"The power of having everyone at the table is limitless."

So said Aaron Nelson on announcing the creation of the Chamber of Commerce's latest in a series of high profile “councils” to further its work. What he meant was that the power of saying who comprises “everyone” is worth grabbing. As is the power to identify by omission the multitudes who are not part of everyone even if a place is reserved for a few of them to observe the goings on at “the table.”

What the Chamber fails to understand is that a self-interested organization like itself cannot identify an inclusive group. It is hamstrung by its reflexive assertion of its own narrow interests. Nelson is no more able to overcome this problem than Jim Heavner was with the Public-Private Partnership a decade ago. Nelson has benefited from years of Chamber experience in refining how to make a council look inclusive. Hence, the likes of Bernadette Pelissier, Robert Dowling, and Rick Edens in the current edition.

But, you will note that no critic of the Chamber or of its staunch ally, the university is present. Jon Howes but not Diana Steele, Scott Gardner but not Mark Marcoplos, Roger Perry but not Ruby Sinreich.

Also telling is the presence of a number of Chamber allies and leaders listed under their business or professional affiliation but clearly included because they are players in the business community. How else to explain the presence of Fred Black, Scott Gardner, Scott Maitland, and Jim Heavner. Other than within the business community per se, none of these gentlemen have much relevance to “community leadership” but they have a lot of relevance to tipping the point of view of this petite “everyone” toward that of the Chamber.

Let me be clear that there's nothing wrong with this group getting together and doing whatever good or mischief may come of it. But let's dispense with the pretension that it is something more than it is. This is a cleverly designed front group for the Chamber just like the so-called and mostly forgotten Council on Sustainability which is its forebear.

This characterization will surely offend several well-meaning persons who think that some good will come out of their participation on the Council. Perhaps it will. Let me merely caution them to beware of putting their new wine in old bottles.



Amen, Dan.

As I said before: If it's truly supposed to help forge some compromises on “town-gown” issues, then the CLC will need more credibility with people who are skeptical of the University. I would suggest either more people who have been critical of the University, or people who have been more critical of the University, ie: several moderates or just one or two strong advocates.

As Dan said, there's nothing wrong with this group meeting and trying to address issues of concern to them. But if they want to claim to represent the entire community, I think they have to be more inclusive of different viewpoints and expand their definition of "leader."

This council seems an impatient response to the slow approval process of all new prospects of growth in town. It makes perfect sense to me that the Chamber of Commerce would try to speed things along. It's their job.
Dan and Ruby, I'm trying to imagine both of you joining a Chamber of Commerce group. Would you guys have said yes if invited?
Since I have never met either one of you, I should probably stop here, but I'll go on. From what I've read on this blog in the past 6 months, I would imagine that both of you have personal styles that frighten less brave souls. When I look at the list of council members, I think a good number of the members share your message, they're merely less frightening messengers.
I'm going to adopt the attitude that these are mostly good, socially and environmentally responsible people trying to make jobs and homes happen.
I appreciate everything both of you do to make community leaders think hard about how we grow, and I think it's good that town planners scrutinize growth so well; it would be good, though, if planners could scrutinize a little faster.

First of all, my criticism of this thing is not based on whether I agree with the CLC members or whether I think I will like the outcome. What I'm questioning is the Chamber's description of them as including "everyone" and the assumption that this will lead to an inclusive dialog and reasonable solutions for the entire community.

I don't know what you mean by saying the Town should move faster on UNC growth, Mary. Chapel Hill is still waiting for UNC to submit a concept plan for Carolina North or to initiate a collaborative planning process. In meantime, the Town pro-actively laid out a vision in the Horace Williams Citizens Report, to which UNC has not responded. As for other growth, UNC negotiated and got an agreement for the town to review all main campus project in 90 days, which is unheard of for any other kind of development in town. What should the Town be doing faster?

