Elections


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 campaign@willraymond.org)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!

A big thank you to all the folks who contacted and encouraged me to run.

Below is my formal announcement, more posts to follow:

Will Raymond Announces Run for Chapel Hill Town Council 2009

Chapel Hill, NC – July 17th, 2009

I am taking the next step in my eight year continuum of public service to Chapel Hill by announcing my candidacy for Town Council.

After listening to hundreds of my fellow citizens during the Sustainability Task Force’s nine recent public forums, it is clear that Chapel Hill’s residents want to move forward on a different path for the next decade.

Moving Chapel Hill forward will require common sense leadership that is innovative, experienced, tested and prepared to follow our citizens’ mandate to change course.

Successfully working with a variety of community organizations, advisory boards, the Town Council and Orange County Board of Commissioners in the past, I have taken on some of the thorniest, toughest and, occasionally, most controversial issues facing our community.

Listening to the community, gathering the best advice, with conviction and thoughtful fortitude, I have been unwavering in my support of reasonable growth policies, fiscal prudence, environmental protection and transparent government operations.

As my understanding of these challenges deepened, so has my sense of responsibility for making sure our community thrives when meeting them.
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Seems like the municipal elections are officially on. Kevin bowed out as mayor. Mark bowed in. Laurin, not surprisingly, ready to go again. And now Penny.

I ran with Penny in 2007 and welcome her 2009 run.

She did her homework, was firm in her convictions, eloquent and handled some rather nasty rebukes by two of the incumbents with grace and good cheer.

I’m hoping that this year, unlike the 2007 campaign where the incumbents orchestrated an issues shut out, will be a year in which the rather substantial problems before our community get not only a fair hearing but elicit specific proposed remedies by the candidates.

Here’s Penny’s announcement:

I am proud to announce my candidacy for Chapel Hill Town Council. While running in the 2007 council race I was honored to meet many folks that live and work in Chapel Hill who share my love for this beautiful town. Chapel Hill has a bright future, and I believe I would be a positive addition to the Town Council as they guide us through the next phase of growth. As a small business owner raising a family in Chapel Hill, I represent the unique perspective of the average everyday citizen. In the coming months I look forward to talking to the people of Chapel Hill to gain an understanding of their priorities, needs, and concerns. I can best represent Chapel Hill by ensuring that everyone has the chance for their voice to be heard as we shape the future of our town.

Here is my formal application to fill Bill’s seat.

I agree with recent Council comments that their new colleague must be “ready to hit the road running”. To do so, an applicant should be prepared, involved and experienced.

Council already has a demanding workload. Over the next 7 months two major challenges – troubled finances and the Carolina North development agreement – along with a number of demanding development,technology and operational issues will strain Council’s capacity to deliberate and decide with the due diligence Chapel Hill’s citizens expect.

I am prepared to take on both the substance of issues – mundane or otherwise – and the time demands (280 hours alone over the next 7 months) necessary to do the job at a level our community deserves. On many issues I’m prepared and already up to speed with no steep learning curve to climb.

Over the last 7 years Council has become familiar with my work ethic: creative, hard-working, dedicated.

I have been an entrepreneur, a consultant, a manager, an executive officer of successful startups. My experience balancing budgets, managing employees, collaborating with customers, finding pragmatic solutions and meeting tough time constraints will assist me in fulfilling Council’s requirement that an applicant be ready – day-one – to serve.

I’m involved with a broad spectrum of local issues: protecting the environment, community outreach, increasing diversity, Town finances and fiscal responsibility, economic development, Downtown revitalization, UNC growth on main campus and Carolina North, civil liberties, affordable housing, treatment of the homeless, building a framework for mutually beneficial negotiation between Town and Gown, hands-on arts, infrastructure enhancements, election reforms, solid waste management, airport relocation and more.

I’ve attended hundreds of meetings, researched deeply, developed informed opinions and offered innovative improvements on many of the issues a new Council member will face.

I have also fought, irrespective of concerns of popularity and political consequence, to bring the best policy to the table. My allegiance is to my conscience. I have no hidden agenda and will continue to fight for solutions that are fair and just for all residents.

Tapping Chapel Hill’s creativity is a cornerstone of my activism these last seven years. I will continue my efforts to draw in the wisest public counsel, to temper Council desires with wide-ranging public input. Without a seat on Council I have helped folks shape this Town for the better. With a seat – tapping staff resources, liaising with advisory boards, shaping Council decisions – my effectiveness serving will only improve.

My experience with UNC and the Carolina North plan, my advocacy on improving the Town’s financial condition and my record of promoting the broadest community outreach meshes well with the leadership requirements of the next 13 months.

