Election 2007: Friends of Affordable Housing Questionnaire

Monday, October 15th, 2007

X-Posted from my campaign website.

I hadn’t heard of this organization prior to this election but they appear to have been active for the last 10 years.

Friends of Affordable Housing is a non-partisan Political Action Committee that has been active in selective elections within Orange County during the last 10 year. The organization was first organized to support the Orange ballot for Affordable Housing Bond Money. The committee has also periodically sent questionnaires to candidates running for Orange County Commissioner and Chapel Hill Town Council.

Core members of the committee felt the residents of Chapel Hill should have the opportunity to know the positions of the various candidates running in 2007 for Chapel Hill Town Council. The Committee felt the relocation of the IFC, the transition to more attached multi-story housing, the opportunity for more affordable housing in Carolina North, and the possibility of selective use of “payment in lieu” of affordable housing units were issues of significant concern for Chapel Hill residents. The committee members are all long standing residents of Chapel Hill. The four review committee members have extensive executive committee experience in non-profit boards including the IFC, Habitat for Humanity, Dispute Settlement Center, YMCA and various Orange County boards including the Commissioners Committee on Affordable Housing. Committee members have also consulted with staff members of several of the Affordable Housing providers.

The NC Board of Elections has informed us that Friends of Affordable Housing does not have to register as a formal PAC for the 2007 election because we will not be raising money to support a specific candidate or issue.

They weren’t active in the 2005 race even though there was a slew of known affordable housing related issues before the Council.

Dear Candidate:

As you know, initiatives to increase the stock of all types of affordable housing in Chapel Hill have been an election issue for many years. In order to give Chapel Hill residents a better understanding of your position on this critical subject, Friends of Affordable Housing has developed a 7-item questionnaire asking you to address some of the current issues.

A review committee of the Friends of Affordable Housing will review your responses and may endorse specific candidates prior to the November election. Your comments will also be made available to the general public.

Thank you for your cooperation; we look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

The review committee: Natalie Ammarell, Rev. Richard Edens, Susan Harvin ,Richard Leber

They obviously understand that maintaining and expanding affordable housing opportunities will require even more attention of the new Council than the last two years.

Here are my answers to their questions.


Friends of Affordable Housing Questions for Chapel Hill Mayor and Town Council Candidates

1. Please describe your commitment to creation of affordable housing initiatives in Chapel Hill.

I’m dedicated to continuing our Town’s commitment to providing affordable housing in Chapel Hill.

We need to re-evaluate, though, our current initiatives, our capability to manage our affordable housing stock and to rebalance the types of housing we’re currently providing.

With that, we also need to adopt fiscal policy that helps folks keep the most affordable housing they have – their current homes. We’re already seeing a trend of long-term residents, after decades of contributing to our community, being “shown the door”.

Those just starting out, can’t even get their foot in the door without substantial incomes.

Finally, we need to make sure our Town’s growth policies align with our housing goals.

RAM Development, the Town’s private partner on the Lot #5 boondoggle, is proposing to replace the somewhat affordable apartments with hundreds of big-ticket condos. Developments that displace existing affordable housing stock, like Hillsborough 425, are part of Chapel Hill’s future.

We need to make sure, though, that we anticipate the consequences of those displacements.

2. Please give your opinion about the actions taken by Town Council in the last 4 years to increase the stock of affordable housing in Chapel Hill.

I commend the Council for their intent. I applaud their successes. But, we could’ve done better.

Too much in lieu money, not enough square footage. Necessary reform in managing our housing stock or being able to adapt to changing conditions left undone for too long. Opportunities like Roger Perry’s %30 offer at East 54 or Greenbridge’s Northside neighborhood in-fill proposal missed. Rebalancing the kind of housing we offer, not adequately addressed.


3. Given the current impasse with the County, what would you do as a Town Council member to proactively advance the effort to find a new site for the IFC Men’s Residential Facility?

a. Would you oppose locating the facility in certain parts of town (e.g., downtown; near Seymour Center)?

I would like to see the IFC split the food service and the shelter functions. As far as the Men’s Shelter, our Town – if a leadership vacuum exists at the county level – has a responsibility to manage this process. I believe the Town should work with the IFC, proactively, along four basic thrusts.

