June 2015 Highlights

In June, the city council approved the city budget for FY2016.  First, though, let me pause for a word on the recent tragedy in Charleston.


I believe that I can speak for all of us in the Southwest Ward and the City of Winston-Salem in saying that we join in mourning for the nine good people whose lives were lost in the horrific and racially-motivated shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.  I believe too that Winston-Salem is a welcoming city which believes in the worth and dignity of all people.  As such, we stand with the people of Emanuel AME Church and all the good folk of Charleston in resistance to racist hatred and in support of peace and justice for all.  There is no place for such hatred and violence in our country, and we must work together to reduce the likelihood of such crimes in future, and to address the social environment that enables and contributes to such hateful actions.


City budget approved for FY2016:    On June 15, the city council approved the city budget for FY2016.  The final budget, primarily based on the city manager’s recommended version, contains no increase to the property tax rate to pay for operational expenses.  It does contain a 2.5 cent increase in the property tax rate to pay for the capital project investments bonds approved by city voters in 2014.  (This is the amount which we told voters at that time would be required to pay for the bonds if they were approved.)  This increase will pay for the capital costs of the work voters approved in the areas of public safety, streets and sidewalks, parks and recreation, economic development and neighborhood improvements.  The budget also includes funding for merit and modest market pay adjustments for city employees, which should help us to retain more of our best trained and skilled employees in the face of competition for their talents from an improving job market.


Ardmore neighborhood meetings:     There are two upcoming community meetings for the Ardmore neighborhood that I want to call to the attention of all my constituents there.

     (1)  There will be a public information meeting on the next phase of the Ardmore water/sewer lines renovation project, to be held at Miller Park Recreation Center on Thursday, July 16, starting at 7 p.m.  Staff from the city Utilities Department will be there to explain the project and discuss questions.  This phase of the project will cover lines from Miller Street on the east side to Miller Creek west of Magnolia Street on the west; and from Westover Avenue on the north side to Hawthorne Road on the southeast, extending as far south as Hoyt Street on the southwest edge of the work area.  This is a large area, and the detailed map will be available at the meeting.  The work is likely to begin around the first of August and extend in phases over the next 15 months or so.

     (2)  There will be a neighborhood discussion meeting on property crime, policing, and community safety issues, to be held at Miller Park Recreation Center on Wednesday, July 29, starting at 6 p.m.  Officers from the police department will be there to discuss recent home and auto break-in trends, police patrol and investigation responses, ways for residents to discourage crime, and ways for neighbors to work together to prevent crime (such as neighborhood crime watch committees).

     I will post reminders of both meetings on the Ardmore neighborhood Facebook page as well. 


Southwest Suburban Area Plan approved:     The Southwest Suburban Area Plan Update received final city council approval following the June 1 public hearing. The plan was approved as recommended by the Planning Board, incorporating input from multiple public meetings over the past six months.  A last-minute request by some non-resident landowners in the Atwood area to change recommended use of their land from single-family residential to commercial was opposed by neighborhood residents, and was not approved.    Details including links to the previous plan and the updated version can be found here: http://www.cityofws.org/departments/planning/area-plans/southwest-suburban   


Police training class graduates 39:       On June 26, we welcomed 39 new graduates of our Basic Law Enforcement Training, Class 68, to the status of Winston-Salem police officers.  Our city has one of the best police training programs around, and I was pleased to help welcome this new group of diverse, (mostly) young, and well-trained individuals to our force.


Business 40 reconstruction and multi-use path:     Funding for the reconstruction of Business 40 and its interchanges through central Winston-Salem received final approval in June from the N.C. Board of Transportation, and work is now likely to begin in early 2017.  Also during June, the Winston-Salem Urban Area Transportation Advisory Committee (TAC) approved the use of almost $1.5 million in federal funds from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) program to include the new biking/pedestrian multi-use path as part of the Business 40 reconstruction work.  This CMAQ funding will help pay for the bridge and overpass adjustments necessary for the multi-use path.  When completed, this path will provide a safe bike/pedestrian travel route connecting our urban neighborhoods on both sides of Business 40 with the downtown area.  The local newsweekly Triad City Beat recently published a good article on this project:  http://triad-city-beat.com/proposed-bike-path-would-parallel-business-40-through-downtown/ 


Public information session planned on voting law disputes:     A major voting rights lawsuit in federal court is to be heard in Winston-Salem, beginning July 13.  In the case of NAACP vs. McCrory, the Federal District Court will hear the claims of voters represented by the NAACP that recent changes to North Carolina’s voting laws make it harder for many people to vote, in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.  The North Carolina state government will be defending those voting law changes, which include the new photo identification requirements, as well as limits on early voting and out-of-precinct voting, the elimination of same-day registration, and other changes.  Representatives of the NAACP and other organizations supporting the lawsuit are holding community information sessions on the details of the law and why they believe the changes are designed to make voting by the poor, minorities, and other disadvantaged populations more difficult.  One of these presentations and Q&A sessions will be held on Thursday, July 9, starting at 6 p.m. at Miller Park Recreation Center.  Anyone interested in hearing the lawsuit plaintiffs’ perspective and discussing the questions involved is welcome.    

Citizen Fire Academy accepting applications:     The Winston-Salem Fire Department will hold a Citizen Fire Academy for interested Winston-Salem residents age 18 and older on eight Monday evenings (6 to 8 p.m.), August 10—September 28.  Participants will learn about fire department operations and receive hands-on experience in fire safety and other topics, including a ride-along opportunity on emergency calls.  Class size is limited and advance application is required by August 5.  Participants must commit to attending all eight class meetings.  Online applications are available at www.CityofWSFire.org, or more information is available via phone at 336-773-7965 or email at sabrinas@cityofwsfire.org


That’s my report for June.  As always, this report represents my own perspective, and is not produced or distributed using public resources.  And as always, you are welcome to email me at danbesse@danbesse.org with comments or questions.  Thanks!