November 2011 Highlights

New city ward lines and guns in parks were among the higher-profile issues with which we dealt in November.

New ward lines adopted: At our November 21 meeting, the city council approved a revised city wards map which modified district lines to take account of population growth shifts since the last census.

Federal law requires us to keep the population of each voting ward approximately equal. Since some areas grew at a faster rate than others, we had to shift many of the district lines. All of the wards are affected. For example, population in the South Ward grew more rapidly than in the West Ward over the past 10 years. As a result, the Southwest Ward needed to give up some area to the West Ward, and gain some area from the South Ward.

For the next two years, I will have the opportunity to represent most of the area I've worked to serve for the past 10 years, plus an area just west of Jonestown Road and north of US 421; the area around the Forsyth Tech main campus; and most of the new development along Griffith Road. If you have friends or family in one of those areas, please let them know that they are invited to contact me. I will be working to reach out to the residents of those neighborhoods over the next few months.

I am sad to lose the chance to directly speak for one area which I've represented for 10 years, the neighborhoods east of Silas Creek Parkway between Country Club Road and Business 40. If you live in that area, please know that you will be welcome to continue contacting me with your thoughts and questions. If I have you on my email list now, I will keep you on it unless you ask to be dropped. Your new direct representative on the City Council now will be West Ward Council Member Robert Clark. The good news is that Robert also works hard to respond to his constituents, and he actually lives closer to you than I do. His city email is robertc@cityofws.org, and I am sure that he will be happy to hear from you.
To review the new city ward lines in detail, go to http://www.cityofws.org/Home/CityGovernment/CityCouncil/Articles/WardLineRealignment2010Census.  

Guns in city parks: Winston-Salem has banned guns (including concealed guns) from all city parks for more than a decade. However, earlier this year the N.C. state legislature passed a bill stripping cities and towns of the authority to ban concealed weapons from parks generally. Now, we're limited to barring them from certain active-use areas in parks, and in order to do that much we have to pass a new ordinance naming the parks and posting the areas covered.

On November 21, the city council voted to adopt that new ordinance. It continues our long-established ban on guns within those areas of our parks which the new state law allows us to cover: playgrounds, pools, athletic fields, and other athletic facilities.

Now, we're getting a batch of form emails from a group of gun enthusiasts living outside our city. However, I don't think that many of my actual constituents, the residents of the Southwest Ward and Winston-Salem, particularly want to see guns on our playgrounds, gym floors, soccer fields and greenways.

West Suburban Area Plan: At our November 7 meeting, the city council gave final approval to the West Suburban Area Plan. The West Suburban small area takes in that part of the city which is north of Business 40/Hwy 421, west of Silas Creek Parkway, and southwest of Reynolda Road. It includes sections of the Northwest, Southwest, and West wards. Its Southwest Ward neighborhoods include South Fork, Sheffield Gardens, Mar-Don Hills, and the Old Vineyard Road area. The final plan approved by the council made one mapping change to the plan recommended by the Planning Board, regarding future residential use recommendations for one activity center, in response to a neighborhood request.

Small area plans help guide city departments in planning infrastructure development and in reviewing zoning issues. While they are not legally binding, they are very influential. With the exception of that one change made at the council meeting, which recommends retaining single-family zoning for an undeveloped area within the Yadkinville Road/Transou Road Neighborhood Activitiy Center, the West Suburban Area Plan as adopted can be found at http://www.cityofws.org/Home/Departments/Planning/AreaPlans/Articles/WestSuburban.  The plan posted on the website will be updated soon to reflect that change.

Leaf collection: Our annual leaf collection process is now well underway. As in recent previous years, there will be three rounds of collection in each part of the city. This year, there's a new online feature designed to make it easier to track when the collection crews can be expected to reach your street. Remember to please rake your leaves to the edge of the street, but DON'T block the sidewalk or pile them out into the travel lanes. For leaf collection guidelines and to review the interactive collection progress tracking tool, see http://www.cityofws.org/Home/Departments/MarketingAndCommunications/NewsArchive/News2011/Articles/LeafCollectionStartsNov1WithNewAutomatedTrucks

Greenways: As many of you know, I'm enthusiastic about the value to our city from adding new and extended greenways to our city parks system. These biking/running/walking trails provide great safe exercise and recreation, and safe off-road connections between neighborhoods and destinations like parks, schools, and shopping areas. In November, the city council approved the acceptance of easement donations for some of the Muddy Creek Greenway connections, and approved funding for the final leg of the Brushy Fork Greenway which will connect the northeastern quadrant of Winston-Salem to the Salem Creek / Salem Lake trails.

I'm continuing to work on other greenway extensions, including the Little Creek Greenway in the Southwest Ward. I hope to have in December a more extensive update on that greenway and other pedestrian safety and mobility projects, including sidewalks, under development in the Southwest Ward.

NLC/NCLM meetings: In November, I represented Winston-Salem at the annual conference of the National League of Cities, held this year in Phoenix, Arizona. Among other things I learned there was that our city of Winston-Salem (population 230,000) has a more active and successful downtown than Phoenix (population 1.6 million). Those high rankings for our downtown in recent national surveys? They're not a fluke, and that is good news for our local economic development and job creation efforts. More formally, during October and November I was able during three out-of-town meetings to create some valuable connections for Winston-Salem transportation system improvements. I have posted more detailed notes from those conferences on this website at Current Topic 2 under Issues. 

Firefighters Combat Challenge: Finally this month, I want to take a moment to congratulate the Winston-Salem firefighter teams who turned in outstanding performances at the Firefighter Combat World Challenge competition, held Nov. 14-19 in Myrtle Beach, SC. This challenge is a timed course of firefighting-related tasks that include climbing a five-story tower, hoisting, chopping, dragging hoses, and rescuing a 175-lb. dummy, all while wearing full equipment. Winston-Salem's over-50 team of Captains Duane Cheek and Ricky Brown took first place while setting a world record for their age group. Other team members with winning performances included Bill Pietrantonio and Chaz Browning. Great job, gentlemen!