SWABbing Together

Sunday, April 10th, 2011

[UPDATE] Valerie said she was “appalled” not “ashamed”. Turns out so is the Chapel Hill News.

Tomorrow night Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt will petition his colleagues to appoint a representative to participate in discussions with the County’s Solid Waste Advisory Board (SWAB) on the future of the Interlocal Agreement on Solid Waste Management.

That agreement, coordinating waste management between each municipality and the County, needs to either evolve to meet the changes in our collective waste management plans or face dissolution.

For the good of our wider community, evolution is the better alternative.

Folks might recall that I asked Council several times over the last 6 years to fill the seat set aside on the SWAB for an elected representative from Chapel Hill – even offering to fill that position myself if appointed or elected to Council. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Ward took up that task, finally, less than a year ago.

Last year the Board of Commissioners (BOCC) agreed to ship our waste to Durham’s trash transfer station (which will subsequently ship it elsewhere). Even though this decision laid the groundwork for what I hope is a temporary solution to our garbage disposal needs, the time that decision bought hasn’t been used effectively by the SWAB to plan for the longer term.

There has been no real effort, to date, to find a local or regional solution that aligns more closely to our community’s fiscal and environmental policy objectives. Instead, the County contracted a new waste management consultancy that “discovered” three increased capacity options. Last week the County proposed extending the landfills life, again, irrespective of the commitments made to the Rogers Road community.

Commissioner Valerie Foushee, reviewing her inaction in tasking County staff to work the issue over the last 6 years, said she was “appalled” by the lack of progress – a sentiment echoed by all her colleagues.

Resisting expediency, taking that deceptively easy path of delaying the inevitable yet again, the BOCC finally took the bull by the horns and agreed to forge a solution themselves (Trash Talk: The Neverending Story…Ends?).

As the BOCC and County Manager noted, their partners in the Interlocal agreement have been MIA during the last few years, and though the County preferred a collaborative accommodation, they could no longer delay.

Tomorrow night, Mark moves Chapel Hill one-step closer to being part of the solution rather than the source of the problem:

This petition responds to a request from the Orange County Board of Commissioners for Towns to consider establishing a working group to address and resolve solid waste management issues. The Solid Waste Advisory Board (SWAB) recommends that this working group be comprised of elected officials and senior staff, and that the process should begin as soon as possible.

I wholeheartedly agree and expect the Council to expeditiously move the process forward.

My first suggested action – take advantage of the provision built into the 1997 landfill extension agreement, as County Manager Frank Clifton highlighted last Tuesday, and start setting aside part of the tipping fees for eventual mitigation of landfill related problems.

Trash Talk: The Neverending Story…Ends?

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parks Impact Fee: How Many (More) Goodies Do High Density Developers Need?

Monday, October 18th, 2010

I spoke before Council this evening on the proposed changes to Section 5.5 (Recreation) of the Town’s Land Use Management Ordinances (LUMO). The changes, which were discussed over a decade ago, approved by the NC Legislature July 10, 2008, essentially amount to an impact fee paid by developers to support parks and recreation.

To quote, the impact fee “could provide a new funding source for Parks and Recreation capital improvements in situations where payments are made in lieu of providing recreation space on site.”

Unlike other development fees, the Planning Board, Parks Commission and Town staff worked to hammer out an assessment that roughly tracked the number of new users of parks and recreation services these new developments add to the overall system. Given that, you would think that a high density development adding 5 times as many folks as a R5 zone development would pay more.

Crazily enough, that isn’t the case.

If you develop a high impact, high density development you can look forward to paying 1/2 what other developers pay and, as a bonus, get the rest of Chapel Hill’s residents to underwrite new recreation services on your behalf. Inequitable – but then again Chapel Hill’s residents have taken on burdens – including subsidizing the West140 development at $10+ million in cash and $15-25+ million in property – for other recent projects.

Since much of Town is built out and the number of low density residential opportunities shrink, the only strong near term revenue source will come from new high density developments. With a number of such new developments/redevelopments in the pipeline you would think staff and the advisory boards would urge Council to move fast – to strike while the iron is hot so to speak. The reality? A provision to delay while all these projects work themselves out of the pipeline.

Just doesn’t seem fair to either Chapel Hill’s existing taxpayers or folks developing less dense options.

