NC Ballot: Designed For Failure?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Early voting is moving at a breakneck pace this year with large turnouts from day one.

Unfortunately, NC’s “straight party” ballot option continues to confuse.

Even if you vote “straight party”, you MUST vote for President separately!! Luckily, our new local BOE Director Tracy Reams made sure this year’s poll-workers were well trained to notify voters of this peculiar situation.

Ellie, Elijah and I usually go to the polls on election day – it is a family tradition.

I’ve voted in every major election and nearly every primary (especially since independent voters had the option) since 1980 and have usually seen my top of the ticket choice for naught but this year is different.

Change, I dearly hope, is on the way.

There are a few more days to early vote. This year, same-day registration is available (details here).

No excuse for not getting out to vote!

Early Voting Locations and Hours

Monday – Friday, October 27th – 31st, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 1st, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

MOREHEAD PLANETARIUM, 250 East Franklin Street, Chapel Hill [MAP]
CARRBORO TOWN HALL, 301 West Main Street, Carrboro [MAP]
ORANGE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY, 300 West Tryon Street, Hillsborough [MAP]

Monday – Friday, October 27th – October 31st, 12:00 Noon – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 1st, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

SEYMOUR SENIOR CENTER, 2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill [MAP]
NORTHERN HUMAN SERVICES CENTER, 5800 NC Hwy 86 North, Hillsborough [MAP]

Nov. 4th Voting Locations

Orange County Board of Elections website has more information, including a search tool to identify your particular precinct.

Can’t wait to cast my vote for a guy who unapologetically wears sandals 😉

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?

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.

CitizenWill Video: Quick Tutorial on My New Media Experiment

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

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

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

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


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

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

League of Women Voters Forum Sierra Club Forum

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

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

(more…)

Election 2007: Chapel Hill’s Diminished Environmental Credibility

Friday, October 12th, 2007

I’ve been clear – our Town’s ability to negotiate with UNC and other developers on environmental standards (or pretty much any other issue) is directly related to how well we practice what we preach.

Southern Park is a great example. The Mayor and the incumbents (sans Jim Ward) thought the difficult decision was to authorize the removal of half the trees at Southern Park to build soccer fields. I like soccer fields, but it is clear to me that the difficult decision was really one of how to align their commitment to carbon reduction (CRED) with the gross reduction of trees.

Along those lines, I’ve had a number of folks email me about the Sierra Club endorsement process. These folks know that, besides Jim Ward, I’ve called for stronger protections – protections within a measurable framework – than the incumbents I’m challenging. The talk, it appears, doesn’t always follow the walk.

I hope to enumerate those discrepancies (fuel usage, light and noise pollution, tree replacement, etc.) but, until then, here’s an example from this Spring where Jim Ward took up my call to bolster our Town’s credibility by implementing measurable energy efficiency goals at a project WE THE PEOPLE are paying for…

X-Posted from my campaign site:

A common theme of both my activism and my campaign is that if we don’t measure the results of our policies then we can’t tell if we’re achieving our goals. Worse, if we’re trying various strategies to solve an issue, without proper oversight, we can’t select the most effective – cost-wise and goal-wise – solution to run with.

I’ve asked the Council many times over the last few years for a proper accounting on a number of issues – how much the citizens have spent on Lot #5, costs over-runs for the Town’s new Operation Center, fuel usage, reducing our street light electricity bill, etc. – but those requests have been uniformly batted down by the majority – which, this year, is most of the incumbents I’m running against.

I’ve argued that to be good stewards of the publics money, we must accurately report our failures and successes.

And to bolster our credibility, we have to “walk the talk”.



Take energy efficiency. While all the incumbents pay lip service to the concept, Jim and I were the only two folks running this year that called for specific, measurable energy reduction goals for the Lot #5 project. Yes, the LEEDs certification process can be expensive and flawed, but relying on a developer that has already demonstrated a consistent pattern of failing to follow through on initial expectations (the promise to keep the citizens cost to $500K, for instance) to police themselves is foolhardy.

