Sunday, October 22, 2017

Packed agenda for Board's last meeting before election day

Davidson's Board meets on Tuesday, and there is a lot on the agenda.

At the 4pm work session, Commissioners will here about the CMS bonds.  North Mecklenburg is getting very little out of this mega round of school bonds.  The Lake Norman Chamber, Cornelius, and Huntersville have given their official thumbs down on this package.

At the 6pm work session there will be multiple updates on controversial projects.

Commissioners will hear an update on the Potts-Sloan-Beaty Connector.  See here for the presentation.  The presentation appears to be an explanation of how the Town got to this point.  It does not appear to be covering the equally controversial piece of work at the south end of Potts Street at the intersection with NC115 which is being treated as a separate project by NCDOT.  To be honest the presentation reads like the standard update that comes from Town Hall once people know what a project is actually going to mean.  It is the update where the Town says "we've been planning this for years, so concerns are a bit too late.  Sorry.  You should have been paying more attention all along."

The second controversial project on the docket Tuesday evening is another update on the Griffith Street hotel.  It looks like there is new set of parking plans and an updated landscaping plan.  See here for the documents.  Readers will remember that the vote on this conditional use was postponed from the October 10th meeting supposedly due to the developer requesting more time for its landscaping plan.  What wasn't mentioned until it was a surprise addition to the agenda at the last meeting was a $20,000 budget amendment by the Town to also add buffer behind Woodies.  The Town had been trying to get the Hotel developer to take care of the Woodies buffer as a condition of approval for its project.  However, that $20,000 taxpayer funded budget amendment is looking more and more like a concession to the developer than the other way around.

This is the last Board meeting prior to the election, and it doesn't appear anything has changed with how this administration approaches issues.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Save Davidson to hold SHINE3 at D9 Brewery Sunday at 530pm

If you've missed the first two SHINE events put on by Save Davidson, you have a chance to get in on the next one Sunday evening at the D9 Brewery.

SHINE, or Sharing Helpful Information Now w/ Everyone, is an opportunity to meet with fellow activists and take communication that often occurs on social media into the real world.

Here are the topics that will be covered.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

You can and should vote "NO" on Davidson GO Bonds...here's why

While the all important municipal elections this cycle are sucking up all the oxygen, let's not forget that Davidson voters will also be deciding on the town's first ever General Obligation (GO) Bonds when they go to the polls.

These bonds total $15 million in new spending divided into three separate ballot questions.  Important to note, these Davidson Bonds are separate from the CMS Bonds that are also on the ballot.


The Davidson bonds are divided into the below categories.


These bonds, if passed, would likely be issued on the proposed schedule below.


So, should you the voter vote yes or no on this spending?

Here at aShortChronicle the answer to that question is a resounding "NO"!!!

The reason for that answer is simple, take a look at the dates in the second picture.  The first of these bonds aren't planned to be issued until 2019.  A big part of the reason for that is answered by how Davidson is planning to pay for these bonds as well as the new Town Hall.  Davidson is planning to use the money from the 2019 property revaluation to raise everyone's tax bill by 25% to pay for all of these projects.

There is no reason to approve these bonds in 2017 if they aren't even scheduled to be spent until 2019 and beyond.

All of these decisions are linked together and voters need to treat them as such.  This election is primarily about restoring trust in Davidson Town Hall.  Under this Board and Town Administration trust has been falling fast due to this group's flawed decision making. However, until the election day results are known, one has to assume some or maybe all incumbents will be re-elected.  People can and should work hard to ensure at least a new majority is put on the Board.  If that doesn't happen though, do you want to give this current group $15 million of your money to play with?

Why on earth would anyone vote to give this Davidson Town Hall more money to spend when they have proven they can not be trusted with the responsibility they already have?

The good news is this.  Voting "no" in 2017 does not mean any worthy projects on this list won't get built and in most cases they might not even be delayed. If a new Board is elected on November 7th that you trust, the new Board can put Bonds back on the Ballot in 2018.  At worst, some of the 2019 projects might be delayed a bit.  That would also provide the opportunity for the citizens to have some real input into what projects are funded.

