Tar Heel Basketball, Proven Excellence

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Though I wished UNC had clinched the ACC championship, tonight’s 89-72 stomping of Michigan State provided a conclusive and satisfying end to UNC’s great 2009 basketball season.

In case you haven’t heard the rumble rolling forth from Downtown, UNC fans are as jubilant as the players.

I’ve had the uncanny luck to have seen the 1982, 1993, 2005 and, now, the 2009 national championship celebrations and this one, at least as of 1:35am, seemed to be one of the best managed – no burning cars, major fires or parking lots full of triaged injured fans. Kudos to Town staff, UNC/Chapel Hill/State and local law enforcement, our fire and rescue personnel (who, I presume, missed most of the game prepping for the turnout) and all the other folks that made this year’s celebration a reasonably safe affair.

Congratulations to Roy Williams, the team and the University for an exciting demonstration of excellence.

Election 2007: Incumbents Strategy Disservice to Our Community

Thursday, November 8th, 2007

I’ll be wrapping my election coverage up in a series of posts, including a big thank you for all of you that “had my back”, but, before that, I just read these two items from today’s newspapers that underline why the incumbents strategy of disengagement was so corrosive – and was quite a shameful disservice to our community.

Only two days ago, incumbent candidates for Chapel Hill Town Council claimed Tuesday’s election had no issues, that it was really about the larger matter of how the town’s growth would be guided in future years.

Three of the four incumbents were re-elected Tuesday on that platform. And Wednesday night they took a step toward molding that growth, agreeing with Mayor Kevin Foy’s proposal to clarify principles established by the 2000 Comprehensive Plan.

Foy referred to informal talks with developers interested in projects on U.S. 15-501 across from Southern Village, near Glen Lennox and other areas. “I want us to confront the growth pressures in a way that gives our staff more specificity,” Foy said.

Other council members agreed with his assertion that the Comprehensive Plan now seems too vague.

“We need to be clearer and more precise in our language because it affects what we put on the ground,” said Councilman Jim Ward.

The Comprehensive Plan was adopted on May 8, 2000, and was intended to articulate “a vision and directions in which we want the community to move,” according to the town Web site. “It suggests the ways in which we can invest in our community and build value for the 21st century. And, most importantly, the plan focuses on specific actions that will help us achieve the future we desire.”

Foy was a member of the Town Council that worked on that project. Seven years later he doesn’t think the plan is specific enough. In a memo to the council, Foy explained that a strategic reexamination of the plan could help guide land development.

“For example,” he wrote, “the plan set forth certain criteria for the northwest quadrant of town, but when pressures built we discovered that the council, the neighbors, and land developers had different viewpoints about what the plan called for.”

Councilman Bill Thorpe pointed out the pink elephant in the room, wondering aloud why Foy waited until the day after an election to broach the topic of development pressures in Chapel Hill. He described the mayor as “smooth” and told Foy that the council is not afraid to take on a project like this.

“It’s a new day,” Thorpe said. “Let’s move forward.”

Nov. 8th, Herald-Sun

Smooth? I’d say slick political gamesmanship.

I not only called for a refresh in our comprehensive plan prior to the election but also lobbied for a new process of keeping our plan flexible and adaptable. Sure, the incumbents co-opting my call for adding clarity, specificity and predictability to our Town’s growth plan, at some level, is gratifying but, admittedly, discouraging in that I believe they will give the process the same old superficial shellacking we’ve seen with other policies.

Bill Thorpe says “it’s a new day” but I don’t think so – it is more of the same kind of clever surface manipulation of issues – all sound, little fury – that’s digging our Town deeper and deeper into trouble.

Of course, I guess the ends, for some, always justify the means. If that means running as a block, eschewing an opportunity to engage and educate our community on, say, the comprehensive plan or the coming resource crunch, well, that’s alright by these politicians.

Poor policy, slick politics.

During the election it was obvious that the incumbents wanted to avoid substantive debate on the issues for a number of reasons. On the comprehensive plan, for instance, the fact that I’d led the way on calling for a review would underscore how proactive my stance on development has been.

Oh no, couldn’t acknowledge that a challenger had a good idea – that was an anathema to the incumbents’ “no mistakes” strategy.

For a (former?) activist like myself, someone that works hard to educate and engage our wider community in a variety of issues, I know we could’ve leverage the election to bring focus and attention to our critical growth problems – to explore different approaches, debate various strategies. To see that opportunity squashed so effectively by a political strategy was quite disappointing – and reflects poorly on that strategy’s participants.

The other article from today? Cam Hill’s call to ban watering lawns.

Fellow challenger Penny Rich and I talked about the limits of growth in terms of our ability to provide adequate water. The incumbents were not willing to admit their vision of high density development was at odds with our ability to sustain such development in light of our areas “carrying capacity’.

One of the incumbents was quite flip and dismissive about Penny and I’s suggestion that adequate water supply was one of the largest limiting factors in his plan for “rah rah” growth at any cost. Again, slick political strategy smothered civic duty.

Hill initiated the discussion in the wake of a presentation by OWASA staff showing that southern Orange County will be “vulnerable to severe drought conditions beginning in the early 2020s” if customers do not reduce demand and the agency doesn’t find new sources of water.

Now Cam and the re-elected incumbents can safely talk about our coming water crunch – no concerns about community alarm possibly influencing their quest for another 4 years in office. Again, if you’re desperate for a seat, great strategy for winning but a shameful disservice to our community.

Sad. Sad. Sad.

Which leads me back to my role in local affairs.

For more than six years, I’ve been dragging my old soapbox around, stepping up and passionately fighting for causes I believe in. Many times, whether on developing an economic plan for commercial development, setting targets for fuel use and tree restoration, working to save hands-on arts for Chapel Hill, saying we can only import so much water – export so much trash, I’ve been calling for action years ahead of the need.

