County Commish Candidates '08

Here are some hastily scribbled notes from last night's forum to meet the new cast of county commissioner candidates hosted by the Dem Women of OC.

From the DWOC handouts :

OC is going to a 7 member CC Plan; D1 = 3 members, D2 = 2 members + 2 "At Large" members. District 1 is the 71,389 people in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro School District. District 2 is the 44,142 of us that make up the rest of the rest of the county. In 2008 4 commissioners will be elected. D1 gets 2 seats, D2 gets one seat and one "At-Large" seat. 3 Commishes are not up for re-election until 2010: Alice Gordon, Barry Jacobs and Mike Nelson.

From notes:

Valerie Foushee D1 - (D-CH) uncontested "safe seat" - spoke on community mental health needs and diversity in housing, said state offered current county commissioners only 2 choices in raising taxes: land transfer tax or sales tax, which she sees as more regressive

Mary M. Wolfe - At Large -- absent

Neloa Barbee Jones - At Large - (D-CH) Masters in English, mentioned housing and environment as concerns, supports looking at Buckhorn special use plan, in hindsight thinks voting on the land transfer tax May 5 is too hasty

Bernadette Pelissier - At Large - (D- H'boro) PhD Sociology UNC, former OWASA board member, chair OC-Chatham Sierra Club -- spoke on the pressures of growth and the need to keep growth within the limits of water resources -- OWASA quarry reservoir larger than Cane Creek reservoir to come online in 2030 -- How do we deal with water issues from now til then? Suggested possible OWASA dictates such as mandating houses be fitted only with water saving fixtures. -- need for more and better mass transit, good wages, supports revision of land use plan, concerned that growth not increase need for social services

Steve Yuhasz - D2 - (D- H'boro) Hillsborough surveyor turned lawyer, OC Planning Board, -- development process in OC too difficult, need control of residential tax rate with respect given to private property rights, opposes current commishes decision to spend $100K "educating" public on land transfer tax -- opposes land transfer tax, supports Moorefield subdivision, supports Buckhorn Village project

Leo Allison - D2 -- (D- Efland) business executive formerly with IBM and Bell Helicopter, used to handling large budgets, spoke on high taxes and needing tax relief, would spur economic development through encouraging light industry and commercial areas, spoke on need for equitable school funding, supports Buckhorn Village Project, supports return to Rogers Rd waste agreement

Rev. Luther Brooks - D2 -(D- H'boro) minister Baptist Church in Durham's Walltown area - spoke on need for open land use farm protection, particularly in northern OC, need to develop OC through EDDs to provide tax relief, supports Buckhorn Village Project

Tommy McNeill - D2 - (Durham?) ex military, businessman, only in area 2 years, "will not take $$$ from EDC", sees OC as "economic growth engine", would like to see OC develop satellite industries and companies from RTP, supports school merger




This is handy.
Actually, Neloa Jones pointed out that Orange County needed to begin conservation efforts for ground water since she believed that many people using wells may not understand that Orange County’s ground water was limited.  Neloa added that the number of people using wells was actually increasing and that as growth continued in rural and transition areas, there could be a greater use of ground water, especially in areas without infrastructure.  She ended by saying that OC had not performed a study to determine how much growth its ground water could actually support.

At that point, Yuhasz mentioned the OWASA quarry, thinking that it took care of Orange County’s water needs.

Bernadette then pointed out that the quarry would not be ready until 2030 and that OC would have to deal with water issues until 2030.

INDY left out these important points in the discussion (which was about ground water) that Neloa actually initiated, which is why the quarry was mentioned at all.

He lives and votes in that part of Durham that is in Orange County, just like we have Chapel Hill residents that live and vote in Durham County.

INDY, INDY: "retrofitting" was the exact term used, and two candidates expressed concern that retrofitting could hurt some homeowners--like those who could least afford it.


It would sure be nice when reading the take people have of these forums if you knew who the writers were.  Not to beat the anon thread to death again, but it does matter who the person is who does the summary statements and what filters might be at work.

 I need to correct what I wrote above:  Tommy McNeil lives in an unincorporated portion of Orange County (Eno Township) that carries a Durham postal address, but it's not in the city of Durham.

so I may not remember exactly how this discussion went, but I will try stating what I remember as accurately as I can.  Someone from the audience posed a question about the drought? or about water conservation? to anyone, I believe?  Bernadette responded first and discussed conservation efforts already in place (I think).  I do remember that she did not mention groundwater, so I used this as an opportunity to discuss it.  I think Yuhasz may have been somewhat dismissing the ground water issue when he mentioned the OWASA quarry (but maybe he wasn't dismissing the issue).  He did, however, seem to downplay ground water concerns.  To her credit, however, Bernadette responded to Yuhasz's statement by saying that, no, Orange County does have reason to be concerned about surface and ground water because the quarry will not open until 2030.  This is my recollection and my summary.


