LocalPolitics


Big thanks to the Anderson-Thorpe Breakfast Club for endorsing my candidacy for Town Council. More on my campaign website.

There are a lot of questions about the IFC’s plans to site the new men’s homeless shelter on Homestead Road. As a candidate for Town Council, I have been reading concerned citizens emails and letters – almost 100 or so – on this project.

Executive Chris Moran has prepared the following Q & A based on a number of questions the nearby neighborhoods raised. I’ve converted the first section of the document to HTML and will work to finish that conversion soon. Until then, here is the complete response as a PDF.

AUGUST 14, 2009 RESIDENT QUESTIONS AND RESPONSES ABOUT COMMUNITY HOUSE

  1. It is our understanding that the Town is involved with the development of the IFC Community House project. We know that the community Design Commission met about this issue on June 17, 2009 and that the Town council is scheduled to meet about this matter on September 21, 2009. We also know that there is a file about this project at the Town’s Planning Department. The full extent of the Town’s involvement, however, remains unclear.

    • What has been the formal planning and development process for the IFC Community House project relocation?

    • The Inter-Faith Council for Social Service (IFC) developed a formal partnership with the Town of Chapel Hill in 1985 when the Town Council offered the IFC a no-cost lease in the Old Municipal Building (OMB) to house homeless persons. The program began in congregations, then moved into the basement of the OMB and eventually expanded to the entire OMB after Council members approved a task force recommendation that the OMB be used as a homeless facility.

      The IFC formed another partnership with the Orange County Board of Commissioners in 1994 to plan and develop a new facility for homeless women and children initially called Project Homestart. The Board of Commissioners provided a no-cost 25-year three acre parcel on Homestead Road to the IFC at the Southern Human Services Center. Since HomeStart’s opening there has been no adverse or negative impact on neighboring areas. In fact, new neighborhoods have developed near and around our HomeStart campus. The Church of the Advocate will soon be building a new church in our vicinity.

      Here is some additional information about IFC’s history with shelter facilities:

      • In 1990, after a year-long renovation of the OMB, the IFC co-located the Community Kitchen and Community Shelter at the OMB officially known as Community House;
      • The IFC opened its HomeStart facility, originally known as Project Homestart, on Homestead Road in 1998 for homeless families;
      • After HUD funding ended for HomeStart in 2003, the IFC Board of Directors reorganized the HomeStart program for homeless women and children;
      • The new Homestart—whose model is based on the vision of the Planning Committee—has the mission of “providing a safe, structured home for homeless women and children, helping them to access community resources and offering everyone on-going support to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness” ;
      • And the IFC relocated single women guests from the downtown Community House facility to HomeStart during the same year.
    • There have been myriad community meetings and task forces appointed by Chapel Hill mayors since the year 2000 to find a permanent location for Community House. A formal agreement and special task force was created by Mayor Kevin Foy and IFC’s Board President in 2004 “to address homelessness and new facilities”. The Board of Directors came to three major conclusions based on task force recommendations during this process.

      • The Old Municipal Building was no longer adequate for IFC needs
      • The Town of Chapel Hill decided that the OMB was needed for other town offices
      • New facilities would consist of a men’s shelter and a separate building/location for combining IFC food programs (Community Kitchen and Food Pantry)
    • In May of 2008, after a long search for a permanent location for Community House, the UNC Chancellor, Chapel Hill Mayor and IFC Executive Director announced a new partnership and property location near the United Church of Chapel Hill on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. The Chancellor announced that the University would lease 1.66 acres to the Town on a long-term basis. “The Town would then make the site available to the Inter-Faith Council for Social Service (IFC) for the construction and operation of a new men’s residential facility.”

    • When will a final determination (i.e., approval or disapproval) be made on this project?

    • The IFC will be applying for a special use permit (SUP) for the Community House project sometime this fall. Final Town approval is expected in the spring or summer of 2010. Timing is dependent on the Town’s planning process.

Thanks to Loren Hintz. Matt Scheer, Jason Baker (2005 candidate for Town Council), May Becker, Judith Ferster and the rest of the membership of the Orange-Chatham Sierra Club for both sponsoring the recent candidate forum and making the following video available to the wider community.

Also thanks to my fellow colleague on the Sustainability Task Force Matthew Scheer for moderating the event and James Carnahan for keeping time.


