Semi-live blogging from tonight’s Sierra Club/Chapel Hill Chamber of Commerce Town candidate forum.

[UPDATE:] Comments on candidate responses are mostly paraphrases. Comments in quotes are verbatim from candidates. Comments in parentheses or brackets are mine. I didn’t capture all comments or questions. The People’s Channel video taped the forum and should have it posted sometime soon.

Someone recently remarked to me “What strange bedfellows!” when we were talking about tonight’s forum sponsors. Ten years ago that might’ve been true but not today.

The Sierra Club leadership, as distinct from its membership, has been AWOL on many of the most pressing environmental issues of the last decade. Most troubling for an organization founded on justice, the element of social justice has been missing as they have fully endorsed projects like Greenbridge and West140 irrespective of those projects broader consequences.

The Chamber’s Director Aaron Nelson has worked hard to position the Chamber as the gatekeeper on sustainability. The “triple bottom line” that Aaron lauds continues to be heavily weighted towards development and developers irrespective of broader considerations. Teaming up with the Sierra Club helps create an additional appearance of green even if the facts belie it.

All the candidates sans mayoral Wolff in attendance. About 32 folks in the seats though only a hand full are not involved in the sponsoring organizations, the press or candidate groups.

Mark Shultz, Chapel Hill News editor, is running the show.

Opening 1 minute statements, a good chance to see if candidates can hit their marks. Jim Ward, who gave me hell a couple years ago about going 19 seconds long, dragged 28 seconds over. OK by me, I well understand how hard it is to compress a dozen years of service into 60 seconds.

A few themes so far – transparency raised by DeHart, experience and fiscal responsibility by Matt Cz., continuing the Town’s sustainability initiatives by Storrow and Schuler, Baker on balancing economic development and environmental progress.

Some “usual suspects” – Fred Black, Nancy Oates, Mark Peters, Lynne Kane, Bernadette Pelissier.

How do you balance economic development and the environment? What is the priority?

Tim Sookram, Mayoral candidate – focus on environment, not concentrate on LEEDs certification.

Moses Carey, former OC BOCC member just came in.

Jason Baker – Council candidate and committed “smart growth” supporter. Doesn’t think that environmental and economic issues are at odd – both values are important.

Donna Bell – Council candidate and incumbent (appointed) – thinks that posing the question misses the point – shouldn’t be in conflict.

Augustus Cho – Council candidate (CC) – also agrees that the two aren’t in conflict – he believes if “we cut a tree down, we can plant one somewhere else…”

Matt Czajkowski – CC – observes that over the last 4 years there’s been an evolution from either supporting the environment or supporting economic development to one which they are seen by the candidates as complementary…

Laney Dale – CC – “doesn’t want to see any trees cut down” though he does understand development must occur

Jon DeHart – CC – also doesn’t see the two as mutually exclusive – realized that when he was labeled “pro-business” last round and he had done a poor job of responding to that critique – that he has a more nuanced approach – thinks that rehabilitating the Planning process is key to making the two work well together…

Lee Storrow – CC – brings up the urban boundary – gives a quick definition – wants to build dense in Chapel Hill – transit key – thinks C.H. is headed towards Atlanta style density and we need to have transit to support that…

Jim Ward – CC and incumbent – “the question is so last century” , “it isn’t an either or” proposition – 10 years ago the team sponsoring this forum would’ve been shocking

Mark Kleinschmidt – Mayoral candidate and incumbent – thinks that every project needs to take both in consideration – need to measure results of development decisions [Why has he drug his feet and resisted every attempt to make measurabilty part of the process? Will he support making metrics a key aspect on the Comprehensive Plan rework?]

How to increase jobs?