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.

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: 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.

Visions of Avalon

Monday, October 1st, 2007

Last night there was an unfortunate and possibly gang-related incident at Rosemary Street’s Visions nightclub.

At approximately 1:00 a.m. this morning officers responded to a report of gun shots at Visions Night Club located at 136 E. Rosemary Street. Multiple shots were reportedly fired from a handgun by an unidentified black male suspect after a fight occurred inside. Six victims were treated for non-life threatening gunshot wounds at area hospitals. Some of the victims identified have known gang affiliations. Due to the low lighting and the confusion associated with the large crowd, the suspect exited the night club shortly after firing the shots.

Lt. Kevin Gunter, CHPD

I was relieved to hear no one suffered grave injury.

I was also struck by the timing – it was just one year ago that then Police Chief Jarvies issued this memo [PDF] enumerating the reasons for closing Avalon, a similar venue on Rosemary St. I work close to Avalon and saw the escalation of minor problems into what became the culminating event leading to its closure – the July 30th, 2006 fatal shooting of Kevdrian Swan.

This was not the first incident at Avalon or, as Chief Jarvies noted, 136 East Rosemary St., the then location of Player’s, the current location of Visions.

My first thought was: “What should we have learned from the Avalon mess? Why didn’t our Town do more to prevent another outbreak of violence?”

Chief Jarvies pointed out the Players had the second highest incidence of serious offenses. The plan was to meet with the owners of that club and try to prevent another Avalon type outcome.

Why, a year later, are we dealing at the same location with what could have been a worse tragedy? Couldn’t the Town intervene earlier? Why didn’t it?

Both citizens and the media report that problems – including violent behavior – had been escalating at Visions (and spilling over into the nearby neighborhoods). The pattern was established but the Town failed to act.

As a University town, night clubs are a act of life. The Town should be able to foresee, especially with the growing influence of gangs in the Triangle, that venues like Visions can attract a dangerous crowd. Why don’t we have a standard mechanism for working with club owners to forestall these issues? Why aren’t we monitoring these flash points?

As far as Visions, I’d like to hear more about the incident. The knee-jerk response is to call for its closure – to go into reactive mode – something our Council is quite adept at.

Since we apparently missed an opportunity to learn some lessons from Avalon, I’m asking Council to make an effort to learn from Visions. If these venues are going to be allowed to operate, we should damn well be proactive and be ready to clamp down when we see a pattern of problems developing.

I’ve supported the CHPD’s efforts to become more “gang savvy” (here’s what I said about funding on WCHL).
I called on Council to provide a little “helper” funding to help make the recent Governor’s Crime Commission grant a bit more effective (didn’t happen).

Whether I’m elected or not, I will be asking Council again to support adequate gang education for both our police force and our community. And, as I said one year ago, we need to do more than deploy officers Downtown. We need to re-balance our force to nip issues before they escalate.

That is why I’m encouraged by an objective our Town Manager set our new new police chief, Chief Curran, to “expand the community policing efforts of the department so that community policing becomes a belief system within our department”.

Finally, Office Gunter asks:

Anyone with information about the shooting, please call either the Chapel Hill Police Department at 968-2760 or Crime Stoppers at 942-7515. Calls to Crime Stoppers are confidential and anonymous, and the caller may be eligible for a cash reward up to $1,200 for information that leads to arrest.

Forewarned, supposedly, is forearmed. We obviously missed a few lessons from the Avalon mess, hopefully we won’t miss the lessons of Visions.

Hail to Our New Chief: Brian Curran Takes the Helm

Monday, September 24th, 2007

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

[ORIGINAL]

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

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

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

Today Roger announced the permanent appointment of Brian to Chief.

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

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

Date: September 24, 2007

Subject: Appointment of Brian Curran as Police Chief

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

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

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

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

The process.

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

The charge.

I have charged Brian with the following goals:

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

I look forward to working with Chief Curran.

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

Congratulations Chief Curran.

Software Freedom Day 2007

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

As long time readers know, I’ve been trying to get our Town to adopt free/open source software products for the last 6 years.

There’s been some success but not enough.

FOSS (free/open source software) is a low cost alternative to the Microsoft Monopoly (the Town could’ve saved between $500-700K by now if it had adopted some of the recommendations of the now defunct Technology Advisory Board). Beyond driving cost out of the process, many of these products use (heck, celebrate) open standards which will preserve our information assets over the long haul and prevent costly proprietary lock-in.

