It’s Sign up Time!

One of the best things about our Cary community is you.  Really.  I’m not blowing smoke here.

Nobody-can-do-everything-quote1

It’s because of our Cary Volunteers that we are such a great community, I know this to be true.  And during the month of June, we have several opportunities for you and your family to sign up to be an integral part of Cary.

TEEN COUNCIL

Teen-CouncilLooking for a way to get your Teen involved and off the couch?  Have them sign up for the Cary Teen Council.  This award-winning program that has been around for more than 20 years, and is just for 6th-12th graders.  Over 700 kids have participated the last few years – and all of them have made a big difference for this community.

These Teens participate in all kinds of programs across the town, from social and recreational events, volunteering and community awareness/service, educational, leadership/teamwork and fund raising/ recruitment.  Many of the Cary Teen Council members receive a chance to serve in advisory capacities for various Town boards and commissions; in fact, we have one on the Information Services Advisory Board.  (Hey, I’m sure it looks good on their college application, too.)

Membership Applications are accepted ONLY in June of each year, so have them sign up now.

 

Just some of the Cary Teen Council members

Just some of the Cary Teen Council members from Cary Teen Council

See – everyone gets in on the volunteer action.

BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS

June is also the month for signup for our Town of Cary Boards and Commissions.  If you have wanted to learn more about how the Town works, and have more of a say in what happens, this is a great place to start.

Our  volunteer boards and commissions serve an important role in our democratic local government process. These boards are a great way for us on council to gather constructive citizen input and recommedations from our citizens.  It allows us to tap into your amazing collective intellectual capital and talents as individual citizens, and it can also help you understand our day-to-day local government processes.  (This is a double-edged sword.  Maybe you don’t want to know that much?)

By serving on a board – you will not only learn more about the Town of Cary, but it will certainly develop you as a community leader, and more importantly, give you the chance to weigh in on your beliefs about our community needs, how they can be addressed, and met. Your input will help influence the important decisions we make regarding government policies.  It’s also an amazing way to meet new neighbors, and of course, to serve. Oh, it’s fun, too!

Each of our boards and commissions are unique in its size, meeting schedule, and specific function; however, the overall mission is the same: To make Cary a place in which we can be proud to live, work and play.  Citizens who serve on these boards and commissions perform a community service using their skills, interests and initiatives to make the difference. These volunteers believe that Cary should indeed become “My Cary” for each of us.

Six of our seven boards below and the Economic Development Committee have openings for terms that are completed or vacant, so please review the list, and apply.

Vacancies for Boards and Commissions

 – Environmental Advisory Board: 3

 – Historic Preservation Commission: 0

 – Information Services Advisory Board: 3

 – Parks, Recreation & Cultural Resources: 3

 – Planning & Zoning: 3

 – Public Art: 2

 – Zoning Board of Adjustment: 1

 – Economic Development Committee: 1

Applications are being accepted through the end of June. All volunteers must live within Cary’s Corporate limits or, where applicable, in Cary’s ETJ.

Review the list of boards and commissions, find one that speaks to you, and apply here.

Cary Volunteers Do So Much

There are so many great ways to volunteer – check them out online.

Take a look at our Spruce Program  – our volunteer-based program designed to connect citizens to beautification, litter reduction, and environmental service projects, saves us  significant money, and adds beauty to our community.  In 2014 alone they collected 27,085 pounds of litter, spread 782 yards of mulch and planted over 1,600 trees, flowers and shrubs.

Spruce Program Volunteers

Spruce Program Volunteers

We also have Cary’s CAP team, the Citizens Assisting Police program.

These volunteers help provide security at public events and assist the Police Department with fingerprinting, child safety seat installation, clerical duties, service center staffing, Community Watch programs and other duties.

Last year 178 member CAP Team  volunteered 5,585 hours saving our town more than $135,847.00.

Before volunteering for the CAP Team, volunteers must successfully complete Cary’s Citizens Police Academy.

 

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.  ~Gandhi

There are so many opportunities for all citizens to participate and engage with our community.  I hope you will find one that is your calling.

___________________________________

These pictures are from the Cary Teen Council, Town of Cary Spruce Program and Cary It Green Facebook Page.

Full disclosure: my son is in one of these pictures.  :-)

It’s Budget Time

It’s budget time for government across the State.

Wake County Commissioners just passed their budget, and the NC General Assembly just dropped a big budget document on all the members desks – today.

For a vote tomorrow.  Right.  TOMORROW.

The good news is that here in the Town of Cary – we have a participatory budget process.  It has lots of time for involvement from you, our citizens.

Feedback
387 page Town of Cary budget

387 page Town of Cary budget

For our Fiscal Year 2016 budget, we received feedback via:

  • Facebook – 19 comments
  • Twitter – 2 comments
  • Email – 26 comments
  • Public Hearings – 4 comments
  • Voicemails – 1 comment

Not a lot, but some.  And we’ve had more feedback in previous years.

