October 2007


I knew my best chance for an endorsement this year was from the Chapel Hill News.

These folks have watched my passionate activism on behalf of the environment, social justice, fiscal responsibility, public accountability, transparent and open governance, community engagement, planning policy and on and on for these last 6+ years.

Will Raymond brings a wealth of knowledge and creativity to the table. Few people in or out of government do as much homework as he does. His contributions to the public debate have provided valuable depth and context. He’s served on the town’s Technology Board, Horace Williams Citizen’s Committee and Downtown Parking Task Force. He’s been faulted on occasion for being overly fervent, but his ideas and strength of conviction, employed judiciously and tempered with a willingness to listen and compromise, can be a valuable asset.

This was the year where it would take some courage to break the incumbent blockade on endorsements. The safe bet would be to go with the flow, follow the lead of the entrenched powers and simply accept the status quo – a slate of incumbents who flailed around blankly at the WCHL forum trying to identify one mistake they had made in the last 4 or 8 years.

The right bet was to back candidates who would bring a fresh perspective, restore some balance and break the group-think within our current Council.

I knew the Chapel Hill News had the integrity and the concern for our community to choose candidates that were best prepared and steadfastly determined to improve our community’s lot.

I hope the Daily Tar Heel, the only other endorsing organization in Chapel Hill this year that is free of entanglements, will show the same kind of courage and choose at least one challenger. I know Penny and Matt are as determined as I am to see our Town through our coming troubled times – they deserve a full and fair evaluation.

I appreciate that the Chapel Hill News honored my service and recognized my passion for change. I will do my best to repay that confidence by “walking the talk”, working productively with my new colleagues and building on the strengths of our diverse community.

Thank you.

From the Carrboro Citizen

Joe Herzenberg, longtime Chapel Hill Town Council member, Democratic Party stalwart, Greenways champion and an astute historian of local politics died today from complications of diabetes.

He left this world, we are told, surrounded by friends. Details of memorials to follow.

I met Joe way back in ’81 when my brother Steve and my friend Bill helped him run for Council. I remember sorting piles of literature in his Cobb Terrace home. Back then I was a visitor in Chapel Hill, didn’t really know much about Council or local politics. Joe struck me as a gentle soul – someone I generally didn’t associate with Town politics.

Over the years I’d run into Joe Downtown or at various community events. We’d talk about the changes going on in Chapel Hill, the weather, the latest from UNC. His presence was a predictable backdrop to the memories I accumulated the last couple decades in Chapel Hill.

In recent years, he’d come to Council in the role of Town historian, often gently reminding our leaders that our past informs our future. He was an echo of an earlier Chapel Hill – a Chapel Hill more liberal, more progressive and more neighborly than today.

Now he’s gone.

I called Jennifer Strom last week to see if the Indy would provide me the courtesy of a response to their endorsement comments. She said they would. Here’s my response:

I’m baffled by the Indy’s comments on my and Mike Kelley’s candidacies.

I’m mystified by your endorsement of Indy editor Jennifer Strom’s husband Bill Strom, incumbents Sally Greene and Cam Hill, all who voted to build extensively into the Booker Creek resource conservation district.

I’m perplexed. I haven’t called for environmentally insensitive development on Booker Creek let alone authorized it.

And I’m disappointed. How do you chastise Chapel Hill School Board candidate Mike Kelley’s attendance record given his personal circumstances? Beyond insensitive, it was ill-informed.

Where was the balanced investigative journalism we have come to expect from the Indy?

I used to give the Indy’s endorsements automatic credence. Any readers who do so this year will be misled.

I’ve written here and here why I think the Indy missed the boat on my candidacy.

As far as Mike, here’s what happened February, 2006 (N&O)

Police charged an elderly driver they say injured a mother and daughter selling Girl Scout cookies when she backed into a troop’s cookie booth outside a grocery store over the weekend.

Chapel Hill police charged Thelma McBride Holloway, 77, of 105 Elizabeth St., Chapel Hill, with failure to reduce speed to avoid collision.

Holloway was backing her 1991 Lincoln out of a parking spot Saturday afternoon in front of the Harris Teeter at University Mall when her foot slipped off the brake and onto the accelerator, according to a police report.

The car ran up the sidewalk and hit Elise Michelle Hoffman, 44, and her daughter Anne Katherine Kelley, 11. Both were taken to UNC Hospitals. The hospital would not release their conditions Monday afternoon.

On Sunday, Lt. Leo Vereen said the accident broke both of Hoffman’s legs, and Anne’s collar bone and one of her legs.

Hoffman and Anne are the wife and daughter of Mike Kelley, a member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education.

Since reading the Indy’s strange comments on Mike I’ve had some time to talk to folks I know and trust about his candidacy. Overwhelmingly they say he’s meticulous, has responded to folks concerns and, even with a family tragedy, discharged his responsibilities in full.

