Campaign News Coverage Falls Short

Chapel Hill Herald, Saturday October 29, 2005

Judging by the news coverage, this year's municipal elections have been a pretty dull affair. The papers have provided an outlet for candidates to express their views through guest columns, web profiles, and articles on forums. But there is a lot more that could have been reported on their backgrounds and positions and on campaign events.

Let's start with Will Raymond. He claims to be a dotcom success story, promising to bring strong business and financial management skills to the Town Council. The news media could have looked into Raymond's background and informed voters of the reality behind these claims.

Robin Cutson has called into question the adequacy of our water supply to meet the needs of growth. OWASA chair Mark Marcoplos has rebutted some of her charges on This too could have led to an informative news story.

Alderman candidate Katrina Ryan has spoken of her intention to help launch a private company that will take advantage of energy tax credits to promote solar energy in Carrboro. Is that a flaky idea or a good one? You'd have to know the details to decide.

Ryan wondered back in February “why can't Carrboro be the funky neighborhood in Chapel Hill?”, adding in April that “the towns should merge. It's pure hubris on the part of both town councils not to be investigating the viability of a merger.” The news media have not reported whether this is still on her agenda.

Surely it was big news when the Sierra Club chose not to endorse Ed Harrison, who they supported in 2001. The importance of this endorsement may be gleaned from the fact that seven of nine sitting Town Council members were elected with Sierra Club support and that Mayor Foy is a former member of its executive committee.

It also happened the other way around, with the Sierra Club endorsing Jacquie Gist who it did not support four years ago. No reporter asked whether Gist had changed, the club's standards had changed, or if it was just the makeup of the candidate pool.

Voters may not know that Mark Kleinschmidt received an endorsement from the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund whose mission is to help elect LGBT candidates nationwide. Now, given the anti-gay climate being fostered by the right wing, the work of groups like the Victory Fund is critically important. Chapel Hill voters deserve to know that the organization considers Kleinschmidt's re-election to be of national importance and have the chance to make their own judgments on the appropriateness of the group weighing in on town affairs.

One paper told us “as the only Latino board member in a town where the Hispanic population is growing, Herrera is in a unique position to serves a community that needs a voice.” A valuable campaign story might have profiled Carrboro's Hispanic community with an eye to informing voters of its concerns.

Past years have seen some thoughtful coverage of campaign contributions, even including publication of complete contributor lists. This may still happen after the next set of reports comes in but, so far, an invaluable piece of information on the campaigns is missing.

Covering one Carrboro forum, the Herald reported “Chilton attacked Zaffron's transportation strategy, and said the N.C. Department of Transportation had driven a wedge between Carrboro and surrounding communities. Zaffron rebuked Chilton's remarks after the meeting, saying ‘I don't know where [Chilton] gets this stuff.'” The paper offered no further background or explanation. Surely, readers would like to know exactly what they were talking about.

One of the strangest reporting omissions came in an article this week on the proposed move of the IFC soup kitchen to Carrboro. The article overlooked the fact that candidates had been asked about this in a forum just a few days earlier and that some pretty divergent views had been expressed.

Ultimately, it's the candidates' job to get their messages to the voters. But, if we know less about the candidates this year, the news media share some of the blame.



My sense is that the CHN offers less opinion and less coverage of controversial subjects since the departure of Ted Vaden and Sharon Campbell.

I agree, Dan. No one has questioned me as to why I consider myself an Hispanic when I have an Anglo last name. No outcry other than Melanie See as to why I have sided with downtown business owners on the issue of the IFC possibly coming to Carrboro. I guess reporters don't care how I am able to run a campaign and be able to serve on the Board of Aldermen despite "considerable time constraints", as The Daily Tarheel put it (THEY didn't ask me!). No one seems to know that I am financing my own campaign. Shouldn't the voters know how a graduate student can afford to do that? And doesn't anyone care what I think of the war since I actually served in Iraq and Afghanistan? (Finally, Meiling from CHN called me and asked me last week. It was hard to talk about it and I certainly didn't relish the memories, but that's my problem--reporters are charged with asking the hard questions.)

(BTW, most of the answers to those questions are addressed in my blog.)

The Chapel Hill Herald ran a story yesterday (I think)that seemed to imply that the candidates were out of touch with the real issues affecting the residents of Carrboro. The only thing they could think to quote me on was that I thought we should "keep Carrboro groovy." I wanted to brand my particular vision of the ethos, values, and priorities of Carrboro and what the future should look like on that basis and instead of presenting the substance of what I had to say, the reporter, who I usually think does a pretty fair job of exposition, decided to latch on to a slogan!