Tomorrow, the Carolina Open Source Initiative (COSI), an organization dedicated to promoting and supporting Open Source software, principles and practices at UNC-CH will sponsor Software Freedom Day 2007.

Check out their FAQ “to learn more about Open Source software, and why you should get involved!”

Thanks to UNC’s Free Culture folks for the tip.

Speakers and Participants

10am Max Spevack from Red Hat.

Max is the Fedora Project Leader

11am Amit Bhutani from DELL. Amit is a Sr. Linux Software Engineer

12, noon – Pam Sessoms, University Library

Pam will be giving a talk on how her team customized the Pidgin chat client for use by librarians at UNC-CH. Multiple librarians can seamlessly answer questions using the ‘davisrefdesk’ IM nickname, and evening questions can be routed to librarians at Duke and NCSU as part of the Night Owl chat feature. Such customization would not have been possible if Pidgin had not been released under an Open license.

12:45pm Mark Finkle of Mozilla.

Mark is a Platform Evangelist at Mozilla Corporation. His primary job is to make it easy for people to develop extensions for Firefox. He also provides support for developers building applications on XULRunner and embedding Gecko in native applications.

1:45 Joseph Mack of AustinTek

Joseph will be discussing the Linux Virtual Server for people who are unfamiliar with the project and for those who would like to get started but want some background.

I’ll be banging the drum, once again, this year for wider adoption of these technologies by the Town to improve service delivery, preserve our information assets, promote greater transparency in the governance process and DRIVE COST out of the system.

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….

UNC BOT Chairman Perry: Carolina North “…before it’s too late”

Thursday, July 26th, 2007

They say history has a way of repeating itself.

The trustees, led by new chairman and Chapel Hill developer Roger Perry, are full steam ahead on the project. Final trustee approval is expected in September, with a plan to be submitted to the town by the end of October.

“The time of talking about Carolina North is over,” Perry said. “It is time to do something. It is time to get it on the ground before it is too late.”

N&O report from today’s UNC Board of Trustees meeting..

No more “time for talking”. Does that mean that the July 31st Carolina North community outreach meeting is just for show?

[UPDATE:]

As some of you know, I try to attend many of the local meetings that influence public policy. To date, I’ve been to most every Carolina North community outreach stretching back to 2005. I attended several of the UNC-LAC meetings and have watched those and the ones I missed. Arguably, UNC’s BOT meetings are as important to setting local policy – a shame that they don’t release a video or audio record of their deliberations.

I have had an opportunity to hear a little bit more about this morning’s BOT meeting and it seems that the N&O missed a little nuance.

It appears Roger Perry was asking the UNC staff to stop talking and start moving. I don’t know if that makes much of a difference in how that negatively affects community input – same effect, twice removed – but at least it is more polite than telling the community to shut up and go away.

Again, I wish I could’ve attended to hear the BOT for myself. I wish UNC would make a timely online record – including publishing minutes – available so folks like myself don’t have to wade through others interpretations.

[ORIGINAL]

Two years ago, when I proposed a framework for a more collaborative process between UNC and our community to work through Carolina North’s issues, several local political insiders told me I was naive and acting the fool.

Sure, I knew the history of our Town’s interactions with the University – that any discussion would have to involve five distinct parties – our local elected leadership, UNC’s Moeser administration, UNC’s Board of Trustees, local activists and Carolina North’s promoters. No doubt, that’s a lot of folks to corral.

A few months after the 2005 election, UNC did create a new framework – the UNC Leadership Advisory Committee (UNC LAC) – comprised of many, not all, of the community elements I had proposed. At that time I threw what little political capital I had behind the new UNC LAC process calling on our elected leadership to leave history behind and begin anew.

Enthusiasm didn’t equal abandonment of common sense. I was quick to point out (“Chafing: Prevention and Treatment”) when UNC started to fall back on old habits.

One of those old habits was UNC’s Board of Trustees proclivity derailing, at the last minute, the careful negotiations between UNC’s administration and our local governments.

Over the last year, the BOT did show a few symptoms of using the LAC process more as a public relations smokescreen than a new start on a truly collaborative process. For instance, when they introduced a surprising and disappointing fixed timeline before the LAC had completed their primary discussions.

