Archive for the Category ◊ 2009 Blogs ◊

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• Sunday, January 24th, 2010

hweinbrecht_small3This week we broke ground on the new Cary cultural arts center. In addition, there were intergovernmental meetings that I attended.

Monday I, along with several mayors, attended a Carolina Hurricanes hockey game in the Centennial Authority sky box. It was quite a treat and a good time was had by all. I appreciate the Centennial Authority’s kindness and generosity. Unfortunately, the Canes lost. It looks like a transition year for the Canes.

Tuesday, I had a meeting with the town manager and Mayor Pro-Tem via teleconference. Our discussion included follow up to issues brought up at the retreat last week. We also discussed issues with the media. <begin soapbox> It appears some of the media wants to take any and every opportunity to attack Cary by not reporting all of the news. By doing this they make Cary come across as elitist or arrogant. I am thankful that there are good reporters out there that are covering Cary and doing a great job. By great I mean fair and interviewing all sides of the story to make sure the truth gets told. All news doesn’t have to be a sound byte or a controversy. <end soapbox>

Wednesday, I was scheduled to attend the CAMPO transportation advisory committee but asked Mayor Pro-Tem Robison to attend in my place. Unfortunately, I had to work late to make up for hours I would miss on Friday morning. Ms. Robison did a great job representing Cary and called with a full report the next day. The committee reelected Joe Bryan as chairman and directed CAMPO staff to review policy procedure. The procedure review comes from a concern that voting representatives are not getting information soon enough in the process.

Thursday I attended the Planning and Development Committee in Erv Portman’s place. There were two items on consent which didn’t warrant discussion. The one item under discussion was about C-Tran bus shelter designs to accept an art component. The entire meeting lasted four minutes which I heard was a record. The purpose of this committee and the Operations Committee is to fully vet issues and to make recommendations to the entire council for consideration. But sometimes, as in this case, there are no brainers.

Friday the Mayors of Wake County (mayors association) met with the Wake County School Board. Ten out of twelve mayors and six out of nine school board members were in attendance. We met for close to two hours. The purpose of the meeting was to provide an opportunity for both groups to meet each other and share values and visions. I was honored to be host mayor and to facilitate as the new mayors association president.

After introductions the school board members were asked to share their vision for the Wake County Public School System and how the Wake County Mayors could help. Some of the comments I noted were the following:

    “We need to make population growth and school growth match county and community goals.”
    “We need help to anticipate the location of schools and funding.”
    “We need to find a way to work together to improve the health of children.”
    “We need to honor our teachers. Consider ideas like community gift cards.”
    “We need help to get school information to the citizens.”
    “School board members need to visit and tour all the towns.”
    “Towns need to pressure developers to contribute land.”
    “Mayors need to get involved in the placement of schools.”
    “Communities should partner with schools in the purchase of land.”

The mayors were then asked about their goals for their specific municipalities and how they can work with the Wake County Board of Education to serve the citizens. The following are some of the comments I noted:

    “Have municipal planning staffs look at reassignments.”
    “Work with municipalities on after school and mentoring programs.”
    “Each municipality should have a high school named after the town.”
    “Let the municipalities help in the placement of schools.”
    “School system needs to provide more vocational training.”
    “School resources should be shared with the communities. Rents are too high.”
    “Schools need to help prepare citizens by providing information about what’s coming.”
    “School system needs to work with municipalities on safety issues.”
    “School programs should be adjusting focus to keep the best and brightest.”
    “There is not equity in school programming.”
    “School system needs to set a vision and tell municipalities so that the municipalities can help.”
    “Magnet schools are important to municipalities.”
    “Every school should have school resource officers.”
    “School system should listen to the kids. Create a task force of kids.”
    “School system needs to work with municipalities on communication”
    “All mayors want to help with schools. A successful municipality needs good schools.”

Saturday afternoon I joined council members Frantz and Smith for the groundbreaking of the new Cary Cultural Arts center at the old Cary Elementary building. This event was well attended with around a couple hundred people. I was honored to be asked to pose for a picture with the Cary High School class of 1952 on the front steps. Then alumni from Cary High School played the fight song. There are some great memories in the old building and I am glad it is finally being restored.

This site is one of Cary’s most historic sites. Frank Page, Cary’s founder, built the original Cary Academy on this site around 1867. One of the first public high schools in North Carolina was built on this site in 1907 and was attended by students from all over North Carolina. The current building was dedicated in 1938 and has been in disrepair for several years. Cary bought the building back from the school board in 2002. The council allocated cash to renovate the building last fall. Using cash allowed us to proceed without increasing debt. By entering into a contract during this economic climate we saved around $4 million on original estimates. The new cultural arts center should be open by summer of 2011.

Emails this week included a request from Cary finalists in the Doritos Super Bowl contest, a complaint about speeding in Jamison Park, a complaint about the lack of action in Waverly Place, and a complaint about pet owners on Black Creek greenway.

Next week includes a taping of Cary Matters, a council meeting, and the annual State of the Town at the Chamber’s Eye Opening breakfast. It will be a busy week for me and hopefully a good one.

Well that is all for this week. I plan to next post on Sunday, January 31st. Please feel free to leave a comment on my post.

Category: 2009 Blogs, Uncategorized  
Author:
• Sunday, January 17th, 2010

hweinbrecht_small2This week was marked mostly by the earthquake tragedy in Haiti. My week included a ribbon cutting with the governor, a council meeting, and the annual council staff retreat which focused on a 20 to 30 year vision of the future.

The week began with the tragic news of a major earthquake in Haiti which will end up killing thousands. It is very sad that the people of one of the poorest nations in the world will now have to endure more impossible hardships. If you are reading this post please thank God for your blessings and say a prayer for the Haitian people. And if you can find it in your heart please donate to the many relief efforts.

My week began on Tuesday with a ceremony at the McDonalds on Kildaire Farm Road celebrating their Gold LEED certification. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Development. This new McDonalds replaced a McDonalds that was a quarter of a century old. In the dismantling of the old building they were able to recycle over 99% of the material. In the new building they are very energy efficient with the lights using about 90% less energy than they did before. This McDonalds, and its owner Ric Richards, took the risk of a long payback (cost at least an extra million or two to build this way) to be environmentally friendly. They are one of the first businesses in Cary to step forward and show leadership in protecting our environment and helping Cary to become greener.

