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

Call to Action: NC Historic Tax Credits

If you like what’s happening in downtown Kinston with all the revitalization, then please TAKE NOTICE. Without the Historic Tax Credit then there is little incentive for developers to spend an enormous amount of money into rehabilitation. Instead these 75+ year old homes and commercial properties are receiving much needed face lifts, energy efficient appliances and TENANTS. That’s right, they are now being occupied. Cities and counties are receiving higher tax base, utility usage and less opportunity for crime. See the Kinston Free Press article here: http://www.kinston.com/news/local/kinston-could-lose-out-if-historic-tax-credits-axed-1.329767?tc=cr

Tomorrow morning the NC General Assembly’s Finance and Appropriations committee’s will have an opportunity to amend the house budget. Please ask them to add the Historic Tax Credits as already proposed by Governor Pat McCrory.

Finance Committee Members: http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/Committees/Committees.asp?sAction=ViewCommittee&sActionDetails=House%20Standing_24

Appropriations Committee Members: http://www.ncleg.net/gascripts/Committees/Committees.asp?sAction=ViewCommittee&sActionDetails=House%20Standing_6

 

Other articles of interest:
Eliminating Historic Tax Credit Would Be A Mistake – Winston-Salem Journal
NC Credit to Preserve Historic Properties Pays for Itself Many Times Over – News & Observer

GoldsboroDailyNews.com – Highway 70 Corridor Commission Questioned

Highway 70 Corridor Commission Questioned

BY  · AUGUST 19, 2013

A meeting notice for the US 70 Corridor Commission, and the subsequent agenda mailed to invited parties, sparked a flurry of emails between Chairman Robin Comer and BJ Murphy, Mayor of Kinston.

I spoke with BJ Murphy, Mayor of Kinston regarding his concerns and he was particularly bothered by the agenda going out without an attachment or supporting documentation on what the line item “Organizational Structure” would be. He believes the Commission is planning to turn the present organization into a lobbying entity. In addition, as it presently stands, only counties are allowed to have representation on the board – not municipalities.

The background on the Highway 70 Corridor Commission is as follows:

HWY. 70 Corridor Commission began as a County Commission, created by representatives from 5 counties to forward the progress of Highway 70 from Raleigh to the coast. The 70 corridor has been an NCDOT backed project, as it was included in the Transportation Improvement Plan more than 10 years ago.

The project is well under way with some sections complete and others in mid-phase.

Each county pays $25,000 a year to be a part of the commission and 4 county government officials from each are on the board.

$90,000 of that money pays Durwood Stephenson as the executive director. Stephenson is a former NCDOT Board member.

The following emails capture Mayor Murphy’s concerns, and the responses by Chairman Comer and one other Commission member:

“Chairman Comer and Highway 70 Corridor Commission,

The agenda for Thursday’s meeting includes an item on “Organizational Structure”. My understanding is that the cities along highway 70 are financially impacted by the proposed document. On behalf of the City of Kinston, I would respectfully request that this item be limited to discussion only until our elected body is able to review the proposed document. The Kinston City Council would be happy to review this proposal at our next regularly scheduled board meeting.

Respectfully,

BJ Murphy

Mayor, City of Kinston”

 “Mr. Murphy,

No city is financially impacted at all.  We have language that allows the cities to participate “at will” as an official member. This would be at a rate considerably less than counties participate.

I personally would like the cities to commit their input as I feel their presence I’m important, but it is at will.

My goal is to get the organization official ASAP, which hopefully is today.

 Robin Comer

Carteret County Commissioner”

“Mr. Chairman,

Counties collect taxes from city taxpayers also. To ask cities to either join at will or to have their respective county pay more from our tax dollars seems to be an issue worth having a discussion at the municipal level. My only request is that the cities be given the right to review this.

However, if your organization moves forward regardless of this request, then I would ask a revision be made that would negate the extra tax payment and make one of the four county appointees a municipal appointee. We all save tax dollars and your organization gets input from cities without growing the size of the board.

