Think Blue: Earth Action Day Apr. 9th, 2011

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Bolin Creek Restoration Project from Town of Chapel Hill, NC

Our community spends a lot of time talking “green”. We’ve encouraged developers and policy makers alike to commit, with some success, to an environmentally sustainable future. Most of the effort has been put into conserving energy, lowering the impact of development, preserving green-space and securing open-space.

“Think green” has moved, in fits and starts, from an empty mantra to being a more integral part of the development discussion. Unfortunately, the time isn’t always taken to tease out what is truly “green” and to what amounts to “green washing” in evaluating various development proposals. Sometimes the natural alignment between environmental justice and social justice is split. Some environmental concerns continue to be ignored.

For one, shepherding our limited natural water resources and adopting policies that constrain growth to live within those limits continues to get short shrift.

Chapel Hill’s Council recently reversed a policy of not tapping Lake Jordan for anything other than a catastrophic water crisis. In weakening the resolve earlier bodies showed, they opened the door to growth fueled by external resources. Our community has steadfastly supported land-use policies that try to maintain the high quality water drawn from the local watersheds. We have been told that our investment in those resources would maintain a reasonable level of growth for the next 100 years. Apparently the community’s resolve is firmer than our current Council’s.

Water is becoming the dominant limiting factor to growth for community’s all across the globe. Even in areas blessed with plentiful rainfall, maintaining safe and reliable access to water is a problem that only grows with time. As North Carolina continues to dip in and our of drought, we need to recommit to the vision of living within the watersheds OWASA has acquired on our behalf.

Along those lines, we need to think more than “green” in making decisions about how Chapel Hill and Carrboro evolve over the next few decades, we need to start thinking “blue”.

That is why I’m thrilled by the efforts of the Friends of Bolin Creek [FOBC] partnering with Chapel Hill and Carrboro in putting together an Earth Action Day which emphasizes WATER.

Starting off at 9:30am, a dedication will be held for the Baldwin Creek Restoration project [MAP]. Chapel Hill, Carrboro and the Friends of Bolin Creek partnered on this EPA 319 grant project to start reversing some of the damage caused by previous poor management practices.

Project lead Trish D’Arconte has worked hard to make “think blue” a reflexive part of Chapel Hill’s policies and will be explaining how the work at Baldwin Park is a start on a larger effort to remediate many of the impaired streams in our community.

From 10am-12pm April 9th, 2011, the FoBC’s Creek Action Tour has 9 separate events (INFO) and demonstrations reflecting on improving our local impaired watersheds through conservation, sound management and awareness.

You can learn how to make changes at your own home, in your own neighborhood, that will improve the streams in your area. The FoBC is also holding a raffle with several great prizes, including a personal tutorial on constructing a rain garden.

Chapel Hill’s Wes Tilghman (who I worked with on planning 2010’s Festifall) and staff put together an event that celebrates and highlights our community’s environmental commitment. From 12-5pm (INFO) a wide range of entertainments and exhibits will be shown at Southern Community Park. Free shuttles are available (check the website for more information).

Trash Talk: The Neverending Story…Ends?

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

[UPDATE:] WCHL’s Elizabeth Friend has a great summation here.

Over a decade ago, just as I was beginning to get involved in local issues, I heard then local NAACP President Fred Black and Roger Road resident Rev. Robert Campbell brief Council on the fairly extensive list of negative impacts our landfill was having on the Rogers Road neighborhood: rats, buzzards, landfill leachate spilling across lawns, tainted water, debilitating odors, broken sewers, dangerous roads, among others, plaguing the area for decades.

They referenced a 1972 unrecorded pledge (since disputed by local governments) by then Chapel Hill Mayor Howard Lee that the small community would get new services for taking on, at the time, Chapel Hill’s garbage burden. Further, they stated Lee claimed the landfill would only operate 10 years (1982) and that he promised obvious negative impacts would be mitigated over the whole lifespan of the project.

As of early 2000, after several extensions of the landfill’s lifespan, the small Rogers Road community still waited on those new services, necessary remediation and a time-certain for closure. Fred and Robert made a convincing case that given the dearth of leadership from the County that Chapel Hill should lead the way in finally addressing these issues. The Council wrung their hands but did little more than pass the buck back to Orange County claiming impotence in discharging that long held obligation.

