Letter to Kinston: see you later, but not goodbye

Kinston: See you later, but not goodbye

Eight years ago, the citizens of Kinston took a chance on me. For a young man wanting to make an impact on his hometown and willing to give up 16 years of his life, I am forever grateful for the eight you allowed me to serve.

In fourth grade at Bynum Elementary, I told my art teacher I would live in Kinston when I got older. While watching a laser disc – which cast the vision for the Global TransPark – in the seventh grade at Rochelle Middle School, it solidified that promise in my heart and mind.

During my lifetime, my family has experienced great trials, including the tragic loss of my mother and my sister’s courageous battle with cancer, which sparked a community rally for prayer. Through prayer, family and our community, we have persevered. So too has our beloved Kinston.

We once were the epicenter of Eastern North Carolina where the Magic Mile reigned. However, the loss of tobacco and textiles sent shockwaves throughout our economy. After years of hard work but about the time we started figuring things out, Hurricane Floyd left us with the so-called “Flood of the Century,” which changed the landscape of neighborhoods throughout our community.

Even still, in 2002 upon graduating from ECU, I came home. I enjoyed running the Broken Eagle Eatery, engaging in historic preservation and leading downtown revitalization efforts through Pride of Kinston. These experiences encouraged my love for my hometown and created personal and professional relationships that continue even today.

Over these past eight years, I have enjoyed advocating for our staff, our businesses and our people. Whether it was a crime, a business expansion, Eagle Scout Court of Honor or a flood, you have been worth fighting for.

From the onset, I challenged the status quo and made many mistakes. The incredible team of city leaders, civic organizers, teenagers and religious leaders – mixed with an environment for business success – has led to a new identity for Kinston with incredible hopes of prosperity on the horizon.

I have had the privilege of serving you during a time when our reputation has changed across the state. In the past we were greeted with “You’re from Kinston?” and now it’s “You’re from Kinston!”

Our collective success has been no accident. The City of Kinston has developed a culture of finding ways to say “yes” as a means to create an environment for entrepreneurs to thrive. Our local government has been most effective because of our willingness to be engaged, yet standing out of the way. 

Through the collective of our team and community, we have been able to see some accomplishments. Here are but a few:

  • All major indicators of violent crimes are down 11.7 percent since 2009; that number includes murder, rape, robbery, motor vehicle theft and simple assault
  • The No. 1 issue facing our town for more than two decades had been our electric rates. Electric rates are down 10 percent since 2009 and are projected to be stable for the next several years
  • Street resurfacing has gone from a budget of zero tax dollars allocated in 2009 to $500,000, which will be spent in the coming months. We’re still shy of the $600,000 needed annually to sustain a 25-year life cycle, but we accomplished this without any increase in our total property tax revenue
  • Our fund balances, which are our savings accounts for emergency use like hurricane expenses and one-time expenditures like the Queen Street rehab, across all our accounts have gone from a disturbing $13,059,467 to a healthy $35,275,632
  • In 2009, Kinston’s unemployment rate was 13.9 percent; today, we’re at 5.3 percent
  • We found the right opportunity to split up the Department of Public Safety, so the two disciplines of Police and Fire could better focus on their core functions
  • We have more Community Watch programs than in 2009
  • We instituted prayer vigils as an immediate action following horrific events
  • We are hiring a community development planner to continue to find ways to work with neighborhoods in developing safe and productive communities
  • We have tripled the amount we’re spending in 2018 versus 2009 on demolishing blighted homes
  • We opened the Lions Water Adventure Park, which attracts thousands to our community each summer
  • We have installed thousands of LED street lights that save taxpayers’ money; in the process, increasing brightness and reducing maintenance costs
  • We have worked with the Pride of Kinston board to bring their staff members inside our organization. The new director will now be responsible for not only downtown, but also supporting the efforts of small business recruitment, retention, and expansion throughout our city limits
  • We saw the Kinston Indians leave us with a five-year drought in baseball only to successfully recruit the Texas Rangers. On Monday night, we will pass an agreement that solidifies the presence of the Down East Wood Ducks in Kinston through 2033
  • We overhauled our Comprehensive Unified Development Ordinance to streamline policies affecting our business community and to better position ourselves for growth
  • We took our 40-year dormant power plant and found a way to allow outside investors to launch a new business. Unlike Vernon Park Mall, the City of Kinston now owns (via a gift) the Glen Raven Mills property, which allows the City of Kinston to control its impact on development along the Neuse River and Riverwalk
  • We are investing in the infrastructure and aesthetics of Queen Street to give our downtown a shot in the arm for development; otherwise, Queen Street will remain 50 percent vacant. Although the project has been frustrating to many, this is an investment like never in our history and will give us a fighting chance at recreating the Magic of the Mile
  • We successfully motivated and transferred ownership of the flood prevention issue to the State of North Carolina, who is now studying mitigation efforts for the Neuse River Basin