So, to be very, very clear, this recommendation is not about opposing spending on parks or greenways or other things voters may want.  This is about first ensuring Davidson elects people who can be trusted to spend the money wisely on those things based on the people decide.

So, get ready to head to the polls and vote for a new set of elected officials but vote against the Davidson Bonds.

TOD PRESS RELEASE - Bridge Demolition at Exit 30  10/19-11/3  Expect Overnight Detours 

I-77 Mobility Partners and Sugar Creek Construction have issued a traffic advisory and detour maps to educate motorists about upcoming traffic shifts and overnight detours on I-77 at Exit 30. Work will occur overnight from Thursday, October 19 from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. through Friday, October 20 from 10:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m., weather permitting.

For more details, please view their traffic advisory here: http://www.townofdavidson.org/DocumentCenter/View/8290 

For a map of the northbound detour, please click here: http://www.townofdavidson.org/DocumentCenter/View/7868 

For a map of the southbound detour, please click here:
http://www.townofdavidson.org/DocumentCenter/View/7869 

We encourage people to sign up for I-77 Mobility Partners’ lane closure and traffic advisory information at http://www.i77express.com/newsroom/newsletter-e-alerts/ 

Work will continue for the next two weeks (through November 3) at night from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. Please proceed with caution during this construction process.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Tuesday saw some big Davidson election news

With early voting set to begin at Cornelius Town Hall on Saturday October 28th, it is now officially crunch time in election season and Davidson saw some serious action on Tuesday.

Save Davidson made two major announcements.

The first announcement brieflt floated on the group's Facebook page was its formation as a 501c(4) non-profit.  This designation with the IRS alows the group to operate as a tax exempt organization.  However, donations are not tax deductable.

501(c)4 groups are called "social wellfare" organizations intended to promote certain social causes.  Unlike 501(c)3 groups however, this designation allows political activity in support of promoting the group's social wellfare goals.

Hours after the 501(c)4 announcement, Save Davidson used that designation to do just that - publishing a slate of candidates most attuned to its goals.  Those goals include:

  • Control high-density development
  • Solve traffic problems
  • Ensure government transparency
  • Restore fiscal accountability
  • Preserve small-town values


Save Davidson recommends the following candidates.

For Mayor:  Rusty Knox

For Commissioner: David Sitton, Matthew Fort, Shana Erber.

“Considering incumbents often have the advantage of name recognition in elections, we recommend that people who want change in our town cast their votes for these candidates,” said Denise Beall, founder of the group. “With so many candidates in the race, people are concerned about diluting the vote so they have requested we provide a voter guide.”

There are five town board seats. Save Davidson is recommending that citizens vote for Sitton, Fort and Erber and then pick two additional people from the following list: Autumn Michael, Jim Fuller and Ryan Fay.

With the Save Davidson group boasting a large membership this kind of recommendation in a field with a large number of candidates could certainly be a game changer.

In other election news on Tuesday, that large field got a bit smaller.  Commissioner candidate George Berger announced on his campaign Facebook page he was going to "suspend" his campaign and would not be attending any more candidate forums.  Berger cited the time commitment and recent discussion that made him realize he could best serve the town in other ways.  At this late date however, Berger's name will still appear on the ballot as it is too late to have it removed.

Things are really getting interesting now as this election season heads into the final turn towards the finish line.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Is NewsOfDavidson.org an extension of Davidson Town Hall?

The NewsOfDavidson.org website has been up and running for a month now, and readers have gotten a taste for the type of fare it will be serving up.

So far, readers have have been treated to numerous columns covering non-profit activities and various lifestyle pieces on living in Davidson.  Those have been interesting and useful.  That type of content is also to be expected since the organization was originally conceived around being a clearinghouse for non-profits to get their various messages out to the public. As for "news", things have been relatively limited, but then again that's also not surprising.  As what looks like a one-person operation on the "news" side at NewsOfDavidson.org, getting out stories is a challenge - believe me aShortChronicle knows that as well as anyone.

