Sierra Club endorsements

This weekend the Orange/Chatham Group of the NC Sierra Club released their endorsements for Orange County's municipal races. The results are not surprising (nor disagreeable) at least to me.

Hillsborough:
Tom Stevens for Mayor
Eric Hallman for Commissioner
Evelyn Lloyd for Commissioner
Bryant Warren Jr. for Commissioner

Carrboro:
Mark Chilton for Mayor
Joal Broun for Alderman
Dan Coleman for Alderman
Lydia Lavelle for Alderman

Chapel Hill:
Kevin Foy for Mayor
Sally Greene for Town Council
Cam Hill for Town Council
Bill Strom for Town Council
Jim Ward for Town Council

Issues: 

Total votes: 98

Comments

Regardless of the endorsements, I think the Sierra club should be embarrassed that they sent Will Raymond a letter with the greeting "Dear Ray,". They could at least get the name right.

Was that from the state or local Sierra Club, Robert? There's a very big difference.

These endorsements certainly do demonstrate the power of incumbency. Penny Rich has done much more for environmental protection in this community than a couple of the Chapel Hill incumbents.

Ho hum. Same old song and dance. I agree with Terri here.

I wonder if you could elaborate Terri? I have had the opportunity to work on environmental issues affecting our area with each of the CH Councilmembers named above and have consistently been impressed by their commitment to environmental values in local land use decisions - likewise Mayor Foy.

What, specifically, are the environmental shortcomings of the incumbents in Chapel Hill?

All of them have been very firm with UNC about open space preservation at Carolina North; all of them have been strong advocates for public transportation; all of them have been very committed to promoting waste reduction and recycling; all of them have been strong advocates for bicyle and pedestrian facilities in our community. Haven't they?

Your post suggests that there is a significant difference between or some of the incumbents' environmental record and others, but to my knowledge the only notable difference among them is how they voted on the Lot 5 development.

And with respoect to that matter, I think some people in the environmental movement see that issue one way, while others see it another.

What people have done as activists is not always an indicator of what they can/will do as elected officials. For example, Will Raymond often does good work on issues I care about, but I don't believe that he would be an effective elected official. In fact, I think he would do more harm than good.

All four incumbents have worked on promoting environmental policies, each in their own way. I haven't heard Penny offering anything new or anything different from what they would do, but I haven't been to any Chapel Hill forums yet.

What, specifically, are the environmental shortcomings of the incumbents in Chapel Hill?

I'm not sure why anyone would think advocating for a challenger as more experienced with environmental issues means there are shortcomings with the incumbents. As George C. noted on another thread: "I don't believe that our elected officials are experts in every field, nor do they try to be, and they can not (should not) try to make policy without adequate guidance."

In terms of environmental protection, I believe that Penny Rich, a 6-year incumbent on the OWASA board of directors, has more direct experience with water and land conservation than do a couple of incumbents. She has been directly involved with water conservation, the water re-use contract with the university, and conservation easements. While water is not the only environmental issues impacting this community, it is definitely one of the most important of all issues that will be facing this community over the next few years.

The only reason I can imagine that would have lost Penny the Sierra Club endorsement is that she may not have been as polished in her response on the interviews. As a first time candidate for elected office, that shouldn't surprise anyone. But for me, substance will always matter more than style.

I'm sure Penny Rich would/will make a fine Town Council member, Terri. However your post says, "Penny Rich has done much more for environmental protection in this community than a couple of the Chapel Hill incumbents."

Which of the incumbents in Chapel Hill are coming up short by that standard and in what way?

Why do you want me to criticize incumbents by name Mark?

My guess is that Penny didn't get the Sierra Club endorsement because they thought all four incumbents were doing a pretty good job. (Which I actually agree with, much to my own surprise.)

Presumably if you are advocating voting for a challenger, then you must think that there is at least one of the incumbents who does not deserve your vote.