The Gold LEED certification was so important that the governor came to speak. In addition, she was joined by NC Senator Stevens, NC Representatives Dollar and Weiss. The actually presentation of the certification was done by a representative from Washington DC. I was proud to be in attendance and hope that this is the beginning of many Cary businesses taking a leadership role in helping Cary become greener. On a side note, Ric Richards presented me with a vintage collector’s glass from the 1970s of Mayor McCheese. A new name to go along with “your honor” and “your worship” that I have been called in front of the media.

Tuesday evening I met with directors and other staff to go over the agenda for Thursday’s council meeting. We didn’t identify any major concerns and believed it would be a relatively short meeting.

After the agenda meeting I met with town manager Shivar to go over several issues. One of the issues was social media. As we become a more open government, social media will become a bigger issue for the town and require more resources. Now is the time to review and revise our strategy to handle the new methods of communication.

Wednesday’s first meeting was with Wake County School Board member Debra Goldman. We talked about the first two school board meetings and how she felt about things. She is disappointed with the way things have been added to the agenda at the last minute. She expressed to me that she had asked the new school board members to provide information before the meetings. Unfortunately, they haven’t followed her advice. Debra is a very smart lady and I believe she is in a key position to help lead this school board. I believe to be successful; the school board will have to find a way to work together. So far, it has been an us versus them mentality. I know from experience, that when you ignore the opinion and experience of the minority everyone loses. I hope the school board finds a way to work together because with their great minds they have great potential. I am anxious to see if Debra will be the one to make a difference.

Wednesday night I met with two people on the town’s technology. Their belief is that the town is falling behind. They believe we need to be in a more leadership role. Examples would be in the social media area. I plan to bring this up at the retreat discussion on technology on Friday.

Thursday evening I met with attorneys and key staff. Of course I am not at liberty to discuss the topic or what was said in the meeting. Sorry about that.

Thursday night’s council meeting focused on two main issues: the Cary Parkway and High House intersection and the Community Tree issue. The council decided to not proceed with the single quadrant proposal for the Cary Parkway and High House intersection. We also did not choose one of the other two staff options. Instead we asked the staff to meet with the public and get their ideas about the intersection. My feel is that this intersection will become abysmal once Park West and the Davis Drive and High House intersections have developed. We will need a plan before that time arrives. Otherwise people will be screaming at us for not planning. Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of options except for the traditional widening which will only provide marginal benefits.

The Community Tree vote was quick and simple. Council member Frantz made a statement and a motion to rename the trees to Christmas trees. Council member Smith provided the second. Council member Adcock called the question which passed 6 to 1. Then we voted to approve the change 6 to 1. In my opinion, this fiasco was a media generated controversy. The “tree lighting ceremony” has always been called that since it was created in the 80s. The “community tree” was added in 2006 to invite members of the community to put ornaments on the tree. This council had absolutely nothing to do with either. The proposal which passed Thursday night was to rename these trees to have Christmas in them. But the media took that simple change and made a national story out of it by half truths and misinformation. I believe this caused the town of Cary’s reputation harm. I am extremely disappointed in what seems to be another example of some media outlets taking the opportunity to bash Cary. Shame!

Friday and Saturday was the annual council staff retreat. This year’s theme was vision. The first day was a high level vision for the entire town. The second day focused more on downtown. The process was to go through each department and have them present the current and future trends and then have the council discuss.

The following are a few of the noteworthy points from the first day of the retreat:

  • Cary’s population is expected to be at 185,000 in 25 years. This is only a 35% increase in growth which means a significantly slower rate.
  • Cary is roughly 79 square miles. There are roughly 45,000 single family homes in Cary. 50% are located in PUDs (Planned Unit Developments).
  • There is 11,500 acres of infill in Cary yet to be developed
  • The projects in the pipeline would add an additional 24,726 citizens.
  • Only 8,000 acres in Cary have not been spoken for which would generate about 35,000 people if developed.
  • Our stormwater requirements exceed FEMA.
  • Cary has illegal discharge detection and can actually identify very small amounts of contaminants. It can also detect human care products.
  • Cary is often asked to speak on utilities since we are leaders in the state.
  • Cary’s parks and recreation has over 13,000 hours of programs. In 2009 Cary’s programs had over 90,000 program participants.
  • Cary’s Comprehensive transportation plan is 35 miles from completion. That equates to about $800 million in road improvements.
  • Cary has 413 miles of sidewalks which is less than half of the buildout of 900 miles. To reach buildout would require $80 million in sidewalk improvements.
  • Cary currently has 7 fire stations and over 200 fire fighters. It will eventually have 11 fire stations and over 300 fire fighters.
  • Cary’s fire fighters have to become more and more trained at a lower scope. That is, they will be expected to perform more CPR activities (defibrillators) and other medical tasks that at one time were only done by doctors.
  • Cary is the safest town in NC and the safest in the US for a town our size.
  • Cary’s #1 crime was larceny. Cary’s #1 complaint was traffic.
  • Ten years ago only 10% of the crimes committed in Cary were done by people that actually lived in Cary. Today 58% of the crimes committed are done by Cary residents.

It should be noted that on the first day of discussion Council members Portman and Robinson suggested that we invite Morrisville to discuss the possibility of a future merger. I think it is important to understand the context of the discussion. The discussion was on 30 years from now in a retreat setting. Retreats are informal and everyone is expected to speak freely without much deep thought into comments. I am sure my colleagues meant no disrespect to the Town of Morrisville. Morrisville and Cary have a great partnership and we work on many things together. I am proud of our relationship and look forward to continuing to work together. I believe any talks of merger would have to be initiated by Morrisville not Cary.

Here are a few key points from the second day of the retreat focusing on downtown.

  • Council and staff are in agreement that the future performing arts center should be further north. The preferred site at this time is next to the parking deck at town hall.
  • Council is in agreement that the new library should be next to the town plaza that is next to Cary Elementary (soon to be the cultural arts center).
  • Council also agreed that the downtown focus for development should be on Chatham and on Walker Streets. Council wants to keep Academy as historic.
  • Council is concerned about what NCDOT rail may do with rail crossings. This may require a depressed rail corridor through Cary. (If that happens we can call it Cary’s Big Dig.)

