July 15, 2022 6:00am

Weaver Fire, downtown social districts and a giant dandelion

July 2022 Power Poll Results

Photo of Mary Giunca
Winston-Salem, NC Correspondent

Welcome back to Power Poll, if you’re rejoining us from January, when we took a break to build our database. If this is your first Power Poll, a hearty welcome. We hope you’ll think of this as a cyber version of an 18th century salon, minus the powdered wigs.

First, a few housekeeping items. We’re still looking to grow our database, so please let me know of people you recommend we add. I’ll need their name, position and email address. Their responses, and yours, remain anonymous. However, if you choose to offer a comment, that will appear under your name.

A couple of you asked about remaining anonymous when making comments. I’m sorry that’s not an option. Power Poll wants you to be identifiable to each other, in hopes that offsite discussions can follow.

Some of you have asked about suggesting topics for questions. Feel free to send me those. I try to draw my material from a variety of local news sources, but with our variants waxing and waning, I’m not out and about as much as I’d like to be.

Our first question looked at the Winston Weaver Fertilizer Plant fire, a bit of old news that has continued to dominate headlines--first because of questions over the possibility of there being another such disaster out there, and secondly, because of concerns about the city’s inability to require facilities to update their safety precautions to meet modern building code standards.

Two responses garnered the lion’s share of the votes. Forty-four percent of you want the city to at least identify facilities that manage reactive and hazardous chemicals and inform citizens of the risk. Close behind that response, at 42%, were those who want the city and its leaders to work with the state building code council, which has the power to amend the current codes. Nine percent said that this was a horrible, once-in-a-lifetime event and that we should be careful about regulating businesses any further. Four percent didn’t know or weren’t sure what to think, and 1% said that the fire was unfortunate, but people who live near these hazardous sites can choose to move.

For our second question, we asked how you felt about the creation of social districts downtown where alcoholic beverages could be carried and consumed. Here there was a strong showing of 44%, who think that this may be a good idea but want to be sure that the police department isn’t stretched with the task of enforcement.

With the city council’s June approval of raises for police and firefighters, hopefully many of the staff vacancies (reportedly 100 in the police department alone in May) will be filled soon.

As for the rest of the respondents, 19% think this is another way to bring people downtown and support the businesses there, 16% say, “let the good times roll,” 10% think there’s enough drinking and misbehavior downtown and another 10% don’t know.

Bill Apple, the mayor pro tem of the Town of Kernersville said, “With respect to the Social Drinking District concept, my main objection is not adequately addressed within any of the designated choices. My concern is that our approving such a concept somehow seems to constitute an endorsement, if not merely a bad example, for our young people that we support, or at least allow, more drinking in more public venues. It's just not the example I want to see established for your youth!”

Power Poll tends to encourage correspondents to make the third question a bit more light-hearted. I asked how you felt about the Winston-Salem City Council’s decision to spend $1 million to install a giant dandelion sculpture over Salem Parkway downtown. Many of you are not feeling so light-hearted about this project, and I wish there had been some comments offered.

The largest group, 38%, chose the response that listed such problems as affordable housing, violence and an education crisis and asked if we could afford $1 million for this sculpture. Another 17% asked if this is the best the City of the Arts can come up with.

In the dandelions are dandy camp, were the 17% who agreed that the sculpture is a form of economic development for the companies that will execute the design and 12% who said this is a fun idea that exemplifies the City of the Arts. Seventeen percent missed the news completely. Not surprising, as many of us first heard about in a Winston-Salem Journal story that ran over the holiday weekend.

Kenneth Carlson Jr. said, “If the giant dandelion has already been approved and funds contractually committed, is there even a way to rethink that decision?

Council Member Jeff MacIntosh, who represents the city’s Northwest Ward said, “I would have liked to see another option re: the dandelion. Something that acknowledged the fact that voters overwhelmingly approved spending $1m on public art on Salem Parkway. Something that noted it wasn’t art vs something else.”

In addition to Council Member MacIntosh’s remark about the range of answers, I received this comment from Lafayette Jones, the CEO of SMSi Urban Call Marketing: The research poll is designed to only allow one answer per question. The design forces the respondents to provide a single-minded answer and misses the nuance opportunities. For future research Please consider a more sophisticated design which allows respondents to rank each or some of options (e.g. top 2 or 3). This benefits the research summary analysis with gradients of opinion(s).”

I’ve also heard from a few people privately who feel constrained by the answer format or didn’t feel the range of opinion was wide enough. Crafting the range of answers is probably the toughest part of this exercise, but I know that Power Poll has worked with correspondents in other cities on designing questions, so I’ll share this feedback with them and get some advice on the August poll.

I appreciate the fact that you’re all interested enough in the process to offer feedback. If not, you just wouldn’t participate in the poll.

Don’t forget, email your comments, constructive criticisms and anything else on your mind to me. Let’s talk again in August.

About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

More on This Poll

More Polls

More on This Poll