September 2009

Council seemed somewhat confused in making the decision to take the Rogers Rd./Millhouse community off the table as far as the new County transfer site. Details on the site selection criteria and an analysis of anticipated municipal fiscal impacts have been available since Spring here.

The community-based, technical and exclusionary criteria were well established prior to Mayor Foy throwing the Town Operations Center site on the table. Both the Mayor and Council have been briefed on the criteria, so the confusion this evening didn’t quite make sense. Further, if the Council was concerned about the objectivity or quality of the criteria, as Councilmember Ed Harrison said he was, they had plenty of opportunities to improve upon the community’s approach. Neither individuals, like Ed, or the Council as a whole took that opportunity.

I chalk up both that lack of participation and tonight’s confusion to institutionalized disengagement on solid waste management issues. Yes, technically the responsibility for managing Chapel Hill’s waste belongs to the County. No, that’s not an excuse for abrogating oversight and participation (if for no other reason than the link between Chapel Hill’s sustainable growth and responsible resource management).

Tonight I tried to get the Council to take both Millhouse sites off the table. The Town’s by having staff apply the community-based criteria. And, subsequently, the County’s site by implication. Along with other concerned citizens we managed to move Council halfway towards that goal.

[UPDATE] WCHL’s Elizabeth Friend’s report.

My remarks to Council:

Tonight Mayor Foy recommends that:

“the Council seek more information…regarding the potential impact each proposed option would have on Town operations….to review the four sites that are currently under consideration and provide the Council with a report detailing the benefit or detriment of each site as it affects Town operations.”

Restricting the evaluation to “effects” and “impacts” on Chapel Hill’s own operations takes a rather narrow view of our community’s responsibility for dealing with our solid waste.

Over two years ago, I and other concerned Chapel Hill and Orange County residents questioned the Solid Waste Advisory Board’s – SWAB – selection of the current landfill for use as a trash transfer site. The SWAB’s criteria for selecting that site seemed arbitrary and capricious – especially given the broken promises and many years of environmental and socioeconomic impacts on the Rogers Road/Millhouse community.

I’m quite familiar with the issue having collaborated with citizens and groups – such as Preserve Rural Orange represented by Laura Streitfeld, Orange County Voice represented by Bonnie Hauser, Orange County Community Awareness represent by Nathan Robinson and our local Rogers-Eubanks Coalition represented by Rev. Campbell ñ to convince the Orange County Board of Commissioners to adopt community-based, objective and measurable criteria for siting the trash transfer facility.

Adopting transparent criteria was critical to building community consensus with the final proposal.

The Commissioners agreed and our County consultant, Olver, began to meet with folks from all over the County. Last year, the culmination of that effort lead to the creation of a set of community-based, technical and exclusionary criteria for determining an appropriate location for the transfer site.

These criteria were well-publicized and in-place well before Mayor Foy recommended the Town Operations site. Further, these criteria had been presented to Council several times during Joint Governmental meetings.

A cursory review of those criteria – even from a laypersons viewpoint – would have immediately led one to understand how inappropriate the Town’s Operation Center site suggested is – violating 6 or more key criteria.

To continue to entertain this site not only flies in the face of the criteria our community developed in cooperation with Olver, the technical consultant, and the Orange County Commissioners but continues to undermine the community’s confidence in a transparent and fair approach in addressing this community’s responsibility for our waste.

I ask the Council to instruct staff to not only review the impacts upon Chapel Hill but to also analyze the Millhouse sites in light of the community-based, technical and exclusionary criteria that our citizens help create.

Once they do that, I believe the Rogers Road/Millhouse community sites will be off the table – once and for all – and that the Town can then turn back its attention to addressing the long standing obligations we have to our neighbors in that community.

There’s a new ‘blog in Town!

Local journalists Don Evans and Nancy Oates have started a new ‘blog, Chapel Hill Watch, to serve our local community.

Both Don and Nancy have an extensive institutional memory of local history and a keen eye towards local issues (I, along with many readers of the Chapel Hill News, were sorry to see Don laid-off). I look forward to getting not only their perspective on local issues but to see if their ‘blog attracts additional commentary from our local ‘bloggers who are looking for alternatives amongst the currently limited choices.

To get things started Don has posted on the Library’s future ( Library with a Bright Future) and Nancy has posted on filling the Council vacancy (Take the Voters’ Concerns Seriously).

Here’s a bit more about the founders.

Don Evans has been a newspaper editor for 30 years, most recently with The Chapel Hill News. Nancy Oates is a freelance business and features writer and has voted in every election since she turned 18.

Way to go Nancy, I also have voted every election except a 2nd primary in the late ’80s since I turned 18.

Last night I got an invite from Ruby Sinreich to engage other candidates on her local ‘blog OrangePolitics. Though I was an avid contributor to her ‘blog for several years, contributing a significant portion of the content, I have declined to participate in building her readership or commercial “brand” during this year’s election cycle.

My reasons for not participating are varied, many of which persist as covered in this “swan song” post from December, 2007.

  • an escalating and stifling intolerance of valid though different viewpoints,
  • the site’s authors acting as surrogates for political allies who didn’t have the courage to engage the community directly in an honest, fact-based and open manner
  • and an unwillingness on my part to work hard in “building the brand” of a site that advertised one thing – engaging the wider community in an informative discussion of local “progressive” issues – and delivering another.

I haven’t read much of OP since then, mainly looking in when someone sends me a link of interest (like my “winning” a very unscientific straw poll for whom should be appointed to Bill Thorpe’s vacant seat). From what I’ve seen, Ruby has taken to heart some of my critique, including opening up authorship to folks she used to vehemently chastise. Good for her.

It is clear, though, that Ruby regularly continues breaking her own editorial rules when my name arises. I prefer to engage directly with other candidates rather than their surrogates. It is a more honest, open and transparent process – a process I cherish and that Chapel Hill voters deserve.

I wish that there was another local alternative to OP for political wonks, like myself, to engage in broad, open, inclusive discussion of the many serious issues facing our community. Unfortunately, the closest we have come is the Chapel Hill News’ OrangeChat, a ‘blog whose posts sometimes spur a genuine discussion of issues.

As a candidate who has engaged a broad spectrum of constituencies, has never turned down an opportunity to solicit our community for their ideas or discuss the realities of living in Chapel Hill, I regret that I might miss out on a great conversation.

That said, I will continue to maintain my “web presence” here on CitizenWill, post all my responses to the varied community election questionnaires, feature (hopefully) video of election forums, etc. I will seek out every opportunity to meet our citizens (send invites to listen and respond to their concerns.

And, if there’s a ‘blog you think I should be posting on, please post the link in the comments section.

See you on the campaign trail!