Filling the Seat: Ten Applicants

Friday, October 31st, 2008

As of 5:00pm, 10 folks applied to fill Bill’s seat. It’s an interesting cross-section of concerned citizens.

Amy, Gene and I have worked on several mutual issues before Council. Andre and Loren I know from their advisory board and advocacy work. Don served on the Technology Board with me.

With 10 applicants, I expect our spiels to last 5 to 7 minutes. Nov. 1st will be a full night.

  1. William R. Abb (PDF)
  2. Amy Chute (PDF)
  3. J. M. Green, Ph.D. (PDF)
  4. Loren Hintz (PDF)
  5. James Merritt (PDF)
  6. Gene Pease (PDF)
  7. Will Raymond (PDF)
  8. Willard Blaine Rogers (PDF)
  9. Donald Shaw (PDF)
  10. Andre’ J. Wesson (PDF)

Raymond, Ready For Service: Formal Application

Friday, October 31st, 2008

Here is my formal application to fill Bill’s seat.

I agree with recent Council comments that their new colleague must be “ready to hit the road running”. To do so, an applicant should be prepared, involved and experienced.

Council already has a demanding workload. Over the next 7 months two major challenges – troubled finances and the Carolina North development agreement – along with a number of demanding development,technology and operational issues will strain Council’s capacity to deliberate and decide with the due diligence Chapel Hill’s citizens expect.

I am prepared to take on both the substance of issues – mundane or otherwise – and the time demands (280 hours alone over the next 7 months) necessary to do the job at a level our community deserves. On many issues I’m prepared and already up to speed with no steep learning curve to climb.

Over the last 7 years Council has become familiar with my work ethic: creative, hard-working, dedicated.

I have been an entrepreneur, a consultant, a manager, an executive officer of successful startups. My experience balancing budgets, managing employees, collaborating with customers, finding pragmatic solutions and meeting tough time constraints will assist me in fulfilling Council’s requirement that an applicant be ready – day-one – to serve.

I’m involved with a broad spectrum of local issues: protecting the environment, community outreach, increasing diversity, Town finances and fiscal responsibility, economic development, Downtown revitalization, UNC growth on main campus and Carolina North, civil liberties, affordable housing, treatment of the homeless, building a framework for mutually beneficial negotiation between Town and Gown, hands-on arts, infrastructure enhancements, election reforms, solid waste management, airport relocation and more.

I’ve attended hundreds of meetings, researched deeply, developed informed opinions and offered innovative improvements on many of the issues a new Council member will face.

I have also fought, irrespective of concerns of popularity and political consequence, to bring the best policy to the table. My allegiance is to my conscience. I have no hidden agenda and will continue to fight for solutions that are fair and just for all residents.

Tapping Chapel Hill’s creativity is a cornerstone of my activism these last seven years. I will continue my efforts to draw in the wisest public counsel, to temper Council desires with wide-ranging public input. Without a seat on Council I have helped folks shape this Town for the better. With a seat – tapping staff resources, liaising with advisory boards, shaping Council decisions – my effectiveness serving will only improve.

My experience with UNC and the Carolina North plan, my advocacy on improving the Town’s financial condition and my record of promoting the broadest community outreach meshes well with the leadership requirements of the next 13 months.

I will focus on non-controversial goals: setting Chapel Hill on a firm financial foundation, preserving those Chapel Hill qualities we cherish, creating new economic opportunities and promoting the broadest of public participation.

There are many ways to serve ones community. I’ve done quite a few – hands-on volunteering, advisory board member, community organizer, activist. Like Flicka with her neighborhood sewer problem, I started out with a small issue and now, like her, find myself asking Council to let me serve our fine community as their colleague.

Finally, I can’t fill Bill’s shoes, but I will honor his memory by working-hard to improve Chapel Hill for all our diverse residents.

That is my pledge.

Further background: what I’ve done lately, where I would serve and what I would do.

Raymond, Ready For Service: What Would I Do?

Friday, October 31st, 2008

What would I do the next 13 months? If you look back through the hundreds of posts on local issues I’ve made since September 2005, you will see I’m not short of ideas for positive change. I also have two election platforms (2005 and 2007) and many election questionnaires that contain specific proposals addressing Town finances, economic development, managing UNC’s growth, environmental protection and remediation, carrying capacity, improving operational efficiency and on and on.