The drought vs. development question was to the general panel, and frankly I was a little surprised that a couple of the candidates didn't even really seem to have much of anything to say on the issue.

Steve Yuhasz was very dismissive of the water availability issue as it pertains to development. In fact, he said that it was his understanding that there was something like 1M gal water per acre available throughout the county and that water availability should not be a major issue for development considerations. I question where he got that figure, and whether he's talking about aquifer resources or some combination of reservoirs with aquifers or what. The county really doesn't even have good projections on what's potentially available to wells, since the data on existing wells has not been collected for all that long.

One of my concerns coming out of this forum was that it appears that all of the D2 candidates are pro-growth to the point that they just might embrace development before really coming to a full understanding of the consequences. Clearly Orange can't maintain it's adversarial stance on growth and development. But we don't need to become another Northern Chatham or Northern Wake either.

Can anyone tell me what "return to Rogers Rd. waste agreement" means in the context of the discussion of Leo Allison above?



Jim Rabinowitz

I hope I understood Leo Allison's statement correctly.  I believe he was saying that he wanted to see local governments honor Mayor Howard Lee's original agreement with the Rogers-Eubanks Community.

The original agreement was that Orange County would site a landfill there for only 10 years, not dump garbage there indefinitely and continue siting more solid waste facilities in this community.

Someone else may have understood Allison's statement(s) differently and, if so, I trust will say so, or INDY may be able to clarify the notes above.


Neloa, that was what I got from Leo's brief comments as well, that he was in favor of insuring that the Rogers Rd residents got the full consideration of the original agreement, and weren't left as a permanent dump site. Unfortunately, Leo Allison really didn't say very much at that forum. I would've liked to hear more of what he had to say on a variety of topics.
I'm amazed that throughout this grueling process, Howard Lee has not stepped forward to provide the details of his early involvement. If he made the promise as everyone seems to believe, why doesn't he take responsibility for his actions and step forward to help clarify the situation? Equally amazing is that the local press have not pressed him for the details. 

I therefore have a few thoughts of my own about Mayor Lee's not stepping forward.

However, there is one woman we know who was present when Lee made the promise and who still describes the meeting quite vividly.  There have also been rumors about a video of the meeting that no one can find.

And the press?


Howard Lee told me  several years ago (as I have posted a couple of times on OP) that Bob Holliday (now a sportcaster on WRAL) did a video of Howard talking to folks in the Rogers Road neighborhood about his intention about the time span of the landfill disrupting the Rogers Road neighborhood, and that he might still have the video.  Why doesn't someone call him and ask if he still has it?

Contemporaneously, I remember hearing about the promise, as I was on the Town Council at the time.

I actually did not know which media had recorded the meeting or who had been involved.


Howard Lee has a duty to come forward and clear up his statements. What has he said when people have called him to ask him to step up?
Just what do you expect these words of clarification might do?

Good question, Fred. If Howard Lee were to step forward and admit that such promises were made, and later broken, what would it fix?

I see a lot of similarities between the Rogers-Eubanks Rd community and the Efland-Cheeks community. Both are predominately poor, less educated, minority communities with little voice in Orange Politics that have serious ground water and property value issues. Neither community has enjoyed the property appreciation and economic prosperity of the surrounding communities.

I'm quite sympathetic to Neloa's fight to keep her neighborhood from becoming a permanent dump site. But, does it even matter at this point what a former politician may have unofficially promised 35 years ago? Seems like the time to bring that up has had 25 years to fall into that gray area where political promises are forgotten. Does it matter that Efland was promised the spoils of an EDD 25 years ago? The thing to consider in this, (and every) election year, is that political promises mean absolutely nothing. I suspect that like "read my lips", if one were to list all the promises made to various groups in OC that were subsequently ignored, the list would be quite lengthy. What matters going forward is doing as best we can to elect officials that will truly represent the communities that elect them.

that voters should elect officials who will work hard to represent the communities that elect them.  For that reason (and because I have now officially blown my first forum), I hope you will attend the next one (and bring others with you).

I plan to be much better at framing two-minute responses, watching the time-keeper, and being clearer.  (I will also make sure I don't forget to state my three main issues.)  (I'm smiling here).

I really hope others attend these forums as well.


That's funny, Neloa. For a minute it seemed that our roles were reversed. A potential "At-Large" candidate might typically be concerned with getting message across and listening to voters. A voter generally would be concerned with judging the sincerity and message of the candidates. It never even occured to me that as a mere voter listening to candidates, who after-the-fact decided to share some very rudimentary impressions of a meet the candidates panel, that I'd find myself defending my impressions.