However, what has aShortChronicle concerned going forward is how (or even if) this organization will truly cover Town Hall and the hard issues facing the 
the town and residents in a way that provides transparency into Town operations, and as importantly, provide the context around these things so people know what they really mean.  After reviewing the site's initial content as well as a lengthy public records request with numerous references to how this site came into existence, there are a number of concerns that lead one to believe NewsOfDavidson.org very well may just end up effectively being an extension of the Town Hall Public Information Office rather than an organization willing to actually cover and challenge Town Hall.

First, let's take a look at the obvious.  The Board of NewsofDavidson.org which is a 501c(3) organization includes a Commissioner candidate this election cycle (Jane Campbell), two former Davidson Commissioners (Connie Wessner and Margo Williams) plus a former Davidson Finance Director (Cindy Jones). Jones is now listed as the contact for the 501c(3) after it was originally set up by Campbell.  There are also a number of other Board members who are well tied into the Town over a number of years.

Active citizen participation in these types of organizations is awsome and it is one of the things that makes Davidson, well...Davidson.  News and media on the other hand hold a special place in our society.  One of the primary responsibilities of media is to hold our elected officials accountable.  With a Board makeup like that, does anyone really believe this new "news" organization will include hard hitting pieces, records requests, and deep diving research on controversial topics involving or supported by Town Hall?  Common sense says "no, it will not".

Take for example these two stories from NewsOfDavidson and aShortChronicle on the recent NCDOT meeting around the controversial Potts Street Corridor projects.  See here for the NewsOfDavidson story and here for the one from aShortChronicle.  The first says essentially NCDOT held a meeting.  Town Hall supports these projects.  Some residents don't like it.  The end.  The one from aShortChronicle provides a lot more detail about what questions were asked what was answered and what the specific concerns expressed by citizens actually were.  Interestingly, the story from aShortChronicle was written by another citizen activist.

One example does not make a pattern, but as a 501c(3) non-profit NewsOfDavidson will also have a difficult time covering hard hitting stories related to politics in general.  People need to remember that one of the biggest forms of bias is actually bias by omission.  Meaning, stories that are lightly covered or not covered at all actually are a form of bias in and of itself.  When it come to NewsOfDavidson being a 501c(3) bias by omission is almost built into its operating model due to the constraints of its non-profit status.  Certainly, some people probably think aShortChronicle has shown bias as well over the years and to be honest, with over 800 stories on the blog it probably has happened.  Human beings are human, and here we believe all people are biased - even real journalists.  As a lowly blogger and not a "real journalist" aShortChronicle thinks we're just more honest about admitting it.

However, all of that is just the obvious stuff.

As mentioned at the top of this post, aShortChronicle reviewed dozens of emails from a public records request showing the close ties between Davidson Town Hall and NewsOfDavidson.org going back to it's very beginnings.

Public records show, NewsOfDavidson.org, or NOD, got its start immediately after DavidsonNews.net shut down operations in May 2015.  In fact, in less than a weekend after DNN announced it was ceasing publication, major movers and shakers in town were working to revitalize it.  Campbell put together the notice pictured in this piece that was placed on the DNN site.  Based on the public record, from the outset it is safe to say Campbell and Mayor Woods together were the driving force behind trying to revive DNN or find a replacement.

Much of this information is only available now due to Mayor Woods using his official Town of Davidson email in the initial coordination effort.  However, one of the earliest emails for coordinating a response after DNN announced it was ceasing operations also included Town Public Information Officer, Christina Shaul, and Economic Development Director, Kim Flemming.

In the initial planning, it was discussed how to possibly raise donations to subsidize existing operations of DavidsonNews.net.  This would have been considerably expensive, and that idea quickly seems to have been cast aside.  However, in an email between Campbell and Woods in late July 2015, Mayor Woods says he is being encouraged by "some" to have the town possibly buy out the DNN url.  To her credit Campbell responds to Woods saying "I don't think the town should do anything.  It would be a conflict of interest - for the same reason you are stepping back from our proposed organizational structure."