From tonight’s staff memo [PDF]:

The following chart illustrates the effect of the proposed change for high density residential projects. The first column shows the required Recreation Space for a residential development using the current system. The second column shows the Recreation Space that would be required if the applicant develops the maximum allowable floor area under the proposed floor area based system, but without a reduction. The following columns show various reductions by percentage. The highlighted column is the recommended 50% reduction.

Proposed Reduction High Density Development Recreation Impact Fee

Here’s the remarks I made this evening (as usual – I edit on the fly so they reflect what I meant to say):

A few of you might recall that I have asked Council to provide a family friendly park, pocket parks along with other amenities Downtown these last 6 years. With that in mind, I’ve been following and commenting on the evolution of the proposed ordinance since it was first suggested. While the overall framework looks solid, tonight I’d like to highlight a glaring problem with that ordinance.

Higher density development Downtown has been promoted by calls for the need for more residents Downtown. More residents means more demand for high quality recreational opportunities.

The higher cost of development also applies to creating suitable recreational opportunities for these folks within or near their high density residences Downtown and elsewhere.

The proposed ratio of residential recreation space for TC1-3, RSSC, MUV and OI districts has been reduced – as the Parks Commission memo states – because “this provision may be necessary in order to encourage high density development in appropriate areas and to address the higher costs related to building high density development.” Note, no supporting material for that contention is given.

This ordinance has been in the pipeline since 2008 and the parameters for calculating much higher in lieu payments discussed since early this year. That hasn’t stopped proposals – like tonight’s Courtyard redevelopment project – from coming forward.

The proposed %50 reduction in the required ratio means that the burden of providing these facilities is shifted off the shoulders of the developers who are profiting from this type development squarely onto the rest of us residents in Chapel Hill.

As we’ve seen from the new crop of high density developments – East54 and Greenbridge, for instance – the community has invested significantly in infrastructure upgrades . These projects were granted substantial and beneficial variances above and beyond those allowed by the underlying zones. In one case a new zone – TC3 – was created to make the project work. In other words, we – the Chapel Hill community – have already supported this type of development with greater height limits, floor area ratios, reduced setbacks, reduced buffer, etc.

At least Greenbridge stepped up and accepted, as a condition of their SUP, a required payment to support the Hargraves Center.

Now the community is being asked to subsidize recreational opportunities for these high density developers who have already received the community’s largesse.

What do we know then? We know that there has been no evidence provided that supports the contention that having high density developers pay their fair share will impede the submission or approval of these type projects.

We know that reducing the required ratio will shift the cost of providing quality recreational opportunities onto the shoulders of the folks living outside these projects. This includes folks that have been waiting years, sometimes decades, for key unmet improvements they have already paid for with their taxes.

With projects like the University Square redevelopment, Courtyard and Obeys Creek, we know that delaying the implementation of this ordinance means with there is a good chance the best opportunities for developers to share the cost of providing public recreational facilities for the residents of their projects and nearby neighborhoods will be missed.

Please rethink the reductions in the high density requirements in light of the costs, the opportunities on the horizon and a common matter of fairness to the rest of Chapel Hill’s taxpaying public.

Well Done Rogers Road Coalition!

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

Some welcome news on the Rogers Road front.

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

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

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

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

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

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

More information on the RENA home website.

Annual Rogers Road Community Back-to-School Bash

Friday, August 13th, 2010

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

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

The annual bash helps get folks back into school days along with providing free school materials to local kids. While the event is free, I’m sure that any spare school materials you bring for redistribution would be appreciated.
(more…)

Trash Talk: Mal de M.E.R. No Longer

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Just back from this evening’s Orange County Board of Commissioners’ meeting.

Tonight’s big agenda item, “What to do about the waste transfer station?”

New County Manager Frank Clifton’s extensively reviewed the three proposed options: use the County’s Payfadar property (originally slated for a park) on Millhouse Road, pursue the ill-suited (and ever more expensive) Howell property on Hwy. 54 or “punt” (as Barry Jacobs put it) and temporarily ship our County’s waste to the existing Durham County facility (“Plan B”).

After an excellent set of balanced community presentations from Preserve Rural Orange County (PRO), Orange County Voice and the Rogers Road Coalition (CEER) – many of which covered not just the problems with the proposed sites but posited responsible alternatives – the Board voted 6-1 to not only use “Plan B” but to permanently take the Millhouse-Eubanks-Rogers Road community off the table.

Mal de M.E.R. no more.

I’ve been involved in one way or another on this issue for 5 years. Really pushed to get, and had some success, in creating a transparent community-based process for siting the transfer facility. Proposed using “Plan B” a couple years ago (here and here) to give the Board and community sufficient time to explore a wide range of alternatives.

