The election is not about money

Last Wednesday, Oct 28, Henry Lister did a commentary on WCHL about the upcoming election for Chapel Hill mayor and council.  He named no candidates; rather he described the election as a choice.  The choice is between our legacy, i.e., two centures of conscious decisions that have resulted in our becoming a world-class center of education and health care, versus those who are primarily concerned with lowering property taxes.  I think Henry did a great job. Here is his commentary:
The upcoming election in Chapel Hill is NOT about money.  We face a dangerous election next week.  Several vocal and well-funded candidates are running platforms promising to reduce homeowner taxes by developing more commercial taxes, some just because they think that’s what voters want to hear.  But framing this election about money does us all a dis-service and shifts the focus from our real goal, which is to continue Chapel Hill’s legacy.
Our town’s legacy was fostered through two centuries of progressive action within our town and across the state, and is now in danger of being lost here forever. Say it up and say it down, Chapel Hill is a progressive town.  Progressive thinking is not a liberal or conservative construct but best characterized by dynamic leadership based on sound principles.  As a town, our heritage lies within the heart of the mission of UNC, which to paraphrase and quote is to educate the state’s children such that they “contribute to the solution of societal problems and enrich the quality of life in the State.”  Chapel Hill’s role, as a town, is about fostering learning and providing opportunities for students to apply their knowledge through public service.  It’s not about money. It’s about creating and fostering an environment where serious study, deep thinking, passionate investigation and exuberate action for the social good can occur.  As a Town are about learning, leadership and acting on beliefs that come from serious study.  The commerce that is here is in place to support the University. Let me repeat, none of that is about money.
Because UNC and the UNC Hospital run the “company store,” we have become and likely will remain a predominantly residential community.  This Town became wealthy because of progressive politics and economics that attracted newcomers, many of whom have little or no association with the University. We are a community where housing is costly because it is desirable to live in one of the nation’s best residential towns, with outstanding schools and a progressive university at its core.  Good schools, a lively downtown commercial center, and a strong University are legacies that was given to us. Town politics concerning development has rarely targeted building lots of offices and commercial interests. So to frame our current election as one that will correct a tax imbalance with a new commercial tax base is spurious.
The danger in this election is that our community conversation may forever shift from the ethos of the love of learning to the love of money.  We as citizens are proud to pay our taxes because we can see they are well spent and support those values that are important to us.  This is not a time for us as citizens to be swayed by empty promises of lower taxes. We must vote for candidates that will continue the legacy we inherited and enjoy.  This election vote with your heart and soul, not your pocket book.




FredFor someone who is so demanding of accuracy in others; you play fast and loose. The copy of the flyer I got says: On October 9th the N&O reported that ‘as the nation debates how to cover more people with health insurance, mayoral candidate MattCzajkowski wants to scale back coverage for town employees.’.  This past year town staff received no cost of living increase while working hard tomaintain high level of service with less. During tough economic times for families in Chapel Hill, should we be reducing benefits for town employees,such as the police and firefighters who work hard every day to protect us?It seems to say that Matt wants to cut back health benefits. It doesn't blame him for the lack of a cost of living increase, it says that the cuts he seeks are unfortunate at this time.I agree with the flyer. I think Matt's plan is a terrible message to send our town employees. As I have said before this is a goal I supported in the past (seeking a way to rein in benefit costs); but making it a campaign issue is pandering and disrespectful, not to mention very morale damaging......Cam

Do you have any idea how much the town spends on the Cadillac health coverage it provides? What is the unit cost for the town compared to the unit cost of a similarly sized organization? Do you know how much that commitment is going to go up over the next 5 years as the town grows and hires new people and as its existing staff gray out? If our elected officials don't have the cajones to look for alternative ways to reduce costs, and premiums are one of those costs, while still providing a strong, but perhaps not inpenetrable safety blanket, they are pandering to the electorate who don't want to deal with the reality of health care costs. From the discussion I heard, Matt wasn't proposing a radical idea. He was suggesting that perhaps town staff could live with coverage more similar to what state employees receive. Gasp----totally outrageous idea, demonstrative of Matt's true identity as the monster who ate Chapel Hill.