And here are just a few things to happen in the next few years:

  • The completion of Harvey Parkway Part C, which will connect Hwy 58 at the Global TransPark to Hwy 11 south of Dupont
  • The completion of the Carey Road Extension (which has been three decades in the making) from Rouse Road to Daly Waldrop and Hwy 258
  • The extension of Doctors Drive so citizens and emergency services personnel can travel from Herritage Street to Airport Road via Doctors Drive
  • The construction of a second point of distribution for our electric grid to reduce the likelihood of emergencies like the Outer Banks experienced this past summer
  • The implementation of Smart Grid systems to give you better control of your energy consumption and bill

Come Monday, December 4 at 5:30 p.m., I will freely step aside for our new Mayor. Our country is the greatest on earth because of moments like this. Granted, I’d rather stay, but Don Hardy is now my mayor and yours. I encourage you to join me as I pray for his success. Pray for the team of leaders that surround him that they may be able to carry this momentum to a new level.

Kinston deserves prosperity and I believe she is in the best position to capitalize on it. For now, I will do more listening on city affairs than talking. I will turn my attention to my social media marketing firm and incredible family. I encourage all of you to look for opportunities to become more involved in our community. Our kids, our neighbors and this beloved community deserve your best. I’d #ExpectNothingLess because #IHeartKinston.

Less talk. More rolled-up sleeves. Less condemnation. More prayer and encouragement.

May you and our city’s future be blessed with much success and happiness!

Forever in love,
Mayor BJ Murphy

Video: Reece Gardner Interview on July 24 2012

This week on the Reece Gardner Hour, Reece and I discuss recent headlines, Mayor’s internship program, 2013 Mayor’s race, street resurfacing funding increase, technology improvements at the City (kiosks, online applications and social media), future political office, Section 5 of the Civil Rights Act, endorsement of Pat McCrory (Gov), Dan Forest (Lt Gov), John Bell (NC House) and David Rouzer (US House), partnership with the Arts Council for a $100,000 grant, revitalization efforts, MLK corridor improvements, demolition by neglect.

You should see some significant improvements from City Hall on out over the next four or five years.

My interview begins at 29:15.

KFP: Kinston voters reject mayoral veto referendum

by Bryan Hanks
Managing Editor

Tuesday wasn’t just a day to elect new leaders or bring back incumbents — Election Day 2011 also served as an opportunity for area voters to vote on referendums.

In Kinston, voters cast ballots on a proposed veto for mayor, that could only be overturned by a 4/5 vote of the city council. The measure failed by a huge margin — 2,358-1,237.

Although Joe Tyson, who was re-elected to the Kinston City Council Tuesday night, was an outspoken advocate against the mayoral veto, he was surprised at the almost 2-1 vote against the veto.

“I was really not expecting it to be the margin that was the final tally,” Tyson said. “But I think once The Free Press began to explain to the people what the veto really meant, they had the opportunity to digest that and come up with their own decisions.”

Full Story

Reece Gardner – LIVE TV Interview

This week I sat down with local talk show host Reece Gardner.  I’m the third guest, which starts at 32:04.  Reece and I discuss the Mayoral Veto Referendum, City Manager search, nonpartisan elections, water rates, electric utility merger of Progress and Duke, Hurricane Irene, Code RED, FEMA assistance, and my future political plans.

Reece September 13, 2011

 

 

 

e-Newsletter: August Update for the City of Kinston

Mayor BJ Murphy e-Newsletter: August 2011

Dear friend,

Believe or not, school is almost back in session.  The smell of freshly cut grass in August can only mean that Friday night lights will soon be here.  Make sure you get out and support our local athletic programs this fall.  Let’s go Vikings!

To keep you more informed, I reguarly update my Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Also, feel free to visit my webpage and email me at bj@bjmurphy.org if you need some help. Thank you for allowing me to serve you.

Respectfully,

 

Highway 70 Bypass
For nearly two decades the only bypass we’ve heard about has been a southern bypass.  However, the Lenoir County Transportation Committee, which I serve on, has made progress to convince DOT and other agencies to seriously consider a northern bypass for many economic development reasons.  This would keep our stores on existing 70 busy, especially for the summer months, and would help the future growth of the GTP. 

Later this month, there will be two public hearings to view potential routes, using existing roads and proposed roads.  Stay tuned to the Kinston Free Press for this information.  Here is the 2007 Comprehensive Transportation Plan map to see the future of some roads.

