First County Commissioner candidates forum Wednesday!

The Sierra Club is kicking off this spring's County Commissioner forum season on Wednesday night from 7-8:30 at Carrboro Town Hall. You can also tune in and watch it on channel 18. We'll try to get it reshown throughout the campaign on the People's Channel as well.

Each candidate will have a two minute introduction and conclusion and there will be about 20 minutes for audience questions (in addition to 40 minutes of prewritten questions submitted by Executive and Political Committee members.) If you'd like to submit one you can do it right here and I'll put it in the stack (they should be strictly focused on environmental issues.)

The forum along with candidate interviews and their prior record on environmental issues will be used to evaluate the candidates for the Sierra Club endorsement, which will be announced in early April.

Hope to see a lot of you out there on Wednesday night!




You might want to fix the two problems with your headline.

I have the utmost respect for the mission of the Sierra Club and the work that the local body does to foster conversation and action on environmental issues. Proper land use planning, encouragement of denser development within urban areas to prevent sprawl (which is implemented in Orange via the rural buffer), preservation of sensitive and environmentally appealing land, and myriad of other initiatives are clearly important to like-minded citizens in Orange County, including myself and my family. I believe that the Sierra Club deserves much credit for progress on these initiatives in Orange County.

Likewise, I am certain that the Sierra Club wants to have an above-board endorsement process that people can feel comfortable with.

I have a concern that I would like to try to tactfully convey with this posting.

First, some background. As you know, possible school merger has been a hot topic at the county level for the past 3 years. There were three people who were the strongest advocates for merger and continue to be strong advocates for increased school taxation in the Orange County Schools district. It is my understanding that these three people were behind the ill-conceived "ROB Chapel Hill" boycott of businesses, which received some serious community backlash. They have very strong opinions on this topic and have been very passionate when representing their opinions.

I am not aware that the Sierra club has taken a public position on possible school merger.

Now on to my concern. All three of the top three pro-merger people are interviewing county commissioner candidates for the Sierra Club endorsement. At least one of these interviewers has had recent conversations with at least one candidate on the topic of school taxation and merger.

People take sides on issues, and I am okay with that. But I have reservations about appointing three people who are very heavily staked on a major local issue outside of the Sierra Club's mission who might bring their personal agenda into a Sierra Club endorsement. Likewise, I think the Sierra Club would hesitate before knowingly appointing three steering committee members to its endorsement committee.

What limits does the Sierra club place on its endorsement committee with regards to conversations with candidates outside of the interview process? What conversations about topics outside of the Sierra Club's mission have taken place between participants in the endorsement process and potential candidates? Will the Sierra club disclose these off-topic conversations? Are there any campaign contribution limits or campaign participation limits? Should current elected officials, like Board of Education members, be on the county commissioner endorsement committee?

As an extremely important endorsement in Orange County, I merely ask that the Sierra Club do their best to assure integrity in their endorsement process.

Again, I highly respect the Sierra Club. I am merely conveying a concern.

Mark Peters


I already answered your concerns privately after you posted them on STP. Your reposting them here after I took the time to send you a lengthy explanation of what we do to ensure the process is fair is nothing but political posturing.

If anyone has any questions they are welcome to e-mail me but I won't be answering them here.

We didn't turn away anyone who volunteered to serve on the Political Committee in this cycle, and it would be highly inappropriate to kick people off the committee because of their view on an issue peripheral to the environmental issues the Sierra Club concerns itself with. Merger will have nothing to do with our endorsements.

Hope to see everyone wednesday!

Tom, any plans to let the public ask questions? Maybe Mark and I can ask about merger, CN, Shearon Harris or other relevant issues that the Sierra Club might not ask.


The public can submit questions (here or at the forum.) We'll have about 20 minutes for filtered audience questions. But we will only ask ones about environmental issues. Questions about CN and Shearon Harris could certainly be considered environmental depending on the specifics.

A question about merger would not be appropriate because this is a non-environmental issue that will play no role in our endorsement. There will doubtless be plenty other opportunities for candidates to talk about it in other venues.

Merger questions can generate a long, involved conversation that would take away from immediate environmental concerns. I respect the desire to keep discussion of merger out of the forum and decision process. In the future, when merger does come back to the spotlight and definitely if some version of merger is pursued, conversations will involve building schools or neighborhoods in the rural buffer. It will no longer not be a non-environmental issue.