But this all has a small measure of sour grapes. The candidates--and I especially include myself--have failed to communicate with the voters. I have ten days left. I will make the most of it.

Honestly, it's to the point where all I read in either the News OR the Herald are:

A) Stories about folks I KNOW
B) The Police Blotter (Sometimes one and the same...if you have teens you'll understand)
C) The Obits

I am seriously considering cancelling my subscription to the Herald. It's expensive, and no more informative than the N&O plus the CH News--and the News is free. And better on State/National news. (Currently we take both the Herald AND the N&O.)

Ought to have said...

I wasn't singling David Marshall out when I asked why the shelter was a bad fit for hip 'n happenin' Carrboro. That seems to be the general theme of EVERYONE who has bothered to answer the merchants questionairre. At least the last time I checked.

Why do I, a CH resident, keep abreast of Carrboro politics? Well, for one, I lived in Carrboro a lot longer than I've lived in CH. Also, the towns are so close, what happens in Carrboro frequently has repercussions in CH--and vice versa.

In the interests of full disclosure, even when I LIVED in Carrboro I thought the two towns should merge--the duplication of services has always struck me as absurd. Plus--the tax rate in Carrboro was WAAAY higher than in CH--one assumes as a function of the disparate tax bases.



I'd like to know your views on the war. My vote wouldn't depend on it, or on other things I'm curious to know about you. But I emailed you two months ago with a set of questions, and you didn't answer any of them, although you sought out a meeting, which is very difficult for this father of two little ones. (Plus, I like written positions!)

As for invading Iraq, (1) did you support it in March 2003? (2) In Oct-Nov 2005, do you think it was a good idea or a bad idea?

One of my questions to you back in August was, (3) for whom did you vote for president in 2004? I'll go ahead and (4) ask about 2000, as well.

I also believe that I asked about the history of your party affiliation -- (5) have you ever registered Republican, and if so, how recently?

Recently on OP, you described yourself as a "most reluctant candidate," or something like that. Yet you joined a race that already had diverse competition, and it took weeks for me to see you mention any policy position. Here on OP, at the beginning, you explicitly stated you still needed to collect ideas and only then form a platform. If you had to rank the (6) top three reasons why you decided to run, at the moment when you filed, what were those? (7) And what was the urgency of running, if you were reluctant, and there was already competition? The call to civic duty that you cited doesn't seem to jive with the reluctance you described.

Having been in this business briefly myself, I know that it is hard to give concise incisive answers to questions like the last one. Also, as Mike Nelson pointed out in another thread, you candidates are very busy now. I won't hold it against you if you don't answer my questions.


Jeff, I'm going to refer you to my blog for the answer to your questions. Other readers are welcome to go there, too. And if Ruby allows me, I would be glad to post my response on OP. But I have too much respect for Ruby and her ownership of this blog to post such a long comment that has only some local content.

If you can convince Ruby to post it here, I will send it back immediately. I hope people feel encouraged to read my answer. I ask for forgiveness for its length. I write very long when I don't have much time to edit.

Let me know if you feel I have inadequately answered any of your questions, Jeff.

Apropos of Kleinschmidt's Victory Fund endorsement, yesterday I attended a fund-raiser for Common Sense Foundation at which they unveiled their new study on issues affecting the LGBT community in NC.

Mark was one of the speakers and I was reminded that he is one of only five openly gay elected officials ever in North Carolina. Although few will vote him for that reason alone, there does seem to be a valuing in Chapel Hill and Carrboro of the diversity of our elected leadership and of the area's leadership in that regard. (Mark's interview in today's Herald does ask "How important is being openly gay in your identity as a council member?")

Similarly, voters considering support for Bill Thorpe will likely take into account the fact that there has been an African-American presence on the town council for over forty years.

And in the same vein, I imagine that, along with other factors, many will consider John Herrera's status as the first Hispanic immigrant to be elected to municipal government in the state. Herrera described recently how his work at the credit union and as an alderman dovetailed to enable him to better help the Hispanic community in Carrboro with financial issues surrounding access to housing.

Dan, I read this article on Saturday and thought that you were absolutely spot on with those comments. I've tried to speak personally with all the Chapel Hill candidates and have found that in some cases, critical information about their candidacy has not been reported and in other cases, what's been reported is incomplete. I guess my question is whether you see a sharp difference in the depth and/or quality of reporting this election cycle from previous ones?

