"On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, "Is it safe?" Expediency asks the question, "Is it politic?" And Vanity comes along and asks the question, "Is it popular?" But Conscience asks the question "Is it right?" And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must do it because Conscience tells him it is right."
MLK,Jr. to SCLC Leadership Class

[UPDATE 2]

The referendum is shelved with a margin of over 1,000 votes. Next up, the transit tax referendum.

[UPDATE 3]

Just listened to a really inept analysis of the sales tax referendum problems on WCHL. WCHL is usually ridiculously deferential to Aaron Nelson of the local Chamber of Commerce – rarely calls him out on his BS – and tonight was no exception. They left unchallenged his contention that many local folks are too stupid to understand the consequences of voting against the tax or that it was a knee-jerk reaction (disregarding the likelihood that people knew that the BOCC DID NOT promise to keep property taxes down if the referendum passed).

Further, no one, including OrangePolitic’s Ruby S. questioned the difficulty of selling the necessity of increasing the local tax bite when the BOCC was able to find $610,000 to buy a new Library site in Carrboro last week or the BOCC’s lack of political will to redirect a one-time $4.6M windfall to projects outside those outlined in the referendum.

I like the crew at WCHL but tonight’s review of the referendum – their inability to probe the supporters contentions, not entertaining any contrary viewpoints – was a FAIL.

[UPDATE 4]

10:15pm and the crew at WCHL continues to suggest that the failure of the referendum was a knee-jerk reaction “my daddy voted against taxes and so will I”. OUCH!

Elizabeth Friend, thankfully, did make a great point about needs vs. wants – we want more technology in the schools, we need to improve EMS. That the next round of discussions should center on what absolutely needs to be addressed vs. what is a nice to have that can be postponed for better times.

Finally, Fred Black made the point that the school boards haven’t set aside sufficient funds for maintenance, that the lottery contributions can’t cover the expected costs and that money will have to be found. Unfortunately, he still suggests that we need to raise additional monies instead of finding it within the current budget.

[ORIGINAL]

As of 8:25pm, 36 of 44 Orange County precincts reporting, the sales tax referendum looks to be in trouble.

Of 38,980 votes, 48.18% (18,780) are for the incremental increase and 51.82% (20,200) are against it.

I’ve been discussing the issue with folks the last few weeks and had a sense that in spite of a concerted effort by the Chamber sponsored PAC (which was running interference for the NC Realtor association), the referendum could be defeated.

I thought this version of the referendum was flawed for a variety of reasons: not using the revenue in a focused manner for economic development, not dedicating the lions share of the allocation to human services (which includes EMS), sugar-coating the measure by sending a chunk to the schools, etc. (read more here, here [ChapelHillWatch], here [CHW] and here [CHW]).

What happens if it goes down?

If the County plans to reintroduce the measure it should reassess the purposes it will be put towards – folks are looking for maximum impact not a diffuse flow of new monies.

The Board of Commissioners (BOCC) should also calibrate their rhetoric more carefully – avoiding claims like those by Barry Jacobs this evening that passing the tax would keep property taxes down – an unsupported contention.

If the Chamber or some other local entity sponsors a new PAC to sell the measure, I hope that the local media will probe the reasons why a group like the NC Realtor association threw so much money behind this year’s PAC – was it a cheap way to keep the land transfer tax off the table?

Finally, the BOCC should understand that if you plan to ask folks for more money to address critical needs because the budget cupboard is bare, they can’t turn around and plunk down $610,000 on a new piece of property or funnel $4.6M in debt savings to other purposes.

[UPDATE]

As of 8:43pm, 40 of 44 precincts reporting, 48.27% (19,576) FOR and 51.73% (20,977) AGAINST – 40,553 votes total.

As of 6pm Lincoln Center was at 241 voters, a better than expected turnout for this year’s mid-term.

As of 6:35pm the Library weighed in at 647 voters, lagging Caldwell. Considering that Estes Hills precinct had a large early voting contingent, the numbers on the ground there are not necessarily indicative of voter disinterest. I expect a very robust final number.

Quick update on Caldwell precinct located in north Orange County near Rougemont.

I handed out Democratic party voter guides from 9:30am until 4:00pm to a steady and heavy stream of voters. With over 680 voters clocking in by 4pm, the precinct was trending towards a very healthy showing – a possible total for today of over 900+ folks. Add in the nearly 30% of early voters and the totals will be approaching 2008’s general election.

Well done Caldwell!