That said, I'll also say that I don't doubt your sincerity and passion for your issues. The problem is going to be articulating those positions to people who don't hang on Chapelboro politics, much less the history of Chapelboro politics, and who have concerns of their own on the direction the county is going in.

You may have the potential to be a voice for the many in the county who feel disenfranchised, left out, ignored and voiceless. But, this group is far, far larger and more varied than the Rogers Rd neighborhood. And, it's a group that completely bypasses racial divides and encompasses people from all walks of life. There are a lot of people who don't feel any particular affinity for either the big money developers that would carve up the county for profit, or the yuppie Sierra Club that would seek to dictate how family farms are dealt with.

I honestly hate sounding like I'm in support of "sound-byte" politics, but the truth is that opportunities to get message across come down to sound-bytes and brief take home messaging. Sometimes brevity is beneficial.

discussing a broader range of issues and articulating my position on these issues clearly (and briefly).  I am trying to teach myself how to do both.

As an advocate for the Roger-Eubanks Community, I long ago realized that our experiences here are very similar to the experiences of others who live throughout Orange County. 

I have stated elsewhere that in many ways the Roger-Eubanks Community is somewhat of a microcosm of Orange County's many varied and other ailments: inadequate housing, escalating housing costs and residential property taxes, land-use issues, lack of appropriate infrastructure, environmental and surface and ground water concerns, lack of (appropriate) economic development along with a certain voicelessness w/regard local governments.

My concerns are that these same people throughout Orange County will continue to be inadequately represented on a board of commissioners that will now have seven members.

To me, the impressions you listed on the OP from the forum make clear that I need to do a much better job at articulating my messages so that the "sound-bytes" will reflect my broader range of concerns. 


If Lee stepped up and told his side of the story it would clarify what has been a key recurring part of the story. If he took responsibility for his part in this situation, he could play a major role in advancing justice for the community.

Out of curiousity, how would "Independent" & Fred describe Lee's involvement in a manner that included some sort of logical closure for his role?


of the promise would change anything.  I agree: it would change nothing.  However, since the promise apparently went undocumented, I have often gotten the impression that many people question whether Lee actually made the promise at all.

I hear similar doubt in some of the commentary above (e.g., "clear up his statements," "told his side,"), but perhaps I hear more than is intended.

At any rate, Lee's restating the promise would have eliminated once and for all any doubts people have about whether he in fact made a ten-year promise.


Neloa, I fully appreciate what you are saying, but what I'm saying is that if he in fact did make the promise, it wasn't a promise that he could make.  That's why I reject Mark M's take on some public confession. 

Clearly, it was a promise that he could make.  Whether or not he could keep the promise is a different question.

There have been some who have questioned whether any promise was made in the first place.  I believe it would be helpful to set the record straight.  Otherwise, there might be a lingering feeling that the Rogers Road residents just made the whole thing up or misheard or misrepresented what was said.

Also, elected officials need to be held accountable for promises they make, even if they have no right to make such promises (maybe especially if they have no right to make such promises).

Odd choice of words. It's hardly a call for a confession.  It seems so self-evident that a) he is reported to have said something that is considered an important statement b) there is no hard evidence of this statement c) he's still alive and lives around here d) he should clear up the confusion.

And why wouldn't he want to do that?


I don't know any other way. 

I still don't see what "confusion" an answer would clarify, alter, influence, or satisfy, given the decision that's before us in 2008. 

>Out of curiousity, how would "Independent" & Fred describe Lee's involvement in a manner that included some sort of logical closure for his role?

That presumes a couple of things that I might doubt. One, not knowing Lee's initial role, it's impossible to describe how he might step up now. Two, it presumes that it's within his power to help with "closure".

If Lee were to say that he never made any promise that the landfill site was temporary, then the Rogers-Eubanks folks would feel betrayed again.

If Lee were to say that he did make such a promise, but was then forced to break it, the same folks would still feel betrayed.

Neither scenario fixes anything.

Then there's the larger issue of whether there's anything to fix, or whether it even can be fixed in a manner that's equitable. Where should trash, largely generated by District 1 go? Franklin St? .... A lot of us in D2 might think that a fitting solution. If you take the issue of race, and political correctness completely out of the equation, and just look logically at where a transfer station makes sense from an economic and geographical stance, Eubanks road actually makes as much sense as anywhere. (I would argue that a transfer station NEVER makes sense, and that what's really needed is a radical reduction in consumerism and in waste generation, but that's a whole separate issue, that I'll get to at some later time.)

Orange County residents must be willing to accept sharing the burden of waste management.


It has been my understanding that the water in the quarry is available to OWASA customers now? Getting the water to University Lake would require it to be released down Morgan Creek.