Here’s what one of his opponents, and Indy endorsee, Jamezetta Bedford, said on the Indy’s website:

…I feel compelled to disagree with the statement that Mike Kelley’s job “has prevented him from attending many forums and activities beyond his basic duties.” Each board member volunteers to serve as liaison to two or three school improvement teams (SITs) and various district committees. Some are scheduled during the work day, some in the early morning and some in the evening. We divide them up at our first December meeting each year based upon the interests and schedules of our board members.

Mike has faithfully attended the SIT meetings most months (board members are only expected to attend once a semester) and has served on our technology advisory group, one of the health advisory committees, as well as liaison to the Special Needs Advisory Council this past year. I would not want a board composed of only retired or unemployed members. By the way, our board will receive an award next week from the NC School Boards Association to recognize that all of our members completed at least 12 hours of board development training this past year, again showing the investment of time each makes to this service.

I like her point about a balance board with more than “retired or unemployed members”.

There are many more statements of support here.

Here’s what UNC Law professor Eric Muller said Are the Indy’s Endorsements Heartless or Worthless? It’s One or the Other over on his ‘blog Is That Legal?.

Bill Strom, at the recent Democrat Candidate Forum, used a quote attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan to try to make some point “…you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

Maybe he could share that quote with the Indy’s editor (and his wife) Jennifer Strom.

The Indy is free to express an opinion but it shouldn’t ignore the facts – which, in my case, I did the opposite of what their endorsed candidates did and in Mike’s, that he had an obvious and completely understandable reason for his actions.

X-posted from my campaign website.

The Indy found fault with my style of dissent. I’m a big guy, have a deep voice and am passionate about my well-researched issues. I believe I’m respectful in my appearances before Council (example). Folks have told me that I’m tough but fair. The Indy’s criticism, no matter how emotionally worded, is, in the end, subjective – their job, to shape opinion.

The Indy’s suggestion that I wanted to despoil Booker Creek further is not supported by either the facts or any reasonable inference (as I discuss here).

What inference could the Indy draw about the incumbents – Sally Greene’s, Cam Hill’s, Bill Strom’s – willingness to put development above the health of Booker Creek?

Well, no inference is required as the record clearly shows that all three were willing to contribute to Booker Creek’s ills for the sake of economic development.

I’ve attended many Council meetings over the last 6 1/2 years. Once there, I usually stay to learn about the issues before our Town. That’s why I know that Bill, Cam and Sally voted June 30th, 2004 to approve Eastern Federal’s 10 screen, 38,000 square foot, nearly 200 parking space theater directly adjacent to Booker Creek.

As noted in these minutes from Jan. 27th, 2003′s SUP (special use permit) approval that details this project’s variances:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Council finds, in this particular case, that the following modifications satisfy public purposes to an equivalent or greater degree:

1. Modification of Subsection 13.11.1 and 5.5.2.1 to allow a minimum of 154,242 square feet of livability space.

2. Modification of Subsection 14.6.6 (a) to allow less than a five-foot landscaped strip between portions of the buildings and adjacent parking areas.

3. Modification of Subsection 14.6.7 to allow a minimum of 490 parking spaces.

4. Modification of Subsection 5.5.2.2 to allow impervious surface areas associated with this development to encumber 24% of the Resource Conservation District.

Said public purposes being (1) the provision of higher intensity infill development, (2) the promotion of greater pedestrian mobility, (3) the provision of increased landscaping in the parking lot, (4) the provision of less impervious surface area, and (5) the provision of improved quality with Best Management Practices.

The resource conservation district was established by Chapel Hill

To protect streams and to reduce the frequency and amount of flood damage to property, the Town enacted the Resource Conservation District (RCD) ordinance in 1984, with revisions in 2003. This ordinance and other measures taken to reduce flooding and flood damage, are necessary for the Town to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

RCD provisions severely limit or eliminate structures and development in areas likely to flood. These measures pertain in areas including FEMA’s 100-year Floodzones, (areas that have a 1% chance of flooding every year, or in other terms, properties that have a 26% chance of flooding within a 30-year period), as well as smaller streams which have not been rated by FEMA. RCDs also protect or improve the water quality of streams by reserving vegetated areas to slow and infiltrate stormwater runoff and to remove pollutants from runoff.

Yet, in this case, the incumbents Greene, Hill and Strom voted a rather large exception for a movie theater.

Now, you didn’t have to be at these meetings, as I was, to know about the series of votes these three made to build on Booker Creek. A simple Google will quickly turn up that fact.

Speaking of facts, why would the Indy try to extrapolate, without evidence, that I wanted to despoil Booker Creek further when three of the incumbents the Indy endorsed – Greene, Hill and Strom – actually voted several times to reduce critical RCD protections to build a 10 screen theater?

Maybe because the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a good story – and the story the Indy is selling is “don’t vote for Raymond in 2007″. The reasons were superfluous to the ends.

What about Jim Ward, who consistently voted against the proposal, as I recall, based on environmental concerns? The Indy thought he was too soft on the environment in 2003, but now he has “proven his meddle”.

