In and Outta My Box

I slept in a cardboard box overnight.

I’m lucky, my evening in a box was a choice, but for so many, it is not.

Why would I choose to do this?
Welcoming sign

Welcoming sign

I joined more than 20 people at the United Way “CEO Sleep Out” on the lawn of DPAC in downtown Durham.

The goal is… to better understand homelessness and poverty and its impact in our region.

I wanted to spend a “night in their box,” and also do what I can to raise the profile of homelessness in our region. By participating, we were also asked to not only help raise money for the United Way, but to fully participate and learn about this compelling issue, while also collaborating, and perhaps, to make connections that might help address solutions for this important population.

And it Begins

The night started for me after one of the quickest Town Council meetings we have had in my 4 years. (14 minutes and then a quick “closed session.) Has to be a record, for sure.

I walked up to the lawn in front of the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), not sure WHAT to expect.   And, on the drive there, it was raining. My head was spinning. I’m going to sleep OUTSIDE in the rain. In a cardboard box. Oh no. Have I shared how I am absolutely NOT a camper? My idea of camping is going to a hotel with no room service. Really. I’m not joking. So doing this was WAY outta my box. Get it? Box. Ha ha!

A Simulation of the Homeless Bureaucracy

I joined a table as they had just started an exercise, to bring the immensity of the homeless problem to light. We used beads as representations of homeless people –the different color beads represented different types of folks in the system. (although we didn’t know WHAT they represented when we started – a single person? A family? We didn’t know.)

game The simulation described the various roles that different agencies play when a homeless person enters the system. The goal was to get as many people out of unsheltered housing (meaning off the streets) into Market Housing. Each of us at the table had a role to play – as an agency that works with homelessness. From the time they enter (Intake), and make their way through the system of agencies, the goal is to rearrange the pattern and funding in a way that get the most people off the streets. Whether we were moving people (or beads in this case) to Emergency Shelters (which are short term housing for no more than 90 days), or leveraging Outreach programs (which provide accurate counts of those who are currently homeless while moving individuals and families into shelters), we were keenly aware that there just weren’t enough beds for all. We had opportunities to make strategic changes, some did help the numbers, but we were still fighting an uphill battle. game2One of the interesting “lessons-learned” was that Transitional Housing, which provides service enriched housing (for 90 day to 2 years), including case management, after school care, substance abuse programs, was one of the most expensive programs. Our strategic move to fund more “rapid rehousing” programs, a program designed to move individuals and families out of a shelter and into a permanent home of their own, seemed to get a number of folks off the streets quickly. But NO single move is a solution on its own, that’s clear.

After that, I was interviewed by Univision, they were there to gather information on our experiences, before and after the event.


Panel of Experts

Then, we got down to business to hear from the experts, people in the field, working day to day to address this issue. We heard from folks from the Urban Ministries of Durham,  who have been successful moving people out of homelessness, to Genesis Home who recently merged with the Durham Interfaith Hospitality Network. They spoke of the need for collaboration between agencies, understanding how they can work together, and how to leverage each other skills and passions to address the issues.


– With over 1 million people in Wake County, it’s estimated that 1170 people are homeless in Wake County on any given night

– Across the state it is estimated that 11,448 people are homeless, of 9.94 Million in NC

– Almost 1 in 12 Wake County residents reporting housing someone due to homelessness in the past year.

– An estimated 228 children will be homeless tonight

– Wake County’s median monthly rent is 18% higher than the state avg.

Stats from Raleigh Rescue and NC Homeless Count and Wake County Human Services

After a break, we focused on Social Innovation with an exercise led by the executive director, Kelly Leonhardt Phoenix from Nourish International.

“Nourish International is a student movement that partners with communities to make a lasting impact on extreme poverty.”

(Small disclaimer and small world, it was exciting for me to meet Kelly, because my daughter interned at Nourish over the summer, and I heard great things about this organization.)

Kelly led us on what I would can an exercise in social innovation. We took an idea – “how to feed a single child, to keep them from going hungry” and stepped through what challenges and questions we might have to address that problem. From there, we took that challenge to 100,000 kids. The scale and immensity of that problem seemed daunting, but also allowed for more collaboration and innovation.


Finally, it was time to go to sleep.

11:20pm: Sleep, that’s what was on the agenda next. Well, at least, that’s what I thought might happen.


Blankets and sleeping bags, for some

I stepped up to the CEO Canteen to get my box and a flat piece of cardboard for the “floor.” I noticed that I got a box, pillow and package of a bottle of water & granola bar, but others also got a sleeping bag, and a blanket. Huh? Maybe it was “let’s make the elected official suffer” night? Nope. It seemed that people that raised LOTS of money, got more amenities. Guess that’s a new kind of privilege. J I was bummed. Disappointed in myself for not raising more money, and wondering how I missed that on the website. And, perhaps thinking that it was just perfect – that even the homeless have different levels of privilege. I knew it was probably going to rain again – and I was prepared to get wet.   All I brought with me was what I was wearing, jeans, t-shirt, rain poncho/jacket, hat (for bed hair), my phone (for pictures), and my glasses.