It is good to concentrate on current environmental issues the Sierra Club is known for handling.

Would questions about light rail and extending bus service be appropriate? I was also wondering how much emphasis will be placed on energy efficiency (in use and building construction) and energy conservation. I heard there was hesitation to build an energy efficient building in the county that would have involved rain water reclamation.

Thank you for posting the information about the forum.



I think questions about light rail and extension of bus service are intertwined with the environment. More mass transit=less air pollution. So certainly they would be appropriate.

I think we do have some questions about energy efficiency and conservation but if you have a specfic question you'd like asked please post it here. These are definitely big issues. Thanks!

We know sprawl, water management, land conservation, etc. will be coming up so here's a few orthogonal questions:

How about environmentally-sound fleet management, which the OC needs much more desperately than C.H.(which is years behind and on the verge of "Crown-Vix" exacerbation)? What about reclaiming materials for biodiesel production, producing biodiesel in-house and having a commitment to use biodiesel? Or targetted reductions in OC vehicle trip miles/fuel usage? Or my suggestion (which Mike Nelson picked up on), to manufacture methanol from the landfill?

OC is ripe for a platform that stresses reducing our tax dollar expenditures using environmentally-oriented approaches.

And Tom, I think the mega-school footprint (20,30 or 40 acres) is environmentally relevant. Besides the direct costs of providing ancilliary amenities like softball, soccer, football, lacrosse, etc. fields, the considerable impact of these facilities on our environment should be challenged. What candidates will stand up and challenge the big bucks used to develop these tracts?

Tom, I also think merger will increase the demand for these environmentally unsound educational compounds. Maybe you can work in the environmental consequences of mega-schools into the forum.

Saying that school merger would 'increase the demand for environmentally unsound educational compounds' is as misleading as telling people their children will have to take long school bus rides if the systems merge. There are no givens in how a merged system would look or perform. As for school size, small schools local to population centers can serve Orange County the same as they do Atlanta, Minneapolis, or Portland.

For more information, see

Terri, my thinking is skewed by other NC examples. While a merged system could end up creating, say 10 HS, serving 200 kids each, the trend seems to be to consolidate students into a few mega-compounds.

Along those lines, would it be criminal to suggest that the new HS be built with minimal practice fields and ditch any other grandiose sports structures?

I already answered your concerns privately after you posted them on STP. Your reposting them here after I took the time to send you a lengthy explanation of what we do to ensure the process is fair is nothing but political posturing.


I did appreciate your email response, and it was indeed quick and lengthy. Thank you.

But as I told you in my response back to you, your answers did not alleviate my discomfort with the process. I still have the concerns regarding conflict of interest that I shared above.

Thanks again,

Will, If you read through the last 1/4 of the Look Both Ways discussion you'll see plenty of discussion about building schools that don't require 30-40 acres. As for the new HS, they've already clear cut the site so it's too late now to do anything except try and prevent future schools from being so large, with or without merger.

I will be extremely disappointed if the anti-merger activists try to turn this year's campaign into yet another discussion of nothing-but-merger. They called 2004's race a "referendum" on merger and if it was, their perspective didn't pass.

Can't we all agree that we need a change and move on to a productive discussion of how to address this along with OTHER critical issues?

Sigh... I would like to see school merger for no other reason than to never hear about it again...

Who (besides Tom) will be making the Sierra Club's recommendations for endorsement? I trust Tom will run a clean show.

I share Mark Peters's tactfully expressed concerns, and agree with Will and others that school-related issues do have a place on the Sierra Club's environmental agenda.

