October 2004 Highlights

Tuesday (November 2) is election day for offices at the national, state, and local level. If you have not taken advantage of early voting, please remember to vote Tuesday. Plus, please don’t stop at the "up ballot" races—there are important local elections, non-partisan judicial contests both statewide and local, and three proposed constitutional amendments. Your choices are important in all these areas.

I do not use these updates for political purposes. However, like any other lifelong "policy wonk", I have my own thoughts on the issues involved in most of the contests. If any of the less publicized races have you scratching your head, I will be happy to share my recommendations at your request. (Email me at danbesse@danbesse.org.) Just don’t forget to vote! (By the way, to my great relief, my office is not on the ballot this year.)

Now to city business:

Ardmore historic district: Congratulations are in order to the many members and leaders of the Ardmore Neighborhood Association. As of August 25, the Ardmore Historic District was officially entered in the National Register of Historic Places as "significant in American history, architecture, archaeology, and culture". I had the privilege at the City Council meeting on October 18 of presenting the certificate of recognition to ANA leaders like Carol Eickmeyer, Julie Magness, and Jane Milner, who helped to shepherd the new district through the lengthy designation process. Started about 80 years ago, Ardmore was originally Winston-Salem’s first automobile suburb. It is now the second-largest designated historic district in the state of North Carolina. This designation does not carry any additional restrictions on property owners. It does make properties within the district eligible for historic renovation tax credits for qualifying work, at the application of the owner.

Economic development project: On October 18, the City Council approved a proposal for economic development assistance to Lowe’s Companies for the relocation and expansion of its national data center to Winston-Salem. If Lowe’s locates here, the project will create an additional estimated $100 million in tax base (plus dozens of new jobs) over the next 10 years. The city incentives also require that the initial Lowe’s capital investment be at least $40 million, that Lowe’s commit to making this their primary data center for at least 12 years, and that Forsyth County and the State of North Carolina also participate in the project. No city funds will go to the project until the first year after new property taxes have paid on the initial investment phase. After that point, city incentives will be phased over a period of ten years, will be dependent on the project’s continuation, and will amount to a fraction of the new net property taxes generated.

Cleaner air: State and local efforts for air pollution cleanup are showing results in the Piedmont Triad area. Last summer was the cleanest air summer in our area since 1980. We believe that state-mandated cuts in smokestacks emissions may be already having an impact. However, it’s important to remember this caution—the weather was unusually favorable this summer as well. For clean air progress to continue (even when the summers are hot and dry), it is imperative that we maintain our cleanup strategies. The Piedmont Triad Early Action Compact to reduce air pollution emissions is continuing our work to see that this happens.

Bicycle plan workshop: The city and county Transportation Departments held a public workshop October 12 to discuss and take comments on our community bicycle plan. A good turnout of about 50 cyclists of all ages came to listen and make suggestions on how our city and county can make cycling safer through signed routes, street improvements, and trails and greenways expansion. A report with recommendations will be prepared for later consideration by our local elected bodies and the state Dept. of Transportation.

Street cars: On October 18, the City Council also approved a second-phase study (a detailed feasibility study) of a possible streetcar system for downtown Winston-Salem. If such a system proves to be financially feasible, it would provide a very significant boost for the revitalization of our central city, with all the economic and environmental benefits that would flow from that. The system could connect the WFU/BMC hospital complex at one end, through downtown, to the Piedmont Triad Research Park at the other, with future connectors to Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem State University, and the N.C. School of the Arts. The phase-two study will look at the best rail routes, maintenance facilities, ridership potential, and other costs, benefits, and impacts.

Neighborhood meetings: Fall has become the season for neighborhood association annual meetings. Over the past month, I attended three and discussed issues of neighborhood concern there (public safety, transportation, city services, etc.). Active neighborhood associations are one of the most important ways neighbors can work together to address mutual concerns and keep our community a good place to live. My congratulations to the neighbors in the Burke Park Neighborhood Association (Sept. 26), Westbrook Neighborhood Association (Oct. 12), and Ardmore Neighborhood Association (Oct. 21), for another active and successful year of service to our community.

If you have a meeting scheduled here in our Southwest Ward (neighborhood watch, homeowners association, community potluck, or other), please let me know as early as possible, and I will make every effort to participate. Thanks!

Ardmore Home Run 5k: The second biennial Ardmore Home Run 5k, sponsored by Redeemer Presbyterian Church in conjunction with the Ardmore Neighborhood Association and the Twin City Track Club, will be held November 13. The "Gobble Gallop" one-mile fun run for kids will start at 8:30 a.m. and the 5k at 9 a.m. Proceeds from the race will go to benefit Habitat for Humanity of Forsyth County. For more information, email ardmore5k@aol.com or check out www.twincitytc.org.