Because I think you are disparaging a couple of the councilmembers and frankly I think that is unfair given that all four incumbents have strong track record on the environment, so far as I am aware. Also, your comment seems to disparage the North Carolina Sierra Club, which is an organization that I belong to, and I think it is unfair to the Club.

The North Carolina Sierra Club has a highly involved process for interviewing the candidates, both publicly and privately. Then the local political committee makes a set of recommendations to the state political committee. To the extent that the local and state political committees agree, then a candidate is endorsed.

I think the Sierra Club correctly recognizes that the four councilmembers it endorsed in this race are some of the leading lights of the environmental movement in the entire state (not just Chapel Hill).

If you are saying the Club got that wrong, then I am just asking you what is the Club's error?

Which council members am I disparaging Mark? I've voiced support for a challenger. I didn't say she was better in every way than any or all of the incumbents. I said she has a stronger record of environmental activism than a couple of the incumbents. Apparently you aren't disputing her qualifications--just the fact that a challenger can be better qualified than an incumbent.

The North Carolina Sierra Club has a highly involved process for interviewing the candidates, both publicly and privately.

Then why don't they publish their criteria for making these selections? What were the issues the selection committee felt were most critical in making their recommendations this year? Last year Joe C stated that the "The interview questions and the candidates' responses are not public, were not presented to the candidates as public, and the Sierra Club does not disclose this information."

I'd like to think that local voters are critical thinkers and want to know "why" instead of just "who." Just naming names is hardly the mark of a highly involved process.

I do, however, commend them for not allowing anyone who is actively involved in supporting several of the candidates to take part in the local committee's selection process this year.

Perhaps Penny Rich should be more highly invovled in the "good ole boy" backroom private "interviews" with the Sierra Club.
Environmental records don't win elections here, seems certian endorsements do.
Seems some seats aren't even worth running for, just wait your turn and be "appointed". Pesky democratic process of actually running for office.

I don't think there are too many different ways to read your comments, Terri. You are saying that at least two of the incumbents are less qualified environmentally and apparently you are unwilling to back that up.

Will, endorsements alone certainly do not win elections around here. Effective candidates do. Endorsements (and donations) can be signs of whether the campaign is working - sometimes.

Until someone convinces me the incumbents are doing something dramatically wrong, I'll be hard-pressed to support any of the challengers this year. It's no conspiracy - it's just good elected officials!

You're right Mark. I will not publicly criticize our elected officials. People who serve on the town council work hard and sacrifice a great deal in their personal lives to serve the community. They should be appreciated, but so should those who are brave enough to challenge them. I see no reason why I can't support someone without being bullied into tearing someone else down.

Terri, makes a great point. The process and criteria by which the local Sierra Club chooses to endorse candidates is far from transparent. It's a black box process. They may do a great job in that black box but because it is opaque the results become suspect.

Therefore, while the Sierra Club is free to do whatever they like, their endorsement should carry no weight to, as Terri so aptly puts it, voters who are "critical thinkers".

The invidious comparisons originated in your post.

No Mark, endorsements by the very nature of their existence are comparisons. I simply challenged the comparisons implied by the Sierra Club with your full support that said all incumbents are more environmentally sensitive and knowledgeable than all challengers.

Since the Sierra Club will not tell us what criteria they use for making their endorsements, I wonder if anyone here would care to share the environmental issues they think should have been considered as important enough to garner an endorsement.

You don't have to tear any one down Terri,

When you vote, it says to pick four, not pick four and explain why you didn't vote for an incumbent. It seems certian people just cannot stand the democratic process.
Even though we don't agree on every subject, I defend your right to support who you want without being bullied.

Remember the old adage " a hit dog hollers"

Ruby--care to elaborate as to why you think Will Raymond would "Do more harm than good?" He's always struck me as a sensible, intelligent person who weighs competing concerns and issues before forming his opinion/stance on an issue.