Although I should heed Mark Twain's admonition about entering into a duel of commentary with someone who buys ink by the barrel, here goes.
Mark, you seem to have accomplished by your actions exactly what you professed to dread. Are we talking about merger? Nevermind that we generated insightful questions about environmental issues to ask the candidates. Nevermind that the greatest opportunity for having substantial impact upon the environment is in the county, not Chapel Hill-Carrboro. You guys are wrestling with the pressing issues of leaf blowers and jake brakes, which shows that the war for Chapel Hill is mostly over, and lost, if those are the greatest improvements that can be made. The rest of the county has 375 square miles that could be dramatically transformed in our lifetime.
I am offended by your implied accusations, and in regards to your most polite politeness, I don't buy it. You most definitely want to undermine the validity of any Sierra Club endorsement, unless of course, you happen to agree with it.
I must say that I am disgusted by the common conception down your way that the world begins and ends in Chapel Hill. For the twenty years that I have been a Sierra Club member here, not once has the Sierra Club approached an endorsement from the county resident's perspective. It is always about Chapel Hill and only Chapel Hill.
All this talk about environmental protection-watershed rules,land use restrictions, open space actually places little or no burden on Chapel Hill folks. It does, however, place a huge burden on the folks out here. It makes perfect sense that we have a say in what happens, but the arrogance of folks down your way can't seem to stand even the thought of it. Explain to me why people in Cane Creek must lose the use of their property to protect your water supply? What if we dammed Bolin Creek , restricted your property use, and piped the water up here? Would that be OK?
Do you stand by all that jabbering about "local control" that you seemed to embrace for the issue of merger? Do you feel that county residents have the right of local control for environmental issues? Who are you to say what happens in Rougemont or Cedar Grove? With the merger debate you made clear that we are most definitely not on the same team. Why should anyone up here agree to something that hurts us by restricting value of our property just because it helps you ? What is in it for us?
How can you allow Chapel Hill to rape the rural buffer by placing its public works there? How can you let them buy land in the rural buffer for their homeless shelter? (Also in the Orange County school district, by the way. Chew on that a while.) You didn't say a word about that. It seems that not one of you has a conscience, or the balls, to stand up for what is fair. Why don't you stand up and protest that if you actually give a damn about the environment?
How about the county's responsibility for protecting groundwater from landfill contamination? Do you feel the county should develop a plan of action for dealing with the eventual environmental disaster that will come from our unlined landfill which is in the County district?
What about the relocation of the airport? Won't that have a huge impact on county residents, yet Chapel Hillians don't give a flip, they just want it gone, even though they chose to move right next to it. They want the burden to fall on someone else in order to protect their Stepford neighborhoods. Stand up for that if your concern for the environment so genuine.
How about allocation of funds for open space acquisition? Couldn't we have much greater effect on the environment by directing the bulk of the money towards cheaper land away from Chapel Hill? The New Hope Preserve was tremendously expensive for the relatively small amount of land protected. Couldn't the same amount of money protected much more a few miles farther from town?
Do you feel that the county should dedicate funds for a riverwalk in Hillsborough? They did,after all, pitch in for the New Hope Preserve.
I could go on, but let me sum up by returning to the real issue for you. Just as with schooling, I suspect your circle of concern for the environment is exceptionally small. If you are going well by you, then things must be OK. I disagree.
To continue the comparison, with global pressures bearing down on our nation, we must educate each and every child as well as we possibly can. To steal a phrase from James Carville's talk at Duke last week, one day, this nation will need "All hands on deck" to turn back the economic assault of global competition. With half of our children getting only a mediocre education, you will then have a lonely realization of what we have squandered, what you have promoted.
"Every man for himself" is the last order of a failed captain on a doomed ship. Unlike you, I don't endorse that approach for the education of our children, and I most certainly don't endorse it for the salvation of our environment. We must expand our circle of concern, not shrink it as you seem intent upon doing.
Make accusations all you want, I care deeply about the world around me and I have watched the people of Chapel Hill-Carrboro collectively rape and pillage the areas around them without any accountability whatsoever. Maybe that abuse won't change, but thank you for bringing it up.
Speaking for myself.
Rick Kennedy

Please stop, you're ... egging ... me on. trying to resist... neither district ... agrees ... can't hold it much longer....change .... needed.... need to stop... :)

Seriously, let's deal with instructional and district organization issues later. School construction, however, is an environmental issue and funding that construction is a BOCC responsibility.

What are the top 5 environmental issues in Orange County?
Rural buffer
Water runoff, drought
enery efficiency
protection of natural water ways, forests

Water runoff = stormwater
Drought = water supply and quality
Air quality
Deer overpopulation

Hey y'all-

It would be helpful to me if you constructed specific questions instead of just throwing issues out. I want to know exactly what you would like the candidates to be asked about these issues.

"Given that fuel and other energy costs are guaranteed to rise in the future and given that fuel & other energy costs (as well as water availability) are major factors in the national food supply and delivery network that will almost certainly cause disruptions and given that our region currently still has quite a lot of arable land, how would you propose to ensure adequate supplies of healthy, affordable food for us over the next several decades?"