The 2030 year that Ms. Pelissier refers to is when the quarry will be fully mined out and twice the size it is presently. The debate that occured on expanding American Stone was the added water benefit OWASA would receive. This was a big plus to our officials who were also hearing negative opinions from the quarry neighbors.

Anonymous is correct in all relevant respects.  I think the expansion percentage between now and 2030 is actually more than 100%, but that's quibbling.  The Rock Quarry at current is an important storage facility and it will be really quite central to our entire water supply system after 2030.

The quarry naturally accumulates only a small amount of rain water, but OWASA is able to pump excess water flows from Cane Creek (of which there is no excess right now) in the quarry.  They can similarly pump water out of the quarry and into Morgan Creek.  Morgan Creek then drains down into University Lake, from which the water treatment plant can draw water.



is the route from the quarry to University Lake.

...and will continue to be broken, as solid waste disposal activities will take place on the Eubanks site for the foreseeable future, transfer station or not, and when the "wet" landfill actually will be full and have to close is still an open question.  It may stay open for years for emergencies, another reason a transfer station is needed soon. Adding the transfer station there makes sense, but it appears there may not be enough land for it on the parcel north of Eubanks. To my knowledge, they are also planning on putting the Solid Waste admin bldg there. Could that be relocated (Greene Tract?) and provide enough room for the transfer station north of Eubanks? Could the convenience center be moved south of Eubanks, freeing up another 1-2 acres?



It is so unfortunate that we seem to have made so little progress on this subject.

There are two issues here.

1) What to do with our garbage? This is a complex issue with many subtexts, including should we be shipping our garbage out of county and what kind of facility should be created and where should it be located. The governments of Orange County have been derelict in their responsibility by failing to seriously attack this problem for years and have put us all into a squeeze.

2) Second but really first; this is a social justice issue and the easiest to solve. Take Eubanks off the table.

Every citizen past and present owes the Rogers Road Community big time. Any decision that sites any more solid waste facilities and does not put a time table of closing on Eubanks is flatly immoral. The BOCC and the other local governments, and elected officials and political activits with a few exceptions have been complicit in this crime. Discussing if Eubanks is big enough or if anything could be located north or south of Eubanks is irrelevant. Those discussions do not matter and in fact are destructive due to the implication that Eubanks may be ok.

While it may not be politically strategic, history does matter. 500 years of American history and 35 years of landfill history is how we got here and we still see some of the continuation of that history.

A couple of months ago in the CHN there was a column that portrayed the poor commissioners as the poor victims of this controversy and implied that the Rogers Road Community should quietly accept the conclusions of these "wise" leaders. What hogwash and how typical to try and blame the people who are suffering from the at best the utter incompetence and blindness that has been exhibited so far. Is it necessary to remind folks that all social justice progress has been force from the bottoms up, including labor, civil rights, womans rights etc...

The BOCC was happy to push the easy button but underestimated the will and fight in the Rogers Road Community. They thought that might be a little noise but as usual would fade into the night. Boy were they wrong. There is now an environmental justice doj complaint with 2000 pages of documentation behind it and it is history that makes this complaint as powerful as it is.

Issue 1 is complex, will take the necessary hard work and will have political implications.

Issue 2 is simple. Take Eubanks off the table.

Paul Falduto. I guess I wasn't logged in when I posted it.
This is interesting. I missed this earlier. Since Mary Wolff didn't show at the forum, I paid no attention. Seems that Mary Wolff (D) shares the same CH address as one of her opponents for the same seat, Kevin Wolff (R). Wonder what dinner talk is like in that house? Wasn't Kevin Wolff the one that tossed his hat in the ring for CH mayor a couple years ago and then basically didn't show up at the candidate forums?

Try and keep up, Independent. ;-)


And as Gerry noted, Mary Wolff appears to be the spouse of Kevin Wolff, who has run unsuccessfully for Chapel Hill Mayor twice. Cute that they are both running for the same seat in the the primaries of different parties. It would certainly be amusing to see a couple running against each other in the general election, but I expect the losing streak to continue for the entire household.


PS: It's spelled "Matalin."

Does anyone know the web addresses for the commish candidates?

I hope that the 2008 Elections info will be up soon, but in the meantime:

Valerie Foushee -
Pam Hemminger -

Bernadette Pelissier -
Neloa Barbee Jones - no website that I know of yet, but this might be of interest:
Kevin Wolff - no known website, but his old mayoral campaign site is:
Mary Wolff - no known website

As far as I can tell, of the district 2 candidates, only Luther Brooks has a website:

As Jason mentioned, this is just what will be up at once I get a chance to do all the research and data entry.

Help is always appreciated. Post links here in the comments or send to me directly at

I Googled and couldn't find it. Thanks!

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