Technology


The Daily Tar Heel’s online editor Sara Gregory has created this excellent tool for visualizing crime in Chapel Hill. This is an example of effectively using low or no cost Internet technologies to serve our community. Some of us on the Town’s now defunct Technology Board wanted to leverage technology like Google Maps to better inform our public.

For all the whizzy appearance of our Town’s new website, we still have a long way to go including tools to track crime, to report on the status of development projects and to allow citizens to log work requests for neighborhood issues (filling potholes, fixing streetlights, etc.) the Town needs to address.



View Chapel Hill Crime in a larger map

I’m contacting both Sara and Chapel Hill Police Chief Brian Curran to see if the Town can expand on what Sara has started. I’ll report back soon….

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.


Upgrade Flash to watch video

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

Even after 40 years the Moon landing remains one of the touchstones of my life.

I am fascinated by science. Growing up I, like many other kids of the ’60′s, dreamed of traveling to space. I wanted to join NASA and help make those dreams reality. It seemed a given that rational investigation and thoughtful scientific debate would lead this country forward to greater horizons.

My enthusiasm led me along a course of science fairs, contests, advanced physics/chemistry/biology/math classes and, eventually, degrees in math and computer science. From that a career in engineering and technology.

That “can do” optimism our country showed, even when mired in the midst of the Vietnam war – on the heels of other national tragedies, is something we should recall today as we face numerous adversities.

“Ad astra per aspera — “to the stars through difficulties” – has never been truer.

On the cusp of the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11′s Moon landing, I remain optimistic that this country, our citizens, can surmount any challenge – from closest to home to furthest in space – with equal fortitude.

Walter Cronkite, a solid and trusted presence in my youth (for example), was as excited about space as I was – and he wasn’t afraid to show it either (he also wasn’t afraid to put his reputation on the line and call it like it is).



Cronkite, 92, died July 18th. In this day of media dominated by shouting heads, gotcha, personality over perspective, his passing marks more than the end of one admired journalist life.

Neil Armstrong Statement on the Death of Walter Cronkite

The following is a statement issued by Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong on the death of Walter Cronkite.

“For a news analyst and reporter of the happenings of the day to be successful, he or she needs three things: accuracy, timeliness, and the trust of the audience. Many are fortunate to have the first two. The trust of the audience must be earned.

“Walter Cronkite seemed to enjoy the highest of ratings. He had a passion for human space exploration, an enthusiasm that was contagious, and the trust of his audience. He will be missed.”

If you use Firefox you might have noticed that Citizen Will has been flagged by Google as a possible “bad site” around 11:26am this morning.

This is an error on Google’s part and they have been notified. It appears an old version of a WordPress (the blogging software I use) plugin triggered the alert. Strangely enough, the code StopBadware.org flagged was actually there to remove possibly malicious comments submitted by others causing problems.

In short, CitizenWill is safe and, hopefully, Google will lift their ban ASAP.

My previous posts tracking requests for information, feedback and general commentary to our Town staff and elected folks seem to be fairly popular.

I’m going to continue to post correspondence which might be of public interest.

The Town’s Technology Board (now defunct) was the first advisory board I regularly interacted with. The first meeting I attended was about six years ago (I was a lowly citizen then, not a member). I presented the group what I called a “technology manifesto” of proposed technology enhancements for the Town.

The “manifesto” outlined five major areas for improvement including cost saving initiatives, use of open source software, adoption of open standards, broadening community outreach via the Internet, tracking both the planning process and other relevant Town business processes, publishing Council and Town Manager emails, what is now called social networking sites for direct interaction between citizens and Town, WIFI to bridge the digital divide, public fiber infrastructure as an economic development differentiator, website accessibility, etc.

It was quite a list. The Technology Board seemed a bit stunned (or maybe bored) but, even so, they did me the courtesy of listening as I outlined my plan of action.

I continued working on those items when I became an official member of that board. Some of the initiatives have moved forward. Others languish. None have been completed.

One issue I brought forward was on-line video of Council and other important advisory board proceedings. Because of the sketchy minutes many advisory groups kept, I also wanted audio of all board proceedings.

When the Town lagged in their effort to put Council meetings on-line, I took it upon myself to upload (here) as many as possible. Finally the Town contracted with Granicus (which uses Microsoft’s proprietary technology) to do the same.

Now we have video (here) which is easily accessible for those folks running Winblows. Mac and Linux users are kind of cut out (see the problem with not using open standards?).

Anyway, long windup to another in a long line of re-requests. In this case, online video documenting the proceedings of our Planning Board (pretty common elsewhere, important when minutes lag Council approvals or don’t adequately capture debate).