The ordinance establishing the rural buffer is due to expire very soon. Do you believe it should be renewed? If so, what revisions would you advocate for, if any?

Is creating and preserving a natural corridor for wildlife and recreation in Orange County a priority for you? If it is, how and when do you propose putting land in preservation?

What role do you think the County should play in the planning of Carolina North? What are your thoughts on the relocation of the airport to another portion of the County?

I have a question, or at least maybe Tom can put it into question format. Eventually, every areas maxes out its ability to grow sideways. At the beach it happens quickly, in CH/CB it will happen soon, and in North Orange it will happen eventually. At that point we will see older buildings torn down to build higher buildings - it happens everywere you go. So, why not cut to the end and save some green space. Couldn't we have areas outside of downtown CH, CB, HB that are something like 10-story minimums with 2 story parking garages underground and a green zone buffer for each building? I raised this the other night at Drinking Liberally. Imagine if the Eastgate area had such restrictions. You would have a much different look with a palette of tall buildings separated by walking trails, parks, squares and playgrounds instead of the asphalt jungle.

We build tall at the beach on sand and short in the Triangle on nice solid ground. Makes no sense to me.

Green building technologies such as day lighting, solar energy and water reclamation are found to have a positive effect on building occupants, conserve energy and provide large savings in construction and operation costs. As a county commissioner, would you encourage the implementation of day lighting, solar energy and water reclamation in construction projects? If so, how could that be accomplished?


I think that having a candidate forum is a great thing for the Sierra Club. My post had nothing to do with the forum itself, but was timely given that the forum is one of the inputs to the endorsement process along with the private candidate interviews.

The questions that I asked above were strictly limited to questions around possible conflict of interest in the endorsement process itself.

I agree that the questions and issues raised here will be excellent input to the forum. I share many of the concerns that you and others have expressed about how we as citizens must be good stewards of the environment in which we live. I learned much about the candidates' views on critical environmental issues when I attended the last candidate forum.

Again, I think that the Sierra Club is an important organization and I agree with its goals and mission. I look forward to hearing the candidate's answers. The biggest challenge is going to be limitations on the number of questions given the large number of candidates.


Two years ago, the Sierra Club sponsored a televised
forum for candidates for county commissioners. As Tom
Jensen is doing this evening, we did not allow questions
about school merger, even thinly disguised ones such as
"If the schools are merged, won't the school buses travel
further, thus polluting the air more?" We also did not
pass the microphone into the audience for the same reason,
restricting questions to those filtered for relevance,
repetition and length by Bernadette Pelissier,
then the SC local political chair.

There will be many more forums, and the school merger
issue can be addressed well at those, as well as in the
various media. The Sierra Club should stick to its primary
mission, and Tom is seeing that it does, correctly in my

As far as Rick Kennedy's concern that the Sierra Club
is all about CH and Carrboro and neglects central and
northern Orange, I offer this. Last fall, for the first time,
the Sierra Club sponsored a forum for Hillsoborough
candidates. It went well, and I believe had some impact
on the election. Rick, the Sierra Club is a volunteer
organization. If you, as a SC member, would like to
organize and run a forum to be held in a location in northern
Orange, volunteer! The SC will support you
as they did the several SC members who ran the Hillsborough
forum last year. The SC is not some elitist organization
that filters out people whom they don't agree with.

The local Sierra Club group is called the Orange-Chatham
group. And though enviornmental issues abound in
Chatham and Chatham's local elections have an
enormous impact on the environment there and here, the SC
has been unable until now to find many volunteers willing to
get involved in that political process. Anyone want to
step up?

In our best effort to replicate ESPN's 'Full Circle' coverage of the Carolina-Duke game last weekend will be launching Sierra Club 'Full Forest' tonight.

You can come to the forum and see it live, which is the best thing to do.

You can watch it on tv.

Or you can watch it here where Jason Baker will be liveblogging.

And I promise as the moderator I won't root for one of the candidates at the detriment of the others the whole game like Dick Vitale did :)

Hope to see a lot of you tonight.

Joe, Thanks for your comment. First of all, count me in for helping with any future forums that might come along.

With my rambling on, you may not appreciate the primary point of my comments regarding the influences that press upon local politics.