Concern about the BOT was not limited to those longtime citizen watchdogs who have been participating in UNC’s new community outreach process. Jack Evans, UNC’s leader on Carolina North, has expressed his frustration with the BOT commenting one time that the Board wasn’t interested in reading a 15 page summary of the projects guiding principles.

UNC’s Board of Trustees was definitely a wild-card but the inclusion of BOT member Roger Perry was supposed to make sure there would be no surprises.

Then again, Roger Perry has tried to shut down discussion before, as I noted last September after this HeraldSun 09/27/06 report

UNC trustee and local developer Roger Perry said his sense was that UW-Madison officials essentially tell the community that the university’s mission requires it to do a certain project, and then everyone goes to work on preventing negative impacts, without trying to stop the project in general.

He said he’d like to get to that point in Chapel Hill, and that it can be somewhat “insulting” when someone not connected to UNC says they really aren’t convinced the university needs to do what it says it needs to do.

I said then

Roger Perry and the rest of UNC’s Board of Trustees absolutely must address the glaring absence of any reasonable, documented, calculable return on investment before I, a single North Carolina citizen taxpayer, will be convinced of the soundness of their plans.

So, as of today, UNC has approved a building design without producing solid documentation on the taxpaying publics return on their investment. We have a firm start date but little firm understanding of the local fiscal, environmental and transit impacts.

And, as some suspected, we have evidence that UNC’s Board of Trustees are not, possibly never were, interested in working through these key issues with community participation.

[UPDATE:]

Carolina North, when fully developed, will rival today’s Hillsborough in size. I believe it will loom larger in environmental, social and economic terms.

Finally, as far as Roger, from what I’ve observed he is a patient man. Developers often are. If he’s frustrated with the pace, well, that’s forgivable. To use his new role to make haste, though, to an endpoint yet determined, well, that is neither prudent or supportable.

Rogers Road: Unify the Community with a Back To School Bash

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

There’s a thread over on OrangePolitics (“Historic Rogers Road Community Enhancement Plan Development and Monitoring Task Force “) covering the historic ills and vexations of the Rogers Road community.

I plan to discuss some of the comments in a future post but couldn’t pass up this request by Rev. Robert Campbell (who, thankfully, has recently joined that forum to bring his 34 years of Rogers Road experience to the local ‘blog-o-spheres attention).

The Faith Tabernacle Church will have its Back to School Bash on 08-11-07. We give out school supplies to school age children on this date. Drop off your donations at 8005 Rogers Road to show your support to unify this community as well as Orange County for this back to [school] bash is for [all] no matter where you are from.

Love can go far.

Robert Campbell
919-933-6210

As this recent Carrboro Citizen article (” Be it further resolved”) by Taylor Sisk reveals, Rev. Campbell is neither a stranger to the Rogers Road community

The sanctuary of the Faith Tabernacle Oasis of Love Church is certainly no refuge for Robert Campbell. Outreach is his calling. For 34 years, Rev. Campbell has been ministering to the needs of a finely knit community on and around Rogers Road of, as Campbell observes, “many faces, many skills.”

or a weak advocate for their cause

Campbell quickly became active in the community. He recalls that things “really escalated in the latter part of the ‘80s, right on into the middle part of the ‘90s, when they really began to start searching for another place to put a landfill, and we spent countless hours negotiating with the politicians—right here in this sanctuary. We had it set up where you had community members that were part of a fact-finding group that came up with ideas, that came up with things that the neighborhood wanted done.”

Tonight, responding to a series of comments, Rev. Campbell provided some context and then suggested how the Chapel Hill/Carrboro community can pitch in to help their neighbors (Rev. Campbell is new to this, I edited his comments slightly for clarity):

We do many things out on Rogers Road promoting the good will of this community. We do not sit back and do nothing.

The good neighbor program has not worked for this part of Chapel Hill. Rather all government agents have over looked this area when it comes to enhancement. Took pave roads some twenty plus years to come to this community. Municipal water – I will go as far as to say the municipality dropped the ball when Robert’s Assocation did the first development in this community.

Someone looked the other way – no water, no sewage, no sidewalks, no real insight for the future. And we are still making excuses. Let us do the right thing now. Let us help make Orange County a better place.

We are to be our brother keeper. Let us look one another in deed, let us be doers of the word and not just hearers and talkers. Let us work together.

