Mayor Harold Weinbrecht publishes his weekly blog post on his personal blog (mayorweinbrecht.com), sharing his thoughts and updates on local news and events in Cary, NC. The Cary Report, with permission from the town, will be re-publishing the Mayor’s blog as they are posted each Sunday. The following is the latest from Mayor Harold Weinbrecht.
Town Manager One-On-One
Monday afternoon I held my weekly meeting with the town manager. The topics of discussion included council, the runoff election, affordable housing, and upcoming work sessions.
Atlantic Tire Tennis Championships Board Meeting
Monday evening I attended a board meeting of the Atlantic Tire Tennis Championships. We discussed sponsors, future sponsors, and the vision for the tennis center and championships.
Meeting with Candidate
Tuesday I was asked to meet with a council candidate. In the meeting I heard of unfortunate things that were being done to the candidate and her supporters. The meeting only lasted about 15 minutes.
Final CASSI Report
Tuesday I was notified of the final report for Connected Autonomous Shuttle Supporting Innovation (CASSI) pilot in bond park. Here is an excerpt from the press release:
“Cary, NC – The final report, datasets, and a curated data story with findings from the CASSI’s 13-week pilot period is now available and accessible through Cary’s Open Data Portal and on the NCDOT website. The all-electric, wheelchair-accessible, low-speed automated shuttle navigated a four-stop route within Bond Park, operating on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. between March 6 and June 2.
The data provided in Cary’s Open Data Portal were captured by the shuttle’s attendant and computer system and shared by Beep, Inc. (Beep) in weekly reports. To supplement this data, NCDOT created and administered an online rider survey that was accessible through URL and QR codes at the shuttle stops and inside the shuttle during the pilot period. NCDOT, Cary, and Beep also held an in-person engagement event at Bond Park, inviting community members with disabilities and their caregivers to share their feedback about the accessibility of the shuttle and service. These data paint a picture of how automated vehicle technologies might reshape the future of mobility in public spaces and exemplify interagency collaboration and transparency around emerging technologies.
Transparency was a top priority for Cary, NCDOT, and Beep throughout the pilot, not only to support data sharing, but also to incorporate the community into the process and decision making. “CASSI’s success demonstrates Cary’s commitment to inspiring innovation and fostering new ideas for solving challenges for the changing needs of our community,” said Cary’s Chief Innovation Officer Nicole Coughlin. “That means not only collecting data to gather insights but doing it in a way that is transparent and lets our community know the what, why and how we’re doing it, keeping them in mind every step of the way.” In addition to the number of riders, trips, and other operations data provided by Beep, Cary and NCDOT collected metrics on travel patterns, rider experience, perception of safety, trip purpose, and demographics, all factors to consider when evaluating the emerging technology as a public transportation option.
On days when the shuttle was in operation, CASSI carried an average of 3.5 passengers per trip, totaling 1,718 passengers throughout the pilot period. The highest ridership occurred during the week coinciding with Wake County Public Schools’ spring break period, notably on Friday, March 31, when 80 passengers were served – the most on any given day. Findings from the rider survey reflected the community’s strong interest in autonomous transportation and satisfaction with the pilot. 78% of respondents visited Bond Park to ride the shuttle, 92% reported a positive experience with the shuttle, and 97% expressed satisfaction with the shuttle’s attendant. Respondents’ acceptance of driverless vehicles was seen in their willingness to ride the shuttle again (81%) and to see autonomous shuttles in other places in the community (88%).
Through their collaborative efforts on the pilot, Cary and NCDOT showcased the strength of their interagency partnership and advanced their understanding of how autonomous vehicles can be used for public transportation. “The outcomes from this pilot highlight the value of teamwork and data to evaluate how well automated vehicle technology is performing now as transit and inform recommendations on how the technology could be improved to best serve the public,” said NCDOT’s Senior Advisor for Innovation Sarah Searcy. The insights from the final report, datasets, and data story will inform NCDOT and Cary’s future pilots and projects. The findings also provide a snapshot to the public of the current challenges and successes of automated vehicle technology and where it may advance in the future.
To read the report and learn more about the project’s findings, visit Cary’s Open Data Portal. NCDOT’s CASSI project details and history can be found on their CASSI webpage.”
I believe autonomous vehicles will be commonplace within the next couple of decades if not sooner.
Ted Abernathy Presentation on the Economy
Wednesday morning, I joined several hundred people in attending an economic summary presented by Ted Abernathy. Out of all the amazing facts here are some that I noted:
- The nation is currently renormalizing.
- Over 22 million jobs have been recovered since the beginning of the pandemic until now.
- The Feds have raised the fund rate 16 times in the past 16 months.
- North Carolina has seen a 7% increase in jobs since the beginning of the pandemic. North Carolina was 6th in growth.