Wonder if they considered Jim’s concern for Booker Creek as part of that proof?

More on the history of Eastern Federal’s development woes.

X-posted from my campaign website.

“Eyes on the street” in one of the key mantras the incumbents substitute for a solid financial analysis of the economic benefits of their publicly underwritten million dollar Downtown condos.

Supposedly the $8.5 million tax dollars (so far) and land worth $5-8 million ($13.5-16.5 million) will help increase Downtown’s minuscule population to the point crime will plummet as folks living in those million dollar condos observe the street scene from high above. Those couple hundred of new folks will energize Franklin Street and help convert it into a 24/7 hub of profitable commercial activity.

Eyes on the street, the justification for this out-of-control project.

What about “jobs on the street”?

In 2005, I called on the Town and its Downtown Partnership to focus on a strategy to build an employment ladder and increase the number of well-paying jobs Downtown.

Why? Because I know that folks that work Downtown, spend Downtown. I do. My colleagues do. The owners and employees of many Downtown businesses do, funneling their dollars back into the micro-economy they subsist on.

And they do it without millions of dollars of public outlay. Their commercial activities represent a net gain for both Downtown and the larger taxpaying community.

Why didn’t Council pursue jobs growth Downtown? The high-priced condo scheme has been a distraction but, beyond that, I believe they didn’t understand the basic value proposition – that those who work Downtown, spend Downtown.

My objective, increasing Downtown’s employment profile, languished two years until recently when the new economic development officer (a position, by the way, I lobbied for) resurrected it as part of his greater economic development strategy.

How much does the Downtown workforce contribute to Downtown’s commerce?

I took a look at my spending habits, reviewed my credit receipts and came up with the following incomplete list of Franklin Street businesses within the Town’s Downtown economic zone (as defined by the Downtown Partnership) that I (or my family) have recently frequented.

While broad, you might notice a bias towards restaurants. My wife is a fabulous cook – but that doesn’t stop me from eating out at our wonderful Downtown smorgasboard.

Finally, Downtown already has “eyes on the street”. 5,000 based on the Town’s analysis. 15,000 based on State and Federal criteria. Eyes on Rosemary St. hasn’t stopped the drug dealing. Eyes on the street didn’t stop the recent Visions nightclub shooting. Eyes on the street, alone, is no panacea.

Where I spent my hard-earned dollars:

3 CUPS
431 West Franklin Street, Suite 15 (Courtyard)
Phone: (919) 968-8993
Fax: (919) 968-8994
Hours: Monday – Saturday 7:30am-6:30pm
www.3cups.net

35 Chinese Restaurant
143 West Franklin Street (Univeristy Square)
Phone: (919) 968-3488
Fax: (919) 968-0268
Hours: Monday – Sunday 11:00am-9:30pm
www.35citysearch.com

411 West
411 West Franklin Street
Phone: (919) 967-2782
Fax: (919) 969-7450
Hours: Sunday – Monday 5:00pm-9:30pm / Tuesday – Thursday 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:00pm-10:00pm / Friday – Saturday 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:00pm-10:30pm
www.411west.com
(more…)

Five years ago, I attended, as a citizen, my first Technology Board meeting. I had prepared a 5 item technology checklist I thought the Town should be addressing. Some items, the municipal networking/WIFI initiative, a technology assessment, broadening civic engagement online our Council has finally started to move on. Others, like moving to non-proprietary software, open document standards, self-service kiosks, we’re still lagging on.

About a year ago, I began to experiment with using video posted to youTube and googleVideo to cover local issues that were getting short shrift.

One of my first experiments involved covering the local Superior Court race. While I supported two solid candidates – Chuck Anderson and Allen Baddour – for the office, I felt it important to give the wider community the option to see all the folks – Carl, Adam, Allen and Chuck – explain their positions in their own words.


I knew I’d never get that level of coverage from WRAL or NBC17, so I took on the challenge to cover all the forums as best as I could (with the now famous wobbly Will-cam).

Since then, I’ve branched out from my own efforts and began converting existing footage from various sources for redistribution on the Internet.





League of Women Voters Forum Sierra Club Forum

I think my passion for civic engagement and drawing the community into policy discussions explains why no one has asked me “Why do you do it?” Over the year, though, I’ve had a few folks ask me “How do you do that?”

Here’s a quick overview of how I currently convert the DVD’s produced by Chapel Hill and Carrboro into a format suitable for youTube or googleVideo. The same process should apply to most other video formats.

(more…)

I play golf.

Yes, I once regularly played – pretty darn well – a game once generally synonymous with elitism, bigotry and wealth.

My father is a great golfer. Coming from a blue collar family,his opportunity to hone his skills came when he picked up a second job caddying clubs for the Akron country club folks. He worked making tires during the week, went to school at night and, between client’s rounds, took advantage of his new job’s major perk – free golf on great courses.

