Pro-environment and Pro-business are not mutually exclusive

I am a graduate student in the UNC Planning Department (and the School of Law).  My Site Planning class tonight had guest lecturer Bruce Ballentine to talk about Glen Lennox.  About an hour into the lecture, a classmate of mine asked if Glen Lennox is an issue in the current municipal election.  In the discourse about his take on the municipal election that followed, Mr. Ballentine called several of the candidates "anti-growth, anti-business, anti-University, and anti-downtown."  He spared "three of the mayoral candidates" and DeHart, Pease, and Pohlman by name.  He portrayed the muncipal elections in a biased manner, one that I felt was purposefully misleading.  Regardless, it was an inapprorpriate forum for his stump speech. 

I raised my hand and identified myself as Penny Rich's campaign manager, and made the point that none of the candidates are anti-growth, anti-business, anti-University or anti-downtown.  I said that the media has portrayed candidates as either pro-business or pro-environment, but that the two are not mutually exclusive. I left as he mumbled about Penny being a very nice lady.  I didn't trust myself to sit quietly through the rest of the lecture.

Professors Godschalk and Gaddis probably wanted to crawl under the table and disappear, but I am fed up with this lumping of candidates into vague categories.  Anti-University?  Anti-downtown?  Come on. 


I thought I should follow up with the email from Professor Godschalk:"Despite the discussions by our guest speaker today, who got into
development politics as background for the infill project history, it
is important for you to know that your faculty does not endorse or
recommend any particular candidates in the forthcoming election."  

When I was asked at the end my presentation to the UNC planning class this Tuesday about how the local politics would likely affect a future redevelopment of Glen Lennox,  I responded with some historical background from my perspective.  I said that there was a long time anti-business, anti-growth movement in Chapel Hill that often created tension during development review for most major projects that led to very lengthy review periods often with little or no improvement and at considerable costs.  I mentioned the 7 years it took Meadowmont to be approved, and the 15 years we had been discussing Carolina North, as examples.  I did not include anyone currently running for office as being in that "anti" category.  It was purely a historical reference.  Our current tax base imbalance (83% residential) is due to years of the anti-business attitude and not due to the current Council.  In fact, most of the current Council and most of the incumbents running for reelection have been very supportive of recent development proposals, especially commercial/mixed-use development.  When asked who I was supporting in this election, I did list the candidates that I thought were the most pro-UNC, pro-downtown & pro-business.  My opinion.  Certainly not an exclusive list.  Sorry to have offended Ms. Pearson.  Her candidate, Penny Rich, would make an excellent Councilperson, as would many of the others running.  We are indeed fortunate to have such excellent choices in this election. Bruce Ballentine

I appreciate you taking the time to explain yourself, Mr. Ballentine, but with all due respect I believe your recollection is incorrect.  Although you certainly did explain all of the points that you mentioned above over the course of your lecture, the point at which I feel you crossed a line is when you were asked specifically about the current municipal election.  It was then that you said that some of the candidates are a continuation of the "anti-growth, anti-business, anti-University and anti-downtown" crowd that you had referenced throughout your lecture, but that there is a new group of candidates who are pro-business, including "three of the mayoral candidates" and several Town Council candidates.  Professor Gaddis asked you for names, at which point you listed Pease, Pohlman and DeHart. If you meant that those particular candidates are your personal favorites but that all of the candidates are excellent choices, then that was certainly not made clear.  I was taking careful notes at this point in your lecture because I was concerned that the conversation may be going in the direction that it did, in fact, go.  I only used quotations where I knew them to be correct, and do not believe I misrepresented you in my original post.

Thanks for speaking up.

BTW, Godschalk protests a bit too much. It's not like he couldn't
have changed the topic without waiting for you to respond. But maybe
there's some pedagogical merit to exposing graduates students to
horseshit. You may have seen yesterday's N&O article laying out the same tired argument as Ballentine's. Here's what I wrote to the N&O. I doubt they'll print it but it is worth taking on this kind of out-dated thinking. 
Dear Editor,

    Your October 12 front page story on the Chapel Hill elections
repeats the old, worn-out dichotomy between pro-business and
pro-environment. Contrary to your implications, the latest thinking
links the strongest local economies to communities with a
forward-thinking environmental ethic, quality neighborhoods and public
amenities, and a strong sense of place.