If not LEEDs, then some other objective standard was called for – a specific methodology that an independent consultant could verify.

How else do we bolster the credibility of our environmental stewardship?

As you can see from this video, Jim makes a good case for why not “walking the talk” in one sphere can directly diminish your leverage in another.

Just as I said many times prior to Jim’s statement, how can we call on UNC or any other developer to adhere to the highest standards if our Town practices “do as I say, not do as I do”?

Election 2007: League Of Women Voters Forum

Monday, October 1st, 2007

A big thank you to the local chapter of the League of Women Voters for an excellent forum this evening. Vicki Boyer, who occasionally posts on OrangePolitics kept the show moving along with a variety of audience questions.

Unlike the Sierra Club forum, the environmental and social justice issues surrounding our neighbors out on Rogers Road (of which I have spoken about numerous times) got a fairly decent airing. The $8 million Downtown Development boondoggle merited one round.

The forum’s format, a round of answers with some opportunity for give-and-take, suited tonight’s questions. I hope the public and the local media take some time to mull over our responses.

There were a few surprises from the non-incumbents: Kevin Wolff bringing up voter-owned elections, Penny Rich suggesting punishing Downtown landlords who wouldn’t fill their storefronts, Matt Czajkowski’s excellent point that Chapel Hill has become introverted.

Of course, the incumbents tried to take credit for all the successes over the last four years while trying to dodge any responsibility or account for any of the mistakes.

Some of the successes – hiring an economic development officer, developing a strategic economic development plan, the Town’s new fiber network – were issues I brought forward first.

As far as surprises from the incumbents, I appreciated Mayor Foy’s complementary observation that I have an eye for efficiency.

Jim Ward’s bit of criticism (Incumbency Is Not Enough or Nineteen Seconds Is Too Long) about the 19 seconds I went over my time on one response provided some humor.

And Cam Hill, one of the negotiators on Lot #5, quoting a citizen outlay about $1 million short of the actual figure (CHN). I’ve been up since 6am and can understand a fumble –
hope fatigue explains his sloppy accounting.

The League graciously allowed me to assist them in posting tonight’s video on the web.

I’m preparing for upload now and expect the full video to be available by tomorrow evening (I’ll post a new article when it’s done).

Oh, and the Sierra Club has since declined my offer to post their forum on the Internet. They plan to do it themselves. I’ll keep an eye on their progress and will announce its availability.

Election 2007: Recycle, Reuse

Monday, September 24th, 2007

Recycle and reuse are two environmental principles our local community follows fairly well. In that spirit, I believe our citizens will appreciate my putting frugality over novelty.

Signs are sprouting up around Town. Several of mine, it appears, were saved by some of my 2005 supporters and trotted out a little early. Thanks folks for showing some early enthusiasm.

My specialty, since 2001, is to round-up campaign signs after the election. No reason to clutter our road-sides after the deed is done.

In 2005, as I wrote here, I managed to pickup all but two signs of my signs by 7:21 am the day after the election – the final two by 9:30am.

I said then:

Why the quick pickup?

I said early on in my campaign, win or lose, my signs would not linger throughout our Town.

If there’s one discriminator the electorate takes away from this election, I hope they recall that I said it, then I did it.

I said it and then I did it. If you look at my activism on behalf of our community, you’ll see a clear track record of “walking my own talk”.

In 2006 I managed to pick-up over 2,000 signs (and several bags of adjacent litter – unfortunately, I’ve already filled two this year!).

Every year I offer to pickup any candidate’s sign and, once again extend that offer to everyone – my colleagues in the Town Council race – Carrboro races – the school board (contact signs AT citizenwill.org ).

It’s a fun way to do my part to keep our community attractive.

A common question I get is “Who designed your sign?”

I actually did, using a variety of free software tools – including GImp (Gnu Image Program) and OpenOffice. These are the kind of tools I’ve been asking our Town to adopt for the last six years. Using OpenOffice, for instance, would save hundreds of thousands in Microsoft licensing fees, something our Council is well aware of, something our Town continues to drag its feet doing.

Northern Going South

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

Another bad bit of news for RTP’s Northern Telecom.