With this said, the Faith Tabernacle Church will have its Back to School Bash on 08-11-07. We give out school supplies to school age children on this date. Drop off your donations at 8005 Rogers Road to show your support to unify this community as well as Orange County for this back to [school] bash is for [all] no matter where you are from.

Love can go far.

Robert Campbell
919 -933-6210
1711 Purefoy Dr.
Chapel Hill N.C. ,27516

Simple. Straightforward. Practical. I like it and, after a quick check with Robert to see what is needed most (the results I’ll post here), will be dropping some supplies by soon.

Unedited version follows:
(more…)

Carolina North: Not So Innovative Location for the Innovation Center?

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

As I predicted (“Carolina North: What’s Next?”) last week, the Carrboro Citizen is reporting that UNC is prepared to move the Carolina North Innovation Center north of Estes to sit roughly on the Town’s former municipal services site.

Not a hard guess given UNC’s Jack Evans recent comments.

…one indication that the university is intent on the timetable is a related matter on the trustees agenda — the shift of a proposed site for an 80,000-square-foot Innovation Center from the south side of Estes Drive Extension to an area just off Municipal Drive near the Town of Chapel Hill’s former Public Works facility.

Earlier this month, Jack Evans, Carolina North’s executive director, said that the area would likely be in the very first phases of construction. In addition to being already cleared and served by utilities, the site also avoids a potential conflict over the closing of Horace Williams Airport. University officials have said they’d like to close the airport as soon as a new facility is ready for its Medical Air operations. But that idea has met resistance in the North Carolina General Assembly.

While the first 15-year phase of the Carolina North plans include using sections of the current airport runway near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the site for the innovations center is out of the way of the airport approach.

At the last community outreach session, the reported [PDF] size of the facility was 85,000 square/feet not 80,000 as the CarrboroCitizen reports. I’m not sure if there’s been a shift.



Click to Enlarge


What is the Carolina Innovation Center?

The Triangle Business Journal had this nice overview published May 18, 2007:

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is working with a high-profile West Coast developer to build a business incubator near its proposed Carolina North campus that could put the university back in the market for venture capital.

Preliminary discussions between UNC officials and Pasadena, Calif.-based Alexandria Real Estate Equities have yielded a model for the proposed “Carolina Innovation Center” that would provide more than just office space for university spinoffs.

Alexandria CEO Joel Marcus says the center would round out traditional incubator resources such as office and laboratory space with on-site business and managerial experts and a cadre of investors ranging from local and national venture firms to the university itself.

In short, the Alexandria-owned facility[emph. CW] would act as a one-stop clearinghouse capable of matching top technology prospects flowing out of UNC’s research departments with the financial backing and expertise needed to keep a startup alive.

The UNC center would be modeled in large part on Accelerator Corp., a biotech incubator in Seattle completed by Alexandria in 2003. The private biotech development and investment incubator has attracted nearly $22 million in venture capital from blue chip investors such as Amgen Ventures, MPM Capital and Arch Venture Partners. So far, Accelerator Corp. has invested in five emerging biotech firms.

Mark Crowell, associate vice chancellor for business development and technology transfer at UNC, says the venture capital component of the Carolina Innovation Center could total as much as $25 million and would not be limited to life sciences startups. Pending receipt of a special use permit from the town of Chapel Hill to construct the incubator facility, Crowell says UNC could begin “paying visits” to potential investors as early as this fall.

“At the end of the day, we would like to go to four, five, six institutional investors, as well as make a presentation to (UNC’s endowment) management company” says Crowell. “I can’t imagine we wouldn’t visit every local fund.”

Crowell goes on to say

“This project is going to make a sound and create a smell that is going to be attractive to the venture capitalists,” he says. “It is an incredibly attractive way to introduce Carolina North to the community, and it’s really starting to gain momentum.”

Of course, the sounds and smells nearby neighborhoods are concerned with are not so attractive as the lure of big money is too UNC’s venture capital specialists.

I wonder if getting anywhere on Carolina North seems harder than running a sub 4-minute mile for former world record holder and current UNC vice chancellor for research and economic development Tony Waldrop:

Corporate funds are vital to filling the gap, but, with neither an incubator facility nor a research campus similar to NCSU’s Centennial Campus, those dollars are difficult to come by, says Tony Waldrop, UNC’s vice chancellor for research and economic development.

“Seventy percent of campuses have either a research park campus or an incubator, and here we are without either. It puts us at a disadvantage,” Waldrop says. “In terms of getting federal funding from the corporate sector for research, we have not competed with our peers.”