I’m headed to Lincoln Center in Chapel Hill for the 5-6pm shift After that it is a quick stop at the Library to vote.

If you haven’t voted yet there is still plenty of time Get out and make a difference.

In case there’s any confusion, Morgan Freeman had nothing to do with this post!

I’ll be helping the Orange County Democratic Party over at the Caldwell precinct in northern Orange County from 9:30am to 4:00pm. Drop by if you’re in the area.

Over the last week I’ve received emails asking my recommendations for the judicial races. Here’s who I’m voting for:

US SenateElaine Marshall

I know, Elaine isn’t running for the bench but since I have your attention….

A lot has been made of the apparent Democratic electorate malaise this year. We are still involved in the longest war of our country’s history. We still haven’t punished the use of torture or kidnapping as tools of war. Affronts to our Constitution, to basic human rights continue to be promulgated. Backroom deals derail chances of improving our populaces health and welfare. Billions are bilked and the public coffers milked. Spying and lying are now commonplace insults to our country’s democratic well-being. So much of the same old, same old with nary a peep from so many Democratic “yes we can change” Congress folks.

I understand that immense lethargic unease the folks that turned out in 2008 must feel. Does that mean we need to suffer with a Burr under our saddles another 4 years? Hell no.

Elaine is more than the anti-Burr choice. She wasn’t supported by the torpor inducing national Democratic apparatchik, a real win in my book. She will work to bring real change on behalf of all North Carolinians if elected. Do your part today to make that happen.

Supreme Court – Bob Hunter

Both candidates have a strong record on governmental transparency, solid experience and track records of reasonable judicial advocacy. While Jackson served as counsel under Labor Secretary Cherrie Berry during a period of time when that office was less than proactive on a slate of labor related issues, it’s not clear to me if her role allowed her to advocate for better outcomes. Hunter has the edge in experience, great endorsements and, as a Democrat, the background to work towards an equitable decision on Congressional redistricting should it land in the Court’s hands.

Court of Appeals – Gray,Elmore,Geer.

Gray and Geer, Democrats, have solid reputations, been unequivocal that politics will play no role in their courts. Elmore is a solid choice.

Court of Appeals – Instant Runoff version: Thigpen – 1st. Hammer – 2nd. Payne or Middleton or Vesper -3rd.

In other races:

Board of Commissioners – Earl McKee.

I’ve been watching Earl as he has taken on a few County issues these last 18 months. He spent 6 months attending BOCC meetings to get a feel of the office before ever standing up and speaking his piece. His first issue, challenging the expensive remodeling of an office space to serve as a Commissioners chamber, demonstrated the type of leadership he plans to bring to the Commission: he did his research, spoke sincerely and directly to the issue, stood firm on his principles while pursuing the best policy for both his rural district (District 2) and the County as a whole.

Sales Tax Referendum – AGAINST

This is a lousy year to raise any taxes – no matter how small the bite – but that is not the main reason I stand so firmly opposed to this referendum.

Poverty is on a steep uptick in Orange County. Demand for health and welfare services is at an all time high. Long needed structural shifts – from fully staffing our community health system to shifting the emergency homeless shelter burden off the IFC – are not occurring supposedly due to fiscal difficulties at the County level. Yet, when presented with $2.3M from a sales tax or $4.6M windfall from refinancing the County’s debt, the BOCC chose areas outside those vital needs.

I lobbied them to put the lions share towards addressing the needs of those struggling the most – for the 1 in 5 Orange County residents in poverty and other residents who are just treading water. $2+ M new revenue targeted effectively represents more than a life jacket – it would lift folks out of the deep end of the pool and move them on to firm ground.

Again, I appreciate the BOCC making a somewhat firm commitment to spending priorities – I just don’t support the same set of priorities.

The BOCC has been clear, as they should be, that this revenue sharing plan is a firm commitment over the next 5 years and will not change – period. The BOCC has also reaffirmed their stance that this new revenue will not replace existing revenue or cover existing expenses – it is new money for a new purpose )funds will not be freed up elsewhere that could be redirected to human services).

Given that, tomorrow, I’m voting NO for the sales tax in hopes that we will get another chance to set the priorities for that spending, that the new priority will be waited heavily towards addressing human service needs and that core needs – like improved emergency medical services(EMS) and required school facility repairs – be paid out of core budget.