Although the Sierra Club did indeed endorse Hillsborough candidates, all winners incidentally, when it comes to county commissioner forums, the issues that affect the county are mostly forgotten in deference to those that play well in Chapel Hill. Isn't it time that we discussed with commissioners the environmental issues that affect the hundreds of square miles outside of Chapel Hill? Isn't that where we will truly have the greatest impact on the world around us?

For example, how do land use restrictions impact the prosperity of those residents outside of Chapel Hill? What do we get out of it? How does the rural buffer benefit us? Will we move the airport out into the county adversely affecting the outlying residents? What plans should we make for the eventual comtamination of groundwater surrounding the landfill? Should we redirect land acquisition for preservation to less expensive parcels that are farther from Chapel Hill? Are we going to invest into a riverwalk for Hillsborough? Will we create greenways across the county? Will we create a bikeways system out in the county?
Can we work with Duke to improve Duke forest access for passive recreation?

I could go on and on, but I want to relate to you a recollection of mine that has to do with something you said years ago at a town council meeting. You commented upon the fifty foot buffer that was proposed to surround the yet to be built East Chapel Hill High. You mentioned that you had visited the high school site and noted that the fifty foot width seemed inadequate, advising that a more substantial buffer would be appropriate. At the very same meeting, Chapel Hill also presented its plan for its own park and ride lot out our way, not in town. I was hoping that someone, maybe you, would comment on the adequacy of its fifty foot buffer, but no comment came. In fact, shortly thereafter the lot was completely clearcut with no buffer at all. You can see the lights a mile away. I know how much you care about environmental issues, but this one didn't register. Where was the respect, consideration, and diligence due for the folks out this way and readily given elsewhere? In the very same evening it certainly was evident to me a double standard perpetrated by Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill considers us invisible and irrelevant. It may not be intentional, but it is that way nonetheless. This has played out again and again, with the public works site and now the homeless shelter being the latest examples.

Since the will of Chapel Hill is the will of the county, I would hope that Chapel Hillians realize their actions have profound impact on those around them. All I want is for us out here to get the same consideration, the same respect. Anything less is tyranny of the majority over the minority. I would like to think that we could agree on that. Keep up your noble efforts.
Rick Kennedy

Rick, I'm not Joe but I share your thinking re buffers. Fifty feet is inadequate just about anywhere. Maybe it's not too late to get this issue on this evening's SC forum agenda.

I hope you were there advocating out loud for that park and ride buffer... Singling out Joe seems off to me...

I believe that no one in either Town is intentionally trying to short shrift people in the County on environmental issues. I'm glad County residents are getting more involved and making their concerns known.

Also, I often feel a disconnect between Chapel Hill and Carrboro and the rest of the County. Good luck trying to convey the big picture to all.

Tom, WCHL has a good solution to that Dick Vitale problem, you know . . .

I'm not trying to single out Joe Capowski at all, but to show that it really happens even with good people who have no intention of slighting us out here. Overall, I am grateful for what he has done to protect our environment.
I did, incidentally, speak to the town council, as did Dave Laudicina about our concerns. Lot of good it did.

As far as buffers, it'd be interesting to hear the OC candidates views on the SUP for the Partnership Academy Alternative School - specifically Phase II.

Part of this is too see if they fail the Harrison test - do they duck an issue because of the potential political consequences using some gobbly-gook excuse or do they answer to the broader issues.

While the incumbents can't directly comment on this particular SUP, they certainly can discuss, in general, their beliefs on buffers, expensive environmentally unsound amenities, etc. - resorting to excuses will help set their measure.

Another buffer issue I'd like to see addressed is their thoughts on doubling watercourse buffers, expanding the definition of watercourses, having a new survey done of our county's watercourses, doing a new assessment of water quality in those watercourses and describing what they'd do to preserve those resources. We have similar issues in C.H. I hope we'll be addressing soon.

My apologies to all of the candidates - due to antique-laptop boot times, I missed the opening statements from most of the candidates. We'll get started liveblogging on the first question.

First Question: What do you see as the purpose of the rural buffer? Are you willing to continue the current level of protection for the Rural Buffer? Why or why not? Are there any changes you support, including changes in the boundaries or uses allowed?

Alice Gordon: The purpose is to provide a defined urban services boundary. The reason for this is to allow our soil and water to sustainably be used.