Anita, I think the local media are pretty passive when it comes to campaigns. It's possible for candidates to drum up a certain amount of attention but even that can be like pulling teeth. That said, I'm not aware of a single candidate having a press conference or issuing a press release on a campaign matter this year.

In particular, I think it's a disservice to democracy when the news media fail to explore the candidates' records. Citizens themselves have little to go on besides candidate claims. I for one certainly don't relish the role of having to expose the vacuousness of Ed Harrison's claims (for example) as I did on another thread. I'd much rather see the papers do it. It can be time consuming but it's not hard work to dig through the minutes for votes and comments.

Similarly, when erroneous information on Bill Thorpe's record was submitted in a letter to the editor, the papers published it without fact checking. It was left to Thorpe to submit a correction.

Interesting observation by Dan on the lack of press conferences. In past campaigns, some candidates have been successful at getting their message out via the media by holding press conferences. Typically a candidate would highlight their particular message by having local community leaders who support that message take part.

All in all though, I'd have to agree that the local coverage has been perfunctory at best.

Dan, it sounds like you want the papers to probe more deeply and ask for explanations. Yet, when you are asked to do the same thing, you refuse. Why as a columnist shouldn't you be expected to explain your unsupported assertions? Are you asking readers to accept them as fact?

See Bob Ashley's piece on the topic in yesterday's H-S, "Parsing fact and opinion in letters to the editor"

PS: Why are posts still on DST?

Bob Ashley shoul clean up his own house before he shares with us his emotional pain over wrestling with truth & falsehood.

Last week on the front page there was an article with a headline that said basically "Most Troops in Iraq Have High Morale". The article interviewed a few select soldiers whose statements were generally ambivalent on morale. There was no citation of any polls of soldiers. In short, the headline was an unsubstantiated piece of pro-war propaganda that any paper with integrity should be utterly ashamed of.

Without media with integrity, democracy hardly stands a chance.

Sorry to interrupt this local thread with this, but sometimes my blood just boils over.

I believe that everything that you write in the above post is correct, Dan, but when you post your column here on OP every week, why can't readers obtain an answer from the same place where you have posted it? To remind, all I wanted to know is how do you know the following:

“Recent election results indicate that voters motivated by environmental and neighborhood concerns generally understand that Chapel Hill still faces serious problems involving race. Nor are voters unaware of the environmental implications of decisions forced on lower income households.”


“One mechanism in Orange County to reduce sprawl is the rural buffer. Most citizens recognize that to violate the rural buffer to build affordable housing would be to sacrifice one good to attain another.”

The Herald edits and fact-checks my columns. They routinely ask me to explain or justify points that are not evident to them. Sometimes they make cuts that I disagree with. If anyone thinks they could be doing a better job, please let Neil Offen know and I'm confident he will follow up accordingly.

Also, I don't believe the paper has ever declined to publish a letter or guest column in response to one of my columns. The letter-writer has an advantage in that the letter is the last word (in the paper) and it is not subject to the same editorial scrutiny as a column.

Haven't had much time for blogging or lurking, but it's quiet here at work for the moment (although, as I write this, undoubtedly, some Franklin Street-bound kid is surreptitiously stuffing a roll of terlet paper down the can to enliven my evening), so I'll address Dan's original question above:

In the forum referenced, Mark made some statement to the effect that NCDOT had 'driven a wedge' between Chapel Hill and Carrboro, somehow pitting one against the other, linking our respective requests regarding Columbia Street and Smith Level, and implying that I was somehow complicit in this alleged dynamic. Do What? This is utter nonsense. The only thing 'linking' them, is the common theme that both municipalities have demanded smaller cross-sections, and an emphasis on bike-and-ped improvements. Both communities have individually negotiated with NCDOT regarding these projects, and within the context of the MPO, been mutually supportive in these requests.

At no time, in either written or verbal communications, has NCDOT even hinted at any such 'linkage'. Moreover, while both negotiations were lengthy, they have reached successful conclusions. Currently of concern is the fact that projects across the board are being delayed due to a 'cash crunch' in TIP funding. Again, this has nothing to do with 'pitting' one against the other, it's just an artifact of NCDOT's falling into the old habit of over-programming.

As such, I don't know where he gets this stuff---except that it was an easy lick to get in this little fantasy with no opportunity for rebuttal.

Pleased to have given you the opportunity, Alex.


How about explaining your comments on the IFC's idea of moving the community kitchen to its Main Street facility?