And, as of this evening, seen the great work from a wide spectrum of County citizens, the thoughtful consideration of our Commissioners finally come to fruition in this decision.

Of course, the work is far from over. I believe that we must eventually managed our waste locally (for instance, like my 2006 suggestion to create an eco-industrial center on the Eno River Economic Development zone to sort, reuse and minimize the waste stream). I also believe that Chapel Hill must step up and bear a greater responsibility in dealing with our contribution to that waste stream. I also believe we must coordinate with our neighboring communities to create an environmentally responsible end-point for our waste.

That work has yet to begin.

Rev. Robert Campbell’s Letter

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

I first met Rev. Robert Campbell, an incredibly dedicated advocate for the Rogers/Millhouse community, over 8 years ago. At the time I was attending one of my first Council meetings.

Fred Battle, Robert Campbell, Yonni Chapman
Yonni’s Picassa, Aug. 28th, 2009, Peace and Justice Commemoration

Fred Battle, then President of the local NAACP (and member of the Hank Anderson Breakfast Club), had presented a compelling case for extending sewer and water to the Rogers Road community on the basis of promises made by Chapel Hill’s Mayor Lee decades before. The community had been told that if they accepted the landfills, the County and the Town would provide mitigations, including proper sanitation and potable water, to offset those burdens.

I was moved by Fred’s and Robert’s words that evening, wished I could lend a helping hand. I introduced myself, apologized that as a longtime resident and part of the problem I had not known of their plight and done more to help. Luckily I’ve since had an opportunity to make amends.

The last 4 years Robert, Neloa Jones and many of other other folks working to lift the burden off of this community have set an example that I strive to follow. It is a true welcoming gift that they’ve invited my service on their behalf.

Unfortunately, eight years on, we are still dealing with some of the same issues. The Council this Spring pledged to form a working group to resolve this long owed debt but that pledge, like Mayor Lee’s of decades ago and Mayor Foy’s of this Spring, remains unkept.

Robert wrote this stirring endorsement of my candidacy which appeared in the Chapel Hill Herald and at the IndyWeek.

Thank you Robert for the very kind words:

Raymond has vision; is the voice town needs

Will Raymond is a person that knows the issues and the effect it has on policies making in local government. Will has been and still will advocate for social and environmental justice. Will is one who sees the importance of citizens’ voices and will be the voice of those that are not at the table where decisions are made that affect them.

We are at a critical point in planning for our future of our town. Construction will soon begin in a Chapel Hill planning district, a waste transfer station is part of the development which must be addressed. Will Raymond knows our roads, schools, housing and right to basic amenities will be on the minds of citizens.

Local and political education, accountability, honesty and democracy are the keys to transparency in government. A vote for Will Raymond is a vote for Green initiative and sustainability. We need new vision on the town board. Make the right decision and vote for Will Raymond, a man that sees from within and not from without, one who has been at the meeting and has seen and heard the voice of the people.

I, Robert Campbell, call for all friends, family members, church members, citizens and veterans to vote for community service and experience. Vote for Will Raymond.

Robert Campbell
Chapel Hill

Trash Talk: Shall We Stand United? Rogers-Eubanks Community Says “Yes”!

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

I knew that the final siting of the solid waste transfer station might devolve into an “us vs. them” debacle – pitting neighbor against neighbor. Orange County is no stranger to inter-community bickering caused by waste-related issues.

From the beginning, as I made contact with leaders of various organized groups – the Rogers Road community, Hillsborough’s Orange County Community Awareness, Highway 54’s Orange County Voice – I asked that they look at those concerns they have in common and work together as a united front. Fortunately, the folks involved across the county, coming from different perspectives, have found common ground and, essentially, joined together to confront the challenge of managing our solid waste responsibly.

One example ? CEER’s Neloa Jones desire to mitigate community impacts as expressed in her Nov. 17th statement read to the Orange County Board of Commissioners:

Good evening Chairman Jacobs and Other Members of the Board.

My name is Neloa Jones. I am a resident of the Rogers-Eubanks Community, co-chair of the Coalition to End Environmental Racism (CEER), and a member of the Roger-Eubanks Neighborhood Association (RENA).

For 36 years, the Rogers-Eubanks Community has hosted two municipal solid waste landfills, two construction and demolition landfills, a hazardous waste collection site, a recyclables sorting and packaging facility, a mulch/compost site, and a 1/3 acre leachate pond that even the county believed threatened our groundwater.

