Meanwhile on Planet Babergh- Precision v. Accuracy

We’ve all had those days when we were much younger, when our boss asked us to produce a five/ten/twenty year forecast of whatever was taking his fancy at the time. The forecast would take into account economic cycles, inflationary expectations, disposable incomes, family sizes and so on. To make it credible all assumptions should be detailed and justified.
I suspect that something like that happened recently in Babergh & Mid Suffolk’s housing department when someone was asked to produce a twenty-year plan for housebuilding based on whatever factors were deemed relevant.
The answer is 17,568 homes over twenty years.
Note the precision.
Who believes this rubbish? In the real world our boss would have either called it 17,500 or being a clever sort, he might have said 15,000 so he could under promise and over deliver. If he was on the brink of an unwelcome retirement, he would have rounded the figure up to 25,000 so that his successors would be forever on the wrong end of target fulfillment.  
But he would have realized early on that the further away you are from the present the less reliable is your forecast and the more precise it is, the more it will attract criticism & derision.

Unfortunately, many of our public servants do not review their public utterances – hence precision taking precedence over accuracy and unreliable statistics rule our lives.

Not All News is Bad

This week’s local government elections in Babergh and Mid-Suffolk are not all bad news. Katherine Grandon was re-elected with only two votes less than 2015 but this time with a much reduced turnout.
Katherine ran as an Independent after quite surprisingly having found herself unadopted for a ward which she had loyally served for eight years as their Councillor.
So, definitely a case of rejoicing and champagne all round.
John Hinton was once a senior member of Babergh’s higher echelons until he fell out with the Council’s future direction. He also stood as an Independent and was resoundingly re-elected.
Elsewhere the Conservatives in East Cornard swept their board with three seats defeating two prominent Labour councillors.
The results for Babergh are not all milk and honey. The Conservatives have dropped from being the majority party to being merely the largest. Some decent people are no longer on the Council, but as always, some people will be gladly missed and hopefully soon forgotten.
It’s easy to blame Brexit for changes in fortune, but local personality and local loyalties also played a part. My friends who got re-elected understood that you must get out the votes if you want to be elected. Others, who rely upon the tides to lift them up, often find themselves beached when the tides go out.

Meanwhile at Endeavour House*

We’ve all been to those meetings called by a Team Leader who demands “Ideas!”
They are rarely productive and often degenerate into farce as the stressed participants come with more and more outlandish ideas. Sometimes good ideas are tweaked and sometimes discarded as being too far ahead of their time. Sometimes, though, ideas escape and I would have loved to have been at the meeting that discussed filling Suffolk County Council’s budget deficit by mandating that staff should take two days unpaid leave as a contribution to solving the problem.
The council now advises that “Following valuable feedback and meaningful negotiations with UNISON, we have decided to remove the proposal to apply unpaid leave…for all staff”.
It makes you wonder what ideas were left on the floor destined for perpetual obscurity.
Meanwhile, I have always thought that overheads should always be reviewed to ascertain waste. Classic examples are jobs whose title includes the words “Deputy”. What does a deputy do and why is the job necessary?
Last time I looked, Suffolk County Council had seventeen officers and senior staff responsible for internal and external communications. There were another seven staff who accounted for Customer Services, Web and Digital Transformation. Incidentally, the seventeen did not include assistants and clerical staff. What do these communicators do to occupy their time?
Resources in the wrong places prevent good ideas and good projects from receiving the life blood they need.
The answer to the deficit should not include unpaid time from staff, but should focus on unnecessary jobs i.e., jobs that do not give added value for the residents and taxpayers.
One would have thought the County’s Tory leadership would have known that  – it’s not a mistake that Colin Noble would have made.
* Endeavour House is the joint headquarters of Suffolk County Council, Babergh District Council and Mid-Suffolk District Council.

The Call of the Dinner Plate

There’s always room for a good political joke. I heard this (disparaging) remark about a politician I admire and thought it worthwhile repeating for cleverness and appropriateness for using against someone else.
“…spends his time trawling through the calendars of each village and town council to see when their next village fete or open day is so that he can fill his face at the trough. I’ve never known a man turn up to so many free lunches. He’d attend the opening of a letter if there was a sandwich in it for him!”

