Triangle politics

Wake road rename becomes a can of worms

August 21, 2010 

Wake County's Board of Commissioners routinely and efficiently deals with grave matters of governance, including the nearly $1 billion under its control annually. But sometimes it just gets bogged down.

Such was the case during Monday's board meeting, when an agenda item called for the renaming of a portion of Falls of Neuse Road in Wake Forest as Keith Store Road. The change was necessary, staff said, because a state redesign for a future bypass meant the stretch was no longer officially Falls of Neuse Road.

The name Keith Store Road suggested itself because there has been a Keith's Grocery in Wake Forest since the 19th century, and everybody knows where it's located, the commissioners were assured.

Then the questions started. Why "Keith Store Road," with no apostrophe? Isn't there a Keith Road not far away, something that might confuse emergency personnel? Folks from Wakefield Baptist Church, located on this stretch, said they had just heard about the proposal. What about naming the road after their 10-year-old place of worship?

Too many questions remain, members said, agreeing to hear the matter again at a future meeting.

A work in progress

Not everyone has been thrilled with the redesign of Raleigh's website, raleighnc.gov.

The project, which took more than two years and cost city taxpayers $511,000 in contracted work as well as significant Raleigh city staff time, was put out for the public to see and use this month.

City Council member Russ Stephenson sent off a scathing critique last week about the usefulness of the site. Stephenson said he was trying to approach the website as a citizen and tried looking up some requests that his constituents had mentioned to him.

The search component was useless, he wrote.

"In every case, I gave up and called a city staffer - not what you want citizens to do as their first choice," Stephenson wrote in e-mail to City Manager J. Russell Allen.

Raleigh Chief Information Officer Gail Roper wrote a response to Stephenson and the rest of the council, telling them that information technology staff are still tweaking the site, and looking for feedback.

People can send praise, criticism or suggestions to public.affairs@raleighnc.gov.

Looking to Los Angeles

A report from Los Angeles challenging some popular conceptions on teacher effectiveness could have an impact on Wake County's ongoing school diversity fight.

This week, the Los Angeles Times analyzed data from the Los Angeles Unified School District that indicated that the best teachers were not concentrated in schools in the most affluent neighborhoods and the weakest instructors weren't bunched in poor areas. The newspaper also found that experience, education and training didn't have much bearing on whether teachers improved student performance.

One of the arguments made by opponents of the Wake school board majority is that eliminating the socioeconomic diversity policy will result in extremely high poverty schools that drive off good teachers.

The study of Los Angeles schools is being hailed by the school board majority and their supporters.

"It's everything we're saying," school board member John Tedesco said. "The most highly certified teachers are not necessarily the most effective teachers. We need to get the right teachers in front of the kids instead of shuffling kids around."

Tedesco said he wants Wake to do a similar analysis of teacher effectiveness using data from the SAS EVAAS program. But unlike the LA Times, Tedesco said he doesn't want to publicly release the names and the effectiveness results of individual teachers.

Incentives? In Orange?

With plans for a regional shopping center in rural Efland likely dashed by the Tanger Outlet Center coming to nearby Mebane, Orange County commissioners agreed this week to have their manager meet with the town managers of Carrboro, Chapel Hill, Hillsborough and Mebane to coordinate business recruitment.

Property taxes make up 76 percent of the county's annual operating revenue, and residential taxes make up a whopping 85.6 percent of that. The county is hungry for new employers.

So much so that the "incentives" word reared its head Thursday. Incentives are not popular among Orange's liberal leadership. Even Chapel Hill-Carrboro chamber president Aaron Nelson said he's not a fan. But relatively new County Manager Frank Clifton said incentives don't always mean a lot of money.

"They always ask for a lot more than they will accept," he said. "It doesn't have to be big dollars. I did a deal in Tennessee where we changed the name of a road. That sealed the deal."

Political trails

The Wake County Democratic Party is having a Labor Day Rally from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 6 to kick off the 2010 campaign season at the Raleigh Elks Lodge, 5538 Leadmine Road. U.S. Senate candidate Elaine Marshall will speak, and Democratic candidates from Wake County races are expected to attend. Tickets are $15 and will include barbecue and activities for children. Go to www .wakedems .org for more information.

Compiled by staff writers Thomas Goldsmith, Sarah Ovaska, T. Keung Hui and Mark Schultz.

Triangle Politics is a weekly look at the local political scene. Got a tip, item or coming event? Fax Triangle Politics at 919-829-4529, or send e-mail to sarah.ovaska@newsobserver.com or metroeds@newsobserver.com. Please send items by noon Thursday.

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