Chapel Hill Police Department’s Community Outreach – Round 2

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carolina North: Easthom – “Now is the time!”

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Council member Laurin Easthom says “Now is the time” for the community to get involved with the planning for Carolina North.

Now is the time. Now is the time to comment on Carolina North, the largest development to ever hit the Town of Chapel Hill. The Town Council and UNC Trustees are meeting monthly to hash out a development agreement that will allow UNC flexibility and assurances in its development of Carolina North. If we come to an agreement by June on how Carolina North will develop, we may be done for years in decision making on how things are done. It’s time to wake up, and get active, and come to these meetings so that UNC can hear what you think.

Damn straight, especially if you serve on one of our Town’s advisory boards. The Carolina North train has left the station and is picking up speed, “Now” is definitely the time.

More here.

Carolina North: Community needs to wake up and show up!

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

[UPDATE]

The Daily Tar Heel’s Emily Stephenson chimes in here (DTH ‘blogs). A story on yesterday’s poor turnout here.

[ORIGINAL]

Earlier today (Nov. 19th), UNC’s Board of Trustees approved the draft Carolina North design guidelines making the proposal official UNC policy.

This evening, the first in a series of informational/public feedback sessions on Carolina North was held. With the creation of the Carolina North development agreement well on its way, the Council’s explicit call to advisory boards to attend, if possible, and the aggressive schedule to meet next July’s commitment, I expected a fairly full house.

Crowded house? Not the case.

The meeting started with roughly two dozen citizens in attendance. By the time Jack wrapped his presentation covering UNC’s design intent the group of interested citizenry was down to 19. At the end of the Dr. Owen’s presentation, covering the development agreement process, only 17 non-staff/non-press folks remained. Of those, eleven were drawn from the “usual suspects” ( Fred Black, Joyce Brown, Fred Stang, David Godschalk, George Cianciolo, Lynne Kane, Mike Collins, Loren Hintz, Ed Harrison, Bob Henshaw, me).

Disappointing! As Carolina North’s development director Jack Evans noted this evening, the formal process for approval has begun. The first phase of Carolina North is on its way.

Chapel Hill residents need to wake up and show up.

Every resident will eventually be affected by Carolina North’s development. At least 5 advisory boards will be consulted on both the outline and details of the development agreement. Community groups like the Friends of Bolin Creek and Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth (well represented this evening) could play key roles in shaping the discussion.

There is quite a bit of work before the community. If we follow Pal Alto’s trajectory, the development agreement – which is, as Dr. Owens pointed out again this evening, essentially a binding legal contract – could swell to 200+ pages over the next 8 months (that’s 25 or more pages of detailed legal requirements per month – a heavy responsibility). Those pages will dictate development over a long period. Once set, unlike zoning ordinances, the ability to tweak conditions requires mutual agreement. Mistakes could be difficult to correct.

The community has a tremendous opportunity to shape the outcome at Carolina North. Both UNC and Chapel Hill’s Town Council agreed to involve the public at every point in the process. But, so far, Chapel Hill’s citizens have not turned out.

The negotiations between UNC and the Town will continue to accelerate. The momentum is building rapidly. My concern is that by the time citizens go into reactive-mode – recognizing missing elements in the plan, trying to wedge in protections beyond those outlined – the inertia will be too great and the time too short to significantly change course.

Now is the time for public concern. Now is the time for community involvement.

Because of the extensive impacts Carolina North will have on this community over the next several decades, I’ve asked Council to “bang the drum loudly”, to go beyond simply inviting the public into the process. We need to seek out folks, develop multiple avenues of engagement and draw them into the discussion. That said, at some point it comes down to whether our citizens want to shoulder their part of the burden and work on behalf of folks that will live here decades hence.

Community Oversight of the Planning Board

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

My previous posts tracking requests for information, feedback and general commentary to our Town staff and elected folks seem to be fairly popular.

I’m going to continue to post correspondence which might be of public interest.

The Town’s Technology Board (now defunct) was the first advisory board I regularly interacted with. The first meeting I attended was about six years ago (I was a lowly citizen then, not a member). I presented the group what I called a “technology manifesto” of proposed technology enhancements for the Town.

