There have been interesting developments this month in several important areas: community safety, economic development, and transportation, among others.
CAPS (Community Assisted Public Safety): The city held a special public meeting on November 21 for a presentation and discussion on the Richmond, VA, "Community Assisted Public Safety" (CAPS) program. Police, fire, and other representatives from the City of Richmond described this program and took questions. CAPS is an effort to focus and coordinate attention to curing public safety problems in city neighborhoods. It is intended to use public involvement and city agency cooperation to address crime hot spots, serious fire and building code violations, and related issues in areas needing special attention. City officials and neighborhood association representatives from around Winston-Salem participated in the November 21 meeting, and there will be an active follow-up review of how Winston-Salem can adapt lessons from the CAPS model to address city problems here.
Economic development initiatives: Mayor Allen Joines announced this month a cooperative economic development effort that is expected to channel almost $40 million in private funds into downtown and other economic development efforts in the city. The effort is called the "Millennium Fund" and will be coordinated by the Winston-Salem Alliance, a private non-profit group which Joines directs as his "day job". The planned efforts include business park development, downtown residential development, support of downtown capital improvement projects, events and festivals, parks and public areas, and business projects. I have been favorably impressed with the scope and thoughtfulness of Joines’ economic development initiatives during his first year in office. From Sara Lee expansion to recruitment of the global Playtex headquarters to landing a high-speed business computer links facility to expansion of the Piedmont Triad Research Park, Joines has been involved in a series of significant developments designed to boost our local economy.
High speed rail: The Federal Railroad Administration and the Federal Highway Administration have issued a positive "record of decision" on the proposed Southeast High Speed Rail project from Washington to Charlotte. The decision confirms and approves the corridor selection which includes Winston-Salem. North Carolina and Virginia are now creating an implementation plan to push the project to its next stages. This important transportation link will represent a vital interstate connection with positive environmental and economic implications for our area. More information is available at www.sehsr.org.
Air quality and "Early Action Compacts": City, county, and state officials are working together to produce an "Early Action Compact" (EAC) to help control our local ozone/urban smog problem. Local monitoring stations confirmed that the 2002 summer ozone season in the Piedmont Triad was our worst since the historic bad air season of 1998. Without an approved EAC to show how we’re going to bring our bad air problem under control by 2007, it’s nearly certain that the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will designate the Triad as a "non-attainment" area for air pollution control. That could have serious adverse effects on federal funding for local transportation projects. Creating a working "early action compact" could both protect public health more quickly and avoid the problems of the "non-attainment" designation. During the November meeting of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC), I moved and the TAC adopted a resolution supporting development of an EAC for the Triad.
Updates: Modifications to city ordinances regarding boarding and rooming houses are expected to be on the Community Development/Housing/General Government Committee agenda for further discussion on December 10. Proposals regarding limitations on soliciting/"panhandling" in medians and street lanes should be on the Public Safety Committee agenda for further discussion on December 9. A proposal to transfer more parkland from Winston Lake Park to the school system was postponed following a public hearing on November 18, but may be discussed further at the Board of Aldermen meeting December 2.
Auto break-ins: There have been an unusual number of auto break-ins around the city this fall. Police are continuing to investigate a problem which appears to be swinging from one neighborhood to another around town. Ardmore has been one of the neighborhoods seeing this pattern. I’ve been receiving contacts about this and forwarding them to the 400 Sector Commander for the Police Department. Cars with visible bags, cell phones, and CDs have been targeted. Residents are encouraged to keep an eye out, especially on cars parked on the street, and to call in reports of suspicious activity that night rather than the next morning.