Citizens for Responsible Government

Does anyone know anything about this new group reported in Orange Chat, Citizens for Responsible Government.  They appear to be a political action committee of some sort that intends on influencing the upcoming election. 

 The website says that their mission is to, "support candidates and policies that promote the responsiveness, efficiency and fiscal health of our local governments." 

 It also includes all of the buzz words, "protect our environment" "diversify our tax base" "revitalizing downtown" but they offer no solutions or new ideas on any of these matters. They also do not reveal anything about who is spearheading the group or anything about the groups governance structure.  I think if they are going to start screaning Council Candidates about "responsible government" then they should practice what they preach by being transparent and forthright about who they are and what they actually stand for. 

However, I only know what little they say on their website and what was reported.  Does anyone have any idea what is up with this new group?


Comments indicates their domain name is registered to "Rivers Agency," which is an advertising agency in Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill.

Please be aware that Rivers Agency is an advertising and design agency
for hire and that the content of is wholly created by the
group Citizens for Responsible Government. Any views or opinions
presented in this or any other website designed by Rivers Agency are
solely those of the client and do not necessarily represent those of
Rivers Agency.

And with that happy introduction, we're a local design and
advertising agency that does great work and stands by the quality of
our services. If you need a website design or marketing strategy, give
us a call!


The Rivers Agency Team

I looked at all of the work on your site before I commented- and I want to say that you do wonderful work.  I was very impressed.I was responding to the fact that there is a public relations section as well-- although (understandably) not much there about that work or those clients.From your comment here, are we to assume that you are only working for this PAC as a web site designer and are not providing any public relations assistance?  I realize you don't have to answer, but you do (according to your website) perform both functions.Thanks for all that you do for the community and my apologies if it was just a simple web site design job for a political action committee with no further personal or professional involvement.

CHAPEL HILL -- A pro-development group has formed to influence this year's Town Council election.Citizens for Responsible Government grew out of a contentious process in which the council denied developer Carol Ann Zinn's application to build 58 luxury condos east of Meadowmont near the Durham County line.We need political leadership that has a more balanced approach to managing growth and is more proactive in securing a broader tax base," said UNC political scientist Georg Vanberg, a CFRG founder. Del Snow

Jon DeHart for Chapel Hill Town Council. (Submitted by Fred Black on Wed, 07/08/2009 - 10:17pm.)

Jon DeHart was one of the signatories on CFRG's petition to the Town Council to expand the membership of the Sustainable Community Visioning Task Force

so...  a public relations firm (Rivers), a family of developers- (the 3 Zinns), a political science professor (Vanberg) and a banker (DeHart).  Others?

take a look at their website. There's a lot more stuff out there to get worked up over!

What is find so confusing is that I don't see much difference between what this group wants, what Matt C is running on, and what the council already does. If everyone wants the same thing (mostly), is the debate over HOW rather than WHAT?

Good work. 

(I think) I could have gone further- but analyzing the intersections of facebook friends seems unfair. 

It is curious that this CFRG group seems shy about their identities. But the same could be said about the commenters here - that, besides Fred and Del, it's not clear who's who.  Svaraj might be Jim Svara, but "his" profile lists his last name as sva and first as raj. Could use a little more transparency all around, especially when questioning  identities and motives of others.

It's interesting that the "profits-first" activists are now standing behind many of the policies they have traditionally criticized. It is a testament to the progressive policy making of the past 10-15 years that a pro-business group now finds it essential to espouse such things as "investing in infrastructure", "promoting responsible, sustainable, well-designed growth that protects our environment", "encouraging public transportation and measurable improvements in alternative transportation systems for biking, pedestrians and greenways", etc.  This is proof that a progressive, community-wide agenda continues to be endorsed by a majority of citizens. The "profits-first" activists now apparently feel that they cannot go public without co-opting many of the very policies that they ran against in the past. That means we are making real progress. 

will come when we move away from divisive labels like "profits-first activists" that are designed for one and only one purpose and move forward toward the goal of accepting that there are people who all want the best for our community, even if they differ on how to achieve it.  We tend to want to treat some members of the business class as if they are not tax paying citizens who also have the right to express their opinions, and yes, even run for office.  The beauty of our system is you have the right to not only run against them, but  also to vote against them.Remember also that the very people we constantly go to for financial and other support in this community can only give to our causes if they had profits.  Many are not in a position right now to share as generously as they might have in the past, but they do what they can.  Let's acknowledge that these labels don't capture what is really happening in our community.

