Festifall 2011: Welcome to Willville

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

By all accounts, yesterday’s Festifall was a resounding success. Carolina Blue skies, comfortable temperatures and a diverse program of activities beyond vendor-provided art brought folks out.

This is the second year I helped organize the event as a member of the Town’s Festifall planning committee. Starting Spring, the committee’s duties revolve around brainstorming activities and entertainments, providing logistical support to Parks and Recreation and working on the big day.

Last year, I arrived at 5:30am and left at 8:00pm. This year I only made it to 5:30pm. While quite fun, it can be a long day of lugging equipment, setting up venues, marking booth locations (my specialty), cycling around booths to help folks, and, essentially, being an adjunct gofer for regular staff.

My duties the last two years have been fairly broad but my main portfolio has been soliciting and managing the community group area – Willville as last year’s committee dubbed it.

Why Willville?

When I joined the committee in 2010, there was a serious discussion of removing the community element entirely from the event. Some art vendors had apparently complained about sharing a wall with peace protestors, environmentalist, mental health advocates and other “pedestrian” community groups. A few attendees complained that they didn’t come to Festifall to have broader community-oriented issues thrust upon them.

This was an art event, by god, and whatever might detract from sales should be eliminated!

Festifall, with the cancellation of Apple Chill, is the sole remaining Town-sponsored multipurpose event. Carrboro, who we often look to for community participation inspiration, routinely makes room for community organizations – often putting them front and center – at their events.

This is a community-sponsored event – an excellent opportunity to showcase Chapel Hill’s diverse community interests and creativity – why wouldn’t we want to be more like Carrboro in our emphasis?

In 2010, in a bit of a Pyrrhic victory, we maintained the community program at the cost of segregating the majority from the main thoroughfare. Like the displaced of Hoover’s 1920s, pushed back along the fence line, not quite out-of-sight, these groups access to Festifall’s visitors is greatly diminished.

I was a bit of a bear of the subject in 2010, to the point that the committee started to joke that the ghettoization was akin to creating a new Hooverville which they dubbed “Willville”.

That joke carried over this year as I continued to vigorously lobby on behalf of expanding the presence of our local community groups.

For all the good-natured joshing, I’m happy to be associated with “Willville”.

With that in mind, I have a few after-the-event suggestions for next year’s committee:

  • Mix community groups in with the rest of the crowd. We found room for sponsors, the local fire and police departments, a few Town programs – let’s make these groups first class citizens of the event.
  • If it’s deemed too much of a hurdle to integrate the groups into the broad milieu, at least let them setup on the curb instead of being pushed to the rear.
  • Reduce the fee for these groups. $100, $85 or even $65 can be a real obstacle to some organizations. $50, at the most, seems reasonable. Yes, that means revenue will be down as prime spaces which could rent for $100 (or more, given the nasty budget mess Chapel Hill has) but the event has been cash positive the last few years. A few lost bucks to support our community is a good trade-off
  • Remove logistical impediments which make setup and teardown more difficult for these groups than everyone else.

I have really enjoyed working with local residents, Town staff and community groups on this event. The committee, working with a very receptive events planning staff, has down an excellent job diversifying the event – showcasing Chapel Hill’s interest in dance, music and the culinary arts.

In a couple weeks, we’ll have a debrief of the day and work to build on our successes. If you attended the event and have suggestions, please leave a comment.

Kudos to all the great volunteers, the staff and committee of Festifall.

Our Next Police Chief

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Civilian Review Board: Process Lurches Forward

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[UPDATE:] Joe had Indy comments opened.

A Busier Week: University Square Meeting, Aug. 18th

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

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

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

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

More information here.

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

The list as it now stands:

Coming Events: Summer Slumber? Not!

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Summer in Chapel Hill can be somewhat slow as far as community initiatives. Council is on hiatus. UNC downshifts. Most folks have their hands full dealing with the heat, their jobs, kids home from school, vacations.

Summer, though, is not always a time for sluggish vigilance. For instance, I learned many years ago UNC’s favored tactic of launching potentially controversial development initiatives or making, quietly, substantial changes to existing development plans, during the summer doldrums. While UNC’s transparency has improved since the Moeser era, the record is sometimes spotty. For instance, as summer began the sharp contrast between UNC’s commitment to transparency during the Carolina North development agreement process and the quiet introduction of site proposals made June 21st to the Corps of Engineers.

While the cat is away….