More of my reasoning on voting against the sales tax below:
(more…)

Following up on yesterday’s post(Chapel Hill Council: Union Busters?) the Chapel Hill News reports (Solid waste workers under investigation are fired) that Clark and Bigelow have been fired.

They will have 14 days to appeal the decision.

It appears Council was informed Wednesday night but, as per the Town’s rules, played no part in the decision.

Looks like only one of the five potential internal candidates for Police Chief expressed interest in the position: Chris Blue.

Chris’ evaluation “will focus on the characteristics that have been identified that we need in a chief and the extent to which his behavior fulfills those characteristics. The basic characteristics we are looking for were defined in an extensive public input process in 2007 when Chief Gregg Jarvies retired.” according to Town Manager Roger Stancil.

From what I know of the 2007 process, what I know of the direction the department is heading in, Chris has the required characteristics Roger is looking for.

Best of luck Chris.

From a late breaking Town news release:

Chapel Hill looks within to fill police chief position
Posted Date: 10/29/2010

The new police chief for the Town of Chapel Hill may be selected through an assessment process that is expected to conclude in November 2010.

Brian Curran, who has served the Town for nearly 30 years, announced his retirement in April 2010 and will serve until December 2010. Town Manager Roger Stancil has commended Curran’s achievements as chief, including his work to create a leadership development program, create a diverse command and supervisory structure, expand community policing efforts, and take the lead in innovation and teamwork to find solutions to community issues.

“Chief Curran has been the epitome of community policing throughout his career,” Town Manager Stancil said. “Under his leadership, the department renewed its commitment to community policing. His thoughtful promotion process created a group of emerging leaders in the department. His current focus is on a strategic plan for the future of the department and development of leaders who can implement the plan.”

Town Manager Stancil informed the Town Council in June 2010 that he believed the best way to continue this momentum of progress in the department was to first consider internal candidates for the chief’s position. Internal candidates eligible to apply for the position were three captains and the two assistant chiefs. One of those five individuals expressed an interest in the chief’s position, Assistant Chief Chris Blue.

“A rigorous set of experiences and expectations has been established to assess Assistant Chief Blue’s skills in real time with real issues,” Town Manager Stancil said. “As with other assessment processes, this one will focus on the characteristics that have been identified that we need in a chief and the extent to which his behavior fulfills those characteristics. The basic characteristics we are looking for were defined in an extensive public input process in 2007 when Chief Gregg Jarvies retired.”

The assessment center process is not new to the Town of Chapel Hill. The process has been used to fill numerous positions, including the review in 2007 for a chief to replace Gregg Jarvies. Assistant Chief Blue was the second highest ranking candidate in that process.

Because the assessment process is now under way, Assistant Chief Blue will not be available for comment about his experience with the assessment center.

[UPDATE] Oct. 29th, 2010 Chapel Hill News reports that Clark and Bigelow have been fired. They will have 14 days to appeal the decision. It appears Council was informed but as per the Town’s rules played no part in the decision.

The Council chambers were definitely rocking last night.

The strange issue of Town employees Clyde Clark’s and Kerry Bigelow’s suspension took center stage as a coalition of local social justice groups and supporters presented their grievances to Council.

According to their petition (OrangeChat) three (Stan Norwood, bus driver) employees were disciplined in “retaliation against workers …for filing grievances relating to racism, abusive management, and health and safety concern”.

This isn’t the first allegation of racism within the public works department (here is my post from 2008, Council Oblivious:How Long Must This Go On?).

I’m waiting with interest to see the results of Town Manager Roger Stancil’s “complete, thorough and fair investigation.”

The petition alleges that the Town hired Capital Associated Industries (CAI) in an effort to derail worker efforts to organize. I know a few of the sitting Council members – Mark Kleinschmidt and Sally Greene, for instance – have been quite clear in their support of labor.

Hiring a consultancy at odds with the declared intent of the Council seems strange but I have observed such inconsistency before – just another case among many (it’s not always clear why a particular consultancy is hired, sometimes it appears that a consultancy is hired to “bless” an existing policy, rates paid are out-of-whack at times, existing relationships between principals of the consultancies and the Town aren’t always disclosed, etc.).

As far as the presenters this evening, Al McSurely stated we were paying $60,000 to CAI, a group notorious for its “union busting”. I spent a few moments googling CAI to see how the claims of “union busting” held up.

I found much of this material on CAI’s website www.capital.org. [BOLDs are mine].