Caddying, for the uninitiated, involves hauling a set of heavy clubs around the course on behalf of the player. A good caddy does more than ferry woods and irons – often playing the role of coach, lookout, scout and adjunct conscience.

My Dad was a great golf mentor.

I first picked up a club when I was five years-old, though it was until I was almost seven that I began to play on an actual golf course. Well, “course” is a bit of a stretch. It was nine-holes strategically allocated on a few acres of unusable Oklahoma farm land not far from home. The fairways were permanently hardened, the one creek regularly mosquito ridden, the hazards ranging from the traditional sand traps to timber rattlers coiled tightly round a green’s flag.

Incredibly, the adults generally courteously accommodated struggling kid golfers.

For the next 4 years I played hundreds of rounds. From any location could pick the best club. Knew every hole like the back of my hand.

I also learned quite a bit about human nature.

Folks are usually surprised when I tell them I can golf. Fairly often, once the cognitive dissonance settles, I’m asked why business folks congregate on the courses. There are a lot of obvious reasons: getting out of the office for hours, bonding with your new golfing buddies, drinking (few sports, beyond bowling, allow that!).

But the best reason, at least the one I think the most canny of business folks innately understand, is that golf is a great judge of character.

Do they shave their strokes? Do they adjust their lie (the ball’s position) when no one is looking? Do they pitch their clubs into a pond if they play poorly on a few holes?

Are they humble in victory? Are they gracious in defeat? How desperate are they to win?

As a candidate for office two times running, I’ve discovered that politics is like golf.

How a candidate acquits themselves on the political playing field says quite a bit about their character.

In 2005, I learned that an incumbent can be so desperate to win they’d shave their record and adjust voter perception with misleading signs. What kind of desperation leads to that level of behavior?

I’m not desperate for the Council job.

I’m running because I have a perspective on fiscal responsibility, public accountability, diversity and open governance that is at odds with those of the incumbents. I’m prepared for Town Council but not preparing to be Mayor or Board of Commissioner or State Senator or any of the other offices that Council membership is used as a stepping stone for.

I want the job but I don’t need the job to fulfill my life or some other ambition.

I’ve had an enjoyable opportunity observing the other non-incumbent candidates – Matt Czajkowski and Penny Rich – play the Chapel Hill political course. I don’t believe they’re motivated by some hole in their life or their schedule.

Desperation is a strange creature.

Most of the incumbents I’m running against, at least at the beginning of this years race, claimed they didn’t want to exacerbate the campaign money problem, yet their actions belie their statements.

I’ve had Cam Hill suggest I’m a Republican though he knows quite well that I’m not (and have invested many years of sweat equity helping the Dems with GOTV efforts, poll sitting, literature distribution).

I’ve had Bill Strom characterizing informed dissent as “tossing bricks through windows” – a dismissive statement implying indiscriminate criticism. He well knows that the criticism that Penny and I have leveled at his actions comes from careful research, deliberative thought backed by our broad and successful experience.

Maybe the worst of the desperate criticisms comes from the incumbents shepherd – Kevin Foy. The incumbent Mayor, responding to criticism of the Council’s handling of the Rogers Road mess – trying to protect his incumbent friends – suggested Matt’s proffered recourse was illegal. Illegal? Desperate.

Incumbency is an awesome advantage. Chapel Hill, for all its growth, is a small town. What is said behind the scenes – whether its characterizing your Council colleagues less than charitably or mis-characterizing the current round of challengers – has a way of leaking out.

If you toss the golf ball out of the woods to avoid a penalty stroke, you might – on your paper scorecard – win the match. But how desperate must one be to be satisfied with such a hollow victory?

Are you honest or do you shave strokes? How do you behave when you think no one is listening? How desperate are you to win?

Politics is like golf.

X-Posted from my campaign website.

I hadn’t heard of this organization prior to this election but they appear to have been active for the last 10 years.

Friends of Affordable Housing is a non-partisan Political Action Committee that has been active in selective elections within Orange County during the last 10 year. The organization was first organized to support the Orange ballot for Affordable Housing Bond Money. The committee has also periodically sent questionnaires to candidates running for Orange County Commissioner and Chapel Hill Town Council.

Core members of the committee felt the residents of Chapel Hill should have the opportunity to know the positions of the various candidates running in 2007 for Chapel Hill Town Council. The Committee felt the relocation of the IFC, the transition to more attached multi-story housing, the opportunity for more affordable housing in Carolina North, and the possibility of selective use of “payment in lieu” of affordable housing units were issues of significant concern for Chapel Hill residents. The committee members are all long standing residents of Chapel Hill. The four review committee members have extensive executive committee experience in non-profit boards including the IFC, Habitat for Humanity, Dispute Settlement Center, YMCA and various Orange County boards including the Commissioners Committee on Affordable Housing. Committee members have also consulted with staff members of several of the Affordable Housing providers.

