Joining the Air Force – Authority

Friday, September 5th, 2008

As noted by Chapel Hill News Editor Mark Schultz here [OrangeChat] and here [N&O], I’ve asked the Orange County Board of Commissioners to consider appointing me to the new UNC Airport Authority (more on that here [UNC News] and here [N&O]).

Dear Commissioners,

I’m asking for an appointment to UNC’s new Airport Authority.

As a long time resident of Orange County, a citizen that has lived within a stones throw of Horace-Williams Airport (HWA) these last 15 years, a member of two Town committees interfacing with UNC on both HWA and Downtown issues (Downtown Parking Task Force), a close observer of UNC’s Carolina North planning process and frequent participant over the last 8 years in UNC’s community outreach programs, I bring a set of qualifications that I believe will help our community deal successfully with this issue.

Beyond my participation in Town and Gown relations, I’m quite familiar with the proposed sites that have been floated over the history of this issue. I also know residents affected by some of the proposed sites – notably those on the Alamance-Orange line.

As you know, I’ve also maintained a deep interest in our County’s environmental and economic sustainability and, again, believe I could bring a necessary perspective that will satisfy our citizens.

Finally, I want to be clear on my public concerns about UNC being granted, even if indirectly, sovereign powers.

I believe this was a terrible mistake by our legislature. Setting this precedent, for reasons good or bad, will probably make policy interactions with UNC-CH more difficult in days to come. Essentially, the legislature has issued UNC a huge hammer, with the power of eminent domain, that I believe should be reserved exclusively to elective government.

The consequences of this decision, unless the legislature moves to narrow the powers and limits their use to this “one-off” situation, will be far-reaching. I hope that our legislature revisits this granting of eminent domain and, if they decide to maintain their decision, inject greater community oversight and participation in that process.

That said, I am prepared to join with UNC, local officials, other citizens, to craft the best solution possible for both Orange County and UNC-CH.

Thank you for your consideration…

I further said on OrangeChat:

One reason I applied was to work to bring community input directly into the process. If you are familiar with my website citizenwill.org, you know that I try to bring concentrated research to bear in order to help our community make fact-based decisions on issues. Other than my background working on local boards , having already been involved in plotting HWA’s future, I think one of my strongest qualifications is this desire to integrate broader community awareness and participation in vital issues.

If appointed, I will do my best to document the Authority’s deliberations, publish as much of the supporting documentation as possible and provide an analysis, of course from my own viewpoint, of the progress being made. More importantly, I will work to be a conduit for the wider community’s concerns about the process, the suitability of sites and other relevant issues. I’m sure that both the appointed elective officials and UNC officials will do the same, but hopefully I can help provide community perspectives that I believe will be distinct from those.

A note on what that N&O article.

I said I thought granting the UNC, through the Authority, eminent domain power is a “terrible mistake”. Guess you could conclude that an Authority without this power lacks authority but I don’t believe this to be the case. If UNC is going to construct a new airport, we do need a framework within which the community can participate in the decision-making process.

I want to be one of our community’s representatives within that framework.

Trash Talk: Systematic is the New Watchword

Wednesday, March 14th, 2007

The commissioners asked county staff to do a more exhaustive search of sites, citing solid waste management director Gayle Wilson’s statement that the process of looking for a transfer station site hadn’t been as “systematic” as previous searches for landfill space.

From today’s N&O report on last night’s (Mar. 13th) BOCC meeting.

After reviewing the Orange County Solid Waste Advisory Board (SWAB) and Landfill Owner’s Group minutes covering the transfer station site search, I’m more convinced than ever we need a decision matrix that incorporates more dimensions than a straight engineering site selection suggests.

That matrix should assign values to social, environmental, economic, growth, transportation impacts and assess possible sites against that more “full blooded” metric. I’ll be interested in seeing if staff will first create a new process for evaluation or tailor the current criteria to narrow the search.

The lack of a systematic approach didn’t stop BOCC member Moses Carey from pushing forward for an immediate decision:

Chairman Moses Carey had pushed the board to make a decision Tuesday, citing a time crunch. A consultant hired by the county said it will take as long as four years to get a transfer station up and running. The Eubanks Road landfill is expected to be full by late 2010.

Not quite sure why taking the time for a measured approach now will greatly delay a project scheduled for 2010. Given the current status, a delay now to select more appropriate criteria – say criteria suggested by the landfill’s current neighbors – is the most prudent path.

Draft timetable from Mar. 13th’s agenda item:

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