For these reasons, my community certainly empathizes with ANY community that might also become a host community for solid waste, and I am here tonight to ask that the county GUARANTEE certain provisions and compensation to the community asked to host the waste transfer station.

As suggested in the U.S. EPA Waste Transfer Stations manual, these provisions and compensation might include independent third-party inspections and video monitoring of the facilities, eliminating 3R fees, “funding for road [and] utility improvements,” and “financial support for regulatory agencies to assist with facility oversight.”

Unfortunately, for its 36 years of service to the county, the Rogers-Eubanks Community has never received ANY compensation. We consider this treatment to be unjust and immoral; we do not want another community to receive similar treatment.

For many Rogers-Eubanks residents, our community represents the legacy of ex-slave ancestors who attempted to prosper as they established a community. It represents the legacy of ancestors who wanted to preserve the land to live on and pass to their children and their children’s children.

Our ancestors never envisioned a community blighted by pollution, deflated property values, and the loss of business opportunities. They never envisioned a community blighted by buzzards and vermin, the stench of garbage, and contaminated water. NO, as a member of the Rogers family–FIFTH-generation–I believe that this IS NOT what my ancestors envisioned. As CEER and RENA members, no, we cannot stand by and watch another community destroyed and its quality of life sacrificed. We hope the people of Orange County and our local governments will use the lessons of the past and probe their consciences so that they do what is right for Orange County. Finally, we should ensure that as we look to waste-to-energy and other waste disposal alternatives, we do not bring more technology and waste facilities to Eubanks Road.

Trash Talk: Will We Stand United?

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

A Lion used to prowl about a field in which Four Oxen used to dwell. Many a time he tried to attack them; but whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another, so that whichever way he approached them he was met by the horns of one of them. At last, however, they fell a-quarrelling among themselves, and each went off to pasture alone in a separate corner of the field. Then the Lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end of all four.

Aesop, 6th Century BC

Had an opportunity tonight to listen in on a group of concerned Hillsborough and southwest Orange County citizens discuss the potential siting of the trash transfer facility in their neighborhoods (Eno River Economic Zone – 2 sites and Hwy. 54 corridor – 3 sites).

A number of issues were raised at the meeting: apparent bias in site selection, the “surprise” announcement of the sites on Hwy. 54 and the Hillsborough zone, weighting of access to water and sewer hookups sans cost of making those connections, inadequate traffic studies, confusing or misapplied scoring of technical criteria, whether the BOCC would implement the more costly enclosed transfer site design previously proposed for Eubanks or shave some costs by going with an open pavilion, concern that Chapel Hill’s/Carrboro’s increased transportation costs were improperly used to justify removing Durham County’s transfer site from consideration, underestimation of water use (500 gals. a day!), possible “hidden” reasons for acquiring 82 acres ($7.5 million the current asking price) instead of a smaller tract, if incineration and ultimate in-county disposal got due attention and a slew of others which I’m sure the Rogers Road community are well acquainted with.

Nathan Robinson, the environmental engineer I wrote about Sept. 16th, a founding member of Orange County Community Awareness, gave the clearest deconstruction of the current solid waste transfer site selection mess that I’ve seen. Orange County’s consultant, Olver, should review his presentation to improve their own dog-n-pony show.

Nathan quickly out-lined the dimensions of the issue, discussing what a solid waste transfer site does, how it is laid out, managed and maintained before launching into an analysis, from his professional viewpoint as an environmental engineer, of the problems associated with the current siting process.

Nathan’s concerns mirror a number of mine, especially in terms of the weighting of the selection criteria, the incredibly confusing community criteria feedback procedure, biased scoring of the technical criteria, analysis of environmental consequences and the evaluation of Orange County’s waste creation “center of gravity” (my Mar. 9th, 2007 post on that issue: 2035 Orange County’s Garbage Center of Gravity? ).

As folks that have read my ‘blog know (or have heard me whinge on about local issues elsewhere), I promote reality-based decision-making using measurable criteria. Not all issues are amenable to this approach. Sometimes you have to make a subjective call – say as to the weighting of the importance of environmental justice in the current transfer site process. As I noted a couple years ago, the previous decision by Orange County’s Solid Waste Advisory Board to plop this new facility back on Eubanks sorely lacked rigor, objectivity and transparency.