    The Chapel Hill incumbents who you exclude from the pro-business
column have invested in downtown, greenways, the arts, and culture.
They have recently opened a major park, transit center, public works
facility, and aquatic center, and hired the town's first ever Economic
Development Director, all in a climate of fiscal responsibility and
minimal property tax increases.

    All this occurred at a time when, as the Daily Tar Heel recently
reported, "most candidates agree that town-gown relations are the closest that they have
been in years." In Chapel Hill, the university is a major factor in
economic development. It is these close relations that have led to the
success of the Chapel Hill Downtown Partnership created by a
collaboration of the town and the university.
    I hope the News and Observer will rethink its
reliance on last century's cliches and, in the future, give credit
where credit is due. 

Isn't it interesting how this goes both ways? Maybe this will end the other false dichotomy: candidates who work or have worked in the corporate world can be as liberal and as pro-environment as the incumbents. Lumping people into categories may help with marketing, but it just doesn't work in the real world where people can have all sorts of messy beliefs and philosophies rather than fitting into nice, neat squares. 

I also am tired of the assuption that being "pro-business" means giving free reign to developers.  To call any of the candidates "anti-business" is absurd.

listening to the citizens?  If an application had actually been submitted for redevelopment of Glen Lenox (there was never even a Concept Plan reviewed) and the Town Council looked unfavorably upon it because 500 citizens signed a petition protesting it, would that Council be considered anti-business?  The buzz-words for this election seem to be that we need more commercial development in Chapel Hill to strengthen our property tax base and increase sales tax revenues, both of which will lessen the property tax burden on the residents.  And everyone seems to be supportive of, and even strongly endorse, this concept.  But no one is saying where this commercial development will or should go.  The reality is that wherever it goes it will affect some neighborhood(s) and the citizens of those neighborhoods will come out in force to tell the sitting Council why it shouldn't go there.  At that point the purportedly "pro-business" Council members will be forced to make a choice: do what the citizens of the Town as a whole support but anger a distinct (and often large) group of citizens (voters), or make adjustments to the proposed project that add costs to the developer and lessen the value but appease the neighbors being affected.  If some of the supposedly "pro-business" candidates get elected to Council (and I'm supporting one) I think they will quickly learn that being "pro-business" in Chapel Hill is a lot harder than it looks.  People in Chapel Hill want more commercial development - just not in their back yards.

But I think people are forgetting downtown. Everyone accepts its historically business nature. So perhaps we could take a small step and start there. Yes, steps will need to be taken down the road for people to support business development in other areas of town, but not downtown.  

There has been a significant minority in Chapel Hill that is focused mainly on business interests. I call them the "profits-first" activists. They often manage to get one of their own elected to the Council, often in the last slot. Two recent Council members from this minority were Pat Evans and Lee Pavao.One thing that this bloc has learned over the years is that it is imperative that lip-service be paid to perceived Chapel Hill values - environmentalism, diversity, etc. Of course, support for affordable housing is also trumpeted since it is perceived a a weakness of current polict that can be exploited. Never mind that the real estate and development community who join in the affordable housing chorus during election season probably do more to make housing affordability difficult than just about anyone else.With each election season, we see that the profits-first activists are becoming more adept at cloaking their language to seem more in line with basic and vague Chapel Hill progressive values. They have learned that this is necessary in order to have a chance at winning a seat.


If you live on Rodgers Road, Rural Orange or the Northwest Corner, you know first hand how good a game these folks talk. NIFSBY (Not In Franklin Street's Back Yard) is the dominant theme.

What in the world does "profits first" activist mean? And since you are attaching that label to two particular individuals, please give examples of what those people have done to warrant this defamatory label.