Last week the cable-customer supported People’s Channel presented their annual report. As part of that report, they expressed an interest in doing more coverage of governmental events.

I sent this to the PC’s Director Chad Johnston Nov. 11th:

Hey Chad,

I’d like to follow up on Kevin’s comments last night.

I’m not sure if you are aware of my several year effort to get Council to broadcast advisory meetings, but I believe this is what Kevin was referring to.

In terms of priority, I have asked that the Planning Board be the first in line. As you know, the Planning Board’s decisions have significant impact on the community. Many other communities already broadcast their deliberations.

Do you think TPC could assist the Town in that effort?

Thanks

Here’s what I asked Mayor Foy the same day:

Kevin,

Since you brought the issue up last night. As you know, I’ve been calling for more extensive coverage of advisory board proceedings for years. Priority one, I believe, is broadcasting and posting video of all the Planning Board sessions. This is quite common elsewhere. Planning Board’s decisions have significant impact on the community. Beyond their process, which we could do a much better job explaining, zoning issues as a whole seem somewhat opaque to the wider community.

Televising their proceedings would go a long way towards involving our community at a point where their concerns can have the most impact.

I hope you will put this on a fast-track with Chad and company.

Thank you

To date I’ve had no response from either Chad or Kevin. I’ll update folks should I hear from them on what I think would be an excellent improvement to our governance process.

I’m formally applying for Bill Thorpe’s Council seat this week.

As I said before (Filling Bill’s Seat, Not His Shoes), serving the community as a Council member is a responsibility I take quite seriously. It is an awesome privilege, an incredible honor, a humbling trust that promises personal satisfaction if one serves to improve the lot of all our residents.

There are many ways to serve ones community: hands-on volunteering, member of an advisory board, working within or creating a community organization, direct advocacy, issues analysis, drumming up support via the local media, etc. Some folks enjoy and are quite effective working behind the scenes. Others pursue solutions to their own neighborhood’s problems. Others work to achieve specific goals – better bicycle access, open space preservation, Bolin Creek’s restoration – that impact the wider community. Some press our government to be better, set an example whether as proponents of equal rights for all or in the conduct of our law enforcement.

Though lately my efforts have mostly fallen more to analysis, outreach, organization and advocacy – I’ve worked with a variety of folks in a variety of ways to address a broad spectrum of community issues these last seven years. And though I haven’t always been successful, I have, I hope, helped move our community forward to some measurable degree.

Council has incorporated my contributions on a variety of issues – preserving the Lincoln Arts Center, Downtown WIFI, environmental metrics for Carolina North, online video of Council meetings, cost reductions, character of affordable housing, economic development, budgeting for hazardous waste removal, etc. – why, then, not continue working issues from the “outside”?

One advantage of having “a seat at the table” is staff support.

As you might expect, with a steady flow of information and thoughtful assistance from our Town’s staff those 30 or more hours a week I currently spend researching and analyzing issues can be utilized more efficiently. On some issues, like Dr. Owens on the Carolina North development agreement process or Amy’s on the application process (see below), I’ve had no difficulty in getting rapid, detailed responses.

On others, like my quest for detailed public records documenting our Town’s fuel, water and electricity consumption, almost four years have passed with no progress. I expect that backlog, and others, to be resolved as a sitting member of Council.

Another advantage is being able to contribute directly at the policy meetings I frequently attend.

For instance, at yesterday’s (Oct. 22nd) Carolina North development agreement meeting, UNC’s proposed landfill gas recovery project (LFG) came up as an issue. There was some confusion concerning the impact of this particular project on the Carolina North plan.

I attended UNC’s presentation last week (more on that soon), and knew what the specific proposal included: gas lines from the existing landfill on Eubanks supplying methane to a 1 mega-watt (Mw) generator at the old Duke Energy site whose output was going to be used to supply UNC’s Airport Drive facility (which currently consumes 1.2Mw daily). As a Council member, I could have quickly brought my colleagues up-to-speed. Instead of meandering through misconceptions, the Council could have focused on what I think is a core issue in developing the Carolina North development agreement: how will out-parcels that will support Carolina North’s development, like the old Duke Energy facility, be incorporated under the provisions of the agreement?

Council’s workload over the next seven months is daunting. Juggling Carolina North and what promises to be the most critical budget process of the last couple decades is work enough, but those are just a few of many issues hurtling forward. Economic development, Downtown’s revitalization, a slew of moderate to large-scale developments, facility expansions, housing ordinances – a whole panoply of public business mundane to game-changing faces the next Council member.