I’m a proactive kind of guy. One foot in the future – looking for opportunities to improve our community – working to make sure our Town is ready to seize those opportunities. I’ve been effective at times – more than the incumbents were willing to admit – but at a fairly steep price.

Proactive and pragmatic doesn’t seem to be a priority for most local folks. Crisis seems, anymore at least, to be the only motivator.

Under those terms, I’m left with a personal dilemma: do I continue as before – getting some progress but with great effort – or do I just wait until the Town is in crisis and try to pitch in and help?

Or do I follow the recent ‘block’ of incumbents and disengage from any substantive, but politically risky, discussion at all?

Delay is Not Our Friend

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

I’m a proactive kind of guy. In the last few years I’ve tried to get our Town’s leadership to look beyond the immediate to address the foreseeable needs of our community and preparing for the consequences of our local and national policies.

In some cases, like moving forward on improving our Town’s communications infrastructure, hiring an economic development officer, doing a professional technology assessment, bridging the digital divide, I’ve had some success.

In others, like bolstering our commercial tax base, growing jobs, making practical improvements Downtown, adopting measurable energy efficiency standards, budget process refinements, fleshing out the Horace-Williams Citizens Committee’s principles on the environment, not as much.

Here’s an example of my attempt to make our Town operations more sustainable from September, 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.

Two years and several calls for adopting energy goals later, we still haven’t moved forward on targeted reductions in traditional fuel usage.

Our Town’s budget is built on assumptions that are “priced for perfection”. Slow housing growth, a flattening or decreasing trend in property valuations, a macro-economic downturn – like recession or any of another, foreseeable, bumps in our economic road will lead to higher taxes and lessened services.

$4 to $5 a gallon gasoline is a predictable trend – and an expected outcome if the Iraq war lingers or we open a new front in Iran – yet, what has our current leadership done to prepare our Town for the consequences of this one increase?

Nothing. Further delay is not our friend.

Election 2007: The Arrows in My Back ;-)!

Monday, November 5th, 2007

To all the folks that have sent me emails of support in the face of a dramatic surge in negative, personal attacks, I thank you.

It has been a strange election season.

I didn’t expect the Sierra Club or the IndyWeek to endorse me, for political or personal reasons. But I never expected the Indy to create a “red herring” or the Sierra Club to get my record – which was to support 5 of their environmental causes that the incumbents shot down – and my name wrong.

I knew that two local incumbents would go negative when one of their common advisors tipped his hand months before I even signed up – bullying me about how I planned to run – but I never expected the virulence or disingenuous of the latest attacks. Youch!

Again, thanks folks for trying to stem the tide.

Part of this negativity, I’ve come to believe, goes beyond mean-spirited politics to political strategy. There must be a fear that votes for Raymond will lead to the election of Penny Rich – at least that appears to be part of the calculus.

Maybe they’re right – maybe you should vote for me AND Penny if you want Penny ;-).

I hope the voters realize that the challengers – Penny, Matt and I – are the only candidates this year that engaged in substantive discussions of the issues before our Town.

I hope the voters recognize I’ve been trying to take the opportunity of this election to engage and educate the wider public on key problems facing our community.

And I hope they understand that personal attacks, character assassination, trying to diminish a candidates public service, is not just a sign of desperation but also an indicator of the sponsoring person’s fitness to lead.

That said, I’m at a bit of loss at what to do. I’m going to stick with my original plan, which was focus on the issues before us, to work to promote positive strategies to improve our community and to ignore issues lacking substance.

What about the arrows sticking in my back?

I’m a big guy, passionate about my causes, have tried to do what’s best by the community – and that helps take the sting out but I am saddened that instead of engaging in an open discussion of policy a few of the incumbent candidates feel going negative is their best strategy.

What a wasted opportunity! For now, I forge on with my portfolio of issues and solutions – campaigning straight through until 7:30pm tomorrow.

The citizens of Chapel Hill deserve no less.

Richly Deserved: Czajkowski and Rich Get The Daily Tar Heel Endorsement

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

As I wrote recently, it’s been quite interesting to see how folks respond to the challenge of campaigning.

I know it’s not conventional to salute your campaign opponents – which explains why the incumbents don’t mention my role in hiring an economic development officer, green fleets, re-balancing the size of affordable housing on Lot #5, etc. – but, as I imagine most folks have figured out, I’m not big on following the status quo, especially when it means passing up an opportunity to improve our community.

Which brings me back to Penny’s and Matt’s well-deserved recognition and endorsement by the Daily Tar Heel.

I’ve gotten to know these folks and they’re both the real deal. They’re not running to be the next Mayor or position themselves to run for State office – ego building is just not part of their portfolio.

Instead, Penny and Matt are quite concerned about our community and have presented solid, pragmatic proposals for addressing some of the tasks left undone these many years.

This year, they also were the only two folks, other than myself, willing to engage in a real debate – an exploration if you will – of the ways we could realistically address many of the challenges still before us. As Matt notes, the incumbent monologue might have been an effective campaign tool but it was a miserable strategy for educating and engaging the wider community.

Here’s what the DTH had to say about Penny:
(more…)

Halloween Trick: Bank-rolling Boozing

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

Local teen alcohol awareness activist Dale Pratt-Wilson asks if the $225,000 spent managing Downtown’s Halloween booze-fest is worth it:

Wow…What an awesome use of my tax dollars! I am especially pleased with having to pay for twenty-one Orange County EMS calls related to drunkenness.

It would be interesting to see a cost analysis of what the town earned in tax revenue and fees etc. vs. funds expended for manpower both law enforcement and civilian and finally the crews needed to clean up the mess.

As the night rolls on and families have gone home, this financial extravaganza amounts to nothing more than a drunk-fest. If you don’t believe me, ask any of the 385 officers being paid to work this gig.

Why are we bank-rolling this party? Help me and the other citizens to understand the thinking behind this decision.