I have a completely different list from a lot of folks, but I keep it to myself. Mine might be a lot longer

I am going to try not to break my arm patting myself on the back for support a farm in Efland or buying my son's Guitars and equipment and the Carrboro Music Loft and paying cash so the banks don't get a cut. Okay, maybe it's sprained. :)Seriously, I think we are confusing anti-business with anti-soul-sucking-big-box-nightmare-waiting-to-drain-the-life-out-of-our-town-business. Try getting that in a headline. As for developers, I am sure there is one somewhere that is a good steward of the land, just like there are Olympia Snowe and Connie Morella. However, as we in the Northwest Corner of Town know, lately, the towns seems to think that putting Homeless Shelters near parks (really bad idea - folks in the shelter - good - people kicked out - sleeping in front of the Aquatics Center under that nice cover: bad), huge apartment complexes on roads Council refused to widen and a Walgreens on the same road (I think) are all good developments. Seriously, a Walgreens - I would rather have a Wal-mart - it's less tacky.The bottom line here is that small businesses don't usually tear down old buildings (Historic Preservation anyone), don't usually require large parking lots (Cineplex 17s for example) and don't usually create massive holes when they move and prevent competition from coming in (Wal-Mart Hillsborough).  I am pretty sure that everyone supports local business. If someone wants to put a low-impact business in my back yard, I am all for it. But this idea that we have to have a Wal-Mart, Gap (that went real well, didn't it) or whatever the big business of the month is in our backyard is just crazy.So I am voting for  anti-soul-sucking-big-box-nightmare-waiting-to-drain-the-life-out-of-our-town-business-not-locating-Homeless-Shelters-near-parks-or-large-apartment-complexes-on-streets-you-refuse-to-widen-by-intersections-that-are-hazardous-to-your-health-candidates. Whenever you have the guts to stand up and announce yourselves. I know your lawyer said you can't say anything, but unless your Matt Cz. you aren't on the Planning Board and have a right - maybe a duty - (as an elected-official to make a principled stand against a really bad idea - even Chris Moran stated to the Chapel Hill News Editor that the people not allowed in the Shelter were the town's issue - i.e. they will be living in Homestead Park). Better yet, I will vote for the person who has the guts to stop pretending this is a national policy election and instead focus on real local issues - not abstract ideals masking an intent to bring us unbridled growth everywhere but downtown (where it's needed). So far, that candidate doesn't seem to exist.

Interesting to note that the Orange County Democratic Party Chair, Jim White, addressed this same point - "Pro-environment and Pro-business are not mutually exclusive" - this morning at the Orange County Democratic Party Legislative Update Breakfast.

from the OCDP chair was to describe the so called "Anti-business" talk as "well funded noise". So true.

Penny, I wasn't convinced yet to vote against you, but that'll do it.  You really think a development process that even Ed Harrison calls a crapshoot can be called anything but anti-business?  Business needs predictability.  I work for IBM, so I have no funding involved in local development decisions, but count me in the noise.  There clearly is an anti-business bias in the majority of the current council.

I respectfully disagree. 

"There clearly is an anti-business bias in the majority of the current council."jcb,Would it surprise you to know that in the last five years of the 43 development projects that have been reviewed by the Town Council and/or Planning Board the number of applications that were denied is exactly - ONE?  And that was a re-zoning.  I think any outsider to Chapel Hill upon hearing that statistic would be inclined to think that perhaps this Council is pro-business since virtually nothing gets denied.  If you want to characterize the existing Council as anti-business it might be useful if you could provide some data to back that up.

Mr. C’s comment seems a bit simple to me. Does his conclusion include projects withdrawn before reaching council or planning board (after considerable expense) because of likely conditions that would make the project unfeasible? Does it include project applicants who finished the application process, but again, had projects approved with conditions too onerous to make them reasonable? Or the countless small projects that were never filed because of a daunting approval process beyond the means of individualcitizens or small businesses? Does his answer include consideration of how the costly approval process affects final project costs, meaning rents are higher, affordability further out of reach. I wonder, too, if Mr. C has direct experience taking a project through a municipal approval process? The review processes are under the direct control of the council and boards.jack haggerty