Photo: Telecordia

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has charged four more former Nortel Networks Corp. executives with accounting fraud, alleging they manipulated reserves to change Nortel’s earnings statements on the orders of more senior officers of the Canadian networking equipment maker.

The U.S. stocks regulator said Wednesday it had filed civil fraud charges against Douglas Hamilton, Craig Johnson, James Kinney and Kenneth Taylor, the former vice presidents of finance for Toronto-based Nortel’s optical, wireline, wireless and enterprise business units.

In March, the SEC filed civil fraud charges against ex-CEO Frank Dunn and other executives — including former Chief Financial Officer Douglas Beatty and former controller Michael Gollogly — alleging they directed a so-called earnings management fraud to manipulate the company’s financial reports.

My Triangle career started at Northern (now Nortel) in the late ’80’s. Back then I worked for TEAM10, the DMS-10 switching side of the business. Over the next 6 years I managed to move around to various units, working on everything from manufacturing process automation to revamping the switch engineering process to writing software that managed the core central office switching equipment.

I won several Presidents Awards and was the first IT staff to get a Chairman’s Award for Innovation.

Northern Telecom (it’ll always be Northern to me) had a good energy back when I started – a vibrancy that made it fun to work there. Towards the end of my tenure, Northern was a different place. Wave after wave of layoffs. Many folks climbing the management ladder based on gamesmanship over merit.

The fun was over. The waste of talent, the incredible dissipation of the “can do” spirit was sad to see.

I kept in contact with those folks that decided to ride out the storm, looking for Northern to regain its footing, waiting for the old Northern to emerge as a technical leader once again. Unfortunately, the rot that was apparent in the mid-90’s wasn’t rooted out. It appears to have spread, as today, another 4 company officers face SEC charges.

I learned quite a bit at Northern. Great lessons in managing folks and projects. Terrible lessons on how to drive the joy out of a joyful working place.

Good luck Northern, maybe better days are ahead.

Carolina North: The Next Neighborhood For Responsible Growth Forum

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

The NRG is sponsoring a follow up forum on Carolina North August 29th, 7-8:30pm at the Chapel Hill Library.

The CHPL meeting space is quite a bit tighter so get there early.


Direct link to June NRG forum.

Dear Fellow Citizens:

Please join us for a public meeting on Carolina North Wednesday night, August 29, from 7:00-8:30, in the large meeting room downstairs at the Chapel Hill Public Library. This meeting will focus on the political and
regulatory process surrounding Carolina North, and how citizens can effectively give input.

UNC will propose a plan for Carolina North this October. Come learn how you can act to achieve the outcome that is best for our community. Our panel will include Town Manager Roger Stancil, Planning Department Head
J.B. Culpepper, a Chapel Hill Town Council member, and citizens experienced in public action.

As at our June 4 forum sponsored by NRG, we plan to reserve a large amount of time for questions and discussion.

See you there!

-Mike Collins, co-chair, Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth

The earlier forum was well-attended, as it appears Carolina North is about to get started, I hope our fellow citizens attention is as well focused.

Is the Rogers Road Community Worth $53,000?

Friday, August 17th, 2007

Being in government has its advantages.

Concerned citizens trying to get a good baseline on the cost of adding a bus route through the Rogers Road community didn’t net a response in 2005 (I know, I took a stab at it 2 years ago when I ran for Town Council).

Ahh, but if you’re a Carrboro Board of Alderman member, like Dan Coleman, running for office – presto, cost estimates nice and tidy.

From today’s emails, this interesting analysis from our Transportation department’s Steve Spade:

We have looked at the 2 options to serve Rogers Road via the HS Route that we discussed.

Option 1 – Extend existing bus

If we continue to run 1 bus but extend it north on Rogers Road 15 minutes travel time would be added to the route. Service frequency would drop to 45 minutes. Daily platform hours would be 5.9 hours daily. There would be no change in the current operating cost.

Option 2 – Add a second bus

When a second bus is added and the route is extended to Rogers Road the service frequency improves to 20 minutes. Platform hours would increase to 9.3 hours daily. The additional 3.4 hours would cost $202 daily or $52,800 annually.

