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February 06, 2009
MeckConnect Citizen Engagement Moves into Phase II
 
One of the key principles discussed at the Board’s Strategic Planning Conference involved communicating and involving stakeholders. This is a challenging task under any circumstances, but is heightened by our financial projections and the specter of budget and service reductions. Fortunately, County staff and The Lee Institute have been collaborating on a research and planning effort focused on enhancing citizen involvement.
 
This effort was stimulated by the Board when it adopted its FY08-10 Strategic Business Plan (SBP). The Board’s SBP identified citizen engagement as an item of strategic importance between FY2008 and FY2010. This level of importance was recognized by the Board, in part, because the Board’s scorecard carried a red light for citizen satisfaction with involvement opportunities.
 
Specifically, the Board’s SBP calls for a research and planning grant to identify the most effective ways to engage and involve Mecklenburg residents in civic and government matters. This led to a partnership between Mecklenburg County and The Lee Institute (Lee), called MeckConnect.
 
In 2007, Lee secured $75,000 in grants from the Foundation for the Carolinas, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation for the first phase of MeckConnect. The goal of MeckConnect’s first phase (research) was to determine why people do and do not participate in various civic and government engagement activities. It also investigated how modern communication practices and technology can be leveraged to inform, engage, involve and connect more people more easily and more often.
 
Mecklenburg County contributed in-kind resources to this research project (primarily staff within the County Manager’s Office and Public Service & Information Department). Also, staff from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Planning Commission, City of Charlotte Neighborhood Development Office, as well as UNC Chapel Hill’s School of Government collaborated with the County and Lee in developing the first phase research methodology.
 
This first phase of MeckConnect research was conducted between June 2007 and May 2008. The research findings and conclusions were provided to the County Manager’s Executive Team on January 7. The key findings and conclusions are:
  • Mecklenburg County’s current approach to public involvement (i.e., advisory committees, task forces, public hearings) is insufficient to reach and engage residents throughout the community
  • Residents define community as their neighborhood, rather than the whole of Mecklenburg County
  • Engagement requires sustained efforts to communicate and raise awareness
  • Residents want to be engaged but do not like and/or do not know the opportunities to be involved.
 
Based on these findings and conclusions, Mecklenburg County and Lee have embarked on the second phase (planning) of MeckConnect. This phase will produce a business plan and implementation model for enhancing citizen involvement. This plan and model will be provided to the County Manager’s Executive Team in March/April 2009. Subsequently, the full findings, conclusions, recommended business plan and implementation model will be provided to the Board for its consideration. For additional information, please contact General Manager John McGillicuddy, at 704-336-2661
 
 
Time Warner Cable Terminates Local Cable Franchise
 
Effective January 31, 2009, Time Warner Cable’s (TWC) cable franchises with both the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County have both been terminated by the cable operator. Under a North Carolina law passed in 2006, TWC was able to terminate its franchise agreement once AT&T applied for and received a State-issued video services franchise and filed the required notices with the City of Charlotte. AT&T reported in December 2008, that it is now able to provide cable service to one or more residences within the City and County. Upon this notification from AT&T, TWC was eligible to notify the City that it was terminating its local franchise effective January 31, 2009. TWC had previously secured a State-issued video franchise to service Mecklenburg County.
 
Impacts on Customers
 
The City of Charlotte retains its rights to:
  • Manage its rights-of-way for the benefit of residents
  • Continue providing public, education, and government access channels
  • Require provision of basic service to public buildings.
Mecklenburg County retains its rights to:
  • Continue providing public, education, and government access channels
  • Require provision of basic service to public buildings.
Complaint Issues
 
Based on state law, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Cable Office can no longer accept and/or help resolve complaints received from TWC cable customers. All complaints from customers must be sent to the Consumer Protection Division of the North Carolina Department of Justice’s Attorney General’s Office. Contact information for the Consumer Protection Division is as follows:
N.C. Department of Justice
Consumer Protection Division
9001 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-9001
Residents may call 919-716-6000 or 877-566-7226 (877-NOSCAM) to obtain a complaint form.

Additional information is available online.
 
Requirements & Regulatory Authority Lost
 
With the loss of both local cable franchise agreements, most local requirements and regulatory authority have been terminated. The City and County cannot require TWC to negotiate service levels and standards, or provide the level of local regulation previously authorized by our local franchises. Additionally, the City and County will no longer be able to require TWC to:
  • Demonstrate that it possess the financial and/or operational resources needed to operate a cable/video system
  • Provide service to low-income or low-density areas
  • Negotiate additional cable-related benefits to our residents
  • Honor customer service and customer complaint resolution procedures and policies outlined in previous local franchise agreements.
Please note, County residents who are video service customers of the Mecklenburg-Iredell (MI) Connection, which continues to honor its local franchise with Mecklenburg County, can continue to contact the Cable Office regarding problems. County residents who utilize the MI Connection may contact the Office of Cable & Franchise Management (CATV Office) at (704) 336-CATV (2288) or via email at CATV@ci.charlotte.nc.us.
 
We will continue to monitor this situation and update the Board on any additional changes.
 
 
CALENDAR REMINDER
 
Tuesday, February 10
  • 1:30pm, Economic Development Committee, 11th Floor Large Conference Rm
  • 3pm, Public Policy Workshop, Rm 267
    • Finalize Board Priorities
    • Discuss Additional Workshops
 
- Harry L. Jones, Sr., County Manager
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


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