The numbers I provided were based on applications submitted.  it
obviously does not include projects that applicants did not submit
because of perceived costs of carrying an application through.  Many of
the "annoying" stipulations that Council requires of developers are the
result of concerns expressed by the citizens of Chapel Hill (who
elected the Council in the first place).  Developers are not always
citizens of Chapel Hill nor do they always have the best interests of
the citizens at heart.  For instance, when a traffic impact analysis
shows that a new project is going to have a significant impact upon
traffic flow at neighboring intersections, and the citizens of affected
neighborhoods raise this concern, why shouldn't the Council require the
developer to use the lowest number of parking spaces feasible?  When a
proposed development is going to remove a significant number of
specimen trees and Chapel Hill citizens have repeatedly said that one
of the things they truly value about our Town is its tree canopy, why
shouldn't Council require a developer to demonstrate how they are
mitigating tree loss as much as possible?  When a developer is going to
build a project why shouldn't Council require the developer to build
the infrastructure (sidewalks, turn-lanes) to make that development as
accessible as possible without making the Town bear the costs for a
private project?

 Many, if not most, of the so-called onerous stipulations that some
have suggested the Council imposes on developers are the result of the
Council listening to its citizens' concerns.  I've heard suggestions
that what Chapel Hill needs is something like a New Hope Common or a
Patterson Place because then Chapel Hill could be raking in all the
revenue that is going to Durham.  But I have yet to hear anyone say
where such a commercial/retail development might occur without incurring
the resistance of existing neighborhoods.  Criticizing the existing
Council as being anti-business is easy without providing specific
examples and for challengers to tout themselves as pro-business is
equally easy without them providing specific examples of what they
would do differently that would qualify as being pro-business.  Chapel
Hill citizens and voters have a right to know - exactly what would they
do differently?  And not in a few quick soundbites - some specific examples.

I'll give you a couple of points George. Yes, the town should be responsive to citizens, the process should be fair for all involved. Let me also give you a couple of examples:1) Several years ago I remember sitting in a Community Design Commission meeting at 11:00 PM and listening to the members debate whether they liked the "acorn" design on the street lights in a certain development or if they (the CDC) would rather have something else. This was a relatively small project. The CDC members were volunteering their time. The architects weren't.2) In the same meeting, we presented a project. To this day I remember one CDC member on the far right criticizing the color of our roof selection (which was a certain color because of passive solar and energy efficiency reasons), saying, "I'm thinking this should be more of a forest green." Our explanation fell on deaf ears. We finally had to settle for a compromise color. To make matters worse, the approval process took so long, the matching doors and windows we ordered no longer came in that particular color. We were told by building inspectors that if we substituted something else, we wouldn't get a CO if the color swatch was off by too much, so we had to SPECIAL ORDER the windows and doors, to great cost and delay. 3) People working on the same project also were told by a council member that if we put a fence along our property line behind that council member's house, we would have a very, very, very hard time getting a CO, in fact, we would not get one. Guess what happened...So, yes, the development process does impact projects in Chapel Hill. It is insane to say that all development is good. Clearly, it is not. The town does need to be responsive to its citizens. It has a legitimate regulatory role and sometimes what the town does improves outcomes for citizens AND for building projects. But it is equally insane to say that Chapel Hill is not to blame for the picklement in which we find ourselves. It is very expensive to build in Chapel Hill. If you are running a small operation, you need a lot of money. 

Barbara,I would be the first to agree that it's not perfect.  But I can also tell you that on numerous times, at developers' request, the CDC has set up sub-committees to meet with the developers in-between the reqularly-scheduled monthly meetings so that the developer wouldn't lose a month finalizing changes.  I've also met with developers prior to them submitting a project because they wanted my opinion on it before they even submitted anything.  The CDC has met with developers in unscheduled meetings to provide "courtesy" reviews to facilitate the process.  It certainly isn't perfect and it certainly has room for improvement but I also doubt that the citizens of Chapel Hill would welcome the kind of development that Durham has been approving out by you on Ephesus and Pope Roads. Do you think Chapel Hillians would welcome those kinds of projects? - ones that clear-grade everything and add a few trees later or walled-, gated- communities.

