Nelson runs for County Commissioner

I couldn't be happier to announce the web site (and campaign of course) of Mike Nelson for Orange County Commissioner! This year the seats of Alice Gordon, Steve Halkiotis, and Barry Jacobs will be open. I don't think any of them has announced whether they are running. Candidates have until February 28 to file for the primary.

Mike deserves some credit for helping Carrboro become the wonderful and successful place it is right now. He is poised to be a strong leader on environmental issues, which are currently staring the county in the face. And he also has plenty of experience with social and economic issues as the former Mayor of Carrboro.

The support of the current county commissioners for extending water and sewer lines into the Rural Buffer is one of the main reasons I have decided to run. The Rural Buffer, separating Chapel Hill/Carrboro from the rest of the county, is one of Orange County's greatest assets. We should cherish it and seek to protect it at all costs.

He even has a blog. En garde!




laurad -- if Alice wants to bring back that notion and tack on that the trend will continue until we approach greater equality in spending, not just a one year infusion, then I'm all for it.

mary -- yes, i think hearing from teachers who cross district lines would be great, perhaps even parents who have had their children in both districts? why did they move? did they get the improved service for their children as they had hoped?

jb -- thanks for clarifying your quotation marks.

and Mike Nelson -- Back to your candidacy...I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this and many other issues. We're a tough audience.

From Mr. Nelson's website,
"Now that a merger of the two school systems is off the table, both sides should come together with renewed vigor to support efforts to both equalize funding between the two school systems and to close the achievement and graduation rate gaps—the one that exists between systems and the other between races and ethnicities."

He endorses a means to equalize funding- implying an increase OCS funding, I suspect. Perhaps he believes this increase in revenue will help decrease achievement gaps between districts (quite reasonable). It sounds like he has already made up his mind to work towards increasing OCS funding. But how? Can't do a special OCS district tax. A major increase in the ad valoreom will not be endorsed. And the recent proposal for a 4% increase received no support. Short of creating a new funding mechanism or merging the school systems, what other options does a BOCC candidate have?

The webpage continues,
"As county commissioner, I will be dedicated to leading the way to ensure that Orange County's public school students obtain the tools necessary to succeed in the future."

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the only tool the BOCC can provide the schools is funding to pay for educational tools the BOEs beleive to be appropriate to educate. Do we want the BOCC to dictate educational practices?

Mr. Nelson, I apologize for using your website in an attempt to make a point. If elected, I wish you the best in working on this challenging issue.

When my son entered Grady Brown as a kindergartener, the county commissioners were saying "obviously, eventually the districts would have to merge" as this was the self-evident conclusion of the funding disparity. I accepted that this would likely not affect his elementary school years.

And the gap grew and grew. And the years went by. When my first son was nearly seven years old, I had a second son. Likewise, it seemed that the discussion had fallen silent ... with more concern on the ABCs and the slings and arrows of the 90s' outrageous fortunes.

Folks, my older son graduated from NCCU three years ago and his baby brother will graduate from Cedar Ridge in a couple of months. I watch all this wondering if I should strap on this armor again, anticipating grandchildren.

The "it-will-have-to-happen-eventually-but-not-right-now-please" argument is Oscar Meyer certified baloney. With all due respect, it's time to stand up to any and all elected officials and candidates who try to run that tatterred flag up the pole.

The argument is so long used that it has become a form of conventional wisdom. If that's the case, then merger right now is the obvious solution -- "someday" or "eventually" is here. It is no more "off the table" than the question of the achievement gap.

With apologies to Yogi Berra, until we're equal, we're not equal.

Jean, I think you illustrate Mike Nelson's point beautifully. The BOCC has for years and years sat back and watched the funding gap widen without doing anything (with the exception of Alice Gordon who tried in vain to increase funding for the OCS with her ad valorem proposal) It is time for some fresh faces to join those members who are actually trying to DO something about the gap without overtaxing the citizens of the Norhern part of the county w/merger.

With no offense intended it is not clear that Nelson has taken a clear stand on where he sits - to mix metaphors - which seems to please no one.

So far it seems like margaret brown revisited.. triangulation theory.

I also find the line about the funding difference "a stain on the county" a little bit melodramatic and overly emotional. I would prefer less emotionally loaded language from an elected official but that is only my preference. Policy decisions should be made with logic and reason behind them.

Only 3 out of 110 districts in the state receive more local funding.. If our county is stained how do you describe our state.

It seems that the "inequity" is often framed as the CHCCS folks somehow hoarding the resources, denying the OCS system it's due. It is not an issue of the rich versus the poor. It is not an issue of the powerful versus the powerless. It is an issue of choice.

The ratio of tax base to pupil is very nearly the same in the two districts. OCS residents are financially able to fund schools at a higher level. They have shown clearly that most prefer to spend their money other ways, as is their sovereign right.

