Delay is Not Our Friend

Wednesday, November 7th, 2007

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

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

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

Here’s an example of my attempt to make our Town operations more sustainable from September, 2005:

3a(10). Will Raymond, regarding Agenda Item #5b, Fuel Supply, Cost and Budget Issues for the Town’s General Municipal Fleet and Transit Bus Fleet.

Mr. Raymond petitioned the Council regarding Agenda Item #5b, Fuel Supply, Cost and Budget Issues for the Town’s General Municipal Fleet and Transit Bus Fleet. He noted he had sent the Council an email regarding the purchase of bio-diesel fuel, and was pleased that shortly after that the Town had purchased 1,000 gallons. Mr. Raymond said that was a “fantastic” first step and hoped the Town would follow up on that, noting that at the present time bio-diesel fuel was 20 to 30 cents a gallon cheaper than diesel or kerosene.

Mr. Raymond said there appeared to be some confusion in the agenda item, noting there had been some discussion that they could burn bio-diesel fuel in their buses, and now they were saying that maybe they could not. So, he said, he had called Detroit Engine that made the engines for the buses, and they were recommending to their customers that a 20 percent blend was “perfectly suitable” for those engines. Mr. Raymond said that Detroit Engine had indicated they would be happy to work with the Town and could possibly get that blend higher. He encouraged the Town to contact them and take that action.

Mr. Raymond also suggested that since they were running at a deficit within the fuel budget that they today start with targeted reductions in the amount of fuel they were using. He said they still have vehicles that idle wastefully, and that yesterday he had observed a Town vehicle left idling for two hours. Mr. Raymond said with the price of gasoline that was unacceptable behavior. He asked that the Council take immediate action to conserve fuel.

THE COUNCIL AGREED BY CONSENSUS TO REFER MR. RAYMOND’S COMMENTS TO AGENDA ITEM #5b.

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

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

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

Nothing. Further delay is not our friend.

Election 2007: IndyWeek Endorsement,Booker Creek and the Incumbents

Friday, October 26th, 2007

X-posted from my campaign website.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The resource conservation district was established by Chapel Hill

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Election 2007: Money on the Street

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

X-posted from my campaign website.

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

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

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

What about “jobs on the street”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where I spent my hard-earned dollars:

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

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

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

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

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

POLITICAL PARTY AND EXPERIENCE:

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

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

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


CIVIC ACTIVITIES AND OTHER AFFILIATIONS:

– Member of Electronic Frontier Foundation

WHY SHOULD YOU BE ELECTED?

Chapel Hill is at a crossroads.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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”?

Tracey Coleman on Rogers Road: Most Popular Video To Date

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

At 1460 hits, this video is by and far the most popular one I’ve posted on youTube. No surprise to me as Tracey did an incredibly eloquent presentation on the flawed Solid Waste Advisory Board’s search for a new trash transfer site.



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.

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: 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…)

Triple the Fun at Shearon-Harris

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

Coming on the heels of last month’s $65,000 NRC fine, Progress Energy continues to promote two more reactors at their Shearon-Harris site.

There are several unresolved issues involving Shearon-Harris that makes siting further reactors more than problematic. Until waste disposal, security, adequate fire protection, safe storage and a slew of other issues are dealt with, furthering a development proposal for Shearon-Harris makes no sense.

The NRC, the industry’s partners in the nuclear mess, is holding an initial public hearing Sept. 18th in Apex.

In preparation for the Progress Energy license application for Harris, the NRC has scheduled a public information meeting on Tuesday, September 18, at the New Horizons Fellowship at 820 E. Williams Street in Apex, NC. An open house will be held from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by a NRC presentation at 7:00 p.m., after which the public will have an opportunity to ask questions. (A copy of the meeting notice is attached.)

Earlier posts on Progress Energy’s Shearon-Harris

The complete notice follows (more…)

National Conversation on Climate Action: A Local Perspective

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

As I mentioned in my post “The Climate Heats Up AND The Mayor Has A Website?”, the Town is hosting an all day “conversation” on climate change (as part of our Town’s ongoing commitment to sustainability).