Why don't you run for local office, Fred? You continually have the most intelligent and objective comments of anyone on any of the local blogs.

That's a red herring.There have always been activists in our community that more closely resemble AIG, or Duke Energy, or Progress Energy in that they believe in the capitalist dogma that puts more importance on financially profitable  activity than the health, welfare, and sustainability of our community. I do not doubt that they have rationalized their activity. It's not hard to do in a society that still believes evangelically in capitalism on steroids.

Capitalism is the system we live in. And right now, many of the challenges facing this community are the result of policies that ignore that reality. Just this morning there's an article in the Herald Sun about sales tax revenues being down. In the absence of any serious business other than retail, we are dependent on sales tax for all the luxuries enjoyed in this community, such as the school system, the library, support for non-profits, etc. So isn't it most expedient to find a way to live with that reality while balancing it out with values that many of us hold in common?  In the meantime, I hope that diversifying the economy by strengthening local businesses other than development and retail is a major discussion in the upcoming election.

I totally agree, Terri. Strengthening local businesses should be a priority all the time. This means foregoing chain promotion. This means going against the grain of the mutated capitalism (socialism for the rich, capitalism for the rest) that none of us can ignore.

This kind of name calling and lack of considering anything other than the party line is exactly why I stayed away from OP for several years.  Since Ruby has been otherwise occupied lately, I thought it had gotten better, but closer to the election I guess it has to get ugly again.

I just studied their website,  I think that their goals are fine, though nothing that hasn't been debated profusely for the last two decades.  These are goals that have been supported by Chapel Hill candidates of all types, from the most progressive through the most (Chapel Hill) conservative.  I know about 1/3 of the people on the steering committee -- good people who care about our trown.  I don't understand comments above that the group is hiding its identity; it committee members are boldly listed.

The names of those on the steering committee have been added to the website the past couple of days.

Of this group, seems heavily real estate agent oriented: 

Neil Alderman, real estate agent

Chris and Erica Bucholz, real estate agents, Erica is a realtor for the new Carrboro Zinn neighborhood, Clairemont;

Phil Post and Scott Radway familiar developers/planners

Fred Stevens,  real estate agent

Randy Cox, real estate agent



There were no names on the web site when I first visited and commented.I'm hoping this new group (are they actually a PAC?) will use THIS forum to express themselves directly.  I've got an open mind- but I don't tend to trust people who hire PR firms to represent their political views.  Why is it necessary to "package" your views to make them palatable to the progressive community?Using progressive language during a campaign doesn't necessarily translate into progressive action when in office.  I can think of at least one good example of this on the national stage.  (and don't spend too much time on my identity- I'm no one you know, trust me.) 

"but I don't tend to trust people who hire PR firms to represent their political views"Where is this coming from. I think the "firm" you are referencing is probably a one-person "home business" that designs web sites, among other things.  I would also venture to bet that all of the copy came from the organization.Does every group, new or old, have to participate on OP for you to consider them credible?  That's a real stretch! You seem to be hung up on something that doesn't seem to be accurate.