Some people still don't understand, or won't face the fact that there is no free lunch. A merger would force an immediate huge tax increase in the OCS, probably followed by a period of overall decline in countywide school funding, until the screams from the two ends of the county equaled out.

Yes, I wish all children could attend terrifically funded schools. I wish all children had home environments conducive to learning. I wish everyone would kill their TV's and trade in their SUV's, but I recognize the individuals' right to their own values. The "funding inequity" is the result of a perfectly valid difference in values. OCS residents feel that the second highest funding rate in the state is good enough.

Sorry Charlie, it wasn't that kind of choice.

The entire county has pursued a land use policy that has created this inequity. That's the commissioners, largely, on behalf of the entire county. This was right, but half-assed. It meant that development would be concentrated in the southern half of the county, raising the tax base significantly and the farm land and rural expanse of the outer county would be preserved -- for EVERYONE's benefit. That preservation does not translate to tax base and the commissioners surely knew this.

Now they (the BOCC) must make the course correction that this long-term policy demands. They should merge the schools over the next decade, phasing in the change administratively and using the shift to create a terrific magnet system, with middle and high schools specializing in math & science, the arts and tech prep. It could be a terrific opportunity for ACTUAL innovation if everyone would put their creative energy toward a best practice outcome instead of defending turf.


The relevant fact is the ratio of taxable property per student in each district, which very close between them (and projected by the county to favor the OCS district over time).

There is less development in the northern half, but there are also proportionately less students. This land use argument is bogus when discussing school taxation in our county (and it was discussed at length in the district tax thread)

Local control allows each district to self determine its taxation. And I don't buy the frame that you put forth in your other post, either. Wake, Mecklenburg, and Durham should split up into more manageable districts like we have in Orange.


It looks to me like merger-mania is going to once again dominate the commissioners' race and allow little time for many very important issues that we face.

Agreed, Mark M!

I will continue to pay attention to other issues and try to get past the merger rhetoric...

The commissioners voted not to pursue merger as an equity solution. I think this vote will be of little reassurance to many who are afraid.

If all three incumbents decide to run again, which appears likely (Gordon has already announced she will) this will be a very interesting race. I live in Efland, in northern Orange. It will be interesting to see how Mike Nelson's candidacy plays up in northern Orange here with more conservative white Democrats (45% of white registered Democratic voters in northern Orange backed Bush, according to my calculations) and with black voters, who are 30-35% of Dem voters up here. Northern Orange (that is, the 12 precincts north of i-85) is 25% of the vote.

By the way, the Orange County Democratic Party is now sponsoring a bi-monthly breakfast (2nd and 4th Saturdays) at Chelsea's (Occaneechee Steak House) in Hillsborough at 9am. We have had two so far, with 20-30 people at both, most from northern Orange. The next one is tomorrow and the Orange Co. Planning Dirictor is coming to talk about the new comprehensive land use proposals. Breakfast buffet is available for those who want it, it's about $11 with coffee, juice, tax and gratuity. It is open to any Democrat or Independent (or Republican who wants to reform!)

Thanks Paul. I'm very interested in land use planning in the county. If I can get up in time, I will try to come to breakfast!

I commented on Mr. Nelson's blog:

Where are you getting your figures?

The North Carolina Department of Public instruction, which I believe is likely the best source, states that OCS gets $7,995 and CHCCS gets $8,892. Whereas your figures state a $2,200 difference in funding resulting from OCS being taxed less, DPI says that there is an $897 difference. It looks like you were off by 245%!!

After emailing Mr. Nelson to ask him to address my comment and to request that the source for the information be cited, my tactful and legitimate blog comment was removed from his blog. The information on the two main blog entries was neither updated with a reference to the source, nor corrected, nor annotated as possibly being incorrect. It seems wrong to me to fail to address my comment with a subsequent comment or to fail to at least update the entries to indicate that the data needs further research.

Mark---this surprises you?

Someone emailed me and pointed out that one of the two posts has been corrected in Mr. Nelson's blog.

Hopefully he is working on the other one, which may be why he hasn't emailed me about it.

Glad to see progress on this.


fyi - Both sets of incorrect school funding figures that were identified last Wednesday on Mr. Nelson's blog have now been removed.

I hope that the source of future figures are cited. Also, as someone pointed out on STP, I still wonder why he didn't get the figures himself given that this appears to be at the top of his platform.


I don't know if you are aware of this, but in writing you come across as having a rather rabid interest in protecting the privileges of the privileged. If candidates distance themselves from you, it is because you come across as unsympathetic to all but your own class. I applaud you for all the hard work you have put in to your fact-based arguments against equity and merger, but frankly, until I see you spending as much time protecting the underprivileged as you do protecting the privileged, I will find your public persona mostly annoying. Constant posturing on Orange County education issues from both extremes is detrimental to our children.

Hi Mary,

Thank you for sharing your view on this. I have been writing publicly in letters to the editor for quite some time that the best choice to change the taxation & funding differences is to raise the ad valorem and lower the city district tax if that is what OCS voters want. I do not believe that your characterization is supported by my statements.


