Local Dems support Rogers Road neighbors

Jack Sanders, Chairman of the OCDP gave the following speech to the Chapel Hill Town Council on Monday 9/24: Please note that I have permission from Jack to post the full text.

Thank you, Mr. Mayor and Council members.

I am Jack Sanders, Chair of the Orange County Democratic Party, and I rise to speak for the Democratic Party in support of the Rogers Road Community. We have asked the Board of County Commissioners to reconsider its decision to site the Waste Transfer Station in the vicinity of the Rogers Road Community and to conduct a thorough public search for an alternative site. I am here before you because Chapel Hill too has a role to play.

Chapel Hill is a progressive community, one that takes its principles seriously, chief among them the principle of social justice. Equally important is the notion of the integrity of government, the notion that our governments will treat all communities fairly, and that promises made will be kept.

But our principles must apply everywhere, not just at a distance, say in the Middle East or in Darfur. Our principles apply most compellingly in our own community, where the Rogers Road neighborhood has lived with a landfill for 35 years, where elected officials have made promises and raised expectations time and again, but where there are now, in addition to the solid waste landfill, a Construction and Demolition landfill, a solid waste convenience center, a hazardous waste dropoff point, a yard waste dropoff and mulch center, and a leachate pond.

I recognize that Chapel Hill has relinquished to the county the ownership of the solid waste landfill and the responsibility for disposal of solid waste, but Chapel Hill does generate a large fraction of the solid waste that goes into the landfill and will go to the Waste Transfer Station, and it has a moral responsibility to ensure that its garbage is disposed of in a way that is fair to the larger community, and fair in particular to Rogers Road. Furthermore, Chapel Hill has a permitting responsibility regarding the construction and operation of the Waste Transfer Station, and it will have to make a decision.

I call on Chapel Hill government and its citizens to work with the county government to ensure that the Rogers Road community, having endured the landfill for 35 years, does not have to live with the Waste Transfer Station for the next 20 years.

I want to be proud of our community; I want it to act according to its principles of social justice, economic justice, and environmental justice; I want it to redeem, finally, the promises made to the Rogers Road Community. You can be instrumental in that achievement, and I ask you to exercise your leadership and your authority to do so.

Thank you.

Jack Sanders
OCDP Chair
September 24, 2007

Thanks to Jack and the Orange County Democratic Committee for throwing their support behind the Rogers Road Community and their long long fight for justice.

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Total votes: 165

Comments

I don't know Fred. An assurance is, to me at least, the same as a commitment, although neither is legally binding. But I still believe that both are morally binding.

George, I see it as a case of who can and who can't make a commitment about something 30 years down the road. An assurance might be the person saying, "I can make this commitment to you and you can take that to the bank!"

When developers appear before the Planning Board and the Town Council, do they make verbal commitments (or assurances) about what the will do, as is that accepted as such?

Whether it was a commitment or an assurance, the timeframe was significantly shorter that 30 years.

To kind of lurch off the pre-history - who credibly said what to whom - if we made the same decision to site the landfill today either on Eubanks or elsewhere, what commitments (as in we're legally bound) would we make to a neighborhood? If the landfill hadn't been on Eubanks all these years, what commitments, if any, would we make to the surrounding neighborhoods?

Is there any inherent obligation to commit to any future remediation for these type facilities?

These are more than abstract questions as, if we do move the transfer site, there's a possibility it will end up in another neighborhoods backyard (though my preference is the economic zone). Further, if the OC does decide to make managing its waste stream locally a priority, then we'll have the same kind of questions before us in a matter of years.

"If the landfill hadn't been on Eubanks all these years, what commitments, if any, would we make to the surrounding neighborhoods [if we sited the new transfer station there]?"

"When developers appear before the Planning Board and the Town Council, do they make verbal commitments (or assurances) about what the will do, as is that accepted as such?"

Fred,

When developers make commitments (or assurances) the Town doesn't take them at their word - it get those commitments (or assurances) in writing in the form of stipulations to a permitting approval. And given the Town's responsibility to protect the public interest that would seem to be appropriate. And if the Rogers Road neighbors had gotten those "assurances" that they were given in writing then they would be in a much better situation today. But I'm not going to fault them for doing what I expect was much easier and much more common back then - trusting someone. I guess the days of sealing a deal with a handshake or honoring a verbal commitment or assurance are something we can only reminisce about.