David, I appreciate the frank answers on your blog, . Our failure to meet is my fault, not yours. You were solicitous and I was unresponsive, because I almost always have two little kids in tow and cannot have meaningful conversations under that circumstance. Best, Jeff

I've read Alex's position on the IFC move. I would like to hear Mark Chilton's long answer.

I'd like to hear both candidates share their positions on growth and how we accommodate its impact on the entire community, not just downtown.

Sure. I posted the following in response to a rather out-of-control discussion on 'squeeze the pulp' the other day:

'Lots of discussion here about what I said, didn't say, meant or didn't: So...

Since nobody seems to get what I thought was patently obvious:

My comment about it being premature (the term I used was 'backwards') to begin talking about specific sites was ( I thought) a clear message to the IFC that they are seriously jumping the gun in putting this site forward for this purpose. They haven't had a community discussion about how to deal with these issues, and the conversation that is taking place is just a taste of what they're going to recieve if they continue to pursue this course of action. My essential point here being that the entire community has to have a conversation to try to arrive at a consensus solution if we are to avoid the 'smackdown' atmosphere that's already brewing.

In this spirit, I also pointed out that members of the Carrboro Business Association discussed a willingness to work with the IFC to help find creative solutions (hint...hint...).

I also said that in a rezoning, the burden is on the applicant to show that it is in the public interest to change the allowed uses---Meaning, that they must demonstrate that the activity will not, among other things, bring negative effects to neighborhoods and or businesses. I also said that to deny the problems that have taken place surrounding the facility flies in the face of common observation.

I can tell you this: I won't support any change in use that will threaten neighborhoods or create an environment damaging to businesses. Got it?'

I would add that it is a given that these are essential services that must be provided---we need to have a less confrontational, but frank conversation about how to do it.


Terri, could you formulate a question about that. As stated, it is a very, very broad topic.

Mary, I would refer you to the Carrboro Business Association's lengthy questionaire on this topic. You can see it at

Thanks, Mark. I had more or less written off the possibility that candidates would respond to the CBA questionnaire given the previous discussion about how late in the game this questionnaire had arrived.

Is it odd that the CHN endorsed in Carrboro and school board races, but not in Chapel Hill ?

Just curious.

Chapel Hill's are going to be in tomorrow's paper. Should be online any minute.

Chapel Hill News endorses Foy, Kleinschmidt, Easthom, Harrison and Raymond

I'm big enough to apologize when I'm wrong. Remember my earlier rant, about reporters not asking me the hard questions? Well, I was reminded that I was indeed asked most if not all of these questions by Jennifer Ferris at the very beginning of the campaign period. Sorry, Jennifer. Thank you for reminding me so graciously and for insisting that no public apology was necessary, even though I obviously disagree on that count.

While we're eating crow: The Town charter section that's been floating around which would seem to indicate that the Board must appoint the next-highest vote getter to fill the vacancy resulting from the mayoral race does not, in fact govern that process. It is governed by N.C. statute, and according to Mike, the Board can appoint at it's discretion within some statutory limitations. I have asked for a clarifying memo to condense and explain these issues.


Oh, they have a "willingness" to help find "creative solutions"! (Oh, and "hint, hint.") You're right, I mean, how much more specific could they be? I feel so much better about the whole thing, so much so that I won't ask where they were six months ago, a year ago, two years ago, and so on. And you're absolutely right to take a stand for "common observation" of problems that, your own police chief's data and opinions notwithstanding, are just so obvious! Good on you for protecting the right of businesses with unintelligibly and cloyingly stupid French-sounding names to provide overpriced food and chew toys to dogs without fear of interference by humans trying to get a meal.

It's been so refreshing to hear how the candidates in Carrboro are so supportive of the IFC. They're against homelessness and poverty! That's a brave stance. I understand they're also for "peace," and "justice," and against "violence." Sure, Mr. Herrera either confuses the mission of the community kitchen with the larger mission and services of the IFC (from the evidence of his CBA questionnaire answers), or he's just ignorant of them, but on the whole you bunch are doing a great job striking blows for unassailable propositions. Great job.

Oh, believe me, Mr. Z., I've got it.

Duncan, I think you need to tone it down if you want to help.

I'm curious about another subject:
Do BOA candidates assume the 4th place vote-getter gets appointed to the empty seat? How do BOA candidates feel about using a different process to fill the seat?


I've been advocating for the board to appoint an interim member until the primaries are held next year and schedule a special election in which annexees can vote and run. Are you busy on Tuesday nights, Mary ?

'Smackdown Atmosphere': def.: See Duncan's post above. Holy s**t!