I quite agree with you that we don't want clear-grades sites or walled, gated communities, but I'm not talking about that. I agree that the town has a bona fide regulatory role and citizen input is part of that process. I agree that with the project I was working on, some of the town's stipulations made things better for neighbors and for the project. Nor do I think that every part of the current regulatory process is capricious. So we agree on that.  However, you point out another of my qualms with the status quo. Good for you for meeting (in your capacity as a member of the CDC) with developers ahead of time if they so request. I am not a developer by training or design, I just happened to be part of a small project during the course of which I discovered that the Chapel Hill regulatory process was full of "unwritten" rules that some people know and that others don't and that it matters who you know. If people played by the written rules, e.g., extant zoning and building codes, the process would be very straight forward, but it is not. The pros already know this and they know how to mitigate. No one ever told us that we should meet with a particular CDC member before the meeting. The permitting process needs to be fair and timely. When it is not, it hurts small and mid-sized organizations and businesses more than larger ones. The smaller groups can't afford to pay the architect to attend another meeting from 7 PM to 1 AM.   I applaud the countless volunteer hours you and others must have given the town. I believe the members do what they do for the greater good, not because they are anti-business. And I like trees! But the system needs an overhaul. It may look neutral to those who designed it, but as it is currently practiced, it ends up being quite arbitrary and capricious. 

Barbara,Based on your comments I would also agree that the system needs to be improved and that the system can work better. I never said it didn't.  All I'm saying is that I don't agree that the system is completely broken and needs a complete overall.  I believe it needs to be reviewed and changed/improved where necessary but I don't believe we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Just MHO.

I agree with your conclusion that the system needs to be reviewed and changed/improved where necessary. Nor am I'm asking to throw the baby out with the bathwater. No, no,no.  I just think that at this point in time, given the economy that we have and the issues our community faces, we need diverse voices on the council, not a group of hardworking folks who generally see things the same way and vote as one block. We need some people who will question, albeit respectfully. That is the only way we will get a tiny bit of change. Just MHO.  :)

Rather than rehash my ideas, here's a a post I wrote last year about the silliness of calling Chapel hill "anti-business."

I often hear leaders of the Chamber of Commerce complain that Chapel Hill is too hostile to economic development. That we are putting too many restrictions on development, raising taxes too much, or just generally being anti-business. I beg to differ. 

Businesses are clamoring to get into our community, even in spite of these supposedly-onerous restrictions people like to complain about. Businesses are already very attracted to Chapel Hill because of there are so many potential customers here.  It's no accident that people with resources – people who have lots of options – choose to be in Orange County.  It's largely because of the Town governments' work to make sure that development is done in a way that serves the long-term interests of the community (and not just the short-term interests of businesses), that so many people want to live, work, study and therefore spend money here.

Orange County has an economy and a downtown that is the envy of towns across North Carolina. Of course we have the University to thank for many of these benefits, but Chapel Hill is much more than an accessory to the campus. In fact, this thriving community is a large part of what attracts people to come to UNC-Chapel Hill in the first place.

Our local governments have worked hard to protect our quality of life by providing the essential infrastructure and amenities that make this such a wonderful place to live. Wonder why nearby communities are full of traffic jams and strip malls when Chapel Hill and Carrboro have trees and a functioning downtown?  It's called smart planning and we've been doing it since before it was cool.  It's what makes approving new developments take so long, and I think that time and money is well-spent.  I wouldn't want it any other way.

I think we need to be broader; it's about more than development.  Attitude, atmosphere and approach causes a community to be seen as pro-business.  We can debate the so-called anti-business claims forever, but it makes more sense to examine what will make us seen as pro-business.  This DOES NOT MEAN that the Town has no standards or allows anything to be approved.To me it's about what we do to embrace, to accommodate, and to facilitate. We have made great strides with UNC relationship wise, why can't we do it with our diverse business community all over town?  Talk to them and learn the issues that they have and what they think could help.An aspect of the problem, in my opinion, is the negativity and near hostility some like Ruby and Mark M. seem to direct towards our Chamber.  Here is an organization working hard to make our community even better, so why treat them as an enemy?

