April 2015 Highlights

In April, the legal fight over electronic sweepstakes reached a conclusion.  May will be both Historic Preservation Month, and National Bike Month, with multiple activities on both fronts happening in Winston-Salem.


Electronic sweepstakes operations:     For several years, a legal tug of war has been taking place in the North Carolina courts, as the state has sought to ban electronic sweepstakes operations, and the electronic sweepstakes industry has fought the ban through assorted legal challenges.  It appears that this fight may have finally reached a conclusion during April.  The N.C. Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal by the electronic sweepstakes industry from an N.C. Court of Appeals decision that state law now prohibits the industry’s equipment and software from being operated in this state.  There is no longer any argument that a stay of enforcement of that law is in effect anywhere in North Carolina.  I look forward to seeing enforcement action shutting down these illegal operations begin in Forsyth County and elsewhere in the near future. 
     During the lengthy period of legal uncertainty over the status of electronic sweepstakes operations, the City of Winston-Salem has implemented various zoning controls and business license taxes on the sweepstakes operations.  These had the effect of controlling placement of these operations, in an effort to limit their adverse effects on nearby areas.  At the same time, most city council members made clear our preference to shut down the operations altogether if that became an option.  I believe that the electronic sweepstakes industry serves only to siphon resources from the poor and gullible, and provides no net benefit in jobs or economic activity to our community.  Our communities will be better off without it.


Historic Preservation Month, and historic renovation tax credits:    May is Historic Preservation Month in North Carolina and Forsyth County.  There are multiple events planned, from historic marker unveilings to talks, games, and tours.  Check out a calendar of events and more details here:  www.PreserveHistoricForsyth.org.  
     This month of celebrating our local history also provides an ideal opportunity to focus on its economic value to our city today.  Among the strongest tools we’ve had available in recent years to help fuel our economic redevelopment have been state and federal tax credits for historic renovation projects.  They have helped to reduce the cost of renovating and re-using older structures in historic areas of our city.  That’s boosted the process of turning much of our older industrial city center from decay to an engine driving our city’s economy.  Unfortunately, the state tax credit for historic renovation projects expired at the end of 2014, and current leadership of the N.C. Senate is resisting appeals from just about everyone else in the state to renew that credit.  I encourage my constituents and other citizens to join in asking our State Senators from Forsyth to support renewal of the state tax credit for historic renovation.  If you don’t already have it, you can get the name and contact information for your State Senator here:  http://www.ncleg.net/representation/WhoRepresentsMe.aspx 


Sales tax revenue distribution concern:     As I reported last month, the legislature is also debating changes to the sales tax revenue distribution that could take another $2.3 million from our city’s annual revenues.  Forsyth County revenues overall would be hurt as well, taking money from our local schools.  I encourage constituents to ask your state legislators to vigorously oppose changes in the sales tax that would hurt Winston-Salem and Forsyth.  http://www.ncleg.net/representation/WhoRepresentsMe.aspx 


National Bike Month activities:     May is also National Bike Month, with plenty of local activities going on for folks who ride a bike or who may be interested in getting back to the healthy exercise and cheap transportation of cycling.  Winston-Salem is coordinating with local cycling supporters to host a month of interesting activities, including group rides and other events.  See the full calendar and details here:  http://www.cityofws.org/departments/transportation/biking/bike-month 
   One of the first events up is “Walk and Roll Winston-Salem” this Sunday afternoon, May 3, from 1 to 4 p.m., when East 3rd Street and the Research Parkway will be closed to motorized traffic to allow safe family cycling.
   In addition, the city council’s Public Works Committee will hear an update on cycling enhancement efforts (including greenway development) in Winston-Salem at our monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 12, at 6 p.m. at City Hall.  I encourage cyclists and greenway supporters to come out for that meeting to help demonstrate public support for these projects.


Bus system routes redesign:     The Winston-Salem Transit Authority (WSTA) is in the process of comprehensively redesigning our city bus routes to try to make the best possible use of our transit dollars to serve riders, neighborhoods, and businesses.  We need your input to help make sure the proposed changes are on the right track.  Please provide your input through one of the public information/comment meetings scheduled in May or June:  http://www.wstransit.com/events 
Three of these hearings are being held in or near the Southwest Ward:
--May 11 and 12, 4-7 p.m. each day, South Fork Community Center, 4403 Country Club Road.
--May 19, 6:30-7:30 p.m., Miller Park Recreation Center, 400 Leisure Lane.
--June 3, 10 a.m.—noon, and 3-5 p.m., Forsyth Tech West Campus, 1300 Bolton Street.

Bond projects progress tracking:       As I’ve reported before, getting the city projects authorized by last fall’s bond referendum underway (from transportation, to parks, to public safety) is one of our major points of focus this year.  Now, there’s a way you can check directly on the progress of these projects:  https://2014bonds.cityofws.org 
This site lets you check on the status of projects by category (public safety, streets and sidewalks, etc.), by geographic location, and by individual project.   


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