For all that, the next seven months are going to be quite busy.

My main role is to fill in the gaps, put my shoulder to the wheel and work on those bread-n-butter issues that are already in the pipeline. I’ll add value where I can, manpower when its needed and innovative solutions as required but for the most part I fully expect that my agenda for building a pocket park Downtown or implementing the Dark Skies initiative will have to wait.

Here’s what I sent to Council:

Laurin suggested on her ‘blog “Decide what you want to do in a proactive way on the council”. Noting “it would be easy to sit up there and just vote on things as they come along in reactive mode, but most council members have areas that they really want to work on making changes and spend extra time on those issues that are important to them.”

As you well know, I have brought many issues before Council these last seven years. Over the next 12 months, most of the work I expect to do is to fill in the gaps, add my shoulder to yours, to push forward on known Council business. I do have a few ideas, old and new, that I would like to pursue. Most have to do with improving operations, environmental and resource management, technology and process enhancements, the budget, economic and Downtown development, managing growth, etc. Some, like adopting lighting guidelines as per the International Dark Skies initiative, can be grafted into current work. Others, like beginning the process of creating a new hands-on arts center, will probably have to wait.

Here’s a list of items I’d like to work on in order to give you some context:

Finances.

Financial report card.

It’s nice that we have maintained, even tenuously, our AAA bond rating but that cannot be the only metric we use to indicate financial health. I would like to work with Council and staff to develop and publish other metrics indicative of the Town’s overall financial health.

Rebuilding our reserves.

The next few years are going to be tough. We need to start rebuilding our reserves beyond what is needed to maintain our yearly credit-rating. The recent and continuing financial crisis proves the need for prudent reserve planning.

Cutting costs.

We need to prioritize spending now, cap some expenditures and freeze some outlays. We must control costs – especially energy – and prepare staff for low or no salary growth. I’ll take the heat for putting all discretionary spending options – library bond, Lot #5, etc. – on the table. We need to aggressively pursue operational efficiencies – I will ask Council to form a small tiger team to work with staff to seek “low hanging fruit” that will cut short-term costs.

We can’t do it alone.

I will call for a new Citizen Budget Advisory Board. I believe this needs to be short-term appointment and that Council needs to actively recruit citizens with professional credentials to assist in formulating our budget.

Carolina North.

Development agreement. Community benefit at every step.

I’ve already expressed some of my concerns on scheduling, the need for a more robust underlying zone, the necessity of negotiating with other entities and how to make the agreement successfully outlast its creators. I will continue to work those and other issues, one of which is community benefit. While Roger Perry suggested 3 million square feet as a good starting point, an investment by the University which justified significant returns – like a $45 million transit plan – to the community I believe that the Council should set goals that benefit the community at smaller increments. For example, I would like to see the bus stop south of the Innovation Center site replaced with a multi-modal facility as part of the next step. Sidewalks should provide safe access to this facility where bicycles and scooters can be securely stored as folks switch to the bus system.

Development agreement. Standards above and beyond.

As a member of the HWCC environmental sub-group, I helped create a framework for making sure the negative environmental consequences of Carolina North were minimized. I and others proposed applying “best in class” lighting, air particulate, ground water, emission standards that are above and beyond those required under the comprehensive plan, LUMO or other statutory instruments. Since a development agreement provides the flexibility to mandate standards outside current zoning requirements, I will ask Council to revisit this framework, add additional provisions for incorporating future “best in class” energy and environmental standards.

“Bang the drum loudly”

As I’ve suggested with other large-scale development projects, I believe that our duty goes beyond inviting folks to Council hearings. We need to pursue public input. We need to use all the tools at our disposal – notably the Internet – to give our citizens an informed perspective on the various impacts these projects bring. I would like to team with the Planning and Technology departments and use Carolina North as a pilot project for developing a public outreach plan which can be extended to other facets of the development process.

Council meetings, discussions and transparency.

As the creation of the development agreement progresses the demand on Council time will also increase. I’ve already put a lot of time into Carolina North and am ready to pour even more effort into creating a framework for Carolina North’s development our community and the University can appreciate. That said, it strikes me that Council could use some new tools to both keep the public informed and to communicate openly with various stake-holders. Council has already called for a new Carolina North website. I’ve asked for a FAQ, glossary of terms and a record of every citizen question with attendant answer. I believe we can do even better and am prepared to make specific suggestions to improve our e-governance.