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Thanks to Madeline Jefferson, Bob Henshaw, Julie McClintock, Janet Smith, Alan Snavely, Mickey Jo Sorrel and the rest of the membership of Neighborhoods For Responsible Growth (NRG) for both sponsoring the recent candidate forum and making the following video available to the wider community.

Also thanks to my neighbor (and former Chapel Hill Mayor) Jonathon Howes for moderating the event.


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Quick technical note: the current video doesn’t support “quick search” but will start streaming right away.

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 couple meetings tonight that folks may want to check out.

First, a meeting on Northside and the corrosive effect burgeoning development, taxes and shrinking opportunities is having on that traditional community.

From today’s Herald-Sun:

Local activists united to address what they view as “historic discrimination, rising property taxes, and development that threaten communities of color in Chapel Hill” will share alternate visions for collaborative sustainability and social change at 6 tonight.

United with the Northside Community Now (UNC-NOW), St. Joseph C.M.E., NAACP, and EmPOWERment Inc. will host a community meeting at St. Joseph C.M.E. Church, 510 W. Rosemary St., to discuss the impact of local development on historically African American neighborhoods.

“It is important that we come together as a community to be the voice of righteousness and justice in the face of the injustice and racist environmentalism that is threatening our neighborhoods,” the Rev. Troy F. Harrison of St. Joseph C.M.E. said in a news release.

Second, at 7pm, the second Town-sponsored community outreach on the Carolina North development agreement.

A Public Input/Information Session on Carolina North will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 19, in the Chapel Hill Town Council Chambers of Town Hall, 405 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

Carolina North is a proposed satellite campus of UNC-Chapel Hill. It is expected to be contained within about 250 acres of the Horace Williams Tract’s 1,000 acres and be built in phases over the next 50 years, as proposed. The property lies just to the north of Estes Drive adjacent to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

The Thursday session will provide an update on the status of UNC-Chapel Hill’s
Carolina North plans and a description of issues being addressed by policy-makers and Town/University staffs. These issues include the following: design standards and public art; police/fire/EMS facilities and services; school site; recreation facilities; greenways, connections; historic, cultural features; stormwater management on site; water use and reclamation; energy conservation, carbon credits; Solid waste management; remediation of landfill; stream buffers; trees, landscaping; sedimentation; neighboring lands, compatibility, buffers; noise, lighting. A public comment period is scheduled.

This meeting will be aired live on Chapel Hill Government TV 18. Additional informational sessions on Carolina North have been scheduled for 1 to 5 p.m. March 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. April 1.

For more information, contact the Town of Chapel Hill Planning Department at (919) 968-2728 or carolinanorth@townofchapelhill.org.

Additional material is posted online at www.townofchapelhill.org/carolinanorth.

Tonight presents an excellent opportunity to not only get information but to help steer the discussion on what should be part of the development agreement which will codify the community’s expectations.

Laurin, a sitting member of the current Council ruminates this evening on what makes a good Mayor and Councilmember.

Public service is not a right, but a privilege. Holding public office can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life. Being a good mayor or a good council member certainly comes by trial and error and by experience itself. The bottom line is to never lose sight of what drew you to the position in the first place.

Laurin, a one-termer (so far), is up for re-election with Mark Kleinschmidt, Ed Harrison and recent appointee James Merritt.

With elections almost 8 months off it appears that the jockeying for position has begun.

More from Laurin here.

Orange County Voice, another Orange County organization working on the trash transfer site issue along side Preserve Rural Orange, has picked up on the Plan B options I have posted on as recently as last Fall (Trash Talk:Commissioner Gordon “No Plan B”).

Bonnie Hauser, Tony Blake, Susan Walser (recent editorial) and other members have done their homework, presented their cases both for cost effectively using existing local transfer services (one of the options I proposed to the Orange County Commissioners starting several years ago) to partnering with UNC on Waste To Energy facilities [OCV research].

Feb. 11th they renewed their call as reported by Mark Schultz in the Chapel Hill News.

The report says vendors charge $40 to $50 per ton to dispose of waste using existing facilities. Two vendors run waste transfer facilities in Durham and are willing to take Orange County’s waste on a monthly or yearly basis, the report says.

