Bill Strom resigning!

As reported by Kirk Ross of the Carrboro Citizen on OP and on the CC site, Chapel Hill Town Councilmember Bill Strom has announced that he will be resigning as of August 1, and will be leaving the area.

The interesting political implication is that I think the Council will now be expected to appoint a replacement since this resignation did not happen within the 40-day window before an election candidate filing period which would have led to an automatic appointment of the 5th vote-getter. Am I getting this right? Help us out Gerry... (Thanks for the correction, Fred and Mark.)

There had been some rumbling about this for weeks when Bill failed to step in to the mayor's race after having made no secret of his ambitions for several years.  Anyone know what he's doing next?  I wonder if his wife Jen Strom will also be leaving her position at the Independent Weekly? (I know this is verging on gossip, but this wil have a big impact on our community.)

Here is Bill's statement as published on the Carrboro Citizen web site:

After a decade of service on the Chapel Hill Town Council, the time has come for me to move on in my life’s commitments and challenges. I am resigning my council position as of Aug. 1, 2009, to pursue other personal and professional opportunities outside the community.

Serving as a council member in Chapel Hill has been a great honor, and I am deeply thankful for my fellow citizens’ trust and confidence in electing me three times.

Over the past 10 years, we have made much progress in addressing the goals I set out when I first sought elected office in 1999, after many years as a grassroots activist in Chapel Hill and Orange County.

My council colleagues and I have made decisions that consistently consider the entire community and protect the environment, support community based commerce and advocate for the interests of our friends and neighbors who are in need of economic support. We have assumed a national leadership position on environmental planning and land use policy. Investments we’ve made in public transportation have paid dividends in the town’s livability. We have expanded public infrastructure from recreation facilities to cutting-edge town operations. We have integrated comprehensive energy consumption reforms, emissions reductions and green building practices throughout town government. Relations with the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and the local business community have evolved from often-contentious to more collaborative efforts.

We have transformed our policies on both public and affordable housing, setting Chapel Hill up as a national model of which we can be proud. Our acquisition of open space ensures us a sustainable future and creates certainty that we will continue to embrace the environment. Public investments in downtown assure a bright future for the heart of our community, and encourage private dollars to flow toward its revitalization. Our town finances have been carefully managed, with no tax increases in four of the last six years, low debt ratios and more than adequate reserves. Community support for our bonds and public investments has been central to many of our approaches to public policy, and I wish to thank the community for embracing the importance of investing in our future together.

Chapel Hill’s current leaders are in a great position to continue moving our community forward in a progressive manner, and I wish them much success.

I will miss BIll's hard work on a wide range of issues including public transportation, affordable housing, and UNC growth. He has left quite a stamp on Chapel Hill in the past 10 years.



Still, some digging leads to questions.  Below are the local act which
modifies the state charter as per general statute § 160A-496, followed by the
general statute § 160A-496 being cited in that modification, and above in the
story about how things are supposed to be done in the event of a vacancy. 

We are basically talking about modifying a Town's Charter here.

So, the basic question boils down to:  can a Town Charter be modified
in a manner that abrogates a state statute such as the one about 90 days I cite
above?  I'm not certain about that, unless that state statutes say that it
can be done for a specific state statute.  Or, if the state statute came
later or was changed later, it may be that a Town's Charter must be modified to
appropriately address or incorporate that new statute or change.

If there is a need to address this apparent disparity between the state
statute on vacancies and the Town Charter, it would seem that the Town Charter
would prevail in the present instance of Strom's seat.  It is on paper,
after all, and such things apply in the face of a disparity, which if it exists
would still need to be addressed.  So, there may be some legal hay to be
made here, probably later than sooner.

