Whereas What’s The Best Use Of The Sales Tax Increase?

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

I’ve had several folks ask me about my suggested and rejected changes to the recent Democratic Party resolution supporting the 1/4 cent sales tax increase (Orange County Dems: Thanks for the Consideration…).

This is a terrible year to raise any tax yet the Orange County Board of Commissioners (BOCC) decided 4/5/2011 (VIDEO [my comments at 48 minutes and 103 minutes]) to hold another referendum, at a cost of $105K to $125K ($85K election +$20-40K “education”), trying to succeed where they failed just 6 months ago.

I and others appeared before the BOCC arguing that 1) scheduling the vote this year amounted to “vote shopping” and didn’t serve their professed commitment to “small-d” democracy:

“I do understand that there’s a need for the revenues sooner rather than later,” said Chapel Hill resident Will Raymond. “The turnout is not representative of what the impact is for this tax. You’re looking at dis[en]franchising the rural voters. In terms of integrity of the process and confidence in the process, it feels a little bit like you’re doc[k ]shopping, you’re vote shopping. The reality is that the referendum did very well down in the municipal areas.”

Not only did the referendum pass overwhelmingly in the cities last time, but turnout in the rural districts will likely be low, Raymond said. And, according to Orange County Board of Elections Director Tracy Reams, off-year general elections typically boast a lower turnout than presidential primaries—something to the tune of 25 percent compared to 40 percent, respectively.

“Doing it in November just doesn’t feel very democratic,” said James Barrett, Chapel Hill resident and member of Orange County Justice United, adding he supports the increase. “I think, as we see changes around the world, it’s important to make sure that everyone’s engaged in voting. We have a much greater opportunity to do that in May than we do in November.”

News of Orange, April 19, 2011

“Putting this on the municipal elections is a bad idea … the reality is [that] this did very well in municipal areas,” said Will Raymond, a Chapel Hill resident. “You’re vote shopping.”

N&O, 4/6/2011

and

2) that the County would be better served by altering the proposed allocation from 50% economic development/50% to education to 33% economic development/66% human services:

Will Raymond said that two-thirds of the tax should go for human services, where the real need is since Orange County is creeping toward an 18 percent poverty rate and the county has cut back on some of the services it provides to citizens who need the most help.

“The only way I’m going to support this is if I see a significant portion going to the human services deficit,” Raymond said.

Burlington Time News, April 19, 2011

By the way, that was doc, as in doctor, shopping and not “dock shopping” as reported.

If the County used 2/3rds of the anticipated revenue, $1.6+ million, for human services the impact on existing programs would be significant. Further, the County would finally have funding to address the emergency housing problem they long offloaded to the Interfaith Council (IFC).

Allocating $1.2+ million to bolster the multi-million dollar school budgets ,though, will not go as far. When you review last year’s proposed educational expenditures the contrast between priorities is stark – repaving running tracks versus bolstering our burdened community health service.

As of tonight (Tues. 4/19/2011), not only will the sales tax appear on the ballot (with a non-binding commitment to the proposed 50/50 split) but the BOCC has floated the idea of adding an additional 1/2 cent sales tax bump to fund regional transit initiatives (including light rail).

That’s an 3/4 cent increase from the current 7.75% to 8.50%.

That could drop to 8.25% if the requested extension of a “temporary” State sales tax hike, currently 1 cent, passes the Republican controlled legislature at Gov. Perdue’s suggest 3/4 cent rate . If that extension fails and both referendums succeed, the new Orange County rate would be lower than today – 7.5% – a possibility the BOCC might leverage to sell the bump to voters.

Last year the BOCC responded positively to a critique of the vagueness of their proposed economic development spending priorities by providing specific projects with fairly well established cost structures. One example – extending sewer and water service into 2 of the economic development zones. I expect them to develop a similar list of very targeted expenditures to fix creaking critical physical infrastructure at the schools.

That said, I don’t plan to support the tax because it further burdens folks during a worsening economic downturn, because scheduling it during an off-year election appears to be “gaming” the electoral process and because the allocation doesn’t address escalating demand for critical core services.

Of course, I remain open to the possibility that my mind could be changed by the BOCC’s new advocacy program.