I will focus on non-controversial goals: setting Chapel Hill on a firm financial foundation, preserving those Chapel Hill qualities we cherish, creating new economic opportunities and promoting the broadest of public participation.

There are many ways to serve ones community. I’ve done quite a few – hands-on volunteering, advisory board member, community organizer, activist. Like Flicka with her neighborhood sewer problem, I started out with a small issue and now, like her, find myself asking Council to let me serve our fine community as their colleague.

Finally, I can’t fill Bill’s shoes, but I will honor his memory by working-hard to improve Chapel Hill for all our diverse residents.

That is my pledge.

Further background: what I’ve done lately, where I would serve and what I would do.

I submitted my formal application to fill Bill’s seat (not his shoes) this afternoon.

Along with my application, I provided some examples of my recent activism, a list of advisory boards I would like to represent Council on and some suggestions covering a few of the issues that Chapel Hill faces next year.

I’ve served on three Town advisory boards, the Horace-Williams Citizens Committee, the Technology Board and the Downtown Parking Task Force.

A few of you know I attend many more advisory board meetings, Council meetings, relevant Orange County Board of Commissioner meetings, UNC community outreach events (including all the Carolina North meetings, most Carolina North Leadership Advisory Committee meetings) and other community-related events (like the recent Preserve Rural Orange County airport or the Hillsborough OrangeAwareness waste transfer station meetings).

I show up to learn, to contribute and to meet folks working for change.

Of the next 13 months, the first 7 are key. Between the budget process, the creation of Carolina North’s development agreement and the pile of normal business, Council will be busy. Part of a Council member’s duties involve liaising with various advisory boards, a task I take quite seriously.

I’m not sure if Council plans to re-balance representatives to various boards, so I submitted a list based on where I believe I could allocate the most time and do the best work:

  • Orange County Solid Waste
  • Human Services Advisory Board
  • Stormwater Management Utility
  • Sustainable Committee
  • Orange County Economic Development Commission
  • Land Trust Affordable Housing Maintenance Task Force
  • Citizens Budget Advisory Board – new
  • Downtown Parking Implementation Task Force – new
  • Liaison to internal technology, website and budget staff groups.
  • Liaison for fiber optic deployment to DOT and other relevant groups.

Two of the boards – the Citizens Budget Board and the Downtown Parking Implementation Task Force – don’t exist yet. A few others are internal work groups pursuing specific tasks.

I submitted my formal application to fill Bill’s seat (not his shoes) this afternoon. Along with my application, I provided some examples of my recent activism, a list of advisory boards I would like to represent Council on and some suggestions covering a few of the issues that Chapel Hill faces next year.

The additional material is representative but by no means exhaustive (I tried to keep it somewhat brief).

Here’s some supporting material listing some of the contributions I made these last few years. I listed proposals I made, proposals I assisted on and proposals created in collaboration with the advisory boards I served on. On other issues I’ve flown solo, like requesting that the process of siting a new landfill begin and on others I’ve been one among many pushing for change.

  • UNC

    • Main Campus development

      • OI4 creation – mainly concerned about creation process and time
        limits.
      • Attended most UNC outreach and progress reviews
      • Provided feedback on modifications

        • Noted disappearance of residence halls
    • Carolina North

      • Lobbied for a new negotiation dynamic. Endorsed LAC negotiation framework.
      • Attended every Carolina North meeting.

        • Posted online video of many meetings for broader community review.
        • Feedback on process and proposals.

          • Many suggestions, to numerous to list, representative examples:

            • Shift CN focus to “green”, treat new campus as
              “green” laboratory
            • Parking ratios, metrics on “greenness” building
              heights
            • Development agreement, traffic management, Bolin Creek
      • Attended many Carolina North Leadership Advisory Committee meetings

        • Lobbied for environmental assay, continued environmental monitoring
    • Innovation Center

      • Design review sessions.
      • Feedback on detachment from Carolina North plan.
    • Methane gas project

      • Asked Chapel Hill and OC BOCC to team on LFG recovery for TOC
      • Attended LFG proposal meeting and provided feedback

        • Constant environmental monitoring as per Cameron Power Plant
        • Noise abatement
        • Impact on Mens Shelter project
    • Horace-Williams Citizens Committee member under Julie McClintock’s leadership

      • Drafted HWCC response to Chancellor Moeser’s letter
      • Environmental Sub-group

        • Pushed for process to use “best in class” metrics and
          continuous environmental monitoring of site
        • Help draft environmental guidelines and proposed specific criteria
      • Draft of new work proposal fleshing out the HWCC principles adopted 2004
  • Finance