By contrast, the report says Orange County estimates it would cost $47 to $62 per ton to dispose of waste using a new county transfer station. The difference comes in the county’s spending too much to buy property, spending too much to build the facility and locating it in a rural area that lacks water and sewer services, according to Orange County Voice.

The Commissioner’s have opted to research (Herald Sun, Jan. 27th, 2009) alternatives to siting and building a new facility in the particularly troublesome proposed Hwy 54 locale. The race is on to see if common sense and a keen eye towards the future will win out over the current course of events.

I was saddened to hear that Roland has died. More here (H-S). Roland’s online presence as the “old codger blogger” here.

Roland, a journalist, an activist, a leader, a “ne’er do well” and old codger was recently commissioned a Chapel Hill treasure, part of what made Chapel Hill cool.

Council member Laurin Easthom says “Now is the time” for the community to get involved with the planning for Carolina North.

Now is the time. Now is the time to comment on Carolina North, the largest development to ever hit the Town of Chapel Hill. The Town Council and UNC Trustees are meeting monthly to hash out a development agreement that will allow UNC flexibility and assurances in its development of Carolina North. If we come to an agreement by June on how Carolina North will develop, we may be done for years in decision making on how things are done. It’s time to wake up, and get active, and come to these meetings so that UNC can hear what you think.

Damn straight, especially if you serve on one of our Town’s advisory boards. The Carolina North train has left the station and is picking up speed, “Now” is definitely the time.

More here.

[UPDATED: Fixed missing links.]

A number of readers sent me a link to an informal poll (here) over on OrangePolitics.

If you register, you can vote and add to my apparent lead 😉

As many of you know, after contributing significantly to Ruby’s website over many years, I pulled my support from OP, a supposedly “progressive” political ‘blog, because it was veering further and further from its original goal of promoting open discourse on local issues. Enough on that…

Some interesting commentary on the thread, including another “anonymous” assertion that having run for office and losing “roundly” is a dis-qualifier. When I parsed the statement, looked at the language, it wasn’t too difficult to determine that “anonymous” was someone that worked on behalf of the incumbents I ran against in 2007.

This sentiment, that actually putting myself before the voting public – arguing for policy changes lifting folks up – made me a lesser applicant was echoed by one the Council members I spoke to this week. Running, ideally, shows a level of concern that rises above simple bellyaching, that has evolved into a desire to make hands-on change happen.

To me, taking the risk is a good thing….

If you follow that Council member’s trail of thought – not running for office, not serving on an advisory board, not appearing before Council, not attending a Council or advisory board meeting, not taking a public stance on any of the issues before our Town, maybe not even voting in a municipal election – must be the highest of qualifications.

As my son says, “LOL”.

I would hope that running a lousy campaign against 2007’s unprecedented incumbent bloc effort doesn’t really disqualify me from serving our community. Hey, I managed to get 1400+ votes in 2007, that’s 1400+ more than any of the other applicants 😉

George more eloquently observed “Just because someone is not elected does not mean they were rejected! All that one can surmise from an election result(s) such as we had is that more people wanted another candidate than wanted Will – nothing more.”

I have and continue to apologize to my 2007 supporters.

I didn’t run the campaign they deserved. If I run again I will be better organized, probably spend more money (my $1891 didn’t go far against that well-known incumbent bloc’s $23,000 or Matt’s $20K) and start much earlier.

Penny bravely suggested “the council is looking only to place an African American person in this position. They just went through the process to make it look good for the community. Knowledge of the current issues and involvement in the over all community was not a prerequisite.”

George sarcastically said she was “provid[ing] statements regarding the Council’s positions with an air of authority suggesting that you know something that no one else does”.

George, not only has Mayor Foy and other Council members made public statements that lend credence to Penny’s comments but, after having spoken to Kevin, Mark, Laurin, Matt, Ed and Sally, I can assure you this is central to most of their thinking.

It doesn’t appear that will change, as one member suggested that as long as the propriety of making race central to the decision is only challenged by a “white woman” (Chapel Hill News LTE), the Council will take the politically expedient course.

When I ran for Council with Bill Thorpe, he told me that it was important that his community had representation at the table. He didn’t qualify that concern further.

