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First Impressions

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By manalk, on May 18, 2011

This is my first week of internship at the Wake County Community Services department. For readers who are not familiar with North Carolina, Wake County is in the Central/Piedmont region of the state, and includes the capital city of Raleigh as well as surrounding towns and cities. It has a population of more than 910,000 residents and in 2010 was the 9th fastest growing county in America. The Community Services department oversees the county’s GIS, libraries, parks, recreation and open spaces, and planning and inspections, among other things.

Although I have only been at work for two days, I already feel that I am going to have a great summer. Everyone I have met (including my boss and colleagues in Community Services, other Wake County staff members and even the security guards in the building) is really friendly and helpful. My office is bright and spacious and just down the hall is the 10th floor access to the roof where I have already had lunch once and plan to continue doing so throughout the next three months.

One of the highlights of my first two days was attending a county commissioners’ regular meeting on Monday. In addition to having the honor of being the first such meeting that I have ever attended, this particular meeting was also special because David Cooke, the county manager, presented his proposed budget for fiscal year 2012 to the commissioners (and the public).

Since next year’s proposed budget ($951.5 million) is almost the same as this year’s budget ($951.2 million), but has allocated different funding levels for a variety of programs/departments compared to last year’s budget, Mr. Cooke compared the process to a roller coaster ride. In fact, at one point during the budget presentation he showed a video of a roller coaster ride which started in one location, went up and down many times during the ride, and ended back at the same location.

Having just completed the MPA program’s course on local government budgeting and finance, it was wonderful seeing an actual budget presentation and hearing a few public comments in this setting. Similarly, I appreciated the opportunity to attend an internal county management meeting on Tuesday and hear Mr. Cooke present the final proposed budget to county staff, followed by a detailed discussion of the county’s capital improvement plan for the next seven years.

On a different note, I also found out this week that Raleigh has an ordinance which requires public parking decks in the city to be disguised from the outside for aesthetic purposes. This is usually done by creating some kind of façade on the outside of the decks’ walls. However, due to unforeseen circumstances arising from the economic downturn, the Davie Street parking deck is currently standing near the Wake County government buildings in all its unsightly, concrete glory.

To solve this problem in the short-term, the Wake County Library System has decided to partner with a private developer and NCSU art/design students to create colorful and charming banners depicting a variety of children’s adventures that will cover two sides of the deck. This partnership will provide an advertisement venue for the libraries and an enchanting art display for the public. The banner design and partnership information can be viewed here.

These are the main updates for this week. I will be back next week with more stories and insights. Thanks for reading!

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