Wed 31 May 2006
How lonesome is that whistler? Yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling on Garcetti v. Ceballos appears to have closed the door on public employees, at all levels of government, safely reporting governmental malfeasance.
I’ve asked a Council Member what this ruling means for Chapel Hill and our town staff.
Do we need additional employee protections to encourage reports of willful misconduct?
Wed 31 May 2006
I proposed a downtown parking task force both as a citizen and a candidate for Council. Working, shopping and living (near) downtown for many years, I have seen the parking dynamic shift as development, transit and demographic trends progressed.
Currently, I believe the key parking problem is not supply but allocation of existing resources.
I have some ideas on how we can craft a partnership between town, university and private interests so that we can improve the “downtown experience” without having to pave over more of our vanishing natural downtown areas.
Here’s my request to Council asking to join with other stakeholders in working towards a more sustainable, healthier and friendlier Chapel Hill downtown.
Mayor and Town Council,
During the 2005 election, I proposed forming a downtown parking task force to pull together both public and private stakeholders to solve some of our parking allocation problems.
It was great to see Council Member Cam Hill’s call on April 10th for just such a new task force to review public parking downtown.
I want to join this new Downtown Parking Citizens Committee to help create a sustainable solution to our downtown parking issues.
May 8th, Council formed the Downtown Parking Citizens Committee charged with analyzing existing parking conditions; reviewing conditions in light of the goals of the Comprehensive Plan, Downtown Small Area Plan and the Downtown Development Initiative; proposing plans to mitigate existing parking problems and developing strategies to implement the proposed plans.
Staff also recommended that the committee “consider appointing citizens who work, shop and visit downtown…”
I’ve seen the downtown parking dynamic change over 27 years. I’ve regularly shopped, visited and PARKED downtown for two decades. I’ve worked downtown for over 5 years (and, luckily, have a reserved spot). Day in and day out, school in and out, morning, noon or night, East to West End, I’m quite familiar with the vagaries of finding parking downtown.
Besides the hands-on experience, I’m conversant with the various plans – Comprehensive, Downtown Small Area, Downtown Development – studies (like the LSA [parking(PDF)] [mobility(PDF)] and prior citizen group efforts), ordinances and LUMO restrictions that influence the existing parking dynamic. Further, I’ve read and reviewed a number of key transit and transportation studies and proposals – from town, from NC-DOT, from the University – that should inform any proposed solutions.
Finally, I believe I have some new ideas on how to form a collaborative proposal that brings Town, University and private business efforts into alignment to not only help solve some of the more intransigent of parking issues but to also to add flexibility into our overall parking/transit approaches.
Thank you for your consideration,
If you’re interested in improving the “Downtown experience” and want to participate on a task force with a constrained and strategic mission, fill out an application and email it to the town’s Town Clerk. Additional Town Clerk contact information.
Wed 31 May 2006
Representative Price’s response to my May 11th complaint about NSA snooping. (more…)
Tue 30 May 2006
11PM local news:
- WTVD 11 leads with today’s Powerball snafu problems.
- WRAL 5, after leading with nearly 4 minutes of ‘Canes news, covered the glitch.
- NBC17, bless their hearts, led with about 5 minutes of ‘Canes game review and didn’t make it to the State’s newest con-game until 6 stories in .
NBC17 also deserves kudos for being the only station to mention the extremely long odds, 1 in 146 million, of winning the ‘ball.
WTVD was a bit breathless in their coverage – the news guy excitedly telling us “we’ll have to wait until tomorrow’s drawing”.
WRAL played up the “inconvenience” people had waiting to squander their bucks.
I’m going to give WRAL a small break because they did a nice piece on the expected correlation between counties with high unemployment and high ticket sales.
Wilson County has the fourth highest unemployment rate in the state and often ranks No. 1 in ticket sales per capita. Nine other North Carolina counties selling the most tickets per adult have unemployment rates above the state’s average.
“It is not unexpected,” said state Sen. Janet Cowell. “I think that is what other states that have lotteries have seen.” Cowell explained that is part of why she opposed the lottery all along.”It really is a regressive tax, essentially, that really impacts lower income communities, not higher income communities,” she said.
“I don’t think that has any conflict with us,” said Wilson County’s Employment Security Commission manager, Terri Williams. “We’re here to help them find work and to help them with unemployment until they can find work.”Williams believes continued fallout from several plant layoffs and seasonal tobacco cuts are more to blame, but admits, “Of course, we hate to see the poor spending money on lottery tickets.”