As a CFRG steering committee member, I invite you to recognize that many of us are and have for many years been advocates for affordable housing, downtown revitalization, and non-residential development that serves Chapel Hill, Carrboro, and Orange Co.  A look at the CFRG web site shows that rather than having a narrow interest, we petitioned the Mayor and Council to expand the new Community Visioning Task Force from a small group to one large enough to include the diversity of residents and needs of Chapel Hill.  We are happy they agreed and expanded that group.  As a professional city planner (and former Planning Board Chair), I would encourage anyone with an interest in the future social and economic health and well being of Chapel Hill to participate fully in the Sustainable Community Visioning Task Force process.  Rather than a Comprehensive Plan review and update, Mayor Foy and the Council have established a more focused process to consider and recommend to the Council for its consideration the quantity, location, and design that future growth in Chapel Hill might take.  If our goal is to promote (1) reduction of private vehicle trips and the expansion of the transit system, (2) a wider range of retail choices and opportunities in Chapel Hill, and (3) privately funded affordable housing, difficult and complex issues must be considered.  This Task Force activity is not a pro growth or stop growth debate. And, it is certainly not an ideological debate about capitalism.  It is a method to examine how well we are doing in achieving the goals of the 2000 Comprehensive Plan and an assessment of how to achieve those goals in the most positive fashion.   Scott Radway

Well said Scott.

- Mark Moshier

"for many years been advocates for affordable housing"I've lived here for 15 years (renting- gasp!) - where is all of this "affordable housing" everyone seems to constantly "advocate for?"Really- where is it?  And what IS affordable housing in Chapel Hill?Is there a definition that everyone agrees on?  Do you have to be a family of four with school age children to qualify?If someone would like to start another thread and discuss this, it might be helpful for the working class singles and couples living in the hundreds of aging rental units all over the county-- duplexes, multifamily apartment structures, mobile homes and yes, even the occasional barn loft.What gives?  The lovely brochures displayed on Ms. Rivers' agency website feature huge (green!) homes (from many of the same developers mentioned above)-- homes that will NEVER be within my reach.  They're being marketed to people who will be moving here from some place else.  And the character of our towns is changing- we wonder why.Will these newly arrived people in their large green houses care about what is happening near campus or on Franklin Street?  Will they support our local artists or the world famous (and dying) Chapel Hill music scene?  Will our artists and musicians hang around--- or move on? (many already have.)We can't cry about how Chapel Hill is losing its "cool" then continue to develop Cary-style neighborhoods.Maybe there are  lovely, little, affordable new homes that working people can afford out there somewhere- that I'm not aware of? I've searched online- and been all over the city looking-- but affordable around here still seems to translate as properties that are 25-30 years old and in great need of renovation.  When "redevelopment" or renovation happens-- the bread and butter of this PAC, it seems-- affordability disappears.Has there been a net gain or a net loss of "affordable housing" in the past 15 years?  Anybody know?  (and we're back to what IS affordable?) To me, affordable is what people can comfortably afford to pay-- on the salaries received in the area.  What working class people are paid.Develop that! (and to Fred Black- you SHOULD run for office.  I don't always agree with you, but I think you would be a valuable addition.  But on the "you're jumping to conclusions" response- I disagree.  I think this is about a kind of development that will change the town(s) in ways that- while good for the developers-- will not be good for the MAJORITY of the people who live here.  I don't claim to have the answers, but there must be other ways to develop without building more huge housing clusters and expensive condos on every available piece of land. But perhaps that type of gentrification is inevitable.  Just don't expect that all the creative types that make Chapel Hill and Carrboro so charming will hang around to entertain you.)

Affordable in this community has come to mean what someone who qualifies for Orange County Land Trust can afford. I think the income criteria for qualifying for Land Trust property is 85% of the local median income which, a couple of years, ago was around $35,000.Speaking purely in terms of housing prices there is a dearth of property in the price range between $150,000 and $250,000 or what I would consider affordable to working class people.

I believe the threshold in Carrboro is 15% of units at 80% of median income. However, the Board of Aldermen has asked town staff to explore Dan Coleman's idea of instead asking developers to provide a smaller number of affordable units at 65% of median income.

If an individual or group does not actively support a living wage, then they are hypocrites if they speak in support of affordable housing. The primary reason that homes are not affordable is because so many people cannot afford them due to low pay. I'm not making an ideological point here, by the way. The fact is that the consensus reality around our economic principles run completely counter to helping people afford homes. The Chamber of Commerce should take on the living wage issue as a high priority to underpin its commitment to sustainability and affordable housing.