    • Technology Board recommendation saving $50K yearly
    • As citizen, contributed to Citizen Budget Committee efforts
    • Suggested specific improvements 2003-2007
    • Multi-year budget horizons
    • Lobbied for permanent Citizen Budget board
  • Downtown

    • Called for decent bathrooms, water fountains, sidewalk handicap accessibility,
      family-friendly pocket park, WIFI, comprehensive policing plan, way-signs
    • Downtown Parking Task Force

      • Pushed for new parking study – Downtown Partnership commissioned
        one
      • Use of new customer friendly technology
      • Re-balance parking allotments – lease remote, preserve prime
        spaces
      • Implementation team proposal with Aaron Nelson
      • Better signs, less signs
  • Town Operations

    • Technology

      • Comprehensive evaluation of technology use

        • Council commissioned technology assessment report
      • Operational efficiencies

        • Got $50K yearly savings on leases
        • Proposed $100K+ license fee reduction plan
        • Proposed trouble ticket with online access so citizens could track staff
          activity/responses and management could measure proficiency
      • Website overhaul

        • Non-proprietary design with eye towards permanent presence
        • ADA usability standards
        • Privacy provisions
        • On-line payments
        • On-line access to Council and public communications

          • Council and other relevant email posted
          • On-line video of Council, Planning Board and other meetings
          • Audio of all advisory board proceedings
          • Seven day deadline for Council agendas
          • Pushed adoption of David Lawrence list-serv/’blog process for advisory board
            communications
        • Planning/Inspections tracking system
        • Trouble ticket process for residents to ask for and track issues

          • Streetlights out
          • Waste removal
          • Inspections
      • Open documentation and open source systems initiatives

        • Ensure Town documentation is openly available irrespective of computer
        • Use free and open-source software to reduce cost and promote open documentation
          initiative
      • Communications upgrades/deployments

        • WIFI
        • Fiber optic collaboration with DOT
      • Emergency Operations review

        • Suggested consolidations at TOC
    • Resource use

      • 2004 Green fleet modifications
      • Bio-fuel use – Public Works subsequently purchase 1,000 gals.
      • Proposed targeted reductions and staff reward process
      • Requested fuel/energy/water records to be posted on-line for citizen analysis
    • Staff training/development

      • Proposed “spot award” program
      • Merit-based raises
      • Turnover problem with up-and-coming staff
  • Arts

    • Promote more community arts opportunities

      • Founding member of Friends of Lincoln Center Arts Program

        • Expand Chapel Hill’s hands-on arts program
      • Locate new community arts center at Community Park or other central location
      • %1 Art Program – more funds for local artists
    • Reform Arts Commission
  • Development Process

    • Greater community outreach

      • “Bang the drum loudly” – neighborhood presentations
      • Use of 3D models and other on-line tools to show scale/placement
    • Comprehensive plan reform

      • Evergreen process so new ideas/standards can be incorporated more frequently
      • Discuss metrics for measuring compliance with goals
  • Orange County issues

    • Waste management

      • Siting of the transfer station
      • Request that the process for siting new landfill or incinerator begin
    • UNC Airport – volunteered to be the Orange County representative on
      the Airport Authority

Early voting is moving at a breakneck pace this year with large turnouts from day one.

Unfortunately, NC’s “straight party” ballot option continues to confuse.

Even if you vote “straight party”, you MUST vote for President separately!! Luckily, our new local BOE Director Tracy Reams made sure this year’s poll-workers were well trained to notify voters of this peculiar situation.

Ellie, Elijah and I usually go to the polls on election day – it is a family tradition.

I’ve voted in every major election and nearly every primary (especially since independent voters had the option) since 1980 and have usually seen my top of the ticket choice for naught but this year is different.

Change, I dearly hope, is on the way.

There are a few more days to early vote. This year, same-day registration is available (details here).

No excuse for not getting out to vote!

Early Voting Locations and Hours

Monday – Friday, October 27th – 31st, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 1st, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

MOREHEAD PLANETARIUM, 250 East Franklin Street, Chapel Hill [MAP]
CARRBORO TOWN HALL, 301 West Main Street, Carrboro [MAP]
ORANGE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY, 300 West Tryon Street, Hillsborough [MAP]

Monday – Friday, October 27th – October 31st, 12:00 Noon – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 1st, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

SEYMOUR SENIOR CENTER, 2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill [MAP]
NORTHERN HUMAN SERVICES CENTER, 5800 NC Hwy 86 North, Hillsborough [MAP]

Nov. 4th Voting Locations

Orange County Board of Elections website has more information, including a search tool to identify your particular precinct.

