Sat 13 Oct 2007
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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
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.