Cary, NC – This week was busy with several events and meetings.
Monday – Planning for the Week
Monday I attempted to contact council members to hear of questions or concerns about the agenda for Thursday’s regularly scheduled meeting. There was very little comment with one concern about the rezoning proposal at I540.
Later Monday I met with management and directors to go over the agenda. We did not have any major issues with the agenda, and I predicted the meeting would last about an hour and a half to two hours.
My last meeting on Monday was with the town manager and Mayor Pro-Tem. We discussed several issues including the permit process, the mall proposal, campaign violations, social media, the bond referendum, and the potential for buying land. Our meeting lasted about 45 minutes.
Tuesday – Cary Election
Tuesday I met with a candidate for Cary Town council. This was another well spoken, educated candidate, with a passion for Cary. Our conversation lasted a little over 30 minutes.
EDITORIAL COMMENT: I continue to insist that partisan politics has no place in local elections. While I will talk and give advice to all candidates, I will continue to support Ken George in this election since he is an integral part of the council team. I am getting a LOT of criticism and comments from people and allies that they may not support me because of my stance. My stance is bigger than me! Partisan politics is destroying this state and nation. Until we ALL work together to solve problems, we will never reach our true potential. I stand by my commitments, my word, and accept all consequences.
Tuesday evening I went to the Cary Tennis Park to watch a little of our professional tennis tournament, the Atlantic Tire Championships. There was a descent crowd and we continue to be recognized as one of the best tournaments on this challenger tour. This year the tournament had a great deal of coverage on the Tennis Channel.
Wednesday – Cary Chamber Banquet
Wednesday my wife and I attended the annual Cary Chamber banquet. The keynote speaker was Tony Copeland, Secretary of Commerce who provided interesting information which included: 50% of North Carolinians are from somewhere else, some rural areas don’t have cell phone coverage, and North Carolina continues to be a top five business destination in the world (mostly because of workforce). The awards for the evening included former North Carolina Senator Tamara Barringer who received Citizen of the Year award, and LaFarm bakery who received business of the year. In the Chamber business portion Steve Zaytoun took over Chairman of the Board from Anthony Blackmond. Congratulations to all.
Thursday – Cary Town Council
Thursday I met with Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh to tie a “Rakhi”. This is a popular ceremony which is central to a festival of the same name, celebrated in India, Nepal and other parts of South Asia, and among people around the world influenced by Hindu culture. On this day, sisters of all ages tie an amulet around the wrists of their brothers, symbolically protecting them, receiving a gift in return, and traditionally investing the brothers with a share of the responsibility of their potential care. In some communities, a person in authority, can be included in the ceremony in ritual acknowledgement of their benefaction. I, along with most council members, had a beautiful “Rakhi” tied on our wrists. I am so honored to be included in ceremonies from the rich heritage of our Indian citizens.
Thursday night the council held its first regularly scheduled council meeting of the month. The agenda included eight consent items, seven public hearings, and the annexation/rezoning proposal for the Green Level Mixed Use Destination center.
After the public hearing for Xerox the incentives were passed.
The public hearing for the Sri Venkateswara Temple had several speakers mostly in favor. There was also a large group in the audience from the temple. The temple wishes to construct a decorative and culturally significant monument on their property as a complement to the existing religious assembly use. This will go to the Planning and Zoning board for review and recommendation before coming back to council for a decision.
Other public hearings included annexations which were passed (if they were not tied to rezonings) and other proposals which will go to the Planning and Zoning Board.
In our only discussion item, the council approved Duke’s 70-acre mixed use rezoning proposal on Green Level next to I540 by a 6 to 1 vote. This development could have up to 750,000 square feet of office, medical, and institutional uses; 100 hospital beds; 55,000 square feet of commercial uses; 250 residential dwelling units; and 250 hotel rooms. The lone dissenting vote argued that this proposal was not special which is what the Community Plan called for.
The council meeting concluded after about an hour and forty-five minutes.
Friday – North Carolina Legislature Update
Friday I participated in a meeting of the North Carolina Metro Mayors. Here is a summary from the Executive Director:
Brief OPENING remarks – It has certainly been a notable week in the General Assembly… With a veto override of the budget in the House, it is unclear where things are headed. But the process will continue – Senate now has the veto override in their court where their majority is one vote short of the super majority needed to override. The legislature took last week off for Labor Day. During that time, a court decision came down requiring legislative districts to be re-drawn by September 18. Due to this order, redistricting has been front and center, and in normal circumstances would dominate the action until it is completed (judicial order for 9/18).
Given the House veto override of the budget and the uncertainty of next steps on the budget in the Senate, it is still difficult to predict when the session will end and how the remainder of session will shape up.
