The Partisan Town Council – An Unnecessary Instant Chasm

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One man’s transparency is another man’s chasm.

North Carolina Senate Bill 94 (of session 2017) proposes to add transparency to municipal elections by requiring them to be conducted on a partisan basis (§ 163-279). While this bill sounds great, because “transparency” sounds like a good thing, there are three good reasons why forming this instant chasm is a bad idea.

Potholes are party agnostic. What are the most important issues facing many growing towns? Keeping the crime rate low. Managing increased traffic flow. Ensuring an adequate supply of clean water and sewer capacity. Providing recreation spaces and programs. Fixing potholes.

Funding these things is a core service of any municipality and none of them are partisan issues. If you are skeptical, check the party planks for your state. Lots of bullets related to family, fairness, faith, equality, limited government, education, healthcare, environment, economy, constitutions, etc.

These are all great issues for discussion, but are macro-environmental principles. They don’t address the question of “how does my 10-year-old walk safely to school”, “can I play an indoor sport with people my own age?” or “who’s going to fix that pothole at the entrance to my neighborhood?”

The answers to these questions are not pulled out of partisan platforms, but culled from common crises. We realize we all have the same basic problems, we all come together and we solve them together. Because potholes are party agnostic.

Non-partisanship begins with commonality. When municipal elected officials wear party labels, an initial separation is formed, unnecessarily. Instead of acknowledging that we have 90% or more in common, we would begin with an instant gap to overcome… or not, since it’s rare for people to move that far in order to find common ground.

But when we start with no labels… when we know that the person sitting next to us is a husband or wife, mom or dad like us… when we realize they take their garbage and recycle bins out to the street once a week just like us… when we look at the council member beside us as another beautiful creation of a loving God… that’s when we start the conversation with the foundation of the assumption of an imminent resolution.

That is, we expect to find a solution together. Because non-partisanship begins with commonality.

Solving local problems involves choosing the best person, not the best partisan. Anybody can play to the party base to get them angry about some non-local issue. It’s not that difficult — you throw out some “raw meat” topics, and you convince them to run vote for the candidate in your own party.

But negative campaigning doesn’t translate well to good future governing. And partisan macro issues don’t translate to addressing the problems in front of us daily.

The best local government is the one comprised of smart, thoughtful problem-solvers who can work well with others, in a team environment. Solving local problems involves choosing the best person, not the best partisan.

When we need a land developer or a new school construction project to add a sidewalk, a pedestrian crossing, a stop light or a new turn lane, it matters “zero” whether we agree on gun legislations, bathroom usage, universal healthcare or standing for the national anthem and the flag.

Instead, we have a simpler problem because, in municipal matters, we generally want the same thing: safety, quality of life, jobs and freedom. We achieve this when we can shed party labels long enough to row the boat together, pulling the oars in the same direction, to reach our intended destination.

Senate Bill 94 calls “partisan” municipal elections “transparent”, but I call them divisive. An unnecessary instant chasm.

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Hurricane Irma Preparedness

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Hurricane Harvey hit Houston hard. It made me remember Matthew from 2016.

Matthew dumped 6″ of rain on Apex, flooding parts of Highway 55, Richardson Road, and other lower areas.

Winds snapped tree limbs and caused temporary power outages.

The Town of Apex electricity, or as I like to call it, Peak Power, was brought back into service within 24 hours, while the Duke-served neighborhood of Beckett Crossing was down for almost a week.

Hurricane Irma is battering Florida now, heading up into the Carolinas, much like Matthew did last year.

I know Apex is ready for whatever hits us. We have the Emergency Operations Center ready in case we need to scramble service men and women to provide aid and repairs.

If your power blinks and comes back on, that is achieved by the upgraded re-closers that we added to the transformers. They automatically try to repair a circuit break without human intervention.

If the re-closers can’t do the job, the outage is seen by our smart power system and we will roll a truck and crew out to make repairs.

If you have a non-emergency problem you wish to report, you can download the Apex Outage app from the iTunes or Google stores. Obviously, for emergencies you can dial 911.

Make plans now to be out of power for a few days and you won’t regret it later if it happens.

Go ahead and fill up some plastic bottles with delicious Apex tap water and tuck them away in the back of your pantry and in your refrigerator for cold mass to help keep food cold while the fridge isn’t running.

For the same reason, dump your ice trays into ziplock freezer bags and put them back into the freezer.

Go ahead and wash and dry clothes while you have power. Especially your whites.

And for goodness sake, take a shower shortly before the storm arrives in case something compromises the water supply and you don’t have the opportunity to get a good shower for a while.

Test your flashlight batteries, charge up your cell phones and laptops.

For those of you, like me, who are in the habit of coffee in the morning, cold brew a batch of coffee in case you need a caffeine fix. Cold brewed coffee can last a week in the fridge because the process extracts less acid from the beans.

In case you want to learn how to cold brew your coffee, I’ll leave a helpful link here in the show notes at https://apexroundup.com/007/.