I’ve disagreed with some of Dale’s tactics but she’s got an excellent question here, does the investment merit the return?

When I first moved to Greenville to attend ECU, Halloween was “banned” Downtown. In the mid-’70’s, there had been a tear-gassing police riot that shutdown the festivities and, in 1980, the town was still in no mood for downtown parties.

The constitutionality of the town’s Halloween crackdown was questionable but the outcome was quite effective – step off the sidewalk, congregate or wear a mask and get arrested.

Eventually Halloween returned to downtown Greenville and by the time I graduated folks were puking their guts up in downtown alleys, getting their heads bashed in during drunken brawls and damaging private property for blocks around. Adding to the volatile mix – tensions from out-of-town visitors like Jacksonville’s and Fayetteville’s young recruits, gangs out of Raleigh and university students from State, UNC-CH and UNC-W – which often resulted in some rather nasty incidents.

I’m not sure the best course of action to take in managing our Halloween but letting it continue to escalate in cost and taking on a riskier profile with no clear return to the citizenry doesn’t make sense.

Time for a community confab to sort out what we value most from this Chapel Hill tradition and preserve those elements we, as a community, find most appealing.

Halloween Trick: North Street Complaint

Thursday, November 1st, 2007

I believe there’s usually a better way to do almost anything and, as a business person, well understand the value of customer complaints as a tool for driving improvement.

Complaints are like canaries in the coal mine alerting you to developing negative conditions – many organizations, though, would rather kill the canary than respond to their plaint.

In 2005, then Town Manager Cal Horton, made sure that the candidates for office were tied into Council’s information stream. This included citizen mail, status reports, early agenda items and advisory board work product.

After the 2005 election, I asked Council to make this information available to the wider public. In spite of professing an interest in transparent governance, the majority of Council decided not to expose our residents to citizen complaints or alert folks early to developing policy problems.

The Chapel Hill Police Department reports that last night’s Halloween bash, attended by 82,000 folks, went fairly well – at least based on the numbers:

Simple Affray(4),Assault on a Female (1),Simple Assault(2),Drunk and Disruptive(3),Assault on an EMS(1),Disorderly Conduct(1),Assault on an LEO(2),Resist and Delay(3),Failure to Disperse(1).

Orange County Emergency Medical Services responded to thirty-one calls and eight people were transported to UNC Hospitals. Twenty-one of the calls were related to intoxication.

Sounds good but not everyone was happy about our Town’s effectiveness:

The control on our street, NORTH STREET off Hillsborough tonight was ridiculous! By 10PM, the street was filled with cars that didn’t belong here. I spoke with the “traffic control” people and they said “…nobody told us anything…”. They let anyone down the street to park who asked them to, they had no cones until they found some up near Rosemary Street, and had no clue what they were supposed to do. This is the most ridiculous traffic control during Halloween I have ever seen. Someone at the Town needs to take control of this Halloween disaster and protect the neighborhoods from the thousands who invade the Town each year.

There is no reason to spend this much tax money on an event and NOT
protect the people who live here!

Now, we could look at this an isolated complaint, be comfortable with the overall numbers and not investigate any further OR we could look at this as an opportunity to do better next year.

Halloween Treat: Chapel Hill News Endorsement

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

I knew my best chance for an endorsement this year was from the Chapel Hill News.

These folks have watched my passionate activism on behalf of the environment, social justice, fiscal responsibility, public accountability, transparent and open governance, community engagement, planning policy and on and on for these last 6+ years.

Will Raymond brings a wealth of knowledge and creativity to the table. Few people in or out of government do as much homework as he does. His contributions to the public debate have provided valuable depth and context. He’s served on the town’s Technology Board, Horace Williams Citizen’s Committee and Downtown Parking Task Force. He’s been faulted on occasion for being overly fervent, but his ideas and strength of conviction, employed judiciously and tempered with a willingness to listen and compromise, can be a valuable asset.

This was the year where it would take some courage to break the incumbent blockade on endorsements. The safe bet would be to go with the flow, follow the lead of the entrenched powers and simply accept the status quo – a slate of incumbents who flailed around blankly at the WCHL forum trying to identify one mistake they had made in the last 4 or 8 years.

The right bet was to back candidates who would bring a fresh perspective, restore some balance and break the group-think within our current Council.

I knew the Chapel Hill News had the integrity and the concern for our community to choose candidates that were best prepared and steadfastly determined to improve our community’s lot.

I hope the Daily Tar Heel, the only other endorsing organization in Chapel Hill this year that is free of entanglements, will show the same kind of courage and choose at least one challenger. I know Penny and Matt are as determined as I am to see our Town through our coming troubled times – they deserve a full and fair evaluation.

I appreciate that the Chapel Hill News honored my service and recognized my passion for change. I will do my best to repay that confidence by “walking the talk”, working productively with my new colleagues and building on the strengths of our diverse community.

Thank you.

Indy Endorsement: Letter to Editor Strom

Sunday, October 28th, 2007

I called Jennifer Strom last week to see if the Indy would provide me the courtesy of a response to their endorsement comments. She said they would. Here’s my response:

I’m baffled by the Indy’s comments on my and Mike Kelley’s candidacies.

I’m mystified by your endorsement of Indy editor Jennifer Strom’s husband Bill Strom, incumbents Sally Greene and Cam Hill, all who voted to build extensively into the Booker Creek resource conservation district.

I’m perplexed. I haven’t called for environmentally insensitive development on Booker Creek let alone authorized it.

And I’m disappointed. How do you chastise Chapel Hill School Board candidate Mike Kelley’s attendance record given his personal circumstances? Beyond insensitive, it was ill-informed.

Where was the balanced investigative journalism we have come to expect from the Indy?

I used to give the Indy’s endorsements automatic credence. Any readers who do so this year will be misled.

