#Justagirlinasnowplow

That’s what I was tagging my adventure with the Snow Patrol last weekend.

I admit it, as a councilmember I sometimes get to do cool stuff. 

I’ve been on stage to give my children their diplomas when they graduated from high school.

My Daughter’s HS Graduation

I’ve ridden in a parade and thrown candy from a car & a float. (Wish I was better at that!)

Cary Town Council Christmas Parade Float

Got to put my handprints into the concrete at the Cary Theater.

Marking the occasion at The Cary Theater

Climbed to the top of the tallest Firetruck ladder and slid down the pole in the Fire Station

 – Did a ride-along with the Police Department – with a K9 officer

 – Spent an evening with Cary EMS, on calls with them as they save lives. (I need to blog about that!)

All fun stuff.

But that’s not just why I do it.  What I love, is seeing what our Town Staff does in the field! Just being with them for a few hours to get a small taste of what they do in their jobs – and how important those jobs are to our high quality of life in Cary.  I learn so much by just being by their side.  Hearing their stories. Understanding why they do what they do. They are absolutely the best around.  So, it seemed natural to join them on a snow day. Read More…

Doing the Right Thing for Families

Originally, I called this post  – “Why Paid Parental Leave in Cary?”  I know, I know, that made more sense.  But as I thought more about it, I really think, for me, it boils down to this…

“It’s the right thing to do.”

But, let me explain.  First, there’s this.

Last week our Cary Town Council unanimously approved a Paid Parental Leave program for Town of Cary employees.

I’m beyond thrilled that we are able to provide such an important benefit for our valued Town employees.  So I thought I would share a little bit about the program, and why I am so passionate about this effort.  Read More…

Our Cary Budget

ourcarybudget

It’s Budget Time

Wake County Commissioners just passed their budget, and the NC General Assembly just dropped a big budget document on all the members’ desks on Tuesday, June 16, 2015.

For a vote on Wednesday, June 17, 2015. That’s right. The very next day.

The good news is that, here in the Town of Cary, we have a participatory budget process. It allows lots of time for involvement from you, our citizens. 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.)
Not just an issue in Public Service

newsweek

It’s not just a phenomena in Public Service.  Women are underrepresented and discriminated against in Silicon Valley, where a recent Newsweek article points out that women are less likely to receive funding for their ideas, and many of the misogynitic ways of the old boys club still endure.

  • ▪ Venture Captalist typically fund women at the lowest levels, $100,000
  • ▪ Non of the TOP FIVE VCs have a single female senior partner
  • ▪ Only 14.2% of the top 5 leadership positions of companies in the S&P 500 are held by women.
  • ▪ 4.6% of the CEO in the S&P are women
  • ▪ Women earn 78% of what males earn in 2015 (up from 62% in 1979)
  • ▪ There are no US holidays named after women, no women on US paper currency, and fewer than  25% of US postage stamps honoring people feature women.

From Catalyst 2015, McKinsey & Co – Women Matter

None of this is surprising, but what is notable is that finally we are seeing more focus on bringing these numbers to light, but also  bringing them to the forefront.  Patricia Arquette did a phenomenal job calling out the inequities  as she picked up her Oscar and said, “It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all.”

 

Patricia Arquette at the Oscars

Patricia Arquette at the Oscars

There IS Good News, Though

Research shows that the main reason so few women are in appointed or elected office is not necessarily overt discrimination – but that so few women actually seek these offices. There are many reasons for this, whether it’s lack of belief in their ability, concern of the toll it might take on their family, or lack of perceived experience.  However, when they DO run, THEY WIN.   From the report mentioned above, 25% of the candidates across North Carolina on the ballot were women, but 63% of these candidates won their races.

Women are underrepresented in government, this is clear. And if a representative democracy should look like it’s population, we have a while to go before we get there.

And here’s how and why….

1. We need to get young women involved early. Having them  aware of their impact and the important voice they have in the process of democracy is crucial.

2. Women are role models for other women. They are an inspiration, mentors, and confidants, and they want to help – just reach out and ask.

3. Women have a valueable voice to provide – they can offer a fresh perspective and a different approach to seemingly intransient problem Studies show that when you have a diverse group of people attacking a problem, you can find new ways and solutions than you would ever have considered before.

4. Women are a majority – a voting and buying block that can’t be ignored. Women spend 58% of online retail dollars, they make 80% of the Health Care decisions, and 85% guide and/or make purchase decisions in their household.

Data from Time and Digital Sherpa.

What’s Next? 

So, where do we go from here? Well, it’s time to have this important conversation where-ever and when ever we can.

I’m glad to see more women involved in Public Service at the local level, and girls and young ladies taking on careers that used to be thought of as “male only.” We need to continue to support programs for Girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), such as the National Girls Collaborative Project.

We can all learn more about the important contributions women have made – and, you guessed it, there’s an app for that!  Using Google’s Field Trip App,

Google's Field Trip App

Google’s Field Trip App

 

If you haven’t used this app, check it out! When you are logged into Field Trip and switch on the SPARK: Women on the Map history notifications, you will receive an alert when you are near a place where a woman made history, and then you can read more about her and her accomplishments.

And finally – we need to get young women involved by inviting them to apply and be appointed for local boards and commissions, and finding new ways to encourage women to run for office, start businesses and spread their wings.

And sometimes, taking them to a movie about the Women’s Suffrage movement, and showing them the strong shoulders that we all stand on, is a great place to start.

Hope to see you at the movie!

Women's Suffrage

Women’s Suffrage (from the Library of Congress)

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…
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