For heavy rains and strong winds, move yard items up close to the safety of your house. Your foundation is usually higher ground on your lot and the house can act as a wind block to keep your items from leaving your yard.

Obviously, you want to have food in the pantry that you can eat without cooking, but you may also wish to put gas in your gas tank (hint: go very early in the morning) and cash in your wallet.

If you live near any elderly folks, check to see if they need anything.

When you’re all done, you can binge on Netflix and DVR shows, knowing that you got your fix if the power does go out.

Stay safe, everyone!

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Whirlwind Weekend to Nashville

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Three months ago I discovered that the British soccer team that I follow, Tottenham Hotspur, was planning a tour in the US, hitting the cities of Orlando, New York and Nashville. I asked my lovely wife, Cheryl, who plays soccer and follows the rival team called Arsenal, if she would like to go on a road trip in July to see the Spurs play Manchester City in Nashville.

So we got tickets with a block of other Spurs fans in North Carolina and planned our trip.

We drove to Music City via Boone, gazing at the great Blue Ridge Mountains as we made the ride through the US 321 pass. The 500-mile each way trip gave us the opportunity to spend some time together, even though I was listening to podcasts and music while she read, we got to spend quality time together.

On Friday, we drove into Tennessee, through Johnson City and Knoxville, to have lunch a cute little diner in the town of Monterey, where I saw a caboose parked next to their train depot building. Very similar to Apex’s caboose. I’ll post a photo on the show notes page: apexroundup.com/004

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Friday night, we sat together, listening to guitar-playing musicians rotate through the stage at the Belcourt Taps in the heart of Nashville. Their musical talent was amazing, but then, this is Nashville, so it’s to be expected that there is no shortage of musical talent in the city.

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Saturday we walked the downtown, along Broadway, and even bought ourselves some boots from one of the many specialty stores in the city center.

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Saturday afternoon, we made our way across the long pedestrian bridge over the Cumberland River towards the Nissan Stadium, where the NFL Tennessee Titans play.

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There were 56,000 people there to see these two British teams battle it out in the late afternoon heat of Tennessee.

Now, let me tell you just how much of a trooper my wife is. As I mentioned, she plays soccer, and one of her teams is called Arsenal. As it turns out, and most of you, I’m sure, don’t know this, but Arsenal and Tottenham, my team, are hated rivals as, not only are they both based in the London metropolitan area, but they are both in North London. In fact, when they play each other, it’s affectionately called “The North London Derby” (don’t ask me why it’s pronounced darby when it’s spelled derby). But she went with me on this weekend to see my Spurs play, and she even wore one of my jerseys. What a team player!

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Sitting in the late afternoon sun, it’s great to hear the fan chants going in a way that is so classically European football. And even though we had a couple of overly inebriated guys near us, one of whom spent the entire second half trying not to pass out, while repeating the same rude ugly phrase at one of the players, we were surrounded by Spurs fans who chanted, sang and cheered their team to the end of a disappointing loss to Manchester City.

On the return trip, we drove over the mountain pass, down into the river town of Chattanooga, then west into the Cherokee National Forest of North Carolina. We stopped briefly in the western-most town of Murphy, NC, which, in some ways, is similar to Apex; most notably that it sits on top of a ridge between two small river basins. Apex does this, straddling the high spots between the Cape Fear Basin and the Neuse Basin.

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We had lunch in the historic village-town of Cherokee, North Carolina, which boasts a couple of small casinos and a heritage of the Cherokee Indians. The rest of the drive home was a time to recap the whirlwind weekend and cherish our time together. As we pulled into the driveway, a bit road-weary, but happy, I looked at my wife and thought about how blessed I have been this past weekend, to spend time with the one I love.

2017 Apex Town Council Retreat

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For the past several months the Town of Apex staff have been feeding the town manager data so he could present his first draft of the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for the fiscal year 2017-2018, which begins in July 2017. Last month, our town manager, Drew Havens, handed each of the council members his first draft of this big-spending planning document so we could review the contents and plan for the annual retreat.

Earlier today (March 3, 2017), the council met in the training room of the Apex Police Station on Saunders Street for our all-day retreat to learn, discuss, decide and guide the staff. The summarized agenda included the following items:

  • Development Statistics, presented by Dianne Khin, Planning Director.
  • Construction Statistics, presented by David Hughes.Asst. Town Manager.
  • Financial Update, presented by Vance Holleman, Finance Director.
  • Capital Improvement Plan, presented by Amanda Grogan, Budget & Management Analyst.
  • CIP Ranking Results and Analysis, discussion led by Lance Olive, Mayor.
  • Non-CIP Initiatives and Priorities, exercise led by Lance Olive.
  • General Obligation (GO) Bond Basics, presented by Vance Holleman.
  • GO Bond Practical Discussion, discussion led by Lance Olive,
  • Master Subdivision Plan Legal Review, presented by Laurie Hohe, Town Attorney
  • Master Subdivision Plan Planning Review, presented by Dianne Khin.