Below is my revised resolution merged with the original:

(more…)

Nov. 2nd, 2010 Election

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

In case there’s any confusion, Morgan Freeman had nothing to do with this post!

I’ll be helping the Orange County Democratic Party over at the Caldwell precinct in northern Orange County from 9:30am to 4:00pm. Drop by if you’re in the area.

Over the last week I’ve received emails asking my recommendations for the judicial races. Here’s who I’m voting for:

US SenateElaine Marshall

I know, Elaine isn’t running for the bench but since I have your attention….

A lot has been made of the apparent Democratic electorate malaise this year. We are still involved in the longest war of our country’s history. We still haven’t punished the use of torture or kidnapping as tools of war. Affronts to our Constitution, to basic human rights continue to be promulgated. Backroom deals derail chances of improving our populaces health and welfare. Billions are bilked and the public coffers milked. Spying and lying are now commonplace insults to our country’s democratic well-being. So much of the same old, same old with nary a peep from so many Democratic “yes we can change” Congress folks.

I understand that immense lethargic unease the folks that turned out in 2008 must feel. Does that mean we need to suffer with a Burr under our saddles another 4 years? Hell no.

Elaine is more than the anti-Burr choice. She wasn’t supported by the torpor inducing national Democratic apparatchik, a real win in my book. She will work to bring real change on behalf of all North Carolinians if elected. Do your part today to make that happen.

Supreme Court – Bob Hunter

Both candidates have a strong record on governmental transparency, solid experience and track records of reasonable judicial advocacy. While Jackson served as counsel under Labor Secretary Cherrie Berry during a period of time when that office was less than proactive on a slate of labor related issues, it’s not clear to me if her role allowed her to advocate for better outcomes. Hunter has the edge in experience, great endorsements and, as a Democrat, the background to work towards an equitable decision on Congressional redistricting should it land in the Court’s hands.

Court of Appeals – Gray,Elmore,Geer.

Gray and Geer, Democrats, have solid reputations, been unequivocal that politics will play no role in their courts. Elmore is a solid choice.

Court of Appeals – Instant Runoff version: Thigpen – 1st. Hammer – 2nd. Payne or Middleton or Vesper -3rd.

In other races:

Board of Commissioners – Earl McKee.

I’ve been watching Earl as he has taken on a few County issues these last 18 months. He spent 6 months attending BOCC meetings to get a feel of the office before ever standing up and speaking his piece. His first issue, challenging the expensive remodeling of an office space to serve as a Commissioners chamber, demonstrated the type of leadership he plans to bring to the Commission: he did his research, spoke sincerely and directly to the issue, stood firm on his principles while pursuing the best policy for both his rural district (District 2) and the County as a whole.

Sales Tax Referendum – AGAINST

This is a lousy year to raise any taxes – no matter how small the bite – but that is not the main reason I stand so firmly opposed to this referendum.

Poverty is on a steep uptick in Orange County. Demand for health and welfare services is at an all time high. Long needed structural shifts – from fully staffing our community health system to shifting the emergency homeless shelter burden off the IFC – are not occurring supposedly due to fiscal difficulties at the County level. Yet, when presented with $2.3M from a sales tax or $4.6M windfall from refinancing the County’s debt, the BOCC chose areas outside those vital needs.

I lobbied them to put the lions share towards addressing the needs of those struggling the most – for the 1 in 5 Orange County residents in poverty and other residents who are just treading water. $2+ M new revenue targeted effectively represents more than a life jacket – it would lift folks out of the deep end of the pool and move them on to firm ground.

Again, I appreciate the BOCC making a somewhat firm commitment to spending priorities – I just don’t support the same set of priorities.

The BOCC has been clear, as they should be, that this revenue sharing plan is a firm commitment over the next 5 years and will not change – period. The BOCC has also reaffirmed their stance that this new revenue will not replace existing revenue or cover existing expenses – it is new money for a new purpose )funds will not be freed up elsewhere that could be redirected to human services).

Given that, tomorrow, I’m voting NO for the sales tax in hopes that we will get another chance to set the priorities for that spending, that the new priority will be waited heavily towards addressing human service needs and that core needs – like improved emergency medical services(EMS) and required school facility repairs – be paid out of core budget.