The struggle to get some kind of reckoning has been long. Its been tough. There have been setbacks ( background).

Tonight, though, with unanimity the current Orange County Board of Commissioners vowed to finally make good on that 40 year old debt. What started out as a discussion of a proposal to extend the landfill’s life, again (through 2017), became a solid consensus to delay any further action contingent on the formulation of a firm, specific plan of remedying the Rogers Road community’s problems.

It started out with more than a dozen folks, including Rev. Campbell, standing before the Commissioners highlighting environmental problems like air and water pollution, describing the 42 illegal waste dumps surrounding the landfill, reporting on the 2+ tons of litter recently removed by volunteers from the nearby roadsides.

I focused on the process. Why, I asked, hadn’t the County included a specific mitigation plan in tonight’s proposal? A call Commissioner Valerie Foushee echoed minutes later. Where would the funds come from given the County hadn’t been setting aside funds as per the 1997 landfill extension agreement? Why hadn’t, given the breathing room last year’s decision to ship waste to Durham’s trash transfer facility, the Solid Waste Advisory Board (SWAB) taken on the task of capping of the landfill in a socially responsible fashion? What would the Rogers Road community get from yet another extension of their problems?

As I put it – irrespective of whatever promises made or not by Chapel Hill Mayor Lee in 1972, the County and the Commissioners now owned the problem.

The Commissioners, after taking in these comments, each took a turn explaining why they couldn’t endorse an extension that didn’t include a specific plan of action for mitigating the decades of harm caused by the landfill.

Relatively new County Manager Frank Clifton said as someone who hadn’t been involved in all the discussions, hadn’t heard decades of problems, as an outsider, he was mystified that the County Commissioners hadn’t taken advantage of the 1997 stipulations to fund mitigation. He said he and his staff had long been ready to take all the studies, advisory board reports, commission results, etc. and formulate a plan of action. He also said – clearly – that this had to be a County staff driven effort and that the County’s partners – Chapel Hill and Carrboro – would be advised but not counted on in moving forward (the municipalities have been missing in action for decades though the Council finally did appoint Jim Ward as liaison to the SWAB).

Brief summary: the BOCC accepts full responsibility for what should be an obligation borne by all the local leadership. They have instructed staff to create a specific plan of action and to seek funding for it. That plan will identify mitigation strategies the County can legally carry out. The municipalities will be advised but not relied upon (a sorry comment on current affairs) in moving forward.

Quiet elation – a strange feeling – and a reasonable outcome after a long, long haul. More than ten year’s in the making the final chapter, hopefully, is being written on the Rogers Road landfill story.

Well Done Rogers Road Coalition!

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Some welcome news on the Rogers Road front.

The Rogers-Eubank Neighborhood Association has been awarded a Federal EPA Environmental Justice grant to help address some of the long term environmental issues that neighborhood has faced as a consequence of taking on our trash disposal burden.

Recipient: Roger-Eubanks Neighborhood Association
Project Name: PITCH (Partnerships in Transforming Community Hope)
Project Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Issue:
The Rogers-Eubanks is an African-American, low-income community and has served as the host of the Orange County regional landfill since 1972. The community was promised basic amenities when the landfill site was originally purchased in 1972, however, amenities such as water and sewer service, storm drains, curbs and gutters, sidewalks, a recreation center and greenspace have not been forthcoming.
Summary:
The focus of PITCH is to achieve reductions of waste inputs to landfills and repair household energy and water inefficiencies. This will be achieved by reducing household solid waste, composting kitchen waste, recycling mixed paper, and using compost in a local community garden.

In addition, the project will educate the residents on conserving water and energy through weatherization improvements, repairs of small-scale plumbing and sewage inefficiencies, and replacement of incandescent light bulbs with fluorescent ones. The project will engage Orange Country residents, the broader public, and news media on PITCH-In’s call to action for waste reduction and environmental stewardship.
Project initiation date: July 1, 2010

Partners: University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, School of Public Health, Daniel A. Okun Chapter of Engineers Without Borders (EWB), Coalition to End Environmental Racism

Now the ball is rolling, it is time to fulfill on some of the other promises made on our behalf nearly four decades ago.