The program is sponsored by ICLEI US (Local Governments For Sustainability) and the local Chamber of Commerce’s “green” coordinating arm, Foundation for a Sustainable Community.

The advertisement on the Mayor’s (www.chapelhillmayorsoffice.com) website says the program is FREE but the link takes you to this Chamber of Commerce signup page that only lists an October 4th Sustainability Workshop costing $30 for non-members.

I’ve sent an email to Director Aaron Nelson asking for a clarification.

Here’s the program:

Speakers:

Part I:

  • Lyle Estill, Piedmont Biofuels (biodiesel, sustainable community design, sustainability movement)
  • David Lee, Bland Landscaping
  • Tobin Freid, Triangle Clean Cities Program
  • Eric Henry, T.S. Designs
  • Greg Overbeck, Chapel HIll Restaurant Group

Part II:

  • Kevin Foy, Mayor of the Town of Chapel Hill
  • Anne Waple, National Climatic Data Center, NESDIS
  • Cindy Pollock Shea, Director of UNC Sustainability of Office
  • Tom Jensen, North Carolina Sierra Club

Program:

Part I:

2007 Sustainability Workshop

Location: Town of Chapel Hill Public Library, 12:00 pm – 4 :00 pm

To register and see the Part I Workshop schedule click here

Part II:

2007 National Conversation on Climate Change

6:00-7:30 pm National Conversation on Climate Change Workshop

Program Agenda: TBA

This program is free and open to the public.

For additional information about this event please email the Mayor’s Office, crobustelli@townofchapelhill.org.

An interesting program, though it’s not clear from the schedule when or how the “conversation” will occur. We’ve had some great local success using an unconference format to stimulate, educate and inform the public on technical issues.

Maybe the evening program could be reserved for a “conversation” built around and directed by the attendees?

Carolina Innovation Center: Alexandria Equities, the Citizens Partner?

Friday, July 27th, 2007

At yesterday’s UNC Board of Trustees meeting, the Carolina Innovation Center took center stage when Carolina North’s quarterback Jack Evans confirmed it as the first step in Carolina North’s development.

The center will be sited upon the recently vacated Chapel Hill municipal facility.

Jack has written a Sunday column for the Chapel Hill News, a sneak peek which has been published on their OrangeChat ‘blog.

I will be responding to his Q&A in more detail once the column is published.

As part of preparing to respond, I was doing background research on Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc., the private partner in this private-public partnership. Alexandria, as this Triangle Business Journal report notes will OWN and manage the facility.

What kind of partner in this public endeavor would Alexandria be?

If their website is any indication, not so open:

TERMS OF USE

The www.labspace.com World Wide Web site (the “Site”) is a copyrighted work belonging to Alexandria Real Estate Equities, Inc. (“Alexandria”) and its suppliers. Alexandria grants you the right to access and use the Site subject to the following terms and conditions (the “Terms of Use”). PLEASE READ THE TERMS OF USE CAREFULLY. BY ACCESSING THE SITE, YOU AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS BELOW. IF YOU DO NOT WISH TO BE BOUND BY THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS, YOU MAY NOT ACCESS OR USE THIS SITE.

The FIRST thing one sees on the company’s website, http://www.labspace.com/, is their TERMS OF SERVICE asking you to bind yourself to their conditions.

If you read through the 1182 words, agree to the 12 legal clauses, you’re allowed in, bound, I guess, in virtual chains forged of legalese.

I’ve used the Internet before there was an Internet. I’ve learned a few things surfing the Web.

One thing I’ve learned? A company that throws legalistic mumbo-jumbo in your face and demands your acquiescence before entry is either woefully over-staffed with paranoid legal talent, in some kind of trouble, been burned by bad PR, has no sense of customer service or some kind of witches brew of all those reasons and more.

Maybe Alexandria just needs a ticket on the Cluetrain express?

Yes, there could be quite legitimate reasons for raising the Web wall but, at least based on this not so friendly “Howdy Do”, I have to wonder what kind of partner Alexandria will be….

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