One, develop criteria that incorporates both the IFC’s requirements for just the shelter component and our Town’s goals for development, transit and neighborhood preservation.

Transit opportunities, accessibility to health and other social services are a few of the criteria I would suggest.

Two, once we have the mutually developed criteria, find the site that best suits our joint needs. Our community needs to be involved in both the development of relevant criteria and the selection of the site.

Locating on Homestead makes sense, especially over Eubanks or Millhouse but there might be better sites based on the decision matrix the IFC, other interested parties and the Town develops.

Three, our Town could provide some logistical support to the IFC in developing a task list to move the shelter.

The Chamber asked me if I’d support pulling the IFC’s lease on the existing shelter location. No way I did say that our Town should help develop a punch list of items with specific performance goals and a timeline to hold the IFC to – but taking a punitory tack is – in my estimation – a poor strategy.

Four, we need to bring our community into the process early, educate the public on the relevant issues and, proactively, publish a guide on how the Council will measure the success of this project. If Council affirms, as I believe we’ll be able to do, that the population at the Men’s Shelter will not increase criminal activity in surrounding neighborhoods, we should already be prepared to assess that activity and report back if reality matched our projections.

4. What new programs do you envision to increase the stock of affordable homes in Chapel Hill?

a. Do you think priority should be given to one type of affordable housing (e.g., transitional housing, special needs, rentals, small condo’s, larger owner occupied detached homes) over another?

We need to rebalance our housing stock based on a few criteria. First, what is the most diverse kind of stock we can reasonably manage using existing resources? Second, look at partnering on denser developments like Raleigh’s Carlton Place (I wrote about this development here: http://citizenwill.org/2007/03/21/raleighs-carlton-place-a-downtown-affordable-housing-commitment-worth-emulating/ ). Third, like Carlton Place, re-evaluate rental housing within our current mix.

b. What type of affordable housing should be built in Carolina North and on the Greene Tract?

I would like to see affordable housing developed on the Greene Tract that is akin to that of the Homestead Park neighborhoods. I would also like the housing to be on the eastern side of the tract to integrate into those neighborhoods, take advantage of existing and new amenities, be closer to existing transit, take advantage of new transit capabilities (depending on what happens at Carolina North) and avoid damaging some of the more ecologically sensitive areas.

The University has suggested that housing on Carolina North will be market driven. I would like to see a mix of units that parallels the stock that UNC commissions.


5. In the last year, Town Council has approved three mixed-use developments: 54 West, Greenbridge and Ram’s Lot 5. Under Chapel Hill’s Inclusionary housing policies these developments will generate almost 100 affordable one and two bedroom condo units. However, these units will not serve lower income families with children.

a. In your opinion, do current policies provide the types of affordable housing that are really needed? If not, what should be changed?

As you might be aware, I’ve been critical of the Town’s Lot #5 development for a number of reasons. The project is fiscally irresponsible, the original affordable housing stock was not family friendly, the affordable housing parking was off-site (second class citizens), the condo fees were steep and not capped, the condo units – especially the larger ones – will most probably server the student community, measurable energy efficiency and environmental standards were dropped, and on and on. You can read my web site – citizenwill.org – for a detailed discussion on these and other Lot #5 ills.

For all my criticism of the majority of the Council’s decision to take on this money pit, I am happy that Cam Hill did accept my recommendation to resize some of the affordable units to accommodate families. Will families find them inviting? I’m not sure.

Considering Lot #5’s location, I’m quite concerned that the Council never took my call to look at affordable living as well as affordable housing seriously. What is the cost of living in one of these units if you should be on the lowest economic rung of those that can purchase a unit? Will the economics of that location end up making this housing more transitional in nature than was originally anticipated?

The units at East54 strike me as being more family friendly. I was encouraged, at least until the Harris-Teeter moved, that a mix of services were within easy reach. I was discouraged though by the Landtrust’s assessment that these units would be transitional in nature. And, of course, continue to be concerned we couldn’t take advantage of the developers offer to build %30 affordable housing.