From an event they hosted:

WHAT: Capital Associated Industries, Inc., (CAI), the largest employers’ association in the state, in conjunction with the Employers Coalition of NC, will be holding a legislative breakfast to discuss collective bargaining in North Carolina. CAI anticipates over 30 legislators to attend the event, called The Difficulties in Governing With Unions. Speakers include Greg Mourad, director of legislation for the National Right to Work Committee.

Invitation to Event (PDF)

Their CEO Bruce Clarke on the Employee Free Choice Act:

Business leaders contend that the current process for forming a union is both fair and optimal. If secret balloting is optimal for every other election in America, they say, why not union elections? Union organizers and businesses are both able to make their cases in those elections, says Bruce Clarke, president of Capital Associated Industries. “If a decent employer has time to do that, they’re going to win the election,” Clarke says. Clarke adds that unions want to circumvent secret ballots because they don’t want to lose the elections. (CW: debatable at best)

Triangle BizJournal

From CAI’s online white paper Welcome to CAI’s “Employee Free (Forced) Choice Act” Guide

What Might the New Union Card Look Like?

Unions claim that EFCA preserves the secret ballot and that EMPLOYEES, not EMPLOYERS, would then control whether there is a secret ballot election or just a public “card check”. This is untrue. The fact is that the actual language on the union card itself controls how the card can be used. It is a binding legal document. Guess who designs the card and prints the copies? Yes, the labor union controls the card language. There is NO possibility that unions will print cards which give employees the option to choose a secret ballot election. Further, nothing in the law requires them to offer that choice. (CW: really debatable)

From CAI “constituent” letter template they ask folks to send to the Legislature:

Federal Arbitration of a Collective Bargaining Agreement is an Oxymoron

This bill imposes arbitration of all undecided contract terms after a brief 120 day period of failed negotiations. Every aspect of the work, the pay, the benefits, the rules and the work processes can be put before this panel. This is not bargaining in any sense of the word and it would lay a foundation for future relations between the parties that is fatally flawed. American entrepreneurs and business leaders should not and will not stand for outside determination of their work methods and expense levels. They will shrink US operations and grow in non-union facilities. In Canada, where they have experience with an EFCA-like law, companies have actually closed after dissatisfaction with an arbitrator’s decree (see the E. Gagnon Ltee case).

From their 2010 Summer update:

“Organized Labor Reaches a Roadblock”: Will Focus More on Influencing Executive Orders and Appointments; Watch for a November Surprise?

A senior union official, Stewart Acuff, says labor hopes to get EFCA-like changes from the NLRB:

“[If] we aren’t able to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, we will work with President Obama and Vice President Biden and their appointees to the National Labor Relations Board to change the rules governing forming a union through administrative action to once again allow workers in America access to one of the most basic freedoms in a democracy–the freedom of speech and assembly and association so that workers can build the collective power to challenge the Financial Elite and Get America Back to Work.”

The President has made several pro-labor appointments recently, some on a recess basis. The NLRB now has the votes to make major changes in process, policy and regulations governing a wide spectrum of labor relations topics.

More recently, there is talk of an “November Surprise” where lame duck Members of Congress force through pro-union legislation, perhaps as part of a “must pass” emergency spending bill. Journalist Peyton Miller said recently:

“While he’s stopped campaigning for EFCA, the president may yet have an opportunity to sign it in some form. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka is determined to see card check attached to an urgent bill while Democrats still have decisive congressional majorities. Democratic leaders have indicated that the lame duck session following the November elections may be the best opportunity.”

What does all this mean?

Washington politics and processes are very unpredictable and dependent on the status of seemingly unrelated bills, pressures, perceptions and events. The completion of health reform may open up more time for legislative mischief in the workplace. Stay vigilant and stay tuned!

Call on us if we can help.
Bruce Clarke (bruce.clarke@capital.org)

You might recall that the National Labor Relations Board was weakened by the Reagan administration, ignored mostly by the Clinton administration, gutted by the Bush administration. Obama promised to restore some of its former powers during his candidacy – claiming possible “surprise” is disingenuous at best.

Finally, CAI is a member of the Coalition for NC Jobs (along with other notables like the North Carolina Pork Council, National Right to Work Committee, North Carolina League of Municipalities, etc.).

In January of 2006, associations and businesses concerned about pro-union legislation at the North Carolina General Assembly (NCGA) joined forces to form the Coalition for North Carolina Jobs (NC Jobs). For the past two years, NC Jobs has successfully stopped every pro-union bill and amendment at the NCGA even after labor unions gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to legislative campaigns.