The “manifesto” outlined five major areas for improvement including cost saving initiatives, use of open source software, adoption of open standards, broadening community outreach via the Internet, tracking both the planning process and other relevant Town business processes, publishing Council and Town Manager emails, what is now called social networking sites for direct interaction between citizens and Town, WIFI to bridge the digital divide, public fiber infrastructure as an economic development differentiator, website accessibility, etc.

It was quite a list. The Technology Board seemed a bit stunned (or maybe bored) but, even so, they did me the courtesy of listening as I outlined my plan of action.

I continued working on those items when I became an official member of that board. Some of the initiatives have moved forward. Others languish. None have been completed.

One issue I brought forward was on-line video of Council and other important advisory board proceedings. Because of the sketchy minutes many advisory groups kept, I also wanted audio of all board proceedings.

When the Town lagged in their effort to put Council meetings on-line, I took it upon myself to upload (here) as many as possible. Finally the Town contracted with Granicus (which uses Microsoft’s proprietary technology) to do the same.

Now we have video (here) which is easily accessible for those folks running Winblows. Mac and Linux users are kind of cut out (see the problem with not using open standards?).

Anyway, long windup to another in a long line of re-requests. In this case, online video documenting the proceedings of our Planning Board (pretty common elsewhere, important when minutes lag Council approvals or don’t adequately capture debate).

Last week the cable-customer supported People’s Channel presented their annual report. As part of that report, they expressed an interest in doing more coverage of governmental events.

I sent this to the PC’s Director Chad Johnston Nov. 11th:

Hey Chad,

I’d like to follow up on Kevin’s comments last night.

I’m not sure if you are aware of my several year effort to get Council to broadcast advisory meetings, but I believe this is what Kevin was referring to.

In terms of priority, I have asked that the Planning Board be the first in line. As you know, the Planning Board’s decisions have significant impact on the community. Many other communities already broadcast their deliberations.

Do you think TPC could assist the Town in that effort?

Thanks

Here’s what I asked Mayor Foy the same day:

Kevin,

Since you brought the issue up last night. As you know, I’ve been calling for more extensive coverage of advisory board proceedings for years. Priority one, I believe, is broadcasting and posting video of all the Planning Board sessions. This is quite common elsewhere. Planning Board’s decisions have significant impact on the community. Beyond their process, which we could do a much better job explaining, zoning issues as a whole seem somewhat opaque to the wider community.

Televising their proceedings would go a long way towards involving our community at a point where their concerns can have the most impact.

I hope you will put this on a fast-track with Chad and company.

Thank you

To date I’ve had no response from either Chad or Kevin. I’ll update folks should I hear from them on what I think would be an excellent improvement to our governance process.

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.

Election 2007: On Environment, Early to the Carolina North Party

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

I’m a longtime watchdog of the UNC development process.

UNC, with Carolina North, started off as they had with many of their main campus projects – discounting our community’s concerns and dispensing with residents input.

I knew there had to be a better way to work towards a satisfactory conclusion for both our University and our community. So, in 2005, I renewed my call to UNC and the Town to create a more stable framework for dealing both with our common concerns and our disagreements.

I’m not sure how much my encouragement helped but UNC, by late 2005, did create a new kind of community effort. UNC’s Leadership Advisory Committee – the LAC – was created to try to find common ground among all the participants in the Carolina North process.



I threw my support behind the process, seeing the LAC as a good first start at building a more stable framework for Town and Gown relations. Both Council members, now incumbents running for office, showed little confidence in the process from the start.

Even though I supported UNC’s new effort – praising their success where appropriate – critical when they backslid into old habits – I also kept a close eye towards the eventual product – a master plan for Carolina North.

There were some initial missteps I thought needed some quick attention. One, inattention to the public input. Two, a missing commitment to measure the environmental baseline of Carolina North.

As you can see from this Aug. 24th, 2006 video, as a citizen I appeared before UNC’s LAC calling for a real environmental assay of Carolina North and making substantive improvements in their community outreach.

Finding champion species would help identify critical areas to preserve. Doing a thorough flora and fauna survey would help us establish a baseline to determine if conditions improve or diminish 10, 20 or 50 years out. Committing to measuring off-site air, noise and light pollution impacts could help build confidence in UNC’s commitment to maintaining the neighboring environment throughout our community.

What is different from UNC’s past performance is they actually integrated that criticism into their process and improved upon the overall plan.

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