All Politics is Local – the Sequel

A commentator observed this morning that the mid-term results were good enough for everyone to find something to be joyous about.
The Republicans in N.C. kept enough seats to hold their majority in the N.C. General Assembly. The Democrats won enough seats to overturn the Republicans’ veto proof super majority.
The three candidates mentioned in my blog of 24 October were all successful.
Anita Earls is on the N.C. Supreme Court and promises to apply the law equally to everyone, no matter their race or how much money they have in their pocket – an impartial judiciary that operates without fear or favor is the cornerstone of a healthy and thriving democracy. The court currently has a 4-3 Democratic majority, and Earls will shift it to a 5-2 Democratic majority. Although, much of the court’s work is non-political, it often rules on lawsuits involving the state legislature or governor.
Susan Evans collected 61% of the votes cast and so is now firmly a member of the Wake County Board of Commissioners.
Democratic challenger for sheriff, Gerald M. Baker upset longtime Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison, out-polling the Republican incumbent by a wide margin (approximately 10% with nearly all precincts reporting at midnight)
Outgoing sheriff Donnie Harrison congratulated Gerald Baker wishing him the best and promising that if there was anything he could do he was there to help.
Justifiably, Wake County Democrats are immensely proud that 45 of their 49 endorsed candidates won their election bids.
To the victors go the spoils, to the vanquished an opportunity to lick their wounds, review the past and decided whether to run again next time. Every candidate goes into an election with the belief that they can make life better for the residents. Some can convey that message better than others.

All Politics is Local

The former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Tip O’Neill is said to have observed that all politics is local. And so, I take a great interest in what is happening in the current election in the city, the county and the state. I have been to a number of political lunches and suppers and have seen or met many candidates, some of whom stick in the mind (for good reasons and bad) and some stand out as candidates worth supporting. Every candidate goes into an election with the belief that they can make life better for the residents. Some have a better chance than others and some are worthier than others.
I have seen three candidates who impress.

First is Anita Earls who is running for N.C. Supreme Court. She is a Yale Law School graduate and speaks with feeling as to how her own family experienced tragedy and were denied lawful redress. Her personal experiences fuel her passion for justice and a hunger for fairness for all.

Susan Evans wishes to be a member of the Wake County Board of Commissioners.
Her promise is to ensure that our county’s continued growth will keep Wake a great place to live, work and learn! Challenges exist in meeting the needs of the growing community. Susan will bring a cool head and a warm heart to the County’s deliberations.

Gerald Baker, is running for Wake County Sheriff. He has nearly 28 years of Wake Sheriff’s Office experience including assignments in each divisional area of the Office. What I liked about Mr. Baker’s presentation was the way he highlighted the need to refocus the department. For example, currently it does not follow up on incomplete 911 calls. Thus, leaving the callers still with their problems which logically can only get worse – yet nipping crime in the bud is an essential police duty. Gerald promises to be Sheriff for all people.

Why am I involving myself? Because on Monday morning I was at the Optimists’ Park Polling Station from seven until ten meeting, greeting and handing out party “slate sheets”. The early morning temperature was just above freezing. So, I have earned the right to voice my opinion.

What does $2.3million look like?

MoneyThe reports of the $2.3 million missing cash from the Wake County Register of Deeds office raise as many questions as answers. $2.3 million over nine years is an average of $21,000 a month which for some people could be yearly earnings.
Reports tell us the who, what and the how.
We do not know the why or where the money has gone.
As a former Bank Chief Inspector I would always look for motivation in gambling, drugs and extra marital dalliances. Where has all the money gone? It can’t all have gone on riotous lifestyles? Has it gone to family, colleagues or financing elections? It can’t all have been frittered away, can it?
For more details please see Charlotte Observer of August 28th

Clearly, we are doing something right!