Unions such as the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) are intensifying their lobbying and grassroots efforts at the state and federal levels to obtain collective bargaining rights for public employees, which is currently prohibited under North Carolina law. It could mean tens of millions of dollars in dues revenue to their unions.

To combat the unions’ dollars and clout, NC Jobs must expand our membership and increase our grassroots activity at both the federal and state levels.

If the Council’s intent is to support “collective bargaining rights for public employees”, then they need to explain why hiring CAI makes sense.

Looks like I’m stuck on “law and order” mode with the latest series of posts.

The Chapel Hill Police Department is hosting an additional community outreach Nov. 4th, 4:30 and 5:30pm at Extraordinary Ventures, Elliot Rd. (INFO).

The meetings present an opportunity to comment on and improve the department’s new strategic plan. The plan’s current high level goals include:

  • Reduce crime through a strategic and data-driven partnership with our stakeholders through prevention, accountability and enforcement.
  • Foster a relationship of mutual trust through consistent, honest, and timely customer service.
  • Foster a relationship of mutual trust through consistent, honest, and timely customer service.
  • Provide a professional and nurturing work environment that promotes accountability through fair and consistent treatment of our employees.
  • Promote vehicular, bicycle, and pedestrian safety through education and enforcement.

This is round 2 of the process. Round 1, held this Spring, collected initial public input to help develop the outlines of the plan. Round 2 is an opportunity for the public to weigh in on the draft strategic plan. While this Spring’s meetings were well attended (I went to them all), the community has not responded to the call this Fall.

Trying to generate some interest in next week’s meeting I recorded the following commentary for WCHL’s Ron Stutts this morning.

`Live in North Carolina long enough and you will probably hear that when it comes to addressing an issue there is the right way, the wrong way and the Chapel Hill way.

While some folks consider Chapel Hill’s role as a progressive leader in our State as an oddity deserving of ridicule, many of the positive qualities that attract people to our community are a direct result of our willingness to forge our own way.

Progress though, even for Chapel Hill, can move in fits and starts. As our community evolves, responds to new realities, integrates new ideas, it is important that we understand that we can’t cruise on our reputation – that building a better community is an ongoing process which requires work and public engagement.

You might have heard that Chapel Hill’s Police Chief Brian Curran announced he was leaving his post after serving our community for nearly 3 decades.

Brian’s tenure as Chief was notable for a number of reasons including changing the management structure of the department to cultivate new leadership, encouraging greater responsibility by front-line staff and building better relationships between the community and law enforcement.

Brian understood that our community is different – that we expect our police folks to understand and abide by the Chapel Hill way. He strengthened the forces commitment to that way. Thank you Brian for that and your decades of service.

Setting a new direction for the department, adapting to new realities, is a work in progress. To better address these new challenges, Brian, along with his Assistant Chiefs Bob Overton and Chris Blue initiated a program of community outreach to better understand the issues our residents are concerned about today, to highlight problems in effectively and responsibility providing service and to draw upon the incredible expertise within this community.

The first round of meetings held this Spring were well attended – lots of good interactions culminating in the creation of a new strategic plan of action for our police department. From that input over twenty of our staff worked diligently to create a draft proposal incorporating key goals like fostering mutual trust, improving accountability, using a data-driven methods to determine appropriate resourcing and building relationships in our community.

Unfortunately, this round of meetings our community has not turned out to review and improve this plan of action. Whether you are concerned about specific incidents – like what happened to local barber Charles Brown – or think that the department needs more oversight in the form of a civilian review board – or even if you are satisfied – show up. Brian and his staff did their part, it is time for us to do ours. Building a better community can’t happen if you stay at home.

The next and final meeting for this phase is Nov. 4th. Two sessions 4:30 and 5:30pm at Extraordinary Ventures on Elliot Rd. More information is available on the Town’s website: townofchapelhill.org.

The Triangle is a great place to live for many reasons, one of which is the incredible folks you meet from all walks of life who are working to make the world a bit better.

Carrboro’s Joan Widdifield is working to improve Bolin Creek’s health. A regional resource, Bolin Creek, its associated watersheds and subsequent water courses needs some real care and attention. Dr. Joan is also a consultant advising Clear Path International, an organization dedicated to dealing with the ongoing trauma of unexploded ordinance (UXO) around the world, on mental health and PTSD issues. As part of that effort, she is working on “Hearts and Mines”, a documentary shedding light on the problems UXO continues to cause in Vietnam.

