March 2019 Highlights

The Broad Street bridge over Business 40 has been re-opened for traffic.  In other March updates, we have street maintenance, abandoned vehicle towing, rental scooter rules, and more:

Street maintenance update:     All of the Southwest Ward street segments included on the city resurfacing list approved last year should now be complete or nearing completion.  Those are  S. Cliffdale Dr., Cheltenham Dr., Lockwood Dr. (between Jonestown and Stratford), Westridge Rd., and Gaston St. (Madison Ave. to Irving St.).  Several additional Southwest Ward street segments should be included in a subsequent round of repaving later this year, but that list has not yet been finalized.  Streets which have been recommended for inclusion and are being reviewed by city staff include Knollwood, Rosewood, Deerwood, Hawthorne (between Knollwood and Bolton), and others.

Junked/abandoned vehicle towing:     The city council on March 25 adopted changes to our rules for towing junked or abandoned vehicles from city streets.  Previously, the city contracted with private towing companies to tow the vehicles to city-owned lots.  That resulted in extra time needed by car owners to pay fees and retrieve their vehicles.  It also produced a backlog of abandoned and marked vehicles on side streets which were waiting to be towed, because all the city-owned storage lots were full most of the time.  Under the new rules, the private towers will normally take the abandoned vehicles directly to their own lots.  The city will continue to monitor streets, mark abandoned vehicles and notify the owners, dispatch the towing companies, keep track of which companies tow those vehicles, and notify the owners.  However, the vehicle owner will then be able to contact the private tower to retrieve the vehicle, subject to paying the towing fees and fines.  The city will only use towing companies which meet reasonable standards for responsibility and towing prices.  However, we should be able to eliminate and avoid the unsightly backlog of abandoned or inoperable vehicles on city streets.

Scooter rules completed:     The city council on March 25 also approved new rules for the operation of shared dockless “micromobility” systems, including electric stand-up scooters.  Among the key points of the new rules:

--Rental companies must get a city permit before beginning operation, and understand and agree to the city rules.

--The total number of devices in each category (dockless rental scooters, dockless rental bicycles) will be authorized and limited by the city in order to prevent problems.

--Device safety standards, operation, storage, and retrieval must all meet city rules.  Among those rules are lights for after-dark operation, parking that does not block pedestrian or other traffic, and no operation of electric scooters on sidewalks or greenways.

There are more additional details than I have room (or you have patience) for me to set out in detail here.  For those interested in diving into the details, you can access them all here:  https://winston-salem.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=3853077&GUID=06461280-9A50-463B-9718-0C1CD98774B9

Bicycle master plan:     Winston-Salem’s proposed updated Bicycle Master Plan is ready for review!  After months of work and public input, there will be a full public review session this Thursday, April 4, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Salem Lake Marina.   This is a drop-in session.  Come to review the draft plan, ask questions, and provide your feedback.  You can review the draft plan now here:  http://www.wsbikeplan.com/  If you have input but can’t make that session, you can provide comments online through April 30. 

Fair Housing Month:     April is Fair Housing Month in Winston-Salem.   The Winston-Salem Human Relations Commission is sponsoring a series of programs designed to help educate the public and encourage interest in fair housing laws, programs and history.  Events include a training on landlord/tenant law and relations (April 10), the history of housing segregation in Winston-Salem (April 11), a forum on addressing disabilities and access (April 16), and a general discussion meeting on the topic (April 18).  For details, contact the Human Relations Department at 336-734-1227.

City elections revamp legislation:     The City of Winston-Salem was surprised in late March by the unsolicited introduction of state legislation to completely overhaul our city council elections system.  The legislation, House Bill 519, was introduced by two members of the Forsyth County legislative delegation without consultation with or input from members of the city council or city staff.  I and other members of the city council have vigorously objected to the proposal and to its manner of introduction.  It is completely undemocratic to put forward legislation of such a sweeping nature impacting the public’s rights to select their own representatives, with no input from the public or consultation with local elected leaders.

If approved, House Bill 519 would impose a new city ward map, drawn in secret without city or public input, which would cluster three of the city’s four African-American city council members in just one of the new districts.  It would cut in half the number of minority-leaning election districts.  It would reduce the number of districts (wards) from eight to five, and add three ‘at-large’ elected council seats instead.  Finally, it would cut the election cycle from four to two years.  Taken as a whole, the changes would likely reduce the number of minority representatives for a city in which our population is nearly half members of a racial or ethnic minority group.  By enormously raising the cost of running for, winning, and serving in city elected office in Winston-Salem, the bill would also all but eliminate the chance for people of modest financial means to serve in these offices.

This is an extremely bad proposal, and I and other members of the city council will actively oppose it.

Back by popular demand:  Bulky Item Pickup:     In response to frequently asked questions about bulky item pickup, here are links to important information:

--What are the rules for what can be collected and how?
http://www.cityofws.org/departments/sanitation/collections/bulky-items  
--When can I expect collection to take place in my neighborhood?
https://www6.cityofws.org/COWS_ServiceFinder/BulkyItem.aspx   

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

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