Jamie Daniel: The purpose is to make a clearly defined developmental area. He sees subdivisions popping up left and right, and wishes to see it continued in its current level.

Fred Battle: Would definitely support the continuation of the rural buffer for water reasons.

Betty Tom Davidson: Sees the rural buffer as important; wants to change it in some ways, such as tree provision for small historic farms like hers. A common sense approach.

What is your opinion about the fee for recycling? Do you have any suggestions for other options?

Jamie Daniel: Doesn't see why we have a recycling fee without garbage pickup. Doesn't like that they're moving the recycling centers further away.

Betty Tom Davidson: She doesn't have new suggestions. Doesn't have a problem paying a recycling fee.

Barry Jacobs: Supports the "Three R" fee, because recycling doesn't yet pay for itself. Wants to provide as many resources as possible to encourage people to recycle. Likes "pay as you throw" as a possibility. Continue to be proactive.

Artie Franklin: Recycling is important; fee is a reality. One issue is using a sales tax for solid waste disposal. Wants to see the money collected up front, rather than a fee situation.

Do you feel that the current requirements of the Board of Commissioners for incorporating smart growth principles into new schools is sufficient, adequate or too much?

Mike Nelson: They are sufficient. He currently serves on state commission for global warming. He sees importance in local governments taking a role in energy conservation. Seek every opportunity to strengthen requirements.

Fred Battle: Feels the same way. We are not making much energy, and need to be more conservation oriented, such as solar power in homes. As you look twenty years, we can't depend on foreign countries for energy. Current policy is a step in the right direction.

Jamie Daniel: The people are going through a redistricting, and using school system to situate people is "looking at the situation with blinders on." Sees additional bus usage as anti-environmental.

Alice Gordon: Goals like Smart Growth are still not a formal standard. The principles themselves need to be formally adopted by the commissioners, and then funded fully. Supports green standards.

What are your thoughts about the unlined county landfill and its eventual impact upon the environment? What responsibility do we have as a county to manage this situation?

Robin Cutson: Wrote to this subject in Town Council campaign. We're running out of landfill space; doesn't want to ship garbage out because of additional truck trips. Look at growth and development considering "what are you going to do with your garbage." Wants to look at basic infrastructure before amenities and extras.

Artie Franklin: The eventual impact will be fowling the water of folks living nearby. It is within the Chapel Hill juristiction, at least partially. The County could request that OWASA run clean water to the affected area. Doesn't want to see it dug up and moved.

Fred Battle: We have experienced some situations already related to landfill on Rogers Rd. He's more concerned about what we're going to do with the land after the landfill is full, based on Parks & Rec experienced. What he'd like to see is the land be utilized creatively for leisure services after it's full.

Alice Gordon: The commissioners have extended water to affected areas. The county has a further responsibility to remediate if there is a discovery of further pollution.

How do outlying county residents benefit from county-wide land use restrictions imposed upon them? What are their benefits politically, financially, or otherwise?

Betty Tom Davidson: Cannot think of benefits. She wants to talk about limitations on current restrictions. Northern County residents are unhappy. Has heard a suggestion of a moratorium on further restrictions.

Mike Nelson: Generally speaking, we all benefit from good land use planning. There are still strong feelings about the Cane Creek Reseviour. Wants to bridge the divide between the north and south parts of the county. The region is growing rapidly and we should prevent sprawl.

Barry Jacobs: Land use planning can be regarded as restrictive, by nature. Keep in mind that Northern Orange County is a watershed and needs to protected beyond just the property owner's rights. Has worked for conservation easements. People county-wide can benefit from the land preservation.

Robin Cutson: Any environmental initiative costs money from someone. Water and recycling are important. Believes that restrictions that benefit watersheds benefit everyone, not just for the water but for recreation, wildlife, etc. Let people know about the benefits.

How would you promote land acquisition for the purposes of preservation and recreation?

Alice Gordon: Proposes that system in place (lands legacy program and annual action plan) are helpful. Wants to use some of the bond referendum of 2001 for preservation and recreation.

Fred Battle: Land is something you can't make any more of. We should purchase as much land as we possibly can. We should purchase land based on future need we might not anticipate.

Barry Jacobs: Supports Lands Legacy plan. Worked on Board to get $25 million for open space and land acquistion. Has worked with Durham to help protect their water supply, and other local government in similar ways. You need a vision.