Mark, I hope it's a style thing... When I read your posts, the compassion and concern don't come through. Most of us are truly weary of the silly "gotcha" games.


The difference between $2200 and $845 is hardly "gotcha."

The BOCC COULD level the playing field--"all" they have to do is reduce the Chapel Hill special tax and inrease the advalorem. Of course, conventional wisdom says that doing so would be political suicide...


Never said it was Melanie.


"When I read your posts, the compassion and concern don't come through. Most of us are truly weary of the silly “gotcha” games. "

My mistake--I thought you were referring to Mark's previous post.


... individuals (from) out of the county gave Nelson $7,868 between Feb. 10 and April 15. The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund of Washington, D.C., also contributed $4,000 to Nelson's campaign, the largest donation in the filing.

Source: Herald Sun

I am all for a little help from out-of-county relatives or a little startup money from a friendly out-of-state PAC (like a few hundred bucks) getting a campaign rolling. BUT $12,000 total from out of the county with $4,000 of that from an out of state PAC?? Am I reading this right?

So Nelson is getting almost as much from out of the county and state as the highest BOCC fund raiser last time:

The amount Nelson has raised is more than the top fundraiser, Margaret Brown, took in during the 2004 primary season. Brown, then an incumbent, raised $12,692 (same article)

WillR, help us out here. I bet you have access to the answer to this question: How much money did The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund raise from residents of Orange County?

Mark, what I've seen so far is incomplete.

The SBOE online reports here are somewhat "incomplete". Interestingly, the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund reported only $600 in-kind for the Friends of Julia Boseman in the 1st quarter.

The group (wiithin NC) started the period with $15,015.40 and ended the period, 4/15/06, with $1,555.59. The 1st quarter 2006 online reports are missing detailed contributor list and the report omits specifying where the $13.5K went (maybe operational cost).

The HeraldSun (which has closed the print-friendly paywall gap), reports a $4,000 contribution from the group. According to Equality, NC, threw in another $1000.

During 4th quarter, 2005, gave $3200 to Boseman and $500 to Equality, NC. They got $14,900 of the $15,015 during that quarter.

If you review Equality, NC's 4th quarter 2005 report, you'll see the lion's share of big ticket contributions came from Charlotte, with a few from Chapel Hill, Raleigh and Asheville (shame they didn't report on the under $100 contributions). Total contributions that period were $33,110. They only had one PAC contribution, the Victory Fund, for $500.

So, some amount of their $1,000 was comprised of out-of-town monies (you would assume) and the Victory Fund contribution.

FYI, the same period the only other $4000 contribution from Equality, NC was to Boseman.

I feel for them - they gave Jim Black $2,000.

Other than Boseman and Black, they gave to local pols Hackney, Kinnard and Insko (I understand the need for strong allies but this seems to be like bringing ice to Iceland).

According to Campaign Money, the top $$$ contributors ($1,200 and up) are not from NC.

Finally, the Victory Fund site is short (understandably) on contributor details.

Mark, you'll have to review the reports for the Victory Fund when they're complete to get a greater breakdown.

As far as I'm concerned, unless %60-70 of the monies for these two PACs came from the local area, I don't think we can characterize these groups as "local".

Mike raised $24+ K , a good chunk from outside the county.

I understand the enthusiasm of the GLBT community and their desire, as the Victory Fund says, to create a

BREAKthrough means lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans win at the ballot box and will have a powerful voice in our government to achieve true equality.

It's a great goal.

That said, I think we're faced with a few problems/questions on the role of money in our local elections.

As I said in my endorsement of Mike

I'm worried about the “what's good for the goose, is good for the gander” problem.

I'm deeply troubled by these contributions, even if in a “good cause”,and by this precedent. I also expect that he'll be responding to these citizen concerns.

I imagine the fracas should contribute to additional BOC sensitivity when folk, like myself, approach them with a plan for real electorial reform: voter-owned elections, cummulative voting over the districting craziness, non-partisan elections and voting accessibility.

Mark, I posted a quick response based on 1/2 hour of research (I'm not a total political wonk, I do have a life and a job).

I believe I got the #'s correct, but I'd appreciate the community reviewing my research for accuracy.

The comment is delayed because I linked to many sources of data.

Will, where did you post the info?

Joan, if you include too many links the OP spaminator holds them in moderation. I included many links so everyone could do their own research (like I'm counting on Mark Chilton doing, right Mark?).

When Ruby gives the go ahead it'll automagically appear.

See you at the polls OPrs, and remember - call 5 friends and ask if they've voted or drag 3 friends to the polls.

Thanks WillR. I will take a look when the comment is approved. Ordinarily as an editor on OP, I would be able to approve your comment, but I have no editorial powers on threads started by Ruby (because she is the OP goddess and has a higher level authorization than me).



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