Even with a seat at the table, to effectively discharge the duties of Council member at a level our community deserves over these next six or seven months will take a concentrated effort that I think most citizens would be surprised by.

Laurin Easthom isn’t kidding about 11lb. meeting agendas. Matt Czajkowski wasn’t joking about meeting until 1am.

I did a quick check of the scheduled official Council meetings from Nov. 11th (the date the Council set to select a new member) until June 22nd (the date the Town and UNC set to finish the Carolina North agreement): 30 or more. As Matt and Lauren both recently noted, the workload has increased to the point that meetings go 5 or more hours.

With the additional Carolina North related informational/community outreach meetings scheduled by either the Town or UNC’s administration (including UNC-BOT/Orange County BOCC meetings), there is another 8 (as of Oct. 23rd).

I am one applicant that will come prepared to be, as Council member Laurin Easthom says, “proactive…on the council” and “have areas that they really want to work on making changes and spend extra time on those issues that are important to them”.

I have the advantage in that the Council should have a fairly good grasp of the portfolio of issues I wish to work on (more on that portfolio in my formal application). Common themes – improving our Town’s budget and budgeting process, extending our Town’s community outreach efforts, using technology more effectively to drive cost out of and improving delivery of Town services, working along-side UNC to make Carolina North a “win-win” proposition for both our community and the University – have been well-established over the last six years.

If I add in all the advisory boards and staff groups (like the internal technology steering committee) I would like to be appointed to as Council liaison, the number of meetings jumps to 76. All together, considering both time spent preparing and meeting, in order to diligently perform my civic duties at a level I believe this community requires, I will spend more than 280 hours over the next 7 months, or more than an hour a day on Town business.

Of course, that is my commitment to the community. Other possible applicants might not want to invest that much time , wish to involve themselves so broadly or obligate themselves as deeply.

Finally, the most significant reason to seek a seat is the possibility of directly influencing and deciding the direction our Town moves.

There is a ton of work to be done over the next seven months. As a Council member, someone with a “seat at the table”, I will focus on the many tasks at hand. I don’t expect to create major new initiatives over those seven months. I do expect to pitch in, fill in the gaps,work hard to shape and refine effective policy,keep our citizens aware and involved as issues progress and apply my expertise as a former corporate technical and information officer to make sure we continue to deliver quality service at a price our community can afford.

I also fully know that I will be one among nine other committed colleagues. Their viewpoints don’t always mesh with mine – and that, I believe, is the strength I will bring to this Council. Delay is not our friend but neither is the lack of informed deliberation.

Sometimes, in the pursuit of “cohesiveness”, our citizens are left behind. I am frequently asked how a particular policy was adopted, how a particular decision arrived at – questions that arise because the give-and-take necessary for shaking a policy out – making sure it is viable – is not always readily apparent. Not all issues demand debate but our citizens must be confident that, when necessary, debate – even public debate – will be embraced.

So, little time, if any, to start new major initiatives. Plenty of work without revisiting the past. Prepared, experienced and ready-to-roll on Carolina North, the budget and a passel of other key issues. Incredible opportunity to contribute effectively and directly to the major game-changing projects. Exciting times to be part of Chapel Hill’s leadership.

Plenty of reasons to apply.

Amy Harvey, from the Clerk’s office, sent me this further explanation of the selection process. Five to ten minutes sounds like a long time but I’m sure I’ll have no problem filling them up ;-)!

The Council will receive brief remarks from applicants at a Special Meeting on Monday, November 3, 2008 at 7 p.m. in the Council Chamber at Town Hall.

Applicants should be present at 7 p.m. and will have a 5-10-minute time limit to make their presentation. Time for presentations will be limited based on the number of candidates; it is anticipated that the time for each presentation will be not less than five minutes per candidate and not more than ten minutes per candidate.

Applicants should submit electronic presentations (e.g. powerpoint) by 10 a.m. on Monday, November 3rd. Powerpoint presentations can be emailed to the Town Clerk’s office at clerk@townofchapelhill.org

This meeting will air live on cable television on Chapel Hill Government Channel 18 and by streaming video on the Town website at www.townofchapelhill.org.

Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Friday, October 31 and will then be forwarded to the Council.

Sabrina M. Oliver, CMC
Communications and Public Affairs Director/Town Clerk

Dr. David Owens, Gladys Hall Coates Professor of Public Law and Government at UNC and advisor to Council on the development agreement process, has responded to my Oct. 14th.

Will,

Roger Stancil passed your queries along to me.