Jamie Daniel: Doesn't think that people in Northern Orange County see they have a lot of representation, and we need a 7-member board. Doesn't feel that they appreciate taking it off the tax roles. He "lives in a park."

A study of groundwater in Orange County reported to members of the Commission on the Environment predicts that there would be insufficient well water if all lots were developed as zoned. There are pending alternatives for changing the land use plan. How do you propose ensuring that there is sufficient water for possible future developments in the county given the variation in recharge rates in different sections of the county?

Betty Tom Davidson: Wants to digest the question before answering. Wants the question repeated a third time for the benefit of her peers. If report indicates we're running out of water, we need to do a good job on our planning process. We should pull in all geographical parts of county to discuss this problem. We might need to change the size of lots. Quality is also important.

Artie Franklin: One was is to increase lot size per dwelling unit. Sounds like we're looking at a well-water issue. Water is essentially from the same source as the town - municipalities should be a part of the discussion process. We might need central authority for water.

Robin Cutson: It's a big issue, see her website. Hillsborough was addressing this issue when considering how to store their water. There is a limit to how much water is available. It requires a comprehenive look and comprehensive answers.

Mike Nelson: Recharge rates are part of the picture. Aquifer levels are falling, and rainfall levels may also be going down. It's not just an Orange County issue - it reaches to other regions as well. We need to focus development where water and sewer lines already exist.

What should Orange County do to improve the transportation system in the county (and the Triangle region)?

Barry Jacobs: Counties unfortunately have a limited role. We need to work with other governmental groups. We have worked with TTA and CH Transit to increase ridership. Also, are working with DOT for walking and cycling solutions to make us a multimobile community.

Fred Battle: One thing that should be on the agenda is to increase transportation to all communities in Orange County. The bus doesn't go to every place that it needs to. We need to improve transportation in community and county, including north parts who have a need for help.

Artie Franklin: One possibility is to attempt to create a place for both living and working in the county. We have a lot of commuters both from in to out and out to in. We should encourage the kind of development to let people work where they live. The other part is a problem when a transit system is running but no one is riding it. Needs an education part.

Mike Nelson: County may not have a direct role. But with TTA transit funding possibily disappearing, we need to work with neighbors. We need both regional rail and buses, and we also need to think of Carolina North as major part.

What role do you think the County should play in the planning of Carolina North? What are your thoughts on the relocation of the airport to another portion of the County?

Robin Cutson: The county is being expected to host the airport, the landfill, the homeless shelter. If social justice is part of the environmental issue, we shouldn't put unwanted development from Chapel Hill out into the county. It doesn't make the urban areas look like they're following their own essentials.

Mike Nelson: Remembers the last attempt to relocate the airport. He can't imagine a location that UNC will find satisfactory. "Looking forward" to those discussions (laughs). There are many other elements that will be handled by Chapel Hill / Carrboro. We need to work with TTA and others to help transit needs.

Betty Tom Davidson: County should have a role in planning and development at Carolina North. It's good that wide representation is on the CN planning group. Wants to take the airport issue to the people.

Barry Jacobs: He's on the new committee for CN, and insisted that the county have equal representation as the municipalities. Wants to protect Bolin Creek, and wants to consider also the additional services that the property might create. He was on the Planning Board in the 80s when they shot down the last airport move.

Have the orange county commissioners done enough to provide affordable housing in Orange County? What specific steps/programs do you support, wish to eliminate, or propose?

Jamie Daniel: We really need to go into the rural part of the county to look at preservation. People are confused with the county's goals. Sees land sizes as difficult requirements for people to meet monetarily.

Alice Gordon: Supports what the county has done up to this point. We are one of the first counties to work on this issue here. Affordability is important to everyone; everyone who works in Orange County should be able to afford to live here. We need to be creative. We need to support the homelessness initiative as well.

Robin Cutson: It's a big issue. The county has done well, but we need to do more, and get creative. What we're doing is expensive. Wants to get the private sector involved in the process. She sees the interest rates and the housing bubble as a barrier that's on its way out.

Artie Franklin: Orange County is taking a lot of positive steps. Affordable housing is important in the rural areas as well. One potential possibility is making an affordable housing easement, similar to conservation easement. He asks questions about the current program.