Centennial Campus envy once again?

Tomorrow’s UNC Board of Trustees’ meeting starts 8am at the Carolina Inn: floor plan and map.

The BOT agenda is here.

The Carolina North draft concept plan is item #8 on the following agenda.
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Election 2007: Early Voting On The Move

Wednesday, July 25th, 2007

Orange County Commissioner Mike Nelson reports that:

I have just been told that the Director of the Orange County Board of Elections is recommending that the one-stop, early voting site in Chapel Hill be moved from UNC to the Senior Center.

I’ll be checking into this. If true, this decision needs to be revisited. In the recent past, the UNC site has been extraordinarily popular with students, staff and folks who live and work near downtown Chapel Hill. It would be a real shame to make it harder for these folks to vote.

Mike, it would be more than a shame.

Since the early ’90’s I’ve concentrated my Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts on campus and the student population (not always so successful as evidenced by the municipal turnouts in ’99, ’01, ’03, ’05). The Morehead Planetarium has been a great location servicing not only the student community but folks working/living on and around campus.

The polling location at Morehead won’t be available due to construction but surely the Board of Elections and UNC can work out an alternative – maybe the lobby of UNC’s Memorial Hall? Besides being centrally located, like Morehead Planetarium, most everyone knows where Memorial Hall is located, some parking is available and folks working Downtown will still have easy access.

If not Memorial Hall, maybe the Student Center, the dining hall or some other public and well-trafficked area.

Unfortunately, the campus super-precinct I’ve long lobbied for will not be available this year either. Another shame it seems as if the bulk of my pre-election GOTV effort goes into identifying which of many precincts a person has to vote at…

The Elections Board

  • Billie J. Cox – Chair
  • Henry (Hank) Elkins, Jr. – Secretary
  • John J. Felten – Member

will be meeting next Tuesday, 4pm 4:00 pm at the board of election office 110 E. King Street in Hillsborough [MAP]
if you would like to personally weigh in.

You can contact Director of Elections Barry Garner here.

Or call or mail.

BOE contact information:

Board of Elections
110 E. King St
P.O. Box 220
Hillsborough, North Carolina 27278

Telephone: (919) 245-2350
Fax Number: 919-644-3318

Hours of Operation: Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

June 6th’s Closed Council Session

Monday, June 4th, 2007

As we wind down the planning for this fiscal year, Council’s deliberations take on a bit more gravitas, thus demand even more attention by the public.

As one might observe listening to last year’s Lot #5 closed negotiations ( “Downtown Development Initiative: Listen and Learn How Negotiations Went Awry”), going too long or waiting until to an eve of a decision without public participation or oversight does not serve the public interest.

Looking back through my recent notes, I didn’t find a reference to the purpose of this Wednesdays closed door Council session.

With the Lot #5 deal still a bit wobbly (now up 17 fold from $500K to $8.4M), disclosure that our just hired economic development officer was charged with embezzlement in 2003 (charges subsequently dropped), a probable $0.02 hike in town taxes and a raft of other issues before them, I would hope the Council takes more counsel and welcomes more public oversight as the year closes than try to wrestle with their problems out-of-sight.

With that in mind, I’ve asked for a clarification on the purpose of this Wednesday’s meeting.

Catherine, Roger,

Excuse me for asking both of you the same question, but I wasn’t quite sure whom to address
this question to.

What statutory reason is Council using to hold a closed session June 6th?

Our town’s website suggests it must be one of the following:

# Confidential information
# Consultations with an attorney
# Business location or expansion
# Real property acquisition
# Employment contracts
# Certain personnel matters
# Investigations

and that the specific reason for going to closed session have been adopted in an open session.

Quoting from our town’s website:

“The statute provides that a closed session may be held only on a motion adopted in open session by a majority of those present and voting. The motion must state the purpose set out in the statute that permits the closed session, such as “to consider matters relating to the location or expansion of industry.” In addition, two of the purposes require a more detailed motion. First, if the purpose is to discuss some matter that is confidential by law, the motion must cite the law that makes the matter confidential. For example, if an area authority meets to consider matters relating to a specific patient, the motion to go into closed session would have to cite G.S. 122C-52, the statute that makes patient information confidential. Second, if the purpose is to discuss pending litigation, the motion must identify the parties to the litigation.”

