November 2019 Highlights

For the second month in a row, I’ve delayed my monthly report in order to cover final action on an issue that was unexpectedly delayed by council process rules.  First, here’s a look at sanitation collection changes for December:  

Sanitation collection changes in December:     There are two weeks during December when holiday schedules will affect city sanitation collections:

--Christmas week of Dec. 23:     Most city offices will be closed on Wednesday, Dec. 25.  All sanitation collection services that week will be affected as follows:
Garbage:  Tuesday and Wednesday routes will be collected one day early.  Thursday and Friday routes will run as usual.
Curbside Recycling:  BLUE WEEK – Monday and Tuesday routes will run their usual schedules.  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday routes will be delayed one day.
Yard waste carts:  Monday and Tuesday routes will run as usual.  Wednesday and Thursday routes will be delayed one day.  

--New Year’s Day week of Dec. 30:      Most city offices will be closed on Wednesday, Jan. 1.  All sanitation collection services that week will be affected as follows: 
Garbage: Tuesday and Wednesday routes will be collected one day early.  Thursday and Friday routes will run as usual.  
Curbside Recycling: RED WEEK – Monday and Tuesday routes will run their usual schedules.  Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday routes will be delayed one day.
Yard Waste Carts: Monday and Tuesday routes will run as usual.  Wednesday and Thursday routes will be delayed one day.
 
Crossnore/Children’s Home property purchase:     The city council at our December 2 meeting completed the discussion and vote on assisting with the purchase of a conservation easement on 92 acres of the Crossnore School (old Children’s Home) property off Reynolda Road.  The council approved making available $200,000 in city capital funds to assist with a purchase estimated at $6.5 million total, the great majority of which is coming from non-profit foundation grants and private contributions.  I supported the motion, after two points were made clear:
--Only $100,000 would come from the very limited pool of voter-approved bonds designated for citywide parkland acquisition and development.  Only about $950,000 total remained in that fund for citywide use.  Since there is nearly $35 million dollars in identified maintenance and improvement needs at existing city parks, most of which are in low- or moderate-income neighborhoods, I was unwilling to support taking more from that fund for this new project.  The second $100,000 in this motion would come from other undesignated city capital reserve funds.
--In addition, it was agreed that the city’s participation in acquisition of the Crossnore conservation easement would come with guaranteed public access to the anticipated future walking trail system on that property.  That had been implied, and I wanted to ensure that it was explicit and binding regardless of how and when the trails are constructed. 
The Crossnore land conservation easement acquisition is a good project which should conserve green space within the central city area.  My caution about the level of city participation in the project is only to ensure that city assistance to that project does not come at the expense of park and recreation needs in lower-income areas of our community.

Bolton Pool renovations approved:     In November, the city council approved an update to the major Bolton Pool renovations which were authorized as part of the 2018 public bond referendum.  The renovations will include repairing leaks, replacing the gutters, replacing the tile of pool walls, floors, and steps, and more.  This is an important example of our ongoing efforts to take care of critical deferred maintenance issues at existing parks and recreation centers across our city.  It’s necessary work, authorized by city voters, but it isn’t cheap.  This project alone will cost $530,000, and helps show why we have to be careful about our use of limited city parks funds.

Piedmont Greenway makes progress:     The city council also approved in November the acquisition of public easements for a long-planned and important extension of our city greenway trails system.  The first leg of the Piedmont Greenway will extend from the existing Salem Lake trail at Linville Road to the vicinity of East Forsyth High School.  Land easement acquisition in this case should cost less than $9,000.  The next steps of engineering and construction costs will be substantially higher, but this greenway will both extend our most important city greenway network and link in a presently underserved area.  It’s another current example of the city’s ongoing commitment to expanding healthy walking and biking opportunities and serve neighborhoods which are underserved with those opportunities now.  A good article on this project appeared in the Winston-Salem Journal this week:  https://www.journalnow.com/news/local/city-plans-salem-lake-greenway-extension/article_affaffbe-52b2-54e1-9f53-0086c6ed69b3.html

Parks and Open Space Plan Update approved:     The city council on December 2 also unanimously approved major updates to our countywide parks and open space plan.  The updates included two major new identified priority points:
--Good maintenance of existing parks must be a major priority for our system.  As I noted in the Crossnore discussion earlier, there is a large backlog of maintenance and update needs for our existing parks around the city.  Keeping existing parks in top shape for all parts of our community must be a priority.
--We need improved public access to our parks by transportation other than driving.  At a minimum, neighborhoods near parks need safe walking and biking access to the parks, whether by sidewalk, bike lane, or greenway.  Beyond that, the more we can connect parks and neighborhoods around the city together by our greenway network, the better.

2020 elections and the Southwest Ward:     I steer away from politics in these city council updates, but this month there’s important news from a Southwest Ward service perspective.  Earlier this fall, I announced that I would run for a seat representing Forsyth County in the NC House of Representatives, and on Monday of this week (Dec. 2) I filed for election to the NC House next year.  I’m running in the new NC House District 74, which includes a substantial part of the Southwest Ward as well as all of the communities of Clemmons and Lewisville.  I hope to apply in the state legislature the lessons I’ve learned in local service, of listening, doing my homework, negotiating in good faith, and getting things done in public service.  I plan to work on some matters I’ve attended to on the local level, especially transportation, housing, jobs, and clean water and air.  I’m also looking to work more intensely on some key issues that have largely been beyond the scope of what we can accomplish on the city level, especially improving our public schools and addressing problems of health care access and costs.

This is directly related to my service on the Winston-Salem City Council in part because it means my final term as city council member for the Southwest Ward will be complete in December 2020.  I intend to continue to work hard on key local issues as your city council representative through 2020, and then work to assist a smooth transition to your next Southwest Ward representative.  You are encouraged to continue to contact me about city issues and service concerns during the coming year, and I will keep working to help.  However, you won’t see my name on your city council ballot in 2020.  Many of you will see it on your State House ballot instead.  I will welcome your questions, comments, and support there. 

I know one person who has filed for the privilege of representing the Southwest Ward on the city council beginning in 2021.  If others are interested, you have until noon this December 20 to file for the office.  Filing must be done in person at the Forsyth County Board of Elections office at 201 N. Chestnut St., Winston-Salem.  The filing fee to run for city council is only $5.  However, it’s a four-year commitment requiring hard work and a lot of time.  If you’re interested in the seat and want more information about what it takes to do the job, you are welcome to contact me.

In the meantime, please have a wonderful holiday season and joyous new year! 

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