The NC Board of Elections has informed us that Friends of Affordable Housing does not have to register as a formal PAC for the 2007 election because we will not be raising money to support a specific candidate or issue.

They weren’t active in the 2005 race even though there was a slew of known affordable housing related issues before the Council.

Dear Candidate:

As you know, initiatives to increase the stock of all types of affordable housing in Chapel Hill have been an election issue for many years. In order to give Chapel Hill residents a better understanding of your position on this critical subject, Friends of Affordable Housing has developed a 7-item questionnaire asking you to address some of the current issues.

A review committee of the Friends of Affordable Housing will review your responses and may endorse specific candidates prior to the November election. Your comments will also be made available to the general public.

Thank you for your cooperation; we look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

The review committee: Natalie Ammarell, Rev. Richard Edens, Susan Harvin ,Richard Leber

They obviously understand that maintaining and expanding affordable housing opportunities will require even more attention of the new Council than the last two years.

Here are my answers to their questions.


Friends of Affordable Housing Questions for Chapel Hill Mayor and Town Council Candidates

1. Please describe your commitment to creation of affordable housing initiatives in Chapel Hill.

I’m dedicated to continuing our Town’s commitment to providing affordable housing in Chapel Hill.

We need to re-evaluate, though, our current initiatives, our capability to manage our affordable housing stock and to rebalance the types of housing we’re currently providing.

With that, we also need to adopt fiscal policy that helps folks keep the most affordable housing they have – their current homes. We’re already seeing a trend of long-term residents, after decades of contributing to our community, being “shown the door”.

Those just starting out, can’t even get their foot in the door without substantial incomes.

Finally, we need to make sure our Town’s growth policies align with our housing goals.

RAM Development, the Town’s private partner on the Lot #5 boondoggle, is proposing to replace the somewhat affordable apartments with hundreds of big-ticket condos. Developments that displace existing affordable housing stock, like Hillsborough 425, are part of Chapel Hill’s future.

We need to make sure, though, that we anticipate the consequences of those displacements.

2. Please give your opinion about the actions taken by Town Council in the last 4 years to increase the stock of affordable housing in Chapel Hill.

I commend the Council for their intent. I applaud their successes. But, we could’ve done better.

Too much in lieu money, not enough square footage. Necessary reform in managing our housing stock or being able to adapt to changing conditions left undone for too long. Opportunities like Roger Perry’s %30 offer at East 54 or Greenbridge’s Northside neighborhood in-fill proposal missed. Rebalancing the kind of housing we offer, not adequately addressed.


3. Given the current impasse with the County, what would you do as a Town Council member to proactively advance the effort to find a new site for the IFC Men’s Residential Facility?

a. Would you oppose locating the facility in certain parts of town (e.g., downtown; near Seymour Center)?

I would like to see the IFC split the food service and the shelter functions. As far as the Men’s Shelter, our Town – if a leadership vacuum exists at the county level – has a responsibility to manage this process. I believe the Town should work with the IFC, proactively, along four basic thrusts.

One, develop criteria that incorporates both the IFC’s requirements for just the shelter component and our Town’s goals for development, transit and neighborhood preservation.

Transit opportunities, accessibility to health and other social services are a few of the criteria I would suggest.

Two, once we have the mutually developed criteria, find the site that best suits our joint needs. Our community needs to be involved in both the development of relevant criteria and the selection of the site.

Locating on Homestead makes sense, especially over Eubanks or Millhouse but there might be better sites based on the decision matrix the IFC, other interested parties and the Town develops.

Three, our Town could provide some logistical support to the IFC in developing a task list to move the shelter.

The Chamber asked me if I’d support pulling the IFC’s lease on the existing shelter location. No way I did say that our Town should help develop a punch list of items with specific performance goals and a timeline to hold the IFC to – but taking a punitory tack is – in my estimation – a poor strategy.

Four, we need to bring our community into the process early, educate the public on the relevant issues and, proactively, publish a guide on how the Council will measure the success of this project. If Council affirms, as I believe we’ll be able to do, that the population at the Men’s Shelter will not increase criminal activity in surrounding neighborhoods, we should already be prepared to assess that activity and report back if reality matched our projections.

4. What new programs do you envision to increase the stock of affordable homes in Chapel Hill?

a. Do you think priority should be given to one type of affordable housing (e.g., transitional housing, special needs, rentals, small condo’s, larger owner occupied detached homes) over another?

We need to rebalance our housing stock based on a few criteria. First, what is the most diverse kind of stock we can reasonably manage using existing resources? Second, look at partnering on denser developments like Raleigh’s Carlton Place (I wrote about this development here: http://citizenwill.org/2007/03/21/raleighs-carlton-place-a-downtown-affordable-housing-commitment-worth-emulating/ ). Third, like Carlton Place, re-evaluate rental housing within our current mix.

b. What type of affordable housing should be built in Carolina North and on the Greene Tract?