This feedback started in October, when we expressly solicit feedback from you, and also when we look for feedback during our two public hearings in May and June.  There are about 8 weeks between the posting of the proposed budget and our final vote. Often, comments we receive make it into the budget process, and sometimes, as in the SK8 Park and Pickle Ball enthusiasts, they make it into our Master Plans.

So, what’s in the Budget?

–   Total Budget of $295M
o   $218M operating budget
o   $77M capital budget

–   $1/month increase in solid waste fee to help with cost recovery

–   $3.8% increase in water and sewer rates, an avg of $2.75/month (the result of rate smoothing to pay for the $300M water treatment plant)

–   Increase taxes of 2 cents, from 35 cents per $100 valuation to 37 cents to pay for voter approved bond projects. (Approximately $40/year for a $200K home) – still keeping us in one of the lowest taxes in Wake County  (Originally, this was 3 cents, but additional electricity tax revenue came in, allowing us to remove the additional penny)

–   24 new positions including hires of a new police officer, 3 firefighters, customer service reps in Public Works, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources, and more.  (Reducing staff to 8.1 staff per 1,000 Cary residents)

The Budget Process

It’s hard to believe, but budget planning starts almost as soon as the budget is signed.  The Town of Cary Fiscal calendar starts July 1st, so our budget must be approved by the last council meeting this month, which is June 25th.  (By law, the balanced budget (yes, local government MUST have a balanced budget, even though the Federal government does not), by June 30th.)

I, and my fellow members of the Town Council, take this job and our fiduciary responsibilities to the citizens with utmost care and responsibility.  There are many additional projects that each of us would like to see added to the budget – but money always seems to get in the way.  During this process, if there is something that we want added to the budget, that means that some other project will have to be removed, or slimmed down.  Those are hard decisions, just like you make at home everyday.

Adding to this struggle is the fact that the General Assembly removed the Town’s ability to levy a privilege tax on businesses.  Despite how we might individually feel about that tax, it did bring in an additional $1.5M in revenue to Cary.  So, we have to make up for that lost revenue in some other manner.

There are various ways to make up for the lost revenue – reducing spending, of course, or raising taxes.  And no one wants to raise taxes. The math for raising taxes works this way – if we raise taxes by 1 cent – that generates about $2.2M in revenue.

Raising taxes is not what anyone wants to see, and Cary has been lucky to have an amazing Town Staff that run a highly productive and tight ship – keeping our productivity and efficiency of our employees high, while providing some of the highest quality of life in the Triangle.  We have not had a tax increase that wasn’t for voter approved bonds, in 25 years…since 1990.  Pretty amazing.   Read More…

History and a Free Movie

Yes, a FREE MOVIE. And now that I have your attention ….

In case you didn’t know it, March is Women’s History Month – a time to recognize the important contributions that women have made to us all; to pay tribute, and to also understand the sacrifices that many have, and continue to make, on our behalf.

The Town of Cary, along with the National Foundation for Women Legislators will show the movie “Iron Jawed Angels” starring Hilary Swank, Anjelica Huston, Patrick Dempsey, and many more. … all to celebrate Women’s History Month.

This film follows the women’s suffrage leaders Alice Paul and Lucy Burns in their struggle for a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote. After the showing of this award winning movie, a panel of female elected officials will be on hand to answer questions from the audience, and share their unique experiences.

Confirmed panelists:

  •  – Elaine Marshall – NC Secretary of State
  •  – Jessica Holmes – Wake County Commissioner
  •  – Jennifer Robinson – Town of Cary Councilmember, District A
  • (and me)

Iron_Jawed_Angels-time

Why focus on Women now?

In the last year, we have seen a number of news stories that highlight the continuing disparity between women and men in the workforce and in public service.

A recent report, called “The Status of Women in North Carolina Politics” finds “that when women seek and serve in political office – elected or appointed – they are as successful as their male counterparts. Yet women remain severely underrepresented in North Carolina political offices.

The report goes on to highlight that although women make up over 54% of the registered voters in the state, they hold less than 25% of all appointed and elected offices.

  • ▪  27% of all elected officeholders in the state are women, while women are 51.3% of the state’s population
  • ▪ Out of the 100 counties in NC, in 44 of them, there are no female county commissioners.
  • NC is not unique, in the US senate, it’s 20% women, 19.3% in the US House, 10% of governors, and 13% of Mayors of the 100 largest cities. And the numbers are even more strikingly bad for women of color and women in rural communities (6.2% are women of color, and 5.3% of state leg.)

Read More…

What’s the Internet of Things and Why Should I Care?

Hi, I’m Lori Bush and I’m a techie.  (Sounds like I’m in a 12-step program, doesn’t it?)

And, being a techie, I sometimes assume that folks “get it” when I start espousing the virtues of some new technology.   Thankfully, I have great friends and neighbors that remind me that these high tech concepts and ideas aren’t self-evident, and that often, concepts like Open Data or the Internet of Things, are harder to understand. So, let me try. ☺

As an example, let’s talk about the Internet of Things, or the Internet of Everything. What does it mean, and why should we care?

Well, let me try to explain.