Re: "...advocating for the board to appoint an interim member..."

Would that even be legal? If there's a statutory process already in place for filling vacant seats, what would be the legal status of an "interim member"? Sounds problematic and unnecessary.

With regard to filling vacancies, state law gives local governments a great deal of flexibility.

During my tenure as mayor, we've filled three vacancies. Each time, we chose a different process to for appointing a replacement. Each situation was different and demands a thoughtful approach.

When Hank Anderson died while in office, the Board advertised the interested parties to apply to fill the vacancy. The applicants were then asked to fill out a questionnaire and went through a question and answer interview with the Board members. After interviewing 4 applicants, we chose Joal Hall Broun to fill the vacancy. (Mark Dorosin, who was also an applicant for that slot, ran the next election and won, serving a full four year term on the board).

And then when Jay Bryan resigned in office we appointed a former Board member, Frances Shetley, to fill his seat until the next election. At the time, we were finishing up work on the Small Area Plan and the board felt that it was important to fill Jay's seat with someone who knew the issues and had been involved intimately in the process. Shetley, who made it perfectly clear that she would serve the remainder of Jay's term and NOT run to fill the seat on a permanent basis, had been involved in the Small Area Plan. She was an excellent choice under the circumstances. We finished our work on the small area plan, and the voters chose Jay's replacement in the next election.

The third example was the vacancy that occured in 1995 when I was elected Mayor. The board opted to appoint Diana McDuffee who'd run for a seat on the board that year but had lost. Diana, who had run a strong campaign, demonstrated to Board members and voters that she cared about the community and was knowledgeable about the issues. She was sincere, thoughtful and seemed to be in public service for all the right reasons.

So, that's the recent history in Carrboro. State law gives local governments flexibility to fill vacancies. This flexibility gave us plenty of room to respond to three unique sets of circumstances in ways that were right for the town at the time.

And, finally, this vacancy will not technically occur until December 6th when either Alex or Mark is sworn in as mayor. The new board will chose the process and the replacement.

There is actually legally supposed to be an election if more than a certain number of months in the term are left. ( I think it's more than half ??)

So, yes, it's legal, and Damon, I think inclusive goverment based on true democratic principles is worth the trouble. Dictatorship is much easier, and yet, we have elections.

It would also be an excellent opportunity for the current board members to back up their repeated statements that none of them wanted to disenfranchise the annexees.

Could someone please explain to me how Carrboro has suddenly become the bad guys in reference to the IFC? Why not ask why Chapel Hill suddenly needs the building back, one of the buildings the Citizens Advisory Board advocated selling back in the spring? Isn't it the responsibility of Carrboro's elected officials to be cautious, even hesitant, to accept something that has caused so much controversy in Chapel Hill? I'm proud that our candidates have tried to show compassion by asking that we deal with this issue after the election instead of using it for political purposes and I trust all of them, regardless of the election outcome, to adopt a thoughtful and respectful plan for working through the issues for the homeless as well as the businesses and residents.

and with regard to Katrina's suggestion about a primary election next May. I'd have to double check, but I don't think we could do that without special legislation from the General Assembly. And the legislature does not go into session again until AFTER next year's primary.

Terri asks a good question: why is Carrboro suddenly the 'bad guys?'

People seem to be forgetting that the property the IFC is wants to use is NOT zoned for that kind of institutional purpose. I is not zoned for that use. The Board seldom rezones property and only after much careful deliberation. Insitutional uses like this were disallowed in that zone a long time ago and for good reason. It's an uphill battle to rezone property under ANY circumstances.

It just blows my mind that the IFC is recommending a facility in a zone that does not allow this kind of use. Not only are they setting themselves up for failure, but they come across as hopelessly niave about the process and how to pursue potential rezonings. If I may be blunt, they've been a little ham-fisted about this.

The Board of Aldermen has been extremely supportive of institutional operations on our community. Over sometimes strenous public objections, we've supported the AIDS house and Club Nova. But both of those facilities met local zoning laws and (in the case of the AIDS house) federal law. The IFC proposal does not meet local zoning law. While properties can certainly be rezoned, it's only done rarely and under extraordinary scrutiny.

Voila...from the general stautes. I suggest the primary date in order to save money, since we'll be staffing the polls anyway.