Can’t wait to cast my vote for a guy who unapologetically wears sandals 😉

Barack Obama swung by Chapel Hill tonight in his on-going attempt to clinch his party’s nomination. As David Price noted, for the first time in decades North Carolina is relevant – and we have an opportunity to push Obama over the top.

As with many political events, the rally, scheduled for 9:30pm kicked off promptly at 10:19pm. The Dean Dome was 3/4’s full – the crowd a mix of college students and locals (with a smattering of notable politicos – Mel Watt, David Price, Hampton Dellinger, Alice Gordon).

If you’ve seen Obama speak before, the stump he gave was fairly familiar – tweaked a bit for both the Tar Heel college and North Carolina “blue” crowd. He butchered Chancellor Moeser’s name (quickly corrected with some input from the crowd). He made a small reference to RTP – proposed cloning its success (I suggest better research by his crew). Spoke of mitigating college tuitions using a Americorp type program ($12K per annum -whew!). Talked about off-shoring of jobs and closing of mills. But mostly it was a speech targeted towards a national audience.

He riffed on McCain – “25 years in Congress” and a $25 gas tax refund “is the best he can do”.

After pummeling McCain a bit, he carefully highlighted the differences between him and Hillary.

Obama painted Hillary as the candidate of lobbyists, special interests and the back room party apparatchik. Contrasting his trip to Wall Street to inform CEOs that their personal tax bills were headed up, that under his administration Federal subsidies for their cash cows would dry up and windfall profits (literally highway robbery) were going to be taxed with Hillary’s Union hall pandering, he made the case for his political courage. And, he noted subtlety, she hasn’t been quite honest.

Which brings me back to our local Board of Commissioners race.

Between the two at-large candidates that I know and have seen in action at close range, Neloa Jones is the hands down best candidate.

She’s united her community, built coalitions and been honest and up-front with her concerns. She’s demonstrated her political courage.

She is no creature of the local “rah rah growth at any cost” political clique.

Neloa has not been missing in action and she hasn’t, like her opponent laid claim to positions she hasn’t fought for – kind of our own homegrown Obama. Sharp, with a real sense of purpose, Neloa is the kind of leader we need for Orange County.

Please, when you go to vote for Obama (or Hillary) cast a vote for Neloa.

Here’s some action from tonight’s rally. All photos compliments of my son Elijah.

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Following up on last week’s panel discussion of John Ehle’s 1965 book “The Free Men,” Terri B. is concerned about the direction Chapel Hill is headed:

I do not believe that building luxury housing surrounding the remaining historically black neighborhoods in downtown is an acceptable solution.

Thanks Terri for the link to photographer Jim Wallace’s snap in UNC’s News Service press release.

Following up on my recent comments, Fred Black weighs in on this year’s “super incumbency” and the deleterious effect it had on our community.

To all the folks that have sent me emails of support in the face of a dramatic surge in negative, personal attacks, I thank you.

It has been a strange election season.

I didn’t expect the Sierra Club or the IndyWeek to endorse me, for political or personal reasons. But I never expected the Indy to create a “red herring” or the Sierra Club to get my record – which was to support 5 of their environmental causes that the incumbents shot down – and my name wrong.

I knew that two local incumbents would go negative when one of their common advisors tipped his hand months before I even signed up – bullying me about how I planned to run – but I never expected the virulence or disingenuous of the latest attacks. Youch!

Again, thanks folks for trying to stem the tide.

Part of this negativity, I’ve come to believe, goes beyond mean-spirited politics to political strategy. There must be a fear that votes for Raymond will lead to the election of Penny Rich – at least that appears to be part of the calculus.

Maybe they’re right – maybe you should vote for me AND Penny if you want Penny ;-).

I hope the voters realize that the challengers – Penny, Matt and I – are the only candidates this year that engaged in substantive discussions of the issues before our Town.

I hope the voters recognize I’ve been trying to take the opportunity of this election to engage and educate the wider public on key problems facing our community.

And I hope they understand that personal attacks, character assassination, trying to diminish a candidates public service, is not just a sign of desperation but also an indicator of the sponsoring person’s fitness to lead.

That said, I’m at a bit of loss at what to do. I’m going to stick with my original plan, which was focus on the issues before us, to work to promote positive strategies to improve our community and to ignore issues lacking substance.

What about the arrows sticking in my back?

I’m a big guy, passionate about my causes, have tried to do what’s best by the community – and that helps take the sting out but I am saddened that instead of engaging in an open discussion of policy a few of the incumbent candidates feel going negative is their best strategy.

What a wasted opportunity! For now, I forge on with my portfolio of issues and solutions – campaigning straight through until 7:30pm tomorrow.

The citizens of Chapel Hill deserve no less.

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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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).

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