'Sec. 4. Section 2.4(2) (Section 2.3(2) under local revision pursuant to
160A-496) of the Charter of the Town of Chapel Hill, being Chapter 473, Session
Laws of 1975, as amended by Section 1(2), Chapter 693, Session Laws of 1979,
and as rewritten by Chapter 1107 of the Session Laws of 1979 reads as
"(2) A vacancy occurring on the council, which occurs during the period
beginning with the first day of the four year term of office and ending
... three days before the end of the filing period for that office as provided
by the General Statutes shall be filled by appointment of the town council
only until the next general municipal election at which time a member
shall be elected to the remainder of said unexpired term. The
candidate receiving the fifth highest number of votes (and if necessary
the 6th, 7th and 8th highest number) following those elected for full
four-year terms, shall be declared elected for the remainder of the
unexpired term. A vacancy occurring on the council, which occurs at
any other time shall be filled by appointment of the town council for
the remainder of the unexpired term."


"§ 160A-496. Incorporation of local acts into charter.
(a) A city may from time to time require the city attorney to present to the
council any local acts relating to the property, affairs, and government of the
city and not part of the city's charter which the city attorney recommends be
incorporated into the charter. In his recommendations, the
city attorney may include suggestions for renumbering or rearranging the
provisions of the charter and other local acts, for providing catchlines, and
for any other modifications in arrangement or form that do not change the
provisions themselves of the charter or local acts and that may be necessary to
effect an orderly incorporation of local acts into the charter.
(b) After considering the recommendations of the attorney, the council may by
ordinance direct the incorporation of any such local acts into the charter. The
city clerk shall file a certified true copy of the ordinance with the Secretary
of State and with the Legislative Library.
(c) For purposes of this section, "charter" means that local act of
the General Assembly or action of the Municipal Board of Control incorporating
a city or a later local act that includes provisions expressly denominated the
city's "charter," plus any other local acts inserted therein pursuant
to this section or a comparable provision of a local act. (1975, c. 156; 1985
(Reg. Sess., 1986), c. 935, s. 3; 1989, c. 191, s. 3.) '

I am prepare to do a two hour seminar on local acts that will give continuing education credit to attorneys and dentists for attendance.

I'm neither a dentist nor an attorney.  But sometimes getting through to me can be like pulling teeth!  Are you an attorney by training?  I would think that local reporters and many politicos are among the ones who would benefit from a seminar of this type (but I suggest adding some things and having a seminar series)...  There's a need for imbuing people with a healthy skepticism and understanding about how to learn how things work (or not) so that the right questions can be asked, at least. I would be tempted to add another credit hour on how to find, download, search, and cross-reference local and state statutes and regulations.  Knowledge is power and accessing this stuff is not difficult if one knows where to look and how to search it.

I've just put up a guide to finding stuff that happened in the 2009 NC General Assembly that is adjourning today: I am an attorney. I've "practiced" local govenment law about 35 years.

yes and Mark Chilton created my wikipedia entry 00:13, 16 May 2006 Mark chilton

Is there such a thing as wiki envy?  There's no wiki entry for Weaver Guy.  Oh well.  I'm just not famous enough yet.

I was against the Board of Alderman in Carrboro automatically appointing the losing candidate with the next highest vote total to the vacancy on the Board when Mark Chilton was elected mayor because who knows how the vote would have turned out in an election where the electorate had been allowed to vote for an additional candidate.  I think the same thing applies in Chapel Hill this year.  However I think there is one type of situation that would justify the choice of the fifth place candidate in the coming election in Chapel Hill.  Because it is an election where each voter votes for multiple candidates and multiple candidates are elected, it is possible for a candidate to receive votes from a majority of voters in the election and still not get elected.  I don’t know whether that has ever actually happened in an OC election but it clearly can happen. Such a “failed” candidate is clearly acceptable to the majority of the voters in town (They voted for that candidate.) and therefore the Council should take that into consideration.  This also points out one of the problems with having an election where voters have multiple votes and multiple candidates from a single list are chosen.  There is a lot of that in OC.

Back in 1975 I advocated electing 4 of the 8 council members from single member districts so there would be single seat races with more neighborhood focus (and, I should admit, one district which would be about 70% students). This eliminated the whole multi-vote conundrum for half the seats. I could not even get a second for my motion when the town council was debating the new charter later submitted to and approved by the 1975 General Assembly. I felt like the other council members thought I had a contagious disease when I trotted out my proposal.