I’ve written here and here why I think the Indy missed the boat on my candidacy.

As far as Mike, here’s what happened February, 2006 (N&O)

Police charged an elderly driver they say injured a mother and daughter selling Girl Scout cookies when she backed into a troop’s cookie booth outside a grocery store over the weekend.

Chapel Hill police charged Thelma McBride Holloway, 77, of 105 Elizabeth St., Chapel Hill, with failure to reduce speed to avoid collision.

Holloway was backing her 1991 Lincoln out of a parking spot Saturday afternoon in front of the Harris Teeter at University Mall when her foot slipped off the brake and onto the accelerator, according to a police report.

The car ran up the sidewalk and hit Elise Michelle Hoffman, 44, and her daughter Anne Katherine Kelley, 11. Both were taken to UNC Hospitals. The hospital would not release their conditions Monday afternoon.

On Sunday, Lt. Leo Vereen said the accident broke both of Hoffman’s legs, and Anne’s collar bone and one of her legs.

Hoffman and Anne are the wife and daughter of Mike Kelley, a member of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education.

Since reading the Indy’s strange comments on Mike I’ve had some time to talk to folks I know and trust about his candidacy. Overwhelmingly they say he’s meticulous, has responded to folks concerns and, even with a family tragedy, discharged his responsibilities in full.

Here’s what one of his opponents, and Indy endorsee, Jamezetta Bedford, said on the Indy’s website:

…I feel compelled to disagree with the statement that Mike Kelley’s job “has prevented him from attending many forums and activities beyond his basic duties.” Each board member volunteers to serve as liaison to two or three school improvement teams (SITs) and various district committees. Some are scheduled during the work day, some in the early morning and some in the evening. We divide them up at our first December meeting each year based upon the interests and schedules of our board members.

Mike has faithfully attended the SIT meetings most months (board members are only expected to attend once a semester) and has served on our technology advisory group, one of the health advisory committees, as well as liaison to the Special Needs Advisory Council this past year. I would not want a board composed of only retired or unemployed members. By the way, our board will receive an award next week from the NC School Boards Association to recognize that all of our members completed at least 12 hours of board development training this past year, again showing the investment of time each makes to this service.

I like her point about a balance board with more than “retired or unemployed members”.

There are many more statements of support here.

Here’s what UNC Law professor Eric Muller said Are the Indy’s Endorsements Heartless or Worthless? It’s One or the Other over on his ‘blog Is That Legal?.

Bill Strom, at the recent Democrat Candidate Forum, used a quote attributed to Daniel Patrick Moynihan to try to make some point “…you are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.”

Maybe he could share that quote with the Indy’s editor (and his wife) Jennifer Strom.

The Indy is free to express an opinion but it shouldn’t ignore the facts – which, in my case, I did the opposite of what their endorsed candidates did and in Mike’s, that he had an obvious and completely understandable reason for his actions.

Election 2007: IndyWeek Endorsement,Booker Creek and the Incumbents

Friday, October 26th, 2007

X-posted from my campaign website.

The Indy found fault with my style of dissent. I’m a big guy, have a deep voice and am passionate about my well-researched issues. I believe I’m respectful in my appearances before Council (example). Folks have told me that I’m tough but fair. The Indy’s criticism, no matter how emotionally worded, is, in the end, subjective – their job, to shape opinion.

The Indy’s suggestion that I wanted to despoil Booker Creek further is not supported by either the facts or any reasonable inference (as I discuss here).

What inference could the Indy draw about the incumbents – Sally Greene’s, Cam Hill’s, Bill Strom’s – willingness to put development above the health of Booker Creek?

Well, no inference is required as the record clearly shows that all three were willing to contribute to Booker Creek’s ills for the sake of economic development.

I’ve attended many Council meetings over the last 6 1/2 years. Once there, I usually stay to learn about the issues before our Town. That’s why I know that Bill, Cam and Sally voted June 30th, 2004 to approve Eastern Federal’s 10 screen, 38,000 square foot, nearly 200 parking space theater directly adjacent to Booker Creek.

As noted in these minutes from Jan. 27th, 2003’s SUP (special use permit) approval that details this project’s variances:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Council finds, in this particular case, that the following modifications satisfy public purposes to an equivalent or greater degree:

1. Modification of Subsection 13.11.1 and 5.5.2.1 to allow a minimum of 154,242 square feet of livability space.

2. Modification of Subsection 14.6.6 (a) to allow less than a five-foot landscaped strip between portions of the buildings and adjacent parking areas.

3. Modification of Subsection 14.6.7 to allow a minimum of 490 parking spaces.

4. Modification of Subsection 5.5.2.2 to allow impervious surface areas associated with this development to encumber 24% of the Resource Conservation District.

Said public purposes being (1) the provision of higher intensity infill development, (2) the promotion of greater pedestrian mobility, (3) the provision of increased landscaping in the parking lot, (4) the provision of less impervious surface area, and (5) the provision of improved quality with Best Management Practices.

The resource conservation district was established by Chapel Hill

To protect streams and to reduce the frequency and amount of flood damage to property, the Town enacted the Resource Conservation District (RCD) ordinance in 1984, with revisions in 2003. This ordinance and other measures taken to reduce flooding and flood damage, are necessary for the Town to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

RCD provisions severely limit or eliminate structures and development in areas likely to flood. These measures pertain in areas including FEMA’s 100-year Floodzones, (areas that have a 1% chance of flooding every year, or in other terms, properties that have a 26% chance of flooding within a 30-year period), as well as smaller streams which have not been rated by FEMA. RCDs also protect or improve the water quality of streams by reserving vegetated areas to slow and infiltrate stormwater runoff and to remove pollutants from runoff.

Yet, in this case, the incumbents Greene, Hill and Strom voted a rather large exception for a movie theater.