More of my reasoning on voting against the sales tax below:
(more…)

Internet Gambling: Laura Takes A Stroll

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Quick follow-up to my recent post on NC’s Internet gambling ban (Cognitive Dissonance? NC Legislature Bans Internet Sweepstakes).

WUNC’s reporting treasure Laura Leslie (can you tell I am a fan?), made an informal personal survey of her community’s (Garner) “Parlor Games”.

Ripping a page from the big boys (It’s Not A Spill), one “parlor” (sounds funereal) she visited was

“decorated with pictures of craps tables and roulette wheels, right next to the signs assuring you in capital letters that “YOU ARE NOT GAMBLING.”

It appears that in-spite of evidence to the contrary, as long as you post a sign ALL IN CAPS you’re good to go.

Burr vs. Marshall: Let’s Start With A Little Credit

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

I generally don’t say much on CitizenWill about Federal officeholders but since there’s been a lot of blather about Elaine Marshall’s chances of overcoming Richard Burr I thought I would submit one way she can challenge Burr’s reputation of supporting our troops.

Elaine, as part of her Senate campaign, started a petition calling on Burr to support a Consumer Finance Protection Agency.

Burr, so far, and his Republican colleagues have been less than supportive (to put it mildly) of the initiative.

In fact, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.),

ranking Republican on the Senate banking committee on Monday [June 21st, 2010] told a group of N.C. bankers that a proposed consumer financial protection agency is the “worst” part of an industry overhaul making its way through Congress.

“They will decide what products you can put out, to whom and probably at what price,” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said in remarks at the N.C. Bankers Association’s annual meeting, held at a University-area hotel. “Can you imagine all this?”

Charlotte Observer, June 22nd, 2010

Senator Shelby, after Wall St. gamblers pissed billions of investor dollars down the drain, threw the economy into a historic tailspin and bamboozled American citizens into picking up the tab, I can well imagine having more oversight. For instance, “visualizing” restoration of the kind of protections we once enjoyed under the Glass-Steagall Act.

Shelby was visiting the Old North State “at a breakfast fundraiser for Burr attended by about 70 bankers”.

What does the Consumer Finance Protection Agency have to do with our military families?

The Department of Defense’s Office of Personal Finance specifically endorsed the creation of the CFPA [PDF] because, as Director Julian said, “DOD firmly believes that the financial readiness of their troops and families equates to mission readiness and anything that we can do to help our families be financially ready, we will support the family and the mission.”

That letter of endorsement starts by highlighting the effects predatory and unscrupulous lending practices by some automobile dealers have on our military families.

The excellent academic consumer credit ‘blog Credit Slips has posted a good overview of those reprehensible tactics:

So what are the problems in the auto lending world?  Here are some.  I’m guessing I’ll learn of some new ones in the comments.  I’m also guessing that auto leasing has its own bag of tricks.  

Bait and Switch.   There are lots of variations on bait-and-switch with auto dealers.  Here’s one: the dealer gives the consumer a quote on a particular model and says that it is in stock.  The consumer comes in and guess what–that model is still in stock, but only with a bunch of dealer-added features (hubcap locks, pinstripe, fog lights, etc.) that raise the cost of the car by more than the value given.  Want to guess why I’m driving a Honda Odyssey with a “racing pinstripe” on it?   

Hidden Fees.  This is sort of self-explanatory, and is another bait-and-switch variation.  The consumer bargains with the dealer over the price of the car and the financing and thinks that a deal has been reached.  Then the consumer gets the final bill for the car and it has a bunch of previously unmentioned fees.  The dealer says don’t worry, we’ll just increase the amount financed.  

Dealer reserve kickbacks.  These are the yield spread premiums of the auto world. The dealer often acts as a broker for a financing company that will finance the car purchase.  The dealer is compensated for this service by getting a slice of the interest on the loan.  The higher the loan rate, the larger the kickback.  So the consumer qualifies for a loan at 10%, but the dealer steers the consumer into a 14% loan in order to get a larger dealer reserve payment.  (One way to avoid being steered due to dealer reserve is to go in with a direct financing offer lined-up from an independent finance company; I wonder how many consumers do this, though.)  

Loan packing.  Overpriced and underused or frankly unnecessary products like credit life insurance and GAP insurance and rust-proofing get bundled in to the deal.  