UNC, of course, isn’t the only local institution to strategically start or stop potentially unpleasant, at least to the public, initiatives while most residents are off-line. The County, Town and other local groups have counted on a somewhat soporific citizenry ignoring substantial shifts in direction in the heat of the summer. While counter to the many pledges of greater transparency, the trick often works.

Mid-summer policy shifts, though, also happen as staff, freed from pesky community and elected folks intervention, make strides on the pile of work before them.

One good example, the local Municipal Planning Organization’s Hwy. 54-I40 corridor study, has moved forward at an accelerating pace. The MPO, a joint effort by Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Durham to manage regional growth, is formulating a set of development policies which will have wide ranging impacts on Chapel Hill’s eastern entrance (somewhat marred already by ugly East54, et. al.).

Public comment was to be cultivated during three outreach sessions but that input, at least based on my reading of the current draft, owes more to fitting public commentary to an established agenda than changing course based on valid public concerns. The clock is ticking on this initiative, which simmered during Spring and is reaching full boil now. Council will be asked to review the plan mid-September, and, as of now, hasn’t really set a schedule for Chapel Hill residents to weigh in (in other words, what is before us now might substantially be what is adopted).

While, at first glance, the Hwy 54/I-40 corridor study might seem a bit abstract, of little consequence now, its tenets will come into play quite soon when developer Carol-Ann Zinn pushes Ayden Court v2.0 this Fall. Ayden Court was a proposed development which ran afoul of fowl. Concerns about maintaining a local waterfowl conservation area played a role in v1.0’s demise.

There are many other pots simmering, some of which are beginning to emit steam.

Two meetings, the Glenn Lennox Neighborhood Conservation District which shifted from information gathering to its next phase and the presentation of the latest Campus-to-Campus Connector draft proposal, have already occurred (don’t worry, I made copious notes which I plan to turn into posts …. soon … ).

Here’s is a short list of coming events and meetings which you might want to consider attending as August speeds to an end:

  • Saturday, Aug. 14th, 11:30am-6:30pm. Rogers Road Back to School Bash. More here.
  • Saturday, Aug. 14th, 5:30pm-7:30pm. The People’s Channel Live from Carrboro’s Orange County Social Club. More here and WCHL1360 report here.
  • Monday, Aug. 16th, 5:15pm at Town Hall Council Chambers. Public Information Meeting: IFC Community House Men’s Shelter.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 17th, 5:30pm. 1st floor conference room. Civilian Review Board Council Committee. Controversial citizen review board to monitor Chapel Hill Police Department.
  • Tuesday, Aug. 17th.

    ORANGE COUNTY, NC – The Orange County Board of Commissioners will hold a Public Hearing on Tuesday, August 17, 2010 during its regularly scheduled meeting. The meeting starts at 7:00 p.m. at the Department of Social Services Office, 113 Mayo Street in Hillsborough.

    The Public Hearing during the meeting will provide an opportunity for the public to comment on the potential uses for funds from a possible one-quarter cent (1/4¢) additional sales tax in Orange County, NC.

    During the 2007 legislative session, the North Carolina General Assembly granted county boards of commissioners the authority to levy, subject to voter approval, an additional one-quarter cent county sales and use tax.

    On June 15, 2010, the Board of Commissioners approved a resolution calling for a special advisory referendum on November 2, 2010 on a potential one-quarter cent (1/4¢) additional sales tax in Orange County. The November 2, 2010 ballot question will ask Orange County voters to vote either for or against a local sales and use tax at the rate of one-quarter cent in addition to all other state and local sales and use tax.

    It is projected the one-quarter cent county sales and use tax would generate approximately $2,300,000 for Orange County on an annual basis. If the voters approve the referendum on November 2, 2010, implementation would not start until April 1, 2011 and generate approximately $575,000 during the remainder of current fiscal year (FY 2010-11) that ends on June 30, 2011.

  • Thursday, Aug. 19th, 5:30pm. HR conference room Town Hall.Planning Board Shelter Committee.
  • Monday, Aug. 23rd, 5:15pm. Chapel Hill Town Hall Council Chambers.Ayden Court Development review.

Let me know if I’ve missed anything!

Eve Carson: Ripples of Hope

Friday, November 7th, 2008

Eve Carson was universally lauded by the local community for epitomizing the Carolina Way. Her friends honor her by ensuring that her contribution to our community continues.

Linda send out this reminder.

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The death of Eve Carson last year was a tragic moment that stunned us all. In the months since Eve’s death, students have planned ways to remember her and the things she loved and cared deeply about.