Now, granted, he's not an incumbent...but I don't think that automatically damns him. And I agree with many of his critiques of the current development plan for lot 5. So what, exactly, would be harmful about Will as a council member? Unlike Terry--you got VERY specific as to "who"--without sharing why. Seems unfair to me.

Terry--I applaud your ability not to be baited by Mr. Chilton. Well done. I am now off to research Penny Rich. I happen to believe new people and ideas can be a GOOD thing on ANY town council.

(Ruby) Presumably if you are advocating voting for a challenger, then you must think that there is at least one of the incumbents who does not deserve your vote.

Once you are in, you're in forever? You favor permanent council members? I believe that each election cycle is a time to reflect on both the current members and newcomers and decide who would make a good council member without regard to incumbency. Can you please give an example of "does not deserve your vote"?

This notion that an incumbent has to do some wrong before someone can consider a newcomer is bogus. And it contradicts opinions stated in http://orangepolitics.org/2006/06/want-to-be-mayor-for-life/

Seven citizens want to be town council members. Four already had a chance to serve and one could argue that they have had their turn and should step down. I don't think that we should by default favor incumbents nor newcomers. Incumbents already have a huge advantage in our political process. Newcomers should all be able to run on their merits and folks should be able to discuss them without being harassed.

(Ruby) ...but I don't believe that he would be an effective elected official. In fact, I think he would do more harm than good.

An unsubstantiated attack. Seems to violate the guideline at the bottom of each page: "Try to criticize ideas instead of people. In other words, play nice!" Where is Will's idea or position being challenged?

(Terri) You're right Mark. I will not publicly criticize our elected officials. People who serve on the town council work hard and sacrifice a great deal in their personal lives to serve the community. They should be appreciated, but so should those who are brave enough to challenge them. I see no reason why I can't support someone without being bullied into tearing someone else down.

In this thread, Terri has expressed an opinion and kept it positive. She expressed an opinion about one candidate's strengths and I agree that chiding her to speak negatively about incumbents is bullying. It's fine to disagree, but "demanding responses" by asking again and again violates the fifth guideline below.

Terr[i]–I applaud your ability not to be baited by Mr. Chilton. Well done. I am now off to research Penny Rich. I happen to believe new people and ideas can be a GOOD thing on ANY town council.

Hear hear.

M

Certainly backing up an assertion with specific observations about specific policies of elected officials is not "tearing them down." It's the kind of discussion that must take place in a healthy democracy.

Mark P--thanks for correcting my mis-spelling of Terri's name. I think the heat is getting to me.

This kind of discussion demonstrates one of the many ways incumbency gives a candidate the edge. The assumption (of some) is that, for a newcomer to merit your vote, you MUST demonstrate something negative about an incumbent, otherwise the incumbent gets to stay by default. Put another way, if there were five open slots, there would be no need to target any incumbents for attack. As things are, it's a set-up for negative campaigning (or else throwing in the towel), and someone like Penny is in a difficult position, as is anyone supporting her. Unless there's a clearly unpopular incumbent whom she's willing to target specifically, she is forced to emphasize only her own record in, essentially, a vacuum.

Also, saying the obvious: For a powerful interest-group, there's a certain weight in favor of incumbents if there has been a working relationship that worked, mostly, in the interest group's favor. Unless one of the incumbents had acted in direct defiance of the Sierra Club's position on an important issue, it would not serve the Sierra Club to endorse anyone else at this point. Even if Penny has a good environmental record and a good relationship with the Sierra Club, at this point, it would be a slap in some sitting Council member's face to endorse her rather than that particular incumbent.

But it has happened before that a new candidate with stronger environmental credentials has gotten the endorsement that the incumbent got the last time. Any body remember that happening? Can't put my finger on the exact names...

Mayor Mark Chilton has not baited anyone. All he has asked former OWASA Board Member Terri Buckner to do is to clarify her comment. For a reminder read the bold text of her quoted comment here.

These endorsements certainly do demonstrate the power of incumbency. Penny Rich has done much more for environmental protection in this community than a couple of the Chapel Hill incumbents.