Yep, so today’s computer snafu isn’t the only glitch we’ve seen in the system.
Tue 30 May 2006
I’ve recently been reviewing some of my old links covering the evolution of UNC’s Carolina North development.
Tue 30 May 2006
Posted by Administrator under Ruminations1 Comment
Nice post by TerriB on her outreach adventure with Chay, the P-lot kitty.
Tue 30 May 2006
Let the frenzy begin: Powerball tickets go on sale today.
And if you plan to play, please consider throwing in another buck for the Powerplay option just to irritate Scientific Games, whose (now former) lobbyists brought such high ethical standards to our little State-sponsored con-game.
Mon 29 May 2006
There are many paths to Concerned Citizen.
Last night I had a visitor stumble in via the Google search: “robert oppenheimer vindicated”.
Hope they found what they were looking for…
Mon 29 May 2006
The four horseman of the North Carolina Lottery continue to ride roughshod over the body politic:
Saw my first “problem gambling” commercial this evening on Channel 50 (Fox50). The station’s owner, Jim Goodmon, fought the lottery. That didn’t stop another of his Capital Broadcasting properties, WRAL, from bidding on and winning the $340,000 a year contract to produce the NC lottery nightly draw program.
The ad’s tagline? “Take back your family.”
Wouldn’t it be great to not put folks families in jeopardy in the first place?
The News & Observer deserves kudos for their aptly titled story Your shot at big prize: microscopic covering this weeks NC lottery rollout of the multi-state State-sponsored con-game known as Powerball. As local SAS billionaire statistician Dr. Jim Goodnight noted last year: “It’s certainly the most unfair game ever devised by man.“
Today’s N&O article points out
Powerball will lay the longest odds of any game offered in North Carolina’s lottery, which began with scratch-off tickets two months ago.
The number of winners might be a surprise, too: Only about one jackpot is won per month. The game has drawings twice a week and includes players from 28 other states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
What kind of odds?
As they further note “The chance of hitting the jackpot is 1 in 146 million…It could be months, even years, before a North Carolinian wins the top prize…Colorado has yet to see a winner, nearly five years after the game started there…the New Mexico lottery..took four years after joining the game there before anyone won.”
What’s the chances the average lottery player understands the stacked odds?
Heck, we require clear,written disclosures for borrowing money, shouldn’t we require something similar for folks
pissing gambling their hard-earned bucks away?
The wheel continues to turn on the NC lottery corruption probes. May 23rd, as WRAL reported 3 Connected To Lottery Company Accused Of Lobbying Law Violations
A former political director for House Speaker Jim Black is among three people charged with illegally lobbying lawmakers to approve a state lottery in North Carolina, according to court documents released Monday. During last year’s debate at the General Assembly, all three were on the payroll of Scientific Games International, a leading supplier of scratch-off lottery tickets. After a seven-month investigation, Wake County prosecutors charged Meredith Norris with failing to register as a lobbyist with the Secretary of State’s office. She was a member of Black’s staff from 1999-2002, but quit to work as a lobbyist while staying with his campaign as a volunteer until late last summer.
The lottery, birthed in trickery, suffered corruption before even one ticket was sold.
Maybe we should change the State’s license plate motto from “First in Flight” to “First in Lottery Corruption”.
The lottery program preys on folks dreams
“With Powerball, it has this glamour to it,” said state lottery director Tom Shaheen. “It has the big jackpots and the dream for people that maybe they can win.”
and promotes exagerated claims
Although billboards across the state will tout the top prize, winners typically end up with one-third that much, a review of past winnings in other states shows. That’s because the prize is adjusted into a lump sum of cash, which most players take, and then taxes are factored in.
while disingenously promising educational good deeds (good if you’re not a charter school or you ignore the nearly 1/3 income tax withheld from winnings that’s returned to the general fund or Easley’s recent misdirections or even Mecklenberg county’s attempt to use proceeds to fuel tax cuts).
- after this fiasco has some time to play out,
- after our State creates some NC families that need “taking back”,
- after the corruption moves – as it always seems to do – into the periphery of the gaming apparatchik and
- after all the well-expected legislative shenanigans redefining what “is” is as far as the use of these ill-gotten gains for education,
will those that voted the lottery into existence suffer even the smallest twinge of guilt?
Sun 28 May 2006
The construction of a special I-40 interchange for Carolina North has been a persistent rumor.