With Greenbridge, I believe our philosophy of integrative units, a good goal, interfered with an excellent opportunity to acquire more square footage. The rejection of the proposal to build family units within an existing adjacent neighborhood was disappointing. Our Town policy should be flexible enough to adapt to exceptional opportunities that don’t diverge greatly from our housing goals.

b. Can Chapel Hill’s Inclusionary housing policies be utilized to generate affordable rental housing? If you think so, please explain how such rental housing would be managed and maintained.

From my understanding, the existing inclusionary policies don’t align with encouraging development of rental housing. As the inclusionary zoning process continues, we need to make sure rental becomes more of an option.


6. Many affordable homes are “aging” and will require significant maintenance. Is it appropriate for public funds to be used for long-term maintenance? If so, what sources of funds should be used?

I’m interested in the proposal for a rotating loan fund to assist folks in maintaining their properties. This loan fund, if created, needs to come from monies outside the general fund. I would not support additional Town debt – via bonds or other mechanisms – to fund this loan program.


7. Do you think “payment in lieu” of affordable housing construction should be accepted from builders? If so, what guidelines should be used and how should these funds be used?

Over the last five years, my sense is the Council is accepting way too much in lieu monies over square footage. We’re asking developers to create housing. Housing built now will not only help relieve some of our current demand but also be cheaper than housing built 5, 10 , 20 years out.

If we ask for housing, we should get housing.

Delay is not our friend. Easy money also erodes are discipline. Square footage over in lieu money should be our guiding principle.

Election 2007: Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth

Saturday, October 13th, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Morris Grove Elementary School

Wednesday, October 3rd, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Election 2007: League Of Women Voters Forum

Monday, October 1st, 2007

A big thank you to the local chapter of the League of Women Voters for an excellent forum this evening. Vicki Boyer, who occasionally posts on OrangePolitics kept the show moving along with a variety of audience questions.

Unlike the Sierra Club forum, the environmental and social justice issues surrounding our neighbors out on Rogers Road (of which I have spoken about numerous times) got a fairly decent airing. The $8 million Downtown Development boondoggle merited one round.

The forum’s format, a round of answers with some opportunity for give-and-take, suited tonight’s questions. I hope the public and the local media take some time to mull over our responses.

There were a few surprises from the non-incumbents: Kevin Wolff bringing up voter-owned elections, Penny Rich suggesting punishing Downtown landlords who wouldn’t fill their storefronts, Matt Czajkowski’s excellent point that Chapel Hill has become introverted.

Of course, the incumbents tried to take credit for all the successes over the last four years while trying to dodge any responsibility or account for any of the mistakes.

Some of the successes – hiring an economic development officer, developing a strategic economic development plan, the Town’s new fiber network – were issues I brought forward first.

As far as surprises from the incumbents, I appreciated Mayor Foy’s complementary observation that I have an eye for efficiency.

Jim Ward’s bit of criticism (Incumbency Is Not Enough or Nineteen Seconds Is Too Long) about the 19 seconds I went over my time on one response provided some humor.

And Cam Hill, one of the negotiators on Lot #5, quoting a citizen outlay about $1 million short of the actual figure (CHN). I’ve been up since 6am and can understand a fumble –
hope fatigue explains his sloppy accounting.

The League graciously allowed me to assist them in posting tonight’s video on the web.

I’m preparing for upload now and expect the full video to be available by tomorrow evening (I’ll post a new article when it’s done).

Oh, and the Sierra Club has since declined my offer to post their forum on the Internet. They plan to do it themselves. I’ll keep an eye on their progress and will announce its availability.

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.

Rogers Road Community: Honor the Promises!

Thursday, September 20th, 2007

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



Direct link to video.

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

Election 2007: Sierra Club Interview

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

X-Posted from Will Raymond for Town Council 2007:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007

X-Posted from my 2007 Campaign web site.