Ruby is right. We have great elected officials in Chapel Hill and Carrboro. If all the supporters of challengers can tout is that they are new then I'm confident we'll continue to have the same good leadership.

When we debate lets discuss the substance of people's work not the advantage or disadvantage of incumbency.

The goal of my comment here is to make it clear to those who stumble upon this debate that there is much more to know when making an informed decision when voting than the banter above.

Plus how often do you get to *read* a real debate among a Mayor and his constituents? This is a big part of the 21st century eDemocracy that I want! I applaud Mayor Chilton's bravery in engaging in discussion on OP with such frankness and honesty.

Mayor Chilton is mayor of Carrboro, is he not? There goes that theory. Second--his tone (admittedly difficult to read in text) struck me as baiting. Others may interpret as they see fit.

And Brian, were you shouting--or did you just forget to close your bold tag?

melanie

I didn't close my bold tag right... oops. :) Looks fixed now. No shouting going on by me. hehe

Yes Mark Chilton is Mayor of Carrboro AND defending his neighbors in Chapel Hill. Fine by me.

From the OP archives:
Sierra Club endorsements 2005

Sierra Club endorsements 2003

According to these posts Jim Ward wasn't endorsed by the Sierra Club at that time. A comment even says he wasn't endorsed in 1999 either. Plus challenger Will Raymond received a endorsement in 2005.

"When we debate lets discuss the substance of people's work not the advantage or disadvantage of incumbency."

Sorry if my posts seem too theoretical, but the short version is a reminder that (1) the reason Penny did not get the endorsement might be as much a function of not being an incumbent as the "substance of her work," and (2) asking Terri to "name names" implies wanting her to compare failures rather than to indicate a a reason for her preference. Down that road....

I don't think anyone (including me) is saying we should ever support incumbents just because they are already elected. I just happen to like the current crop of incumbents, but as Brian pointed out above, challengers have received plenty of support in the past both from the Sierra Club as well as from me and OP.

I even supported Will 2 years ago! Since that time, I've come to the conclusion that he wouldn't be an effective team player, and as a consequence he can actually have a harmful effect on the issues he supports.

I'm surprised to see Terri, of all critical people, characterizing my non-support of Will's candidacy as a personal attack. There's a difference between criticism of a policy or strategy and a personal accusation or insult.

PS: I don't disagree with the call for the Sierra Club to be more transparent. I have no love for their endorsement process, Although they are a private organization, they at least owe more explanation to their members. It was a rare moment of transparency (accidental, in fact) that illuminated the SC's internal debate over not endorsing me in 1999.

Where did I characterize Ruby's non-support of Will's candidacy as a personal attack? I haven't said one word either for or against Will.

As for Brian's claim that Mark Chilton was asking me to clarify my comments about Penny, I did reply (quoted below), early on in the discussion. I just replied in the positive for Penny without comparing her directly to the incumbents, which is consistent with the approach used (and so highly lauded by Mayor Chilton), by the Sierra Club.

In terms of environmental protection, I believe that Penny Rich, a 6-year incumbent on the OWASA board of directors, has more direct experience with water and land conservation than do a couple of incumbents. She has been directly involved with water conservation, the water re-use contract with the university, and conservation easements. While water is not the only environmental issues impacting this community, it is definitely one of the most important of all issues that will be facing this community over the next few years.

Terri--I think Ruby may have confused us. I said:

"Ruby–care to elaborate as to why you think Will Raymond would “Do more harm than good?” He's always struck me as a sensible, intelligent person who weighs competing concerns and issues before forming his opinion/stance on an issue." Somehow this got translated into claiming Ruby was making a personal attack...perhaps it was the phrase "seems unfair to me."

Now that she has elaborated...I still disagree with her. I think WIll would make an interesting and positive addition to the council.

melanie

Does anyone know how many members the Sierra Club has? And are those Orange county members? or regional, or state-wide?