Come participate in the inaugural Eve Carson Memorial 5k for Education on Saturday, November 15th, 2008. Gather at Polk Place behind South Building for registration at 8:00 a.m.; the race will begin at 10:00 a.m. Children’s activities will be available. Kids under 7 run for free and dogs on leashes are welcome to run.

Go to the website http://educationforeve.com for information, registration options and a way to donate even if you don’t run.

The Pi Beta Phi sorority and Phi Delta Theta fraternity have organized this great community activity to raise funds in memory of Eve. Two thirds of the total proceeds will go to Eve’s scholarship foundation and the remaining third will be split between First Book, a nonprofit that gives new books to preschool children from low-income families, and the Clyde Erwin Elementary School in Onslow County.

Get your running shoes laced up and join us on Polk Place on November 15.

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.

Election 2007: Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

This year the NRG decided to vet the candidates via email. In 2005 they held interviews and presented the audio responses. Trying to be thorough, I went a bit overboard this year. Figuring no one would want to wade through 10 pages of answers, I tried to boil down this final response to the NRG.

In its Comprehensive Plan, Chapel Hill is committed both to denser urban development and to protection of existing neighborhoods. Do you see any conflict between these goals and what do you feel is the best way to achieve them?

There are trade-offs, thus conflicts between the goals of high density and neighborhood protection.

To start, in any discussion of density we need to establish the limits of growth. I’ve been using the concept of “carrying capacity” as a guide.

Carrying capacity is a multi-dimensional evaluation of an ecosystems ability to maintain a particular population. In biology, this usually means water, food and habitat. In Town, we need to add, for instance, the ability for to maintain a diverse and healthy socio-economic balance within our community. We all can’t live in million dollar condos or pay an extra couple hundred bucks in taxes each year.

We don’t currently assess density to that level of detail. I believe we should at least start thinking within those terms as it will help us create a more sustainable outcome.

Another general problem with our comprehensive plan is that our process for upgrading our goals as our understanding improves is broken.

We need to implement a continuous review process, as suggested by the former chair of the Planning Board, to review our goals in light of achievements to-date, successes and failures. Not only do we need to be more nimble in managing our Town’s comprehensive plan, we need to be much more inclusive in drawing upon our community’s expertise.

Three recent omissions in our planning process provide examples of where we need to improve.

(more…)

Election 2007: Sierra Club Endorsement

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

I do know that the Sierra Club, in 2005, thought I was a candidate well-suited for addressing our Town’s environmental issues.

Will Raymond has been one of the most outspoken and effective citizen activists in Chapel Hill in recent years. We look forward to him using his talents to advocate for the environment as a member of Town Council. In particular we are excited about his initiatives to promote energy efficiency in town buildings. He will also work to protect lesser known creeks in the Chapel Hill area and to minimize the number of single occupancy vehicles causing air pollution and traffic congestion at Carolina North.

We strongly encourage Sierra Club members and any residents of Chapel Hill who care about the environment to support these four candidates in the November 8th election. They are the best hope for a Town Council that will always make reducing environmental impact a top priority as Chapel Hill grows bigger.

With two years of additional activism – on Carolina North, energy efficiency, open space and environmental protections, Roger Road, environmental standards – by the very measure the Club used in 2005, one might expect a 2007 endorsement.

Over the last two years, I knew I had built a solid reputation for putting our environment front and center. I brought to the table a number of established innovative solutions for reducing environmental impacts, promoting sustainable alternatives and reusing/recycling wasted resources.

Above all, I kept it simple: “Walk the talk.”

As recently as this Spring, when our Council wavered on eco-friendly standards for their Downtown development, I was there making the case for measurable goals. Three of the incumbents, Hill, Strom and Greene, voted for their public-private project even though the developer refused to be held to a goal of %20 energy reduction as measured by acceptable standards.

On the same project, I was there first on the hazardous waste remediation – sizing our obligation, funding the effort accordingly. The same three incumbents downplayed the costs to our Town’s open-ended obligation to clean up that environmental mess.

I’ve supported mandating ASHRAE and AIA 2030 environmental standards for energy efficient buildings, well beyond what some of the incumbents have called for.Beyond that, over the last two years I’ve lobbied (and successfully got) the Town to purchase bio-fuels for its fleet, though I’ve yet to get the majority to agree to targeted reductions in fuel use.

I’ve called for a stronger emphasis on reducing noise and light pollution, including adopting the precepts of the Dark Skies Initiative

As part of the Horace-William’s Citizens Committee (HWCC), I brought metrics to the environmental assay process – setting goals, discussing methodologies for measuring achievement of those goals.