You asked if the Council is in some way bound to follow this approach should they determine to start on this path. They are not. The Council can at any time decide that the process is not working and needs to be modified or abandoned. All existing options remain open until the Council actually adopts a development agreement (with that accompanying LUMO text and zoning map amendment).

The issue of how to set measurable performance goals — what they are and how they are monitored — is essentially the same for all of the tools available to the town. For each approach the Town has the difficult task of addressing the substantive question of what those goals and standards are and how they are monitored. While I will discuss the enforcement question in more detail with the Council tonight, the short answer is that the Town retains all of its existing enforcement tools and a development agreement, to the extent it changes things at all, enhances enforcement options.

The scope of provisions in a development agreement is subject to negotiation and can be as broad or narrow as the parties agree to make it. One significant advantage to a development agreement is that it allows a broader range of issues to be addressed in binding approval requirements than most any other regulatory approach. As one would expect, the scope of the provisions is frequently a significant point of negotiation between local governments and applicants. The question of how long an agreement runs and how much development is approved is often related to the range and scope of mitigation measures applicants are willing to commit to. But the ultimate answer to this query is that it is for the most part whatever there is mutual agreement on.

I hope this helps.

It certainly does.

Since a development agreement provides a legal framework for requiring adherence to standards above and beyond existing zoning requirements, I am exploring how the Town can negotiate “best in class” environmental expectations somewhat along the lines of the work proposed by the Horace-Williams Citizens Committee sub-committee on environment.

Those requirements, which I set the stage for (May 26th, 2006′s The Last Horace Williams Citizen’s Committee. Hurrah?), would set the “greeness” bar moderately high for UNC. Of course, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. I wouldn’t ask, though, if I didn’t know that our world-class University has the capability, if not the will, to meet environmental standards typically applied in other jurisdictions.

Thank you Dr. Owens for the quick reply.

I will be attending this evening’s meeting I’m glad to hear your going to explore some of these issues in greater depth. Before the Horace-Williams Citizens Committee was decommissioned, the environmental sub-group had started to create a framework for establishing specific “best in class” environmental benchmarks for Carolina North. We also discussed how to monitor compliance – so many candlepower per square foot for light pollution, so many gallons of runoff, so much particulate pollution, etc. – and possible enforcement procedures. This is the context behind some of my questions.

Since your Sept. 25th meeting I’ve had an opportunity to research several other states adoption of this process. While the basic theme is the same, it’s interesting to see how different jurisdictions bind community needs to developer requirements. One issue, though, that I haven’t found much material on is the public hearing process. You might recall from the Sept. 25th meeting my concern about evidentiary procedure. It appears many communities dispense with a quasi-judicial framework and defer to an informal process.

I’m going to lobby Council for the greatest transparency in adopting the development agreement: no ex parte discussions, minutes of all meetings, some formal evidentiary proceedings and informal – though open, documented – discussion. I know Council has indicated they want the community to have a full opportunity to weigh in but given the tight timetable, I’m afraid that the public might be shortchanged as the process concludes. This is not an abstract concern, as this has happened several times recently. Any suggestion on how to build in this transparency from day one?

Thank you again for work on behalf of Chapel Hill.

I appreciate Dr. Owens rapid response.

I’m not afraid to ask questions – dumb or not – in order to zero in on the relevant issues. I have a number of updates from recent requests on everything from the County’s e-waste management to the Police department’s “eyes on the community” plan in the pipeline. I hope to share soon – keep an eye out.

One problem I’ve had in trying to change the way our Town does business is that the issues I’m trying to address – higher energy costs, revenues drying up, development policy that drives diversity from our community, financial instability – haven’t reached a level of concern for the greater community.

I’m a proactive guy, work in an industry that rewards innovation and leading not trailing the pack, so it just makes sense to me to work an issue before it rises to a level requiring crisis management. Trying to raise folks concerns about %10-20 tax increases two or more years before they are implemented is a tough task – doubly so when tricks are used by our elected officials to postpone the inevitable. Trying to prepare folks for the impact of $4/gallon gasoline on the Town’s budget when gas in $2/gallon is a tough sell – doubly so when Council members publicly discount prudent measures in spite of obvious trends.

In any case, I’m just dumb enough to keep trying to work issues prior to a crisis point – it just makes good financial and social sense.

A case in point. I asked former Town Manager Cal Horton 4 years ago for public records documenting fuel use by Chapel Hill’s staff. About the same time, I asked for information on electricity use at each of the Town’s facilities. My idea was to identify specific problem areas, measure policy changes to see how effective our Town’s “green” goals were being met, to look at rewarding staff for impressive reductions in their energy use and basically get prepared for the anticipated increase in energy costs.