What is the Internet of Things?

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a concept that says that any electronic device can be connected to the Internet, and (potentially) to each other. With the increasing reach of the Internet, and with more and more devices having wifi and radio frequency ID (RFID) connectivity capability, as well as the decreasing costs of these devices – more and more of what we use everyday connects to the Internet, and shares information with it. In fact, according to a variety of sources (Gartner, Cisco and others), more than 5 Billion devices are connected to the internet today – some say it will be 25 billion by this year, with 75 billion by 2020.

Internet of Things Infographic - Cisco

Internet of Things Infographic – Cisco

Number of IoT - Cisco

Number of IoT – Cisco

Yes, this is happening now.  You know it is, because you probably have a smartphone that is connected right now.  But what you might not realize is that there are a slew of other devices connected, as well.  From a toothbrush that can watch to make sure your children are really brushing their teeth well, to a voice-activated smart outdoor grill that will notify the user when their food is ready, to even a sensor loaded and connected tennis racquet (promoted by Rafael Nadal) that is said to improve your game by providing information on power, strokes, and more.  This is just the beginning.

From Toothbrushes to Racquets

From Toothbrushes to Racquets

What you may NOT know, is that companies of all types are using it to improve their services – from UPS who is using sensor data from their 80,000 vehicles to provide information on the speed, miles per gallon, number of stops, etc – to save money and improve delivery routes.  By using this data effectively, they have saved more than 39 million gallons of fuel through route optimization and reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by reducing the number of miles and idling time.

From UPS Press Room

From UPS Press Room

Just think about Disney, the mecca of great customer service (and Mickey Mouse.) Disney World  is now using the MagicBand, which I would say is the new height of IoT. The MagicBand is a wristband that is not only a key into your hotel room, but also provides you access into the park(s), as well as allowing you to buy food and merchandise. On the back end of this system, Disney is using this data to track visitors throughout the park, knowing proactively where visitors are, and thereby able to support more visitors, and to better staff rides and restaurants.  Not only that, but kids and adults can personalize their wristbands to make them their own.

Photo by Erik

Photo by Erik

intopark

Photo by Kevin Baird

Why do we care?

So, this is all great information – but really, why should we care?  Well, for lots of reasons.

FIRSTit can mean big life changes are in store.

fitbit3

My FitBit

How? Well, just take my little FitBit, for example. A few years ago, in order to improve my commitment to my health I made a decision to wear this little guy everyday.  The FitBit counts my steps, my activity, and even the number of stairs I climb. The information is automatically sent to an app on my phone, as well as the “cloud” (just a word that means the Internet repository for this data) and it tracks my trending data. I can even set it up to track my sleep patterns. More importantly for me though, is that I’ve set it up to send this information to my company’s health and wellness program.

Why would I do that? Because for every 30 min of exercise I track per day, my healthcare incentive plan PAYS ME $5/day to my Healthcare Savings Account (up to $800/year.) The device costs less than $100. So, that’s a win of $700/year, just for me! It’s also a win for my company, because studies have shown that even 30 min of activity a day reduces healthcare costs. That’s a personal decision, for sure, and the connection to my device isn’t a requirement – but it saves me the time from going into the tool and self-reporting my exercise everyday.

redbrick

Healthcare is just one industry looking at this phenomenon– from wearable fitness devices like mine, to special GlowCaps that fit prescription bottles – reminding people to take their medication; to wearable alarms for aging family members, this is just one industry poised to take the IoT to a new level.

SECOND, it can improve productivity, while also reducing costs. For real.

Solar Trash CanHere’s another example. You may have read about our new Solar Trash Cans made by Big Belly. This trash compactor, powered by solar energy, uses the internet to let our Public Works department know when it’s full, reducing the need for our trucks to drive around and waste time, gas and people to empty partially filled trash cans. The power of the Internet is saving us money, reducing our carbon footprint. And, keeping analytics on these activities will continue to allow public works to improve their services, over time.

At home, you can use all types of IoT tools to help defray costs and improve your own productivity. You might have heard of NEST – the smart thermostat that monitors the actual activity in your home during the day, while also watching real-time weather forecasts – to reduce your energy usage (saving you money), and to moderate the temperature in your home.

And have you ever wanted to better manage your irrigation water usage?  I have a friend who uses the Rachio smart sprinkler, to be able to control his water irrigation system, from anywhere. The system knows about the changes in weather, adjusts the watering to the seasons, and manages his irrigation dependent on his own lawn’s needs, rather than being on a “set schedule.”

From Home Depot

From Home Depot

Don’t forget, Town of Cary water customers also have a tool at their disposal today. Aquastar will allow you to use data to manage your own water usage. (Read my blog post here.)  By reviewing your water usage data, as well as setting up alerts in Aquastar, you can tell if you have a leak, a toilet running, or see your trending water usage, even when you aren’t there.

Water Usage

And THIRD, this is just the beginning.