Further analysis here [XLS: FIXED LINK, thanks Terri].

In 2005 I wanted to see service not only passing through the Rogers Road community but work as an element of a greater plan, sans annexation, to integrate the northern reaches of our greater community into Chapel Hill/Carrboro’s economic, social and educational life.

Since then, we’ve spent $949,025 of Federal monies on the digital notification NextBus system (which is reported to expand this Fall at a cost of ???).

Wouldn’t $53,000 , if that’s an accurate estimate, spent servicing Rogers Road and adjoining areas be a better investment in our wider community’s future?

Municipal Networking: AT&T, Another Brick in the Wall

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

I’ve been pushing for our local government to invest in community-owned networking as necessary infrastructure for the 21st century. Communities that provide neutral and widely accessible communications infrastructures will reap the benefits of greater economic activity, level the playing field vis-a-vis the digital divide and help create a new Town commons open to all our citizens irrespective of their political or other views.

To date, the Town has ear-marked $500,000 to tag-along with NC DOT’s traffic signalization upgrade project.

One argument in favor of a municipal network is that the community has direct oversight and input into its operating policies.

So, unlike a mega-corp telco like AT&T, our local community can adopt policies which don’t siphon off our emails without due legal process and protect our 4th Amendment freedoms. Or, again unlike AT&T, can sustain network neutrality, repudiate online censorship and preserve our ability to exercise freedom of speech.

AT&T did their part this weekend to make the abstract threat of mega-corporation censorship little more concrete:

After concluding our Sunday night show at Lollapalooza, fans informed us that portions of that performance were missing and may have been censored by AT&T during the “Blue Room” Live Lollapalooza Webcast. When asked about the missing performance, AT&T informed Lollapalooza that portions of the show were in fact missing from the webcast, and that their content monitor had made a mistake in cutting them. During the performance of “Daughter” the following lyrics were sung to the tune of Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall” but were cut from the webcast:

– “George Bush, leave this world alone.” (the second time it was sung);
– “George Bush find yourself another home.”

This, of course, troubles us as artists but also as citizens concerned with the issue of censorship and the increasingly consolidated control of the media. AT&T’s actions strike at the heart of the public’s concerns over the power that corporations have when it comes to determining what the public sees and hears through communications media. Aspects of censorship, consolidation, and preferential treatment of the internet are now being debated under the umbrella of “NetNeutrality.”

Check out The Future of Music or Save the Internet for more information on this issue.

Pearl Jam News, Aug. 8th, 2007

Pearl Jam? Hey, whatever you think of their music or RIAA issues, they have a point. If their performance can be censored in real-time by the only conduit carrying their message, well, it can happen in pretty much any other venue.

AT&T was caught this time. What of the next when, say, they are tempted to prune a few unflattering comments made about their monopolistic practices during the telecast of a Congressional oversight hearing?

I’ve taken a break from pushing the community owned networking agenda for a short while. Folks like fellow ‘blogger and net-activist BrianR have picked up my slack and moved forward.

I have a post coming up singing the praises of these local activists who have striven to protect our community’s ability to deploy a counter to the AT&T communications monopoly.

Until then, please hop over to Brian Russell’s Yesh ‘blog to catch up on what has been happening on the local scene.

Carolina North: What The Board Heard

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

The July 31st Carolina North community outreach meeting was supposed to cover the same ground as last week’s presentation to UNC’s Board of Trustees. While Jack Evans might have presented the same material, my guess is the community’s reception was somewhat less excepting than the BOTs.

The 4pm session ran to 5:30 and was well attended by more than the “usual suspects”. I’ve attended every session on Carolina North these last few years but understand outside demands and the funky scheduling can make attending a burden so it was nice to see most every candidate – Cam, Sally, Jim, Penny – for Town Council show up.

Some of the answers to the community’s questions were quite telling – in a sense more informative than the session itself.

The disposition of Horace-Williams is going to influence the next 50 years of our Town’s development. We need leadership that is not only aware of the issues but can negotiate well on behalf of the citizenry.

