Budget, economy, crime hot topics in State of the City address
 

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo admits that the issues and challenges facing his city are many, but despite those issues Saffo says that progress is being made on multiple fronts.

In 2012 the city of Wilmington once again posted a balanced budget, and $23-million dollar surplus in the cities savings, which could be music to the ears of taxpayers.

WATCH OR READ THE MAYOR'S FULL STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS

"The city and the county can collaborate and can identify ways to work together and lessen the tax burden on the citizens,” New Hanover County Commission Chair Woody White said. "I think you're going to see a lot more of that from the city and the county in the coming months."

According to Saffo private investment in the local economy has been a boost to the area economy, which has recovered from the economic downturn.

To continue the growth downtown the city is looking into new forms of regulatory reform, which has scared away businesses in the past.

"Cutting down the regulatory reform that's something we hear frequently from a lot of the downtown businesses," said John Hinnant of Wilmington Downtown Inc. "A lot of people aren't reporting on it but that's why some of our restaurants closed. The cost of regulation is often a tough part of business so I think reducing the regulation and easing the bureaucracy and helping to get projects through and out a lot faster is really important."

Public safety was another area that Saffo says saw remarkable growth in 2012, a year in which a new record low was set in the city of Wilmington for violent crime.

Despite the departments success police chief Ralph Evangelous says now is not the time for the department to rest on it's laurels.

"It's important for us to keep working and keep moving forward and that's a big piece of the whole economic development policy to make sure you've got a safe community because when you're trying to bring in business and you're trying to bring people into the community they need to feel safe," Wilmington Police Chief Ralph Evangelous said.

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I don't dislike John Hinnant - he's been dealt a bad hand.
But down town is at a cross roads - and hampered by a lingering recession (among other things).
When Almont Shipping went belly up we lost the last vestiges of a working water front.
What has replaced Almont on the waterfront? Just think of 2 buildings - PPD (The Crystal Cathedral) and the Convention Center. Gleaming with glass - spit and polish - meeting all the latest codes.
Yet a block away we have loads of historic buildings protected by a commission (or two) because of some misplaced sense of historic significance.
What is it do we want for this area? A gleaming new modern ball park? The ONLY way it will happen is privately (like PPD).
But a block away you have empty storefront space.
If I'm a retailer I'm thinking "I'd LOVE to build down town - from the bottom up but I can't because the Historic Preservation Society won't let me tear down that old building to build a new one."
But if I'm a bar owner type person I look and say "It wouldn't take much to put a bar in here - tile floors, a small upgrade to the electrical and plumbing and I'm in business."
If I'm a restaurant type guy "Well, I gotta upgrade the wiring to at least 220VAC and 3 phase for some stuff. Gotta have fire suppression for the fryolators - and watch the ceilings. And I have to maintain the old facade of the building for historic reasons."

Its funny how open land down town gets a LOT of interest then I (and others)rail against the businesses failing in the older buildings. But go to demolish one and yikes you run afoul of preservationists.
No it's NOT John's fault.

But we have to really think about what down is and what we want it to be. If that means tearing down whole sections to attract upscale businesses - so be it.
Quaint is good, but it does hamper economic development. I just dislike people who constantly cheer lead and make excuses for what the real problem is.

Vog

Where is the CAFR for 2012? (That is the comprehensive audit of the cities finances)
It is over due by several months now.

Vog

Well- he did ignore the ballpark.
The CC hosted 113 events with 67,000 attendees.
Average attendance of 592 but 9 events were true conventions – meaning that they were multi-day.
I would suspect the average event had less than 100 people.
Since there was never an outcry about a room shortage down town – the most logical conclusions that can be reached are:
-The CC is losing money and
-The economic impact were nowhere near what they had expected

While it is still early – the grumblings from Raleigh indicate that monies will become very scarce which may impact beach pumping funds.
With the CC fund drying up and state budgets getting slashed, I am worried that at some point one or both tax drains will take a hit.
Given the city’s penchant for thinking it’s “all that” I would bet that the city and county governments will be going at it over money within the next couple of years between beach sand and the CC.
Oh and by the way the city wants it called waterfront development funds so that they can tap into it for River walk extension and repair because it is on the water.......