Over the last 5 years, I heard UNC officially deny any such plan more than a dozen times. The last time for me, I believe, was when UNC’s liason to the Horace Williams Citizen’s Committee (HWCC) said she hadn’t heard anything about it.
According to Emily Coakley and Rob Shapard in today’s HeraldSun “Local officials say they’ve heard UNC might pursue a new interchange on Interstate 40 to serve the planned Carolina North research campus.”
Why worry if it’s just a rumor?
Well, I, as I’m sure other local longtime residents, remember a few trial UNC balloons that eventually became reality. Sometimes, it seems, the more outrageous, the more likely.
Creating an I-40 interchange and subsequent transit corridor near burgeoning neighborhoods and sensitive ecological preserves seems fairly outrageous. With the recent wildcard resolution by UNC’s Board of Trustees, a group that appears to be “chafing at the bit” for substantive action on Carolina, it’s not too difficult to imagine that there’s more substance to this I-40 rumor than in years past. That, of course, and it’s almost Summer – when the public is generally distracted – a time when UNC traditionally unleashes problematic proposals.
The now defunct HWCC has been following the transit-related discussions on Carolina North and, in their January memo, sketched out further particpation. I’m sure we would have been privy to UNC’s thoughts on a I-40 interchange.
Now, we’ll have to rely on the press and our local elected officials for adequate forewarning.
Fri 26 May 2006
From today’s Rob Shapard Herald-Sun article covering a Carolina North “October surprise” :
The Board of Trustees voted unanimously Thursday for a resolution that set the October ’07 date a day after trustees chafed at the pace of the latest Carolina North committee and said they were keen to “get off the dime” and get the project going.
Even though the BOT’s May 24th agenda listed Carolina North as an “information only” item, the BOT took action and passed a confusing resolution directing
the Chancellor to submit zoning and land development applications for Carolina North to the applicable local governmental jurisdictions no later than October 1, 2007.
The resolution has several meandering bits I’ll try to deconstruct.
The putative need for Carolina North has shifted with the years; yesterday the BOT proferred the following justifications:
there is now an urgent need to develop Carolina North. Conditions have evolved from 17 years ago, when the University first identified the importance of developing this tract of land and commenced the planning process for the property. Federal funding for research is declining and facilities for public-private partnerships are needed. In addition, there are very few new building sites still available on campus. And, many of our existing buildings do not lend themselves to the kinds of faculty interaction, interdisciplinary collaboration, and government and business engagement that are needed if the University is to use its resources most effectively and efficiently to address society’s pressing needs and attract jobs and economic activity to the entire state.
Wow! We surely wouldn’t want our local elected officials to stand in the way of UNC’s urgent desire to use its educational might to “effectively and efficiently … address society’s pressing needs and attract jobs and economic activity to the entire state.”
Whoa! Isn’t that the same kind of rhetoric we heard about other big ticket (read: expensive tax-payer supported boondoggles) projects like the Kinston’s Global Transpark, NCSU’s failing Centennial campus and the (currently contentious) Kannapolis North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC).
The NCRC got approval for $9. 4 MILLION from the NC Senate (and an additional annual promise of $8.4M) because Gov. Easley:
Hartsell said the proposed funding for the research campus was a suggestion from Gov. Mike Easley’s office.
He noted that the research campus is not only important for Kannapolis and Cabarrus County, but for the whole state.
Why? Well there’s an expectation that the new campus
should generate about 2,200 jobs in just its first 2 1/2 years of operation, according to an official with the firm that’s developing the biotech hub.
Hmmm, aren’t the developers aware they’re making the UNC BOT’s claim that “facilities for public-private partnerships are needed” look a bit askew?
And what of UNC’s need for new facilities?
The current $1.5 BILLION Main Campus buildout (not to mention the hundreds of millions of dollars of UNC Hospitals growth)
do not lend themselves to the kinds of faculty interaction, interdisciplinary collaboration, and government and business engagement that are needed
Are they kidding? What are NC taxpayers to think of the BOT?
It’s interesting that the BOT cooled their recent touting of biotech as the primary focus for Carolina North’s research mission. Maybe between recent NCRC recruiting efforts
With its ‘dream team’ of partners, the North Carolina Research Campus is helping to keep the Tar Heel state a step ahead of the national and global rush to grab a piece of the $63.1 billion biotechnology industry. At the Biotech 2006 conference today (May 22) in Winston-Salem, the campus’ project manager, Lynne Scott Safrit, will discuss the resources coalescing at the campus and the power and appeal of the bona fide biotech corridor developing in North Carolina.
their own observation that “Federal funding for research is declining” and UNC’s vice chancellor for research and economic development, Tony Waldrop, pointing out:
UNC Chapel Hill landed about $579 million for research in the last fiscal year. But he said about 52 percent of that federal money came through the National Institutes of Health, and that funding from NIH has flattened out and begun to decline in recent years.
they realized that biotech, as a justification for the $1+ billion Carolina North project, was a non-starter.