Vicki,

It is my understanding that the local Sierra Club forwards their endorsements to the state Sierra Club who typically rubber stamps it. The state club is registered as a PAC and the local is not.

The political committee is made up of people who volunteer. The political committee and executive committee meet and decide on the endorsements. Not sure how many people this represents.

M

I am afraid that "not a team player" is code for having different views and ideas on policy and solutions than the prevailing opinions and views of the incumbents. I don't believe we need our elected leaders singing kumbaya around the council tables. We need fresh ideas, talent and thought diversity. There is too much group think going on in both Chapel Hill and Carrboro (especially Carrboro). Ideological purity is more important than workability much like our current federal executive administration. So I disagree that we such fine elected and appointed leadership and everything is just hunky dory.

Vicki,
If I remember correctly from my efforts on the 2005
Sierra Club endorsements, there were about 2800 SC members
in the local group which includes Orange and Chatham
counties. I don't know the figures for NC or the U.S.
I was not involved in the 2007 process.
How many local members are in the LWV?

While I am writing, I than you for hosting the LWV candidates'
forums.

You are completely missing the point of our comments. There is no code being spoken and no group think. Nor is our support of present elected officials suggesting that we need the same old same old. Far from it! Sometimes wholesale change of representation doesn't do it. Incremental change sometimes can do just fine. But then that would require work. Ranting on OP doesn't really.

Many of us want to WORK WITH our government, instead of burning it up in flames of disagreement and ignorance. When you throw in monkey wrenches of half truths into the gears a system of GOOD government could stop. I would be among the first to throw that wrench if I REALLY thought it would help in the long run. But in this case at this time I don't think it'll help. It will hurt! (Plus OP suffers to as a community when few incumbents want to post/comment for fear of being destroyed by lies, hate, and half truths.)

Our form of democracy should include dissent. Lots of it. Intelligent, informed, and strategic decent aimed at positive lasting change. But not at the cost of destroying built up trust and coalitions.

Oops, Vicki, I THANK you.

Sorry, Terri, I got your comment confused with Mark P. I didn't mean to confuse you and Melanie, and I certainly don't mind y'all disagreeing with my opinion (you'll be in good company).

Are we all just debating about whether or not we agree with the endorsements? Because I think that would be a more interesting and real (ie: not theoretical) conversation to have.

"Are we all just debating about whether or not we agree with the endorsements? Because I think that would be a more interesting and real (ie: not theoretical) conversation to have."

I've stated from my first post yesterday that I don't agree with the endorsements. I'm not sure why that is being treated as so inflammatory. It's not like I said there are scumbags on the council. I don't believe that in any way.

In the absence of the stated (and followed) criteria for how the endorsement was made, there's nothing of substance in them except for people who want to vote but not do any work to determine who the best candidates are.

Team player is often used as a euphemism for someone who does not make waves or challenge the status quo. And changing a few seats on the councils does not constitute burning down the system nor does requesting a diversity of thoughts constitute hate. Voting new faces into office is well within the system.

Will Raymond post's are infused with useful ideas that are well researched and show an amazing amount of intellectual integrity. You know where he stands. He does this all with out rancor even though he often goes against the prevailing view points. Will is the model of what both Chapel Hill and Carrboro need a lot more of. Not a team player? What in the world does that mean?

Dave, thanks for repeating the same comment you made above. If you know me at all, you know I am a big supporter of raising hell. But it's not the right tactic in every situation. Being on the Town Council requires working with 7 others and the Mayor or your good ideas will rarely get the 5 votes needed for approval.

I supported Cam, Bill, and Sally when they were challengers. And Jim has actually impressed me greatly in the last 8 years on the Council. The fact that I want people to vote for them has nothing to do with whether they are elected. I think they are the best people for the job by way of their knowledge, values, and policy-making skills.

