WCHL's 2007 Forum

News Talk 1360 WCHL presents its 2007 Chapel Hill-Carrboro-Orange County Forum, Wednesday, April 18th, from 8 am til 6pm.

It's 10 hours we set aside for community discussion on important issues. In past years, we've tackled 10 topics during the day, with an hour devoted to each, but this year, there are 5 topics of discussion, with 2 hours each. Our topics are Town-Gown Relations, the Price of an Unsustainable Economy, Crime and Safety, Education, and the Arts.

For a complete list of participants in our panels, please go to our station website: www.wchl1360.com. We have made an effort to have a diversity of guests, and listeners are also invited to call in with questions or comments. We have 63 panelists who'll be in our boardroom over the course of the day. Just a few of our invited guests: James Carnahan, Dan Coleman, Deloris Bailey, Barbara Jessie-Black, Ruffin Slater, Carl Fox, Tom Tucker, Moses Carey, Randee Haven-O'Donnell, Emil Kang, Joseph Haj, and Alex Zaffron, and many, many more. WCHL General Manager, Walter Sturdivant will moderate 2 of the discussions, I will do a couple, and we are particularly excited that Jon Wilner will moderate our 2-hour discussion on the Arts. We'll also present a 1-hour wrap-up of the day's events between 6 and 7pm.

For all details, and a list of those who'll be here, please check out our website. The entire Forum will be broadcast LIVE, of course, on News Talk 1360 WCHL and we hope you'll listen. We think it's an important day in the life of our community each year, and we're hoping that this year's program will be better than ever. As always, your response is encouraged. For this one day, we'll have to set aside our usual progressive talk line-up, featuring Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz, and Randi Rhodes, but we think this local community discussion is certainly well worth it!



I posted the speakers list in a more web-friendly form here.

It's a great opportunity to call in and get some commentary on local public policy.

Very intriguing session name : The Price of an Unsustainable Economy.

Will they be discussing the future local effects of the inarguably unsustainable macro-economy - such as rising food costs, transportation costs, energy costs, global warming, corporatization of universities, war spending sucking the tax coffers dry, etc.?

Or will it be a continuation of the Chamber's unique "sustainability" efforts which have mainly featured the notion that local environmental and social justice gains have progressed way faster than "economic sustainability"?

Let me say once again that I would hear more of the Forum and of WCHL in general if I could listen to the station live on the Internet. AM reception barely works in my house and they only place I have it is near the TV (for basketball), not in the office.

If anyone is listening please post some updates to keep the rest of us in the loop.

Mark, I'll bet you a buck that Aaron will be flogging the "triple bottom line". Aaron is trying to make the Chamber the arbiter of local sustainability - wonder if any of the forum folks will push back?

Walter just called the next segment: "Keeping it Orange: The Price of an Unstable Economy" Is he thinking code orange here ;-)?

Well I'd be nuts to take your bet becuase you'd be a dollar richer before the 1st minute.

At last year's forum, the Chamber reps talking point was that the three legs of the stool (the triple-bottom line) needed to be equalized and that the economic needed to finally get as much attention as the environmental and social justice legs - as if the Chamber had not been directing 98% of its attention on economic since it's inception. Let's play "Spin the Stool"!

Maybe we'll find out why the huge involvement of Progress Energy in the Chamber translates into "Keeping It Orange" when we are not even in their service area.

Even if you really, really liked their high-priced ads during the basketball games (how about them showing an incandescent bulb while touting their energy-efficient credentials?!??! Should have just showed a dim bulb.), you just can't sign up for their electricity. I wonder why they put so much money into advertising when they are a monopoly?

Here comes the "tripartite" triple bottom bull from Aaron.

Delores speaks to affordable housing. No comments on how not to drive existing residents from Town - to keep existing housing affordable.

BTW, I just called in and it was a mess. WCHL is not prepared to take questions or comments.

As I kind of expected, Aaron has spent the bulk of the first 20 minutes pushing the Chamber's message without any real push back or comment from the other participants on the social justice leg.