11:30pm: At first, I thought I would set my box up like a square, but I looked around and got some hints from others, that setting it up like that, might be problematic. I saw a box behind mine, that was collapsing upon itself while soaking up the rain, so it was teepee mode for me.


This is gonna be great from Lori Bush on Vimeo.

I crawled into my dark, damp and sweaty hovel. With the humidity at almost 100%, and still almost 80 degrees out, I was praying for a breeze. Then, out of the steamy blue, one of the United Way folks showed up at my triangle shaped opening, with a sleeping bag and blanket. Apparently they determined that another one of the participants had raised $500 more than needed, and he “gifted” that extra amount to my donation bucket. So, I got the extras! Yahoo! I crawled out and gave that other participant a huge hug. Collaboration at work!

lor got sleepingbag

11:45pm: Crawling back into the box, I realized how I could hear everything. The box was acting as an amplifier in a way. The crickets, the cars driving by. Car doors opening and closing. Conversations. People on their way to or from their own homes, their beds maybe. I was sure bugs were crawling all over me. (I DID mention how I hate camping?) It started to freak me out a bit. I tried to calm down, breathing in and out, slowly. I felt vulnerable. Nervous. Powerless and susceptible to almost anything, even though I was assured that there was security around. Either way, here I was, sleeping on the ground in Downtown Durham, in a box. Would I even be able to sleep?

12:30am: Still awake. And, then this happens. With the railroad tracks just across the street from it was just a matter of time for another train to come by: incredibly loud and long train. I cover my ears, still hearing it reverberate in my head long after it trails off. Wondering if I will ever get to sleep.

train from Lori Bush on Vimeo.

2:10am: Still awake. It’s pretty bright on the lawn of the DPAC, with the streetlights, the downtown lights of the buildings, and the lights of the tent that was setup for the event. The light noise is creeping through my pulled down hat (along with the spiders, I’m sure), as the tires of the slow moving intermittent cars crawl down the street.


4:20am: Woke up to some rain hitting my cardboard roof. Looking out, I see some of the folks sleeping without a box, and I feel for them. They didn’t want to sleep inside the box, but they are covered with blankets, so they should be fine.


5:15am: It’s official, I can’t fall back asleep. I think about how tired and sore I am, and wondering what it would feel like to have to wake up and go to work, every day after something like this. Some 44% of the homeless are employed. How lucky and blessed am I to be able to sleep in a bed, wake up most days refreshed, and then be able to get ready for work? This experience is humbling. Of course, not all homeless folks are on the streets or sleeping outside like I am, but many are certainly in less than ideal situations – even in a shelter of some kind, it’s still tough, and the uncertainty is likely all consuming.

6:10am: People are stirring. More cars are zipping by. It’s time for me to get up and pack up. Crawling out, I see that some are asleep still, how is that possible? I’m jealous, my red-eyes are blurry, I feel shorter than normal as I stretch and find it’s actually a beautiful morning. I survey the area – still dawn, but some boxes are leaning and others sturdy. I realize I have 2 really big spider bites that are itchy. Will have to check them out when I get home. I have to head home anyway, to take a shower before speaking to a class of 1st graders about Town Government with the Mayor.tentinmorning1




One last interview with Univision about my evening. “What have I learned?”

  1. It ain’t easy being homeless. I’m not sure how people do it – the fortitude, stamina and strength to sleep outside in all kinds of weather, it’s certainly not easy. And not a choice I think anyone would choose to make.
  2. There is no quick answer to fixing homelessness and poverty, clearly, if there were, it would have been found. To address these issues takes public/private partnerships, dedication, commitment and innovative solutions. And, absolutely, a willingness to learn and to do more.
  3. I am truly blessed to have a job, a family and a supportive community. And, most importantly, we need to work to find ways to address these issues. As one of the wise presenters said the evening before (I’ll paraphrase)– “we can add more Affordable Housing, and/or we can pay higher living wages for more people to be able to live in our communities. I’m not sure how to address it here in Cary, but I’m willing and able to learn, and seek answers to this important set of questions.
  4. Finally – it really does take a village. There are so many organizations working, and some of them working together, we need to find new ways to make a difference for this population of our community. And we need to do it, together.

tentcitymorningThanks again to the United Way for all that they do, as well as all the other folks that do this work day in and day out.  And thank you for this enlightening experience that I will not soon forget.