More and more of our world and devices are being connected. Sure, there are refrigerators that will send you an email when you are low on milk, (yeah, that’s an old example), but there are also scenarios that can really change your life, such as the air quality sensors that are located all around Boston.  Just think of the opportunities for folks that have asthma – with the Internet of Things sensors, folks with severe asthma and other respiratory issues can connect their smartphones to this network, and then proactively receive messages when the air quality is bad, and be able to track how often they use their inhaler. These kinds of IoT advances can absolutely improve their quality of life.

In fact, just doing a search online at Thingful.net ( a search database of Internet of Things, across the globe)  I found that there are a number of sensors by my house, from weather stations, to air quality stations.

Air quality station in Cary

Air quality station in Cary

 

In Cary – a Connected Bench?

Recently, the Information Services Advisory Board (ISAB) took a look at a new bench-type IoT product recently installed in Boston. It’s called the Soofa – is a place to sit, but so much more. It’s a public space styled bench, solar powered that charges smartphones, while also collecting real-time data about its surrounding environment. The data collected can be air quality related, or noise, and that data can be provided back to the cloud for analytics. There are already 6 of this installed in various locations around the Boston area.  At this point, it’s very new technology but is making waves, and something to consider over time.

 soofa

What else do I need to know?

The key word is knowledge. Now that we know that more and more of our devices will be on the internet, and communicating information about us, we need to be aware and make a conscious decision whether this is data you want to share, or not.

I share this with the kids in my Internet Safety classes – YOU choose what data you make publically available. If you don’t want people to know where you are, don’t turn on “location services” on your smart phone applications, or disable geotagging on your iphone, to remove location information from your pictures.  Always be aware of your data and who has access to it.

Yes, it’s true that this is an extra step you have to take, but it’s up to us to ensure that the privacy settings that are on our devices reflect our respective privacy priorities. Just like you should be putting anti-virus software on your computer – the best defense is a good offense. Know what data the device collects, and what it shares is key. This is still an emerging technology, and as such, be aware, and always  proceed with your eyes wide open.

For me, my first set of experiences using these technologies has been life changing. Using the FitBit has provided me with a tool that reminds me of my commitment to my health. The capability to “compete” against friends and family online in FitBit challenges and steps keeps it fun and engaging for me, while the extra monetary incentive provided by my employer keeps it relevant. Sometimes, money does talk.

I’d love to know what Internet of Things experiences and tools you have and use, and what you see on the horizon!

_________________________________

Feature photo from IBM, and www.comsoc.org/blog 

A Visit to the Greensboro Four

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in a phenomenal program for about 5 months now, called the Friday Fellowship. If you haven’t heard about it, it’s called the William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations, named for our great leader and head of the UNC system for 30 years .

The Friday Fellowship goals are to create a space to grow a statewide network of leaders to take “courageous action on NC’s most pressing issues, through civil dialogue and by engaging across differences.”

For me, it means learning the skills needed for us to move this state forward; being able to have the difficult conversations while valuing everyone’s skills, experience, and viewpoint. Being able to listen with heart and head, and moving forward together.

There are 19 of us in the program today, from across the state, across all types of backgrounds and experiences. I am blessed to be among this great set of amazing leaders as part of this 2 year program, and after every meeting I reflect on how this experience is making a difference for me.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the program, if you would like to learn more, check out this great interview by the Executive Director Minda Brooks. Jump to 17:20 of this video.

A Visit to the Museum

As part of our long weekend of training, we had an opportunity to visit the Greensboro International Civil Rights Center & Museum. If you haven’t been there, it’s absolutely worth the trip. Since I was at Dreamfest here in Cary, seeing the A.D. King documentary,  and listening to Naomi King, MLK Jr. sister-in-law, it is an amazing continuation of my journey to learn more about the Civil Rights movement.

Greensboro Four and Museum

I had heard of the Greensboro Four before, had even seen what I was told was the Woolworth counter they sat at, at the Smithsonian. But I had no idea of the phenomenal cascade of activity that those four 17 year-old freshmen had created, and the social transformation that it had on the rest of the Civil Rights movement.

Former_Woolworth_store_in_Greensboro,_NC_(2008)-sm

The Museum in the former Woolworth store in Greensboro, NC (2008)” (Photo by dbking from Washington, DC. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Read More…

Town of Cary Planning Retreat 2015

As many municipalities do, Town of Cary elected officials and staff go off once a year to plan for the upcoming year and have time to discuss procedural issues or concerns, and to just reconnect in a less formal environment. In general, we have had these retreats outside of Cary, so that we aren’t distracted from our work and home life while focusing on our Town jobs.

Since I’ve been on Council these “retreats” have been planned to be in areas where we can learn from the local experience. For instance, when we went to Winston-Salem, we spent time with the local folks getting a sense of what it took for them to revitalize their downtown. What did they do? How did they do it? What would they NOT do again? ☺  The idea being that we could learn so much from others who have attempted much of the same thing.

This time, our retreat agenda was focused on exactly THAT – but in Charlotte. We know we aren’t Charlotte and folks would probably say that we don’t want to be Charlotte, but there are always things that we can learn from another municipality that has, and is, facing similar issues and struggles.