I notice no one seems to be accusing anyone of being "anti-environment," even if there is worry about the impact of certain actions by developers or even the Council -- which is probably to avoid seeming both too negative and too broadly generalizing.  Why isn't the same restraint used with respect to "anti-business" phrasing?

Candidate JonDeHart was asked by a citizen if he supported the rural buffer. He replied that he wasn't sure & that he'd have to learn more about it.

Do we still have one? Was it the vision of our planners that the rural buffer would be filled with 500,000 to 750,000 houses just outside of Carrboro and Chapel Hill to evade local taxes?Doesn't quite meet my measure of rural. I always envisioned trees and small family farms. 

And how much did it cost the applicants ? Most don't bother going through the process because they can not afford the time or money . The word is arduous.  That is the one word that I keep hearing when talking to people who have been through the "process."  It is a not a common word .  See Webster's online dictionary .

Jon,How about some specifics?  Would you cut down the number of public hearings?  Would you eliminate the requirement for a traffic impact analysis?  Would you eliminate the requirement for a stormwater analysis?  Tell us (with some specifics please) what you're going to do differently if elected?  BTW, have you shortened the mortgage review process lately or are you being more cautious now that you can see the effects of "lightened" regulatory banking processes?

I have some ideas , would be glad to discuss them with you. As you have served the Town with many years of service , and it is appreciated .   The first thing is to compare to similar towns , study, develop best practices and apply them. The solutions would take time and planning .  I hope you didn't take it personally, I know you have done your best to serve.  

I don't believe you have to be pro-development to be pro-business. I think they are different things. This town is very pro-development. 

Jon,I certainly haven't taken anything personally.  As long as no one attacks my wife or dogs I'm OK with any of these discussions or posts.  But why share your ideas with only me?  The point I've been trying to make (and I certainly didn't mean to single you out) is that it is time to stop labeling people "pro-business" or "anti-business", to stop pointing out problems (because I think Chapel Hillians have a pretty good idea by now of what they are) and to begin talking about specific solutions to those problems.  I know that the Community Visioning Task Force is expected (hoped) to develop recommendations that might begin to address at least some of the issues but, in truth, should'nt an election be a time for EVERYONE to be discussing solutions?

does he think is funding those of us who believe the noise? As a precinct chair, I'm very sorry to hear the party chair discounting a large and important constituency of this county.


I think my characterization of Jim's speech is being misunderstood.  Jim was talking about the Democratic Party in general.  He said that the Democratic Party is the true party of business and Pres. Obama's efforts to reduce the cost of providing health coverage to employees is a huge benefit to employERS as well as employEES.  That is pro-business and it is the position of the Democratic Party.I did not take his speech to be expressing much of anything about any local non-partisan race.

Come to think of it, it seems that ya'll's strong reaction to Jim's comments might reveal a lot about the Chapel Hill Mayor's race.

The point of my talk at the Democratic breakfast this morning was not
to discount any constituency in the county, in fact it was the exact
opposite.  I talked about how there is a sterotype that traditional
Democratic positions -- supporting a strong environment, making
healthcare affordable, standing up for working people (and that
includes business owners) -- are  "anti-business."  While I
don't recall the "well-funded noise" comment,  it would have been referring to the tired meme that Republicans are the party of
business.  My point, which was echoed by other speakers, was that
Democrats in this and future elections need to aggressively fight the perception that being
pro-environment and taking other traditionally Democratic positions and being pro-business are somehow mutually exclusive.  Jim White
Chair, Orange County Democratic Party

For those of us who are registered in neither party, it comes across like you want to make this election about party positions.  There is more than anecdotal evidence that some actions by our Council have not been business friendly. And if it's only perception, they do matter.Anti-business and pro-business may be a poor dichotomy for our situation, but to ignore the business that have left town and those we decline to come here --- for whatever reasons is to ignore what we must do to solve or economic challenges. It is not "well funded noise," it is the growing sound of discontent by those footing the bill. Please get this local party divide out of it and see it for what it is.

starts tomorrow

Jim, Your speech was spot on. The morning was a reminder to me that we do need to let people know that pro-environment and pro-business is our future. We need to use our resources and brilliance in developing and welcoming "green business" into our community. Thank you for your well thought out words and for a wonderful gathering of caring elected officials. It was a great way to spend a Saturday morning in Chapel Hill.