As far as Dan or I being "frightening." I see your point, but I think you're reaching too far. We're not any stronger advocates for our positions than Roger Perry, Fred Black, Howard Lee, Jonathan Howes, Jim Heaver, or James Moeser - just to name a few members of the CLC. I agree that there area lot of good community advocates on the CLC, but they just don't have the magnitude to balance out all these heavy hitters. If the Chamber thinks this is representative of the entire community, then there a lot of us who must be invisible! All the lefties don't live in Carrboro, you know.

By the way, I served on UNC's meaningless Carolina North Advisory Council, there's no reason to think I wouldn't have participated in this effort as well. (But I am in no way fishing for an invitation. In fact, I am way too freaked out right now with my personal life.) There are plenty of other strong community advocates that would add some needed community leadership to such an effort. Off the top of my head, I nominate: Bill Strom, Sally Greene, Cam Hill, Mark Kleinschmidt, Joyce Brown, Julie McClintock, Dan Coleman, Mark Chilton, Alex Zaffron, Ellie Kinnaird, etc.


Glad I got that out of my system.

Mary, I'm sure you're correct that there are a number of “good, socially and environmentally responsible people” on the council. There are also a number whose primary interest is in furthering their own wealth and influence. They also do some good along the way. After all, noblesse oblige is one of our oldest social constructs.

Don't forget that our socio-economic structures require leaders of public interest agencies to seek opportunities to nurture relationships with those of wealth and influence. Someone whose job entails promoting the arts, affordable housing, or poverty remediation would in most cases be foolish to pass up the chance to serve on a council alongside local millionaires regardless of what he or she might think of the endeavor at hand.

Like Ruby, I have served on committees where my point of view was distinctly in the minority. There was a time when that was the only kind we had.

Was that 'Boo' for me, Dan? I hope so. I need more evidence that you have a sense of humor.
Ruby, thanks for setting me straight on Chapel Hill's fast processing.
So, if it's not the planners who are slowing things down, would I be correct to assume that it is the councilmen and aldermen who frustrate the 'power brokers' by commissioning studies and reports?
Any chance studies and reports could move faster?

What are you talking about, Mary? Who is waiting on the Town?

It's the Town that is waiting for UNC to initiate the process.

Ruby, I'm just trying to figure out what the griping quotes in the paper are about? Like Foy's, 'I'm not interested in another report on lofty goals. I think a leadership group is one that makes things happen, and I hope that's what we do.' or Nelson's, 'But it (the community) is not working on them (issues) as well as it could if it was working together.' Oh well, maybe the CLC stated goals are all there is to this. Maybe no one in the business community or at UNC is unhappy with local governments at all. Maybe the Chamber is doing nothing more than genuinely reaching out to the progressive voice in this community?

Mary, I have met Dan and you shouldn't worry, he is definitely wry.

Mary, I can only explain that stuff as anti-town PR unless there are specific, REAL complaints.

As a Chapel Hill resident I applaud the mention of bringing Catham County representatives to the table.... any table. Either we start immediately to address the growth to our south or it will overwhelm us in the next 5 years.

Runaway growth in the Pittsboro to Chapel Hill 15/501 corridor is the "elephant in the room" in any growth discussion for Chapel Hill /Carrboro and Orange County.

We discuss adding town centered growth and development and UNC's needs for growth in our community but we have been lacking in our attention to the stress our roads, parks libraies and neighborhoods will be under when the thousands of new residents take root in north Chatham. They are there primarily because of Chapel Hill/Carrboro and they will come to us. We can not stop them but we need to begin to figure out how to live with them.

I have served on the Orange County Parks and Recreation Council for the past 3 years and have been struck by the lack of wider vision most towns and counties adopt as to what can cause problems for them in future. The lack of a unified vision of what the Triangle will, could and should be in the future is striking. There have been hopeful signs: Little River Park and Erwin Trace. But the issues are huge and we are not talking enough.

Steve Peck


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