I received all kinds of emails this week. They included a complaint about racial profiling, a request to pursue a merger with Morrisville, thanks for approving “Christmas” in our trees, complaints about the Cary Parkway and High House single quadrant proposal, complaints about Cameron Pond, complaints about US1 & 64, and a complaint about the cost of C-Tran.

Next week will be full on intergovernmental meetings. I will be attending a Mayor’s Association outing on Monday, a Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting on Wednesday, a Planning and Development meeting on Thursday, a meeting of the School board and the mayors on Friday, and a groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday.

Well that is all for this week. I plan to next post on Sunday, January 24th. Please feel free to leave a comment on my post.

Category: 2009 Blogs, Uncategorized  
Author:
• Sunday, January 10th, 2010

hweinbrecht_small1This first full week of the New Year was a light one. It was a chance for me to have one last break before we get into a busy stretch.

Monday I met with the new Cary News reporter Sadia Latifi. This was more of an introductory meeting. I spent a lot of time talking about political actions and events of the last dozen years or so. We also spoke about particular issues and the need for the Cary News to report accurately and to use all council members in their articles rather than just a couple over and over. I enjoyed meeting with Sadia and look forward to working with her.

Tuesday I met with Steve Rao from Morrisville who is interested in running for political office. We talked about strategies to make that happen and what it would take for him to win.

Thursday evening I attended the ribbon cutting for the new Four Points by Sheraton hotel in Crossroads. This is a very nice hotel in a prime spot. I predict they will thrive and prosper in this location. I wish them the best of luck. While I was there I talked with several businesses owners and several people interested in starting a business. The overall belief is that it is still difficult to get a bank loan to start a business. It has been that way for several months now and I’m not sure when that will change.

Emails this week were dominated by the clearing of trees for I540 next to Cameron Pond. Additional emails included complaints about the proposal for a single quadrant intersection at High House and Cary Parkway, more complaints about Christmas trees, a complaint about speeding in Jamison Park, and a complaint on the way I run council meetings.

This week I spent time working on the agenda for the breakfast meeting between the mayors of Wake County and the Wake County School Board. I hope to have that finalized soon and made public. We will be meeting on Friday, January 22nd at the Herb Young Community Center starting at 8 AM. As far as I know 10 of the 12 mayors will be in attendance. So far only 4 school board members have sent a RSVP.

Information received by council this week had some interesting tidbits. Red light cameras in 2009 produced 22,091 citations with is a little over a 7% increase from 2008.

The population of Cary as of January 1st, 2010 is 139,100 as estimated by staff.

The first major concert for the amphitheater was announced. Cheap Trick and others in the Rock n Roll hall of fame benefit lineup will play on Saturday, May 1st. I think that will be a fantastic concert and I look forward to attending.

Next week on the calendar has the governor and me at the Gold LEED certification of McDonalds on Kildaire Farm Road. I will also be meeting with some school board members (some in person and some on the phone). There will be a regularly schedule council meeting on Thursday which promises to be lengthy. Friday and Saturday will be the annual council staff retreat.

Well that is all for this week. I plan to next post on Sunday, January 17th. Please feel free to leave a comment on my post.

Category: 2009 Blogs, Uncategorized  
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• Sunday, January 03rd, 2010

hweinbrecht_smallAlthough this week was supposed to be a holiday week of no work and few mayoral duties, I ended up working in both areas most of the week.

Monday, in addition to working at SAS I met with the town clerk for our semi-annual review. In this meeting we reviewed all things that the town clerk staff does for me and council. We talked about ways to be more efficient. I have to say this meeting took some preparation since the town clerk staff at the Town of Cary is probably the best in the state. Some of the new things we talked about were my new duties as President of the Mayors Association and how the town clerk staff can help.

Monday night I did the taping for the State of the Town Address. The script turned out to be about 2000 words which equates to about 15 minutes (actually just under 14). We broke the taping into three parts. We took at least two takes of each part except for the last part which was me walking. They did several takes of that. I have watched the taping and it came out fairly well. The major critique I have is that, even though the State of the Town has a lot of good information, it is too long. BTW, the Cary News version is 800 words. I would love to know if people think the long version was better or simply too much information. To view the long script click here. The short version should be in Wednesday’s Cary News.

Tuesday, after another day at work, I met with the town manager to catch up on things. We talked about several issues. One of the most important items was finalizing topics for the staff council retreat which is about two weeks away.

Tuesday night I attended the Eagle Scout ceremony for Rex Alexander. This was a very nice ceremony. Rex had received the rank earlier before attending college this fall at Ohio State. I was very glad to read the proclamation and challenged him to be a leader in whatever community he decided to live in.

Wednesday was my last day of work at SAS for the year. I spent the evening creating slides for a live presentation of the State of the Town which I was giving on Saturday.

Thursday morning I traveled out to Cameron Pond along with council member Portman and staff member Barker to look at the current situation. The turnpike construction has started next to the cleared area for the power lines. The Turnpike officials had told me they wouldn’t be in this area until spring. Information provided to me said they decided to start here because the ground was dryer. The residents were concerned about their increased loss of buffer. In addition, they expressed concern about plantings installed by the developer as part of an agreement to replenish some of the buffer lost with the installation of the power lines. Another concern was the planned temporary clearing of plantings at the entrance for drainage needed by those doing the bridge construction. Needless to say, there are a lot of things going on in and around Cameron Pond. The town will continue to work on the residents’ behalf. Our immediate goal is to get the turnpike authority to change design to allow a sound wall. We have a window of less than two months to change that design. We are waiting on the estimate for the design costs before meeting with the turnpike officials again. Hopefully, this will be done in the next few days.

Thursday night my family and I headed to downtown Raleigh for the First Night Celebration. We were fortunate enough to be a part of the people’s procession. Joining us were Secretary of State Marshall, Representatives Ross and Gill, Mayors Williams and Byrne, and Raleigh council member Stevenson. It was a great procession which was followed by a reception in the Bank of America building. From that vantage point we could watch the ice skating rink, the entertainment, and of course the acorn drop at 7 PM. The skies opened up with rain shortly after the acorn drop and my family and I decided to head home to bring in the New Year.