Using the Orange County BOE data for 2007, we can see something interesting from the CH election.  Even though we can't see what each voter did (is this changing this year?), we do know:6,859 voted  6,175 voted for MayorIf all voters voted for four Council candidates, that would be 27,436 total votes.If all who voted for mayor voted for four Council candidates, that would be 24,700.The seven Council candidates (and write-ins) received 21,338 votes.Obviously, everyone who votes doesn't vote for mayor or four council candidates. What we should know is how many voted for four, three, two one or none. In that election, #4 had 2,932, #5 had 2872, and #6 had 2,442.  Look at what the 102 write-ins could have done for #5!I would conclude that in that seven-candidate election, #5 had great support and appointing him would be easy to justify because of what the voters indicated by their actions.Will voter behavior be different in 2009?  I doubt it! 

Fred,About 40% of those who voted in the election chose candidate number 5 that doesn't seem very compelling to me.

41.87 of those who voted voted for Candidate #5, who ended up losing.  And 42.75% of those who voted voted for Candidate #4, who ended up on town council.


and your point is?

My point is that you seem to be saying that since only 40-ish percent that voted for 5th place finisher there's not enough sentiment for that person to be put on council and I'm saying that the 4th place finisher also got only 40-ish percent of the vote.

Yes, but according to the law the fourth place finisher is elected to the council and the fifth place isn’t.  There is no choice relative to the fourth place finisher.  The argument for elevating the fifth place finisher is that somehow finishing fifth shows that he/she is the voters’ choice but they aren’t in the election illustrated because they only received votes from 40% of the voters.  The way this election is structured a fifth place finisher could get the support of 50% of the voters that would provide a reasonable argument for appointment to the council.  I hadn’t thought about it much before but this seems to point out what I see as a problem with elections where voters get multiple votes and multiple candidates are elected. 

Per the law, only the top four get onto CH TC.  There is no question about that.  Game, set, match.  If that were the only point of discussion then the discussion would be long finished.But  because of the unusual circumstances over Bill Strom's resignation, the whole point of this thread has become whether we should strictly follow the law or instead if we should intervene. If you say that the law is the law and the election should not be changed no matter what then the 2007 results or any other results don't matter regardless of what they way.  OTOH if you say that we think the system may have been manipulated and consequently perhaps we should take the 5th place finisher in the 2009 election for the vacant seat, then the results of previous election become relevant from a "what if" perspective. And that was the context in which Fred posted those results from 2007.  

Any tinkering - either by changing the law or intervening "just this once" -  will always entail questions about how big the "windows" should be and when they should open and close. How far back to an election, for example, does it make sense to go to retrieve a runner-up to replace a resigning office holder?  It's one thing, as others are pointing out, to have an almost-made-it 5th candidate, but another with a distant last-placer --  especially if in the interval since the election, circumstances and issues have changed substantially and a single-issue candidate's issue has disappeared. There will always be close calls and there will always be ways to manipulate the system. The more complex and/or fluid the definitions of size and timing of "windows," the more opportunity for manipulation.

First, the Council will chose a replacement and I suppose they can do it before the election.  It is an open game on trying to influence them with convincing arguments.  If they wait until after the election they could chose the fifth place finisher.  The question is should finishing fifth in the election have any currency in council’s decision on choosing the replacement.  It has been said a number of times on this thread, in the newspaper and a few years ago when Carrboro faced a similar situation, that finishing 5th in an election where each of the voters can vote for four candidates doesn’t say anything about who would have finished 5th if the voters could have voted for 5.  The logic of this position is clear to me and I have supported it.  But during this discussion I realized that the 5th place finisher could have received votes from more than 50% of the voters and if that candidate had the approval of that many voters then that it did count for something.  I don’t know why it took me so much time to figure that out.  In the 2007 election even though the vote numbers between the 4th and 5th place finishers were close, they were below 50%.  The relative numbers are irrelevant because the 4 place finisher will be elected and the council will pick another member.  To continue your football analogy, the goal line isn’t the number of votes a candidate gets but where they finish in the order of the election.  You may move up and down the field but if you don’t cross the goal line (finish 4th), you don’t score and I don’t think there are any field goals in this game.     Also, I don’t know if the system is being manipulated but if it is, why does that mean the government and the people of Chapel Hill should be penalized further by saying the council shouldn’t chose the best person for the job.