Loren Hintz, as I noted earlier, made the excellent observation that all of the Council should be approachable – that centralizing the responsibility for outreach within one person takes us further from our civic responsibility to not only listen to all segments of our community but respond.

Similarly, I argued that the critical challenges of the next 7 months cut across all the ways – racially, economically, socially, politically – one might want to divide us up.

As far as dividing and divisiveness, I find it interesting that no one on OP has challenged the underlying contention that there is even such a thing as a cohesive African-American community and that they are represented fully by the Hank Anderson Breakfast Club. There are many “communities” within our greater community, the pretense here is that it isn’t ones life experience that is the key differentiator, it is their census designation.

As Cat says on the OP thread “Age, gender, and race are secondary to life experience, world view, and personal philosophy.”

I do find it strange that in Chapel Hill, right after Barack Obama was elected President on the “content of his character”, the political dynamic is uppermost in Council’s minds.

Beyond capability, interest, prior involvement and experience, the choice, at least as framed by most of the Council members I spoke to comes down to “stereotypes or assumptions about the abilities, traits, or performance of individuals of a certain sex, race, age, religion, or ethnic group”.

[U] In any case, if the Council breaks with history, the public will be able to adjust the makeup of the board come Nov. 2009.

Finally, a quick review of citizen concerns reveals that Chapel Hill is a community of neighborhoods (strangely enough, unlike most of the other folks leading our Town, the issues I’ve taken on don’t directly involve my neighborhood – they involve broad themes – like due process – or particular affronts – like the lack of environmental justice).

History shows that it is rare for one neighborhood to come to the defense of another unless the issues are broad. There are some notable exceptions, Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth being one such organization. Again, trying to divvy up the community into politically manageable blocks not only takes us further from the goal of civic unity but doesn’t recognize the way our citizenry currently interacts with Council.

As I said in my application, as I have demonstrated over the years, while I have a strong bias towards helping folks that are struggling, I can represent the interests of the whole of this community. My themes have been social justice, expanded opportunity, community outreach and equality of access.

I am not only approachable, I have worked to broaden civic participation at every level. If selected I will reach further into the wider community, meet often and directly with any citizens – irrespective of their background – who need Council’s assistance.

As far as running for office, it is easiest to take the path that is safe, politic and popular. That is the path it appears this Council will take this evening.

As far as leadership, what is right is not often easy.

I have and will continue to take on those challenges that are overlooked, unpopular and politically unsafe because getting a good result – doing what is right – should be the goal.

Eve Carson was universally lauded by the local community for epitomizing the Carolina Way. Her friends honor her by ensuring that her contribution to our community continues.

Linda send out this reminder.

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The death of Eve Carson last year was a tragic moment that stunned us all. In the months since Eve’s death, students have planned ways to remember her and the things she loved and cared deeply about.

Come participate in the inaugural Eve Carson Memorial 5k for Education on Saturday, November 15th, 2008. Gather at Polk Place behind South Building for registration at 8:00 a.m.; the race will begin at 10:00 a.m. Children’s activities will be available. Kids under 7 run for free and dogs on leashes are welcome to run.

Go to the website http://educationforeve.com for information, registration options and a way to donate even if you don’t run.

The Pi Beta Phi sorority and Phi Delta Theta fraternity have organized this great community activity to raise funds in memory of Eve. Two thirds of the total proceeds will go to Eve’s scholarship foundation and the remaining third will be split between First Book, a nonprofit that gives new books to preschool children from low-income families, and the Clyde Erwin Elementary School in Onslow County.

Get your running shoes laced up and join us on Polk Place on November 15.

In my application for Bill’s seat on Council, I mentioned my concern (“Walking is not a crime.”) that the recently announced Orange County Community Safety Partnership program, which trains Town staff and the general public to identify and report criminal activity or other public safety related issues, needs to be careful in discriminating what is and what isn’t considered “suspicious”.

When the Police Department announced the Orange County Community Safety Partnership, I was concerned because it sounded like the roundly criticized Homeland Security TIPS program. It wasn’t clear what kind of oversight, training or civil protections were part of the program. Pat Burns, our representative, walked me through the program and provided some insight on its operation. The training presentation has a few items I would like see addressed and I believe the community would be well-served by having Pat run Council through the process to solicit feedback. For me, the part about reporting “persons walking through yards of residential areas or seeming out of place” needs to be clarified. You might recall a recent embarrassing incident when a young man using his cell on his street corner had the police called because he “seemed out of place.”