Vog

"Cutting down the regulatory reform that's something we hear frequently from a lot of the downtown businesses,” said John Hinnant of Wilmington Downtown Incorporated. “A lot of people aren't reporting on it but that's why some of our restaurants closed. The cost of regulation is often a tough part of business so I think reducing the regulation and easing the bureaucracy and helping to get projects through and out a lot faster is really important."
This seems to be the latest political buzz swords - regulatory reform.
But John takes it down to the restaurant level. Just what regulations apply to restaurants?

Wage and Hour? Yeah but restaurant owners got a break by being allowed to pay LESS than minimum wage if the servers get tips. So THATS not it.

Environmental regs? Well can't think of any here. Fryolator grease is now recycled but that was a cost savings not a regulatory push if I remember correctly. So EPA/DEHNR regs are not it.

OSHA regs? Nah not that either. The Dept of Labor info shows very very few restaurants get inspected - they are not targeted by OSHA either because their accident rate is so low. So OSHA is not it.

HHhhmmmmmmm - what does that mean?
That leaves health dept inspections. Well, I can only speak for myself Mr Hinnant but I WANT those restaurants inspected. I want them scored and I want that info made public. I do NOT want a cook working in a dirty filthy kitchen cooking my food with no oversight - nor do most other folks I assume.

What other regs? Well maybe the city permitting folks. Restaurants get annual fire safety inspections - given the situation in Brazil over the weekend this should be stepped up. Maybe the city building inspectors are harassing restaurant owners?
Of course if the last 2 are the problem then Hinnant is blaming the same folks that contribute to his salary.
Most of us know that's not it.
The way I see it is down town is chock full of restaurants and the competition is fierce - but there are too many "little" places down town that have maybe 10 to 18 tables. These places have 2 choices - serve regular basic food quickly, and turn over their tables 2 or 3 times a night, or serve quality eclectic food at a very steep price to cover costs. The first one isn't happening and the second has failed repeatedly.
But neither is related to "regulatory" issues. It's business - pure and simple. Why are there not chain restaurants down town? Why are there very limited fast food joints down town? Of course the answer is simply - there's not enough business to justify the cost. Why are they all along major roads like College, Market, CB, and Shipyard? Traffic- pure and simple.
The sad news is that unfortunately down town is stuck between a rock and a hard spot. It's devoid of enough people to make it worthwhile for the "big boys" to locate there. The continuous stream of "Mayfaire is the new down town" and "Mayfaire is expanding" articles are showing that new, cohesive development that incorporates residential, business and shopping businesses together works.A down town without a heavy residential presence is failing
It's time to abandon ship John - your constant excuses for down town business failings are an embarrassment to you...

Vog

Vog

Vog...you should report/write the news here, or at least have your own column on our local news. Your comments go well with morning coffee...evening coffee too for that matter.
I'd much rather read your interpretation(s) of local events and political views, and you never finish your comments with (i.e.)..."Stay Tuned for further developments", because you simply don't have to, and you pretty much cover it the first go round.

My wife says my commentary is better than Ex Lax at keeping her "regular" - and she's glad I express myself here rather than grumbling at her.....

I suppose the old girl is right about that.....

Vog

Vog, the period to file as a candidate for the upcoming municipal election is July 5 through July 19 according to the NHC Board of Elections website.

I think you'd do a splendid job as Mayor!

I have neither the looks or the intestinal fortitude to become Mayor.
That's for younger more "connected" people than I am.
Nor am I a developer or Real Estate agent so I guess I'm out of luck.

*sigh*
I also don't suffer fools too kindly and I am afraid I may get the council somewhat riled up......that's never good for a city

But thanks for the compliment.

Vog