July 2007

No telling how brilliant this Summer’s harvest will be…

Time will tell.

“The communication between the two governments within the same community has been spasmodic and not effective.”

— Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs after Chapel Hill Town Council member Bill Strom criticized the county this week for not working more closely with the town on finding new locations for a children’s museum, men’s homeless shelter and District Court.

Via the Chapel Hill News.

Bill kind of rattled on, as you can see [Granicus WMV], about the lack of coordination between the Town and the County – notably, in this case, working to re-site the Men’s Homeless Shelter.

What could’ve Bill done over his last eight years to make sure we don’t “spin our wheels” with the Orange County Board of Commissioners when the Town needs their help? Or that Council doesn’t end up with the BOCC using their “75 years” of collective political experience to “bury us 25 feet under in process and procedure” when we call for assistance?

His complaints about “burying” folks under “25 years of procedural manipulation” is ironic given Mayor Pro Tem Strom’s shelving of a request for real accountability on the Lot $$$5 development project.

Given the sad state of communications and cooperation between this Council and our current Board of Commissioners, Bill is right to call upon the Town and our Town Manager to create a Plan B for the Men’s Shelter’s relocation.

Eight, maybe ten years into the discussion, the BOCC continues to reject Homestead Road’s Southern Human Services Center as a viable location and we still don’t know where to site this necessary shelter. Yes, maybe we can wedge in a facility at the Town’s new Operation Center but, at least to me, that begins to verge on “warehousing” these folks out-of-sight in lieu of attacking the underlying problem head on.

By the way, Bill might have been a little testy because it was late and I had just reminded him that his grand obsession with the white elephant that is the Downtown Development Initiative’s Lot $$$5 project was going to hurt our community in order to bolster RAM Development’s bottom-line.

Whatever the reason, he’s had eight years to improve the lines of communications. I’ll be interested to hear how he proposes to improve the situation if he’s given another 4 years on Council.

As many of you know, I have a particular interest in employing technology to boost our citizens’ voices cost-effectively and in ways not otherwise possible. I met a kindred spirit in the The Peoples Channel’s director Chad Johnston many years ago when we both started attending the Town’s now defunct Technology Advisory Board to encourage facilitating democracy from the grassroots level.

As our Town’s “ONLY public access channel”, the Peoples Channel is dedicated to an informed, involved electorate.

For a democratic society to function properly, citizens must participate in their government, be educated to think critically and be able to freely communicate their ideas.The Peoples Channel’s mission is to advance democratic ideals by ensuring that people have access to electronic media and by promoting effective communication through community uses of media. Through this mission, we aim to provide the means and promote the opportunity for area citizens to exercise free speech through media production, education and distribution of cable television programming.

Cost-effective doesn’t quite capture how hard Chad and his fellow citizen media producers have done to squeeze value from the small allocation of funds their organization receives. And I’d be hard challenged to identify another local activist that has worked as diligently as Chad to forestall corporate efforts (IndyWeek’s 2005 “Big cable wants public access denied”) at the State and Federal levels to strangle avenues of citizen discourse.

One example is the Orwellian-name “Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act” which the Technology Advisory board discussed in 2005 (side note: Whom, now that the Mayor and Council disbanded that group, within our local government is spear-heading that discussion?).

That is why I was pleased to see today’s announcement over on OrangePolitics of a joint celebration of localism and fund-raiser for the Peoples Channel.

Co-sponsored by both the Preservation Society and OrangePolitics, the July 21st event will bring folks together to “learn about the importance of keeping it local”.

When: July 21st, 6-8pm,
Where: Horace-Williams House [MAP] (parking available on-site or take an easy stroll from Downtown),
What: Fundraiser for the Peoples Channel and gathering to discuss “keeping it local”. $15 donation suggested.

As reported in today’s N&O, Chapel Hill is on track to be granted permission to create and use voter-owned elections for our municipal races.

I’ve supported this and other efforts – cumulative voting, super-precincts, same-day registration – to open up access to local office and generate the greatest participation possible.

The Senate approved HB143 and is sending it back to the House for final ratification.

define a uniform program of public campaign financing and to authorize the town of Chapel Hill to conduct such a program.

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:

SECTION 1.  G.S. 163‑278.6 is amended by adding a new subdivision to read:

(17a)  The term ‘public campaign financing program’ means a uniform program of a governmental entity that offers support for the campaigns of candidates for elective office within the jurisdiction ofthat governmental entity under the following conditions: (i) the candidates participating in the program must demonstrate public support and voluntarily accept strict fund‑raising and spending limits in accordance with a set of requirements drawn by that government, (ii) the requirements are drawn to further the public purpose of free and fair elections and do not discriminate for or against any candidate on the basis of race, creed, position on issues, status of incumbency or nonincumbency, or party affiliation, (iii) any public funds provided to candidates are restricted to use for campaign purposes according to guidelines drawn by the State Board of Elections, and (iv) unspent public funds are required to be returned to that governmental entity. Funds paid pursuant to such a program are not subject to the contribution limitations of G.S. 163‑278.13 and the prohibitions on corporate contributions of G.S. 163‑278.15 or G.S. 163‑278.19 but shall be reported as if they were contributions in all campaign reports required by law to be filed by the campaigns receiving the payments.