Friday I interviewed with Chris Copperwaith of NBC17 on the state of the town address that was released to the media. The main message was that Cary has weathered the worst of the recession and is in good position to lead the region into recovery.

Saturday morning I gave my first live presentation of the State of the Town address to Glenaire. My presentation was attended by a few dozen folks. After the presentation I answered several questions which included light hearted topics of the Community Tree issue and why I lost a tennis match to a girl earlier this year. I enjoyed the talk and the questions and had a great lunch with my host Walter Newman.

Well that is all for this week. I plan to next post on Sunday, January 10th. Please feel free to leave a comment on my post.

Category: 2009 Blogs, Uncategorized  
Author:
• Sunday, December 27th, 2009

hweinbrecht_small3The week consisted of events on more of a personal nature. There were only a few town hall events. It was a week of prayer for family members and a friend in addition to celebrating Christmas.

On Monday a tennis friend of mine had a massive coronary on the tennis court. His heart actually stopped and he had to be revived. Through power of prayer and the great action of his friends, the EMS, and the wonderful doctors at Rex, he will have a full recovery. To me, his recovery is nothing short of a miracle.

Monday evening I attended the ribbon cutting of Kidz Corner daycare on Lake Pine Drive in Cary. These were some great folks who are looking forward to a successful business that all started with their desire to provide something unique to the community. I had the good fortune to talk with them for a while and learned that most of them had an association with Cary Christian School. My kids are well past the age for daycare. But if they weren’t I would definitely consider this daycare.

Monday night my wife and I attended the annual Mayor’s Association Christmas Dinner. After the meal I was presented the virtual gavel by Mayor Williams of Garner and by that action became the President. I MC’d the ceremony with an award and the introduction of mayors who introduced those in attendance. It was a great night. The only downside was the absence of Mayor Jones of Wake Forest whose father passed away. Please keep her and her family in your prayers.

On Wednesday my daughter had shoulder surgery. The surgery went fine but the pain medicine made her sick. This meant she went several hours after surgery without pain medication. I am happy to report that she is doing much better but still has weeks of recovery left. She even attempted to go to Christmas Eve services and lasted through most of it. God bless her!

Wednesday evening I was headed to an interview with a student when I was asked by WRAL for an interview about the “Community Tree”. They did a fair job in reporting it but did not put emphasis on the facts. Most of the media did this to try and create a controversy. Some were saying that we were trying to rename our Christmas trees to Community trees which is absolutely false. The Fox news actually made the most impressionable incorrect statements which really damaged the reputation of Cary. It is a shame that some of the media are more interested in generating news than reporting it. Unfortunately, Cary got more than a black eye from this.

Because of this media created controversy I received dozens and dozens of emails about this issue. Here is a canned response I created for those emails:

Unfortunately the media is misleading everyone. The fact is that these trees have always been named a “Community Tree” and “Tree” and were named these names long ago to become inclusive (this was not done by the current council). What is proposed, and incorrectly reported by the media to mislead the public to create a controversy, is that two council members want to rename the trees to Christmas trees. And as far as I know there is no council opposition. Unfortunately, our next meeting is on January 14th which is when we can and will address this. At that time I suspect our trees will be named Christmas trees.

Thanks for contacting us.

Have a Very Merry Christmas!

What is really disappointing about this mess is the way my Christian brothers and sisters responded and lashed out at me and other members of council. Here are just a few of the names and phrases directed at me (some to the entire council):

“Atheist”, “Idiot”, “stupid”, “fool”, “coward”, “worthless”, “Godless”, “disrespectful”, “insensitive”, “psychotic”, “pathetic”, ” insane”, “you are ridiculous”, “no ounce of leadership”, “no shred of decency”, “liberal BSer”, “no backbone”, “Christians no longer welcome in Cary”, “shocked and dismayed”, “street level politician”, “you are sorry, there must be retribution”, “no common sense”, “get your heads out of you’re a**”, “you are a laughing stock”, “hyper-political”, “you have lost your minds”, “hope to vote you out”, “leave us Christians alone”, “stupid liberal idea”,…

I must say that I was shocked at some of the things people said to me especially on Christmas Eve. One email was making a statement about Christ and in the next sentence used a four letter word. Anyway, enough about this. I will be glad when we put this behind us.

Wednesday evening I was interviewed by a student from NC State. His interview focused on leadership qualities and advice. His hope is to, one day, be in a leadership role. We talked for a while and I gave him a private tour of town hall.

Well that is all for this week and this year. I plan to next post on Sunday, January 3rd. Have a very Happy New Year and please feel free to leave a comment on my post.

Category: 2009 Blogs, Uncategorized  
Author:
• Sunday, December 20th, 2009

hweinbrecht_small2The week was a busy week filled with meetings, events, and a work session.

I was joined by the Governor on Monday afternoon to welcome Deutsche Bank to Cary. The town provided $75,000 in incentives to bring over 300 high paying jobs here. The payback period is three years. The state provided roughly $9.6 million in incentives. The jobs are IT jobs with the average pay over $88,000 a year. In talking with the executives, about 80% of their hires will be college hires. From my talks it also appears those college hires will be graduate degrees. At Deutsche Bank’s last location in Jacksonville they had three years to hire 400 people. They hired those in two years and now employ nearly 1000 at that location. My hope is that they will have that same success at this location.

Tuesday was a work session on the capital projects. The council reviewed all appropriated capital projects with the intention to postpone enough so that taxes will not have to be raised for at least two years. We agreed with the recommendations from staff and postponed over $24 million in capital projects. We used cash earmarked for those postponed projects and applied it towards the debt of higher priority projects. In addition to postponing projects we delayed indefinitely over $68 million in projects. The top three projects being delayed were the downtown streetscape, the aquatic center, and Walnut Street corridor improvements. Top projects moving forward include several road widenings, sidewalk improvements, radio improvements, greenway improvements, and storm drainage improvements.

Wednesday started with a holiday luncheon with the administrative staff and directors. It was great to have this time of fellowship together since we spent most of our time together in a professional capacity.