This was four years ago when gas was under $2 a gallon.

Four years later, after numerous requests, a new Town Manager, I still haven’t received any of those records. I’m going to make another run at doing that analysis – now in retrospect – to see not only see how we can pare down the cost of operating our Town but to understand if the policies so far adopted have had any direct effect.

Here’s what I asked for Sept. 26, 2005:

3a(10). Will Raymond, regarding Agenda Item #5b, Fuel Supply, Cost and Budget Issues for the Town’s General Municipal Fleet and Transit Bus Fleet.

Mr. Raymond petitioned the Council regarding Agenda Item #5b, Fuel Supply, Cost and Budget Issues for the Town’s General Municipal Fleet and Transit Bus Fleet. He noted he had sent the Council an email regarding the purchase of bio-diesel fuel, and was pleased that shortly after that the Town had purchased 1,000 gallons. Mr. Raymond said that was a “fantastic” first step and hoped the Town would follow up on that, noting that at the present time bio-diesel fuel was 20 to 30 cents a gallon cheaper than diesel or kerosene.

Mr. Raymond said there appeared to be some confusion in the agenda item, noting there had been some discussion that they could burn bio-diesel fuel in their buses, and now they were saying that maybe they could not. So, he said, he had called Detroit Engine that made the engines for the buses, and they were recommending to their customers that a 20 percent blend was “perfectly suitable” for those engines. Mr. Raymond said that Detroit Engine had indicated they would be happy to work with the Town and could possibly get that blend higher. He encouraged the Town to contact them and take that action.

Mr. Raymond also suggested that since they were running at a deficit within the fuel budget that they today start with targeted reductions in the amount of fuel they were using. He said they still have vehicles that idle wastefully, and that yesterday he had observed a Town vehicle left idling for two hours. Mr. Raymond said with the price of gasoline that was unacceptable behavior. He asked that the Council take immediate action to conserve fuel.

THE COUNCIL AGREED BY CONSENSUS TO REFER MR. RAYMOND’S COMMENTS TO AGENDA ITEM #5b.

Sponsored by southwest Orange County residents Tony Blake, Walt Lobotsky, Clifford Leath, Deonna Angelillo, and Susan Lombardo, tonight’s community meeting (WEBSITE) discussing the siting of a new UNC airport, was packed. Roughly 270 folks, from all around the county, attended the meeting to find out the latest on UNC’s (and now, as reported, Orange County’s economic development director Broadwell’s) plans to build a general aviation airport.

UNC’s original reason for creating a new airport was to support the NC-AHEC ( North Carolina Area Health Education Centers Program).

UNC’s director for Carolina North Jack Evans reaffirmed during last Thursday’s joint meeting between UNC and Chapel Hill’s Town Council (discussing a framework for approving Carolina North’s development), NC-AHEC’s current base at Horace-Williams airport (HWA) will be closed when the new Innovation Center is complete (2 years or so). Last week, Bruce Runberg, UNC’s Associate Vice Chancellor for Facilities Planning and Construction, said that a $2 million contract has been let to build hangars at RDU to “temporarily” house the program. Execution of that contract is contingent on a few factors, money, it appears, isn’t one.

Supporting AHEC, as folks and local media drilled down to the nitty-gritty, seems to have been just a smokescreen as, now, it appears that a much more extensive project – supporting well-heeled alumni, UNC corporate clients, AOPA members, local pilots and some vague mix of commercial interests – with a bigger facility is in the offing. To justify this vast extension, UNC has suggested great public benefit – to the tune of millions. No downside – environmental, community or other – has been mentioned (it’s all roses).

As CitizenWill readers might remember from previous comments, I found UNC’s consultants Talbert & Bright’s 2008 report of an economic impact of $40 million to $53 million a year ridiculous and near insulting to our community’s intelligence.

I’ve asked (letter here) the Orange County Board of Commissioners to appoint me as one of their three community representatives to UNC’s new Airport Authority to help bring objective standards to any decision on building and siting – if necessary – an appropriately sized facility for the originally constrained purpose.

I have a number of reasons, one of which, as the Chapel Hill News recently reported, was the terrible precedent of granting open-ended power of eminent domain to a University:

Will Raymond, a former candidate for Town Council, says the decision to form an airport authority was “a terrible mistake by our legislature.”

“Setting this precedent, for reasons good or bad, will probably make policy interactions with UNC-CH more difficult in days to come,” he said in a letter to the Orange County commissioners. “Essentially, the legislature has issued UNC a huge hammer, with the power of eminent domain, that I believe should be reserved exclusively to elective government.”

