October 2008 Highlights

That howling you hear isn't a Halloween werewolf.  I think it's neighbors who've gotten one robocall too many...but let's take a look at city news.

Fiscal restraint measures:      The city took steps this month to prepare for possible revenue shortfalls due to the national economic crisis.  Our two major local revenue sources are the sales tax and the property tax, both of which are affected by big economic changes—sales tax revenue quickly, and property tax revenue growth within the year.  Therefore, our city manager (with consensus approval by the city council) has taken several proactive measures, including the following:

  • City personnel hiring freeze (critical public safety positions exempted);
  • Freeze on capital item purchases (again, police patrol and fire trucks exempted);
  • Review of all service contracts;
  • Travel cutbacks;
  • Sequestration by departments of 5% of discretionary operating spending, and a review of all operating budget expenditures;
  • Ongoing control and monitoring of fuel use.

Departments have been advised that these measures could be in effect until the end of the year.  A more detailed status report will be provided to the Council in November.

Regenerative medicine institute:     We were excited this month to hold in the Piedmont Triad Research Park downtown a kickoff celebration for the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine (AFIRM).  Winston-Salem's own Dr. Tony Atala is coordinating AFIRM, which is funded with $42.5 million over five years from the U.S. Dept. of Defense.  AFIRM aims to deliver clinical therapies for burn repair, wound healing without scarring, facial reconstruction, and—most ambitiously—limb regeneration.  These therapies will have obvious enormous value for our soldiers wounded in combat, and beyond for all victims of such serious injuries however they may occur.  This is great work that everyone in Winston-Salem should be proud of helping to support.

NCLM meeting report:     Given the need to tighten the city's budget belt, it's more important than ever that the city get value in return for conference and meeting participation by city staff and officials.  I helped to represent Winston-Salem at the N.C. League of Municipalities annual meeting in Charlotte earlier this month.  In addition to the usual value of improving communication with local leaders from other cities who are addressing similar problems, I concentrated on bringing back reports from two particularly useful workshops on transportation funding and on gang issues.  The transportation funding workshop provided an in-depth review of national and state outlooks for transportation planning and funding for local governments, including both roads and public transit systems.  The gang issues workshop reviewed successful approaches being implemented in other communities for gang prevention and intervention.  I've shared my written summaries and materials with other council members and city staff.  I will be happy to email a more detailed outline to any constituent on request.

Neighborhood watch creation:        I don't want to sound like a stuck record on this question.  (Hey kids—ask your grandparents what a "record" is...)  However, there's not much we can do that's more effective in combating crime than organizing and maintaining effective neighborhood watch efforts.  That's why I'm very pleased with two new watch efforts organized in the Southwest Ward this month—Lockland Avenue and Sunset Drive.  Congratulations to both!