Last Friday (3rd March) Raleigh Mayor Nancy McFarlane delivered the annual State-of-the-City address.
Key front-end points for residents and potential residents were:
Raleigh continues to be recognized nationally and internationally. Some of Raleigh’s accolades from the past year include:
#3 Best Large City to Live In
#2 Best City for Young Entrepreneurs
#6 Best-Performing Large City in 2016 : Miliken Institute
#2 Area with the Highest Number of Tech Jobs-
NY Times Forbes Magazine has ranked Raleigh:
#2 Hottest Spot for Tech Jobs
#3 Best Place for Business
#3 Best City for Young Professionals
#4 Best City for Mid-Career Professionals in 2016
#4 Easiest City to Find a Job #5 City of the Future
#9 in the Top Ten Cities Americans are Moving to Right Now
#9 Best City for Jobs.
And just last month, U.S. News & World Report named Raleigh the #4 Best Place to Live.
The population continues to grow by about 2.3% annually. We had some big announcements by businesses of new locations or expansions. Citrix is adding 400 jobs; Optum 200; WalkMe 100; and Ateb announced an investment of $3 million with the number of jobs still to be announced. All together in 2016 we saw a 4.3% increase in employment numbers.
Last year, 138 permits were issued for new commercial and industrial development; this was valued at over $800 million dollars. We continue to proactively position ourselves as a city of the future. The recent additions to our market of high speed gigabit fiber offer our residents more options in high speed internet service than New York City or San Francisco.
The city is working to provide more opportunities to make sure that Raleigh’s success is enjoyed by everyone that lives here.
Raleigh has always been and will always be an open, welcoming community to everyone that comes here.
The address can be seen YouTube: Mayor’s State of the City address
As the Mayor said “Clearly, we are doing something right!”

Ignorant, Naïve or just Plain Wilful

coronado-dr-5211-20170212-bMy neighbour Tom Parker is tackling the City Board of Adjustment tomorrow (Monday) at 1 p.m. regarding the  construction of two houses on what was 5211 Coronado Drive.
The sub division ordnance has not been followed and the purpose of the meeting is to protest and deny the City of Raleigh the opportunity to legitimise their actions in permitting this development.
This is not just a Coronado Drive matter.
It affects us all in North Hills as developers destroy our environment in the pursuit of unwarranted profits.
The hearing takes place at 1 p.m. at 222 West Hargett Street, Raleigh in Room 201.
The Raleigh Board of Adjustment is a quasi-judicial body which acts on appeals for variances, special exceptions and interpretations in the zoning regulations. The meeting with the Board is important because City Planners are paid by us (tax payers), are governed by our elected officials and they are meant to serve us.
The designation of Raleigh being the seventh most attractive city to live in the U.S. will not be sustainable if we become a developer’s paradise where rules are flouted and not enforced.
Our City Representative (who does not sit on the Board of Adjustment) is Dickie Thompson. His email is: dickie.thompson@raleighnc.gov
See you there tomorrow.
http://www.raleighnc.gov/government/content/BoardsCommissions/Articles/BoardofAdjustment.html

Communities Thrive on Trees

oak-treeYou would think that this is a statement of the blindingly obvious. But when you see the lot clearing that takes place when developers prepare land for building – then you do wonder where their brains are.
Trees reduce stress by filtering unwanted noise and replacing it with bird song and rustling leaves. Domestic abuse, including child abuse, is lower in homes near trees.
So why clear the land of trees?
We can all see that it is easier to lay out plot lines and install drainage if the land is clear. Yet one of the key things that makes our urban environment attractive is trees. Whether they be oaks, ash, London planes or even the sycamore they soften the impact of urban living.
Trees remove harmful gases, such as nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and  ozone. In Mecklenburg County, North Carolina trees remove 17.5 million pounds  of air pollutants each year.
Trees capture sediment  and toxins that lower water quality, which reduces the  need for costly storm water control measures,
Urban trees reduce the “heat island effect,” cooling  our cities by as much as 9ºF. One tree can cool as much as five air conditioners running  20 hours a day.
There are some conscientious developers in North Hills, Raleigh. They can be identified by their instinctive retention of the arboreal character of their lots. Others exemplify the slash and burn mindset of the 18th and 19th centuries when North American pioneers such as Daniel Boone cleared land in the Appalachian Mountains.
In the industrialized regions of
Europe and North America, the practice was abandoned with the introduction of market agriculture and land ownership. Land tenure systems  help focus on long-term improvement and discouraged practices associated with slash-and-burn agriculture.
Community responsibility does not begin and end with voting every couple of years. If the price of liberty requires continual vigilance, so does ensuring our environment does not deteriorate beyond recall.