Now, you didn’t have to be at these meetings, as I was, to know about the series of votes these three made to build on Booker Creek. A simple Google will quickly turn up that fact.

Speaking of facts, why would the Indy try to extrapolate, without evidence, that I wanted to despoil Booker Creek further when three of the incumbents the Indy endorsed – Greene, Hill and Strom – actually voted several times to reduce critical RCD protections to build a 10 screen theater?

Maybe because the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a good story – and the story the Indy is selling is “don’t vote for Raymond in 2007”. The reasons were superfluous to the ends.

What about Jim Ward, who consistently voted against the proposal, as I recall, based on environmental concerns? The Indy thought he was too soft on the environment in 2003, but now he has “proven his meddle”.

Wonder if they considered Jim’s concern for Booker Creek as part of that proof?

More on the history of Eastern Federal’s development woes.

Election 2007: Money on the Street

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

X-posted from my campaign website.

“Eyes on the street” in one of the key mantras the incumbents substitute for a solid financial analysis of the economic benefits of their publicly underwritten million dollar Downtown condos.

Supposedly the $8.5 million tax dollars (so far) and land worth $5-8 million ($13.5-16.5 million) will help increase Downtown’s minuscule population to the point crime will plummet as folks living in those million dollar condos observe the street scene from high above. Those couple hundred of new folks will energize Franklin Street and help convert it into a 24/7 hub of profitable commercial activity.

Eyes on the street, the justification for this out-of-control project.

What about “jobs on the street”?

In 2005, I called on the Town and its Downtown Partnership to focus on a strategy to build an employment ladder and increase the number of well-paying jobs Downtown.

Why? Because I know that folks that work Downtown, spend Downtown. I do. My colleagues do. The owners and employees of many Downtown businesses do, funneling their dollars back into the micro-economy they subsist on.

And they do it without millions of dollars of public outlay. Their commercial activities represent a net gain for both Downtown and the larger taxpaying community.

Why didn’t Council pursue jobs growth Downtown? The high-priced condo scheme has been a distraction but, beyond that, I believe they didn’t understand the basic value proposition – that those who work Downtown, spend Downtown.

My objective, increasing Downtown’s employment profile, languished two years until recently when the new economic development officer (a position, by the way, I lobbied for) resurrected it as part of his greater economic development strategy.

How much does the Downtown workforce contribute to Downtown’s commerce?

I took a look at my spending habits, reviewed my credit receipts and came up with the following incomplete list of Franklin Street businesses within the Town’s Downtown economic zone (as defined by the Downtown Partnership) that I (or my family) have recently frequented.

While broad, you might notice a bias towards restaurants. My wife is a fabulous cook – but that doesn’t stop me from eating out at our wonderful Downtown smorgasboard.

Finally, Downtown already has “eyes on the street”. 5,000 based on the Town’s analysis. 15,000 based on State and Federal criteria. Eyes on Rosemary St. hasn’t stopped the drug dealing. Eyes on the street didn’t stop the recent Visions nightclub shooting. Eyes on the street, alone, is no panacea.

Where I spent my hard-earned dollars:

3 CUPS
431 West Franklin Street, Suite 15 (Courtyard)
Phone: (919) 968-8993
Fax: (919) 968-8994
Hours: Monday – Saturday 7:30am-6:30pm
www.3cups.net

35 Chinese Restaurant
143 West Franklin Street (Univeristy Square)
Phone: (919) 968-3488
Fax: (919) 968-0268
Hours: Monday – Sunday 11:00am-9:30pm
www.35citysearch.com

411 West
411 West Franklin Street
Phone: (919) 967-2782
Fax: (919) 969-7450
Hours: Sunday – Monday 5:00pm-9:30pm / Tuesday – Thursday 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:00pm-10:00pm / Friday – Saturday 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:00pm-10:30pm
www.411west.com
(more…)

Golf and Politics

Monday, October 15th, 2007

I play golf.

Yes, I once regularly played – pretty darn well – a game once generally synonymous with elitism, bigotry and wealth.

My father is a great golfer. Coming from a blue collar family,his opportunity to hone his skills came when he picked up a second job caddying clubs for the Akron country club folks. He worked making tires during the week, went to school at night and, between client’s rounds, took advantage of his new job’s major perk – free golf on great courses.

Caddying, for the uninitiated, involves hauling a set of heavy clubs around the course on behalf of the player. A good caddy does more than ferry woods and irons – often playing the role of coach, lookout, scout and adjunct conscience.

My Dad was a great golf mentor.

I first picked up a club when I was five years-old, though it was until I was almost seven that I began to play on an actual golf course. Well, “course” is a bit of a stretch. It was nine-holes strategically allocated on a few acres of unusable Oklahoma farm land not far from home. The fairways were permanently hardened, the one creek regularly mosquito ridden, the hazards ranging from the traditional sand traps to timber rattlers coiled tightly round a green’s flag.

Incredibly, the adults generally courteously accommodated struggling kid golfers.

For the next 4 years I played hundreds of rounds. From any location could pick the best club. Knew every hole like the back of my hand.

I also learned quite a bit about human nature.

Folks are usually surprised when I tell them I can golf. Fairly often, once the cognitive dissonance settles, I’m asked why business folks congregate on the courses. There are a lot of obvious reasons: getting out of the office for hours, bonding with your new golfing buddies, drinking (few sports, beyond bowling, allow that!).

But the best reason, at least the one I think the most canny of business folks innately understand, is that golf is a great judge of character.

Do they shave their strokes? Do they adjust their lie (the ball’s position) when no one is looking? Do they pitch their clubs into a pond if they play poorly on a few holes?

Are they humble in victory? Are they gracious in defeat? How desperate are they to win?

As a candidate for office two times running, I’ve discovered that politics is like golf.

How a candidate acquits themselves on the political playing field says quite a bit about their character.