2011 City Council Elections
Before you know it the 2011 City Council elections will be upon us.  September 13th is the Democratic Primary and November 8th is the General Election.  Please prayerfully consider who our leaders will be for the next four years.

City Manager Search
The Kinston City Council will meet Monday night, August 15th, to receive the second batch of applicants.  Over the next couple of months we will be discussing these applicants and interviewing the cream of the crop.  Finding the best manager with the right mix of leadership, experience and more will be crucial to help Kinston grow.

Demolition by Neglect
In the FY 2011-2012 budget, the City Council agreed to go ahead and merge our Inspections department with the County’s.  However, after the brief rise of crime and number of citizen complaints on dilapidated housing we decided to keep this department.  The main reason was to utilize the approximately $93,000 in revenues to enforce our Demolition by Neglect ordinance.  If you see a property that we should consider demolishing, please call 252.939.3282.

Speaker Thom Tillis
NC Speaker of the House, Thom Tillis, will be in Kinston on Thursday, August 18th for a town hall legislative update.  The town hall will be held at King’s Restaurant on Hwy 70 at noon.  Many people are going at 11am to eat a Dutch lunch.  Please rsvp to speaker.rsvp@ncleg.net to make sure you’ve got a seat for the town hall.

 

Contact Mayor BJ Murphy
207 East King Street, Post Office Drawer 339
Kinston, NC 28502
(252) 939-3114

 

e-Newsletter: June 2011 Update for the City of Kinston

From the desk of Mayor BJ Murphy

New email newsletter!

Dear engaged citizen and community leader,

In an ever increasing attempt to reach out to our community, this email newsletter is designed to give you information about the City of Kinston that you may or may not find in another medium.

Feel free to email me at bj@bjmurphy.org if you have an item you’d like to share.  Be sure to “Like” my Facebook Fan Page (see below) to get updates in real time.  Serving you is an honor and I do not take this responsibility lightly.

Respectfully,
BJ Murphy

Budget Update
The FY 2011-2012 budget has been presented by our outgoing City Manager, Scott Stevens.  The City Council will hold a public hearing on Monday, June 20th at 7:00 PM to hear from you.

Here is a link to see both a summary and an in-depth, line by line budget: http://bjmurphy.org/city-of-kinston-budget-summary-public-hearing-on-620/

2011 City Council Elections
In November 2011, our city residents will vote on three City Council seats.  The three council members whose four-year terms are set to expire are Joe Tyson, Alice Tingle and Will Barker.  Filing for these seats will begin in early July.

To learn more about the filing process, please contact the Lenoir County Board of Elections at 252.523.0636.  Also, I would be willing to speak with any prospective candidate either before or after filing.

USPS Consolidation
The United States Postal Service is drafting plans to consolidate our Kinston operations to those in Fayetteville.  This proposal will cost Kinston over 80 jobs.

As a federal taxpayer, I certainly encourage the USPS to find ways to cut.  But, as the leader of this city, I am concerned that the request for public comment was more of a procedural “dog and pony show” and not a sincere request for input.

To see my communication with the USPS, click here: http://bjmurphy.org/?s=usps

Progress/Duke Merger
Recently, the City of Kinston decided not to pursue intervention at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) through New Bern’s efforts because our independent consultants determined that rate parity (i.e. having similar rates) with Progress Energy was not an allowable argument before FERC.

Of the six cities that took part in the independent review, only New Bern and Rocky Mount decided to pursue intervention.  Kinston decided to agree to the direction of the North Carolina Eastern Municipal Power Agency (NCEMPA) board, and at that time, the decision to intervene was still on the table.  Ultimately, the NCEMPA board decided not to intervene and instead received some concessions from Duke and Progress Energy.

Related information: http://bjmurphy.org/?s=electric

Contact Mayor BJ Murphy
207 East King Street, Post Office Drawer 339
Kinston, NC 28502
(252) 939-3114

Mayor Editorial: Annexation, merger, election process could hold growth possibilities

(Here’s an excerpt.  For the full story, click below.)

by BJ Murphy
Mayor, City of Kinston

This year promises to be a great precursor to a huge 2012 celebration of the 250th anniversary of Kinston. Everywhere we turn, there are opportunities ahead for our community. Not too many communities in Eastern North Carolina can boast about the development of new jobs, highway construction, rail construction, fire station construction, recreational facilities construction and more. Sure, most of these aforementioned items have had their positives and negatives brought to light, but nevertheless they are here or they are coming, and our community is sure to benefit because of them.

As we look ahead to this year, I want to mention a few items that should be considered and discussed throughout our community.

Read the entire editorial…