I questioned SWAB’s ability to make a sound decision because they didn’t generally use objective, understandable, measurable criteria – technical or otherwise – and what criteria they did use were inequitably evaluated differently depending on context and perceived necessity.

Because of that disconnect, I lobbied the Board of Commissioners (BOCC) to create a more thoughtful process grounded by sound engineering principles, guided by community standards. I was encouraged by the process they adopted, but, just as the BOCC themselves admitted on return from their summer break, greatly concerned by Olver’s implementation.

The folks of Rogers Road shared my concerns and expressed their uneasiness at the BOCC’s Sept. 16th meeting.

Of the concerns expressed and the comments made at the meeting, two need serious highlighting.

First is the statements by Hillsborough’s elective folks – like Mayor Stevens and Commissioner Gering – to this community that “they didn’t know” about the process or potential siting of the solid waste facility near Hillsborough. I attended several Assembly of Orange County Governments meetings where these issues got a thorough airing. As a quick Google of minutes of these meetings document, Hillsborough’s reps had to know that these sites were in-play.

Second, and really the most encouraging of all the comments, was Nathan’s call to adopt a united and collaborative approach in dealing with these outstanding issues.

He said, clearly, that he has come to understand the depth of Rogers Roads concerns, their 36 year struggle to simply have promises made – promises completed. He said, clearly, that equitable environmental justice was a relevant criteria and that this was not a battle between neighbors. When a few comments from the folks assembled veered into the “us versus them” realm, Nathan and some of the other organizers rose to say that their emphasis was on the overall process – their focus to get an reliably objective analysis within the established criteria and remove the confusion around the more subjective components of Olver’s mission.

Finally, and the most heartening of all, Nathan said he was meeting with Rogers Road resident (and champion) Rev. Campbell today to see how they could work together. I well remember the landfill expansion fight – which pitted neighbor against neighbor. An attempt to avoid that rancor from the outset gives hope the community won’t fracture. Interestingly, the folks around the county starting to deal with UNC’s new airport authority, already recognize that a united approach is a better approach.

My hope? That the BOCC improves the process. That they realize that the solid waste transfer decision is a beginning. And they work knowing how these issues are resolved will set the template for the new landfill selection process.

If you’re just stumbling upon my site and want some background, here’s a few posts and links to get you up to speed:

Additional posts on the issue are available by doing a search on “trash” from the sidebar.

Tracey Coleman on Rogers Road: Most Popular Video To Date

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

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



Election 2007: Sierra Club Endorsement

Sunday, October 7th, 2007

I do know that the Sierra Club, in 2005, thought I was a candidate well-suited for addressing our Town’s environmental issues.

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

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

With two years of additional activism – on Carolina North, energy efficiency, open space and environmental protections, Roger Road, environmental standards – by the very measure the Club used in 2005, one might expect a 2007 endorsement.

Over the last two years, I knew I had built a solid reputation for putting our environment front and center. I brought to the table a number of established innovative solutions for reducing environmental impacts, promoting sustainable alternatives and reusing/recycling wasted resources.

Above all, I kept it simple: “Walk the talk.”

As recently as this Spring, when our Council wavered on eco-friendly standards for their Downtown development, I was there making the case for measurable goals. Three of the incumbents, Hill, Strom and Greene, voted for their public-private project even though the developer refused to be held to a goal of %20 energy reduction as measured by acceptable standards.

On the same project, I was there first on the hazardous waste remediation – sizing our obligation, funding the effort accordingly. The same three incumbents downplayed the costs to our Town’s open-ended obligation to clean up that environmental mess.

I’ve supported mandating ASHRAE and AIA 2030 environmental standards for energy efficient buildings, well beyond what some of the incumbents have called for.Beyond that, over the last two years I’ve lobbied (and successfully got) the Town to purchase bio-fuels for its fleet, though I’ve yet to get the majority to agree to targeted reductions in fuel use.

I’ve called for a stronger emphasis on reducing noise and light pollution, including adopting the precepts of the Dark Skies Initiative

As part of the Horace-William’s Citizens Committee (HWCC), I brought metrics to the environmental assay process – setting goals, discussing methodologies for measuring achievement of those goals.

Unfortunately, that necessary additional work was canceled when the Mayor pulled the plug on the HWCC. Fortunately, UNC’s Leadership Advisory Committee on Carolina North did listen and made a serious environmental assay of the Horace-William’s property a key requirement for moving forward.