Wednesday evening I taped the January version of Cary Matters. The main topic for January will be the automated meter reading system. The question portion of the taping will be focused on online job applications and funding non-profits. So be sure to watch and send us your ideas of what we should be talking about in the future.

Wednesday night I attended a holiday dinner with a number of my campaign team members from two years ago. It is a fantastic group of people dedicated to making Cary a better place to live for all. We had a great time and dinner at Biaggi’s.

Thursday I attended the Economic Development Board meeting. Third quarter information was presented that showed our unemployment rate at 6.2% as of October compared with 6.9% in July. In addition, we went over several opportunities to bring jobs to Cary. We continue to be a strong contender in getting good jobs as was evident in Deutsche Bank locating here. Based on the information presented and what I have heard it appears the local economy should start making a positive move in the 2nd quarter of 2010.

Emails this week included a lot of complaints about our holiday tree. It is a shame that two of our council members decided to make a media event out of this issue which divides the community at a time when we should all be coming together. The council will vote on their proposal in January.

Other emails this week included complaints about the proposed changes at High House and Cary Parkway, and complaints about solicitors attaching material to mailboxes.

Next week promises to be a short week with Christmas. The only event is the Mayors Association Dinner. At this dinner we will recognize elected officials and I will take over as President.

Well that is all for this week. I plan to next post on Sunday, December 27th. Please feel free to leave a comment on my post.

Category: 2009 Blogs, Uncategorized  
Author:
• Sunday, December 13th, 2009

hweinbrecht_small1The week was a busy week with a council meeting, the Christmas parade, the College Cup, two opportunities to administer the oath, and a meeting with the Turnpike Authority.

Monday started with an agenda meeting. We identified three items of potential controversy that would draw speakers or long discussion. Those included the Cary Parkway/High House proposal, the Bailey proposal, and the Carolina Legacy parking reduction. I estimated that the meeting would keep us there until midnight. I was only about a half an hour off.

After the agenda meeting I met with the town attorney to go over current legal issues. Based on the input I received I believe we are being represented well and making good progress (wish I could be more specific but you know I can’t since it is a legal matter).

I started Tuesday with my town manager weekly meeting. We discussed various issues none of which were crucial. I did ask if staff could find out from the Turnpike authority the design cost to have the turnpike around Cameron Pond include a wall.

Tuesday night I headed over to Morrisville with my wife to administer the oath of office to newly elected Mayor Jackie Holcombe. First, I would like to say that I have enjoyed working with Mayor Faulkner over the years and that she has been a good friend. Jackie Holcombe and I first met when my oldest daughter was in pre-school with her daughter Lindsay. Our daughters were very close so we got to know each other through our daughters. From day one the Holcombe family has been very kind, generous, and helpful. They are definitely the “good people” you always hear about. I was not involved when Jackie ran for Morrisville town council the first time. However, I was able to communicate with her on occasion about her run for mayor. Of course, I encouraged her and wished her the best. Once she was elected we sat down and talked. From that discussion I can tell you that she is still the wonderful person I met years ago. I believe she and the new council in Morrisville has great potential and can do great things for Morrisville in the future. It was an absolute honor and blessing to be asked and to perform the oath of office for Mayor Holcombe. I look forward to working closely with her as our towns partner on many issues in the coming years.

Wednesday morning I participated in the ABC 11 live cut in for their Heart of Carolina Food Drive. There were about a dozen or so volunteers to collect non perishable goods for the food bank. Their goal was 3 million pounds. I hope folks can find a little time and money in this holiday season to help those that are in need. With this year’s economy it is especially important.

Wednesday evening I met with several staff members from the Turnpike Authority. In the meeting with TPA yesterday we discussed options for noise abatement which included:
1) Sound Barrier – Would provide a visual and noise buffer. A typical wall would be 15 feet in height and as proposed would be approximately 1600′ in length at an estimated cost of $1.3 million. This wall option does not cover the entire neighborhood as the highway excavation encroaches within the Progress Energy easement and a wall is not permitted within the easement.
2) Earth Berm option – This would only provide a visual buffer to half the area in questions. This option would be minimally effective and has constructability concerns. The price is to be determined.
3) Landscaping option – This could provide a visual barrier but not a significant noise barrier. These options were presented as the most feasible considering the construction and financial constraints. Ricky Barker is part of the NCTA steering committee for the upcoming landscaping project
4) a combination of options.
It should be noted that the TPA would have to have any changes to the current plan resolved within roughly two months. This would mean finding $1.3 million in two months if we are to do a sound barrier wall. Another item of note is that clearing will begin on Monday. However, they estimate it will be late spring or early summer before they reach the Cameron Pond area.

Wednesday night I headed over to the Matthews House to welcome guests from the NCAA and colleges that were here for the college cup (NCAA Division 1 Soccer Championship). This was the 7th consecutive college cup to be held at our soccer stadium. Thanks to our partners, CASL and NC State, this will once again be a sell out event. We have been awarded the 2010 college cup for women making it eight College Cups in a row for Cary. Getting the College Cup for 2011 will be difficult since the NCAA is considering a combined event with men and women and want a bigger venue. But we will see how that plays out The College Cup means millions of dollars in economic benefit for Cary and surrounding areas. Showcase teams competed in a tournament and were given tickets to the College Cup. Those teams were from 42 states, Bermuda, and Canada.

Thursday started with a meeting of the retreat committee. The retreat will be held on Friday and Saturday January 15th and 16th. Friday will be more of a higher level discussion of the vision for the town. Saturday will probably have much more detail. We will focus on four areas: 1) Community Planning – Planning for Quality of Life, 2) Making sure we’re ready when you are, 3) Financial Condition – Making sense with the dollars, 4) Municipal Services – Providing excellence in service to the citizens.

Thursday night was our only council meeting for the month of December. The item that seemed to generate the most public interest was the Cary Parkway and High House Intersection improvement proposal. This initiated from council asking staff to come up with future alternatives for the intersection because the intersection has no future plans. Without plans any development in the area will not require road improvement fees from developers. Although, this solution is clearly not the one we will need, we should continue to look for other options. Otherwise, the eventual widening will drastically change the aesthetics and character of the intersection. I insisted that we continue the public hearing on this topic, as advertised, until January 14th which was supported by council. I have received criticism for this but to me protecting a citizen’s right to speak, no matter what their opinion, is of utmost importance and a right I pledged to protect when I was elected.