SECTION 2.  Article 21 of Chapter 160A of the General Statutes is amended by adding a new section to read:

§ 160A‑499.1.  Uniform, nondiscriminatory program of public financing of election campaigns.

(a)       A governing body of a city may appropriate
funds for a public campaign financing program as defined in G.S. 163‑278.6(17a) for city office in that city’s jurisdiction if the city has held at least one public hearing on the program before adopting it and the program is approved by the State Board of Elections. The State Board of Elections shall develop guidelines for the basic components needed in a program to meet the criteria set forth in G.S. 163‑278.6(17a) and shall approve a city’s program that meets the criteria. Any city exercising authority under this section shall provide full notice to the county board of elections in any county in which it has territory.

(b)       The governing body of a city
appropriating funds as provided by this section shall prepare a report no later than six months after the second election in which it appropriates funds under this section that analyzes its experience in implementing a public campaign financing program by that date, including percent of candidates participating in a program, sources and amounts of funding, litigation involving a program,
administrative issues, and recommendations for changes in this statute. The report shall be presented by that date to the Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations, to the Fiscal Research Division of the Legislative Services Office, and to the committees in the House of Representatives and Senate to which election‑related bills are primarily referred.

SECTION 3.  This act applies to the Town of Chapel Hill only.

SECTION 4.  This act is effective when it becomes
law and expires July 1, 2012.

Money can be a big factor, and folks like myself that can kick in some seed money to get their campaigns rolling have an advantage.

Mayor Foy’s 2001 race against Lee Pavao set a troubling standard ( Democracy North Carolina’s “Campaign Costs Skyrocket in Chapel Hill – Spending By Mayoral Candidates Has More Than Tripled Since 1995” [PDF]) that, luckily, has been approached but not yet exceeded.

Council member Mark Kleinschmidt (whom I ran with in 2005) said of the passage

“Campaign public financing will allow our elected officials to better reflect the widespread diversity of ideas and people that exist in Chapel Hill. It will increase the accessibility of running for office for non-wealthy candidates, and allow us to avoid trends in other cities of moneyed special interests dominating local elections.”

Unfortunately, this comes too late it seems to help any contenders wanting to run against the block of incumbents this year.

Speaking of incumbents, according to the Orange County Board of Elections filings, Foy, Greene, Hill and Strom have all not said yet if they plan to restrict their campaigns to a $3,000 limit.

Cam Hill did say “”Actually, we’ve got enough right here. My son’s going to be my treasurer, which will be an adventure. I’m hoping this will be an inexpensive campaign for all involved.” in this recent Chapel Hill News report, so maybe any other candidates will not have to contend with the double whammy of big money and incumbency.

We’ll know what kind of warchest these and the other candidates will bring to their effort as the 2007 Mid Year Semi-Annual report covering “Registered participants & non-participants in the 2007 elections from January 1, 2007 through June 30, 2007” is due July 27th.

From today’s Herald-Sun

The owner of Ben & Jerry’s in downtown Chapel Hill is attempting to sell the franchise, and if he doesn’t sell it, he plans to move the store to another location…The Chapel Hill shop has been at 102 W. Franklin St. for 19 years, but he explains there are problems with

“We’re looking at different locations a little bit further down on Franklin Street or down near Carrboro,” Healey said. “We’re trying to stay in Chapel Hill.”

Why move Ben & Jerry’s?

The current location of the store, just a few feet from Chapel Hill’s main downtown intersection of Franklin and Columbia streets, would seem an ideal location for an ice cream store. But the benches out front of the store have become a loitering spot, sometimes for homeless people and panhandlers, sometimes just for people who spend hours at a time there.

“That little section of Franklin Street, as much as we love being there, it’s just not worth all the grief it’s giving us,” Healey said.

The reporter (Beth Velliquette) observed that

On Monday around 2 p.m., a middle-aged woman and an older man sat under a tree on one of the four benches, chain-smoking cigarettes and talking and listening to music. They didn’t appear to be going anywhere soon. At one point, the woman began discussing drugs, and she cursed loudly using the f-word several times.

I work just down the street from Ben & Jerry’s and walk by those benches nearly daily. At times these benches (and others along Franklin) attract groups of raucous, sometimes vulgar, folks.

Just yesterday, for instance, I spoke with a few young guys yelling lewd remarks across the street at some women exiting the Franklin Inn. I thought if they knew someone was paying attention to their bad behavior they might knock it down a notch. It seemed to work, at least as I made my way past Vespa and out of earshot.

That they listened, if even a bit, is probably because they recognized me as well as I recognized them as frequenters of the same stretch of pavement. Heck, I bet I know, at least by sight, the “f-word” woman referred to in the article.

My concern, beyond Ben & Jerry’s and other businesses moving away, is that these types of bad behaviors are associated with all the folks lingering around Downtown. The way some folks speak of Downtown one would think the complete population of loiterers are thugs, drug addicts and downright dangerous miscreants.

