August 2014 Highlights

In August, the city council voted to send the final proposed package of city capital needs projects to a vote by the public in November. First, here's a reminder about sanitation collection schedule changes for Labor Day week.

 

Sanitation collection schedule changes:    City offices (except for public safety and CityLink) will be closed Monday, September 1, for the Labor Day holiday. Here's the sanitation collection schedule for Labor Day week:
–The garbage collection schedule will be unchanged.
Recycling collection routes will be postponed by one day (Monday routes collected on Tuesday, etc.). (It's a red routes week.)
--Yard waste cart collection routes will also be postponed by one day.

 

Citizens will vote on proposed bonds:    The City Council voted on August 4 to send the final proposed package of city capital needs bonds to public vote this fall. The bond referendum package includes $139 million in streets and sidewalks, public safety, parks and recreation, housing, and economic development projects. Of this total, about $42 million is for streets and sidewalks, $31 million for public safety (police and fire facilities), $31 million for parks and recreation, $10 million for housing and neighborhood work, and $25 million for economic development. (These are all capital investments like buildings, streets, and other construction or renovation, not for staff salaries or other operating expenses.)

Example projects/project areas include these:

--$15 million for street resurfacing

--$10 million for sidewalk construction

--$10 million public safety center (police headquarters) renovations

--$8 million for new district police offices (including one for the west/southwest, in the Jonestown Road area)

--$3 million for greenways and other major bike/pedestrian projects

--$2 million for Miller Park renovations

--$2 million for pedestrian safety projects near schools.

More detailed descriptions of each of the five bond categories can be found here: http://www.cityofws.org/departments/budget/2014-bonds/2014-bonds-project-descriptions

Southwest Ward streets on the proposed bond-funded repaving list include Arlington and Old Vineyard in the Burke Park neighborhood; Atwood, Birchway, Bridgeport, Springhaven and others in the Atwood area; Lockwood, Huntington Woods, and Somerset in the Jonestown Road area; Hannaford Drive; Griffith Road; Creekway; Birchwood, Blackwood, Ashwood, and Elderwood in Knollwood Manor; and several others.

Southwest Ward streets on the proposed bond-funded sidewalk construction list include Griffith Road; Southwin Drive; Atwood Road; Old Vineyard Road; Flintfield Drive; Arlington Drive and Emory Drive in Burke Park; a section of Silas Creek Parkway; and parts of Cherokee, Ebert, Fenimore and others in Ardmore. I am particularly interested in feedback on the sidewalk priority selections. While some projects are clear pedestrian safety priority needs, some were close to the funding cutoff line and could give way to others that fell just short, depending on neighborhood feedback.

 

Repaving of streets damaged by utility work:    As the major utilities (water/sewer) line renovation project in the Ardmore neighborhood continues, so does the effort to repave streets seriously damaged in the process. This repaving list is handled separately because it is funded primarily from water/sewer fees, not general fund revenues. At our August 18 meeting, the city council approved adding these streets to the city's 2014 summer/fall repaving contract work to repair street blocks damaged by utilities work: Miller Street (Hawthorne to Five Points); Elizabeth Avenue (Magnolia to Hawthorne); Westfield Drive (2200 block); Queen Street (Magnolia to Hawthorne); Irving Street (Academy to Queen); Craig Street; New Drive; Ardmore Terrace; Hinshaw Avenue; and Northwest Boulevard (Hinshaw to First Street).

 

Domestic violence tragedy:    Cheryl Anise Bethea lived in the Southwest Ward. I knocked on her door in the last election, but she wasn't home at the time so I didn't have the chance to talk with her. She lived in Hanestown, an older neighborhood which has slowly transitioned over the decades into an area in which fewer residents now live, side by side with former homes converted into small shops and salons. She lived in a quiet area, tucked back behind the busy front of Stratford Road and not far from the current construction site of new commercial redevelopment where the old Hanes Mill once stood.

This week she lost her life in yet another senseless, tragic act of domestic violence. I have heard from people who knew her well and are horrified by this loss of a vibrant woman who cared for her family and contributed to our community. Her death should be a face slap reminding all of us that we must pay attention to the continuing toll in lives and pain from domestic partner abuse.