In 2005, I learned that an incumbent can be so desperate to win they’d shave their record and adjust voter perception with misleading signs. What kind of desperation leads to that level of behavior?

I’m not desperate for the Council job.

I’m running because I have a perspective on fiscal responsibility, public accountability, diversity and open governance that is at odds with those of the incumbents. I’m prepared for Town Council but not preparing to be Mayor or Board of Commissioner or State Senator or any of the other offices that Council membership is used as a stepping stone for.

I want the job but I don’t need the job to fulfill my life or some other ambition.

I’ve had an enjoyable opportunity observing the other non-incumbent candidates – Matt Czajkowski and Penny Rich – play the Chapel Hill political course. I don’t believe they’re motivated by some hole in their life or their schedule.

Desperation is a strange creature.

Most of the incumbents I’m running against, at least at the beginning of this years race, claimed they didn’t want to exacerbate the campaign money problem, yet their actions belie their statements.

I’ve had Cam Hill suggest I’m a Republican though he knows quite well that I’m not (and have invested many years of sweat equity helping the Dems with GOTV efforts, poll sitting, literature distribution).

I’ve had Bill Strom characterizing informed dissent as “tossing bricks through windows” – a dismissive statement implying indiscriminate criticism. He well knows that the criticism that Penny and I have leveled at his actions comes from careful research, deliberative thought backed by our broad and successful experience.

Maybe the worst of the desperate criticisms comes from the incumbents shepherd – Kevin Foy. The incumbent Mayor, responding to criticism of the Council’s handling of the Rogers Road mess – trying to protect his incumbent friends – suggested Matt’s proffered recourse was illegal. Illegal? Desperate.

Incumbency is an awesome advantage. Chapel Hill, for all its growth, is a small town. What is said behind the scenes – whether its characterizing your Council colleagues less than charitably or mis-characterizing the current round of challengers – has a way of leaking out.

If you toss the golf ball out of the woods to avoid a penalty stroke, you might – on your paper scorecard – win the match. But how desperate must one be to be satisfied with such a hollow victory?

Are you honest or do you shave strokes? How do you behave when you think no one is listening? How desperate are you to win?

Politics is like golf.

Election 2007: Friends of Affordable Housing Questionnaire

Monday, October 15th, 2007

X-Posted from my campaign website.

I hadn’t heard of this organization prior to this election but they appear to have been active for the last 10 years.

Friends of Affordable Housing is a non-partisan Political Action Committee that has been active in selective elections within Orange County during the last 10 year. The organization was first organized to support the Orange ballot for Affordable Housing Bond Money. The committee has also periodically sent questionnaires to candidates running for Orange County Commissioner and Chapel Hill Town Council.

Core members of the committee felt the residents of Chapel Hill should have the opportunity to know the positions of the various candidates running in 2007 for Chapel Hill Town Council. The Committee felt the relocation of the IFC, the transition to more attached multi-story housing, the opportunity for more affordable housing in Carolina North, and the possibility of selective use of “payment in lieu” of affordable housing units were issues of significant concern for Chapel Hill residents. The committee members are all long standing residents of Chapel Hill. The four review committee members have extensive executive committee experience in non-profit boards including the IFC, Habitat for Humanity, Dispute Settlement Center, YMCA and various Orange County boards including the Commissioners Committee on Affordable Housing. Committee members have also consulted with staff members of several of the Affordable Housing providers.

The NC Board of Elections has informed us that Friends of Affordable Housing does not have to register as a formal PAC for the 2007 election because we will not be raising money to support a specific candidate or issue.

They weren’t active in the 2005 race even though there was a slew of known affordable housing related issues before the Council.

Dear Candidate:

As you know, initiatives to increase the stock of all types of affordable housing in Chapel Hill have been an election issue for many years. In order to give Chapel Hill residents a better understanding of your position on this critical subject, Friends of Affordable Housing has developed a 7-item questionnaire asking you to address some of the current issues.

A review committee of the Friends of Affordable Housing will review your responses and may endorse specific candidates prior to the November election. Your comments will also be made available to the general public.

Thank you for your cooperation; we look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

The review committee: Natalie Ammarell, Rev. Richard Edens, Susan Harvin ,Richard Leber

They obviously understand that maintaining and expanding affordable housing opportunities will require even more attention of the new Council than the last two years.

Here are my answers to their questions.


Friends of Affordable Housing Questions for Chapel Hill Mayor and Town Council Candidates

1. Please describe your commitment to creation of affordable housing initiatives in Chapel Hill.

I’m dedicated to continuing our Town’s commitment to providing affordable housing in Chapel Hill.

We need to re-evaluate, though, our current initiatives, our capability to manage our affordable housing stock and to rebalance the types of housing we’re currently providing.

With that, we also need to adopt fiscal policy that helps folks keep the most affordable housing they have – their current homes. We’re already seeing a trend of long-term residents, after decades of contributing to our community, being “shown the door”.

Those just starting out, can’t even get their foot in the door without substantial incomes.

Finally, we need to make sure our Town’s growth policies align with our housing goals.

RAM Development, the Town’s private partner on the Lot #5 boondoggle, is proposing to replace the somewhat affordable apartments with hundreds of big-ticket condos. Developments that displace existing affordable housing stock, like Hillsborough 425, are part of Chapel Hill’s future.

We need to make sure, though, that we anticipate the consequences of those displacements.

2. Please give your opinion about the actions taken by Town Council in the last 4 years to increase the stock of affordable housing in Chapel Hill.

I commend the Council for their intent. I applaud their successes. But, we could’ve done better.

Too much in lieu money, not enough square footage. Necessary reform in managing our housing stock or being able to adapt to changing conditions left undone for too long. Opportunities like Roger Perry’s %30 offer at East 54 or Greenbridge’s Northside neighborhood in-fill proposal missed. Rebalancing the kind of housing we offer, not adequately addressed.