Safety

“We’re not Mayberry”

Chapel Hill doesn’t exist in a bubble. I have been concerned about increased gang-related violence for several years. I would like Council to revisit Chief Jarvies proposals drafted after the Avalon incident. We need to make sure that Chief Curran and Captain Blue have adequate resources to train our force to meet organized violence.

Downtown

I spend a lot of time Downtown. Handicap accessibility, lighting, signage, and cleanliness continue to be problems. I would like to work with the relevant staff and boards to address some specific issues that seem to be raised over and over.

“Walking is not a crime.”

When the Police Department announced the Orange County Community Safety Partnership, I was concerned because it sounded like the roundly criticized Homeland Security TIPS program. It wasn’t clear what kind of oversight, training or civil protections were part of the program. Pat Burns, our representative, walked me through the program and provided some insight on its operation. The training presentation has a few items I would like see addressed and I believe the community would be well-served by having Pat run Council through the process to solicit feedback. For me, the part about reporting “persons walking through yards of residential areas or seeming out of place” needs to be clarified. You might recall a recent embarrassing incident when a young man using his cell on his street corner had the police called because he “seemed out of place.”

Extending neighborhood contacts

As part of the new website revamp, I would like to provide my professional expertise in improving public safety communications between neighbors and neighborhoods.

Civil rights/civil liberties

We have a well-trained police force. We try to hire the best. Chapel Hill has prided itself on maintaining the highest standards protecting civil rights and civil liberties. I want to work with Council and Chief Curran to make sure we can maintain our citizens confidence that we consistently honor our duty to protect our citizens rights, privacy and liberty.

Downtown revitalization

Parking recommendations implementation.

As a former member of the Downtown Parking Task Force I’m quite familiar with the competent suggestions made by staff and task force. One, the new parking assessment I called for, is near completion. We should see this as the starting point for addressing our longterm parking needs. As Dwight Bassett scrambles to backfill the spaces being lost on Lot #5 and plans move forward for more on-street slots, now is the time to form a small implementation task force to make sure the best, practical (low-cost) recommendations are carried out expeditiously. I volunteer for that new team.

Security

I would like to be part of the team that improves Downtown’s security.

Friendly experience.

There are a number of short and long term improvements that would improve folks Downtown experience. Water fountains, a decent bathroom, a family-friendly pocket park, way-signs and other amenities which don’t have to be expensive could greatly improve visitors and residents Downtown experience. I will work with the Downtown Partnership, the Downtown business community, the Chamber, staff and relevant advisory boards to bring these straight-forward improvements to Downtown.

Development and growth

How high, how dense?

Last Spring, Council decided to end their pursuit of high density development zones. We need to restart that discussion. We should take the recent work on twisting RSSC into a palatable high density zone and start fresh with the density discussion. Our community might not embrace high density, but if we’re going to allow high-density development to go forward civic duty demands we have a clear, honest and open discussion among not only Council and those developers wishing to use a new zone but the wider community.

What just happened?

We need to make the development and inspections process easier to understand, easier to deal with and easier to track. We can use the Carolina North process as a pilot for community outreach. We can pursue NRG’s (Neighborhoods for Responsible Growth) request for a straight-forward progress reporting system.

University Square, how does it fit?

The UNC Foundation is moving forward on their plans for University Square. One challenge, in the next few months, will be how to seize this opportunity to reshape one of the more troublesome aspects of Downtown. Also, incorporating the University Square redevelopment into a broader Downtown development plan is necessary if all the components of revitalization currently on the table are to work complementary.

The Foundation has already expressed an interest in building a parking deck, which could elegantly solve some of Downtown’s parking issues, but Council needs to work from day one to make sure that their parking solution has a wider public utility.

Measure twice…

For several years I’ve suggested we use more metrics-based goals in our planning process. Compliance, by necessity, requires measurement but many times the goals under which a project is approved are not measured on delivery.

Carrying capacity

Along with measurable goals, we need to establish the longterm growth limits of Chapel Hill. We only have so much water. We can only ship so much trash cost effectively to some other community. Now is the time, as the available land for development is nearly gone, and as discussions of in-fill and density begin, to start a community discussion on what are the resource limits to Chapel Hill’s growth.

Evergreen process.