I make a decent wage--much higher than any living wage would be set. But I still can't afford the average home in Carrboro or Chapel Hill ($350,000). And even if I could, I wouldn't want to. My 1400 square foot house is a little bit too big for me. Funny thing is that it's about the size of the homes I grew up in, as part of a family of 5.I do believe everyone should be able to earn a living wage, but if the local economy is overinflated, the living wage for that community will be inflated too. That's a positive feedback loop and in the long run causes more problems than it solves.

It can be done. The realtors and the Home Builders Association would rather build expensive houses. However, they will champion affordable housing when they think it will help them get into the Rural Buffer or get good PR.

The reason people can't afford a house isn't low pay per se but rather pay that isn't high enough to afford a house.  That might sound like semantics, but it isn't.  If you can only afford a $9 M house and houses cost $10 M or if you can only afford a $9 K house and houses cost $10 K, you're in the same boat either way. You can do the living wage stuff if you like and although it may make a difference in other facets of the lives of the people getting the pay bump, it's not going to have more than a very minor effect on people buying houses in CH/C.  The reason lots of people can't afford a house in CH/C isn't low wages but rather high prices that are the result of demand being much higher than supply.  If a bunch of poor people suddenly had a lot of money to buy a house it would just increase demand that much more and push prices up more. A lot more people want to live in CH/C than can live here.  The large and growing number of people that work at UNC or at entities associated with UNC want to live here.  Because college towns are interesting and UNC is an excellent university, other businesses and people want to live here.  And CH/C is a place where even wealthy people want to live even if they have no association with UNC.  I have a few examples of that if you're interested, although you could infer it just by looking at the home prices of the upper end houses in CH/C on the internet and realizing that few people that work at UNC could afford them. The point is, all kinds of people want to live here.  It's not just people that can't affored to live anywhere they want, or people that only want to live here because they work at UNC and want an easy commute.  And of course, the people that already live here find it more pleasant to look out their back door and see trees rather than houses, so once you're here you'd rather fewer new people move in than more.  People and trees can't occupy the same space unless the people are Keebler elves.  (Do elves qualify as people?  I don't know.) Southern Village is a good example of how things work.  There are few big chunks of land left around here, but we find one and put a bunch of hosues on it and sell them, right?  And we make them fairly affordable...some moreso, some lessso (if moreso is a word then lessso ought to be too).  But I bet if you checked the cost of those houses, they have gone up way more than inflation since the time they were built, even without considering that we're currently in a big housing slump.  So houses that were once affordable to a certain group of people are not affordable as time passes to that same group because supply is continually below demand and thus continually driving up home prices.  Okay, enough rambing by me.  There's no "The solution is X" message to this post but rather my point was just to try to say how things are around here and why the "affordable housing" issue won't go away or be substantially changed by a livable wage.

Mark, your concise assessments of the affordable housing conundrum will come in very handy for local candidates in the coming months.  The question comes up every time, often taking the form of a challenge: "What will you do...?" and those who dare to shrug their shoulders need a foundation for listing the myriad factors in play.  Contradictions abound; equations are meaningless in the face of loopholes and the simple fact that so many people still can't afford the lower priced homes. 

The trouble with a name like CFRG is that it is what is called a "motherhood statement."  Just as everyone supports motherhood (after all, it got us where we are today), everyone really supports responsible government.  Who wouldn't?  The proof will be in the pudding, and what they ultimately show they are really advocating for.  They do not sound 100% altruistic to me, but of course they need not be.  One issue will be whether they really are as objective as their name suggests.  It seems quite apparent that they have goals above and beyond what they list on their website, and it is somewhat disingenuous of them not to list some of them, such as "make money for our local developers and real estate businesses."  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  But it's conspicuous by its absence.

New Houses for $150k in CH - really? I'd love to see it, but unfortunately it's not possible. It costs US +- 140k to build a 1400 s.f 3BR, 2BA home and that's with the land at no cost to us and paying no realtor fees. Tack on rising impact and OWASA fees and 150k will get you a beautiful home in a town called Fantasyland. As for realtors and the HBA's preference to "build expensive houses," wow, what a tremendously inaccurate statement.

Adam Zinn, developer and builder

but not conspicuous.


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