Overselling.  Dealer’s cuts on loans can give them an incentive to steer consumers into larger loans.  One way to do that is to sell the consumer a more expensive car, which requires more financing.  Of course the consumer still has to be qualified for the loan, and there have been problems in auto lending, just as with mortgages, of dealers (and borrowers) fudging the numbers on the paperwork to make borrowers look more creditworthy.  

Spot delivery yo-yos.  This is one of the sleaziest moves.  The consumer buys a car with financing arranged through the dealer.  The financing includes a nonrefundable deposit.  The consumer takes the car home thinking that everything is in order.  The dealer then calls the consumer the next day to say that the financing was denied in the end and the consumer has to return the car.  And the dealer keeps the deposit. 

Binding mandatory arbitration.  This is a generic consumer finance problem.  

Such practices are familiar to folks who live in North Carolina’s host communities.

Unfortunately, the protections DoD asked for have been gutted by both Republican and Democratic (BOO!) House members.

Elaine can differentiate her candidacy not only from Burr’s but of her own Party by coming out strongly for specific remedies to this loophole.

“You Are Excused”

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

Of the few ways one can “exercise” citizenship directly, being chosen as a sitting juror seems most capricious.

Ever since I turned 18 I’ve waited for the call.

Master jury lists in North Carolina are randomly drawn from voter rolls and driver license records. Having been a licensed driver and voting maniac (all elections except one 2nd primary) for over 30 years, I expected to have been selected at least once before now, yet it was only last month I was notified of my first opportunity to serve.

Given my activist background, I imagined that being selected to serve in court was a long shot. Still, getting my chance to discharge this citizen obligation was rewarding enough. Yes, I know it might sound a bit crazy to many folks, especially those who have tried and possibly succeeded in ducking the call, but I was excited my turn finally arrived.

Orange County has a fairly efficient system. You get a letter a month beforehand. You’re instructed to call a particular phone number (919-644-4516 in Orange County should you happen to Google this post) the night before to check your status.

After returning from this evening’s Board of Commissioner’s meeting I made that call.

The disappointing recorded message was short, to the point – “All jurors are excused. This concludes your jury service.”

Excused, yes. Concluded? Just doesn’t feel that way.

Making North Carolina Legislative Sausage

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Two posts in two days highlighting Gerry Cohen’s Drafting Musings? Hey, quality posts deserve link love!

Following on the heels of his historical survey of buffalo noses and other NC legislative curiosities is this post on how bills actually wend their way through the legislative process.

Most civics classes focus on how a bill becomes a law. Just as important is how an idea becomes a bill. During the 2007-2008 legislative session, 4,993 bills and resolutions were filed, and 884 (17% of the total) became law.  That wasn’t the whole iceberg, legislative staff received 5,693 bill drafting requests from members. That volume of requests has been steadily rising, from 3,401 in 2001-2002, to 3,533 in 2003-2004, up a staggering amount to 5,367 in 2005-2006 and then up to this past’s session’s total.

Fascinating insight into sausage making North Carolina-style.

North Carolina’s Third Legislative House

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Gerry Cohen, Director of Bill Drafting for the North Carolina General Assembly since 1981 and former Chapel Hill Council member, maintains a fantastic ‘blog Drafting Musings.

While he usually covers the vagaries of NC’s legislative sausage-making, luckily for his readers he also veers into interesting back-stories of local and state events.

Today he posts the presentation he gave at the annual Capitol Beat opening reception on the “buffalo nose and other tall tales”, one which involves North Carolina’s Reconstruction era 3rd House.

…the Third House was located in the west side of the first floor In 1868, during Reconstruction, an office and a makeshift bar was set up in the West Hall Joint Committee Room by former Union General Milton Littlefield. Due to its regular use by many legislators and officials under General Littlefield’s dubious influence, the room became known as the “Third House” of the legislature.

Voting Nov. 4th: I’m Not Worried

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Ellie, Elijah and I go to the polls Election Day (it deserves to be both capitalized and a holiday) – it is a family tradition. Even though I’ve voted in every major and almost all primary elections since 1980, I still get excited on Election Day (doubly so when I was running).