On average, it takes a victim of domestic violence seven tries to break away from an abusive relationship, and many of us may be shocked at learning who among our friends is a victim of abuse. It's possible to help break the cycle of abuse with supportive services for victims and families. This is why I've always supported city funding to help maintain efforts like the "Safe on Seven" assistance program here in Forsyth County. I encourage everyone to remember that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. There are at least two local events to raise awareness and funding for prevention and assistance efforts. One is the "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" event on October 11: www.walkamiletriad.org. The other is the "Home Free" annual benefit event on October 16: www.homefreenc.com. Family Services (of Forsyth County) is the local sponsor of both.

 

Police Department diversity:    One of the major contributors to communications problems between police departments and citizens can be the often broad disparity between the racial/ethnic makeup of a police force's officers and that of the community they serve. Take the currently troubled community of Ferguson MO as an example. There, the population of the city is more than two-thirds African-American, and the population has changed dramatically over the past generation. City staff, however, has remained predominantly white--only three of the small city's 53 police officers are black. Familiarity, trust, and communications issues are magnified by the gap.

Winston-Salem has progressed much more in our effort to promote diversity among our city staff, including our police force, but that requires continuing work. One of the ways in which our city does this is through a scholarship program aimed at encouraging minority applicants and hires from historically black colleges and universities like Winston-Salem State University and North Carolina A&T University.

For the latest information on this program, see http://www.cityofws.org/news/id/14816/police-department-continues-push-to-improve-diversity-within-ranks

 

Business 40 design recommendation:    The city council's Public Works Committee in August received reports on the two remaining alternatives for the Business 40 interchanges redesign through downtown Winston-Salem. Those are the alternatives of configuring Cherry/Marshall or Liberty/Main as the primary exchange couplet for downtown traffic. Most public commenters supported the Cherry/Marshall alternative, but a significant minority backed the Liberty/Main option. This will appear on the Public Works Committee agenda again on Tuesday, September 9, at 6 p.m. at City Hall. The full city council will receive Public Works' report and make a decision at our September 15 meeting on which alternative to recommend to NC DOT (Department of Transportation). NC DOT will make the final decision.

NC DOT continued taking public comments in August regarding regional and district transportation funding priorities. It's now in the process of evaluating comments and formulating final decisions on project funding. We expect to learn by the end of this year whether Business 40 and other local priority projects are included on the state funding list.

Extensive background material on details of the Business 40 renovation project can be reviewed at www.business40nc.com.

 

Other August notes and upcoming September items:    Other city news items and upcoming public comment opportunities include these:

--National Night Out: Neighborhoods across Winston-Salem joined communities around the nation in celebrating National Night Out (the police-neighborhood network) on August 5. In addition to the citywide kickoff event in the Ogburn Station area, I was pleased to be able to attend Southwest Ward neighborhood events in Healy Towers, Sandersted, Bridgeport, and Sunset Drive. I ran out of evening before I could get to Seasons Chase--I'll have to catch you next year.

--City boards and commissions: The Mayor is seeking applicants for city board volunteer openings, from the Citizens Police Review Board to the Recreation and Parks Commission. For details including the application process, see here: http://www.cityofws.org/news/id/14824/mayor-seeks-applicants-for-boards-and-commissions

--'Every Butt Hurts': Keep Winston-Salem Beautiful is bringing back its award-winning anti-littering campaign for an encore round of public education efforts urging smokers not to toss their cigarette butts onto our streets and sidewalks. In addition to signs and broadcast spots, there is a social media campaign that citizens can help spread. For more info, see www.everybutthurts.com. Check out the PSA video.

--On-street parking policy: The Community Development, Housing, and General Government Committee will discuss on-street parking policies again at its meeting Tuesday, September 9, 4:30 p.m., at City Hall. At issue is what percentage of residents are needed to request closure of a block to on-street parking.

--Little Creek Greenway: At most recent report, construction of phase one of this project is moving toward a conclusion. I hope to have word next month of an official opening date in October.

 

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