Waldrop’s claim that “our faculty will continue to compete very well, but there’s going to be a smaller pool of money,” is dead-on – it’s competition from the new NCRC – but his further assertion that “we need Carolina North to continue to be a great research university” doesn’t logically follow.
Another interesting bit of the resolution involves citizen participation.
the Chancellor has established the Carolina North Leadership Advisory Committee to provide the University with a wide cross section of community thought on the principles that should guide the University in preparing for the development of Carolina North
Last LAC meeting, one of our town’s representatives, Council member Strom, told the Carolina North Leadership Advisory Council (LAC) that “Chapel Hill did not agree to hear outside groups’ ideas when it joined the advisory body” in response to a citizen’s group’s Carolina North presentation (the Village Project’s presentation).
At the same meeting, Ken Broun, the leader of the LAC said the committee will use information from other groups to inform its views but will not put those proposals in its report to UNC.
And, of course, there’s both the LAC’s two minute public comment rule (which I’ll be trying out soon) and UNC’s Broun’s comments about UNC not wanting to entertain 10 minutes of public Q&A (after their recent presentation).
All this seems to undermine the BOT’s desire for a wide cross section of community thought. Maybe the BOT’s resolution reaffirming a
commitment to seek out and listen to community input regarding the principles that should guide the development of Carolina North
will cause a general rethinking in the LAC on citizen participation.
Citizens need some venue as participation through Chapel Hill was certainly severely curtailed when Council abruptly dissolved the Horace-Williams Citizen’s Committee. This advisory board not only developed a number of principles underpinning the LAC’s current discussions on Carolina North but had also started working to flesh-out and fill-in-the-gaps in those guiding principles (the HWCC had presented Council a fairly extensive list of tasks they were taking on, on behalf of the town’s citizenry, to complete its mission).
In the end, what are we to make of this new timeline?
A case can certainly be made for Carolina North – but not the current case.
North Carolina’s taxpayers deserve a measured and reasonable evaluation of their return on this investment.
The underlying reasons for developing the Horace Williams tract change over time – as we can see from the BOT’s latest resolution.
Biotech is out. Vague assertions of promoting state-wide economic growth are back in.
The State appears to be a bit confused – both funding the new NCRC and making similar claims as to Carolina North’s state-wide efficacy.
The process needs time to unfold – and the BOT, for all its irritation, needs to be patient.
Fri 26 May 2006
As I noted in Chafing: Prevention and Treatment, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees has always been a wildcard in the potentially disastrous development of Carolina North.
Yesterday’s meeting unsettled Mayor Foy, at least enough for him to defend the initial delay in Carolina North’s Leadership Advisory Committee’s getting to substantive discussions.
You can’t put together a couple dozen people, tell them to set their own work process, and then complain when it takes time to set that up
Hey, that sounds familiar!
In fact, it echoes my statement to Council on April 11th – a concern the Mayor breezily dismissed.
That night, except for Council member Easthom, the Council quickly dispensed with our Town’s “couple of dozen” of citizens who were dedicated to fleshing out the principles [pdf] underpinning the Leadership Advisory Council’s current discussions – principles they developed.
Easthom, who deftly defended citizen input, wisely foresaw the long term necessity of keeping a citizen-owned institution around to help Council respond to the next 12 months of UNC’s Carolina North discussions.
In the last Horace-Williams Citizens Committee meeting, I suggested, once again,
We remind the Council of the scope of work proposed by the HWCC in January and suggest that the Council recognize the necessary lead time required to reconstitute a citizen’s group to explore the issues in that proposal.
With the accelerated schedule demanded yesterday by the UNC BOT, the Mayor’s claim “mission accomplished” seems not only quite premature but also quite precipitous.
The good news is it’s not too late to reconstitute a citizen’s group, like the Horace Williams Citizen’s Committee, to help respond to BOT’s challenge.
Fri 26 May 2006
The HWCC chair presented our few, final (?), thoughts for Council on the Carolina North project and a response UNC’s Chancellor Moeser letter of Jan. 25th.
The most important recommendation, I believe, was that of the HWCC’s environmental sub-group (of which I was a member).