Since I know that Councilman Frantz is posting HIS feeling on our trip, I’ll try not to cover what he did, and focus on what I learned during my “sick stupor” in the Queen City. (Yes, it’s true that I was sick during the whole trip – my biggest worry was that I didn’t want infect anyone while there.)

All Aboard

When we were first discussing Charlotte as a location, I asked if we could take the train, and what a great plan that was. The trip was fantastic – a real opportunity to use our transit system while having time to connect with staff and other council members. We had lunch on the train so that we could hit the ground running when we arrived.

Getting on the train

Getting ready to board the train

travelbytrainteam

Don, Harold, Jennifer and Lori – ready to go (Jack and Ed were already in their seats!)

We were lucky enough to have our own train car for our group of folks. After settling in we had several presenters from Amtrak that provided us with background on the Piedmont Improvement Program underway. This program’s goal is to make the train more reliable and safer, and the results are pretty impressive. The Carolinian (train from Charlotte to Raleigh and the return) has gone from a 4 hour 20 min trip in 1990 to a 3 hour, 10 min trip now. With their safety awareness outreach programs, they have seen a reduction in fatalities on the tracks as well.

Here are some interesting stats:

• Travelling at 55 MPH, it takes a mile for a train to stop

• Trucks are involved in 10 times more accidents than trains

• It is illegal to walk on the railroad tracks, they are private property

• Amtrak in NC also allows you to check a bicycle as luggage for free!

• Because of the increase in interest and ridership, a new midday service has been added between Raleigh and Charlotte

• The Cary Amtrak Station received an award from OneRail for being a National Example of Success

• The Cary Depot is the 4th busiest station in NC with 89,000 passengers

• The Cary Depot is the 2nd in the nation for customer satisfaction with a 94% customer satisfaction rate

• NC Train volunteers all over the state act as good will ambassadors – and they volunteer their time to help passengers. A number of Cary citizens are volunteers, including the president of the Train Volunteers, Bob Warner, who was on our trip

• The NC Train Volunteers are having their annual meeting in Cary this year, to be held at the Cary Theater!

Me and Bob Warner (Train volunteer extraordinaire)

Me and Bob Warner (Train volunteer extraordinaire)

Read More…

Best Day Ever!

Sometimes I think I am one of the luckiest people in the world. And that’s true for this month.

I’m a Lucky Girl

US_Navy_120126-N-YC845-001_The_official_logo_of_the_amphibious_exercise_Bold_Alligator_2012As part of the Cisco Social Ambassador program, I was chosen to join the “media day” for Bold Alligator 2014. Bold Alligator is a 12 day joint Navy and Marine exercise that showcases the capabilities of what is called “seabasing” and the full range of amphibious operations all while responding to multiple crisis and responses. This year, more than 19 nations and 19 ships participated in the exercises that spanned the eastern seaboard from Washington DC to Florida, to as far inland as Indiana. The fourth Bold Alligator, there were more than 450 planes and 17,000 service people are involved, taking 2 years of planning. Our group of media folks – from bloggers and tweeters to journalists, were there to get a glimpse of what our amazing servicemen and women are doing, day in and day out.

But basically, it means that I was able to spend a day watching and interacting with these phenomenal military folks. Oh, and I was in a Seahawk Helicopter, on an aircraft carrier, but more on that later.

Let’s Get Started

Bold Alligator pamphletThe day started at Cherry Point, Marine Corp Air Station. I was about to take a picture of the front of the Station, when I saw a fellow blogger getting pulled aside and questioned by some Marines, so I thought I would just wait for our escort. ☺

We headed for a briefing at Bogue Field, where we learned more about the operation and the day’s events. Although a joint operation, we were escorted by folks working mostly with the Marine Expeditionary Brigades (MEB).  These forces are set up to be  be agile and nimble, and to support the fleet’s war fighting operations. At first I was initially surprised at the number of terms used by the Marines that are also used by our product development teams and engineers, again demonstrating the need for us to continue to hire and leverage veterans with great skills and experience.

The Treasure Coast

The exercise uses a fictional Treasure Coast complete with a history of countries shown on a map on top of the US map. The complex scenarios outlined in the exercise focus on background provided about these countries. What we learned during our briefing is that “the emerging democracies of Amber, Amberland, Amethyst Island, Mica and others are improving, while relations with Garnet are deteriorating. Pirate attacks plague the area while humanitarian aid to Amber, Amberland and Pyrope are hampered.”

Treasure Coast

Command and Control

Starting a Bogue Field, we drove through barbed wire fencing checkpoints to review the Navy Expeditionary Force and Marine Wing Support Squadron operations. Think of it like the biggest tent you ever saw, with rooms upon rooms that emanate from a large center tent. We had to put down our cameras and phones for this part of the tour.

tentsWe entered the tent from a grassy and tree lined area, directly into a monitored and guarded cell phone/camera drop area. The tent had air conditioning, a metal floor, lighting, networking operations, huge screens, and, I was glad to see Cisco phones all over the place. These tents are erected in hours not weeks, and it was nicer than some conference rooms I’ve been in. The situational awareness room (my words, not theirs) reviewed chats, and incoming intelligence from various sources.