From my perspective this is just not the case. Yes, there are some loiterers, panhandlers and homeless persons Downtown whose behavior is, at least, socially unacceptable and, at times, threateningly criminal.

That is not the whole population.

There are some long term lingerers that are generally innocuous but have mental or drug problems – problems they manage, I believe, within a socially acceptable manner. And then there’s folks just waiting for the TTA or their ride from work. When it comes to “managing” Downtown – responding to calls for greater crackdowns, less patience – I hope our leadership well remembers the diversity that is reflective of our society and creates a set of solutions relevant to an individuals actual – not perceived – behavior.

Filing for office begins noon July 6th and ends noon July 20th.

Confirmed candidates for Chapel Hill Council and Mayoral races are:

  • Kevin Foy, current incumbent Mayor.
  • Sally Greene, 4-year incumbent Council member, ‘blogger.
  • Cam Hill (yes, quite a scary snapshot but there was no official site I could find), another 2003 winner and incumbent Council member
  • Bill Strom, another incumbent and current Mayor Pro-Tem (foiled, it seems this round in his quest for the Mayoralship)

As far as current Council members, that leaves Jim Ward yet to declare.

According to local political pundit and Chapel Hill Herald columnist Tom Jensen “this election is probably going to be a snoozer in Chapel Hill” (OP) because “it will be an uphill battle since incumbents rarely lose in Chapel Hill and I don’t think anyone on Council has done anything to outrage any broad segment of the citizenry.”

Interesting spin from Tom but maybe he’s right – no one will rise to the challenge.

I helped Bill, Sally and Cam during the 2003 election, so this year presents some interesting contrasts. Strangely enough (cough, cough), Bill, Sally and Cam represented the Town in the RAM Development/Lot $$$5 debacle.

One might assume that they saw this as a career enhancer – it’ll be interesting to see how their white whale plays during the election cycle.

Tom, maybe possible contenders, like the Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth (NRG) Mike Collin’s or frequent OrangePolitics poster and the Planning Board’s George Cianciolo or a few more locally active folks will be scared off by the awesome weight of incumbency.

We’ll see, as July 20th is a short two weeks away.

In the “cooler” (at least according to WCHL‘s Ron Stutts) ‘berg of Carrboro

are on deck. Current BOA members Joal Broun and Alex Zaffron haven’t officially said which way they’ll jump though I’ve read that Alex might pass.

Who else might run?

In Carrboro, folks are looking North to Katrina Ryan, a 2005 candidate that more than a few folks thought deserved Dan Coleman’s seat.

Carrboro’s NTA (Northern Territories) have more than a few possible candidates to draw upon, including the newly announced Lydia Lavelle. Lydia, who is coincidentally a partner in Foy and Lavelle (yes, that Foy), threw her hat into the appointment ring with Dan and the Village Project’s James Carnahan.

Will James or former well-liked candidate David Marshall make a run? I haven’t heard though the cool ‘berg of Carrboro would be well-served by their entry.

[UPDATE:] Someone asks “Is that all the potential candidates I can think of?” Not really, but I figure time will tell and, hopefully, we’ll all be pleasantly surprised.

In response to NY Times OP Ed piece promoting the use of a

13-year-old biological technology that stimulates milk production in dairy cows — a protein called recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), or bovine growth hormone. The protein, produced naturally by a cow’s pituitary, is one of the substances that control its milk production. It can be made in large quantities with gene-splicing (recombinant DNA) techniques.

by Herman I. Miller, fellow at the Hoover Institution and author of “The Frankenfood Myth”,a treatise which this review in Crop Science Journal cautions is a bit weak:

A major weakness of this book is that it is written in an overtly propagandistic literary style. Many professionals in agribusiness and academia who came of age in the 1960s will recognize the authors’ anachronistic rhetoric. Those who oppose the authors’ view are labeled as paranoid and anticapitalist. Consumers who fear biotechnology are dismissed as uninformed and irrelevent to public policy. This divisive tone undercuts the authors’ message on biotechnology. The authors are clearly writing to those whom they feel are already sympathetic to the message. The target group thus appears to be readers who intensely dislike regulation and big government. The problem with rallying anti-regulation troops to the Cause via angry and repetitive rhetoric is that the authors may alienate those who read the book with an open mind. Thus, I cannot recommend the book for the classroom and would caution graduate students to look for other data sources.

local ‘blogger and BlueNC‘r George Entenman wrote the following letter which was just printed (reproduced here in case you don’t have access to the NY Times original):

To the Editor:

Henry I. Miller argues that we should “embrace” the use of bovine growth hormone (rBST) in order to feed people more cheaply, save the environment and so on. He characterizes opponents of rBST as “cynical,” but I read Dr. Miller’s arguments as cynical.

I have no idea if rBST is safe. But I do know that the dairy industry and its lobbyists do not want to require labeling milk produced with rBST. In fact, they are so intent on reducing information available to consumers that they are lobbying to prevent dairies from labeling their milk as “rBST-free”!

There’s good reason for cynicism. George Entenman

Chapel Hill, N.C., June 29, 2007

He says “Being the North Carolina hick that I am, I think this is a big deal!”

Hey, I think it’s a big deal too!

Well done George.

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