TOPICS WILL INCLUDE:
Legislative Veto of Override BUDGET H966, Schedule and Special “Mini Budgets”
- House Veto Override
- The budget override vote gained national attention and we do not expect the conversation surrounding the vote to go away anytime soon. There will continue to be finger pointing from both sides, but the legislature will continue to move on with their work.
- Senate Action
- The veto vote now heads to the Senate for consideration. Currently, the Senate is laser focused on redistricting and they have not indicated when a vote on the override will occur.
- Any vote on the Senate floor requires a 24-hour notice.
- If all Senate members are present, the Senate Republicans need to pick up 1 Democratic vote to secure the numbers for an override. This is a steep hill to climb in the current hyper-partisan climate, but as we know anything is possible…
- It is also noteworthy to point out that current Sen. Dan Bishop won the 9thCongressional District race in the special election that was held this week. He will be sworn in as a Congressman next Tuesday. We expect that a Republican replacement will be reappointed to his seat in short order.
- A very large chunk of time this week has been spent on redrawing the legislative maps. (Court order from last week requires completion of maps by next Wednesday, September 18).
- All redistricting activity has been live streamed – ongoing as we hold this call. It has been a very tedious process with professional staff having to go back and forth between the House and Senate committees. The court order was quite detailed and stringent in requirements for redrawing the maps requiring the process to be open and methodical.
- It is important to note that one of the accepted criteria includes keeping municipal boundaries intact and compact in one district if possible, so they have been trying to keep the municipal boundaries for both the House and Senate seats together. This could result in less members of the General Assembly actually representing constituents in the specific boundaries of our cities…
- The House plans to have their maps finalized today and take a floor vote on the maps later today. (H1020)
- The Senate intends to finalize their maps today as well, but will not take a floor vote until next week (S692)
- House Redistricting Committee Website with Documents
- Senate Redistricting Committee Website with Documents
- Mini Budgets
- With the unexpected House override of the budget, the legislature continued to roll out mini budgets this week.
- The four mini budgets this week:
- S118 and S429 was passed by the House. The Senate concurred and they have been sent to the Governor.
- H29 and H75 passed the Senate and have been sent to the House for consideration.
- Other Notable Mentions – NCGA Members moving on
- In addition to the 9th Congressional District race, State House Republican Dr. Greg Murphy won the 3rd Congressional District race for the special election.
- John Alexander (R-Wake) announced his retirement this week at the end of the 2020 session. He will not run for re-election again in 2020. Sen. Alexander is currently the only remaining Republican in the Wake County delegation.
- If the Senate is able to secure a veto override (a big IF at this stage), increased SMAP transit funding, Powell Bill funds, and commercial airport funding would become law
- Prospects for a standalone transportation budget are dim. Given the very specific language and discrete provisions of the mini budgets released thus far, it seems unlikely that a large omnibus transportation budget bill (that would include transit, Powell Bill and Airports) would be considered as a part of a transportation “mini budget.”
- We also expect that “mini budget” activity may slow or cease altogether as the House override vote of the full budget impacts that work.
Nothing new to report
Nothing new to report
Local Revenues/ Local Control
Nothing new to report
Saturday – Veterans Experience Action Center
Saturday I visited the Veterans Experience Action Center at the Herb Young Community Center. This center provided all kinds of care to our veterans and also helped to get them benefits. Over the course of three days over 1200 veterans visited from as far away as California. Many volunteers help including retired generals and members of the VFW. I am so proud that Cary was able to offer our space and help to those that risked everything for our freedom. God bless all our veterans!
Later Saturday I participated in the second rehearsal for Constitution Week Play which will be held at the Cary Theater on September 22nd. I will play the role of George Washington. The rehearsal went well but we all need to work on our lines. The dress rehearsal will be next Saturday with the performance on Sunday.
Sunday – Atlantic Tire Tennis Championship
Sunday I attended and presented awards to players in the Atlantic Tire Tennis Championships. This is the lowest rung of the Challenger tennis tournaments and only players outside the top 75 in world can enter. This year we had Andreas Seppi who is currently ranked 77th in the world and has been as high as 18. His tennis resume includes wins over Federer and Nadal. It was great to have him in Cary and playing in the Championship match. He won a grueling three set match to the delight of the crowd. The tournament keeps growing every year and this year was covered by the Tennis Channel. Thanks to Anthony Blackmond of Atlantic Tire for being the title sponsor all these years.
