Friday, March 26, 2010

Friends of Lead Mine Alumni Association

Last night, the newly formed Friends of Lead Mine Alumni Association held it's first meeting! The meeting was the first step in organizing an event to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Lead Mine Elementary!! The open-house last night was a great opportunity to catch up with former Lead Mine parents, former and current Lead Mine teachers and faculty, and Lead Mine Alumni who are all grown up. I really enjoyed being able to reconnect and reminisce with old friends and familiar faces, and look forward to seeing everyone again at future meetings.

Lead Mine Elementary has meant so much to so many families in North Raleigh, it is certainly worth celebrating! The 20th Anniversary Celebration is being planned for sometime this Fall, I will keep you posted on the details as they come.

Many thanks to Robin Hutchins for hosting the event!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Head Start Annual Meeting

Last week, I had the opportunity to speak at the 40th Annual North Carolina Head Start Association's Training Conference. The event was a great success, and I enjoyed being a part of it. This was the first time in several years that NCHSA has had their meeting in Raleigh, and we were happy to host them!

This year, the topic for the Conference was "Weaving our Future from the Fabric of our Past." NCHSA is doing just that! Head Start is always working towards improving early childhood education and finding the best ways to prepare children for success. This means working with not only children, but also parents, early childhood educators and administrators, and legislatures. Head Start is the only national program for young children, and they are working in all 100 counties of North Carolina to ensure that young chidren are provided with the educational experience they deserve.

I know how much the early childhood education system has evolved since my kids were in preschool, and can only hope that these changes continue to come!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Census in Raleigh

The Complete Count Committee is seeking ways to get the word out to all Wake County residents regarding the importance of being counted in the 2010 U.S. Census. As the chair of this committee, Ms. Octavia Rainey is directing special efforts to reach the historically "undercounted" populations: minorities, those with lower incomes, and especially African American males ages 18 to 35.

As part of her efforts to reach these populations Ms. Rainey has established a coalition of 30 ministers to serve as "Soul Census Ambassadors". Today I represented the city at a pinning ceremony to help publicize the importance of participating in the upcoming Census.

How is the Census data used? This information is used to direct the federal funding for essentials such as hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, transportation and public utility infrastructure and emergency services. The data collected by the census also help determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The 2010 U.S. Census is being conducted this spring. The 10-question Census forms will be mailed to American residents March 15. April 1 is National Census Day, when everyone who has yet to do so is asked to answer the 10 questions and mail the form in the postage-paid envelop provided. Any personal data that is provided is protected under federal law. If you do not return the form, you may receive a visit from a Census taker who will ask you the questions from the form.

The Raleigh Local Census Office is located at 2605 Atlantic Ave. the telephone number is 866-3700. The U.S. Census website is

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Clarence E. Lightner Public Safety Center

There has been a lot of discussion over the proposed Clarence Lightner Public Safety Center. It is my sincere wish that we, as a council, can come to a resolution on this indispensable project. As elected officials, our responsibility and commitment to public safety must always be first and foremost in our minds.

In considering this decision, there are three questions that must be answered. 1) Are new Public Safety facilities needed? 2) Is this the right time to move forward? 3.) Is this the right facility for our public safety needs?

Our city and especially our public safety staff are currently confronted with some pressing needs. Our 911 emergency response center is woefully inadequate and faces serious facility issues. Our police are in a building that was originally built to serve as a city hall and have been “making do” for years in a sub-standard facility. To put more money into a building that would require millions just to bring up to code and is past its ability to serve our needs, is just too short sighted. It is clear new facilities are needed.

As to the timing, some have stated that it is speculative to argue interests’ rates will go up. That is another shortsighted and irresponsible position. While there is no guarantee that interest rates will rise, we did see them tick up last week. We can be very confident they will not go down in the near term. Failure to act now could end up costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars in interest rate costs alone. The County and City recently have seen as much as 30% savings in construction costs. Again, we have no guarantee they will not rise or fall, but we do know they are low now.

As well, it is a mistake to discount the impact 1800 jobs will have on our community at this time. As of December 2009, North Carolina’s unemployment rating was 10.9% who North Carolina pays benefits too. We must remain diligent to take steps that most of those jobs go to our local citizens. Not only would it be meaningful to these 1800 people, but could help alleviate what the state is paying in unemployment benefits each month. It is important for us, as a city, county and state, to work together in recognizing the needs of all of our citizens.

The final question is ‘is this the right facility’. It has been argued that the current location is too valuable to use for a municipal project, and is better off reserved for private investment. This site has a long history of being used for municipal facilities. The key to good public safety is having great people. Telling these 800 plus public servants that the value of real estate is more important than they are is a poor way to achieve that goal. How we treat our public safety staff says a lot about our City.

The site is also next to the main telecom switching station, creating opportunities for synergy in our data center needs and security.

This building will be far and away the safest and most secure building of any owned and operated by the city. Certainly it will be an improvement on those buildings that currently house our public safety functions. Although there should have been a more robust public process, releasing a secure threat assessment to score political points is not how you protect public safety. The possibility of threats, both natural and man- made, raised by that assessment have been addressed by the professionals we hired during the course of the design. We should reconsider utilizing unscreened public spaces, and having a public viewing auditorium for the call center.

The City has already spent millions of dollars and hundreds of hours of staff time in the development of this project with the intention to accommodate the future needs of our public safety departments. Housing all of these departments together in a facility to truly coordinate public safety planning will create significant efficiencies and savings that will benefit taxpayers for years into the future.

Although there are certainly areas that should be adjusted with in this project, going back to square one now will cause more delays, and end up costing taxpayers more money. The police department will be moved out of their current headquarters this month leaving an empty building downtown. The process of undoing all the work done to date, re-evaluating all of the project parameters, including site selection and acquisition, site approvals, programmatic distribution and building another (or 4) designs is short sighted and fiscally irresponsible.

We have to be able to look at the big picture and make decisions that will be the best for Raleigh today, and 30 years from now. We should not make a short term decision for the sake of political expediency. Public Safety is the core function of the City. The best course for the Council to take now is to make adjustments to this current project so it meets our future needs efficiently, and move it forward. . At this point, starting from scratch would be penny wise/ pound foolish, and jeopardize the level of public safety our citizens have come to enjoy.