Unfortunately, that necessary additional work was canceled when the Mayor pulled the plug on the HWCC. Fortunately, UNC’s Leadership Advisory Committee on Carolina North did listen and made a serious environmental assay of the Horace-William’s property a key requirement for moving forward.

On other issues, preserving open space, using the wasted landfill gas (LFG) for Town operations, teaming with the County on bio-fuels production, I have been at the forefront – calling for specific measures that would not only improve our local ecology but recycle/reuse wasted resources (two bangs for the same buck).

Whether it was right-sizing our Town’s vehicle fleet (still not done after a commitment to do so over 4 years ago), calling for the Town to get Duke Energy to use much more efficient light fixtures in our street lights (6 years now without action by Council), using technology to reduce car trips to the new Town Operations Center (ignored, and no longer championed by the dissolved Technology Board) – my efforts have been backed by solid, detailed, research and marked by a pragmatic, practical approach to solving problems.

Throughout, I’ve called on our Town to “walk the talk.”

Where was the concern for tree protection, for instance, when Southern Park was clear cut? Where was the commitment to carbon reduction (CRED) by reducing our Town’s fuel use or replanting appropriately at the new Town Operations center?

Lots of talk, but very poor follow through. Deeds, in the case of our incumbents, don’t always follow the words.

But it hasn’t just been about the environment. What about social justice?

Strangely ignored by our local Sierra Club, the environmental consequences of siting the landfill, and, now, the trash transfer station in the Rogers Road community have been well known for years. I remember two of the neighborhoods representatives, Fred Battle and Rev. Campbell, asking for relief at a Council meeting nearly eight years ago (and many times since).

They were asking Chapel Hill to make good on promises made a decade prior – to show some basic, decent, human concern.

The burden has only increased over the years but our elected folks have just not responded adequately to our neighbors just concerns. Many of their concerns – slowing down traffic, picking up spilled litter, improving the safety along Rogers Road – could be addressed by low cost means. Our Town, which has dumped trash in their backyards, could certainly allocate some funds to deal with the sewer and water problems.

Yet, two of our incumbents, Jim Ward and Bill Strom, over eight years, have moved slowly, if at all, to address this case of obvious environmental injustice. In spite of escalating requests, over the last four years, Cam Hill and Sally Greene joined Bill and Jim in mostly ignoring the pleas of our neighbors.

Yes, there was murmured concern but when it came to making measurable progress – the results were anemic – and quite unsatisfying to the Rogers Road community.

Not only have I spoken out on behalf of our neighbors, I’ve documented their case and have made specific proposals for addressing some of their concerns.

Why the Sierra Club refuses to address this environmental injustice in their own backyard I don’t know.

I do know that when I asked their political committee why I wasn’t asked about this glaring issue during my interview, two of the members told me that they thought it wasn’t part of the Club’s or Chapel Hill’s docket. I pointed out that the next Council will definitely be ruling on the County’s solid-waste plans and Rogers Road – even if we dispense with common neighborly courtesy – is squarely our Town’s concern.

In the recent League forum you can compare my response to those of the incumbents (40 minutes in).

Once you review the footage, I’d ask, “Who would you want standing in your corner?”

In 2005, the Sierra Club said I was a candidate well-suited for addressing our Town’s environmental issues:

Will Raymond has been one of the most outspoken and effective citizen activists in Chapel Hill in recent years. We look forward to him using his talents to advocate for the environment as a member of Town Council. In particular we are excited about his initiatives to promote energy efficiency in town buildings. He will also work to protect lesser known creeks in the Chapel Hill area and to minimize the number of single occupancy vehicles causing air pollution and traffic congestion at Carolina North.

Yes, these last two years, I built upon that activism – on Carolina North, energy efficiency, open space and environmental protection – the Sierra Club endorsed.

But I knew this year, because of Sierra Club politics at the State level, and because of my repeated calls to the Sierra Club’s leadership to take a principled stand on a number of environmental issues, I had very little chance to secure an endorsement. I had some small hope that the Club would surmount the politics and select the candidates that have shown the courage to “do” over those that have had the opportunity to “do more” and haven’t.

So, a small hope but little expectation. Given the Club’s assurance that they would carefully review my record, I did expect they would get my name right:

Dear Ray,
One great thing about Chapel Hill is that fact we have so many candidates with positive ideas about the environment and who have contributed to the community. Based upon the interviews, forum, voting records and other information we made our recomendation to the state Sierra Club. I’m glad to hear about your concerns about carrying capicity for Chapel Hill and hope you will continute to pursue them, however we decided to endorse other
candidates who had more experience. Thank you for spending time with us to share your ideas and thoughts and of
course, please keep on talking them up.
I was unable to post the forum. I am having copies made. If you contact me after Tuesday I can lend you a copy of the DVD.