Are we to think that this power will be reserved only for UNC-Chapel Hill?

Beyond maintaining due vigilance, as a member of the Authority, in the exercise or threatened exercise of the awesome power of “public taking”, I will do my best to document the Authority’s deliberations, publish as much of the supporting documentation as possible and provide an analysis, of course from my own viewpoint, of the progress being made. More importantly, I will work to be a conduit for the wider community’s concerns about the process, the suitability of sites and other relevant issues. I’m sure that both the appointed elective officials and UNC officials will do the same, but I know I can provide community perspectives that I know will be distinct from theirs.

Here are some notes from this evening’s meeting.

Deonna Angelillo made initial introductions and a few comments, noting “no curtains in our neighborhood” and she wants it to stay that way. Her house is on the end of the site H runway.

Clifford Leath, whose 40 acre horse farm is on that runway, led off with a quick summary of recent history. While discussing strategy he said “we’re really fighting the state of North Carolina”, not local governments. Expressing incredulity, he outlined the 2005 estimated cost of $35M to develop site ‘H’ – a figure he and others felt underestimated both today’s costs and the required build-out of infrastructure – road-widening, electric, etc. Suggesting that the second Talbert/Bright study was commissioned “by a misguided planning person”, he emphasized that an objective analysis needed to be done.

A sentiment that was shared by others throughout the evening was “there’s certainly a hidden agenda here and it is not AHEC”. He said he had contacted a number of officials with little response though the UNC System’s Erskine Bowles did tell him that “no site was preferred”. He ended up his presentation expressing a lack of confidence in the proposed Authority’s decision-making process as the community will be represented by only 5 of the 15 members (the rest being UNC related).

Tony Blake, a volunteer fireman with an impressive command of both the history and breadth of the airport drama, went over some of the political dimension of the issue. “This all started as a bill introduced by Verla Insko and Bill Faison”. Later in the evening, it was suggested someone run as a write-in against Faison to “get his attention”. Tony got to the crux of his community’s problem – “they have eminent domain – they can set the price and take the land”. Echoing Clifford’s concern, he said “they’ve stacked the board, they have 2/3rd majority”. He went on to show that by creating this Authority our local legislators – Insko, Faison and Hackney, have bypassed the county’s.

“This is not politics, this piracy!” was his call to arms. “They are going to take land here and we have to let them know that it is” not acceptable.

Tony went on to say he thinks there is a window of opportunity to shutdown creation of Authority. Failing that, that the legislature directed the Authority to “find that the airport is critical to the operation” of AHEC. One avenue of defense was to challenge the necessity of building a $35-50 million general aviation airport when a $2 million hangar at RDU would suffice. They “don’t need to reinvent the wheel with a county airport”.

Tactically, he said, “each site needs to tackle its own specifics.” Building on the strength of community, he challenged his gathered neighbors to work with all the affected communities. “If site 9 has a petition, then site H needs to sign it.” Yes, he said, each site needs to build a case – environmental, social, just a bad idea – in order to “convince the university that this [building vs. using RDU] is a bad idea”.

His final strategy? Attack the granting of eminent domain powers. It was a bad idea – “that it is a sword poised above our heads” – “ultimately we need to get this law repealed…..”

Finishing he said “we need to get our message out there” – “not the lipstick on the pig that is their spin on the airport”.

The next speaker, Laura Streitfeld said “the idea that our land would be taken for the benefit of the few” was disturbing but that the fight can’t be just about NIMBYism (Not In My Back Yard). “It’s pretty clear that nobody wants it in their backyards, but that isn’t too different than anyone else”, she said but went on to argue that the issues – the grant of eminent domain, multi-county environmental consequences, waste of tax dollars, etc. – went well beyond the local scope of site H. She also said she would “stand in front of the bulldozer” to stop that site from being developed.

Bonnie Hauser, representing a group called “Orange County Voice” (more here) said “our goal is to repeal this eminent domain law.” “We are fighting this as an overarching act” of abuse of eminent domain. And that “We don’t understand why UNC is doing economic development plans for Orange County”.

Neither do I, except as a strategy to get Federal dollars. The utility of this general aviation airport has to be justified with benefit to the wider community in order for Federal grants to be approved.

Judith Wegner, former UNC Law Dean and current member of the Orange County Planning Board, called on the assembled citizenry to ‘write Bill Faison” ( Billf@ncleg.net [ 919-715-3019 ] ) noting “he is running unopposed.” “We should run a write-in candidate” to oppose Faison because “everyone should ask ‘Why are we doing this?””.