Hearts & Mines is the story of the epilogue of the Vietnam-American War. More than three decades after the peace has been declared, Central Vietnamese villagers still live with the specter of unexploded ordnance (UXO) that can strike at any moment. With unprecedented access, this dramatic documentary follows victim-assistance and mine clearance NGOs and shines a light on the far-reaching effects of military conflict and the power of unexpected kindness and encouragement.

More information here.

[UPDATE:] I blew it! As Fred Black reminded me, the Chief is selected by the Town Manager. While the Council can talk about the parameters and criteria of selection, the choice is Roger Stancil’s.

Just got home from tonight’s Council meeting. The meeting ended with a closed session to consider personnel matters so they shooed the remaining few folks out the door.

There are two hot personnel issues that I can think of that need Council’s attention.

One is the strange and unfortunate story of Town employees Clyde Clark and Kerry Bigelow. Tonight a number of folks joined “the two workers along with Chapel Hill Transit bus driver Stan Norwood” who “have protested what they call management intimidation and health and safety hazards in the workplace” (OrangeChat) to question their work suspension (the Chapel Hill News’ OrangeChat has more here).

The second, and much more pleasant piece of business, involves selecting our next Chief of Police to replace Brian Curran (Farewell Chief!). [UPDATE] It wasn’t to consider a new Chief as this responsibility, as Fred reminded me, falls squarely on Roger’s shoulders.

Comments by Brian and Town Manager Roger Stancil lend credence to the current “conventional wisdom” that the next Chief will be drawn from our current ranks. Both Assistant Police Chief Chris Blue and Assistant Police Chief Bob Overton top the lists of folks I have informally polled.

I met Chris years ago when he was working to strengthen our Town’s response to gang-related issues. I have run into him fairly often since as he worked to build a tighter relationship between the community and the police force. With broad experience within our force, a strong working knowledge of the “Chapel Hill way” and a track-record of reaching out to work beyond a strictly “law and order” approach to policing, Chris would be an excellent member of the Town’s management team.

While I ran into Bob off-and-on over the last few years, it is only recently that I have gotten to know him. Another strong candidate with an extensive breadth of experience and a firm grip on the vagaries of Chapel Hill law enforcement. Bob would also make an excellent addition to our management team.

I’m not aware of any other candidates but if there are any I expect Roger to use both Bob and Chris as the yardstick to measure them by. Brian has already set our department on a new course, we need their type of leadership to forge ahead.

As we wait to see if selecting the Chief was actually the reason for holding the meeting, there is another opportunity to meet both the apparent front-runners Nov. 4th at the next community outreach session (INFO).

I rushed back from Asheville this evening and missed the announcement (WCHL1360 and Daily Tar Heel) that Chief Brian Curran is resigning effective Nov. 30th.

I posted Sept. 24, 2007 when Brian was appointed.

I’ve had an opportunity to meet Brian in a few different venues these last few months and my initial impression that he was a talented officer capable of leading our department through transitional times has only been strengthened.

When he was initially appointed to take Chief Jarvies position I did a little research and was impressed by the commitment he has shown our Town.

When Town Manager Roger Stancil cast a wide net seeking a new Chief, I was hoping that our own law enforcement folks would be considered fully. With the failure to secure Roger’s first choice (due to the candidate’s failure to pass a health exam), I was looking forward to a re-evaluation of our home team bench.

I’ve gotten to know Brian a bit more since then and, more importantly, seen him in action – facing some rather stiff challenges over the last 3 years.

At the time Roger had charged Brian with the following goals:

  • Assess the department, involving our employees and the community to tell us what we are doing well and where we have opportunities for improvement.
  • Create a leadership development program for our officers and our non-sworn employees to develop our future leaders internally.
  • Take positive steps to create a diverse command and supervisory structure that represents the various cultural faces of Chapel Hill.
  • Expand the community policing efforts of the department so that community policing becomes a belief system within our department.
  • Take the lead in innovation and teamwork to find solutions to community issues.

Brian has definitely made progress on these goals – as exemplified by the most recent community outreach effort and development of set of measurable strategic goals (two more chances to attend – information here).

It appears from WCHL’s report that Roger will be trying to fill the position from within – good news as one of Brian’s achievements was to strengthen our internal leadership while creating a more innovative command structure that can deal with Chapel Hill’s issues in a Chapel Hill way.

If Roger reaches out beyond our staff, I expect him to pull some expertise and advice from our community in finding a candidate.