3. Given the current impasse with the County, what would you do as a Town Council member to proactively advance the effort to find a new site for the IFC Men’s Residential Facility?

a. Would you oppose locating the facility in certain parts of town (e.g., downtown; near Seymour Center)?

I would like to see the IFC split the food service and the shelter functions. As far as the Men’s Shelter, our Town – if a leadership vacuum exists at the county level – has a responsibility to manage this process. I believe the Town should work with the IFC, proactively, along four basic thrusts.

One, develop criteria that incorporates both the IFC’s requirements for just the shelter component and our Town’s goals for development, transit and neighborhood preservation.

Transit opportunities, accessibility to health and other social services are a few of the criteria I would suggest.

Two, once we have the mutually developed criteria, find the site that best suits our joint needs. Our community needs to be involved in both the development of relevant criteria and the selection of the site.

Locating on Homestead makes sense, especially over Eubanks or Millhouse but there might be better sites based on the decision matrix the IFC, other interested parties and the Town develops.

Three, our Town could provide some logistical support to the IFC in developing a task list to move the shelter.

The Chamber asked me if I’d support pulling the IFC’s lease on the existing shelter location. No way I did say that our Town should help develop a punch list of items with specific performance goals and a timeline to hold the IFC to – but taking a punitory tack is – in my estimation – a poor strategy.

Four, we need to bring our community into the process early, educate the public on the relevant issues and, proactively, publish a guide on how the Council will measure the success of this project. If Council affirms, as I believe we’ll be able to do, that the population at the Men’s Shelter will not increase criminal activity in surrounding neighborhoods, we should already be prepared to assess that activity and report back if reality matched our projections.

4. What new programs do you envision to increase the stock of affordable homes in Chapel Hill?

a. Do you think priority should be given to one type of affordable housing (e.g., transitional housing, special needs, rentals, small condo’s, larger owner occupied detached homes) over another?

We need to rebalance our housing stock based on a few criteria. First, what is the most diverse kind of stock we can reasonably manage using existing resources? Second, look at partnering on denser developments like Raleigh’s Carlton Place (I wrote about this development here: http://citizenwill.org/2007/03/21/raleighs-carlton-place-a-downtown-affordable-housing-commitment-worth-emulating/ ). Third, like Carlton Place, re-evaluate rental housing within our current mix.

b. What type of affordable housing should be built in Carolina North and on the Greene Tract?

I would like to see affordable housing developed on the Greene Tract that is akin to that of the Homestead Park neighborhoods. I would also like the housing to be on the eastern side of the tract to integrate into those neighborhoods, take advantage of existing and new amenities, be closer to existing transit, take advantage of new transit capabilities (depending on what happens at Carolina North) and avoid damaging some of the more ecologically sensitive areas.

The University has suggested that housing on Carolina North will be market driven. I would like to see a mix of units that parallels the stock that UNC commissions.


5. In the last year, Town Council has approved three mixed-use developments: 54 West, Greenbridge and Ram’s Lot 5. Under Chapel Hill’s Inclusionary housing policies these developments will generate almost 100 affordable one and two bedroom condo units. However, these units will not serve lower income families with children.

a. In your opinion, do current policies provide the types of affordable housing that are really needed? If not, what should be changed?

As you might be aware, I’ve been critical of the Town’s Lot #5 development for a number of reasons. The project is fiscally irresponsible, the original affordable housing stock was not family friendly, the affordable housing parking was off-site (second class citizens), the condo fees were steep and not capped, the condo units – especially the larger ones – will most probably server the student community, measurable energy efficiency and environmental standards were dropped, and on and on. You can read my web site – citizenwill.org – for a detailed discussion on these and other Lot #5 ills.

For all my criticism of the majority of the Council’s decision to take on this money pit, I am happy that Cam Hill did accept my recommendation to resize some of the affordable units to accommodate families. Will families find them inviting? I’m not sure.

Considering Lot #5’s location, I’m quite concerned that the Council never took my call to look at affordable living as well as affordable housing seriously. What is the cost of living in one of these units if you should be on the lowest economic rung of those that can purchase a unit? Will the economics of that location end up making this housing more transitional in nature than was originally anticipated?

The units at East54 strike me as being more family friendly. I was encouraged, at least until the Harris-Teeter moved, that a mix of services were within easy reach. I was discouraged though by the Landtrust’s assessment that these units would be transitional in nature. And, of course, continue to be concerned we couldn’t take advantage of the developers offer to build %30 affordable housing.

With Greenbridge, I believe our philosophy of integrative units, a good goal, interfered with an excellent opportunity to acquire more square footage. The rejection of the proposal to build family units within an existing adjacent neighborhood was disappointing. Our Town policy should be flexible enough to adapt to exceptional opportunities that don’t diverge greatly from our housing goals.

b. Can Chapel Hill’s Inclusionary housing policies be utilized to generate affordable rental housing? If you think so, please explain how such rental housing would be managed and maintained.

From my understanding, the existing inclusionary policies don’t align with encouraging development of rental housing. As the inclusionary zoning process continues, we need to make sure rental becomes more of an option.


6. Many affordable homes are “aging” and will require significant maintenance. Is it appropriate for public funds to be used for long-term maintenance? If so, what sources of funds should be used?

I’m interested in the proposal for a rotating loan fund to assist folks in maintaining their properties. This loan fund, if created, needs to come from monies outside the general fund. I would not support additional Town debt – via bonds or other mechanisms – to fund this loan program.


7. Do you think “payment in lieu” of affordable housing construction should be accepted from builders? If so, what guidelines should be used and how should these funds be used?

Over the last five years, my sense is the Council is accepting way too much in lieu monies over square footage. We’re asking developers to create housing. Housing built now will not only help relieve some of our current demand but also be cheaper than housing built 5, 10 , 20 years out.

If we ask for housing, we should get housing.