Noise Ordinance Proposal

There has been a lot of discussion at the Council table, online and in the papers regarding the proposal for an updated Golf Course Noise ordinance.  Because the ordinance language can be a bit confusing, I took the liberty of making a spreadsheet to show what IS changing, and what is not.

I often do this sort of thing as I’m preparing to vote on a complex issue, so that I can make sure that I understand all sides of the issue.


First off, my mind is not yet made up here.  I have concerns with changing an ordinance, that will impact people whose homes and quality of life may be affected.  Changing the rules in the middle of the game is not something that I take lightly.

But at the same time, I look at the bigger issue and problem.  

  1. There have been very few (no) complaints brought before 2 of the golf courses in the last few years (some in the last month or so, as this discussion began.)  Another golf course had a few complaints, but they were amicably settled.
  2. Many folks that purchased homes on the golf courses were aware of the potential noise issues when they bought or built their houses.
  3. I understand the economic vitality that golf courses bring to our community.
  4. Some of the issues with the ordinance are ambiguous, and need to be codified more specifically so that everyone understands the rules.

So, having said all of that, here is a chart I put together, along with some explanations, that will guide me at the council table.  I hope that it helps you understand the changes, the issues, and impacts.  I’d be interested, as always, in your feedback.


The proposed ordinance language is here.

noiseordinance table

*Golf courses stipulate that “golf course greens” is defined by the USGA as all the grass on the course (i.e. fairways, tee boxes and putting surfaces.) Cary has typically enforced the laymen’s interpretation that to “mow the greens” is defines as cutting the grass on the putting surface specifically. Outside of that, was not allowed by ordinance. This is one reason to codify the ordinance.

** Typical and routine work includes the mowing, blowing and raking of all of the course’s playing surfaces, using equipment operated with all the manufacturer’s standard mufflers and noise- reducing equipment in use and in proper operating condition. Typical and routine work does not include the use of chainsaws, chippers, shredders or equipment that is used on a sporadic, irregular basis.

Some definitions/Explanations: 

What’s being changed?

  1. The proposed changes would allow golf courses to be prepared for play on all playing surfaces beginning at 6 a.m., 7 days/week during the months of April – September.  The ordinance already allowed golf courses to mow the “golf course greens,” referring to the putting surfaces. However, the proposed updated language in the ordinance expands that to “all playing surfaces. The golf course management stakeholders believe that that the “golf course greens” included the other playing surfaces, and they have been maintaining those surfaces in their current practices. As such, golf course management does not believe this is a change from their current practice, although it was not codified in our ordinance till now.
  2. The current ordinance specifies “mowing” – the updated ordinance specifies “mowing, blowing, and raking of the sand traps” as permissible activities for the golf courses to perform beginning at 6 a.m.  Also added to this detail is that chain saws, chippers, shredders, etc are specifically NOT exempted by the “typical and routine work”, in the new ordinance. Therefore, that means that in order to use those, they would have to be under 60 decibels if used before 7am during the week, or 9am on Saturday and Sunday. This matches the current general practice of the golf courses
  3. Measurement of the 60db(A) has, and will continue to be taken at or within the residential property line of the complainant. Added to this ordinance is that the sound measurement shall be averaged over 1 minute, and that it is a violation of the ordinance if it exceeds the average reading of 60db(A), or if any sound exceeds 62db(A) at any time during the measurement period.
  4. Also, staff has added a proposal for an additional exception to allow this same activity on the golf courses for the months of October  – March.  This proposal would allow work to begin at 7 a.m on Saturday and Sunday.  The current ordinance would only allow that work on Saturday and Sunday at 9am . Keep in mind, that anyone, across the Town of Cary, can mow their lawn at 7am, Monday through Friday. This exception, to start at 7am on Saturday and Sunday, would only apply to golf courses. We have been informed that this matches the current practice of the golf courses in the area.

What does 60db(A) sound like?

60db is equal to a conversation at 3 feet. Anyone can do anything as long as it doesn’t exceed 60db. This is not a change.  (Note: this is a similar definition that is used by Industrial Noise Control, Inc.   A chart by Industrial Noise Control can be found here for their specific wording. 

What type of activity is being restricted?

There is no type of activity that is restricted from being performed at any time, rather, it is the level of noise created by that activity that is restricted.  Said another way, anyone can cut grass at midnight, so long as they do not exceed 60 decibels at the property line of a person that complains about that midnight mowing. Anyone can do anything as long as it doesn’t exceed 60 db. This is not a change and has been allowed for years.


Featured picture by Penn State

It’s Sign up Time!

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


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-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.


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.

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)


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


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.


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.


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 ( 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.


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 

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.


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)

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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


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)

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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



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. ☺)



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.”


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.


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.





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.



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