After that we toured an area set up to show us the various disciplines in use – from Explosive Ordnance Disposal (ok, bombs) via robot, and this bomb suit, below. (Gulp!) One of the folks in our group asked how someone gets that job…you know, the guy the gets to wear the bomb suit.  “He must’ve drawn the short straw.”  The soldier corrected him immediately.  “No sir, the person in THAT suit has the MOST experience.”  Makes sense, but reminded me of the sacrifice our military folks make everyday.

I also met several entomologists. Yep, the Navy has entomologists – otherwise known as bug people. There are 38 entomologists currently serving on active duty supporting the marines throughout the theatres – from malaria control, pests on ships and they work to identify possible other issues as well. The folks I met had just caught several Black Widow spiders in the tents just deployed, and they wanted me to see it up close. Ummm, no thank you.

bugs1 copy

 

robot1suit1

After that, we headed to the Bogue Air Field, to see field operations. Did you know Marines can put down a runway or air pad in just hours? And put together a runway that will support a Harrier aircraft in just days? It’s a key component in their rapid deployment, agile system. The other equipment was just as impressive, such as the fire truck and runway cleaner.

runway firefighting

Next Stop, USS Kearsarge

Aloriinhelmet-sunglassesfter lunch at the Officers Club, we headed to the USS Kearsarge (KSG) via helicopter. Putting on the cranial helmet (perfectly named), as well as the life vest, we loaded up the Seahawks to head out for a 40 min flight to the carrier.

Getting buckled up in my 4 point harness, sitting backwards, while not being able to easily look down (with that huge helmet on my head) was a trip. It was a little bit of a bumpy ride, but absolutely exhilarating. Landing on the KSG was crazy – just think about landing a bird on a moving target, that is moving up and down at the same time. These pilots are so well trained, they made it seem like parallel parking. (Still difficult for many without the backup camera. ☺)

 

outsidelanding

USS Kearsarge (Navy pic)

USS Kearsarge (Navy pic)

The USS Kearsarge, a small aircraft carrier, is officially called an Amphibious Assault Ship. It supports V/STOL – (Vertical/Short Take-Off and Landing) planes, and helicopter aircraft. It’s 846 feet long – think 3 football fields, and normally houses 29 aircraft. (There were 18 birds on board that day.) Some of them are not on deck, as you can see here.

undershipIt’s a FULL SHIP!  Normally, there are a little over 1100 Sailors on board, and once you add the Marines, about 3100 souls on board.  Which is how many there were, when we were there.

Next was a meeting with Major General Richard Simcock and Rear Admiral Cindy Thebaud. We got a run down of the partnership between the Navy and Marines, or what they call, “putting the blue and green team back together.”

meeting

The KSG was like a mini-city, with our tour we saw much of it – from the gym, to the decks, to the ward room and eating bay.

doorsOh, and the carrier is sovereign U.S. territory – so when you are in international waters and on the carrier, you are in the U.S.

Birds Eye View

A quick trip to the bridge, to get a view of one of the highest points we could go, was a thrill. And, the most swaying part of the trip. The bridge is really the ship’s command center – where the captain controls the movement of the ship.

bridge2ndbridge2Get a look at these guys. Young, huh? The fine young man on the right is 19 – and he’s driving the ship. The gentleman on the left, he’s 20 something, and he runs propulsion and it takes about 5 miles to actually stop the ship.  Yes, about 5 miles.

The navigation team of 3 sailors were also under 21, and all with significant experience and presence. If the captain says they can do this job, I believe him.

boysNext was a quick trip to the secondary bridge, where we could get a really great view of the ship. There the captain shared some great stories and more about the USS Kearsarge’s capability to do replenishment at sea, how tension lines for fuel and cargo make the job easier, and his longest time consecutively at sea without a stop at a port, 142 days.

2ndbridge

On Deck

Finally, we headed to the deck – to get up close and personal with the flight operations. Donning a float jacket and my favorite headgear, we headed up. At first, I couldn’t believe we would be this close while helicopters were taking off and landing. But, we were.

I followed our escort, and ended up stopping short of the destination as a Seahawk made its way to land right across from me. That was my opportunity – I grabbed my camera and decided to get some video – without really noticing all the Marines planting themselves perpendicular to the landing spot. Then, the prop wash of the roters hit, and I almost lost my balance. That’s why they planted themselves. Duh. I got a better view when I moved further up the deck.  (Check out both videos below) The Seahawk must’ve made no less than 15 landings – back and forth, some of that for us, I’m sure, and some as training. The whole operation looked highly tuned and organized.

First attempt at recording,below.