Also, affordable housing continues to be the strong theme while no one has stepped forward to expound on keeping existing housing stock affordable or not creating even more pressure (higher taxes to underwrite million dollar condos, for instance) to drive folks from their homes.

Aaron is back claiming the community has vastly under-supported the local economy.

I believe we can do more - structurally, strategically and directly - to improve our local economy in a trully sustainable fashion.

Still, it's hard to swallow, especially given the $10-$15M the local taxpayers are dropping in the Lot #5 moneypit, the thrust we're doing little if nothing to support the economy.

Again, 35 minutes in, the rest of the forum participants continue to defer to Aaron's contention that the economy has been neglected in pursuit of economic and social justice.

Aaron also used the "where can you buy a basketball in a basketball town" line to paint a picture how our local land-use policies which are unfriendly to big box developments are driving dollars out-of-town. I think he was trying to make the case we need to make it "easier" to go that direction.

I'd rather see zoning changes that allow greater density - relaxed parking requirements - in the Eastgate/University Mall area that encourages a mix of local business than loosening the rules to allow big box development.

Tim Tobin is singing the praises of a highly dense Downtown. No one steps in to ask about the missing living infrastructure - grocery, hardware stores, pharmacies, doctor offices, jobs - Downtown.

We're building affordable transitional housing for young professionals and luxury condos for retirees but we're not taking the necessary steps to build out the commercial base to keep these folks Downtown. The folks lusting after that transitional housing - like Tom who works down in Raleigh - will have to leave (I imagine via car as most folks aren't as dedicated to TTA as Tom) Downtown to work. Whenever the millionaire condo folks need a quart of milk or some dry cleaning done they'll be driving over to Carrboro or down to Eastgate or up to Chapel Hill North.

45 minutes in Greg Overbeck is giving a shout out to Crawford-Brown's help on carbon reduction. CRED and solar panels are dominating the conversation instead of a discussion of AIA2030 and ASHRAE.

Aaron - "we have a defensive" stance towards business. Carrboro and Chapel Hill makes folks "jump through hoops" and avoid "the nets" to do business.

Move from a "defensive to affirmative posture". Good point on planning expectations ala Carrboro's recent economic development plan - nurture, develop, recruit - great and supportable.

His basic premise that Carrboro and Chapel Hill policies are actively hostile towards business, again, goes unrefuted.

Greg Overbeck takes a different tack explaining that a better quality of business Downtown would increase economic activity.

Last comment for awhile (I have my own economic needs to attend to).

Nearly an hour in the discussion has been dominated by Aaron and his assertions. Discussion centers on Downtown over every other area of Town (what can we do at Eastgate, etc.). The media reps aren't really probing the underpinnings of some - most notably Aaron's - claims.

OK. One more as I head out the door. Aaron talks about needing affordable day care for our work force. When folks asked for the Town to commit to siting affordable child care at the Wallace Deck/Lot #5 project it was disregarded. Imagine a Lot #5 with affordable FAMILY housing, commercial and office space to encourage local business. Then add affordable child care - that would've been a win.

Finally JOBS growth. Delores jumps in saying she can't recall a jobs fair being held by local employers. Aaron says the Chamber is lining up the first one to attract some of those graduates into the local economy.

Aaron on using "a horse to herd instead of to race". Tim Tobin and Aaron talk about the dramatic change in policies regulating/encouraging Downtown growth.

Aaron - quick note - it's not "two nine story buildings" - it's a nine plus story and a 13 story on one of the highest points in Town.

And, sorry, but when they reassess our taxes DO go up - I have the tax bills to show. I did a quick analysis of this about two years ago and, as a practical matter, taxes constantly increase in this community. I think this year - when we're actively supporting private development to the tune of millions - is the year to talk about what both the county and town's can do to DECREASE the tax burden. We're driving folks from their homes because we're taxing them out of them - and not addressing that issue is ignoring another leg of the sustainability equation.

I think Dowling is talking about keeping the development dollars spent on Carolina North local.... When I looked at Centennial Campus, UNC's recent main campus buildout it was quite clear that those dollars quickly vanish into the out-of-town economy.

