October 2006 Highlights

Important local elections are underway now for seats on the county commission and board of education, local and state judges, Congress, and other offices. Early "no-excuse" voting will continue through 1 p.m. Saturday, November 4, with regular election day voting held Tuesday, November 7. Please don’t miss this opportunity to help shape the future of our county, state and nation. Now on to city news:

Ward boundaries change: When the newly annexed areas officially became part of Winston-Salem on September 30, our city population jumped to almost 228,000—and the boundaries of our eight city wards had to change. (Since each ward elects one representative to the City Council, we have to keep their populations approximately equal.) At our meeting on October 2, the council approved new ward lines, with each ward containing a resident population of about 28,500. The Southwest Ward now extends all the way east to Peters Creek Parkway, taking in that section of the Ardmore neighborhood which had previously been in the South Ward. The Southwest Ward also now includes most of the area between Silas Creek Parkway and I-40, west of the Forsyth Tech main campus. If you know folks who live in those areas, please let them know that they are always welcome to contact me as their new representative. During the ward boundary changes, the Southwest Ward also lost some other sections. On the western end of our city, the neighborhoods just northwest of I-40, along Peace Haven and McGregor roads, are now part of the West Ward. The small neighborhood on Hinshaw Avenue and Northwest Boulevard is now part of the Northwest Ward. I’m sorry to see you go—but if you live there, you’re still welcome to contact me, and I’ll help put you in touch with your new council representatives.

New neighborhood safety efforts: The Center for Community Safety is putting together a new, multi-neighborhood safety improvement effort that it’s calling the "Twin City East-West Partnership". Like the "Western Downtown Initiative", this project will bring together city departments like Police, Housing, and Inspections, with neighborhood groups and commercial associations, to concentrate on crime prevention and area improvement efforts. The easternmost part of the Southwest Ward (along Peters Creek Parkway) is most directly involved. If you live in or near that area and would like to participate in the project, please let me know.

Council discusses bus system and streetcars: At a special October 30 workshop, members of the city council received reports on two important transportation issues: status of the city bus system, and a proposal to revive a streetcar system in Winston-Salem. The bus report focused on the financial status of the system, but council members used the opportunity to raise questions on how the bus system could be improved as well. At present, Winston-Salem spends less on its public transportation system than other comparable cities in North Carolina. (Some would say that this low level of investment shows in the quality of service provided—route coverage and frequency of service in particular.) I suggested that we look at other cities, like Asheville, which are making aggressive efforts to increase public use of the bus system. City staff noted the information requested, and will bring a follow-up report back to the council early next year.

Council members also had questions about the streetcar proposal, and a written report to city council committees is expected within the next couple of months. I’ll include more discussion on this concept at that time.

Recycling contract on November’s agenda: The city council is likely to decide in November on a new contract for recycling services in Winston-Salem. On the table for discussion are what materials will be collected (such as types of plastic, and cardboard), how they’ll be picked up (by bin or cart), how frequently, and of course how much we’ll be paying for all that. Do you have comments on what’s most important to you? Please send me your thoughts, or come to the Talk of the Town meeting for discussion.

Initial "Revitalizing Urban Commercial Areas" approved: I’ve previously reported on the city’s plan to strengthen neighborhoods and fight urban decay by reviving older commercial areas. The plans involve active involvement by neighborhood groups and commercial associations, as well as help from the city in the form of improvements to infrastructure like sidewalks, street trees, and lighting. At our October 23 meeting, we approved the first three RUCAs (Revitalizing Urban Commercial Areas) to be designated. The three areas were selected through a competitive application process that considered the strength of commitment to the project by businesses in the affected areas. The first three RUCAs picked were Washington Park, Waughtown/Thomasville, and Liberty Street. We expect that the initial project investments should be in place within 12 months. If the improvements are as useful as anticipated, a second round of RUCA evaluation can be started next year.

"Talk of the Town" November 9: The annual "Talk of the Town" meeting for the Southwest Ward will be held this year on Thursday, November 9, beginning at 6:30 p.m. in the Forsyth Tech West Campus auditorium on Bolton Street. As at previous Talk of the Town meetings, I will join Mayor Allen Joines and city staff to hear and discuss your questions and suggestions. Please put this November 9 meeting on your calendar, and bring your ideas on city issues.