Sincerely,
Loren Hintz

Voting records? I’ll have to wait for that opportunity. On every other 2005 Club expectation, I delivered.

As far as sharing my ideas and “talking them up” to promote a sustainable community that lives within the limits of its “carrying capacity” Loren, you can count on that.

Sincerely.

Morris Grove Elementary School

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

Mia Burroughs is reminding folks that they have until October 31st to help name the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools (CHCCS) newest elementary school out on Eubanks Road, near the Rogers Road neighborhood

The newest school is located adjacent to the former Morris Grove elementary school, a school created to serve the educational needs of the local black community.

The Morris Grove school was created in the late 1800s by Morris Hogan, son of a female slave and her owner. A farmer and local statesman, Hogan put his own land and money into the one-room wooden schoolhouse. The state paid the salaries of two instructors, who, depending on the decade, taught six, seven or three grades.

Patrick Winn, Chapel Hill News, Feb. 10th, 2007

Morris also had a long-standing passion for education as a passport to a better life for his own and other black children. Yet in the late 1800s, the Orange County school board had few funds for school construction and operation. To fill the void, the board sanctioned the opening of many simple, usually one-room, segregated schools that were built and operated by local individuals or groups.

Morris won permission to create the Morris Grove Elementary School, using his own land and funds, at what is now 402 Eubanks Road. It is remembered as a simple frame structure with only pump water, outdoor toilets and a Spartan interior heated by a wood stove in cold weather. Instruction for six grades was taught by one teacher. The school probably stayed in operation from the 1880s to the 1920s, until tax-based public schools took over. All of the Hogan children and some of the grandchildren attended it.

Doug Eyre, Chapel Hill News, Nov. 17th, 2006

Naming the new school Morris Grove would not only honor a slice of our community’s history but serve as an excellent educational reference point for students. Even in the supposedly progressive environs of Chapel Hill, we’re still working to bridge historical divides.

And only knowing where you’ve been can you get where you are going.

Please cast your vote in favor of Morris Grove by answering this CHCCS online survey.

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.

Hail to Our New Chief: Brian Curran Takes the Helm

Monday, September 24th, 2007

[UPDATE:] Not 15 minutes went by before I got the chance to congratulate Chief Curran in person. He was making his rounds through the Northside neighborhood (I noticed him rolling around Town before – he doesn’t seem to be much of a desk jockey).

[ORIGINAL]

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

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

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

Today Roger announced the permanent appointment of Brian to Chief.

Concurrently, Roger set some specific goals that will keep Brian busy over the next couple years.

To: Mayor and Town Council
From: Roger L. Stancil, Town Manager
CC: Senior Management Team

Date: September 24, 2007

Subject: Appointment of Brian Curran as Police Chief

I am proud to appoint Brian Curran as the Chief of Police of the Town of Chapel Hill. This appointment is effective immediately.

Since April 1, 2006, when Chief Gregg Jarvies retired, Brian Curran has served as our Interim Chief. During that time, he has exhibited the qualities that our community said they wanted in a chief during a series of community focus groups. As I made my decision, I reviewed the notes of those focus groups carefully. The words they used describe the behaviors and characteristics I have seen in Brian: Fair, honest, well-rounded law enforcement experience, understanding Chapel Hill, experience with University relations, understanding of neighborhood needs and concerns, leads by example, decisive, team player, experience with managing large gatherings of people, ability to relate to everyone in the community, good manager, approachable.

Having seen those behaviors, I have decided Brian is the best person to lead our Police Department and become a part of the Town’s Senior Management Team as we work collaboratively to make Chapel Hill an even better place to live.

Brian has worked for the Town of Chapel Hill since 1982. He began work in the Parks and Recreation department. He then served as a non-sworn communications specialist with the Police Department before becoming a Public Safety Officer in 1987. He has served in various roles in the department that give him a broad view and an understanding of the department and the community. I have attached his resume for your information.

The process.