I couldn’t find a reference in my recent notes to indicate for what purpose this particular
closed session was being held, any information you can provide would be appreciated.

Thank you,

Will

If you’re interested in open meetings and the free flow of information from the governing to the governed, check out NC Open Government, an organization sponsored by some of the top press outlets in our state.

Here’s their two cents on closed meetings.

Municipal Networking: Eyes on the Road

Friday, June 1st, 2007

[SPRING CLEANING]

I asked Town Manager Roger Stancil May 17th how the CCTV (closed-circuit TV) packaged in the Town’s first steps towards municipal networking (Municipal Networking:Could We Have a Little Less Big Brother?).

Roger and Kumar Neppalli, our Town’s traffic (and now streetlight) point person, both clarified the bullet item. The CCTVs will be used strictly for monitoring traffic flows.

Roger apologizes for taking 3 days to respond – which might seem strange if you dealt with Townhall before – but Roger has set a goal of improving the flow of information into the community, a refreshing change.

Thank you Roger and Kumar for a quick turnaround (now, if we can just get a 7 day warning on those Council agendas).

From: Roger Stancil
Sent: Mon 5/21/2007 4:27 PM
Subject: RE: Clarification on CCTV usage

I apologize for the delay in responding to you. The cameras are generally for monitoring intersections for traffic management purposes. I am sure it will be done in accordance with this community’s concern for privacy and policies that ensure privacy is not invaded. Thank you for your questions. By copy of this email, I will ask Kumar if he has additional information.

Roger

Roger L. Stancil
Town Manager
Town Manager’s Office
Town of Chapel Hill
405 Martin Luther King Jr Blvd
Chapel Hill, NC 27514-5705

Phone: (919) 968-2743
Fax: (919) 969-2063

Note: Mail sent to or received from the Town Manager is subject to publication under the provisions of the North Carolina public records law.

—-

Mr. Raymond,

Mr. Stancil is correct and the cameras are used strictly for the purpose of monitoring traffic and provide guidance to motorists using variable message signs. These cameras are similar to the traffic monitoring cameras on I-40. Privacy of the motorists and passengers are protected and the cameras will not be used for enforcement of traffic regulations such as speeding, signal violations.

I will find the State Policy for use of these cameras and will e-mail you. Thanks.

Kumar Neppalli
Engineering Services Manager
Ph: (919)969-5093

—–Original Message—–

Subject: Clarification on CCTV usage

Roger,

I notice that the use of CCTV was mentioned in this resolution: http://townhall.townofchapelhill.org/agendas/2007/05/21/4f/

Could you clarify where and for what use closed-circuit surveillance will be deployed in Chapel Hill?

I’m thrilled we’re making a smart tactical move to improve our information infrastructure. I’m
hoping that deployment and usage of CCTV, for whatever purpose, will be guided by a policy grounded in transparency and informed by a strong commitment to preserve our residents
privacy.

Thank you,

Will

The Power of Sorry

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

It’s been nearly a year since the General Assembly’s 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Commission released their 1898 Wilmington Race Riot Report.

Tonight, NPR’s Laura Leslie, over on Isaac Hunter’s Tavern reports:

State lawmakers made history today by unanimously (both chambers!) passing a resolution apologizing for their predecessors’ role in promulgating slavery in North Carolina.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle spent two and a half hours speaking in support of the apology…about their personal experiences with discrimination, about the bigger social issues at play in this apology, and about the hostile feedback they’ve received from some constituents who see the apology as a waste of time or worse.

House Majority Leader Hugh Holliman delivered a simple but jaw-dropping history lesson — three minutes on what the state should apologize for. You can hear it here.  It’s well worth the download time. 

One of the follow ups was from our eloquent North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber:

…repentance doesn’t mean much unless you’re willing to back it up. 

You can read the NAACP’s full reaction here.

One of the State’s more powerful media outlets, the News and Observer, began to experience the “power of sorry” more than a year ago when they started to unravel former editor Josephus Daniels complicity (“1898 riot designed to disfranchise blacks”) in Wilmington’s terrible tragedy.

The paper’s Nov. 17th, 2006 coverage,The Ghosts of 1898 ,helmed by Oxford native Tim Tyson ( “Blood Done Sign My Name”) extended the amends.

In a week with several reminders of how far we’ve yet to go, the legislature’s unanimous “mea culpa” for their predecessors’ actions (or inactions) is more than welcomed.

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