December 2012 Highlights

In December, Winston-Salem landed a major new manufacturing facility. I've included more information on that and other current issues from December. Happy New Year to all of you and your families!

Herbalife announces Winston-Salem location: Herbalife announced in December that it will locate its new east coast manufacturing operation in Winston-Salem. Herbalife, a global vitamins and nutritional supplements maker, exports its products to 80 nations and had net sales of $3.5 billion in 2011. The California-based company is buying and refitting the former Dell plant. Its Winston-Salem plant is expected to involve more than $100 million in taxable capital improvements and equipment, and the creation of almost 500 local jobs.
In order to land this new plant, the city offered an economic development incentives package based on the estimated tax base and job creation numbers, and which will see the project pay for itself plus provide substantial net new city tax revenues over and above the amount of incentives payments. As I also noted in last month's report, the incentives payments are contingent on delivery of specified levels of taxable investment and jobs, and are guaranteed by "clawback" provisions for the recovery of incentives payments if the company's deliverables fall short. (These guarantees are similar to those which resulted in a full recovery of the city's payments to Dell when that company failed to meet the contractual targets.) The Herbalife project is a traditional example of incentives usage for a manufacturing project which will bring net new economic activity to our region.

Gun regulations: The horrific shootings in Newtown, CT, on December 14 cast a nationwide pall over what would normally have been one of our most festive seasons. In addition to sharing in our nation's grief for the lives lost, especially the young children, many of us have felt obligated to look harder at how our country regulates firearms. It seems that we have been dealing with an increasing number of shooting incidents that have either been made possible, or made worse, by the use of military-style semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity ammunition clips. These included the Aurora theater shootings, the killing of schoolchildren in Newtown, and the even more recent deadly ambush of firefighters in New York.

My personal conclusion is that there is no civilian use for those military-style ("assault") rifles and high-capacity clips that comes close to making up for their potential for deadly abuse. We'd be far better off, and the likelihood of future massacres significantly lessened, if we reduced the supply of those weapons on the street. For all practical purposes, that means Congressional action to control their manufacture and sale. State and local laws on sale and possession are simply too easy to get around. (And, in North Carolina, the legal authority of local governments over this topic is strictly limited.)

The groups representing the interests of private gun enthusiasts and small arms manufacturers take a different view. They believe that the potential for gun violence is reduced by having more guns in settings like schools, parks, restaurants, etc. I do not share their assessment, and question the existence of evidence to support it. I am more concerned that adding concealed carry of guns into those environments will increase the potential for accidental shootings, and theft and misuse of the guns.

However, the gun enthusiast groups have been active in pressing their argument. Winston-Salem acted earlier this year to maintain our ban on concealed carry in city recreation areas. After that action, city officials were treated to an extended email campaign of opposition by one state-level group, which consisted almost entirely of messages from individuals who do not live in Winston-Salem. At our meeting on December 17, the city council also voted to ask our state legislature to repeal the law it passed last year which prohibits local governments from banning concealed carry throughout city parks. Since we took that vote, the same gun-enthusiast group has initiated another "gun spam" email campaign sending us more hostile messages from non-Winston-Salem residents.

Let me make clear that I am not broadly anti-gun. I was taught to shoot by my father, a U.S. Marine marksman, and by my mother, who was a better pistol shot than he was. Like most Americans, I hold a middle ground position on the question of regulations on guns. I believe that we need to apply common sense to the question, and treat certain military-style "assault" rifles the same way we treat tanks and fully automatic machine guns. They're not for civilian use, period.

Those are my personal views. However, I'm interested in feedback from my actual constituents. I will speak my own mind as an individual in any case. When I'm speaking as a city official, though, I also want to represent your views whenever possible. I'm inviting the thoughts of Southwest Ward residents on this topic.

Chief Cunningham announces retirement: Winston-Salem Police Chief Scott Cunningham, who has led our department for the last five years, in December announced that he would be retiring at the end of next June. I'd like to add my thanks for the good work Chief Cunningham has done during his tenure. I particularly appreciate his restructuring of the Patrol Division responsibilities, which put more police on the streets during the times most needed, and allowed individual patrol officers to acquire in-depth knowledge of their beats through extended assignment to the same areas and shifts. Winston-Salem's city manager will immediately begin a national search process for the chief's replacement, so that we can be ready to go next summer with a qualified new public servant for this critical position.

Sidewalks and pedestrian projects: Here's the latest update on several sidewalk and other pedestrian projects planned for the Southwest Ward:

--Healy Drive sidewalk: This project is under construction now. When completed, the new section of sidewalk will connect from Ashleybrook Drive to the existing sidewalk closer to Stratford Road. Among other uses, it will provide safe continuous pedestrian access for the senior citizen residents of Healy Towers to shopping that includes a favorite cafeteria.

--Gales Ave. sidewalk: The new section from Ardsley to Gales Court is scheduled for construction May 2013.

--Cloverdale Ave. pedestrian safety project: Construction of phase 1 (Oakwood to Melrose) is scheduled to begin June 2013.

--Hanes Mall Boulevard sidewalk: The new section from Silas Creek Parkway to the second mall entrance is scheduled for construction June 2013.

--Little Creek Greenway: Construction of Phase 1A is scheduled to begin June 2013.

NLC conference: On Nov. 28--Dec. 1, I represented Winston-Salem and North Carolina at the annual National League of Cities conference, held this year in Boston. I've posted a report on my website: http://www.danbesse.org/Issues/CurrentTopic2.aspx

Leaf collection: Winston-Salem is about two-thirds of the way through curbside leaf collection season. For those interested in taking advantage of this popular service and planning when to place your leaves at the curb for the final round of collections in January, remember the city's online tool for tracking the progress of leaf collection crews: www.cityofws.org/Home/Departments/Sanitation/Articles/LeafRoutes

Please also remember these guidelines for participating in the curbside leaf collection service:
--Rake leaves to the edge of your yard, behind the curb, not in the street, and not blocking the sidewalk.
--Leaves only; sticks and other debris can damage the collection equipment.
--Don't park on or in front of the leaves any time collection could take place.
--Don't put the leaves on a tarp.

That's my report for December. As always, you are welcome to email me at danbesse@danbesse.org with comments or questions. Thanks!

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