As I said, I'm OK with folks disagreeing with my opinion, it won't be the first or the last time, but of course I also want to convince people of my point of view before they vote. ;-)

Ruby, do you really think the current Council is so petty that they won't entertain good ideas from folks just because they don't like them? That's a strange calculus.

I've seen the Council reject ideas and proposals for many reasons - for instance, ignoring Prof. Hartzell's clear warning that Lot #5 is not commercially viable because the majority is a bit obsessed with it - but sheer, mean pettiness is not one I'd generally ascribe to that body.

Do you mean to imply the delays or rejections I've had getting an economic development officer, saving the Lincoln Arts Center - our only hands-on arts program, getting timely/accurate reviews of the rising expenditures for Lot #5, not setting a target for reduced fuel consumption, dragging out the WIFI pilot, not doing F/OSS, not putting detailed financials on-line, and on and on and on is due to the Council being so petty as to ignore the public good?

You and Tom repeat this theme so much, and you're so much better connected to Bill and them, that maybe you're speaking from some reality I'm not aware of - but the Sally, Cam, Jim I know are just not that petty.

(Ruby) Dave, thanks for repeating the same comment you made above.

I believe that Dave was rebutting BrianR's comment at 8:58pm and he added the following new material:

(Dave) Will Raymond post's are infused with useful ideas that are well researched and show an amazing amount of intellectual integrity. You know where he stands. He does this all with out rancor even though he often goes against the prevailing view points. Will is the model of what both Chapel Hill and Carrboro need a lot more of. Not a team player? What in the world does that mean?

I agree. Because I have seen his picture online, I occasionally see him around Chapel Hill and have asked him about current issues. He has always responded thoughtfully. He asks tough questions about Carolina North and Lot 5, and I want people to ask tough questions, especially with what is at stake. I read his blog regularly. No other candidate has leveraged technology to share meetings and convey visualizations of pending development projects as Will.

(Brian) There is no code being spoken and no group think. ... Sometimes wholesale change of representation doesn't do it. ... Many of us want to WORK WITH our government.

I am seeing group think amongst the OP cabal/insiders on the Chapel Hill town council candidates in the form of attacking folks who express an alternate opinion and trying to actively marginalize them by labeling as "former OWASA board member", etc. This is no different than the prominence given to top-level posts regarding other members of cabal in the past, such as the top-level-post announcement of Dan's campaign (with no other top-level posts of other candidates this time around). Ditto for the Margaret Brown single-shot endorsement a while back.

I don't see where anyone has suggested "wholesale" change. Nor have I seen anyone suggest acting in untrustworthy manner, they are merely commenting that they are giving *individual* newcomers consideration.

(Terri) I've stated from my first post yesterday that I don't agree with the endorsements. I'm not sure why that is being treated as so inflammatory.

I agree.

(Brian) But not at the cost of destroying built up trust and coalitions.

The "built up trust and coalitions" at stake is is political alliances formed by the OP cabal with said incumbents.

M

Will, it's not so much about personality or "liking" as it is about being effective. Making policy is a complicated process involving research, team work, diplomacy, vision, listening, and yes sometimes compromise. You have shown you're good at research and vision, but I'm not sure about the rest.

I think you sometimes alienate people from your cause, and I have certainly seen good efforts like the Tech Board get shut down by a combination of uncooperative personalities, including yours.

Finally, I just haven't appreciated your approach to the Lot 5 issue. Since denser development downtown is a very important issue to me, that helped me realize that I didn't really want you in office.

I feel like I have tried to be diplomatic here, but folks keep asking me to share reasons that I am not voting for you. I am not trying to attack, but to explain my reasoning and answer people's questions.

Finally, I just haven't appreciated your approach to the Lot 5 issue. Since denser development downtown is a very important issue to me, that helped me realize that I didn't really want you in office.

I thought this was the majority of it, but wasn't sure. Thanks for sharing something substantive. Without the meat, the prior comments sounded more like a slight than a criticism.

It's less important to me than the other stuff, Mark, but take what you will.

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