schedule notes for Winston-Salem:
--All yard waste and recycling collection routes for the week of September 2 will be postponed one day (Monday routes collected on Tuesday, etc.).
--There will be no change in garbage collection schedules.

Burke Mill Road rezoning request:     There’s been broad attention this past month to a rezoning request off Burke Mill Road just north of I-40, from the Truliant Credit Union.  The controversial element involves a proposed entrance onto Burke Mill that many are concerned may increase traffic on a roadway that is already congested at rush hour times.  The public hearing on this request, previously scheduled for the city council meeting on September 3, has been postponed to the meeting on October 7.  The delay is intended to provide additional time to work on potential solutions to avoid adverse impacts and actually improve traffic conditions on Burke Mill Road.  I will continue to work on this matter and attempt to keep concerned neighborhoods informed.   

Pedestrian and cycling safety:     The city council at our August 19 meeting approved several items to continue our efforts for safer walking, running, and biking in Winston-Salem.
--We approved the updated Winston-Salem Bicycle Master Plan, which examines existing conditions and needs, and then discusses opportunities for improvement, including priority projects.   The plan’s recommendations include creation of a city Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee to help monitor progress, study issues, and advocate for effective efforts.  See the final plan and supporting documents here:  www.wsbikeplan.com 
--We approved implementing a Safe Routes to School project which involves bicycle and pedestrian safety education for students and families.
--We approved planning and design contracts for a number of pedestrian safety and mobility projects, including the first two priority lists of pedestrian safety intersection improvement locations, the Griffith Road sidewalk, the Silas Creek Parkway sidewalk extension, and the Salem Creek Greenway Pedestrian Sidepath.

Gun violence:     Not a week goes by without front-page headlines on the latest gun violence incident, either nationally or here in our home town.  Depending on who we listen to, the explanations (or excuses) can be all over the map.  Mental illness?  A ‘culture of violence’?  Not enough police?  Gangs?  Racial animosities?  Poverty?  Some politicians will try to tell us it’s video games. 

The month of August started with two separate acts of shocking mass shooting gun violence in our nation, less than 24 hours apart but separated by half our continent in distance.  They became the latest in an apparently unending string of such incidents.  A week later our own community was shocked by a senseless individual shooting widely believed to have racial overtones.  Since that time, we have seen multiple well-publicized gun crimes, most involving individuals who already knew each other. 

As a city elected official, I know that the headlines reflect only part of the story.  We get all the police department alert calls reporting the latest gun crimes.  One Tuesday morning this month, the call came in reporting a 14-year-old girl taken to the hospital after having been accidentally shot by her 15-year-old boyfriend at home.  I’m unofficially informed that the Forsyth County schools confiscated more guns from students last year than ever before. 

In the news from a nearby community just last week, we were all ‘treated’ to the story of a High Point University student arrested for planning a mass shooting on campus.  It was reported that he came to school in our state instead of staying in his native Boston because it’s easier to buy guns under North Carolina law. 

Every nation on earth suffers from mental illness, racism, poverty, criminal gangs, and violent video games.  Only in our nation do we find a level of gun violence an order of magnitude higher than that in any other developed nation.  The key differences are the sheer number of guns and the ease of obtaining them (legal and otherwise).  There is a rising flood of guns on our streets, including weapons of war (military-style rifles and outsized ammunition magazines).  It is increasingly urgent that we act as a nation to deal with this. 

I was raised in a home of hunters and marksmen, and I learned gun safety and shooting skills as a teenager.  There is a gaping chasm between that tradition and the belief that we must all carry any kind or number of weapons that strike our fancy at all times and in all places.  We do not need the latter, and cannot survive it as safe communities.

Winston-Salem has already made law enforcement efforts to address gun violence a priority, and we will continue to do so.  I previously wrote an update on local police work in Winston-Salem to address gun violence.  That update is contained in my June 2019 report, posted here:  http://www.danbesse.org/2019News/June2019Highlights.aspx 

We also can and should do more to educate the public on safe home storage of firearms, especially in order to reduce tragedies involving children or other youths misusing those guns.  However, these local actions, while necessary, are not by themselves sufficient.

After the horrific mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, I posted some additional thoughts on the urgent need for responsive action at the state and national levels as well:  http://www.danbesse.org/Issues/CurrentTopic3.aspx  It’s clear that this nationwide crisis will require action that goes beyond any one local community.  I will continue to join in pressing our elected representatives at all levels for those actions.

That’s my report for August.  As always, you are welcome to contact at danbesse@danbesse.org.  Thanks!