Town Manager’s Report
The town manager’s report for this week included:
Bonds Community Meeting
I really enjoyed spending time with everyone Tuesday night at The Cary for the first of our two community meetings about the bonds. I thought it went amazingly well and understand there were over 130 citizens present. Thank you to Council members and staff who attended and showed your support as well as the staff who planned, marketed, hosted, and handled all of the technical aspects of the meeting. It was, just as every part of the bonds process has been, and will be, truly a team effort.
From the Governor’s Office
Following the letter from the Mayor to Governor Roy Cooper on August 13, 2019 regarding H645 Revisions to Outdoor Advertising (billboards), the Mayor has received a response from Lee Lilley, Director of Legislative Affairs in the Office of Governor Cooper. Governor Cooper vetoed H645 on August 22.
Hillcrest Work Day
Spruce held a clean-up day at Hillcrest Cemetery last Saturday. In addition to cleaning headstones, volunteers received an overview and demonstration by Michael Verville of Verville Interiors and Preservation who is performing the restoration work on several monuments.
White Oak Creek Greenway
Work will begin next week on the pedestrian tunnel under the railroad tracks by Davis Drive Park. This tunnel will complete the gap in the White Oak Creek Greenway. Crowder Construction has been grading and installing walls and shoring in preparation for tunneling under the railroad track. Once this tunneling work begins, CSX requires that it must continue 24 hours a day, 7 days a week until complete, probably about one month. Trains will continue to operate while the work occurs. A CSX flagman will be on site at all times, as will third party inspectors. Adjacent neighbors have been notified that there will be lights and machinery running around the clock to complete this work. Meanwhile, the contractor will begin installation of the 700-foot long boardwalk from the tunnel to MacArthur Drive. The project is on schedule to open by summer 2020.
Habitat Site Work Commences
Habitat Wake is planning to begin prep work on the Hannah Place/Trimble Avenue site next week. They have provided a Fact Sheet and will send an email to Scottish Hills neighbors who have been engaged with the project to keep them informed and provide contact information in case there are any questions.
The Cary Police Department was proud to be part of various events commemorating 9/11. At Kraft YMCA, the Cary Fire Department was also present and sounded a siren to mark each of the tragic moments that occurred on this day 18 years ago. Corporal Pell met three retired NYPD officers who responded to the scene that day.
The Cary Police joined fellow first responders at the Carolina Preserve at Amberly to honor those who lost their lives on that infamous day. The Carolina Preserve Veterans Club presented Certificates of Appreciation to the Cary Police and Fire Departments and to Cary EMS.
The Cary Police Department was grateful and proud to be included along with other first responders at the monthly meeting of the MacGregor Downs Country Club HOA on 9/11. The Cary High JRROTC presented the colors, and HOA President Scott Lassiter memorialized the lives lost that day. He and those in attendance also showed their appreciation to the police officers, firefighters and EMS workers in attendance.
Officer Lekisha Branch partners with residents and management staff of the Oxford Square Apartment Community to become involved in community affairs and tailor services to the unique characteristics and needs of Oxford Square. Property Manager Chelsey Gebo expressed appreciation for the PHOENIX partnership saying, “Officer Branch is very proactive and addresses any issues that may arise. She visits our community on a regular basis and makes it a point to greet our residents and talk with them on every visit. Officer Branch is the perfect example of what a community-oriented police officer should be! Her enthusiasm, passion, and loyalty make Officer Branch an awesome Project PHOENIX Officer.
Hemlock Bluffs Work Day
Thirty people with Activate Good joined staff at Hemlock Bluffs for a volunteer work day where they performed trail maintenance work.
Downtown Cary Website
The Marketing team has been hard at work for the past few months on the new Downtown Cary website, and we’re proud to launch it today! This site will be a hub to highlight all things Downtown, from events to businesses to the district’s long and rich history. View it at www.downtowncarync.org and let us know what you think. Be sure to check back regularly as new blogs will be posted each week, and various improvements will be made over the next year.
HIVE Open House
About 40 families visited the HIVE at the open house on Saturday, resulting in 133 program registrations. Visitors were excited to meet the instructors and get a discount on the fall activities of their choice.
Congratulations to Officer Chris Crady for receiving his Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate from the NC Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission! To receive this award, an officer must have their years of service, education, and training reviewed to ensure that the high standards of this award are met.
Please join us in congratulating these incredible officers that were recently promoted: Lt. John Reeves, Sgt. Sheri Abraham, Corporal Titus Moore, Corporal Kyle Kratzer, Corporal Travis Gresham, Corporal Elizabeth Pearson and Corporal Phillip Jenkins.
- Lieutenant John Reeves attended Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he graduated with a degree in Administration of Justice. After working in Baltimore and Charleston (where he also served ten years on the SWAT Team), John joined the Cary Police Department in 2010 where he has served as a Patrol officer, Community Services Officer, and Corporal and Sergeant.