On other issues, preserving open space, using the wasted landfill gas (LFG) for Town operations, teaming with the County on bio-fuels production, I have been at the forefront – calling for specific measures that would not only improve our local ecology but recycle/reuse wasted resources (two bangs for the same buck).

Whether it was right-sizing our Town’s vehicle fleet (still not done after a commitment to do so over 4 years ago), calling for the Town to get Duke Energy to use much more efficient light fixtures in our street lights (6 years now without action by Council), using technology to reduce car trips to the new Town Operations Center (ignored, and no longer championed by the dissolved Technology Board) – my efforts have been backed by solid, detailed, research and marked by a pragmatic, practical approach to solving problems.

Throughout, I’ve called on our Town to “walk the talk.”

Where was the concern for tree protection, for instance, when Southern Park was clear cut? Where was the commitment to carbon reduction (CRED) by reducing our Town’s fuel use or replanting appropriately at the new Town Operations center?

Lots of talk, but very poor follow through. Deeds, in the case of our incumbents, don’t always follow the words.

But it hasn’t just been about the environment. What about social justice?

Strangely ignored by our local Sierra Club, the environmental consequences of siting the landfill, and, now, the trash transfer station in the Rogers Road community have been well known for years. I remember two of the neighborhoods representatives, Fred Battle and Rev. Campbell, asking for relief at a Council meeting nearly eight years ago (and many times since).

They were asking Chapel Hill to make good on promises made a decade prior – to show some basic, decent, human concern.

The burden has only increased over the years but our elected folks have just not responded adequately to our neighbors just concerns. Many of their concerns – slowing down traffic, picking up spilled litter, improving the safety along Rogers Road – could be addressed by low cost means. Our Town, which has dumped trash in their backyards, could certainly allocate some funds to deal with the sewer and water problems.

Yet, two of our incumbents, Jim Ward and Bill Strom, over eight years, have moved slowly, if at all, to address this case of obvious environmental injustice. In spite of escalating requests, over the last four years, Cam Hill and Sally Greene joined Bill and Jim in mostly ignoring the pleas of our neighbors.

Yes, there was murmured concern but when it came to making measurable progress – the results were anemic – and quite unsatisfying to the Rogers Road community.

Not only have I spoken out on behalf of our neighbors, I’ve documented their case and have made specific proposals for addressing some of their concerns.

Why the Sierra Club refuses to address this environmental injustice in their own backyard I don’t know.

I do know that when I asked their political committee why I wasn’t asked about this glaring issue during my interview, two of the members told me that they thought it wasn’t part of the Club’s or Chapel Hill’s docket. I pointed out that the next Council will definitely be ruling on the County’s solid-waste plans and Rogers Road – even if we dispense with common neighborly courtesy – is squarely our Town’s concern.

In the recent League forum you can compare my response to those of the incumbents (40 minutes in).

Once you review the footage, I’d ask, “Who would you want standing in your corner?”

In 2005, the Sierra Club said I was a candidate well-suited for addressing our Town’s environmental issues:

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

Yes, these last two years, I built upon that activism – on Carolina North, energy efficiency, open space and environmental protection – the Sierra Club endorsed.

But I knew this year, because of Sierra Club politics at the State level, and because of my repeated calls to the Sierra Club’s leadership to take a principled stand on a number of environmental issues, I had very little chance to secure an endorsement. I had some small hope that the Club would surmount the politics and select the candidates that have shown the courage to “do” over those that have had the opportunity to “do more” and haven’t.

So, a small hope but little expectation. Given the Club’s assurance that they would carefully review my record, I did expect they would get my name right:

Dear Ray,
One great thing about Chapel Hill is that fact we have so many candidates with positive ideas about the environment and who have contributed to the community. Based upon the interviews, forum, voting records and other information we made our recomendation to the state Sierra Club. I’m glad to hear about your concerns about carrying capicity for Chapel Hill and hope you will continute to pursue them, however we decided to endorse other
candidates who had more experience. Thank you for spending time with us to share your ideas and thoughts and of
course, please keep on talking them up.
I was unable to post the forum. I am having copies made. If you contact me after Tuesday I can lend you a copy of the DVD.

Sincerely,
Loren Hintz

Voting records? I’ll have to wait for that opportunity. On every other 2005 Club expectation, I delivered.

As far as sharing my ideas and “talking them up” to promote a sustainable community that lives within the limits of its “carrying capacity” Loren, you can count on that.

Sincerely.

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.

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.

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