As we review our development plans and modify LUMO, I believe we need to revisit the process we use to keep these instruments current and firmly based on the best understanding at the time.

Rogers Road, our neighbors and future residents.

As the Rogers Road Small Area Task Force’s efforts draw to a close, we need to look at resolving some nuisances that have long plagued this community. In next years tight budget, adequate planning must go on to deal with these long neglected items.

Miscellaneous items I would want to work on:

  • Technology
    • Website refresh
    • Technology upgrades including more use of open source and open document standards.
    • The DOT fiber optic project
    • Better community outreach
    • Leverage the Internet
    • Put Council email on-line
    • Trouble ticket system
    • Specialty sites for Carolina North and Hillsborough425
    • Complete Council agendas on-line a full 7 days before meetings
    • Council and Planning Board video on-line. Audio of all advisory board meetings.
  • International Dark Skies Initiative
  • Waste management
    • Our part in managing waste – setting long term goals – in-county or not
    • Siting transfer site – our role
  • Storm Water Utility
    • Effective coordination between SWU, OWASA and Bolin Creek restoration
    • Effective oversight
  • Open space
    • Preserve creeks leading to Bolin Creek watershed
    • Identify and preserve natural corridors connecting through Carolina North
  • Arts
    • Hands-on arts in Chapel Hill
    • %1 Art funding to more local artists

Raymond, Ready For Service: Where Would I Serve?

Friday, October 31st, 2008

I submitted my formal application to fill Bill’s seat (not his shoes) this afternoon.

Along with my application, I provided some examples of my recent activism, a list of advisory boards I would like to represent Council on and some suggestions covering a few of the issues that Chapel Hill faces next year.

I’ve served on three Town advisory boards, the Horace-Williams Citizens Committee, the Technology Board and the Downtown Parking Task Force.

A few of you know I attend many more advisory board meetings, Council meetings, relevant Orange County Board of Commissioner meetings, UNC community outreach events (including all the Carolina North meetings, most Carolina North Leadership Advisory Committee meetings) and other community-related events (like the recent Preserve Rural Orange County airport or the Hillsborough OrangeAwareness waste transfer station meetings).

I show up to learn, to contribute and to meet folks working for change.

Of the next 13 months, the first 7 are key. Between the budget process, the creation of Carolina North’s development agreement and the pile of normal business, Council will be busy. Part of a Council member’s duties involve liaising with various advisory boards, a task I take quite seriously.

I’m not sure if Council plans to re-balance representatives to various boards, so I submitted a list based on where I believe I could allocate the most time and do the best work:

  • Orange County Solid Waste
  • Human Services Advisory Board
  • Stormwater Management Utility
  • Sustainable Committee
  • Orange County Economic Development Commission
  • Land Trust Affordable Housing Maintenance Task Force
  • Citizens Budget Advisory Board – new
  • Downtown Parking Implementation Task Force – new
  • Liaison to internal technology, website and budget staff groups.
  • Liaison for fiber optic deployment to DOT and other relevant groups.

Two of the boards – the Citizens Budget Board and the Downtown Parking Implementation Task Force – don’t exist yet. A few others are internal work groups pursuing specific tasks.

Raymond, Ready For Service: What Have I Done?

Friday, October 31st, 2008

I submitted my formal application to fill Bill’s seat (not his shoes) this afternoon. Along with my application, I provided some examples of my recent activism, a list of advisory boards I would like to represent Council on and some suggestions covering a few of the issues that Chapel Hill faces next year.

The additional material is representative but by no means exhaustive (I tried to keep it somewhat brief).

Here’s some supporting material listing some of the contributions I made these last few years. I listed proposals I made, proposals I assisted on and proposals created in collaboration with the advisory boards I served on. On other issues I’ve flown solo, like requesting that the process of siting a new landfill begin and on others I’ve been one among many pushing for change.

  • UNC

    • Main Campus development

      • OI4 creation – mainly concerned about creation process and time
        limits.
      • Attended most UNC outreach and progress reviews
      • Provided feedback on modifications

        • Noted disappearance of residence halls
    • Carolina North

      • Lobbied for a new negotiation dynamic. Endorsed LAC negotiation framework.
      • Attended every Carolina North meeting.

        • Posted online video of many meetings for broader community review.
        • Feedback on process and proposals.