- North Carolina has seen significant job gains in tech, finance, education, and health. We have seen job losses in manufacturing.
- The Raleigh metro area has also seen significant job gains in construction and manufacturing.
- The Raleigh metro area percentage of job gain since the beginning of the pandemic is 11.4%.
- North Carolina metro areas have seen a job gain of over 34%.
- Cary employment continues to be on a steady increase during the last 10 years.
- The unemployment rate in Cary is at 2.9%, which is the lowest in the area.
- In the last three years NC per capita income has increased 17.8%.
- NC is 5th in the nation for per capita GDP and income growth.
- The savings created during the pandemic have almost all been spent.
- US household debt has decreased from over 100% of GDP to 76.1%.
- The personal savings rate is now at 3.9%.
- US household net work increase from $141,100 in 2022 to $193,000.
- Internet sales are now 15-20% of all retail.
- US food services and bars have almost returned to pre-pandemic levels.
- Manufacturing has seen a significant increase in output resulting in fewer workers.
- US business investment in factories has doubled in the last couple of years.
- Manufacturing job announcements have risen from 100,487 in 2019 to 364,904 in 2022.
- NC has seen a 9.2% increase in manufacturing jobs in the last 10 years.
- NC is #1 for business climate.
- Inflation has decreased to 3.7%.
- Price increases remain high for motor vehicle insurance at 18.9%.
- The availability of skilled labor is still the number one issue.
- The US labor force continues to grow and is at 165,311,000.
- The employment participation rate for 25–54-year-olds is 83.5%, 16–24-year-olds is 56.1%, and over 55 years old is 38.8%.
- More women in the workforce than any time in history at 57.2%.
- The US population growth rate has declined from 3.7 children per family in 1960 to 1.6 children by 2020.
- Birthrate per 1000 is 11.1 in US and 11.4 in NC.
- NC continues to be in the top third of states gaining population.
- NC is predicted to grow population by less than 5% in the next ten years.
- In NC metro areas are growing by over10% while rural areas are losing population.
- The Raleigh-Cary area is projected to grow by 18.3% in the next ten years.
- Cost of living, housing availability, and housing costs are the biggest reasons for relocation.
- People are moving away from urban cores to emerging suburbs and exurbs.
- Single family permits in the Raleigh metro area are declining while apartments in the highest in the state.
- NC ranked #9 for Business Tax Climate.
- The average home price in Raleigh metro area was $298,181 in 2020 and is $435,447 now.
- The annual income needed to afford a median priced house in the US is $115,000.
- Cary permit value has decreased from at high of $409 million in 2016 to $290 million.
- Cary residential permit value is at its lowest point in 10 years at $92 million.
- Cary residential permits in 2023 through July are 163 as compared to Raleigh at 1114. This is the lowest in the last 15 years.
- Cary, through July, has the second lowest rate of new permits of all municipalities in Wake County.
- Properties sold in Cary average $620,252 compared to $392,541 in 2019.
- Cary has the highest single family residential value in the county at $414,899.
- US office vacancy rate is now over 18%.
- The 30-year mortgage rate is now 7.9%.
- The percentage of men with college degrees in the 25 to 29 age group is 33% while women are 43%.
- Life expectancy with a bachelor’s degree is 83.3 years as opposed to 74.8 years without a bachelor’s degree.
- Predicted for 2024: end of excess savings, higher interest rates for home building, OPEC – rising energy costs, and tightening of bank lending.
State of County Message Taping
Thursday afternoon I taped a message as part of Wake County’s State of the County address. The taping took about five minutes. One message was me saying: “We are better together”. The other message was introducing myself and inviting everyone to the opening of the downtown park.
Friday I attended the Veterans Luncheon with council members Jack Smith and Jennifer Robinson. The speaker, Wade Carmichael told an incredible story about PTSD. Here are the remarks he spoke from:
““Why Am I Here?’
These were the first words spoken by my father after sitting in his darkened office, crying for hours.
My mother called me, not knowing what to do. I came as soon as I could. He was still sobbing in the dark.
I entered the room and sat on the floor next to him, waiting for him to speak in his time. It is a hard thing to witness a parent crying, and harder still to sit feeling helpless by their side.
When tears and sobs slowed to silence, my father finally spoke. “Why am I here? So many men, greater than me, died. But I’m still here. Why?
“Dad,” I said, “how old were these men, greater than you? How old were you?”
“I don’t know,” he sniffed, “22 maybe 23.”
“And you,” I asked.
“19, 20, why?” he replied.
“Dad, you were all boys still,” I turned to face him in the dim light, “none of you had lived long enough to be great men.”