More information on the RENA home website.

Annual Rogers Road Community Back-to-School Bash

Friday, August 13th, 2010

The next couple weeks are going to be quite busy with events and community meetings coming fast and furious.

Our neighbors, the Rogers Road community, is having their annual back-to-school bash this Saturday (Aug. 14th) at the Faith Tabernacle Oasis Church from 11:30am to 6:30pm. Oasis is located at 8005 Rogers Road (MAP).

The annual bash helps get folks back into school days along with providing free school materials to local kids. While the event is free, I’m sure that any spare school materials you bring for redistribution would be appreciated.
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140West: RAM Development’s Money Tree, Chapel Hill Taxpayers Moneypit

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Local commentator and involved citizen Fred Black invited me to do a WCHL1360 Who’s Talking segment last week.

It airs this evening (Tues. Aug. 3rd, 2010) at 6PM.

While the subject was supposed to be the Lot #5/140 West project, which is slated to finally get started later this month, Fred used this opportunity to talk about development Downtown, public engagement, and Council.

As I said then and before, I believe Lot #5 presented an excellent opportunity for redevelopment.

I and others argued for a fiscally prudent, environmentally sustainable, community-oriented development that had workforce housing, affordable commercial opportunities, an integrative tenant – like a grocery store – and real public space.

Instead of getting a signature development that met those goals from the RAM Development/Chapel Hill collaboration we got a $10M+ taxpayer funded luxury condo development with little public utility. Architecturally, the project’s look fits the Atlanta beltway more than Chapel Hill – it says little, if anything, significant about our community.

Not only was the business model flawed but so was the underlying commitment to adhere to measurable energy and environmental targets (the Council, unlike what they’ve pushed UNC to do, did not adopt and has no plan to evaluate energy usage, for instance, using ASHRAE or other quantifiable standards).

Of course, I thought that the scale of this development (which you can get a sense of from the site models I created 4 years ago) didn’t fit the human-scale dimensions of our current Downtown. That human-scale is part of Chapel Hill’s ‘brand’ – evidenced by the Town’s own logo – and shouldn’t have been casually tossed without at least a proper attempt to educate our residents and some informed buy-in from the community.

What now?

The Council had many chances to walk away from the project over the last few years as RAM Development missed contractual obligation after obligation. The majority didn’t.

The Council had 2 years to work with local businesses to minimize the impact of the next 2 years of construction. That collaboration just started and already there is some significant friction between the Town and the Franklin St. commercial district.

The public financial burden begins immediately as the environmental remediation begins though the Town’s finances are stretched to the maximum by the majority of this Council’s decision to issue $20+ M in bonds for the Library expansion among others capital improvements. There’s no plan in place to publish those costs as they mount.

Is it too late to do anything? No.

This is OUR project. WE are investing $30-40M in cash and property and have every right to expect that nearby businesses can still function, that questions of public access be finally laid to rest, that every dollar invested by our residents is accounted for and that we have a solid commitment to measuring the success or failure – in terms of tax and parking revenues, energy efficiency, growth of commercial activity – of the project

I did a quick review of my posts on the Lot $5/140 West project and have collected those from 2006 to 2010 below for further background:
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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: Chapel Hill’s Diminished Environmental Credibility

Friday, October 12th, 2007

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

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

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

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

X-Posted from my campaign site:

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Election 2007: Chapel Hill Sierra Club Forum

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

Here’s the Chapel Hill Sierra Club forum. I’ll be adding some commentary about clear contrasts in environmental policy between the incumbents and the non-incumbents, how we should “walk the talk” on environmental protections – making both large and incremental improvements in our Town’s commitment, and how current policy sets goals the Council never plans to revisit (I guess that’s politics – which explains why I’m just not a political creature).