          • Many suggestions, to numerous to list, representative examples:

            • Shift CN focus to “green”, treat new campus as
              “green” laboratory
            • Parking ratios, metrics on “greenness” building
              heights
            • Development agreement, traffic management, Bolin Creek
      • Attended many Carolina North Leadership Advisory Committee meetings

        • Lobbied for environmental assay, continued environmental monitoring
    • Innovation Center

      • Design review sessions.
      • Feedback on detachment from Carolina North plan.
    • Methane gas project

      • Asked Chapel Hill and OC BOCC to team on LFG recovery for TOC
      • Attended LFG proposal meeting and provided feedback

        • Constant environmental monitoring as per Cameron Power Plant
        • Noise abatement
        • Impact on Mens Shelter project
    • Horace-Williams Citizens Committee member under Julie McClintock’s leadership

      • Drafted HWCC response to Chancellor Moeser’s letter
      • Environmental Sub-group

        • Pushed for process to use “best in class” metrics and
          continuous environmental monitoring of site
        • Help draft environmental guidelines and proposed specific criteria
      • Draft of new work proposal fleshing out the HWCC principles adopted 2004
  • Finance

    • Technology Board recommendation saving $50K yearly
    • As citizen, contributed to Citizen Budget Committee efforts
    • Suggested specific improvements 2003-2007
    • Multi-year budget horizons
    • Lobbied for permanent Citizen Budget board
  • Downtown

    • Called for decent bathrooms, water fountains, sidewalk handicap accessibility,
      family-friendly pocket park, WIFI, comprehensive policing plan, way-signs
    • Downtown Parking Task Force

      • Pushed for new parking study – Downtown Partnership commissioned
        one
      • Use of new customer friendly technology
      • Re-balance parking allotments – lease remote, preserve prime
        spaces
      • Implementation team proposal with Aaron Nelson
      • Better signs, less signs
  • Town Operations

    • Technology

      • Comprehensive evaluation of technology use

        • Council commissioned technology assessment report
      • Operational efficiencies

        • Got $50K yearly savings on leases
        • Proposed $100K+ license fee reduction plan
        • Proposed trouble ticket with online access so citizens could track staff
          activity/responses and management could measure proficiency
      • Website overhaul

        • Non-proprietary design with eye towards permanent presence
        • ADA usability standards
        • Privacy provisions
        • On-line payments
        • On-line access to Council and public communications

          • Council and other relevant email posted
          • On-line video of Council, Planning Board and other meetings
          • Audio of all advisory board proceedings
          • Seven day deadline for Council agendas
          • Pushed adoption of David Lawrence list-serv/’blog process for advisory board
            communications
        • Planning/Inspections tracking system
        • Trouble ticket process for residents to ask for and track issues

          • Streetlights out
          • Waste removal
          • Inspections
      • Open documentation and open source systems initiatives

        • Ensure Town documentation is openly available irrespective of computer
        • Use free and open-source software to reduce cost and promote open documentation
          initiative
      • Communications upgrades/deployments

        • WIFI
        • Fiber optic collaboration with DOT
      • Emergency Operations review

        • Suggested consolidations at TOC
    • Resource use

      • 2004 Green fleet modifications
      • Bio-fuel use – Public Works subsequently purchase 1,000 gals.
      • Proposed targeted reductions and staff reward process
      • Requested fuel/energy/water records to be posted on-line for citizen analysis
    • Staff training/development

      • Proposed “spot award” program
      • Merit-based raises
      • Turnover problem with up-and-coming staff
  • Arts

    • Promote more community arts opportunities

      • Founding member of Friends of Lincoln Center Arts Program

        • Expand Chapel Hill’s hands-on arts program
      • Locate new community arts center at Community Park or other central location
      • %1 Art Program – more funds for local artists
    • Reform Arts Commission
  • Development Process

    • Greater community outreach

      • “Bang the drum loudly” – neighborhood presentations
      • Use of 3D models and other on-line tools to show scale/placement
    • Comprehensive plan reform

      • Evergreen process so new ideas/standards can be incorporated more frequently
      • Discuss metrics for measuring compliance with goals
  • Orange County issues

    • Waste management

      • Siting of the transfer station
      • Request that the process for siting new landfill or incinerator begin
    • UNC Airport – volunteered to be the Orange County representative on
      the Airport Authority

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.

(more…)

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