Saturday was the annual Jaycees Christmas parade. I was honored to participate. What was even more special is that my entire family was in the parade too. I rode in a 1957 car driven by Mr. Cooper and a former pastor of Cary’s First Baptist. I was flanked by both of my beautiful daughters. My wife rode in Erv Portman’s car with his wife. We had a wonderful time and passed out lots of candy. After the parade my family and I spent the rest of the day shopping.

Sunday I attended the finals of the College Cup soccer match between Virginia and Akron. This was a thrilling match won by Virginia on penalty kicks 3-2 after two overtimes ended in a 0-0 tie. The event turned out well even though the weather was lousy on Sunday. The estimated economic benefit for this event and the CASL event is estimated to be around $3 million dollars. The College Cup alone was estimated to have brought $300,000 in economic benefit. This event really gave the area a boost at the time we needed it. I am glad Cary was a host and hope we get to host many more College Cups.

I received numerous emails this week. Most of them were concerning the Cary Parkway and High House Intersection Improvements proposal. There were also several emails regarding the road stub for the Bailey subdivision. I also received a complaint about Cary’s water and another round of complaints from the Cary Watchmen (again full of half truths and misinformation).

Next week promises to be another busy week. Highlights include a ribbon cutting with the Governor on Monday and a work session on Capital Projects on Tuesday.

Well that is all for this week. I plan to next post on Sunday, December 20th. Please feel free to leave a comment on my post.

Category: 2009 Blogs, Uncategorized  
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• Sunday, December 06th, 2009

hweinbrecht_smallThe week included several holiday events, a committee meeting, and a personal event.

On Monday of this week I traveled to Georgia to bury my mother’s ashes. She died on July 5th and my brother felt it would be appropriate to bury her ashes beside her parents grave on her birthday. Her birthday was Tuesday, December 1st. So at about 10 AM on Tuesday, my brother and I put her remains in the plot, wished her a happy birthday and a restful peace. Then I headed back to Cary.

On Tuesday night when I arrived I had a conference call with the town manager and mayor pro-tem. Discussion included DOT projects and how to handle groups that are asking staff to do research for them. Tuesday night I went to the Wynston Ridge Homeowner’s Association meeting. Wynston Ridge is where my home is located. I did not participate in the meeting (only observed) but joined Jack Smith to answer questions after the meeting. Their questions included the widening of Holly Springs Road, schools, and greenways.

Wednesday I attended the Town of Cary Employee Recognition luncheon. Out of the 1100 employees, 650 were in attendance for the luncheon. I was fortunate to shake hands and talk with about 450 of them. What a blessing it is to talk to people who choose  a career in serving others. God Bless each and every one of them. Council member Adcock was also in attendance and also spent time thanking the town employees. I said a few words of thanks after the blessing and then had to hurry back to my daytime job.

Wednesday night I was scheduled to attend the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce Elected Official Holiday Reception but had to cancel at the last minute due to work commitments that had to be addressed.

Thursday I chaired the Operations Committee for council member Smith who was out of town. We discussed five items but were in agreement so everything went on consent for the rest of the council. Items discussed included: $10,000 to assist with payment of a supplemental agreement for professional consulting services to complete the US 64 Corridor Study, Consideration of adoption of amendments to Policy Statement 157 for the Citizens Issue Advisory Group, denying an exception to the policy to allow additional street lighting in the Wynston Ridge Subdivision, agreeing to proposed improvements to be incorporated into the North Carolina Turnpike Authority’s Western Wake Freeway Project, and acceptance of a bid award for the Black Creek Greenway Phase II.

Friday I had an interview with Jane Paige from the New Homes and Ideas Magazine. In addition to being a cheerleader for Cary in the interview she wanted to know about how I felt my term was going. I told her I felt it was going well and that I had an excellent staff and a great council. I talked about the main objectives from the 2007 election which included growth, schools, roads, and the environment and how we have made progress in those areas. I will be very interested in reading what she captured from the interview.

Saturday morning I gave welcoming comments at the seventh annual Ole Time Winter Festival in downtown Cary. Unfortunately, it appears the weather hurt the attendance. I talked with organizers about combining this event with the Jaycees Christmas parade. Hopefully, we can make that happen next year and make it a great day of holiday celebration.

Saturday night I introduced the official Holiday tree lighter. This year the honor went to Assistant Fire Chief Don Daniels who is retiring on January 1st. He has spent 37 years working in our Fire Department and will be sorely missed. The tree lighting ceremony was held inside the council chambers because of the rain. At the end of the performances we all headed outside to light the tree. It was a lot of fun and we even had snow. OK, so the snow was man made. 😉

Emails this week included complaints about the automated meter reading system, the new noise levels at the amphitheater, HVAC inspections, the holiday tree (instead of Christmas tree), the Bowden house sign, and Cary’s expansion into Chatham County.

Next week will be a busy week for me including the swearing in of Mayor Holcombe of Morrisville, the swearing in of Mayor Pro-Tem Robison of Cary, welcoming officials to the NCAA Men’s College Cup, a council meeting, and the Christmas parade.

Well that is all for this week. I plan to next post on Sunday, December 13th. Please feel free to leave a comment on my post.

Category: 2009 Blogs, Uncategorized  
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• Sunday, November 29th, 2009

hweinbrecht_small4The week was a short week due to the Thanksgiving holiday but did have a few significant meetings.

Monday’s only meeting was with School Board Chairman Kevin Hill. I asked for this meeting because of my concern that the school board might be headed towards a division and “an us versus them” mentality. I told Kevin about my experiences on council in the early 2000s when I was on a slate elected to make drastic changes. I explained that I learned a great deal from that experience and now believe a group works better if everyone is contributing. I talked about how our current council still has differing philosophical beliefs but we work together as a team for the best solution. I told Kevin that I hoped to reach out to all the new school board members within the next few weeks. I also told him that my staff was working on setting up a breakfast meeting in Cary during the month of January for the Wake County Mayors and the Wake County School Board. He and I agreed to work on an agenda for this gathering if it became a reality. I was very impressed with Chairman Hill. He is very smart and has been working on trying to bring this group together as they prepare to face huge challenges.

