March 2007

Seeking "public" information

Kudos to the Daily Tar Heel for their recent investigative piece about obtaining public records. In addition to asking for copies of correspondence of local elected officials (which I summarize below) they include tips for making public record requests and highlight how this kind of information is used in their reporting.

Having served on several town advisory boards in the past 15 years, I can't even count how many times our volunteer work has been stymied by the inability to collaborate online between meetings. The Town has prohibited discussion through e-mail because of a valid concern that it would violate the open meetings law. However, the Town has also consistently turned a blind eye to the obvious solution of a publicly-archived listserve that could both facilitate intra-board communication and improve public access to our conversations.

An ethical problem or just bad judgement?

The Daily Tar Heel's recent article about unearthing public records strikes a contrast to the News & Observer's relatively casual handling of a potentially very serious issue regarding Chapel Hill Town Council Member Bill Thorpe. On Saturday, the N&O reported that William Thorpe Jr. approached a local developer offering his services as a "public relations consultant" on their project which was pending approval by the Town Council.

Double whammy for Tarheels

Hours after the men's basketball team fell to Georgetown in the NCAA tournament, a student who cheered the team as Rameses passed away after being hit by an SUV on Friday. My heart goes out to the family and friends of Jason Ray.

Also, consolations to seniors Rayshawn Terry, Wes Miller, and Biscuits of the men's basketball team that had a very frustrating end to an exciting season. Fortunately, the women's team marches on. Don't miss the last games for super-talented seniors Ivory Latta and Camille Little. Next game is against Purdue in the Elite 8 on Tuesday at 9:30 on ESPN and WCHL.

Carolina North meetings today

Here's a reminder that UNC will be holding informational meetings for the community about their plans for Carolina North at 3:30pm and 5:30pm today. This new 900-acre campus for UNC will be located at the northwest intersection of Estes Drive and MLK Blvd - smack dab in the middle of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro community. If done well, it has the potential to be a model of sustainability supporting education, transit, green space, smart growth, and environmental preservation to benefit the entire community (as envisioned by The Village Project). If done poorly, it could drag us down to level of sprawl and traffic that plagues much of the rest of the Triangle.

Let's keep our eyes on UNC, and help make sure they get it right by giving them the feedback they need as early as possible. Apparently these informational meetings are going to be monthly events, so please send them your feedback about how they can make the meetings more accessible to the public in the future (for example, I'd find it easier of it was off campus - but still transit accessible - and later in the evening).

Faison Moves to Reverse Annexation

State Representative Bill Faison has filed H1061, a bill to de-annex the Highlands Subdivision from Carrboro.

I would be surprised if this went very far in the legislature. Faison, it should be noted, although his district extends into the northern reaches of Carrboro (including, of course, Highlands), did not attend our legislative breakfast meeting last month.

As far as I can tell no one connected with town government was aware of this before the bill was filed. For example, Randee Haven-O'Donnell and I have been working with the New Horizons Task Force on concerns related to the annexation. He might well have consulted with one of us on how things are going or have given us a heads up.

Also of interest is why Faison selected only one of the several neighborhoods that were annexed. If his bill is successful, Highlands will be bordered, west and north, by Carrboro neighborhoods.

Weekend omnibus

Almost every day I note a news story that I want to blog about here and save it for later (because I'm usually at work). This week, things have really piled up and if I waited until I had time to write a whole post about them, they wouldn't be news by the time I posted them. So here's a wrap up of some interesting stuff from this week...

Carrboro approved a 6-month moratorium on development in it's northern area, and Chapel Hill moved a similar proposal forward by establishing the Northern Area Task Force . Orange Chat has extended coverage of the Carrboro discussion. I can't help but wonder if our northern areas would have such problems if they were planned to have pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and connective-streets instead of cul-de-sacs, but the best we can hope for now is to avoid more of the same.



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