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

Mayor Murphy’s Statement on the City of Kinston FY 2015 Budget

Tonight the City Council of the City of Kinston voted 2-2 and I broke the tie in favor of the recommended budget as presented by the Kinston City Manager. Here is the statement I gave at the end of the meeting.

Public debate, openness and transparency are essential in our democracy. The State of NC requires that our City Manager present a balanced budget to this body. This Council has the authority to accept, reject or amend his recommendations.

Each and every one of us lives here, works here and plays here. Everyone on this bench and in our presence tonight are financially impacted by these decisions.

We have seen increases because of our wholesale suppliers. We have seen increases because of the Affordable Care Act. We have seen increases because of the needs of our aging infrastructure.

Our electric partners have made it clear that increases are coming and should’ve already come based on wholesale and infrastructure pressures. However, a potential deal with Duke Energy caused there to be a pause in hopes of a record deal for our communities.

Last year we pulled from our General Fund to loan and support the electric fund. We decided then to pay that back this fiscal year. I think we all can agree that this practice is not a long-term solution. Just as continuing the practice of transferring from the electric fund to subsidize our General Fund will one day be obsolete.

Also, this fall we will be making serious, long-term financial decisions regarding our infrastructure to the tune of tens of millions of dollars. Ultimately we may need to ask voters for their opinions on how best to finance the replacement of 100-year-old pipes and 30-year-old electrical equipment.

In light of the potential Duke deal and our future discussion of infrastructure, I would encourage some compromise tonight. We can either stomach a small increase in electric or we can take street resurfacing to $0, stop demolishing dilapidated buildings and more.

Unfortunately, we have three options and neither one will make sleeping tonight easier. We can raise a utility rate with the hope of a future decrease, we can raise property tax rates by 5.71 cents, which will never decrease, or we can drastically and negatively affect the momentum we’re gaining in service quality, street resurfacing, planning and quality of life.

I want to thank our City Manager and staff for doing more than this body requested of you. Without your diligent efforts in frugality our choices tonight would be much more difficult.

In closing, we all should concede that this budget only affects the next 12 months and the fall infrastructure discussions, potential vote of the people, and Duke Energy deal will have a greater impact on our community for decades.

This decision is not taken lightly and this body has had ample time to review it, ask questions, seek input, hold a public hearing and now even receive more public comments. I want to thank all of our citizens who came tonight to speak their opinions on the budget. We truly value your opinion and the time you gave to be here.

KFP: Kinston mayoral candidates take center stage

KFP1016_mayoralforum_1

Mayoral candidate Ralph Clark, left, makes his opening statements, while John Marks, center, and B.J. Murphy listen at the mayoral forum Tuesday at community television station TACC-9 on Queen Street.

Sara Pezzoni / The Free Press

Kinston’s three candidates for mayor each had their lone opportunity to address viewers on the issues of the city on Tuesday evening.

Ralph Clark, John Marks and B.J. Murphy spoke at the TACC-9 community television station for a mayoral forum, as the three are looking to be appointed into office by the people after the Nov. 5 election.

Clark, who has spent 32 years in public office, including eight as the former city manager of Kinston, believes his extensive experience and knowledge would be vital in helping the community he has called home since 1999.

“Kinston has been great to me as a city manager and a citizen,” Clark said. “I have a lot to give, and hope (the city) allow(s) me to be the mayor.”

Clark also talked about education in his opening statement, acknowledging that the city council would not be able to intervene in the decision-making process.

“I would be remiss not to mention something about education,” Clark said. “Even though the city has nothing to do with the education in the community, it has to be supported.”

Marks, the pastor and founder of Increasing the Faith Ministries, believes Kinston needs to move in an alternate direction in fixing some of the issues in the community.

“We do need change,” Marks said. “Everybody that I ask or come in contact with, they are always saying that the city needs to be changed. I’m just grateful that our city and the leadership that is present are still doing things, but we still need solutions to a lot of problems. I just want to be an improvement on assets to the city of Kinston.”

Murphy, the incumbent seeking his second term in office, used his opening statement to speak on some of the positives he has seen in Kinston since he became the mayor in 2009.

“I have never been more excited about the opportunities before our community than I am right now,” Murphy said. “Our community is growing, and there are a lot of positive things happening. Just over the past four years, we have had a major focus on redeveloping our community, on making sure we have better streets, and we’ve had a more accountable government than ever before.”

Early voting starts on Thursday, and will run until Nov. 2, with Election Day on Nov. 5.

 

Junious Smith III can be reached at 252-559-1077 andJunious.Smith@Kinston.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JuniousSmithIII.

For more information on reruns of the city council and mayor forums, visit tacc9.com.

http://www.kinston.com/news/local/kinston-mayoral-candidates-take-center-stage-1.219056?tc=cr

Mayor Murphy appears on NCSPIN

This week we have a special edition of NC SPIN featuring four Mayors from North Carolina. They include:

Mayor Nancy McFarlane, Raleigh
Mayor Bill Bell, Durham
Mayor Jill Swain, Huntersville
Mayor B.J. Murphy, Kinston

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.

Kinston Free Press Radio: Interview with Mayor BJ Murphy

By Bryan Hanks and Jon Dawson

Managing Editor Bryan Hanks and columnist Jon Dawson have a very Justin Beiber-ish conversation with Kinston Mayor B.J. Murphy, who also discusses his plans for the 2013 municipal elections and other news topics of the day, including the Will Barker arrest. Additionally, Hanks and Dawson sit down with Free Press Advertising Director Matt Holbrook to talk about the business side of the newspaper.

Video: Reece Gardner Interview on 10/8/2012

Interview begins at 26:00.

Reece and I covered:
– Street resurfacing
– Amtrak service
– Governor’s race and impact on electric issues
– Planning updates (CDBG, updating UDO, Arts & Cultural District, demolishing blight)
– Monthly newsletter: www.BJMurphy.org
– Sewer expansion
– $0.25 sales tax on ballot
– Paying our obligations
– Fund balance
– S. Queen St. bridges
– 2013 Mayor’s race