§ 163‑287. Special elections; procedure for calling.
Any city, whether its elections are conducted by the county board of elections or the municipal board of elections, or any special district shall have authority to call special elections as permitted by law. Prior to calling a special election, the city council or the governing body of the special district shall adopt a resolution specifying the details of the election, and forthwith deliver the resolution to the appropriate board of elections. The resolution shall call on the board of elections to conduct the election described in the resolution and shall state the date on which the special election is to be conducted. The special election may be held at the same time as any other State, county or municipal primary, election or special election or referendum, but may not otherwise be held within the period of time beginning 30 days before and ending 30 days after the date of any other primary, election, special election or referendum held for that city or special district.
Legal notice of the special election shall be published no less than 45 days prior to the special election. The appropriate board of elections shall be responsible for publishing the legal notice. The notice shall state the date and time of the special election, the issue to be submitted to the voters, and the precincts in which the election will be held. This paragraph shall not apply to bond elections. (1971, c. 835, s. 1; 1973, c. 793, s. 86; 1993 (Reg. Sess., 1994), c. 762, s. 65.)

I think I get Duncan's point. Does anyone else want to share their views on the IFC kitchen proposal?

I think many of the candidates in Carrboro have said that this is a difficult issue to grapple with and I think we should take that at face value. At least for my part, I am looking for public input.

Mike N, thanks for your thoughtful answers, especially on the IFC issue and rezoning. It's a touchy issue and I appreciate your clarification.

Mark, to answer your question: I really don't know what to think. The zoning issue is obviously important, and it'd be helpful for me (and perhaps other folks) to understand why that area was zoned the way it was. That aside, it's also important to consider how our community might embrace those who need our help. Obviously there's a bigger picture here than just downtown. On a daily basis, though, I want to feel comfortable and safe in downtown (which, currently, I do in Chapel Hill). So there's my non-answer.

I do think it's a shame that the IFC issue is getting caught in the campaign, when it's harder to have honest discussions about it.

I think the question of what's done about the kitchen goes far beyond a question of zoning. What happens will reflect the will of the community and how that community has changed. If the community wants it, the community can have it, whatever the zoning rules say about that block. We all know this. If the kitchen ends up somewhere else, the immediate cause may be that the Board wouldn't allow a variance, but that wouldn't approach a full explanation.

What about Chapel Hill? First, let's acknowledge that the town of Chapel Hill has hosted, in their own building, the men's shelter and the community kitchen for many years. The town of Chapel Hill doesn't need to defend its treatment of the IFC. Furthermore, it's a misunderstanding of the situation to imply that the town of Chapel Hill is kicking the IFC's shelter and kitchen out of the building at Rosemary and Columbia. It's true that every time that lease comes up for renewal, the council gets an earful of gruff about the shelter. And yet, every time -- and twice since I've been around to witness the rancor and meanness stoked by opponents of the shelter -- the Council has renewed that lease.

It's true that the town has urged the IFC to seek other options. But the fact is that the town of Chapel Hill is not kicking out the IFC; the IFC has grown out of that building. It's the IFC that's recognized that the kitchen is too small to serve all of the people who come for lunch and dinner -- many more than stay at the shelter. The IFC has grown as an organization, and has realized that it would better serve the needs of the poor if it could provide a continuum of shelter -- a shelter for those just off the street, but also a variety of transitional living situations and housing for those who are working their way out of their problems. The most common complaint of the men at the shelter who attend a writing group I sometimes help to run is that it can be difficult to live in the shelter while also holding down a job that requires them to pull odd shifts, or otherwise be at work at times that don't correspond with the schedules of the shelter. (These are men who, nevertheless, _do_ hold down jobs.) More flexible shelter options would help men like that, who are close to being able to make it on their own.

And so the IFC, for years now, has been seeking a new situation. And at every turn they're stymied. I recall the folks who quickly bought the lot next door to the Rosemary Street shelter so that the IFC couldn't buy it and build on it, as they were thinking about doing. (You'll notice that those investors have done nothing with it.) There have been other tentative approaches by the IFC, and each time the same words get used: "ham-fisted"; "naive"; "zoning"; "process"; "dialogue". The IFC has heard those words before, Mayor Nelson, and they've dialogued and compromised and met with stakeholders over and over again, never with success. Eventually, one gets tired and frustrated and angry to see, time and again, how the IFC is treated as a pariah group by the very community it's here to serve. You end up wondering whether the community deserves the IFC.

So let's not talk about zoning. Let's talk about what this community has the will to do about poverty. Let's see whether the community believes that the people who use the IFC's services are both fellow citizens and constituents, or whether they are something less than that. Let's have _that_ conversation.


