August was one of those months which was extremely busy with city business and deliberations, even though it was fairly light on final decisions. Among the important work topics were stormwater runoff rules, and recycling and solid waste programs.
City will assist research lab expansion: One final decision of note was made August 20 when the City Council approved Economic Development Fund assistance to the Piedmont Triad Research Park (PTRP) for wet lab expansion. The PTRP has proven to be one of Winston-Salem's most successful partnerships for economic development, featuring opportunity-generating ventures such as new pharmaceuticals development. One continuing bottleneck for new research company growth in our area has been a shortage of affordable wet laboratory space. PTRP is now in the process of developing needed wet lab space on its campus as an "incubator" for new start-up or early-stage companies with limited initial capital resources. The city Economic Development Fund agreement will help PTRP to complete its capital arrangements for this important project, which will in turn generate more jobs, research, and economic activity for our city and region. The city's total assistance will not exceed $125,000 over two years, and will help to leverage over $375,000 in private investment. The city's source of funds for this investment is coming from loan repayments from the successful Targacept pharmaceuticals development company.
Play ball: At its August 6 zoning meeting, the City Council gave final approval to the various zoning changes and code amendments needed for the downtown baseball park project. This represented the culmination of months of meetings and deliberations involving the developers, city staff, and neighborhood groups most directly affected by the details of the project. Among the issues worked out in extensive detail were traffic, noise, lighting, and stormwater runoff.
Stormwater: At our August 14 meeting, the City Council's Public Works Committee continued discussion of proposed revisions to our stormwater management rules. Like other large cities in North Carolina, we are under a federal mandate to strengthen our management of stormwater to better protect water quality. At our own local initiative, we are also looking at ways to better control runoff volume and velocity, so as to control downstream erosion and flooding problems. This is a technically complex and economically controversial area, and we are moving with cautious deliberation in order to get the most benefits with the least unintended side effects. City staff will work with the Committee's suggestions and questions, and report back to our October meeting.
Recycling and solid waste management: The City Council held a special meeting on August 27 to discuss the status of our recycling program, and the finances of our entire solid waste management program. I spoke in support of maintaining and expanding our recycling efforts, and against imposition of any special recycling or trash pickup fees. In my view, sanitation services (including solid waste management—which includes recycling) are a fundamental part of our municipal responsibilities. They should be paid for our of our general revenue sources. Flat per-household sanitation fees are simply taxes, and because they take a higher relative share of poorer households' income, they are regressive taxes, to be avoided. I heard no contrary sentiments from my Council colleagues. We do have a long-term imbalance in costs and revenues to our Solid Waste Fund, and adjustments will be needed within the next couple of years. However, there seemed to be a broad consensus to look first for more management efficiencies, and only then to examine other options as needed.
"Litter" in yards: From time to time, I will hear complaints about solicitations for various commercial services, or unsolicited tabloid papers, left in yards. In response to a recent constituent question on this topic, I conferred with the city attorney's office and learned that Winston-Salem already has a specific city code provision which can be used to address this issue. City code section 62-9 says that ads and other materials cannot be thrown into yards, but may only be left on or about the door. Therefore, if you receive an unsolicited and unwelcome advertisement or publication thrown into your yard, you can report it. Call the police non-emergency number (773-7700), and an officer can retrieve it so that the police can caution the offending party about the city's code restrictions (i.e., tell them to cut it out).
Council Member at work: Once in a while, I like to list FYI the events I've participated in over the past month as your/the city's representative. For August, my calendar shows the following: 8/1, Urban League youth leadership program; 8/2, National Black Theatre Festival; 8/3, Basic Law Enforcement Training graduation; 8/6, regular Council meeting; 8/7, Chamber of Commerce's economic development report luncheon; 8/7, National Night Out (four events around the ward); 8/9, Winston-Salem Fire Department rookie training graduation; 8/14, regular Council Committee meetings; 8/16, welcome to national conference being held in Winston-Salem; 8/20, regular Council meeting; 8/21, Carver High Founders' Day event; 8/21, another public hearing on the nightclub ordinance; 8/23, City Council meeting with Congressman Mel Watt regarding the city's federal issues; 8/23, neighborhood meeting on the proposed Little Creek Greenway; 8/26, talk by the commander of Fort Bragg at St. Stephens' Episcopal; 8/27, Council's recycling meeting. That's a fairly typical number of formal meetings/events, although some months will include a heavier mix of neighborhood association events.