Tuesday I along with Mayor Pro-Tem Robison, the town manager, and the director of engineering met with officials from Triangle Transit, NCDOT, and NCDOT rail division. The main focus was around Walker Street and Cary rail crossings. A good portion of the meeting was spent talking about the possibilities of additional funding for Walker Street. It is important to understand that Cary has received close to $2 million in federal earmarks for the Walker Street tunnel. This has been used mostly for design up to this point. Future funding may have to come from another pool of money. That pool may require Cary to prove they are helping eliminate at grade railroad crossings. Currently, Cary has four at grade crossings. One is near the WPTF towers (which is private), Maynard, Academy, and Harrison. It is a goal of NCDOT Rail to eliminate all at grade crossings from Raleigh to Charlotte in the future. While this might not happen in my lifetime it is a goal to improve the efficiency and safety of rail.

The Walker Street preliminary design has already had a public viewing and comment period. There are several issues related to this design. First and foremost is funding. It is estimated that we will need an additional $14 million for this project. Council will continue to review capital projects in December and will have to reprioritize if this project is to move forward in the very near future. I don’t believe there is political will or interest on this council to raise taxes. Another decision point might be to rethink Walker Street in its entirety. That is, council may decide that it needs Walker Street to be designed as a major corridor. That would mean that Walker Street would be four lanes from Kildaire to Chapel Hill Road. If that is the case then the tunnel would need to be four lanes instead of two.

One of the biggest questions around the Walker Street tunnel is need. Why do we need this tunnel? It is important to understand that downtown Cary is estimated to grow by about 15,000 people. Add to that future light rail traffic and roads in downtown would gridlock with existing roads. Staff traffic studies have concluded that at least one additional grade separated crossing would be needed. In addition, they conclude that South Harrison would need to be connected to Kildaire to handle this traffic. These are all topics that need to be discussed by the council and hopefully we can resolve some of the future downtown questions at the council retreat in January.

Even though I didn’t have any official mayoral work on Wednesday I did talk with Wake County School Board member Ron Margiotta. I have let school board members Kevin, Ron, and Debra each know that I have been, and will be, talking with others on the school board. From my conversations so far I can tell you that these three are working very hard on communication and working together.

I took Wednesday and Thursday off to celebrate the Thanksgiving Holiday. While it was different not having my mother with us this year, it was a wonderful time with friends and family including my wife, daughters, brother, Aunt Fellas (former Mayor Bond’s wife), cousin Lisa, and others. I am thankful and blessed to have such great family and friends.

Friday it was back to work. I met with newly elected school board member Debra Goldman. We talked for about two hours and I learned a great deal about her. She is a very intelligent woman and an independent thinker. I think she has tremendous potential in her newly elected position. I don’t believe she will blindly follow on any decision. I believe she will have to be convinced before doing anything that impacts the children of this county. One topic we talked about was better communication from the school board. She is interested in communicating with the Cary Council directly on a regular basis. I think this is a fantastic idea. She is also interested in several other communication ideas that we will work on together.

This week emails included questions about the Turnpike Authority and its impact on Cameron Pond. I also received a complaint about spending federal funds on our sustainability manager which we are in the process of hiring. Complaints were also received from the Cary Watchman (almost weekly now) about the automated meter reading, a Morrisville resident about the Bowden enforcement of the sign ordinance, and a Cary resident on the Walker Street tunnel.

Next week’s schedule has me shaking hands with about 700 town employees at the holiday luncheon, speaking to a homeowner’s group, and filling in at the Operations Committee meeting for council member Smith.

Well that is all for this week. I plan to next post on Sunday, December 6th. Please feel free to leave a comment on my post.

Category: 2009 Blogs, Uncategorized  
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• Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

hweinbrecht_small3The week was a full week of meetings and events including a work session and a taping of Cary Matters.

Monday started with a Public Service Announcement taping for the Census. The taping lasted all of 15 seconds and will be broadcast on our government access channel. The Census will be mailed to everyone in March. The counting of the population is important on many fronts. First it may determine if North Carolina gets another member of Congress. The population count will also determine how many federal dollars get directed back to North Carolina for hospitals, roads, schools, etc. Remember that North Carolina is a donor state. That is we pay in more taxes to the federal government than is returned here. So getting our fair share is important. On the state level we have a similar situation. Sales tax dollars are returned back to municipalities based on population. It is very important for everyone to be counted in the census.

Monday night was the monthly meeting of the Wake County Mayor’s Association. All twelve mayors were in attendance. This is the first time that all twelve of us have been together in a while. We discussed the process of how the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) functions and brainstormed on ideas to make it better. It was decided that we would invite the Wake County school board to our February meeting. We also toasted outgoing Mayor Faulkner of Morrisville. New officers were also approved by the mayors. I will be the incoming president and Mayor Killian of Knightdale will be the incoming vice president and treasurer.

Tuesday’s first meeting was with the town manager and Mayor Pro-Tem Robison. I discussed issues that were brought up at the Mayor’s Association meeting the night before. In addition, we discussed council-manager-employee relationships.

There were two work sessions on Tuesday. The first work session was on the 2020 Affordable Housing Plan. Over the years the town has been supporting affordable housing with various ad-hoc initiatives. The purpose of this plan is to provide strategies for the near term, long term, and longer term. The council seemed to be in favor of strategies that included rehabilitation, senior housing, and revolving loans. The council was opposed to rental rehabilitation, inclusionary zoning, density bonuses for developers, linkage fees, and overlays. Staff took feedback from the council and will send a summary of the meeting to council for review. Once the draft has been reviewed and completed it will be presented to the public at a community meeting. This will be followed by a Public Hearing, a Planning and Zoning Board work session, a Planning and Zoning Board Public Hearing, and then presented to council for approval.

The second work session on Tuesday was on the Automated Meter Reading Project called Aquastar. Here are some interesting facts about our current system:

–              An average of 6 leaks is reported daily. 4 are detected and 2 are reported by the customers.