She also asked folks to send on specific impacts to the Orange County Planning Board (CONTACT HERE) because “we need to document it…for planning board.”

There were a number of comments and questions from the crowd. A woman stood up waving a copy of a UNC publication (didn’t quite catch the name) pointing out how commercialized Dr. Roper’s UNC Healthcare has become these last few years (here’s what I said about that on the appointment of Rev. Seymour as UNC Healthcare’s ombudsman in 2006).

“UNC has turned into a corporate entity”, she said, reeling off the corporate influence on UNC Healthcare, “How many of the corporate execs have jets?” “How many AHEC doctors”? I don’t know how many are used by corporate execs, but as a neighbor of HWA, I can assure you that jets are not uncommon.

One resident asked about UNC’s research property, which abuts one of the proposed sites. He said that he had heard a “secret lab” with hermetically sealed doors had been buried 80 feet below the surface. He wanted to know if that had anything to do with the proposed airport site.

Fred, a pilot, said he had worked with the former HWA flying club for four years and, in his experience, AHEC “are fools.” He suggested that “there is a lot of undeveloped land that the county could use that doesn’t involve stealing it from people who have lived here for generations.”

A great question concerned the spread of UNC’s airport into the surrounding community.

It had been noted ealier that the language of the bill authorizing the creation of the Authority could be interpreted broadly enough to justify, at least in the Authority’s eyes (and maybe with the rah-rah approval of Orange County’s economic officer), the taking of surrounding property to support commercial activity at the new airport. In that citizen’s words, the powers conferred “to expand as they saw fit.”

This prompted Tony Blake to observe that instead of the hotels and restaurants the Talbert/Bright study envisioned, the outcome would be more akin to Burlington’s experience – “a wasteland”. Trucking companies and other undesirable commercial uses not very complimentary to the rural way of life.

The airport wasn’t the only topic discussed. At the end of the evening, a resident living off Hwy 54 brought up the siting of the new solid waste transfer station. I hope to ‘blog more on my conversations with Hillsborough’s widening opposition – whom are having a meeting Oct. 2nd, 7pm at the Hillsborough United Church of Christ, corner of Old 86/Davis Rd. In his case, he was concerned about the 4 sites west along Hwy 54.

The gentleman next to me, a former manager in Chapel Hill’s public works, pointed out that Chapel Hill’s garbage trucks were geared in such a fashion that long-distance hauls will burn fuel outrageously, thus be prohibitively expensive (I sent an email to Howard Harvey, Chapel Hill’s Solid Waste Superintendent asking about this – I’ll post his response).

There were many other great comments, questions and observations and some very encouraged folks. It was heartening to see a community pull together to challenge UNC, our local legislators and the State of North Carolina to justify, objectively and with clarity, the reasons for moving forward.

[Update:] Quisling Democrats capitulated in a vote 293 to 129. Rep. Price votes NO!!. Good for him.

More here: House Approves Unconstitutional Surveillance Legislation .

Yesterday I couldn’t get an inking of how my local “progressive” Democrat US Rep. David Price would vote on the latest attempt to defend the indefensible. Would he vote to absolve ATT from its culpability? Would he further extend the reach of the US government into our private affairs?

US Sen. Russ Feingold, one heck of a leader, had no such problem:

June 19, 2008

“The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation. The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the President’s illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home. Allowing courts to review the question of immunity is meaningless when the same legislation essentially requires the court to grant immunity. And under this bill, the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power. Instead of cutting bad deals on both FISA and funding for the war in Iraq, Democrats should be standing up to the flawed and dangerous policies of this administration.”

Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) is a member of the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees.

Capitulation.

Damn, David is a nice enough guy. He brings home the goodies more often than not but his inability to take a lead on any of the key issues – the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, illegal domestic surveillance, torture – perverting our nation’s foundations is disheartening.

He can be led to the water, tortuously, but getting him to drink is a hell of a proposition.

Called David Price, my local Congressman, this afternoon to see if he planned to vote NO on tomorrow’s House Bill HR 6304 which proffers blanket immunity to those telecoms, like ATT (Bellsouth, Cingular), that knowingly broke Federal and State wire-tapping laws on behalf of our current lawless madministration.

His current stance: no opinion.

In fact, his office said he won’t be expressing an opinion until after his vote!

Sounds like he’s preparing to defend the indefensible – issuing what the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) calls the ” Congressional seal of approval on illegal surveillance” but maybe we’ll be pleasantly surprised.

What’s the big deal? The millions of folks that are represented by the EFF in a class-action suit against AT&T because their “private domestic communications and communications records were illegally handed over to the National Security Agency (NSA)” won’t get their day in court (more here).