- Sergeant Sheri Abraham began her career as a NC Park Ranger in 1997 before joining the Cary Police Department in 1999. Sheri has served as a Field Training Officer, Detective, member of the Emergency Response Team and is currently the Assistant Coordinator for the Field Training Officer program. She has a B.S. degree in Recreation Management from Appalachian State University and is pursuing a master’s degree in Public Administration at Liberty University.
- Corporal Travis Gresham began his career in Winston Salem in 2007 and came to Cary in 2012. He has served as a Patrol Officer, a Field Training Officer, a member of the Honor Guard, a School Resource Officer, and a School Safety Committee Team Member. Travis holds an Associate degree from Wake Technical in Criminal Justice and is pursuing an undergraduate degree in Public Administration at UNC-Pembroke.
- Corporal Phillip Jenkins began his law enforcement career with the Hillsborough Police Department in 2007 before coming to Cary in 2011. During his tenure in Cary PD, Phillip held positions in Field Operations and on the Traffic Safety Team. Phillip has held additional responsibilities as a Field Training Officer, Crash Reconstructionist, General Instructor, Specialized Driving Instructor, and Radar & Lidar Coordinator.
- Corporal Kyle Kratzer began his law enforcement career in Raleigh in 2005 before joining Cary in 2013. Since then, Kyle has held positions in the Field Operations Bureau and the Criminal Intelligence Unit (now the Cyber Intelligence Unit). Throughout his law enforcement career, Kyle held additional responsibilities as a Field Training Officer, Field Investigator, Crisis Negotiations Officer, Threat Assessment Officer, Homeland Security Instructor, Mobile Field Force Officer, Trainer and Commander. Kyle obtained his State Specialist Certification in Investigations through Wilson Tech Community College. He holds a B.S. degree in Criminal Justice from Kutztown University (2005) and a master’s degree in Intelligence Studies from the American Military University (2012).
- Corporal Titus Moore began his career with the Sanford Police Department in 2008 before joining the Cary Police Department in 2011. Titus has served in all three Service Districts and also served Field Training Officer, Crisis Intervention Team member, is a certified RADAR/LIDAR operator and a certified Chemical Analyst. Titus most recently has served as a School Resource Officer (SRO) at West Lake Middle School. Titus holds an associate’s degree in Applied Sciences and Business Administration from Sandhills Community College.
- Corporal Elizabeth Pearson holds a B.S. degree in Criminology from NCSU. Elizabeth began her career in Cary in 2010. After serving as a patrol officer, Elizabeth was selected to the Criminal Investigations Division (CID) in 2013 and has continued to serve in CID, primarily investigating property and juvenile crimes. She is part of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE’s) team. In recognition of the team’s work to build a trauma-informed community and resilience for employees and citizens, Elizabeth and her team were recognized as the Team of the Year at the 2018 Employee Recognition Ceremony. Elizabeth was honored in May 2018 with a leadership award by the Wake County Multi-Disciplinary Team for her leadership efforts with juvenile investigations involving the SafeChild Advocacy Center, Wake County Public Schools, Wake County District Attorney’s Office and Wake County Child Protective Services.
Advisory Board Meetings
Tues, Sept 17, 6:15pm
Town Hall Conf Room 10035
Wed, Sept 18, 6:15pm
Town Hall Conf Room 11130
All candidates for Cary Town Council were allotted five minutes to tape a message for Cary TV. To see all the campaign messages, go to https://youtu.be/4OBTKZ06Ykk.
The News and Observer sent out a candidate questionnaire this week. Since they have an option to edit answers, I wanted to post my complete answers to their questions. They originally said they wanted Yes or No answers to these questions. I responded that the questions were leading and were not Yes or No questions. I told them I would provide answers without Yes or No and they had the option to print them. They responded and said they would print my answers. Here is my responses to their questionnaire:
Do you think that Cary has an upper limit to how many people can live in the town?
The council does not have legislative authority to limit or stop growth. Our decisions are mostly with type of growth. Our authority also includes the ability to provide water, sewer, fire protection, police protection, and parks which is impacted by growth. With recent expansions, Cary has enough water and sewer capacity to handle population growth for at least the next decade. Our Fire department is an ISO 1 which is very rare and allows our homeowners and businesses to get the lowest insurance rates. We are consistently ranked as one of the safest communities in the nation thanks to our police department. And our Parks was given the Gold medal award which means they are number one in the country. We continue to focus on the impacts of growth.
Do you support the current redevelopment plan for the Cary Towne Center?