That is exactly the discussion Alex Zaffron and Jacqui Gist proposed having when the IFC move to Carrboro was first raised in a candidates forum (Herald Sun). They both warned that this was an important issue for all of Carrboro and deserved a more meaningful discussion than is possible under the pressure and emotion of an election.

We also need to keep in mind that the County has just begun development of their 10 year plan to end homelessness, a plan to address the needs of those individuals who are chronically homeless so that we can provide more focused attention on those who are victims of poverty (typically short-term homeless). That plan, which I believe includes strategies for funding itself, should be ready by spring. We also have the Community Initiative to End Homelessness which is working on (among other things) improving our point-in-time surveys to give us better planning data.

Neither Carrboro or Chapel Hill is ignoring or passing off the issue of homelessness although it's certainly not being addressed as quickly or thoroughly as any of us would like. As you say, we need a community wide plan that the broader community will accept and hopefully embrace so that we can stop having these uncharitable discussions about how to hide our less fortunate citizens from public view. And you're also right that the Chapel Hill Town Council has been a gracious, generous host for more than 25 years in the face of constant public criticism. Hopefully, we can find a new site that serves the individual needs without subjecting the service agencies, local officials, and the individuals themselves to another 25 years of public debate.


With all due respect, this discussion about the IFC does involve zoning. It is ONE component of the discussion and can't be ignored. There are in fact many aspects to this. And it's a disservice to all involved to question the motives of the folks who opt to review all components of the question--including zoning and poverty and community values.

Additionally, with regard to my 'ham-fisted' comment, the IFC has not met with me or--to my knowledge--any other member of the current board to discuss their plans for this property. Usually, when an non-profit, business or individual wants to request a rezoning---especially a controversial rezoning---they educate the decision makers about their plans. They take the time to lay the ground work, explain, share facts and figures, etc. In short, they take the time to make their case. This is what I meant by ham-fisted and naive. If you're gonna engage in a venture you know is going to be controversial, why WOULDN'T you take the time to make your case?

Rezoning property isn't a common thing to do in Carrboro. I can recall only a handful of rezonings in my 12 years on the town board. So, a rezoning request is likely to get close scrutiny whether it's coming from IFC or KFC.

That being said, Carrboro citizens and elected officials will weigh all of these concerns--zoning, values, poverty, community, etc---before making any decisions. This debate will not be helped by inflammatory, moralizing, angry comments being made by folks on either side---EITHER side. I hope people who care about this will turn the volume down and engage with each other civil, respectful manner. Everybody wants the best for their community. Nobody's bad here.

In case anybody cares, here's further elaboration on my view of the the dynamics at play, and the conversation that needs to happen in an excerpt from my response to the CBA's question on the issue:

"In order for the conversation I've described above to begin, however, all of the interested parties, (the IFC, the towns, business community and neighborhoods) first must break free from a cycle of denial, and acknowledge that the interests and concerns of all of the players are valid.

We will get nowhere if we persist in a cycle in which people concerned about the problems associated with behaviors surrounding the shelter and kitchen, simply try to make it go away without playing a productive role in the conversation. And persist in denial of the fact that the problem of homelesness is never going to go away, and that these services must be provided, and people with substance abuse, mental health issues, and homelessness must be treated with dignity and compassion.

Conversely, advocates of the IFC must break free of their cycle of denial that the concerns about persistent problems with behavior directly, or indirectly associated with the shelter and kitchen operations are legitimate, real, and have negative effects on the business community and surrounding neighborhoods. Moreover, they must jettison the need to instantaneously dismiss and vilify anyone who voices these concerns as some sort of selfish ogre with no legitimate stake, and sinister motives to displace, and deny service to their clients.(for an example of this, see Duncan Murrell's post on OP, excoriating me for answering his question on this subject directly and candidly, instead of resorting to circular rhetoric.)"

Oh, and on a personal note, Unlike Joan, I don't feel safe in downtown Chapel Hill. Why? I've been to new York, Chicago, DC, New Orleans, and been mugged exactly once in my life. Where? Franklin Street--and quite violently, I might add. Some will argue that this has nothing to do with the IFC discussion, and may be right, but the sense of safety ha, an does play a role in the conversation, and we cannot ignore it.


First: I, at least, _am_ a bad person, Mike. I can admit that. I hope to someday use my evil for good.