You said it, and sadly, I agree with you on "sealing the deal" these days. But my original point was in reference to Ruby's put down of Paul's question, "what previous commitment?" To me, there was no VALID commitment.

I worked a similar case in Greene County where it was to be a revenue producer by serving several counties. Interestingly enough, Sally Greene was involved in the successful legal action later in the case. Not only was their new super "high tech" landfill going to be placed on the same site but they had build an elementary, middle and high school on the same road and some of the land was owned by a County Commissioner. Got very messy. It still has not been solved

Fred, To me it is not a question of validity but of integrity. The Rogers Road community accepted the landfill in their backyards based on the word of the highest level official of the Town of Chapel Hill that the land fill had a life of 10 years and then they would be rid of it. I naively believe that one should expect intregity in government that spans the terms of its elected official.

What the mayor told the community is not in doubt. That the community acquiesced due to those words is not in doubt. What is doubt is the integrity of the government.

It does not matter whether or not the promise was legal or valid. It was made and should be finally honored. And today's officials should feel obligated honor that promise.

Dave, let me try one more time. The transfer station should not be built there because it is not right to put it there again. Arguing that a "commitment" was made is not the right approach in my opinion and fankly, it is a very poor strategy because of the reasons I mentioned about what a "commitment" is and who has the right to make it..

I mentioned the Green County case. The opposition coalition decided early on to base their strategy on doing the right thing and rejected an approach built on what a prior group of County Commissioners had promised them. I think that they made the right decision.

We should expect our elected leaders to do what's right because it is the right thing to do. Honor what is right to do and then you will always be doing right.

Fred, We may be in "violent agreement". I certainly and totally agree with your last statement. However, what was promised and what is right coincide. I am certainly not going to argue strategy. I am no politician nor am I good at tactful persuasion.

What is frustrating is that some seem to want to play gotcha. Some want rationalize. It is time for debate to end. The solution may be tough but the way forward is clear. It is time to do right.

Thanks for indulging me Ruby, I didn't want to tire you, but I wanted to make sure you were talking about Howard Lee's promise 35 years ago and not something else.

My question is this: to what extent is what Lee said then binding on today's BOCC? Did Lee have the authority to do that? Did he any idea that the landfill would last as long as it did? Did he have any idea of what today's solid waste needs would be, that a clean transfer station would take the place of a landfill? Any of these things?

I want the BOCC to look around too, but the more I look at vacant land that is both convenient to the towns and to 85/40, I see there isn't much there. And of course, the county already owns the property on Eubanks.

Compensation, including free water/sewer for those that can't afford it and whatever else the neighborhood wants, within reason, is more than justified. I have suggested a $10-20 million bond issue and have communicated that to several commissioners. Perhaps others could join in that call too.

We need a place to either landfill our trash or to transfer it out of county. We don't have time for the former, so we need the later. And it appears the later should be at the Eubanks site.

"But Eubanks has the advantage of location and the county owns the property. Other solid waste facilites will be there too, including administrative offices, a convenience center and C&D (dry) landfill and of course the old (wet) landfill may stay open beyond 2011 for things that can't be trucked out from the transfer station (such as dead animals). It sure makes sense to site all these together."

At least this criteria is slightly better than that used by SWAB, which was none. You should be a member of SWAB, Paul; they could have better justified their decision--especially using the criteria of dead animals.

Do keep in mind that Orange Co. owns this land near Eubanks b/c they kept buying the land--every chance they got, they just bought more and more. They could have just as easily purchased land elsewhere had they ever had a plan that did not include Eubanks. Evidently they didn't and I truly believe it was b/c they considered this community impotent--and poor, waiting for people to lose their property b/c of unpaid taxes, waiting like the vultures that fly over from the landfill.

But it's all going to stop.

By the way, Jack Sanders gave a very fine speech to the council, and I am so grateful that he was willing to do so. It made this community very proud to hear and read it.

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