During the first presentation, Dianne Khin told us how our population is currently 48,500, and we expect to reach 89,392 by the year 2030. This expects a growth rate between 4 and 5% percent, and this is consistent with predictions that we’ve been making for the last few years. The year 2013 was the beginning of a noticeable increase in rezoning requests, development and plat submissions, with non-residential and construction plan submissions trailing a year behind. The ratio of single family homes to town homes is about 5.4 to 1 and new business startups have been fairly consistent over the past five years, ranging from 70 to 100 per year.

David Hughes then followed with construction data, showing us how residential construction permits have surged since last July, which didn’t surprise anyone in the room. With commercial permits, we’ve seen a smaller number of permits, but a higher total valuation, implying a strong base is being built for non-residential tax revenue and jobs. Permit fee revenue is up strong this year, compared to last year, and we’re arguably the hottest market in the county.

In the third presentation, Vance Holleman showed us that our actual revenues and expenditures and solid when compared to the working budget. We looked at the General Fund, the Electric Fund, and the Water/Sewer Fund. We then reviewed our current debt service, which is around 7.5% of budget, and debt capacity, which is about 20% of our policy maximum. We have a sound budget with room to take on additional debt to cover expensive projects, if we deem it necessary.

After a brief break, our new budget analyst, Amanda Grogan, reminded us that the CIP is the 1 to 5 year plan for spending on “big ticket” capital projects. While we’re currently working through the 2016-2017 year CIP items, we spent the last few weeks reviewing the draft 2017-2018 CIP, which contains projects that fall into the following seven categories:

  • Transportation
  • Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources
  • Public Safety
  • Public Works & Environmental Services
  • Public Facilities
  • Electric
  • Water & Sewer

The council members individually ranked the entire list of 35 CIP projects and turned in a set of cards, showing their preferences. Amanda ordered them by average ranking and grouped them by standard deviation so we can see the groupings. The result was four sets of priorities, broken down into quartiles. Council negotiated a few minor adjustments and accepted this as their group set of priorities.

After a foreshortened lunch break, we reviewed the list of non-CIP issues, staff put them up on large flip charts and voted using dots so the staff could get a sense of the most important pursuits.


Vance Holleman then walked us through what would be required in order to pursue a possible tax increase to support a general obligation bond to fund Parks & Recreation projects. Each $10 million that we need would “cost” about 1 cent per $100 of property valuation. In the end, we gave staff general direction to assign the scope to be the list of parks and recreation projects that total about $30 million, and hold onto the other $20 million of needs for another referendum.

Lastly, Laurie Hohe and Dianne Khin spoke with council about making master subdivision plans a properly administrative effort, rather than a judicial one decided by council. We mostly accepted the modifications of the UDO in order to establish objective criteria against which an administrative body, such as the planning board, can make approvals of MSPs, allowing council to focus on larger issues.

We departed having accomplished all the planned goals for the day: learn, discuss, decide and guide.

Apex Music Festival 2016 A Great Success – Septmber 19, 2016

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“The Apex Music Festival 2016 provided a wonderful weekend activity for many who live in the Triangle, and produced some of the best music in the state. Besides being an event that appealed to music lovers all over, this and other town festivals contribute to the superior quality of life that has propelled Apex to be named as the The Best Place to Live in America.”


Lance Olive, Mayor

Apex, NC

Challenges for 2016, A Year After Being Named #1

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Demand for homes in Apex has become very strong — annual population growth for 2016 may exceed 8% by year’s end and stay strong for 2-4 more years. So what are we doing in response?

We just hired a new plans examiner just to keep from getting further behind processing the sudden wave of construction permit applications. Apex will need to manage growth more closely than ever. Quality of life is a critical element of Apex livability and we are working hard as a team to ensure we don’t lose it.

To that end, we are focused on 1) minimizing traffic impacts, 2) ensuring business balance and 3) preserving nature. The Peakway extension, Olive Chapel / Kelly Rd intersection and TIAs for new development address traffic impacts. The 2030 Land Use Amendments and Economic Development pursuits address business. Tree City USA planning, funding parks and extending greenways address our commitment to nature.

And finally, our downtown is our crown jewel, so we will continue to invest to keep and preserve it, hosting events and festivals there, while supporting our unique small-town character businesses.

As more people decide they, too, want to live in Apex, your local government is working hard to manage the demands that come with being the #1 Best Place to Live in America for the past twelve months. Thank you for allowing us to serve you. We continue to welcome and value your inputs.

It’s best at The Peak!


Lance Olive, Mayor

Peak City Pig Fest 2016 – June 20, 2016

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“The Peak City Pig Fest 2016 provided a wonderful weekend activity for many who live in the Triangle, and produced some of the best barbecue pork in the southeast. Besides being a fundraiser that ultimately benefits the community, this and other town festivals contribute to the superior quality of life that has propelled Apex to be named as the The Best Place to Live in America.”

Lance Olive, Mayor
Apex, NC