Second, you _were_ told about this idea back in March, in a memo (March 10, 2005) from Natalie Ammarell and Kevin Foy to the Community Planning Group, the O.C. Board of County Commissioners, the Chapel Hill Town Council, the Carrboro Board of Aldermen, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School Board, and others. You can read it here (it's a pdf) if you haven't already:

Allow me reprint the salient part here:



The concept of a Comprehensive Service Center is driven by the growing recognition that the issues facing the homeless and families/individuals at risk of homelessness are becoming increasing[ly] complex and challenging. Improvements to the housing and socio-economic climate in our community are slow to emerge; health care costs continue to rise; and transfers from state hospitals for the mentally ill to the community have already begun. Thus, our community must be in a position to offer these populations an unprecedented depth and efficacy of services.

The Comprehensive Service Center, envisioned by the IFC and Community Planning Group for the IFC's Main Street property in Carrboro, will include: 1)consolidated kitchen/pantry services; 2)case management component; 3)emergency assistance center; 4) communications center; 5)job training/assistance; 6) strong emphasis on volunteer participation and partnerships with other service organizations.

Since August [2004]:

*IFC's architects have completed a development feasibility study for the Carrboro property, including a review of town zoning issues and two potential scenarios for development.

* IFC staff has held a series of meetings with town staff to discuss zoning, parking and other issues related to development of a Comprehensive Service Center.

* The IFC President and architect met with a group of downtown Carrboro business representatives to open a dialogue about IFC vision.

* The IFC Board of Directors has been engaged in a series of discussions focusing on options related to potential development of the Carrboro property.

Next steps:

* Continued discussions with Carrboro town staff about development issues

* A series of individual meetings with elected officials, the business community, and otherkey players

* Meetings with neighbors of the Carrboro property to discuss IFC visioin and invite involvement in planning."


So, I'm confused. They claim to have not only been doing most everything you suggest they haven't done, but they notified you about their work (which had been ongoing since August of 2004) almost eight months ago. Plenty of time for you or one of the members of the Board to say, "Whoa, wait a second."

Furthermore, it can't possibly be the case that you were unaware of the Community Planning Group's plans to include a kitchen at the Main Street facility, since in October 2004 you reported to the Board of Aldermen about the CPG and the Community Roundtable, and even suggested that you (or someone in your office) and Natalie Ammarell had been the ones to convene the Community Planning Group in the first place. (See this agenda item from the Oct. 24, 2004: )

So, which is it? Has the IFC been part of a larger community-wide dialogue on the future of homelessness in Orange County, and as part of that effort, long ago broached the idea of a kitchen at the Main Street facility to the Board, Mayor, and town staff (to include discussion of zoning implications), and also had meetings with local business leaders, neighbors, and other stakeholders about the idea?

Or has there been one, big, whopping misunderstanding?

(And thanks, Alex, for granting me the honor of being mentioned in a candidate questionnaire! I do believe I was criticizing you for _not_ being candid and direct. I don't think I've ever told anyone I prefer they use "circular rhetoric." For the record, I love it when you're candid and direct. It's hot.)


Duncan, dude, you need to take a chill pill !!

I never said that I wasn't aware of the plans. For crissakes, it's only been in the papers 8 million times. What I said was:

"the IFC has not met with me or–to my knowledge–any other member of the current board to discuss their plans for this property. Usually, when an non-profit, business or individual wants to request a rezoning—especially a controversial rezoning—they educate the decision makers about their plans. They take the time to lay the ground work, explain, share facts and figures, etc. In short, they take the time to make their case. This is what I meant by ham-fisted and naive. If you're gonna engage in a venture you know is going to be controversial, why WOULDN'T you take the time to make your case?

Duncan, there is a big difference between receiving a 4 page memo that addresses several complicated issues, only one of which is the issue at hand, AND having the proponents sit down with the decision-makers and talk about rezoning, the process, the inherent and underlying issues, etc etc. I've been doing this a long time, Duncan, and the people who are successful at getting projects like this through are the ones who take the time to sit down and talk.

Anyway, that being said, I'm going to exit this conversation now.

Good luck.

I think the memos -- including your own -- beg a different conclusion about the IFC's efforts.

Besides, the telephone works both ways.

Here's something salient we wrote a couple of weeks ago. Y'all might find it interesting. (Or not. I can never tell with this crowd ... )

Since this catagory is about news coverage of the current political campaigns can anyone shed any light on Brian Voyce and his apparent animous towards Carrboro in general and it's political leadership inparticular?



Community Guidelines

By using this site, you agree to our community guidelines. Inappropriate or disruptive behavior will result in moderation or eviction.


Content license

By contributing to OrangePolitics, you agree to license your contributions under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States License.

Creative Commons License

Zircon - This is a contributing Drupal Theme
Design by WeebPal.