Respectfully,

BJ Murphy

Mayor, City of Kinston”

“Mr. Mayor,

I agree with Chairman Comer. We have worked on this with the blessing of the entire Corridor Commission for almost 4 months. We have shared with our members the basic details of what we were trying to achieve with this document.

Chairman Comer is correct , there is no financial impact on any entity by approving or not approving this document.

Much like our communities association in almost all of these coalitions or associations we aren’t committed to any financial impact unless we choose with our individual governing body.

In this document the only financial consideration is the cost of the option of membership. Once we finalize the document them all entities should take that documentation back to the body they represent and then that body will have the option of making a financial commitment or not.

This document doesn’t commit any municipality or entity to a financial commitment, it only outlines what that financial commitment would be if said entity chose the right of membership.

I support a vote today on this item so we can move on to other important business of the Commission.

Respectfully

J Mac Daughety

President

The Executive Search Corporation

Office 252-527-5900

Mobile 252-939-2957

TheExecutiveSearchCorp@gmail.com

www.PulpandPaperjobs.com

Twitter: PaperJobs

Skype: J.Mac.Daughety”

“Mac,

Over the past four months has this Organizational document been presented to the Lenoir County Transportation Committee, Lenoir County Board of Commissioners and/or the Kinston City Council for any input or review? We had a Lenoir County Transportation Committee meeting yesterday with a quorum present. In the past, all transportation related matters have been taken under advisement by the LCTC, which met yesterday.

All I’ve asked is that the City Council be given an opportunity to review this document. This document was not supplied with the Agenda for the 70 Corridor meeting being held today nor with our LCTC agenda, but has been worked on for four months.

I’m not understanding why this request is being given so much push back. At a time when the State is trying to take politics out of transportation, the US 70 Corridor Commission is becoming a lobbying entity made up of local government and taxpayer dollars to lobby DOT and state legislators with very little checks and balances from those very organizations.     

BJ”

super 70 corridor

KFP: Thomas Stith selected as McCrory’s chief of staff

Former Durham city councilman has worked with Kinston officials on projects

Thomas Stith

In his capacity with UNC Chapel Hill, Thomas A. Stith III has worked closely with local entities in Eastern North Carolina communities — including Kinston — on economic development and community redevelopment projects.

Local leaders now hope Stith will bring the capacity of the Governor’s Office to bear and continue to work with them as he settles into his role as chief of staff for Gov.-elect Pat McCrory.

“Mr. Stith has been highly engaged with our urban planning and redevelopment efforts, which you’ve seen along the Hwy. 11 corridor,” said Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, referring to studies carried out by UNC students and faculty — who worked with Stith’s guidance — on the best ways to reinvigorate the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard corridor.

Murphy continued: “I think by selecting Mr. Stith, (McCrory) has shown that he cares about Eastern North Carolina, and Mr. Stith has experience with municipalities and so that certainly plays well for local governments — besides the fact that Gov.-elect McCrory was a mayor himself.”

Stith is currently the director of McCrory’s transition team, which is laying the groundwork for the governor-elect to take office next month.

“The first step is to really get a good assessment of where we are at the departmental level and to assess which policies are currently operating efficiently, and which policies may need to be refined or changed,” Stith said Friday.

McCrory, the former mayor of Charlotte, is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 5, and give his inaugural address on Jan. 12.

Stith will become chief of staff once McCrory formally becomes governor.

“I feel it’s a significant responsibility, and one that I plan to dedicate all my experience to ensuring that we have a successful administration,” Stith said.

He served as program director for economic development in UNC’s Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise, as well as a three-term Durham city councilman.

Stith has also worked with IBM and Progress Energy, co-founded the Michael Thomas Group marketing firm and served as vice president of the John W. Pope Civitas Institute.

“He just has a wide depth of knowledge on issues important to the governor and important to the state, and the governor is glad to have him leading his team,” said Chris Walker, communications director for the transition team.

 

David Anderson can be reached at 252-559-1077 orDavid.Anderson@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at DavidFreePress.