Audience Questions:

Actually, Fred Battle jumps in to answer the last question. Wants to know what price tag is for affordable housing. Says he's finish in this closing.

What will you do to encourage cycling and carpooling in the county?

Betty Tom Davidson: Perhaps a tax incentive or an incentive at the gas pump. It's a complex question. The agricultural area just doesn't address it. Needs to digest the question.

Fred Battle: We need to have a bike path from Chapel Hill to Hillsborough, and from Hillsborough to Durham, for safety reasons. Carpooling needs an incentive. Bus lines for Park and Ride lots help; we need more Park and Ride lots.

Barry Jacobs: We need to promote HOV lanes on I-40 and eventually on I-85. We also should provide limited parking. We should re-examine the bike plan, and consider recreational biking more than just commuting.

Jamie Daniel: Chapel Hill / Carrboro has done well. Farmers aren't going to bike to Southern States to pick up something for his farm. Don't just offer treats. He is good at technology and problem solving. When gas got expensive, he saw businesses let people work from home. We should give them a tax break.

How do you think global warming affects our local and regional environment?

Artie Franklin: Doesn't know much about the science of global warming. We're getting less rainfall than we used to. He thinks it's hotter than it used to be. It's been one of the warmest winters on record.

Mike Nelson: Global warming affects us on many, many levels. It affects water levels, the type of crops we can grow, the kinds of trees that folks in forestry can grow. As storm intensities increase, we'll have more and worse hurricanes and will have to deal with the impacts. We need a county energy plan to help deal with this.

Robin Cutson: No scientist disputes global warming; just the causes. Global warming might be natural - we might have an ice age after this. There are impacts on water, what you can grow, and forests. We can't make long term plans for this because of a lack of long term science. We need to preserve anyway.

Barry Jacobs: There's no question globale warming exists. The recent droughts were an example of this. He's worked with Eno River folks to anticipate consequences and how to handle them. Looks at everything from vehicle type to water fixtures. Thinks government should lead by example with a strong environmental ethic.

What are your views on brown field studies and the application of these studies on the current landfill and other areas in the county?

Artie Franklin: Doesn't know anything about the subject; will study it after the forum.

Jamie Daniel: Growing up in WV, has seen coal mines badly handled after they close. It's a complicated issue and pulls in many aspects. It concerns him greatly.

Alice Gordon: What is safe to put on top of a current landfill? Look at what we've done in various areas of the county for example. We should be cautious before using contaminated sites. If we can use them, we should, but if not, remediate and let it lie rather than risk harming people who might use them.

Fred Battle: We have two major sites in Chapel Hill with landfills - the community center and the police station. We've had gas leakages in the past. We need to do a little more studying on it because we don't know long term effects.

How might we improve our air quality to attain EPA standards in Orange County?

Betty Tom Davidson: 7 counties here are below standard. Poor air threatens our residents. We're currently developing a ground-level ozone plan. Alternative fuel vehicles help. Commuters are a problem. We have a lot of work to do. She appreciates the Clean Air Act.

Mike Nelson: To address air quality, we need diverse tranportation choices and diverse fuel services. Park & Ride, TTA, CH Transit, bike paths, walking paths help. Encouraging various alternate fuels for the town /citizens help.

Robin Cutson: Wants to use roundabouts, carpooling lanes. Doesn't think people are going to use bike lanes for long distance transit. Use transit where it's needed, don't put it where it's not being use. We don't need light rail. Our density isn't enough, and it's expensive.

Jamie Daniel: County Commissioners should go to the legislature. Thinks working from home is a good solution; has experienced it as a software writer.

Environmental initiatives have cost. How would you minimize this? (paraphrased)

Robin Cutson: We need to have a healthy balance of business and residential development. There has not been a good amount of business tax so far. We also need to avoid wasteful and expensive funding for non-essential services. We should concentrate on the basics.

Barry Jacobs: He's working on one-stop permitting. Economic development districts need infrastructure. We can balance residential and business developments.

Alice Gordon: Long term costs of not providing environmental initiatives may be greater than short term loss. We need to be efficient, and encourage local green business. On the long term, protecting the environment is worth it.

Mike Nelson: People here expect a high level of service, and this makes taxes higher. We could use technology more efficiently at the County level, especially the website. We ought to have a county energy plan.



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.