Deep breath here ... I've been holding mine for a while.  The Council will appoint whichever applicant/nominee they like the most.  If they dislike the 5th place finisher, that individual's voter support might as well be zero.  This scenario (7 vs 1500 votes) really does mimic a personality contest: who should we invite to our party?  Without IRV or any other set policy in place by now, that's how it's gonna play out. 

"The question is should finishing fifth in the election have any currency in council’s decision on choosing the replacement. "It's crucial for the voters to know, before they vote for only 4, whether the fifth-place finisher might end up being seated.  It might well change how they vote.(I can't be the only one who has voted "symbolically" or who voted for a sure loser whom I didn't really want seated, possibly just to "take" a vote from the column of a likely winner among several.)  

"Symbolic" or strategic voting is not uncommon at all, according to post-election analyses; the results look like an unbalanced checkbook.  So far the practice has had no other obvious impact except the psychological kind -- the feeling that one has helped stack the vote for or against a particular candidate.  But yes: the people need to know soon if #5 is the pre-chosen appointee.  Can the sitting Council resolve this thing by October?  Unless they do, voter turnout could be abysmal in the face of so much uncertainty. 

Some seem not to remember that the Mayor and four Council members ran together as a ticket.  I does matter if you single-shot or not.

I would conclude that in that seven-candidate election, #5 had great support and appointing him would be easy to justify because of what the voters indicated by their actions.

We can certainly tell from your statistics that the 5th place candidate did not win, and that if the 5th place candidate had more votes, "he" would have won. That candidate actually lost the election however.

IRV would result in voters listing the candidates in order of preference. That eliminates the mystery & spin that we see getting discussed about previous election data. There's no downside & we get a better idea of the will of the citizenry. Just to hazard a guess, I bet a municipality can't adopt IRV without Big Daddy State Government giving permission.

Well your choice seems to be to have 8 people--the seated council, only 7 of whom have actually been elected to date--   pick the person or to appoint someone that you know has the support of x number of voters.    Which one can you logically assume has more of a mandate and is more likely to accurately represent the current voting population of the Town of Chapel Hill? 

I think you need to see the actual election result.  If the vote totals are:Candidate 1 - 5000Candidate 2 - 4900Candidate 3 - 4850Candidate 4 - 4800Candidate 5 - 1200Then I would interpret that the voters rejected Candidate 5.  If on the other hand, Candidate 5 got 4,650 votes, then it seems like Candidate 5 should probably be appointed.


Let's be blunt. If the member who resigned had not "gamed" the timing of the resignation, then the same voters who elected him three times could have voted for five candidates.  Anita is right, someone who put themself out there as a candidate and received votes gets my support over what seven people decide. I know the law, but remember, everything they have the right to do might not be the right thing to do.  Sad that we are even in this avoidable situation.

Seems to me if we want to avoid a lengthy period down a Council member, appoint someone who has shown support from the voters by finishing fifth in an election, and get someone with similar values to Bill Strom then the Council should just appoint Cam Hill.  All of the arguments about letting the voters decide apply as much to him as whoever finishes fifth this year.I don't know if he would be interested though, haven't talked to him forever.  

In Tom's scenario, the Council would be appointing the losing candidate of the last election. What's the difference between that and appointing the 5th place finalist in the current election?

Considering that it appears that Bill Strom manipulated the system so that the other council members could pick his replacement rather than the voters of Chapel Hill, why would we want someone with values similar to his on the council? Here is another question.  I just today noticed your letter to the editor in the Sunday edition of CHN.  It says at the end "This letter was originally sent to Mayor Foy and council and is reprinted as a letter to the editor with Jensen's permission."  I'm curious how the CHN decided to print that letter.  Did the mayor or someone on council submit it to CHN?  Or are letters to mayor and council public record and the CHN searched those and decided to print that one?