Congratulations Chief. Thank you for your service. And thank you for shepherding us through one more Halloween!

I spoke before Council this evening on the proposed changes to Section 5.5 (Recreation) of the Town’s Land Use Management Ordinances (LUMO). The changes, which were discussed over a decade ago, approved by the NC Legislature July 10, 2008, essentially amount to an impact fee paid by developers to support parks and recreation.

To quote, the impact fee “could provide a new funding source for Parks and Recreation capital improvements in situations where payments are made in lieu of providing recreation space on site.”

Unlike other development fees, the Planning Board, Parks Commission and Town staff worked to hammer out an assessment that roughly tracked the number of new users of parks and recreation services these new developments add to the overall system. Given that, you would think that a high density development adding 5 times as many folks as a R5 zone development would pay more.

Crazily enough, that isn’t the case.

If you develop a high impact, high density development you can look forward to paying 1/2 what other developers pay and, as a bonus, get the rest of Chapel Hill’s residents to underwrite new recreation services on your behalf. Inequitable – but then again Chapel Hill’s residents have taken on burdens – including subsidizing the West140 development at $10+ million in cash and $15-25+ million in property – for other recent projects.

Since much of Town is built out and the number of low density residential opportunities shrink, the only strong near term revenue source will come from new high density developments. With a number of such new developments/redevelopments in the pipeline you would think staff and the advisory boards would urge Council to move fast – to strike while the iron is hot so to speak. The reality? A provision to delay while all these projects work themselves out of the pipeline.

Just doesn’t seem fair to either Chapel Hill’s existing taxpayers or folks developing less dense options.

From tonight’s staff memo [PDF]:

The following chart illustrates the effect of the proposed change for high density residential projects. The first column shows the required Recreation Space for a residential development using the current system. The second column shows the Recreation Space that would be required if the applicant develops the maximum allowable floor area under the proposed floor area based system, but without a reduction. The following columns show various reductions by percentage. The highlighted column is the recommended 50% reduction.

Proposed Reduction High Density Development Recreation Impact Fee

Here’s the remarks I made this evening (as usual – I edit on the fly so they reflect what I meant to say):

A few of you might recall that I have asked Council to provide a family friendly park, pocket parks along with other amenities Downtown these last 6 years. With that in mind, I’ve been following and commenting on the evolution of the proposed ordinance since it was first suggested. While the overall framework looks solid, tonight I’d like to highlight a glaring problem with that ordinance.

Higher density development Downtown has been promoted by calls for the need for more residents Downtown. More residents means more demand for high quality recreational opportunities.

The higher cost of development also applies to creating suitable recreational opportunities for these folks within or near their high density residences Downtown and elsewhere.

The proposed ratio of residential recreation space for TC1-3, RSSC, MUV and OI districts has been reduced – as the Parks Commission memo states – because “this provision may be necessary in order to encourage high density development in appropriate areas and to address the higher costs related to building high density development.” Note, no supporting material for that contention is given.

This ordinance has been in the pipeline since 2008 and the parameters for calculating much higher in lieu payments discussed since early this year. That hasn’t stopped proposals – like tonight’s Courtyard redevelopment project – from coming forward.

The proposed %50 reduction in the required ratio means that the burden of providing these facilities is shifted off the shoulders of the developers who are profiting from this type development squarely onto the rest of us residents in Chapel Hill.

As we’ve seen from the new crop of high density developments – East54 and Greenbridge, for instance – the community has invested significantly in infrastructure upgrades . These projects were granted substantial and beneficial variances above and beyond those allowed by the underlying zones. In one case a new zone – TC3 – was created to make the project work. In other words, we – the Chapel Hill community – have already supported this type of development with greater height limits, floor area ratios, reduced setbacks, reduced buffer, etc.

At least Greenbridge stepped up and accepted, as a condition of their SUP, a required payment to support the Hargraves Center.

Now the community is being asked to subsidize recreational opportunities for these high density developers who have already received the community’s largesse.

What do we know then? We know that there has been no evidence provided that supports the contention that having high density developers pay their fair share will impede the submission or approval of these type projects.

We know that reducing the required ratio will shift the cost of providing quality recreational opportunities onto the shoulders of the folks living outside these projects. This includes folks that have been waiting years, sometimes decades, for key unmet improvements they have already paid for with their taxes.