Here’s the complete video I made of the session:

Towards the end of the video you might have some difficulty understanding the questions from folks in the upper bleachers but forge ahead as Jack Evans did a good job of reiterating and responding.

UNC BOT Chairman Perry: Carolina North “…before it’s too late”

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

They say history has a way of repeating itself.

The trustees, led by new chairman and Chapel Hill developer Roger Perry, are full steam ahead on the project. Final trustee approval is expected in September, with a plan to be submitted to the town by the end of October.

“The time of talking about Carolina North is over,” Perry said. “It is time to do something. It is time to get it on the ground before it is too late.”

N&O report from today’s UNC Board of Trustees meeting..

No more “time for talking”. Does that mean that the July 31st Carolina North community outreach meeting is just for show?

[UPDATE:]

As some of you know, I try to attend many of the local meetings that influence public policy. To date, I’ve been to most every Carolina North community outreach stretching back to 2005. I attended several of the UNC-LAC meetings and have watched those and the ones I missed. Arguably, UNC’s BOT meetings are as important to setting local policy – a shame that they don’t release a video or audio record of their deliberations.

I have had an opportunity to hear a little bit more about this morning’s BOT meeting and it seems that the N&O missed a little nuance.

It appears Roger Perry was asking the UNC staff to stop talking and start moving. I don’t know if that makes much of a difference in how that negatively affects community input – same effect, twice removed – but at least it is more polite than telling the community to shut up and go away.

Again, I wish I could’ve attended to hear the BOT for myself. I wish UNC would make a timely online record – including publishing minutes – available so folks like myself don’t have to wade through others interpretations.

[ORIGINAL]

Two years ago, when I proposed a framework for a more collaborative process between UNC and our community to work through Carolina North’s issues, several local political insiders told me I was naive and acting the fool.

Sure, I knew the history of our Town’s interactions with the University – that any discussion would have to involve five distinct parties – our local elected leadership, UNC’s Moeser administration, UNC’s Board of Trustees, local activists and Carolina North’s promoters. No doubt, that’s a lot of folks to corral.

A few months after the 2005 election, UNC did create a new framework – the UNC Leadership Advisory Committee (UNC LAC) – comprised of many, not all, of the community elements I had proposed. At that time I threw what little political capital I had behind the new UNC LAC process calling on our elected leadership to leave history behind and begin anew.

Enthusiasm didn’t equal abandonment of common sense. I was quick to point out (“Chafing: Prevention and Treatment”) when UNC started to fall back on old habits.

One of those old habits was UNC’s Board of Trustees proclivity derailing, at the last minute, the careful negotiations between UNC’s administration and our local governments.

Over the last year, the BOT did show a few symptoms of using the LAC process more as a public relations smokescreen than a new start on a truly collaborative process. For instance, when they introduced a surprising and disappointing fixed timeline before the LAC had completed their primary discussions.

Concern about the BOT was not limited to those longtime citizen watchdogs who have been participating in UNC’s new community outreach process. Jack Evans, UNC’s leader on Carolina North, has expressed his frustration with the BOT commenting one time that the Board wasn’t interested in reading a 15 page summary of the projects guiding principles.

UNC’s Board of Trustees was definitely a wild-card but the inclusion of BOT member Roger Perry was supposed to make sure there would be no surprises.

Then again, Roger Perry has tried to shut down discussion before, as I noted last September after this HeraldSun 09/27/06 report

UNC trustee and local developer Roger Perry said his sense was that UW-Madison officials essentially tell the community that the university’s mission requires it to do a certain project, and then everyone goes to work on preventing negative impacts, without trying to stop the project in general.

He said he’d like to get to that point in Chapel Hill, and that it can be somewhat “insulting” when someone not connected to UNC says they really aren’t convinced the university needs to do what it says it needs to do.

I said then

Roger Perry and the rest of UNC’s Board of Trustees absolutely must address the glaring absence of any reasonable, documented, calculable return on investment before I, a single North Carolina citizen taxpayer, will be convinced of the soundness of their plans.

