Cary, NC — This was a holiday week so there were very few meetings.
Monday – Discussing Budget & Black Lives Matter
Monday I had a one-on-one meeting with the town manager. We talked about the budget which took effect on July 1st. Due to some last-minute scrambling by council members this year we agreed an extra work session would be beneficial with next year’s budget process. We also talked about progress on the Mayors Pledge I took a few weeks ago. Other topics included youth and the BLM movement.
A Quiet Fourth of July
Saturday was July 4th. There were no town fireworks or celebrations because of COVID-19. However, there were fireworks in neighborhoods. At least that was the case in my area (the last one went off about 3:30 AM). This was a sad time spent reflecting on everything that is going on around us. I look forward to one day celebrating our country’s freedom in grand style.
COVID-19 Stats Surge in NC, Cary Remains Comparatively Low
COVID-19 numbers were at their highest level since the pandemic began in North Carolina this week. As of July 2nd, Cary had a total of 457 cases (up 5 in the last 24 hours). At 2.66 cases per 1000 population, Cary has the 3rd lowest case rating among the 12 municipalities in Wake County.
By zip code on May 1, June 18, June 25, July 2
27511 — 18 cases, 0 deaths; 88 cases, 2 deaths; 120 cases, 2 deaths; 142 cases, 2 deaths
27513 — 25 cases, 0 deaths; 87 cases, 1 death; 118 cases, 1 death; 144 cases, 1 death
27518 — 12 cases, 0 deaths; 34 cases, 0 deaths; 40 cases, 0 deaths; 54 cases, 0 deaths
27519 — 31 cases, 1 death; 63 cases, 2 deaths; 111 cases, 2 deaths; 137 cases, 2 deaths
Total — 86 cases, 1 death; 272 cases, 5 deaths; 389 cases, 5 deaths; 477 cases, 5 deaths
It is imperative that we continue to be vigilant with our social distancing, hand washing, and covering our faces.
There have been a lot of questions about penalties for not wearing face coverings.
Here is information our attorneys shared via the School of Government:
- Under Executive Order 147 (EO), individuals cannot be criminally charged (therefore there is no penalty) for not wearing a face covering;
- The Order holds businesses responsible for insuring patrons wear face coverings, where physical (social) distancing of 6 feet is not possible (1st loophole);
- There are 11 exceptions that enable a person to ignore the face covering requirement altogether (2nd thru 12th loophole);
- When an exception is invoked by a patron, there is no requirement for an individual to prove the exception.
- Businesses must accept the exception on its face, without question (ultimate loophole);
- Law enforcement may cite the business for non-compliance with the EO. No charging language has been provided by the district attorney and we believe any charge of a business would be made on a case by case basis;
- It is unlikely a business would be charged because a person is occupying that business and not wearing a face covering. It is more likely a business might be charged if they are blatantly ignoring the face covering requirement altogether and especially if some outbreak occurs from that business, and
- A business can trespass a patron for not wearing a mask. In that case, law enforcement would enforce the trespass laws. While the enforcement action would be the trespass, the nexus of the trespass would be face coverings.
There are 5 pages of EO 147 FAQs dedicated to face coverings on the North Carolina website. If a business was cited for failing to comply with the EO, it is a Class 2 misdemeanor citation. Generally, from a policing standpoint, no one really likes the current EO face covering framework, as it is nearly impossible to enforce and places police officers in yet another untenable position in the public. So, it is up to all of us to keep each other safe. The more we ignore guidelines the more the virus spreads, lives are lost, and businesses suffer.
Town Manager Discusses Facial Recognition Software
We also received a concern about the town using facial recognition software. Here is the town manager’s response:
“Hello. Mayor Weinbrecht asked me to contact you for further follow-up. Let me begin by stating that I certainly appreciate you sending this email. As Town Manager in Cary and throughout my career I have considered oversight of police departments to be one of the most important functions of my position. As such, for some time I have had reservations about the application of this technology. I have not approved the deployment of facial recognition software or technology, nor has the Town Council approved funding for such.
Furthermore, if we were interested in doing as such sometime in the future (which seems very remote at this juncture) it would only be done with a budget authorization and the associated public input and discussion by the community and Town Council. Finally, the Cary Police Department was built upon the concept of community policing, it is a very different type of department as compared to our larger urban counterparts. In my view, the available facial recognition technology is not consistent with community policing practices and procedures.