While I’ve worked out most of the top of the ticket characters I’m voting for, luckily I still have time to figure out some of the judgeships.

Early voting in Orange County has been heavy but not a problem. As reported in today’s News and Observer:

In Orange County, the average wait has been 15 minutes or less, said director Tracy Reams of the Board of Elections. By the end of Wednesday, 38,904 people — more than 40 percent of registered voters — already had voted in Orange.

Since Orange County has been managing the voter turnout, the Board of Elections decided this morning to close the polls as per the original schedule (9am to 1pm Saturday).

I’ve closely followed the management of local elections for nearly 20 years and from what I can tell, this is one of the best run elections Orange County has experienced.

One reason: Tracy Reams.

Oct. 10th I called the BOE to find out how preparations were progressing. I had heard that in the closing days of regular voter registration the staff was processing hundreds of applications daily. Tracy, who was hired last December, spent nearly an hour sketching out her plan to make what was anticipated as the biggest election in decades go smoothly.

After a few minutes, I well understood why the BOE was so thrilled to hire her:

Billie Cox, Chair of the Orange County Board of Elections, said that she and members of the board, Hank Elkins and John Felton, were very pleased that Ms. Reams had accepted this position.

“Tracy has all the skills we were seeking,” Cox said. “In addition to her understanding of election laws, technology and organizational skills, she is well known and highly regarded in Nash County for her ability to work with staff, precinct officials, political parties, candidates, and the general public,” Cox added.

In 2006, I reviewed the county’s choice of voting equipment. I pushed for the more tamper-proof, verifiable vote, optical scan option. One technical limitation these machines has involves how many ballots, realistically, the hopper can manage. ES&S, the manufacturer, claims 2000. Folks on the Internet claim 1500.

Two years later and two minutes into our conversation, Tracy described her ballot management process.

“Our machines won’t hold 2,000 ballots,” she said and went on to describe how she had instructed poll-workers to empty the bins at 1,200 to prevent jamming. Then she outlined her procedure for guaranteeing the integrity of those ballots – witnesses, safety tape, ballot box opened publicly. Wow!

She had ordered %120 of the required ballots to handle any major swell of last minute registrants, ordered 13 phone lines up from 4 at the BOE office, doubled staff to 65 with another trained 10 employees on standby and planned to position the extra dozen polling machines in the field quickly accessible to replace any broken equipment. Further, she had ordered enough laptops to deploy one, each with the current registration roll, at each of the 44 Orange County voting precincts.

That is the kind of preparation our voters deserve.

I’ve gotten to know our BOE staff fairly well over the last 15 years and they all are a diligent crew.

Tracy is the icing on the cake.

NC Ballot: Designed For Failure?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Early voting is moving at a breakneck pace this year with large turnouts from day one.

Unfortunately, NC’s “straight party” ballot option continues to confuse.

Even if you vote “straight party”, you MUST vote for President separately!! Luckily, our new local BOE Director Tracy Reams made sure this year’s poll-workers were well trained to notify voters of this peculiar situation.

Ellie, Elijah and I usually go to the polls on election day – it is a family tradition.

I’ve voted in every major election and nearly every primary (especially since independent voters had the option) since 1980 and have usually seen my top of the ticket choice for naught but this year is different.

Change, I dearly hope, is on the way.

There are a few more days to early vote. This year, same-day registration is available (details here).

No excuse for not getting out to vote!

Early Voting Locations and Hours

Monday – Friday, October 27th – 31st, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 1st, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

MOREHEAD PLANETARIUM, 250 East Franklin Street, Chapel Hill [MAP]
CARRBORO TOWN HALL, 301 West Main Street, Carrboro [MAP]
ORANGE COUNTY PUBLIC LIBRARY, 300 West Tryon Street, Hillsborough [MAP]

Monday – Friday, October 27th – October 31st, 12:00 Noon – 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, November 1st, 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

SEYMOUR SENIOR CENTER, 2551 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill [MAP]
NORTHERN HUMAN SERVICES CENTER, 5800 NC Hwy 86 North, Hillsborough [MAP]

Nov. 4th Voting Locations

Orange County Board of Elections website has more information, including a search tool to identify your particular precinct.