So, as of today, UNC has approved a building design without producing solid documentation on the taxpaying publics return on their investment. We have a firm start date but little firm understanding of the local fiscal, environmental and transit impacts.

And, as some suspected, we have evidence that UNC’s Board of Trustees are not, possibly never were, interested in working through these key issues with community participation.

[UPDATE:]

Carolina North, when fully developed, will rival today’s Hillsborough in size. I believe it will loom larger in environmental, social and economic terms.

Finally, as far as Roger, from what I’ve observed he is a patient man. Developers often are. If he’s frustrated with the pace, well, that’s forgivable. To use his new role to make haste, though, to an endpoint yet determined, well, that is neither prudent or supportable.

Election 2007: Update on Early Voting On The Move

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Following up on my post “Election 2007: Early Voting on the Move”, BOE Director Barry Garner responded with lightning speed to my request for further information:

Nothing has been decided yet however the Seymour Senior Center is an option. The board will meet on August 7, 2007 to discuss this. UNC has offered us the student union to hold one-stop early voting but my board was split on the decision at the last meeting. Since the last meeting, we have two new board members so I will have to present to options to them again.

I do not think I can justify the cost of having two sites in Chapel Hill for the municipal election. It is not our goal to undercut the GOTV efforts, however we must find a place that is accessible to all citizens of Orange County.

Due to our current voting equipment, we are unable to have super precincts. Our voting equipment PCMCIA cards can only hold 10 ballot styles and 10 precincts therefore we cannot hold super precincts until the technology is updated.

Encouraging news on the early voting front. A bit disappointing on the super-precinct issue.

Last year I went to Hillsborough to evaluate, from both the technical and “small d” democracy angles, the new models of voting equipment our county was thinking of buying (“May 2nd: Don’t Fear the Reaper, Get Out and Vote”).

I sketched out the composition of precincts in Chapel Hill/Carrboro to the salesman. Would their optical scan equipment would support a super-precinct covering those precincts? No problem, he said.

Maybe we needed to buy the super-deluxe package? In any case, I’ve offered to provide some rabble rousing to get the necessary funds to upgrade the equipment to support a super-precinct for UNC students. If you would like to join the “villagers with pitchforks”, here’s how to contact our local BOE:

Email Director of Elections Barry Garner here.

Or call or mail.

Board of Elections
110 E. King St
P.O. Box 220
Hillsborough, North Carolina 27278

Telephone: (919) 245-2350
Fax Number: 919-644-3318

CitizenWill: September 2005 to July 2007

Thursday, July 19th, 2007

[UPDATE:] As one reader notes, I’ve also created content hosted elsewhere, notably on youTube and Google Video.

Content includes the Weaver St. lawn dance protest, a “fly by” animation of what the Town’s Lot $$$5 downtown development debacle, the District 15B Superior Court forums and Rev. Campbell on the Rogers Road trash transfer station issue.

I’m particularly fond of this post (“Downtown Development Initiative: The Debate”) covering a veritable “who’s who” of interested parties supporting or criticizing the Lot $$$5 development effort.

Want to hear how not to negotiate on behalf of the citizenry? I published the sounds of seduction in this post – “Downtown Development Initiative: Listen and Learn How Negotiations Went Awry”.

[ORIGINAL POST]

The number of new visitors to CitizenWill.org has ramped up of late (maybe because I’ve had time to post again?).

For folks new to this ‘blog I’ve added an improved archive page that will reveal, at a glance, what local, state and national topics I’ve covered these last two years.

Besides CitizenWill.org, I’ve maintained my 2005 Chapel Hill Town Council campaign site, the ironically named Will Raymond Stands and Delivers, and a personal ‘blog WillVerse.

I’ve even been a guest author on the local on-line political salon OrangePolitics.

There’s some overlap between various incarnations, though each has a variety of unique postings.

Over the next week or two I will be tinkering with the innards of each to upgrade the plumbing and freshen the look. In the end it will be the same content, different wrapper. I expect the %40 (and growing) number of folks subscribed via RSS will not even notice.

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