I didn't have the fortune of hearing this whole segment, althought I caught bits and pieces. I did participate in the Town/Gown early morning event as the "lone woman" once again on the panel....I know WCHL probably invited (I hope) other women for my particular segment, but I was disappointed that more were not there. In the "unsustainable economy" section this morning, did anyone talk about the amount of money going out of town, into cyberspace? i.e. internet shopping? This was a (brief) discussion point at a breakfast meeting I attended the other day held by the League with David Price as keynote. Not much of it other than it's a problem and we're losing money to sales via internet---solutions TBA or ITW (in the works).

Internet shopping is a complicated phenomenon to assess. While it impacts local taxes, it also has the postive environmental impact of not having to build as many warehouses all around the country.

And then there's the question: What has a more detrimental effect on local tax revenue - interent purchases or money diverted to war?

On affordable housing - even inexpensive houses cost more than a lot of people can afford. People need to make more money. The Chamber should support higher wages in the interest of economic sustainability.

Talking taxes, the H-S reports that Chapel Hill is looking to raise ours - again.

Council did some creative financing last year - including some manipulation of the reserves - but they won't have that trick up their sleeve for this year.

And, except maybe for Laurin, none of them have talked about forming another citizen-led advisory effort to mitigate (or even reduce) the local tax burden.

It's not too late to solicit community suggestions to battle an increase - anyone want to speculate on the chances Council will ask?

There is zero change of a citizen committee being formed to help with the budget, as it's simply too late to get into any depth of an analysis. The last budget committee that several of us were on started the work in February, and then it was a scramble and an enormous amount of work to get to a point where we could make meaningful recommendions. A few months ago the Council was talking about no tax increase, now it appears there will be a significant one, again........This is an election year.

Gene, you guys did a great job pulling together tax reduction ideas.

I asked Council folks last Fall and earlier this year if they'd make good on their effusive praise for the earlier effort and re-form the committee in time to do some good - no dice. Supposedly the Town was in good shape... No tax increase on the horizon. That confidence inspite of last years manipulation of the reserves, the increased cost of the DDI, aquatics center coming on-line, increased fuel costs, the move to the TOC, etc.

Of course, I've been on the record for quite awhile calling for a standing committee and a concurrent yearly public outreach to help deal with the budget. The committee could have a quickly revolving membership charged with coordinating/filtering public input and generating their own ideas to deal with the Town's cash flow issues.

I hope we're going to get some honesty on the role the Lot #5 development is playing in this possible increase. We're going to be ponying up TODAY's dollars for consultancies, the open-ended cost of hazardous waste remediation, service disruptions, site prep (street closures, revenue loss from lot, etc.). If the last 12 months is any guide, Council will NOT be clear or accurate in their estimations - a trend we need to reverse.

Finally, again as I've said many times before, it is time that Chapel Hill starts living within its means. We can be smart and strategic in our expenditures. We don't have to be draconian. We can save programs (like the Lincoln Center hands-on arts). We can increase human service expenditures ($250K when we're going to spend $370K on new carpet and paint for Council chambers/Town Hall - shameful!).

And we can stop treating our citizens like the goose that will forever pony up more and more golden eggs.

What it will take is discipline and teamwork - two qualities, if we use the example of the Lot #5 debacle - our Council has shown of late.

Make that "two qualities, if we use the example of the Lot #5 debacle - a majority of our Council has NOT shown of late."

Internet shopping is a complicated phenomenon to assess. While it impacts local taxes, it also has the postive environmental impact of not having to build as many warehouses all around the country.

I have always wondered if internet shopping is truly better for the environment. The downside is that a huge UPS truck is delivering packages (albeit it, with hopefully optimized routing). If folks recycle their packaging material, then that reduces the impact somewhat. If they don't recycle, then that has a landfill (or in OC's 2010 case - gas+someone else's landfill) impacts.

Found some links:

It's probably better to ship with USPS since they are already driving to your house.


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