I said, Cam, that they IMPLIED IT. That's my opinion and the opinion of others.  You are free to disagree, but don't claim that it is inaccurate to express an opinion. They used lots of quotes out of context to create lots of implications.  You and the "group" both spend your time saying why a person shouldn't vote for someone instead of why to vote for someone. Why so negative this election.  And if you thought it was just me, read

I was covered by the town's health policy up until June (at my own expense). As I said: this is a goal I supported in the past (seeking a way to rein in benefit costs); but making it a campaign issue is pandering and disrespectful, not to mention very morale damaging......I don't know what discussion you've heard; Matt has been making this a cornerstone of his campaign. Terri, how much do you like having your compensation debated publicly? 

I asked about the town costs for the coverage they pay and will be expected to pay in the future, not about your personal compensation. Since Matt has run a campaign on the issue of fiscal responsibility and since employee health insurance along with debt payment are significant line items in the budget, how could he not make it an issue? That isn't pandering; it's called discussing the issues. As far as I'm concerned all of the candidates should be discussing such specific ideas about how to rein in town spending.

A person aspiring to be the leader of an organization should possess the thoughtfulness and strategic acumen to raise a controversial issue in a respectful manner. Matt's approach disrespects the town workers, could affect morale, and reveals the type of ready, fire, aim leadership that could prove very divisive.

I watched the council meeting in which Matt raised the issue of employee health benefits. As far as I was concerned, he raised a valid question, and he did so without any rancor or disrespect.  Are you basing your opinion on personal observation? How many forums have you attended in which you had personal contact with Matt, versus responding based on what you've read? (Disclaimer: I have attended 1 Chapel Hill forum, but watched/listened to parts of others as re-runs on the governmental channel/WCHL.) 

I have missed his plan on how he would move forward with the issue. Could you - or someone - explain it?

"Matt's approach disrespects the town workers, could affect morale, and
reveals the type of ready, fire, aim leadership that could prove very
divisive."Beats me how you can know his approach is disrespectful when you turn around and say you "missed his plan" and ask to have it explained. You get the negative politics award of the day.  

Terri,It's hard to take your charges of negative politics seriously when you are posting comments like "But take a look at Mark's website. It says nothing about what he wants to do or what he believes about the future." on other threadsIf you are still having trouble discerning what Mark believes or his vision for the future of Chapel Hill you might start with his answers in the Indy Questionaire.  Here is the link. website, while organized differently than some, includes a wealth of information on his views of past successes and mistakes, rationales for his positions, and goals for our beloved town.

So, do to Chapel Hill employees what the state did to you?

I've been to that site before and my impression is that it is not worth going back to...... 

I supported Southern Village but not Meadowmont.  SV was actually our 2nd mixed use project -- Chapel Hill North was the first, initially approved before my time on the council, (complex approval process due to lawsuits) but no residential unit was built until literally now, 20 years later.  Learning from that error, SV and MM were approved with requirements that all 3 uses (residential, commercial, office) would be built simultaneously.  SV and MM were on equal size tracts (about 400 acres) and had about the same number of living units (about 1100), but MM homes and condos are far more upscale. MM has a very upscale retirement center, the Cedars, while SV does not have one.  SV office/commercial was sized for the residential, about 220K ft sq, while MM office/commercial was about 700K sq ft, obviously more than would be used by in-project residents.  I share the disappointment written above that neither project actually works as true mixed use, where the residents would live, work, school, and shop within the project.  MM has a Harris-Teeter where I frequently shop, and its customers are a mixed bag.  Both projects are auto-centric, though both are served by CH Transit. MM was very controversial, and most council votes on its various projects were 5-4 and contentious.  I don't recall the approval process of SV anywhere near as contentious  (Mark?  Julie?).  Many people from the Oaks and Finley Forest area fought MM, while the folks from Dogwood Acres were the primary opponents of SV.