It was the 50th anniversary of VJ Day, and that PTSD that he had begrudged my generation of whining about, because his generation never did that. “We just sucked it up and kept going.” His crisis struck on that day, 50 years after his war.
“But they…” my father then revealed the dark stories of his service as a Marine in the South Pacific. Tales of being one of three in a company able to walk out of a battle. And I, in that exchange opened some of my dark memories of Vietnam. He had counseled me to test out for a non-combat specialty when my turn came. I did and became a Personnel Accounting Specialist. But we are speaking about the military, and when the feces hit the atmospheric oscillator, I found myself deep in that war.
As we shared, our relationship changed from father and son to one of Brothers-at-Arms. We talked until the words ran out with our energy.
After a long pause my father said, “So, what am I supposed to do? I’m still here and they are all gone. Why?”
It was my turn to think about that question. Why was I still here? In the quiet of that small dark room, an answer came. “Dad, I think, no I believe, our duty, our obligation, is to live the life for which they gave theirs. To live a life worthy of their sacrifice.”
My message here today, for all of us, is to look forward and to live our lives, enjoy our freedoms, in a manner that makes their sacrifice worth the weight of their blood.
What a very powerful and inspiring message. He is right! Our challenge IS to live our lives in a manner that makes their sacrifices worth the weight of their blood!
Town Manager’s Report
Earlier today I had the privilege – and pleasure – of discussing Cary with High Point University President Dr. Nido Qubein for his show, “Side by Side”, that airs statewide on PBSNC. Dr. Qubein is quite a fan of Cary, and we spent our time together exploring some of the elements that have made Cary so successful over the decades.
I’m so proud to be Cary’s Manager and appreciate the opportunity to help change the face of and feelings about local governments by sharing Cary’s story with a wide audience. I will pass along the air date once it’s set.
I look forward to seeing you all next Thursday at the Quarterly Meeting. There will not be a Council Weekly Report next Friday because you will be updated on anything timely at the meeting.
Enjoy your weekend.
Cary Supports Key Non-Profit Partners
This week, staff joined Councilmembers at events to support two key non-profit organizations doing critical work in Cary. On Saturday, Councilmember Lori Bush, Councilmember Carissa Kohn-Johnson, and Councilmember-Elect Michelle Craig supported The Carying Place at the 30th Anniversary Masquerade Ball. The Carying Place is Cary’s partner in providing housing and supportive services for working families experiencing housing instability.
On Thursday, Councilmember Jennifer Robinson, Councilmember Carissa Kohn-Johnson, and Councilmember Ryan Eades attended the Dorcas Ministries Day of Thanksgiving Breakfast to celebrate the organization’s impact on Cary and our region. The event honored the legacy of the late Howard Manning, Dorcas founder, and raised funds to grow their capacity to service residents.
North Walker Street Update
Contractors will be repaving and repairing North Walker Street from Cedar Street to East Chatham Street. North Walker Street will be closed starting Wednesday, November 8, at 9:00 p.m. and reopened on Friday, November 10, at 5:00 p.m. Drivers are encouraged to use South Academy Street to bypass the work area. Businesses will remain open and can be accessed by driveways on Cedar Street and East Chatham Street.
Preparing the Downtown Park
This week, the Downtown Cary Park hosted four, 2-hour sessions where around 70 Cary employees and neighbors of all ages were invited to test out the Park and provide feedback on their individual experience. The testers were given a checklist of specific items they had to complete while onsite to ensure the park is ready to receive visitors later this month. Testers provided an evaluation at the end of their session, and staff will assess and use this feedback to further ready the Park for opening.
Last Wednesday, Mummies and sons wore their best Halloween costumes and participated in the Mummy & Son Ball. Over 100 ghosts, goblins, LEGO characters, and every spooky character in between enjoyed a night of Halloween fun! This spooktacular night included Halloween games, a costume contest, the Monster Mash Dance, and ended with roasting a yummy marshmallow ghost treat!
Then, on Friday and Saturday, Cary Teen Council and the Outdoor Recreation led a pop-up haunted forest event which served as a community service project and fundraiser for Cary Teen Council. The forest featured 10 interactive spooky scenes spread through the teambuilding course. Over the two nights, several hundred people participated and raised over $2,500 for Cary Teen Council. The teens also hit their food donation goal by filling a wooden coffin with donations for Dorcas.
Also, on Friday, the unique Pumpkin Flotilla returned to Bond Lake! Citizens bring their carved pumpkins to the Boathouse, where they are attached to platforms to float on the lake. Once dusk hits the pumpkins are illuminated and paddled around the lake shore for spectators to see. Around 2,000 people attended the event.