Much better second attempt. :-)

Saying goodbye

We made our way back inside, to catch our own flight back to the Base. Right before us, however were several dignitaries, we were told they were Retired Generals. The custom is to set out a red carpet and then sailors, called side boys, would arrive to flank the entrance area to form a passageway at the gangway. The number of “side boys” there is dependent on the rank of the Officer and they stayed at their post and saluted the dignitaries as they left.

dignatary1Then it was our turn to travel back. The day went by so quickly, it seemed like I had just been in the car at 4:30am on my way there, and here we were going back to the Base.

As we took off quickly from the USS Kearsarge, I looked back at the ship – knowing that I now have some lifelong memories, an amazing experience and a huge appreciation for all of our service men and women in the Armed Forces. To all of our veterans and active service members, thank you for your service. I couldn’t have asked for a better day, than to spend it with you. We are all in your debt.

_________________________________________________________________

I would like to thank Dennis Hall of the Avere Group, and the Cisco Social Ambassador program. The Social Ambassador program recognizes employees and contractors who have adopted social media as part of their job and/or would like to expand their skill set. Over 1,000+ members all over the world are currently participating in the program. Dennis and Cisco – thank you for making this the Best Day Ever!

My participation in exercise Bold Alligator 2014 is the outcome at the outset of a pro bono relationship between Rachel Bakker, Cisco Systems Social Media Manager and Dennis Hall, founder of Avere Group, LLC in California dating back to 2011. Dennis Hall has nominated community leaders on a pro bono basis to the military for public affairs embarks for over 22 years, including employees of Cisco Systems before the collaboration. He is neither an employee nor contractor of the military.

 

 

 

My ELF

You may have seen this strange little green vehicle on the road around Cary. In case you were wondering who’s in that thing, it’s me.

Meet my ELF – my new bike. Yes, it’s a bike. On steroids.

What’s an ELF?

It’s basically a bike, with a cover, and a bit of electric power to help – a cross between a car and a bicycle. (You may have seen them in Durham, that’s where the company, Organic Transit, is located.)   (ELF stands for Electric, Light, Fun)

The bike component of the ELF is a recumbent bike, meaning you are sitting closer to the ground with your feet in front of you to pedal, rather than upright and straddling a seat. With 3 wheels, (2 in the front, one in the back), it also has gears (a continuous gear train) and handle-bar brakes.

On the car side – add a mostly enclosed cab (with a spacious lockable trunk), an electric assist that is powered by a rechargeable battery and solar panel, rear view and side mirrors and you have the hybrid picture.

My ELFaba from Lori Bush on Vimeo.

Questions, I get questions

The most common questions I get are – “How fast can you go?” and “How far will the battery take you?”

How fast can I go? As fast as my little legs will carry me! If I just let the battery pull me, (meaning no pedaling) the ELF will speed up to 20 miles per hour, but I have gone faster, especially downhill. ☺

How far can the battery take me? Well, if I were to ONLY use the battery, no pedaling, the battery I have should carry me about 15 miles. (Although there is an upgrade available that will go 40 miles.) The solar panel on the roof can trickle charge the ELF when we are in the sun, fully recharging the battery in about 6-7 hours. Or, for a faster recharge, I can carry the small battery inside, and fully recharge it connected to my standard outlet in about 1.5 hours. Unfortunately, the pedaling that I do does not recharge the battery, although I understand that will be an option on future ELFs.

Why an ELF?
My ELF around town

My ELF around town

So, why an ELF, you might ask? Let me explain. It was the year of my BIG birthday, and I was looking for new ways to get exercise that was a little more fun. I love riding my bike, but found that I was mostly riding at events, or on the weekends. At the same time, I was noticing that many of my trips around town, were under 10 miles, one way. Although I had ridden my bike to work before, I would always feel the need to take a shower after I arrived. (Carrying my laptop in my backpack, with other items in my panniers, would definitely make me “glisten.”)

I was looking for a way to ride my bike that would get me a more “perspiration free” trip. The ELF gives me that! I can use the power in the battery on the way to a meeting, insuring a mostly “sweat free” appearance (minus the bike helmet hair) and then I often change to more comfortable biking clothes in order to get a better workout, and do more pedaling on the way back home.

An Experience

As you can probably tell, I love my ELF. (By the way, I call her “Elf-aba” – a shout out to one of my favorite Broadway musicals, Wicked.)

I’ve driven it to council meetings, to the Cisco office, to meetings around town, to the coffee shop and even grocery shopping. (The trunk will hold about 5 or 6 bags of groceries.)

Although the ELF weighs about 160lbs (without me in it), I’ve found that it’s pretty easy to pedal, except up some BIG hills when I’m glad to have the use of the “power assist.” I’ve driven it on the road (it’s a bike!) and on the sidewalk and greenways.(Always wearing a helmet.) Riding it all around town, at all times of the day, part of the fun is seeing the looks I get from folks as they do a double-take; smiling, pointing and taking pictures. So far, people are genuinely kind and move over into the other lane when I am on the road, even when I am far to the right in the bike lane.

Although I was concerned about night-riding, I’ve been told that we are very visible on the road at night – with my bright CREE headlights, turning signals, and brake lights. (I’m thinking of adding more reflectors, but so far, it’s just the base Elf.)