Not all telcos, notably QWEST (here) went along with this incredibly intrusive and illegal operation. Will Price put ATT and Verizon ahead of our citizenry and strip them of their fundamental Constitutional protections?

Contact David and let him know that warrantless searches are not acceptable.

Washington, D.C.
U.S. House of Representatives
2162 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202.225.1784

Fax: 202.225.2014

Durham
411 W. Chapel Hill Street
NC Mutual Building, 6th Floor
Durham, NC 27701
Phone: 919.688.3004

Fax: 919.688.0940

Raleigh
5400 Trinity Road
Suite 205
Raleigh, NC 27607
Phone: 919.859.5999

Fax: 919.859.5998

Chapel Hill
88 Vilcom Center
Suite 140
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Phone: 919.967.7924

Fax: 919.967.8324

Five years ago, I attended, as a citizen, my first Technology Board meeting. I had prepared a 5 item technology checklist I thought the Town should be addressing. Some items, the municipal networking/WIFI initiative, a technology assessment, broadening civic engagement online our Council has finally started to move on. Others, like moving to non-proprietary software, open document standards, self-service kiosks, we’re still lagging on.

About a year ago, I began to experiment with using video posted to youTube and googleVideo to cover local issues that were getting short shrift.

One of my first experiments involved covering the local Superior Court race. While I supported two solid candidates – Chuck Anderson and Allen Baddour – for the office, I felt it important to give the wider community the option to see all the folks – Carl, Adam, Allen and Chuck – explain their positions in their own words.


I knew I’d never get that level of coverage from WRAL or NBC17, so I took on the challenge to cover all the forums as best as I could (with the now famous wobbly Will-cam).

Since then, I’ve branched out from my own efforts and began converting existing footage from various sources for redistribution on the Internet.





League of Women Voters Forum Sierra Club Forum

I think my passion for civic engagement and drawing the community into policy discussions explains why no one has asked me “Why do you do it?” Over the year, though, I’ve had a few folks ask me “How do you do that?”

Here’s a quick overview of how I currently convert the DVD’s produced by Chapel Hill and Carrboro into a format suitable for youTube or googleVideo. The same process should apply to most other video formats.

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At 1460 hits, this video is by and far the most popular one I’ve posted on youTube. No surprise to me as Tracey did an incredibly eloquent presentation on the flawed Solid Waste Advisory Board’s search for a new trash transfer site.



X-Posted from my 2007 Campaign web site.

Even though the Chamber made it clear that extended replies where not welcomed in the 2007 questionnaire ( Election 2007: The Chamber’s Yes, No, Unsure – Again!), I took the opportunity to answer each of their questions beyond the constraints of “yes, no, unsure”.

The questions are broad, open to interpretation and, on occasion, leading. How would you answer the Chamber’s questions?

In case the Director omits my business background, as he did in 2005, I worked for Northern Telecom for many years, winning a couple President’s Awards and a Chairman’s Award for Innovation (the first IT person to do so). I have been a CIO/CTO of a couple successful startups, including Reged.com which sold to FiServ for millions. As an entrepreneur I was part of the crew that guided those companies to multi-million dollar revenues. I currently work for Tibco, an enterprise application integration company, specializing in XML technology and distributed Java application architectures.

Here is the questionnaire and my extended answers. You’ll note I wasn’t unsure at all:

4. Is increasing the commercial tax base in Chapel Hill an important priority for you?

YES

Even before my run for office in 2005 I was agitating for a Economic Development Officer to help develop strategic and tactical approaches to increasing our commercial tax base. Council finally hired an officer, now we need leadership with business acumen to make the best use of his services.

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Coming on the heels of last month’s $65,000 NRC fine, Progress Energy continues to promote two more reactors at their Shearon-Harris site.

There are several unresolved issues involving Shearon-Harris that makes siting further reactors more than problematic. Until waste disposal, security, adequate fire protection, safe storage and a slew of other issues are dealt with, furthering a development proposal for Shearon-Harris makes no sense.

The NRC, the industry’s partners in the nuclear mess, is holding an initial public hearing Sept. 18th in Apex.

In preparation for the Progress Energy license application for Harris, the NRC has scheduled a public information meeting on Tuesday, September 18, at the New Horizons Fellowship at 820 E. Williams Street in Apex, NC. An open house will be held from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by a NRC presentation at 7:00 p.m., after which the public will have an opportunity to ask questions. (A copy of the meeting notice is attached.)

Earlier posts on Progress Energy’s Shearon-Harris

The complete notice follows (more…)

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