I am both .

Thank you for your explanation Jim. Looking back at my notes I see that David Price state the quote I attributed to you. 

Was his context what labels are applied to the national parties, or was it CH specific?Funny but I don't see much of a two-party debate in our Towns; another reason why we should avoid the party labels in our non-partisan elections.

and I agree with you Fred. We shouldn't be using labels period. One more thing."Yankees" 

I am the only "Pro Business" candidate, as labeled by the  News and Observer who is also a registered Democrat . I believe you can be both . I worked on the  campaigns of Terry Sanford, Jim Hunt and Bob Jordan . I consider all of them to be pro business as well . For those who do not know, we would not have RTP without the vision of people like Terry Sanford . That is big business in my opinion . Contrary  to rumours that I have been hearing, I did not register as a "D" at 18 , so I could run for Chapel Hill Town Council at 42.

Thanks for clarifying what you said yesterday Jim. The term "anti-business" may be being used to mean different things. Some people seem to think it references development policies only. For me, it means putting roadblocks in the way of new businesses moving into town or starting up in existing facilities. And if not actual roadblocks, then at least not being facilitative and/or welcoming. I've had several friends tell me that there is so much red tape that it literally takes years to start a business (with a facility renovation) in Chapel Hill. In part that red tape is due to incomplete information which has caused them to miss steps in the process. And each misstep delays the opening and adds to start up costs. Then there are the policies that create challenges for existing businesses. I don't think this particular take on the "anti-business" climate is the result of direction action taken by elected officials. But I attribute the failure to acknowledge/fix the bureaucratic/administrative problems to the lack of leadership by the council. In addition to directing staff to simplify the process of starting a new business in Chapel Hill, the council could have taken a leadership role in solving the problems created by absentee landlords in downtown. They did take a first step in resolving the ongoing parking fiasco by setting up a task force to review the problem. But have any of those suggestions been implemented? I haven't seen any new signage......And finally, there's the whole mixed use thing. There does appear to be wholesale acknowledgement by this year's candidates that the balance of residential and commercial is out of whack. But how does encouraging additional mixed use development create a better balance when it's adding more residential? At the very least, the council needs to be looking at the challenges faced by existing businesses in Meadowmont and Southern Village and revisiting any policy positions (such as signage for Meadowmont) to determine if those policies are having unintended consequences. None of these are trivial issues. But neither are they gargantuan roadblocks. They just need the attention of leadership--attention that has been directed to other concerns for the past several years.

While clearly, a local economy has to be much more than residents, utilities, and no businesses, let's remember that - notably in the context of an election - money does equal power, particularly in the absence of voter-directed reins."Anti-business" is at best a misnomer, as Steve Wells illustrated. Much depends on what kind of business, what impact it will have on the community and environment, and where the proceeds will go.   Being "pro-business" without regard for those questions is the natural extension of exerting the power of moneyed resources to run - often roughshod - over local will.  Just because some part of the profit will be taxed, that is not in and of itself sufficient justification for every enterprise.  That should be obvious.Some of the council actions in recent history have been, shall we say, arcane, but so have many of the developers' proposals and actions.  The difference is, we elected the council members; unlike developers and business owners, they are accountable to us.  That's the power they have that, ostensibly, balances the power wielded by moneyed interests......which is why calling an elected official or a candidate "anti-business" isn't necessarily an automatic smear, even if it is enormously simplistic and prejudicial.  But of course, that "well funded noise" comes from those who have mastered the art of public blustering  -- equivalent to "they refuse to say publicly when they stopped beating their wives!"



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