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

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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: Recycle, Reuse

Monday, September 24th, 2007

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

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

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

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

I said then:

Why the quick pickup?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rogers Road Community’s Petition for Redress

Friday, September 21st, 2007

Kirk Ross posted Neloa Jone’s request for governmental redress (“the setting right of what is wrong”) over on the Carrboro Citizen’s ‘blog:

The Rogers-Eubanks “Coalition to End Environmental Racism” (CEER)

Background

For nearly one hundred and fifty years, African-American families have lived in what is now known as the Rogers-Eubanks Community. In the late 1800s, Rogers Road was a wagon-track through black-owned family farmland and sawmills that stretched from Homestead to Eubanks and Millhouse Roads. There was once a school on Eubanks Road, Morris Grove, founded by a former slave, for black children not allowed to attend school elsewhere. As decades passed, this land was passed down to children, to grandchildren, to great-grandchildren, and in some cases, to great-great grandchildren. Some land was lost to debt, some simply sold. However, African Americans continued migrating to this community; they purchased land and established homes. Today, this community is a predominantly low-income neighborhood, but it remains socially cohesive and culturally rich in spite of the solid waste facilities that have worked to destroy it.

In 1972, when the Town of Chapel Hill decided to use 120 acres of land on Eubanks Road for the first landfill—this was a thriving community, and it was strongly opposed to having a landfill near them. However, Mayor Howard Lee convinced this community to accept the landfill for ten years, promising that afterwards no other landfills would be opened near them and a park and other basic amenities would be provided when the landfill closed.

That was 35 years ago.

And inspite of the fact that Orange County prides itself on being aggressively opposed to social and environmental injustice, it has refused to honor decades of broken promises made to the Rogers-Eubanks Community. Local governments continue to expand solid waste facilities in this area: since 1972, two municipal solid waste landfills have been opened; two industrial waste landfills have been opened. We have yard and hazardous waste collection sites, recycling and garbage drop-off centers, a Materials Recovery landfill (MRF), and let’s not forget about that toxic, smelly leachate pond (1/3 of an acre) right next to Mrs. Gertrude Nunn’s property. The newest proposed addition to these ever-expanding solid waste facilities is the transfer station. And even though some people believe that closing the landfill and building a transfer station will improve conditions in the community, WE contend that it will not. Along with the transfer station, garbage collection trucks, and 18-wheelers we will still have the vermin, the stench, more air pollutants, and more noise. We will also have increased traffic that poses increased danger to our children and other citizens.

So our question tonight is this: why are low-income communities and communities where people of color live always the most vulnerable to solid waste facilities?

The National Environmental Justice Advisory Council has concluded that “WTS are sited disproportionately in areas adjacent to poor communities and communities of color.” The New York Times recently reported that “low-income communities . . . shelter most of America’s polluting facilities”; African Americans are “79 percent more likely than whites to live in areas where air-pollution levels pose health risks.” Professor Robert Bullard of Clark Atlanta University contends that “the people who live closest” to waste facilities are those “who have the fewest resources,” but that “doesn’t mean [they] should be dumped on.”

On March 3, 2006, the Solid Waste Advisory Board (SWAB) passed a resolution recommending that the transfer station be located on Eubanks Road. Why? Because Eubanks Road is convenient, because the County can put the transfer station here cheaply, because the County will be saved the hassle of having to search for another site, AND because there was a GOOD chance that THIS community that has been dumped on for 35 years would not object TOO LOUDLY. On March 27, 2007, the Orange County Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to accept this recommendation from SWAB to locate the transfer station on Eubanks Road.

What we are asking for tonight?

This community wants Orange County to stop dumping garbage and toxic waste in their backyard.

The Rogers-Eubanks “Coalition to End Environmental Racism” (CEER) supports this community in its demands for environmental justice. And these are our demands:

• We want you to eliminate immediately the Rogers-Eubanks Road Community as a site for the proposed solid waste transfer station.

• We want you to halt all solid waste activities in this community no later than November 2009.

• We want you to honor the promises made to this community over the past 35 years for having endured the negative impacts of having garbage dumped in our backyard.

• We want you to address quality of life issues immediately by providing this community with municipal water and sewer services and other community enhancements to ensure the health and safety of the residents.

All of us here tonight have a lot of work to do, and we are certain that having heard us tonight, you will do what’s right and bring environmental justice to the Rogers-Eubanks Community. Thank you.

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.

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