September 2005

One of the incumbents in our campaign is very adept at dodging issues.

While it is wise to take counsel, to study an issue and weigh alternative resolutions, at some point, as an elected official and leader, you must take a stand. Maybe it will upset your neighbors, maybe it will generate bad press, maybe it will hurt your long term political prospects – but you must eventually form and express an opinion. In the bureaucratic world, when pressed to answer, you might be able to dodge by endlessly shuffling paper or invoking important sounding harrumphs – such as our incumbent – about his quasi-judicial standing.

There is such a thing as quasi-judicial standing. As a Councilmember you must weigh all sworn evidence and testimony entered at a public hearing before making a “ruling” on an issue. Until the hearings are closed, due process demands that you can’t make a fixed decision.

But, as Chapel Hill’s Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos pointed out in this 1995 memo, and in every subsequent election year, that doesn’t preclude an incumbent from commenting on open issues that have quasi-judicial standing.

When asked about the merits of…[a] pending quasi-judicial application, preface your response with some comment to the effect that:

1. “This is a matter which is pending before the Council…
2. the evidence has not all been presented…


Having so prefaced your remarks, I think it would be reasonable and acceptable to proceed with your comments on the merits…

The memo is very clear on how an incumbent can bracket their statements and still use their First Amendment right to speak and be heard.

So, fellow citizens, it’s time to pull that quasi-judicial veil aside and talk to the man behind the curtain.

He has every Right and responsibility to answer.

Ruby’s site is developing a long tail. Embedded within its posts and comments is a timeline, an institutional memory of 2 years of Chapel Hill and Orange/Durham/Chatham County politics.

Here’s to many more….

Is it true that effective conservation almost needs to become a reflexive act?

I’m lucky I had adults in my life – my parents, my friend’s parents, relatives, neighbors – that internalized the lessons of economy and reflexive conservation. Maybe they were like my father, who hailed from a large family whose generosity never flagged though they were more than pinched by the Depression. Maybe they were like my next door neighbor, a Cherokee, that grew up not only in severe circumstances but suffered the privations of a second-class citizen. Maybe they were farm folk, like the Finleys, that understood you saved this years bounty because next year might be a bust.

Wikipedia is an open source encyclopedia that represents a “public works” project of the first-order. Jimmy Wales, the founder of the effort, realized there’s a lot of smarts in the world community – all he needed to do was to tap into that creativity and talent and then step out of the way. In a sense, he created an ecosystem where freely contributed collaborative works could live and flourish.

Smart guy.

In the computer world, we say “there’s intelligence in the network”. In open source software development, we say “the more eyes on the code, the better”. In other words, “many hands make light (and smart) work” and the more folk that review an issue, the better chance for finding the underlying problem and really fixing it.

I’d like our Town to start building an institutional memory using technology like Wikipedia. We need to publish as much detail as possible, lower the costs of accessing this detail (make it easy to search, manipulate, aggregate) and trust the “more eyes” of our incredible community to find issues and suggest innovative solutions.

There’s the windup, here’s the pitch (via ibiblio’s Paul Jones [another “smart guy”]). Speakers Series
Who: Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales
When: 3:30 Wednesday October 5
Where: Freedom Forum Conference Room
305 Carroll Hall UNC-CH
What: A talk about the world’s most popular encyclopedia and news source,
Wikipedia and Wikinews by the man who invented and sustains them.

More here.