Fred, the one thing that's been missing from all the speculating & hand-wringing is the real story of why Bill resigned and/or the timing. Sounds like you have the truth. Will you share it?


only Bill can state the "truth" as he wants it stated. The rest of us can only speculate.

Fred - here's what you said and it is a statement of certainty: "Let's be blunt. If the member who resigned had not "gamed" the timing of the resignation, then the same voters who elected him three times could have voted for five candidates."Until anyone actually knows the true story, they should refrain from making assumptions. 

I see nothing wrong with Fred's statement as the timing speaks for itself. And I also agree with him that what the council has the power to do is not necessarily what they should do. It is precisely BECAUSE they have the power that we are in this kettle of fish. The system was gamed because the system can be gamed, for reasons we agree with or reasons we don't. In the big scheme of things, waiting a few months to let the voters chime in has more pluses than minuses going for it. I prefer to have an election rather than a selection done for me by the council. 

We aren't talking about someone going through a private life and then everybody intruding on him.  We're talking about someone that _asked_ the people of CH to appoint him to TC.Hypothetically speaking, suppose Strom knew he was leaving and wanted to manipulate things so that council would appoint his replacement rather than voters.  How would he proceed?  He would proceed in exactly the manner that he did proceed.Hypothetically speaking, suppose Strom didn't know he was leaving and it was all completely innocent and just a coincidence.  What are the scenarios under which that could happen?  Granted, there are some, but not many.  It's unlikely an innocent scenario would invovle him coincidentally selling his house a month before.  (BTW, where did he live that last month?)  And most scenarios wouldn't involve there being no hint of hint of him leaving on the day of the deadline to add to the ballot to him publicly announcing he's resigning from council three days later. So yes, we don't _know_ what happened.  We couldn't _know_ what happened unless we had cameras follwing him 24/7 or unless somebody could read his mind.  By that definition of _know_ we couldn't question public officials on lots of things that we do question them on.We do know that he _sought_ office and that it _looks_ like he gamed the system and that he's _not_ offering any explanation.  Does he owe us an explanation?  He doesn't owe us an explanation per se but  we don't owe it to him to choose his successor in the way it appears he wanted us to if we think he tried to unfairly manipulate the situation.

"And most scenarios wouldn't involve there being no hint of him leaving on the day of the deadline and then to add to the ballot to him publicly announcing he's resigining from council three days later."CORRECTION: After a doing a bit more research, and to clear up some confusing wording above, here is the timeline.June 10:  Strom's housing sale is closed as per the Orange County website. July 14: This is the deadline for adding to the November ballot.July 29: This is the day Strom announced that he was going to resign from CH TC (effective Aug 1).  

The way the Town Council handles the appointment will provide  information on individual council members and may help decide whom to vote for in upcoming elections, for council and mayor.  Doing nothing and appointing no-one does not seem like an option.  This must be handled in a mature, responsible way, and no doubt will. Seems to me that Will Raymond deserves a shot.  He's run before and been defeated, hasn't he?  Which makes him just as qualified in that department as Cam Hill, perhaps.

1200 > 8  in my book.   I respect and value our council, but I don't think their powers of prognostication in reading voters minds is better than the direct data of voter votes.    I would think 1200 points of input (using Mark's scenario) counts for something.    How much of a mandate would  we say the council had  if 1200 people came before them and joined together to support any other single issue?   Yet 1200 votes  isn't enough data to be comfortable appointing a person to an unexpired term?    I understand all the arguments.  I respect the thinking of the people who disagree with me.   I just don't agree with their  conclusion.    Here we have a democratic process in place and moving forward  that could assure that we have a person  in that seat with measurable  community support.    If this exact same situation had happened and we lived  in Pittsboro, Raleigh,   or Durham ,  I believe we would be electing this person--and the seat could remain vacant until after the election----because their policies would use the upcoming election as the methodology to fill the vacancy.   I think more communities use the state guidelines  (which would allow us to elect the person to fill this seat)  than don't.    