As stated above, I carefully reviewed the characteristics of a chief of police as stated by the various community, employee, management team and Town Council focus groups earlier this year. I also reviewed the matrix of leadership characteristics that evolved from those focus groups. I reviewed the remaining finalists in the original round of applications as well as the applications received since we readvertised the position in July. I assessed the behavior of Chief Curran since he became interim chief in April. I asked the interview panel from our assessment center, supplemented by other assessors, to interview him and provide feedback. Based on the behavior I observed in his interim role and the feedback from the interview panel, I determined that Brian has demonstrated the characteristics sought by our community and is the best person to lead our police department.

The charge.

I have charged Brian with the following goals:

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

I look forward to working with Chief Curran.

As so do I, Roger. I especially like the goals Roger has set our new chief. Community policing needs to be a reflexive ethic of our department. Developing AND RETAINING our young turks will serve the Town well over the next few decades. And working to encompass the diversity of our community should make our law enforcement officers task smoother.

Congratulations Chief Curran.

Rogers Road Community: Honor the Promises!

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

Speaking on behalf of her neighbors, Neloa Jones made an unprecedented plea to the Orange County Assembly of Governments to “honor the promises!”



Direct link to video.

I cannot do justice to Ms. Jones passionate eloquence in trying to condense her statements but if I was forced to summarize, I would simply say her and her neighbors are demanding deeds and not words.

Election 2007: Sierra Club Interview

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

X-Posted from Will Raymond for Town Council 2007:

The local Orange-Chatham Sierra Club participates in the local election process two ways: endorsing candidates and sponsoring a forum.

Last Sunday, Chairman Bernadette Pelissier, Political Chair Loren Hintz and member Matthew Scheer interviewed me on behalf of the Sierra Club to determine if I qualified for an endorsement.

Questions spanned local zoning policy, a discussion of good and bad infill, personal commitment to environmental protection and Carolina North.

Folks that read CitizenWill already have a good idea about where I stand on many of these issues.

Surprisingly some issues, like local waste management, the trash transfer station and Rogers Road community’s complaints, our storm water utility policy or in-town open space preservation didn’t make the list. Of course, you can only fit so much into a 45 minute interview.

I appreciate these members taking the time to review my thoughts on Carolina North, zoning policy, pragmatic carbon reduction strategies, transit, etc. (I tried to cram way too much into my answers and digressions).

The Chapel Hill forum takes place next Tuesday, September 25th, 7-9pm at the Chapel Hill Town Hall. The event will be broadcast on our local public access channel.

In 2005 I did secure the local club’s enthusiastic endorsement. Here’s what they said two years ago:

Will Raymond has been one of the most outspoken and effective citizen activists in Chapel Hill in recent years. We look forward to him using his talents to advocate for the environment as a member of Town Council. In particular we are excited about his initiatives to promote energy efficiency in town buildings. He will also work to protect lesser known creeks in the Chapel Hill area and to minimize the number of single occupancy vehicles causing air pollution and traffic congestion at Carolina North.

We strongly encourage Sierra Club members and any residents of Chapel Hill who care about the environment to support these four candidates in the November 8th election. They are the best hope for a Town Council that will always make reducing environmental impact a top priority as Chapel Hill grows bigger.

We’ll know by mid-October if the work I’ve done since – on Carolina North, as a member of the Horace-William’s Citizen Committee sub-committee on environment, tracking and publicizing the landfill/transfer site problems on Rogers Road – will secure an endorsement in 2007.

Election 2007: The Chamber’s Yes, No and Unsure Questionnaire

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

X-Posted from my 2007 Campaign web site.

Even though the Chamber made it clear that extended replies where not welcomed in the 2007 questionnaire ( Election 2007: The Chamber’s Yes, No, Unsure – Again!), I took the opportunity to answer each of their questions beyond the constraints of “yes, no, unsure”.

The questions are broad, open to interpretation and, on occasion, leading. How would you answer the Chamber’s questions?

In case the Director omits my business background, as he did in 2005, I worked for Northern Telecom for many years, winning a couple President’s Awards and a Chairman’s Award for Innovation (the first IT person to do so). I have been a CIO/CTO of a couple successful startups, including Reged.com which sold to FiServ for millions. As an entrepreneur I was part of the crew that guided those companies to multi-million dollar revenues. I currently work for Tibco, an enterprise application integration company, specializing in XML technology and distributed Java application architectures.

Here is the questionnaire and my extended answers. You’ll note I wasn’t unsure at all:

4. Is increasing the commercial tax base in Chapel Hill an important priority for you?

YES

Even before my run for office in 2005 I was agitating for a Economic Development Officer to help develop strategic and tactical approaches to increasing our commercial tax base. Council finally hired an officer, now we need leadership with business acumen to make the best use of his services.

(more…)

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