I would like to see affordable housing developed on the Greene Tract that is akin to that of the Homestead Park neighborhoods. I would also like the housing to be on the eastern side of the tract to integrate into those neighborhoods, take advantage of existing and new amenities, be closer to existing transit, take advantage of new transit capabilities (depending on what happens at Carolina North) and avoid damaging some of the more ecologically sensitive areas.

The University has suggested that housing on Carolina North will be market driven. I would like to see a mix of units that parallels the stock that UNC commissions.


5. In the last year, Town Council has approved three mixed-use developments: 54 West, Greenbridge and Ram’s Lot 5. Under Chapel Hill’s Inclusionary housing policies these developments will generate almost 100 affordable one and two bedroom condo units. However, these units will not serve lower income families with children.

a. In your opinion, do current policies provide the types of affordable housing that are really needed? If not, what should be changed?

As you might be aware, I’ve been critical of the Town’s Lot #5 development for a number of reasons. The project is fiscally irresponsible, the original affordable housing stock was not family friendly, the affordable housing parking was off-site (second class citizens), the condo fees were steep and not capped, the condo units – especially the larger ones – will most probably server the student community, measurable energy efficiency and environmental standards were dropped, and on and on. You can read my web site – citizenwill.org – for a detailed discussion on these and other Lot #5 ills.

For all my criticism of the majority of the Council’s decision to take on this money pit, I am happy that Cam Hill did accept my recommendation to resize some of the affordable units to accommodate families. Will families find them inviting? I’m not sure.

Considering Lot #5’s location, I’m quite concerned that the Council never took my call to look at affordable living as well as affordable housing seriously. What is the cost of living in one of these units if you should be on the lowest economic rung of those that can purchase a unit? Will the economics of that location end up making this housing more transitional in nature than was originally anticipated?

The units at East54 strike me as being more family friendly. I was encouraged, at least until the Harris-Teeter moved, that a mix of services were within easy reach. I was discouraged though by the Landtrust’s assessment that these units would be transitional in nature. And, of course, continue to be concerned we couldn’t take advantage of the developers offer to build %30 affordable housing.

With Greenbridge, I believe our philosophy of integrative units, a good goal, interfered with an excellent opportunity to acquire more square footage. The rejection of the proposal to build family units within an existing adjacent neighborhood was disappointing. Our Town policy should be flexible enough to adapt to exceptional opportunities that don’t diverge greatly from our housing goals.

b. Can Chapel Hill’s Inclusionary housing policies be utilized to generate affordable rental housing? If you think so, please explain how such rental housing would be managed and maintained.

From my understanding, the existing inclusionary policies don’t align with encouraging development of rental housing. As the inclusionary zoning process continues, we need to make sure rental becomes more of an option.


6. Many affordable homes are “aging” and will require significant maintenance. Is it appropriate for public funds to be used for long-term maintenance? If so, what sources of funds should be used?

I’m interested in the proposal for a rotating loan fund to assist folks in maintaining their properties. This loan fund, if created, needs to come from monies outside the general fund. I would not support additional Town debt – via bonds or other mechanisms – to fund this loan program.


7. Do you think “payment in lieu” of affordable housing construction should be accepted from builders? If so, what guidelines should be used and how should these funds be used?

Over the last five years, my sense is the Council is accepting way too much in lieu monies over square footage. We’re asking developers to create housing. Housing built now will not only help relieve some of our current demand but also be cheaper than housing built 5, 10 , 20 years out.

If we ask for housing, we should get housing.

Delay is not our friend. Easy money also erodes are discipline. Square footage over in lieu money should be our guiding principle.

Hey folks. I’ve had a number of supporters contact me about the omission of my comments on Downtown in Sunday’s Chapel Hill News.

It was completely my fault.

Even though I was prepared, I submitted my answers too late for inclusion in the print edition. I did post the answers several days ago here (Chapel Hill News questionnaire).

Unlike the incumbents at the recent WCHL forum, I’m well aware of the mistakes I’ve made in my activism and campaigning over the years. As a Council member, I won’t downplay my responsibility for errors in policy. And, if elected, you won’t have to wait four years to hear me grope around trying to recall where I went astray.

Folks, I’ll make mistakes.

Unlike some of the incumbents, though, I’ll promise to work with our talented community to correct them instead of trying to dodge culpability.

Thanks for your concern.

Here’s my answers to the Chapel Hill News candidate questionnaire. If the answers seem a bit terse, it’s because brevity was required.

POLITICAL PARTY AND EXPERIENCE:

  • 2005 Candidate for Town Council
  • Town Advisory Boards: Horace-William’s Citizen Comm., Downtown Parking Task Force, Technology Board
  • Other: Community Independent Expansion Comm. , Friends of Lincoln Arts Center

While I’ve collaborated with the Orange County Democratic Party for many years on GOTV efforts, been a poll sitter, literature distributor and have supported local Democrats, usually with sweat equity, in their runs, I am an
independent voter.