Well imagine if the result were still more dramatic, like this:1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th all get about 5,000 votes and5th, 6th, 7th and 8th all get about 200 votes.It would seem that appointing the person in 5th place would really be frustrating the will of the voters, not indulging it.

instead of kicking the numbers around we ought to be lamenting the fact that so few people seem to care enough to bother to vote  Less than 7,000 CH citizens voting ought to embarrass us and cause us to ask why they don't care to participate.Three weeks ago when I shattered my wrist, I asked a nurse in the UNC ER if she lived in CH.  She said she did and I asked her if she voted in local elections.  She said she only voted in the state and federal (even year) elections.  I pressed and she said the reason was because it just didn't matter who was elected because they as a group would do as they would do.Of course I was enjoying at that point "better living through chemistry," but that's exactly what she said.

And if that hypothetical outcome became a reality, I would probably agree with your statement.   I'm not enough of a statistician to know how likely that outcome really is, and certainly that possible outcome doesn't justify making a decision  before the election.   There are so many possible outcomes that it's even more reason to wait for actual data.   I think my point is that the burden of persuasion--for me--rests with those who would want to use a process other than counting votes to make the appointment.   Your possible outcome would be a persuasive argument--for me --if it happened.     But it would have to be a remarkably skewed election for me to believe that an appointment based on criteria other than vote counts is more representative of the will of the citizens.       Thank you,  you always make me think.    :) 

In Mark's scenario 4 people went to the expense and the personal inconvenience, and possibly suffered public ridicule given some past elections, to SERVE the community. They each got more votes than someone who chose to observe from the sidelines. So why would appointing someone who chose to observe from the sidelines--who got 0 votes, didn't do any of the hard work of campaigning--be accommodating the will of the voters more than one of the 4 low vote getters? We vote for those who put themselves out to run--they are a self selected sample of the population. When the council calls for people to apply for appointment, they also create a self selected sample. The only difference is whether 7 or 7,000 people have a say in the selection.Statistically, candidates, regardless of votes received, are not rejected. They simply are not favored.

Thank you.  As usual, quicker on the thinking than I can ever hope for.  

I will got to a real life scenario, Chapel Hill 1973.  The council was then six members.  One resignation occurred in 1972, so four were being elected. The 4th place finisher was to get a two-year term.  What if there was another resignation after the filing deadline like 2009? Would we appoint the 5th place finisher.  A majority of those in this thread say yes, that certainly is their privilege. But wait, there were only five candidates for the four seats.  Under the favored scenario here, why bother having the election, everyone wins!!!! I finished second of five, the losing candidate (yes he lost, he was not just "unfavored") was Alexander Julian, who has gone on to fame and fortune as a clothing designer.

It won't be hypothetical.  We will have an election, a vote count, and an ability to appoint someone whose positions have been vetted in public, whose temperament has been publicly aired,  whose support base has been assessed, and whose opinions we at least know before he/she takes that seat.  I would rather put that person into this unexpired term--whether liberal, conservative, communist, libertarian, whatever they are----- than someone who fills out a questionnaire and gets interviewed a couple of times.   That's my opinion.  Even if the vote doesnt' go my way and I don't like the 5th place person at all,  I STILL think that's a better way  to fill this seat than any of the other options out there.   For me, it's the whole "devil you know" thing..........  and who knows?  What is the "worst"  that could happen?  You get someone on there who represents a minority opinion held by enough people in Chapel Hill who cared enough to vote to make that person finish in 5th place.  And the person has to run again in two years anyway if they want to stay on.     I don't  see that as  a problem.  thank you all for a lively discussion and a respectful venue.   I love this community--and OP--- and wish I could have more of these discussions in person. 

You can call it losing or you can call it not favored. But statistically, you can not call it being rejected. Voters do not reject any candidate. Rejection is a specific for AGAINST someone. We only for FOR or not at all. The fact that such a small percentage turn out to vote for anyone is, like Fred said, something we should all be concerned about.

I think only Pollyanna would say that John McCain was not favored in the 2008 election.

I rejected Jesse Helms repeatedly for all the good it did.

Gringrich and Co claimed to have a mandate back in 1994 when, in fact, they got only 30% of the vote. Statistics can be misused in all sorts of ways.



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