Did people really think that something on a scale of a MM or SV would work as a completely self-contained community? I live in Meadowmont, so I've got some personal insight to add as well as my intellectual thoughts.Take the four elements -- "live, work, school, and shop". I think in both communities, to the extent you have kids in kindergarten through fifth grade, the "school" element is met. Most people within Meadowmont with kids @ Rashkis do walk to school, except in extenuating circumstances (rain, afterschool activity elsewhere). But there's no chance of that if you're in higher grades, because both the middle school and high school are a substantial distance away. So there's no way more than about half of the school population could theoretically stay within the community for school.I think the idea that MM/SV residents would also work within MM/SV simply isn't realistic. In these mobile times, there's just no way to expect that an individual's or a family's work and residential needs could be met in one location. People shift jobs all the time, and the transaction costs of moving make it impractical for someone to move within MM or SV just because their job is located there -- which it probably isn't going to be. Or to move out of MM or SV if they change jobs.As for shopping, I think the communities do work to the extent that people's shopping needs are met there. But again, the universe of the types of items and services which the residents of MM/SV might want can't even begin to be met by the inadequate size of the retail area. Some of us here in MM also blame the disinterested management style of the manager of the retail space, but that's only part of the story. In MM at least, it's also not helpful that the large office building at "The Exchange at Meadowmont" is a substantial walk from the Meadowmont retail space. That is the unfortunate result of prioritizing views of grass and trees from speeding motorists over pedestrian ease of access.I do think MM and SV are better than the alternatives, such as a Lake Hogan Farms plopped down in their place. The retail areas do reduce the number of automobile trips taken by residents of the neighborhoods. They are transit accessible to downtown; my wife takes the bus to work @ UNC about half the time. And there could be some improvements in the future. East 54 might help bring more critical mass to the area, although the distance between East 54 and MM (again, thanks to the large setback) is a handicap. The areas need to have better connections to the rest of the town. Improved transit access (there's now no weekend and evening bus service, and only hourly service during midday weekdays) could help. And further retail and residential growth around these two hubs, if at all possible (and it's not likely in the case of MM, due to restrictions on land use), would expand the viability of the businesses in the neighborhoods and could provide a way for accommodating population growth at a lower cost to the town and the environment.

It was bitterly contentious, with a  coalition of green activists, affordable housing advocates, and wealthy Oaks residents fighting to stop the rezoning and development. If I had to do it all again, I'd work harder for more density with a higher percentage of lower cost housing, That said, things could have turned out a lot worse.  Most people I know who live or work at MM seem pretty satisfied with it. 

The political dynamics at SV seemed very different to me, not only in terms of the personalities involved, but also the transportation picture.  While 54 and 15-501 are both major transportation corridors, the differences sin promiximity to I-40 are significant. If we were going to bet on super-dense development, MM was the place to do that. 

As another person commented, I'm not sure "true mixed use" in the way you describe it is practical in any in-fill development. People today change jobs far too often to expect a tight linkage between where they live and where they work. Unless of course they work at home, like I do. 



 PS  I'm on Brian Russell's bandwagon when it comes to 21st century infrastructure. I wish I'd had the foresight to push for fiber build out way back when.


Sorry Ruby, we are now way off topic.Geoff I think you have done a great job in your summary.  I ride the V bus a lot, more at the SV end.  It goes from the park-ride lot at SV, through campus and the hospital area then to the Friday Center and MM, and then back to SV by almost the identical route.  It is full at the SV end because of the park-ride commuters to UNC.  At the MM end, there is not enough ridership to increase its service.  As far as service to a non-UNC location in town, it is fair to say that every bus route experiment that does not involve a hub-spoke system with UNC/UNCH as the hub,  has failed.  Certainly MM does not generate enough riders to support more frequent service -- the autocentric issue.  Here's an interesting bus and downtown factoid:  I asked one of the V bus drivers how drivers choose their routes; answer by seniority.  He said that he always choses the V route because it doesn't go to Franklin St, and that is where all the people who cause trouble on the buses come from.  



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