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

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

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

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

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

YES

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

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Rogers Road Community: A Unified Front

Tuesday, September 18th, 2007


Rev. Campbell

David Richter

Tracy Coleman

Jeff Kingman

Jeanne Stroud

Nancy Ignia

Sharon Cook

The Rogers-Eubanks Coalition to End Environmental Racism, a coalition of the

  • Chapel Hill -Carrboro Branch of the NAACP
  • Environmental Justice Network
  • West End Revitalization Association
  • Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom
  • Orange County Progressive Democrats
  • and members of UNC-CH Faculty, Students, and Staff

are calling for folks to turn out at the Thursday, Sept. 20th Joint Assembly of Governments Meeting, 7:30pm at the Southern Human Services Center [MAP]

Support the Residents of the Landfill Neighborhoods*

at the Joint Assembly of Governments Meeting (Orange Co., Hillsborough, Carrboro and Chapel Hill)

• No to the proposed transfer station
• Shut down the stinking landfills
• Safe water hookups
• Safe and cheap sewer services

Improve the quality of life for Landfill Neighborhoods.*

Thursday, September 20, 2007 at 7:30 p.m.
Southern Human Services Center
2501 Homestead Road, Chapel Hill

*The predominantly Black neighborhoods along Rogers Road and parts of Eubanks Road were seen as politically impotent to stop the placement of stinking landfills and other waste products of the more powerful white residents in the recent past. This is called Environmental Racism.

For more information: camko@bellsouth.net

What issues does the Rogers Road community want addressed?

Here’s a quick overview from some of my posts covering our neighbors continuing plight:

Hat tip to OrangePolitics.

Triple the Fun at Shearon-Harris

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

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

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

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

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

Earlier posts on Progress Energy’s Shearon-Harris

The complete notice follows (more…)

National Conversation on Climate Action: A Local Perspective

Thursday, September 13th, 2007

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

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

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

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

Here’s the program:

Speakers:

Part I:

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

Part II:

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

Program:

Part I:

2007 Sustainability Workshop

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

To register and see the Part I Workshop schedule click here

Part II:

2007 National Conversation on Climate Change

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

Program Agenda: TBA

This program is free and open to the public.

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

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

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

Shearon-Harris: Fire in the Whole

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

It appears that Progress Energy has prevailed against local concerns the fire safety and overall security of their Shearon-Harris facility is less than adequate:

Progress Energy has cleared a hurdle in its bid to extend the operating license of the Shearon Harris nuclear plant by 20 years.

The Raleigh utility persuaded administrative law judges to reject safety concerns raised by nuclear critics who are challenging the license extension.

The groups want to litigate safety issues that the atomic board said fall outside the scope of a relicensing proceeding. Such proceedings are limited by law to reviewing a nuclear plant’s safety components and environmental impacts as the plant ages, the atomic board said.

N&O

I commented on NC Warn’s efforts in this recent post.

I’ve been following the mess at Shearon-Harris before the facility opened. Locally, our governments have to be concerned that this facility maintains the highest safety standards. For nearby communities – Pittsboro, Apex, Cary – the consequences of an accidental release present a devastating prospect. Closer to home, the economic and environmental reverberations would be significant.

The troubled NRCs role in this – their continued lack of oversight and willingness to bend what is in the best business interest of companies like Progress Energy – does not bode will for our community.

Luckily, local Representative David Price is aware of the fire safety issue and has promised to have the GAO look into the process to make sure the public good is well-served.

Carolina North: What The Board Heard

Thursday, August 2nd, 2007

The July 31st Carolina North community outreach meeting was supposed to cover the same ground as last week’s presentation to UNC’s Board of Trustees. While Jack Evans might have presented the same material, my guess is the community’s reception was somewhat less excepting than the BOTs.

The 4pm session ran to 5:30 and was well attended by more than the “usual suspects”. I’ve attended every session on Carolina North these last few years but understand outside demands and the funky scheduling can make attending a burden so it was nice to see most every candidate – Cam, Sally, Jim, Penny – for Town Council show up.

Some of the answers to the community’s questions were quite telling – in a sense more informative than the session itself.

The disposition of Horace-Williams is going to influence the next 50 years of our Town’s development. We need leadership that is not only aware of the issues but can negotiate well on behalf of the citizenry.

Here’s the complete video I made of the session:

Towards the end of the video you might have some difficulty understanding the questions from folks in the upper bleachers but forge ahead as Jack Evans did a good job of reiterating and responding.

Carolina Innovation Center: Alexandria Equities, the Citizens Partner?

Friday, July 27th, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

If their website is any indication, not so open:

TERMS OF USE

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe Alexandria just needs a ticket on the Cluetrain express?

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

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