The current development proposal for the Cary Towne Center is still evolving. So, it is too early to make a judgement call on the proposal. I, along with the rest of the council, have expressed many concerns which we hope are being addressed. Concerns include traffic, residential intensity, buffering of adjacent neighborhoods, vehicular flow, bike/ped safety, etc.
Should it be a priority to lower housing prices for first responders and others who serve Cary?
Affordable housing is always a priority for Cary, but we must remember that the market controls the price. There are many ways to create affordable housing. Some of the most successful include partnering with public and private entities to reduce the cost which can be passed on. Cary continues to work for state and federal funding to help with housing which also reduces cost. In addition, we continue to look for ways to partner with Wake County and private developers. But to answer your question, affordable housing should be available to everyone including our amazing first responders.
Does Cary need stronger tree-protection rules?
Cary has some of strictest buffering and tree protection requirements in the state including a Champion tree ordinance. In addition, we created a special tree advisory committee to come up with additional ways to protect our trees. Those recommendations include protecting and increasing our tree canopy. We will be voting on those recommendations soon. I want Cary to continue to be clean and forever green.
Do you support developing places for children and teenagers to spend time?
As I mentioned our parks department was ranked number one in the nation. They continue to look for ways to expand their programming for youth, seniors, and all those in between. The passing of the $112 million bond for parks would go a long way in meeting demand of our seniors and youth including creating an additional space which has been discussed by council and staff. Funding for this additional space would be the first obstacle we have to overcome.
Orange County approved a quarter-cent property tax increase to respond to the local impact of climate change. Would you support a similar measure in Cary?
Denying climate change is like saying the earth is flat. However, we do not have authority to create a tax to respond to the local impact of climate change. While I can’t speak for Orange County, I can say passing something like that would create the potential for litigation and/or legislative action against the town. And that could cost our taxpayers millions of dollars in lawsuits. We can look for ways to protect our environment and stay within our authority. Such as having LED streetlights, solar trash cans, solar farms, electric town vehicles, etc. You can check out some of the current sustainability initiatives at https://www.townofcary.org/projects-initiatives/sustainability.
Does the Cary Town Council adequately represent the diversity of a town where 1 in 5 residents was not born in this country?
About 10% of our population was born in Cary which means most of us came from somewhere else. We are blessed to have over 60 nationalities represented by our citizens which makes up about 20% of our population. I have said many times that it is only through mutual understanding and respect that we reach our true potential as a community. Cary values, embraces, and celebrates diversity with many cultural events throughout the year. Some of those events include Ritmo Latino, Diwali, the Jewish Cultural festival, and Kwanzaa.
Can Cary do more to reduce the reliance of automobiles as the primary way people get around town?
There are many ways to reduce vehicle miles traveled. It can be done with multi modal transportation options including transit, bike, and pedestrian solutions. Planning developments where people can live work and play can also make a big difference. Cary has and will continue to do all these things.
Would you consider making Cary a dementia-friendly community and taking active steps to make the town a better place for aging residents and retirees?
Cary will always consider anything within our authority to help any group of citizens. Please note that Cary is the oldest largest community in the state. Our senior citizens are and will continue to be very important to us.
Emails From Citizens
Emails from citizens this week include:
- A complaint about on street parking in western Cary (staff is addressing this concern).
- A request to consider “contractors’ scheme” in Cary (staff responded).
- A concern about the Sri Venkateswara temple rezoning.
- A question about the fire department being able to reach 12 story buildings.
- Questions about the upcoming bond referendum (Sadly some say they will not vote for the bond if a certain transportation or park project is not included. Since bonds are a funding mechanism it has the opposite desired effect of those looking for certain projects. That is, all projects will be delayed.)
- The request for a traffic light at Green Hope School Road and Green Level Church Road intersection. (These are state roads, this is a state intersection, and the state can only approve traffic signals. However, staff is advocating for lights to NCDOT all the time).
- A complaint that the town manager’s bond presentation advocated for repaving in poor neighborhoods before affluent neighborhoods. (The manager responded letting them know this was not true. BTW, repaving is done strictly on criteria which prevents any official, elected or not, from interfering.)
Next week will be another busy week with staff meetings, a meeting of the Wake County Mayors Association, a meeting with the executive of the YMCA, a meeting of CAMPO (Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization), the Green Level High School ribbon cutting, a visit to Carpenter Elementary, the Cary Unity Walk, the Constitution Week rehearsal and play, and the PRCR (Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources) volunteer appreciation picnic.
Get In Touch
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, September 22nd. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communications with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the blog of Cary Mayor Harold Weinbrecht. Photos courtesy of Harold Weinbrecht.