Until the party realistically deals with state mandated torture, the two on-going wars, the shredding of the Constitution and begins to address key domestic issues such as health care and the increasing split between segments of our citizenry, I will remain unaffiliated.


CIVIC ACTIVITIES AND OTHER AFFILIATIONS:

- Member of Electronic Frontier Foundation

WHY SHOULD YOU BE ELECTED?

Chapel Hill is at a crossroads.

Do we want a diverse community that honors the contributions of our eldest residents, where young couples and working folks can get their foot in the door or is Chapel Hill reserved for those buying publicly underwritten million-dollar condos?

Good intentions have to be backed by sound fiscal policy and real public accountability.

Borrowing millions from the rainy day fund, engaging in a risky Downtown project whose cost has escalated $500,000 to $8.5 million, when our debt payment is tripling is not responsible.

I will work to return Chapel Hill’s sound foundation so all of us can flourish.

1) Please describe your vision for downtown Chapel Hill and assess the council’s current approach to revitalization.

We need to build on the uniqueness of our Downtown by preserving and improving its human-scale charm.

Let’s invest in simple, cost effective, traditional amenities over risky, costly investments with poorly understood and unmeasured returns.

Let’s start with a family friendly pocket park, decent bathrooms, a water fountain and repaired sidewalks. Simple “you are here” directories to assist visitors in finding public and commercial services would make Downtown more inviting.

Let’s take up the low and no-cost Downtown parking improvements the Downtown Parking Task force suggested instead of raising parking rates as Hill and Foy argued for.

The current revitalization effort is open-ended, too expensive – rising from $500K to $8.5M in one year with no end in sight – and puts all our development “eggs” in one basket. The incumbents have resisted efforts to set measurable goals and make timely reports of successes or failures.

If possible, we need to restart the process using measurable goals, an appropriate and fiscally sound commitment of public resources and an approach that doesn’t risk all for an unknown return.

2) Please describe your vision for Carolina North, noting any disagreements with the university’s announced plans.

For many years I have called on UNC to use its incredible research savvy to build a world-class campus pioneering the best in “green” technologies.

To conform to that vision, UNC had to design a campus that was transit-oriented, partially housed its workforce and worked within some serious self-imposed constraints – few parking spaces, a defined energy budget, minimum footprint, cohesive infrastructure, monitored off-site noise, water, air, light impacts.

To achieve these goals, UNC must build within an established master plan.

Further, building upon the successes of the University’s Carolina North Leadership Advisory Committee (LAC), I suggested we work to create a new, sustained framework for further dialog and negotiation. That framework should incorporate the diverse interests of our community within an open, transparent process to work through the next 15 years of issues.

Doing incremental build-outs, like the recently proposed Innovation Center, without a master plan or a framework for further discussion is untenable.

3) How would you respond to persistent complaints about panhandling?

As the only candidate who works Downtown, I’ve experienced the problems first-hand.

I’ve also seen a troubling shift in our community’s attitude – troublemakers all, seems one current perception. Worse, for a few citizens, the face of that population is always a minority one.

My observation? Aggressive panhandling has taken a backseat to the loutish, aggressive behavior. Concrete steps – focusing on those bad behaviors, policing the worst offenders – should come first. Structural changes – moving benches, increasing police presence in a few places, better lighting – should reduce this sometimes frightening Downtown backdrop.

Practical approaches like “Real Change from Spare Change”, will soon shift the economics of begging – reducing panhandlers’ revenue – while bolstering our other efforts to help the homeless.

Finally, the majority of the folks hanging out Downtown are not causing problems. Some are odd but harmless. Our Downtown policy must be focused, goals-oriented – not broadly punitive if we are to succeed.

This year the NRG decided to vet the candidates via email. In 2005 they held interviews and presented the audio responses. Trying to be thorough, I went a bit overboard this year. Figuring no one would want to wade through 10 pages of answers, I tried to boil down this final response to the NRG.

In its Comprehensive Plan, Chapel Hill is committed both to denser urban development and to protection of existing neighborhoods. Do you see any conflict between these goals and what do you feel is the best way to achieve them?

There are trade-offs, thus conflicts between the goals of high density and neighborhood protection.

To start, in any discussion of density we need to establish the limits of growth. I’ve been using the concept of “carrying capacity” as a guide.

Carrying capacity is a multi-dimensional evaluation of an ecosystems ability to maintain a particular population. In biology, this usually means water, food and habitat. In Town, we need to add, for instance, the ability for to maintain a diverse and healthy socio-economic balance within our community. We all can’t live in million dollar condos or pay an extra couple hundred bucks in taxes each year.

We don’t currently assess density to that level of detail. I believe we should at least start thinking within those terms as it will help us create a more sustainable outcome.

Another general problem with our comprehensive plan is that our process for upgrading our goals as our understanding improves is broken.

We need to implement a continuous review process, as suggested by the former chair of the Planning Board, to review our goals in light of achievements to-date, successes and failures. Not only do we need to be more nimble in managing our Town’s comprehensive plan, we need to be much more inclusive in drawing upon our community’s expertise.