Delay is not our friend. Easy money also erodes are discipline. Square footage over in lieu money should be our guiding principle.

Chapel Hill News: My Mistake, Not Theirs

Monday, October 15th, 2007

Hey folks. I’ve had a number of supporters contact me about the omission of my comments on Downtown in Sunday’s Chapel Hill News.

It was completely my fault.

Even though I was prepared, I submitted my answers too late for inclusion in the print edition. I did post the answers several days ago here (Chapel Hill News questionnaire).

Unlike the incumbents at the recent WCHL forum, I’m well aware of the mistakes I’ve made in my activism and campaigning over the years. As a Council member, I won’t downplay my responsibility for errors in policy. And, if elected, you won’t have to wait four years to hear me grope around trying to recall where I went astray.

Folks, I’ll make mistakes.

Unlike some of the incumbents, though, I’ll promise to work with our talented community to correct them instead of trying to dodge culpability.

Thanks for your concern.

Election 2007: Chapel Hill News Candidate Questionnaire

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

Here’s my answers to the Chapel Hill News candidate questionnaire. If the answers seem a bit terse, it’s because brevity was required.

POLITICAL PARTY AND EXPERIENCE:

  • 2005 Candidate for Town Council
  • Town Advisory Boards: Horace-William’s Citizen Comm., Downtown Parking Task Force, Technology Board
  • Other: Community Independent Expansion Comm. , Friends of Lincoln Arts Center

While I’ve collaborated with the Orange County Democratic Party for many years on GOTV efforts, been a poll sitter, literature distributor and have supported local Democrats, usually with sweat equity, in their runs, I am an
independent voter.

Until the party realistically deals with state mandated torture, the two on-going wars, the shredding of the Constitution and begins to address key domestic issues such as health care and the increasing split between segments of our citizenry, I will remain unaffiliated.


CIVIC ACTIVITIES AND OTHER AFFILIATIONS:

– Member of Electronic Frontier Foundation

WHY SHOULD YOU BE ELECTED?

Chapel Hill is at a crossroads.

Do we want a diverse community that honors the contributions of our eldest residents, where young couples and working folks can get their foot in the door or is Chapel Hill reserved for those buying publicly underwritten million-dollar condos?

Good intentions have to be backed by sound fiscal policy and real public accountability.

Borrowing millions from the rainy day fund, engaging in a risky Downtown project whose cost has escalated $500,000 to $8.5 million, when our debt payment is tripling is not responsible.

I will work to return Chapel Hill’s sound foundation so all of us can flourish.

1) Please describe your vision for downtown Chapel Hill and assess the council’s current approach to revitalization.

We need to build on the uniqueness of our Downtown by preserving and improving its human-scale charm.

Let’s invest in simple, cost effective, traditional amenities over risky, costly investments with poorly understood and unmeasured returns.

Let’s start with a family friendly pocket park, decent bathrooms, a water fountain and repaired sidewalks. Simple “you are here” directories to assist visitors in finding public and commercial services would make Downtown more inviting.

Let’s take up the low and no-cost Downtown parking improvements the Downtown Parking Task force suggested instead of raising parking rates as Hill and Foy argued for.

The current revitalization effort is open-ended, too expensive – rising from $500K to $8.5M in one year with no end in sight – and puts all our development “eggs” in one basket. The incumbents have resisted efforts to set measurable goals and make timely reports of successes or failures.

If possible, we need to restart the process using measurable goals, an appropriate and fiscally sound commitment of public resources and an approach that doesn’t risk all for an unknown return.

2) Please describe your vision for Carolina North, noting any disagreements with the university’s announced plans.

For many years I have called on UNC to use its incredible research savvy to build a world-class campus pioneering the best in “green” technologies.

To conform to that vision, UNC had to design a campus that was transit-oriented, partially housed its workforce and worked within some serious self-imposed constraints – few parking spaces, a defined energy budget, minimum footprint, cohesive infrastructure, monitored off-site noise, water, air, light impacts.

To achieve these goals, UNC must build within an established master plan.

Further, building upon the successes of the University’s Carolina North Leadership Advisory Committee (LAC), I suggested we work to create a new, sustained framework for further dialog and negotiation. That framework should incorporate the diverse interests of our community within an open, transparent process to work through the next 15 years of issues.

Doing incremental build-outs, like the recently proposed Innovation Center, without a master plan or a framework for further discussion is untenable.

3) How would you respond to persistent complaints about panhandling?

As the only candidate who works Downtown, I’ve experienced the problems first-hand.

I’ve also seen a troubling shift in our community’s attitude – troublemakers all, seems one current perception. Worse, for a few citizens, the face of that population is always a minority one.

My observation? Aggressive panhandling has taken a backseat to the loutish, aggressive behavior. Concrete steps – focusing on those bad behaviors, policing the worst offenders – should come first. Structural changes – moving benches, increasing police presence in a few places, better lighting – should reduce this sometimes frightening Downtown backdrop.

Practical approaches like “Real Change from Spare Change”, will soon shift the economics of begging – reducing panhandlers’ revenue – while bolstering our other efforts to help the homeless.

Finally, the majority of the folks hanging out Downtown are not causing problems. Some are odd but harmless. Our Downtown policy must be focused, goals-oriented – not broadly punitive if we are to succeed.

Contact

Archives

RSS Feeds:

Government

Media

Local Politics

Categories:

Monthly:

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

AffordableHousing arts Campaign CarolinaNorth Carrboro ChapelHill Chatham CitizenWill CivilLiberties Community Development Downtown durham EconomicDevelopment Elections Endorsements environment Event Government Hillsborough LocalArts LocalPolitics Lottery Media MunicipalNetworking NationalPolitics OrangeCounty Orthogonal Ruminations sustainability SxSWi Technology Transportation UNC Uncategorized WeaverStreetMktLawn Zorch

Meta