Night Elf

Fun and Useful 

At the end of the day, with Elf-aba, I feel like I have the best of all worlds. I’ve been able to add additional exercise to my routine, I’m still able to get around town, but by using less non-renewable energy, and still enjoy the outdoors and our wonderful community. All in all, it’s been one of my favorite benefits of reaching that BIG birthday milestone.

IMG_4469

________________________________________

Check your cyber security

This month is the beginning of National Cyber Security Awareness Month. It’s a month set aside by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the Department of Homeland Security, to remind us all of our shared responsibility when it comes to staying safe online. (You can check out the Town of Cary Proclamation in support of this month.)

It’s pervasive

As we all know, the Internet is part of everyone’s life, every day. We use the Internet at home, work and at Town Hall, to conduct our business every day. At the town level we share information with our citizens, provide tools such as our online permitting application, post all of our council documents online (such as our board applications, agendas and notices) and you can also pay your bills, check your water usage, and sign up for classes online.

At home and at work we socialize, shop, stream movies or play games, and connect with those closest to us, near and far, all over the Internet.

However, being constantly connected absolutely brings an increased risk of theft, fraud, and abuse. No one is immune to cyber risks. So during this National Cyber Security Awareness Month, I hope you all will take a few moments to check in with your cyber vulnerability. Think of it like you might check to see if your door is locked at home – make sure your “cyber door” is locked, and remains so.

STOP.THINK.CONNECT

Here are a few ideas passed on from the NCSA, with a little of my $0.02 thrown in to help you do that checkup.  Hopefully you will also use these points to start the conversation at home.

• Keep a clean and updated machine: Keep software up-to-date on all Internet-connected devices to reduce risk of infection and malware. Double-check to make sure that your devices are up-to-date. (Specifically, that means making sure your virus scanning software is the latest and greatest, that you have installed the most recent patches on your Operating System, etc.)

• When in doubt, throw it out: Links in email, posts and texts are often the ways cybercriminals try to steal your information or infect your devices. Let’s just say that your bank won’t send you an email asking you to verify your email address and password, no one from Turkey or India has left you a great inheritance, and Bill Gates won’t give you $5000 for sharing a link.  :-)

• Think before you app. Understand and be comfortable with what information (i.e., location, your contacts, social networking profiles, etc.) the app would access and share before you download it. That also means you should be aware that many of the photos that you post COULD have the location embedded in the actual picture. So, a would be stalker, as an example, might be able to not only see that the picture your child is posting from the park, but that picture might also contain location information about where they are. Double check to see if location services is turned on or off, for the requisite applications.

• Use a better password: Improve your defenses by making passwords that you can remember, are hard to guess, preferably use numbers, capital and lowercase letters and symbols and are different for all accounts. If you have trouble remembering these passwords then try out a password manager like LastPass , KeePass, 1Password.

• Post only about others what you would have them post about you. This is one of the most common discussion topics at my Internet Safety classes for kids. I ask them to think about what we say and how we say things online. Why? For so many reasons, but here are just a few.

First, for young adults. Did you know that employers look on social media when they are interviewing potential candidates for a job? Yep, they do. A recent Career Builder Study detailed that 37% of employers said they used social media to screen applicants, and over 65% checked out their Facebook profiles.”

• And for kids applying for college – now schools and universities troll the ‘net looking for your online behavior. Be aware that a Kaplan survey of admissions officers showed that 29% of respondents said they had Googled prospective students, and 31% had looked up applicants on Facebook. And of those officers screening applicants’ social media profiles, 30% said they found something that negatively impacted an applicant’s chances of getting in.

More tips

Here are some great additional resources to check out, as well:

Stay Safe Online Tip Sheets

Free Security Checkups (from Stay Safe Online)

OnGuardOnline.gov – great tips for all, from businesses, to families to seniors

I hope you all will keep these tips in mind when you are online, and here’s to making sure you are all Cyber Safe.

_____________________________

Disclaimer: I was a boardmember of the NCSA, and still teach Internet Safety classes for kids, schools and families. It’s a strange passion, I know. ☺

Feature photo (modified by me) – by Rachel

Downtown Cary

At our Cary Town Council work session this week, we saw updated designs for the Downtown Park and Streetscape. I love how this area will entice our citizens to come downtown with a beautiful park, a lovely street, along with our Cary Art Center and the revitalization that is occurring downtown.  With the new fountain and wonderful welcoming streets. there will be something for everyone to enjoy.

downtownstreetscape
Academy Streetscape

The streetscape project includes a number of components:

–  “Rooms” at selected locations on Academy Street
– Modification of the intersection at Academy and Dry – widening the street into the park to provide exclusive right turn lanes onto Academy when coming from Kildaire
– New light pole options (allowing flags and other hanging ornamentation)
– Street tree lighting (up lighting and string lighting in the trees.)
– Benches, with artistic components
– Electrical infrastructure locations (big power distribution boxes (4 ft tall) and smaller pedestals (18” tall)   Read More…

1 2 3 4 5 6 7  Scroll to top