I really appreciate the inquiry and your interest in this matter. If you would like additional information or would like to discuss any other matter related to the Town of Cary please do not hesitate to reach out. Thank you!
Sean R. Stegall
Bottom line, facial recognition software is not going to be used in Cary.
Concerns on Land Surrounding New Cary Library
There were a couple of questions about the unkept area fenced in around the new library. Here is staff’s response:
“… The construction fencing around the parking deck and the future downtown park was installed at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic which impacted both operations and timing. Within this fenced area will be both a private mixed-use development project around the parking deck and a regional stormwater project in the park area, which will later get converted into a feature of the DT Park.
Construction within this fenced area for the private development will begin in a couple weeks but as you have noted the grass is high and several limbs have fallen due to storms so we will do some clean-up in this area before the site completely becomes a construction area. Additionally, screening will go on the construction fence in the near future, much like was up during the construction process of the library and parking deck. We anticipate construction of the DT Park to begin in 2021. …”
Public Works Statement on Mowing Cary’s Medians
There have also been a few complaints about mowing in medians. Here is the Public Works Director’s response:
“… It pains me to read your e-mail, and it pains me more to say we know, and unfortunately, agree. This COVID-19 pandemic has created challenges unlike those that we have ever seen. So many services in Public Works, and others around town, have been drastically impacted.
Our roadside and median maintenance, once a signature and staple service of our community, is no different.
Prior to this pandemic, we went out each day with four crews of four staff members, beautifying our streets. Unfortunately, beginning March 16, that came to a screeching halt. The Town went into operating only our core essential services… police, fire, water, sewer and sanitation.
In early April, thick into the growing season, we knew we had to get the grass cut on our medians, so we operated at a 25% capacity. Our main goal…..keep people home, and keep people safe. We began operating at a “one person per truck” model. As you can imagine, and as you can now see, the intervals to get to medians was delayed, and certainly, the quality suffered. We were, and still are, just mowing grass. We are not edging, blowing, mulching or weeding, as you mentioned.
Having said all of that, beginning next week we will move to a “two-person per truck” operation. While not ideal, it is a start to getting these streets looking the way we want them. The Town takes so much pride in our median and roadside maintenance, and we commit to doing everything in our power, still working through the constrains of this pandemic, to get them back looking the way you and I both expect.
Thanks much for reaching out. Should you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to call or write.
Stay safe and stay well.
Scott A. Hecht
Public Works Director”
While our Public Works Department might not be operating at 100% capacity, they are doing amazing work, especially with curbside pickup. We have exceeded our neighboring municipalities by continuing to collect yard waste, waste, and recycling throughout the pandemic. These workers are just a few of the true heroes we have working at the Town of Cary. God bless them all!
Get in Touch
Other emails this week included:
- A request to reform our police department. After providing information about what the mayor, administration, and our police department are doing, the response was: “So the criminals on our police force will continue to be rewarded and awarded. I hope you, your staff, and all of your mothers are proud.” This was followed by insults and name-calling that I can’t print.
- A request to put graffiti in pedestrian tunnels for BLM.
- A complaint about people wanting to remove monuments.
- Support for our police.
- A request to fully fund police (we always do and always will).
- A request for me to “stand up to the mob” that will be coming to Cary to protest.
- A complaint that I am not doing enough to make people wear face masks (see above).
- Several complaints that face masks should be voluntary.
- A complaint about a confederate flag being flown in someone’s yard (while it is offensive it is covered by the first amendment).
- A complaint about youth sports being canceled by Cary.
- A request to allow youth to do more with climate control (yes please).
It was so disappointing to get so many complaints and divisive emails on July 4th week. This was the week where we should be celebrating our unity and freedom. This was the week we should have reflected and looked for ways to love and respect each other not find ways to complain and hate.
There are no meetings on my calendar next week. This is the first time I can remember that happening in my 12 1/2 years as mayor.
Well, that is all for this week. My next post will be on Sunday, July 12th. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts those are not the best means of communicating with me. Please send all Town of Cary questions or comments to Harold.Weinbrecht@townofcary.org and email personal comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.