I lobbied hard for the elements that appear in the final document:
- A baseline study of current on and off property environmental conditions.
- The baseline to exceed EPA and other statute requirements.
- The development of metrics to understand and measure Carolina North’s impacts year-in and year-out.
Unfortunately, we had the rug pulled out from underneath us before we could finish with a more detailed proposal.
I envisioned, and fought for, a strong proposal for UNC, chiefly, and the town, in a support role, to not only scientifically study, assess and document current environmental conditions both on the Horace-Williams tract and down-wind/down-stream of the development, but to pledge to regularly monitor conditions and apply “best class” metrics to determine environmental impacts.
UNC has an unique opportunity (and responsibility) to use the development of Carolina North as a large-scale laboratory for experimenting with “best practice”, sustainable, world-class “green” designs.
This 50 year project could yield invaluable inventive insights into “green” practices that will create new business opportunities for North Carolinians while promoting sound environmental stewardship – in Chapel Hill, in North Carolina and throughout the world.
I drafted the original HWCC response to Chancellor Moeser. Joe Capowski helped tighten it up. The final version captured, fairly well, my original intent (though, my original draft was much more detailed in its criticism).
There are a number of issues, concerns and omissions the HWCC suggested be addressed before “calling it a day” on UNC’s side of the Carolina North planning process.
Final thoughts are on agenda item [9a].
Fri 26 May 2006
Here’s the HWCC’s (Horace Williams Citizen’s Committee) response to Chancellor Moeser’s January 25th Letter on Carolina North development.
I drafted the original response, which was further refined by myself and Joe Capowski and finally tightened up and approved by the whole of the HWCC.
SUBJECT: Comments on UNC January 25, 2006 letter and attachment from Chancellor Moeser to Mayor Foy concerning the HWCC Principles Goals and Strategies Report
The HWCC provides these general observations to the Council about the UNC response
1. The HWCC sincerely thanks Chancellor Moeser for his statement in his February 7, 2006 letter that outlined a process and charge for the Leadership Advisory Committee. “The University enters this process in good faith and with the recognition and understanding that the Town of Chapel Hill has zoning authority over the Carolina North property within its boundaries.”
2. We appreciate UNC’s response to the principles in the HWCC report. The HWCC is delighted that there is substantial agreement between HWCC principles and the UNC response.
3. The HWCC is concerned that UNC will participate in an ad-hoc building process at Carolina North, constructing buildings one at a time as funds become available, but before necessary planning, infrastructure, transit, and environmental needs have been addressed and completed. Every premature building itself imposes constraints on the Horace Williams tract and limits the Carolina North project’s ability to be a world-class center of research, education, housing and service to our university, towns, and state. An example of this ad hoc approach is the proposal for a model school site.
4. The UNC response did not comment on any of the specifics underlying the HWCC principles. We suggest that sometime during the Carolina North planning process, that the Carolina North plans be measured against the specific goals and strategies of the HWCC report.
5. The UNC response is silent on any specifics pertaining to the process of continuing engagement and cooperation for our mutual benefit. We are happy however that UNC has formed its Leadership Advisory Committee (LAC) that will further the process.
6. The HWCC report was crafted with several key assumptions. While UNC has responded to the principles developed under these assumptions, its response is silent on whether the assumptions are sound. We hope that the LAC will adopt these principles.
Tue 23 May 2006
Following in the footsteps of Bush’s Justice department, the FCC has thrown in the towel on further investigations of allege crimes by Bellsouth, Verizon and others.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission will not pursue complaints about a spy agency’s access to millions of telephone records because it cannot obtain classified material, the FCC’s chairman said in a letter released on Tuesday.
Rep. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, had asked communications regulators to investigate a newspaper report that AT&T Inc. (T.N: Quote, Profile, Research), Verizon Communications (VZ.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and BellSouth Corp. (BLS.N: Quote, Profile, Research) gave access to and turned over call records to help the National Security Agency fight terrorists.
“The classified nature of the NSA’s activities makes us unable to investigate the alleged violations,” FCC Chairman Kevin Martin said in the May 22 letter to Markey.
Verizon and BellSouth have denied turning over telephone call records to the NSA. BellSouth has demanded USA Today retract claims in its story.
“We can’t have a situation where the FCC, charged with enforcing the law, won’t even begin an investigation of apparent violations of the law because it predicts the administration will roadblock any investigations citing national security,” Markey said in response to Martin.
Nothing to see here. Move along, move along…
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