The incident I’m referring to was reported throughout Town and on BlueNC.

Dear Lake Forest neighbors,

My name is Allen Buansi. I am 21 years old. I’m 5-11, weigh around 190 pounds and I am a black man. More often than not, you may see me in the neighborhood on a bicycle and wearing a backpack. I’ve lived in Chapel Hill for about 10 years and have lived in the Lake Forest neighborhood for much of that time. I attend Dartmouth College, and I head back up to school on September 14. I work at the local YMCA. I am in Chapel Hill for the summer, and I am an assistant football coach for East Chapel Hill High School, the school from which I graduated.

You may see me on the corner of Tadley Drive and Ridgecrest during the day or at night talking on a cell-phone to my girlfriend who lives in Texas. Or you may see me there talking on a cell-phone with my mother who lives in Richmond, Virginia and is a Ph.D student at UNC. You may even see me on a cell-phone talking to one of my best friends, Andres, who also lives in Texas. You may see me there on my bike because I have just ridden back from football practice at the high school. The reason why I am on that corner in the first place? I do not get a good signal back at the house, which is in Avalon Court, a block down from Tadley Drive. And so the only places I get a good signal at are at the corners of Avalon Court and Ridgecrest Drive and of Ridgecrest Drive and Tadley Drive.

…..

A neighbor had called the police department saying that there was a suspicious man standing on the corner. “There have been robbers in the area, and we came check out the situation,” one of the officers said to me. “I see,” I say. “So can I not talk here on my cell-phone? I get a pretty bad signal back at the house.”

The officer then recommended that I go down half a mile to the parking lot of Whole Foods to talk on my cell-phone. He recommended that I leave the neighborhood in which I live and have stayed for the past 10 years, so I could talk on the phone to my loved ones. “Otherwise if we get more calls, we’re going to keep coming down here.”

Last year we had a few day time break-ins at the end of the street. Pretty surprising given that the Police Department is only a block away. Our neighborhood got together and reviewed our community policing options.

During that meeting, a young black woman who lived on our road told us a similar story. She was walking home when a police cruiser slowly pulled-up. She was stopped, asked for ID and told to be “more cautious”. More cautious?

Anyway, it turns out her neighbor had called the police. The neighbor was quite embarrassed, apologized profusely.

I spoke with Pat Burns at length and he provided a copy of the training PowerPoint (here). While the language could be tightened up – “persons walking through yards of residential areas or seeming out of place” – this is the PowerPoint and not the actual training session. Obviously the class-setting provides an opportunity to flesh out what constitutes “suspicious” and provide guidelines on where the bar is set for calling in law enforcement.

Pat understood my concerns, said there was some provision to weed out false reports on ex-lovers, etc. He also offered to let me attend a session to see what kind of safeguards exist for myself (it is open to the public, space available).

If I get the chance, I’ll attend and report back my findings.

I was Downtown about 8pm this evening. Some folks were gathering but it was generally quiet. It appeared Chapel Hill’s attempt to “scare” off visitors might have worked.

Starting 9:30pm though I began to wonder.

We live close to Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard and the Police Station. Starting 10pm there was the constant thrum of helicopters overhead and the nearly continuous whine of sirens moving. Then, as 11:30pm approached, the helicopters moved off and the sirens quieted.

Tomorrow we’ll get to see if we achieved a Homegrown Halloween.

As of 5:00pm, 10 folks applied to fill Bill’s seat. It’s an interesting cross-section of concerned citizens.

Amy, Gene and I have worked on several mutual issues before Council. Andre and Loren I know from their advisory board and advocacy work. Don served on the Technology Board with me.

With 10 applicants, I expect our spiels to last 5 to 7 minutes. Nov. 1st will be a full night.

  1. William R. Abb (PDF)
  2. Amy Chute (PDF)
  3. J. M. Green, Ph.D. (PDF)
  4. Loren Hintz (PDF)
  5. James Merritt (PDF)
  6. Gene Pease (PDF)
  7. Will Raymond (PDF)
  8. Willard Blaine Rogers (PDF)
  9. Donald Shaw (PDF)
  10. Andre’ J. Wesson (PDF)

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