Can’t wait to cast my vote for a guy who unapologetically wears sandals 😉

Carolina North Development Agreement Public Hearing Oct. 15th

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

Tomorrow the Town Council will hold a public hearing describing the basic framework for managing Carolina North’s development over the next couple decades. This is the second meeting discussing the framework. The first was Sept. 25th. Unfortunately, I was the only citizen not directly involved – as either a representative of the Town, UNC or the media – there. Here are my [remarks [VIDEO]].

The proposal couples two legal strategies – zoning and a North Carolina development agreement (authorized by NC Statute 160A-400.20 [DOC]) – to set conditions for the proper build-out of the 250+ acre Carolina North project. Under a development agreement, a developer can be bound to conditions – like fiscal equity – that lie well outside the purview of the zoning process. In return for being bound to what is hopefully measurable performance based goals that have specific remedies for non-compliance, the developer can be confident that the rules of the game won’t change mid-stream.

Other benefits and concerns are covered by Prof. David Owens’ excellent Sept. 25th overview.

The development agreement process is new to North Carolina but has been used extensively elsewhere to create a flexible approach in dealing with large projects instead of insisting on piecewise approvals – a process which tends to introduce uncertainty. If I’ve learned one thing about local development in the last ten years, it is developers – and the University is a major developer – want more certitude in Chapel Hill’s approval process. We’ve had folks willing to jump through as many hoops as necessary to push their project forward but, in the end, have decided on a more mediocre approach because of inconsistency in the current process.

A Carolina North development agreement coupled with one or more potentially new zones could be quite effective and mutually beneficial in managing growth of this 50 year project.

Still, there are questions surrounding the application of this process to UNC’s Carolina North project that must be answered before firmly committing the Town to this approach:

For example, here’s a couple from an email I sent Town Manager Roger Stancil and Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos today:

Hello Roger and Ralph,

I have a few quick questions about tomorrow’s meeting and the proposed resolution the Council is being asked to adopt.

First, will citizen comments on the development agreement framework be taken?

Second, as far as the language of the resolution, does proposing the agreement as the “preferred tool” give the Council some wiggle room if they decide the process isn’t working out? In other words, does this mean there is a built-in “escape clause” or will the Council be bound to follow this approach?

Using a development agreement coupled with a new base zone (or zones) seems like a good and equitable strategy but there are some issues – for instance, how one sets measurable performance goals linked to specific remedies for noncompliance or establishing long-term requirements, like green space preservation, beyond the agreements term – that I would like see resolved before the Town commits whole-heartedly to this approach.

Finally, has anyone considered extending the coverage of the development agreement beyond the borders of HWA?

Along those lines, has anyone explored the legality of including a project approved outside of the Carolina North process, like the Innovation Center, into the agreement? The University is developing the Duke Energy property. Last night, UNC described putting a small power generation center on that property to support their Airport Dr. facility. Any discussion on incorporating the development of that property or of the anticipated modifications at the Airport Dr. facility that will support the Carolina North project into the agreement?

Basically, my concern is that once the physical dimensions of the development agreement are established, any supplementary development in support of the Carolina North project outside of the described property cannot be included under that agreement’s provisions. Because various performance goals, like mitigating water runoff, controlling air/light/noise pollution, managing traffic impacts, etc. are expected to be defined as part of the agreement, I want to understand how these secondary projects can be brought under the same umbrella. If these secondary projects don’t require a SUP or zoning change, I don’t see how the Town has any leverage to encourage a voluntary assumption of the development agreement’s obligations.

I know you both are quite busy but it would be great to have an answer prior to tomorrow’s meeting.

Take care,

Will

encl: Resolution language

“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Council of the Town of Chapel Hill that the Council establish the development agreement, with a base zone, as the preferred tool for guiding development at Carolina North; and concurs with the Trustees’ request that June 2009 is a reasonable target date for having established the process for guiding development at Carolina North; and sets the next joint work session with the representatives of the University Trusts for Wednesday, October, 22, 2008.”

http://townhall.townofchapelhill.org/agendas/2008/10/15/1/2008-10-15_r1.htm

I’ll let you know what they have to say. I also have planning to pull together my notes and remarks from the Sept. 25th Special Carolina North Meeting – I’ve got a backlog of posts but I’ll try to get them out ASAP.

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.

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