With projects like the University Square redevelopment, Courtyard and Obeys Creek, we know that delaying the implementation of this ordinance means with there is a good chance the best opportunities for developers to share the cost of providing public recreational facilities for the residents of their projects and nearby neighborhoods will be missed.

Please rethink the reductions in the high density requirements in light of the costs, the opportunities on the horizon and a common matter of fairness to the rest of Chapel Hill’s taxpaying public.

Some welcome news on the Rogers Road front.

The Rogers-Eubank Neighborhood Association has been awarded a Federal EPA Environmental Justice grant to help address some of the long term environmental issues that neighborhood has faced as a consequence of taking on our trash disposal burden.

Recipient: Roger-Eubanks Neighborhood Association
Project Name: PITCH (Partnerships in Transforming Community Hope)
Project Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Issue:
The Rogers-Eubanks is an African-American, low-income community and has served as the host of the Orange County regional landfill since 1972. The community was promised basic amenities when the landfill site was originally purchased in 1972, however, amenities such as water and sewer service, storm drains, curbs and gutters, sidewalks, a recreation center and greenspace have not been forthcoming.
Summary:
The focus of PITCH is to achieve reductions of waste inputs to landfills and repair household energy and water inefficiencies. This will be achieved by reducing household solid waste, composting kitchen waste, recycling mixed paper, and using compost in a local community garden.

In addition, the project will educate the residents on conserving water and energy through weatherization improvements, repairs of small-scale plumbing and sewage inefficiencies, and replacement of incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent ones. The project will engage Orange Country residents, the broader public, and news media on PITCH-In’s call to action for waste reduction and environmental stewardship.
Project initiation date: July 1, 2010

Partners: University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, School of Public Health, Daniel A. Okun Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Coalition to End Environmental Racism

Now the ball is rolling, it is time to fulfill on some of the other promises made on our behalf nearly four decades ago.

More information on the RENA home website.

I was unable to attend the latest Civilian Review Board meeting but according to the Indy’s Joe Schwartz, the process continues to lurch forward.

One point that I thought needed answering, why wait for NC legislative approval, was dealt with. Sally Greene and Mark Kleinschmidt both seemed to endorse moving forward creating a board that had all the powers of review except that of perusing personnel records (which will require statutory approval – something already done elsewhere).

Barry Freeman, one of the protesters arrested 2 years ago at Chapel Hill’s Army recruitment office, laid out the case for not waiting:

“A review board can be set up that receives complaints doesn’t necessarily have to go call some policeman and look up his record,” Freeman said. “That might be nice, but without that you can still have 90 percent of the value of a review board. Waiting for the General Assembly to act is just putting off for longer than the two years we’ve been waiting to get this going.”

I’m still thinking through how to best deal with the issues which sparked the call for such a board.

The current Council/Mayor special review committee is too insular to qualify as an instrument of transparency and greater public overview.

Creating a new overview group, though, also runs the risk of building walls between the community and our police force. In many ways, our current force, and its management, have worked to bridge the gaps exposed by a number of recent incidents.

I participated in the recent community/police forums which was supposed to create a list of issues that the force needed to focus on. There were several problems, unfortunately, with those forums: the process was stilted and forced – crafted to avoid “hot spots”, the output of the forums was watered down substantially at the summary level (distinct critiques were lost in massaging them into more general categories) and instead of an iterative approach – taking input from the first set of forums, creating responses and then bringing the public back in to refine their critiques – the point-in-time sample was seen as complete.

Without regular community engagement, these forums cannot be seen as a substitute for a more formal review board.

There needs to be quite a bit more community discussion on how the board will function, how the membership is recruited and appointed, how the process won’t build walls but bridges between the force and the community, etc.

Oct. 11th the Council as a whole will weigh in with their opinions.

[UPDATE:] Joe had Indy comments opened.

In listing the roll of important events this coming week, I accidentally left out one that promises to be quite interesting.

Cousins Properties Inc., which is leading the redevelopment of University Square for Chapel Hill Foundation Real Estate Holdings Inc., will host a public meeting Wednesday, Aug. 18, to discuss the long-term vision for the site and the proposed initial phase of the project. Representatives of Elkus Manfredi Architects of Boston will provide an in-depth presentation of the development plans, shaped in part by a previous public meeting on Oct. 15, 2009. The presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session.

The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. in Suite 133-G of University Square, next to Ken’s Quickie Mart.

More information here.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend this or most of the other events I’ve highlighted and will be relying heavily on our local media and hyper-local media (‘blogs) for updates.

The list as it now stands:

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