There are numerous other examples throughout the public records showing NOD regularly using Town facilities as its meeting space including the Board room.  The Town apparently allows this for non-profits. That is not necessarily a bad thing as long as the Town is equally as accommodating to all non-profits.  These meetings were largely coordinated by Campbell including at least one example after filing for office this summer, again according to the public record.

As the NewsOfDavidson was getting its 501c(3) designation, it asked if the Town was willing to provide a letter in support of its application for non-profit status.  Mayor Woods replied enthusiastically that the Town would be glad to do that.  A letter was put together by attorney's helping the group and provided to Mayor Woods to sign on behalf of the Town in late January of 2016.  The letter specifically says NewsOfDavidson will "lessen the Town of Davidson’s governing burden related to community building and engagement of and civic education for our Town’s citizens."  Again, not a bad thing when promoting Concerts on the Green or Christmas in Davidson, but not necessarily a good thing when covering Board meetings where politically contentious issues are discussed.  Covering all of these things are mentioned in the letter as well.

Finally, throughout the public records information there are numerous requests for updates on the status of the NOD roll out.  Those requests come from both the Public Information Officer to pass along to elected officials and from Mayor Woods himself.  The Town was kept apprised of the roll out every step along the way.  That is a lot of interest by the Town in a website.

So, what does all this mean?

It would seem obvious that if Campbell is successful in her bid for Town Commissioner she would have to completely step away from NOD as a director.  Her own comment to Woods about a conflict of interest would certainly apply.  However, the real question is this.

"When it comes to the likelihood of NewsOfDavidson really covering Town Hall, with so many other entanglements would removing just this one really even matter?"


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Cord Cutting looming challenge for Mi-Connection (aka Continuum)

The newly renamed municipally owned cable operation formerly known as Mi-Connection now doing business as Continuum faces a number of challenges.

The recently announced re-branding of the operation to the Continuum name and the new marketing campaign that doubles down on the hyper-local nature of the company won't immediately solve the revenue problems, and subsidies will continue to be needed for years to come.  Competition will continue to grow as new players enter the market - including wireless providers who may eventually leapfrog the idea of even needing a wired connection to the home.  The emerging idea of "cord cutting" will also become more and more of an issue as well.

This last one - "cord cutting" - made industry-wide news this week as powerhouse AT&T posted numbers saying it had lost 390,000 net subscribers in just the 3rd quarter with the losses ascribed to cord cutting, or the decision to forgo the traditional cable subscription in favor of so called Over the Top (OTT) services such as Netflix, Playstation Vue, or SlingTV.  See this article from Hollywood Reporter for more on that announcement and how it affected stocks of the large competitors.

What started a few years ago as a bit of a novelty has now gone mainstream.  This new article from CordCuttersNews.com shows that those ditching traditional cable may have reached 1 million in a single quarter in the 3rd quarter of 2017. aShortChronicle HQ ditched cable and phone a couple years ago and can confirm for you it is doable and certainly can be less expensive depending on your TV habits.

So, what does all this mean for a company like Mi-Connection/Continuum?  Not much if you listen to the comments that have come from Town Hall in recent years.  You'll likely hear something like "the company doesn't make much money on TV anyway.  Data is where it's at in the future." While that may be true, it ignores the fact that pure data access is quickly becoming a commodity.

As data becomes a commodity with more providers able to provide a comparable service, subscribers will be able to switch from provider to provider based on who has the lowest price.  If they get their content via OTT services they won't have to deal with new set-top boxes and user interfaces.  This will increase what's called "churn" between providers.  Churn is a costly thing for providers to deal with just to maintain revenue as is, much less grow it.

Mi-Connection's FY2017 numbers were flat compared to FY2016.  If cord cutting and churn were factors in that, the company isn't saying in its press releases like AT&T.  However, if this industry trend is impacting the biggest of players, it will very likely make its way into the equation in the long march towards profitability for Mi-Connection/Continuum.

Something to keep your eyes on in future information from Town Hall.