–              Meter readers have to read roughly 250 meters a day. Approximately 30% of meters have water which requires bailing. It is not uncommon for meter readers to have shoulder injuries, wrist injuries, back injuries, bee stings, and spider bites.

–              There are 57,000 meters currently in Cary and 10 meter readers.

–              Meter readers will travel 71,000 miles and use 7000 gallons of gas each year.

–              It will cost the town $18.6 million over the next 17 years to continue with the system we have in place. Of course this can go much higher with the cost of gas and health insurance.

Aquastar is a wireless meter reading system that will allow the town to read meters from a remote site. The financial benefit for the town over the 17 year system life is $2.4 million. This will result in lower utility fees than if we kept the existing system. I think it is important to note that utility fees will rise the next few years because of the town’s commitment to the future Western Wastewater Treatment plant years ago.

Questions surrounding Aquastar focus on cost and privacy. Here are a few points related to the cost:

–              The cost of the meters will be funded through the utility fund not the general fund. That means taxpayers will pay with their utility bills not their tax bills.

–              To keep the existing system will cost the town more to maintain than the wireless meters.

–              For the town to lose money in putting in the wireless meters would require at least 10,000 meters failing (based on full replacement cost). Note that these meters have warranties for up to 15 years.

Privacy issue questions are mostly focused around big brother. The current system only allows employees with the “need to know” to look at personal data. This will not change with the new system. The town has policies protecting citizens from anyone getting private information about them.

Here are the advantages of Aquastar:

–              Aquastar will increase the level of customer service. Customers, especially non-residential, want to know more about usage. This is information similar to what is being provided by power companies and gas companies.

–              Aquastar will assist with water resource management. That is, it will help find leaks.

–              Aquastar will improve worker safety.

–              Aquastar will save the town and its customer’s money. If we continue with business as usual then customers will pay more in their utility bills.

Council approved the Aquastar system by a vote of 5 to 1. Don Frantz voted no and Gail Adcock was absent due to a conflict. Based on the information presented to the council this was the right thing to do. The Finance director said they used conservative estimates across the board for this project. With those conservative estimates the utility costs will still be less than if we continued with the existing system. This was the deciding point for me.

Wednesday started with the December taping of Cary Matters. My co-host was Mayor Pro-Tem Robison. The main topic in December’s Cary Matters will be the US Census. Questions and Answers will include the Cary Elementary renovation, pedestrian safety, and fiber optics. You may or may not know that I write all the Cary Matters and then have the Public Information Officer’s team fact check the data and make any edits that are necessary. I solicit council members for ideas when I know they are scheduled to appear on the show. Jennifer Robinson was supposed to be in December but had a conflict so I swapped her with Julie Robison. If you have any ideas for main topics or questions you would like answered please send them my way.

After the Cary Matters taping I headed over to the Police building for the graduation ceremony of the 26th class of the Cary Police Academy. The Citizens Police Academy offers members of the community a unique opportunity to become familiar with the operations of the department. During this nine week course which meets one evening a week, citizens will talk with representatives of each unit and division in the department, including patrol operations, communications, traffic operations, criminal investigations, youth services, animal control and records. We had 19 graduating from the 26th class. These are amazing people to sacrifice three hours once a week to learn and become ambassadors for Cary. Hopefully, they will take this knowledge and go to the next level and join the CAP team (Citizens Assisting Police).  The CAP program is made up of a group of citizens who volunteer their time to assist the Cary Police Department in and around the Town of Cary<http://www.townofcary.org>, freeing sworn officers for other duties. The program offers an opportunity for those interested in law enforcement to combine their interest with the personal satisfaction of volunteering.

Thursday I attended the Cary Chamber’s Business After Hours. This was held at Solar Solutions near Davis Drive and High House. I have met the owners of Solar Solutions previously and we talked about solutions to make Cary greener. They have several ideas and are interested in meeting with Cary’s new sustainability manager as soon as that person is hired. The environment is one of the top issues that Cary citizens are interested in. I also met with several other business owners at this event. The feeling of hanging on is fairly consistent among the group I talked with. I still believe Cary is in great position to be one of the first out of this recession and hopefully that means our businesses will be able to thrive soon. I am thinking as early at 2nd quarter next year. Now if the banks would only start lending a little money to commercial developers. 😉

Friday started with a teleconference of the North Carolina Mayors Board of Directors meeting. The meeting started with all mayors from around the state making introductions.  Since this was a conference call it became interesting hearing several step over another’s introduction. I just waited until it got quiet. I believe Mayor Weatherly and I were the last to introduce ourselves. The meeting’s agenda included an update on the advocacy agenda and a vote on the Coalition Bylaw amendment. While there was a full agenda, the main purpose was to replace Chapel Hill Mayor Foy with Durham Mayor Bill Bell as Chairman of the Board. This was the first teleconference meeting of mayors. While we did have one heavy breather (forgot to put the mute button on when he wasn’t speaking), it was a great way to hear what other mayors from around the state had to say. The most energetic voice of the bunch was Pat McCrory who was introducing Charlotte’s new mayor Foxx. I hope the next meeting of the NC Mayors Board will use a teleconference.

Friday night I attended the third Beaujolais Nouveau fundraiser at the Matthews House sponsored by Cary Sister Cities Association. There was a crowd of over two hundred enjoying the newly released wine and French cuisine prepared by the Wake Tech’s culinary department. I was blessed to be the guest of honor with my wife Belinda. I spent the better part of three hours meeting and greeting folks and talking about all kinds of things. Also in attendance from the council were Mayor Pro-Tem Robison, council member Portman, and council member Smith. It appeared that everyone had a great time and hopefully this raised some good money for the association.

Emails this week included a complaint about the town having debt, complaints about the sign ordinance enforcement of Mr. Bowden on Maynard, a complaint about the lack of on line applications, an invitation to a homeowner’s association meeting, an invitation to welcome folks to the ole time winter festival, and a thanks for the hometown spirit award.

Next week’s calendar has me meeting with Wake School Board Chairman Hill on Monday, and members from TTA and NCDOT on Tuesday in addition to staff meetings.

Well that is all for this week. I plan to next post on Sunday, November 29th. Please feel free to leave a comment on my post.

Category: 2009 Blogs, Uncategorized