Three recent omissions in our planning process provide examples of where we need to improve.

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I’ve been clear – our Town’s ability to negotiate with UNC and other developers on environmental standards (or pretty much any other issue) is directly related to how well we practice what we preach.

Southern Park is a great example. The Mayor and the incumbents (sans Jim Ward) thought the difficult decision was to authorize the removal of half the trees at Southern Park to build soccer fields. I like soccer fields, but it is clear to me that the difficult decision was really one of how to align their commitment to carbon reduction (CRED) with the gross reduction of trees.

Along those lines, I’ve had a number of folks email me about the Sierra Club endorsement process. These folks know that, besides Jim Ward, I’ve called for stronger protections – protections within a measurable framework – than the incumbents I’m challenging. The talk, it appears, doesn’t always follow the walk.

I hope to enumerate those discrepancies (fuel usage, light and noise pollution, tree replacement, etc.) but, until then, here’s an example from this Spring where Jim Ward took up my call to bolster our Town’s credibility by implementing measurable energy efficiency goals at a project WE THE PEOPLE are paying for…

X-Posted from my campaign site:

A common theme of both my activism and my campaign is that if we don’t measure the results of our policies then we can’t tell if we’re achieving our goals. Worse, if we’re trying various strategies to solve an issue, without proper oversight, we can’t select the most effective – cost-wise and goal-wise – solution to run with.

I’ve asked the Council many times over the last few years for a proper accounting on a number of issues – how much the citizens have spent on Lot #5, costs over-runs for the Town’s new Operation Center, fuel usage, reducing our street light electricity bill, etc. – but those requests have been uniformly batted down by the majority – which, this year, is most of the incumbents I’m running against.

I’ve argued that to be good stewards of the publics money, we must accurately report our failures and successes.

And to bolster our credibility, we have to “walk the talk”.



Take energy efficiency. While all the incumbents pay lip service to the concept, Jim and I were the only two folks running this year that called for specific, measurable energy reduction goals for the Lot #5 project. Yes, the LEEDs certification process can be expensive and flawed, but relying on a developer that has already demonstrated a consistent pattern of failing to follow through on initial expectations (the promise to keep the citizens cost to $500K, for instance) to police themselves is foolhardy.

If not LEEDs, then some other objective standard was called for – a specific methodology that an independent consultant could verify.

How else do we bolster the credibility of our environmental stewardship?

As you can see from this video, Jim makes a good case for why not “walking the talk” in one sphere can directly diminish your leverage in another.

Just as I said many times prior to Jim’s statement, how can we call on UNC or any other developer to adhere to the highest standards if our Town practices “do as I say, not do as I do”?

Here’s the Chapel Hill Sierra Club forum. I’ll be adding some commentary about clear contrasts in environmental policy between the incumbents and the non-incumbents, how we should “walk the talk” on environmental protections – making both large and incremental improvements in our Town’s commitment, and how current policy sets goals the Council never plans to revisit (I guess that’s politics – which explains why I’m just not a political creature).

At 1460 hits, this video is by and far the most popular one I’ve posted on youTube. No surprise to me as Tracey did an incredibly eloquent presentation on the flawed Solid Waste Advisory Board’s search for a new trash transfer site.



I’m a longtime watchdog of the UNC development process.

UNC, with Carolina North, started off as they had with many of their main campus projects – discounting our community’s concerns and dispensing with residents input.

I knew there had to be a better way to work towards a satisfactory conclusion for both our University and our community. So, in 2005, I renewed my call to UNC and the Town to create a more stable framework for dealing both with our common concerns and our disagreements.

I’m not sure how much my encouragement helped but UNC, by late 2005, did create a new kind of community effort. UNC’s Leadership Advisory Committee – the LAC – was created to try to find common ground among all the participants in the Carolina North process.



I threw my support behind the process, seeing the LAC as a good first start at building a more stable framework for Town and Gown relations. Both Council members, now incumbents running for office, showed little confidence in the process from the start.

Even though I supported UNC’s new effort – praising their success where appropriate – critical when they backslid into old habits – I also kept a close eye towards the eventual product – a master plan for Carolina North.

There were some initial missteps I thought needed some quick attention. One, inattention to the public input. Two, a missing commitment to measure the environmental baseline of Carolina North.

As you can see from this Aug. 24th, 2006 video, as a citizen I appeared before UNC’s LAC calling for a real environmental assay of Carolina North and making substantive improvements in their community outreach.

Finding champion species would help identify critical areas to preserve. Doing a thorough flora and fauna survey would help us establish a baseline to determine if conditions improve or diminish 10, 20 or 50 years out. Committing to measuring off-site air, noise and light pollution impacts could help build confidence in UNC’s commitment to maintaining the neighboring environment throughout our community.

What is different from UNC’s past performance is they actually integrated that criticism into their process and improved upon the overall plan.

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