2023 NC One Water Awards
Cary received a number of accolades this week at the 2023 NC One Water Conference. Cary was recognized as Water Distribution System of the Year for the sixth consecutive year, and as Wastewater Collection System of the Year for the fifth consecutive year. Other awards included 2nd place in the Best Tasting Water Contest and the South Cary Water Reclamation Facility’s recognition for Wastewater Treatment Plant Operations and Maintenance Excellence Award. Individual recognitions were made to Betsy Drake for the Water Environment Federation’s (WEF) Arthur Sidney Bedell Award for extraordinary personal service to NC One Water, and to Jason Parker for the Water Environment Federation’s (WEF), Laboratory Analyst Excellence Award.
Making Energy Work Conference
Energy Manager, Sara Caliendo, represented Cary at the NC Sustainable Energy Association’s Making Energy Work conference this week. Stakeholders from across the country engaged in thought-provoking discussions on state and federal policies and regulatory updates to outline potential carbon reduction pathways for electricity, transportation, and building sectors. Most notably, Governor Roy Cooper’s keynote speech gave an inspiring call to action for North Carolina’s clean energy economy and industry, including mentioning new green companies coming to the region.
Maintenance Work Continues at the Downtown Library Parking Deck
As part of the continuing maintenance work at the library parking deck, crews will be working in and around the deck daily beginning on Monday. Crews will continue to refurbish parking levels throughout with additional caulk, epoxy, and seal joints. Appropriate signage will be placed around the deck to let visitors know of closure patterns, and staff has and will continue to meet with surrounding tenants/users as maintenance continues on this and other levels in advance of the Downtown Cary Park opening.
And on Monday, contractors will begin the first phase of access gate installation for the Library Parking Deck. This phase is only for the installation of the gate infrastructure, which includes concrete medians, detection loops, and conduit. This work will require intermittent closure of each access but at least one entrance will remain open at all times. Dedicated traffic control staff will be at each entrance and signs will be in place to assist motorists with wayfinding during closures. Notifications have been distributed to the tenants of One Walker and the library. Work will take place each day from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. For more information about this work including when gates may be activated please visit our website.
Fire Prevention Month Events
Fire wrapped up Fire Prevention Month with a smoke alarm drive Saturday in selected neighborhoods in Fire Station 9’s district. Fire crews and Cary CERT volunteers visited 453 homes and installed 192 smoke alarms. Combination smoke/carbon monoxide alarms were provided for this event through a federal grant. On Sunday, all nine fire stations opened their doors for open houses to let the public meet the firefighters, see the stations where they live and work for 24 hours at a time, and check out the top-notch equipment used to keep Cary safe.
October was Cyber Security Awareness Month
October has been a month of heightened cybersecurity awareness as Cary recognized Cyber Security Awareness Month with a comprehensive campaign aimed at educating and equipping town staff against various digital threats. Throughout the month, employees were treated to a series of informative emails and short videos, delving into four critical cybersecurity topics of data protection, ransomware, social media and AI, and phishing. In addition two webinars were held. Topics for the webinars included insights into cyberattacks and vulnerabilities, and responsible AI and security.
Keeping Our Colleagues and Community Safe and Informed
Cary continues to promote a safe and healthy community by hosting flu shot clinics at multiple Cary locations with our partners at WakeMed. More than 207 employees received this annual vaccination through the clinic. Earlier in October, HR conducted fit testing and training for 81 Public Safety and Utilities employees under our Respiratory Protection program and audiograms for 240 Public Works Department employees enrolled in Cary’s Hearing Conversation program. These safety initiatives help ensure protection for employees that encounter airborne contaminants or noise exposure in their jobs. Lastly, HR also hosted a multitude of virtual financial wellness seminars throughout September, attended by 125 employees who gained new insights and practical tips on a variety of essential fiscal topics including Social Security 101 with the SSA; Retirement Planning with VOYA and Pre-Retirement Planning with LGERS; Navigating Medicare with HUB; and Financial Wellness 101 Training Series with Civic Federal Credit Union.
Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Advisory Board
Monday, November 6 5:15 p.m.
Information Services Advisory Board
Monday, November 6 6:00 p.m.
Historic Preservation Commission
Wednesday, November 8 6:30 p.m.
Quarterly Council Meeting
Thursday, November 9 1:00 p.m.
Thursday, November 9 6:00 p.m.
- A concern about the safety at synagogues, mosques, and houses of worship because of the war in Israel.
- A complaint about a rezoning request at O’Kelly Chapel Road and Highway 55.
- Thank you for doing a good job. (You’re welcome!)
- Several complaints about the potential shooter near a daycare.
- A complaint about safety with Cary Elementary crosswalks.
Next week’s activities include staff meetings, a meeting with a NC Senator, a meeting with a marketing consultant, and the council’s last quarterly meeting of the year.
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, November 12th, 2023. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communication with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to email@example.com.