Sierra Club Candiate Forum 6/9/04

Guest Post by Joe Capowski

The Sierra Club will sponsor the first forum for candidates for Orange County Commissioners tomorrow night (Weds) at 7pm at Chapel Hill Town Hall. It will be televised live on cable channel 18 in Chapel Hill and on corresponding channels in the rest of the towns and county. Members of the audience will have the opportunity to submit questions, so please come. Also, all seven candidates have indicated that they will participate.



My wife and I attended the Sierra Club forum, and we were impressed with the discussion. I am always pleased to see the commitment on the part of all candidates to participating in such dialogue. They each have great demand on their personal time, so their involvement is impressive.

So let's drop the car discussion and get back to the issues so we all can make informed decisions on July 20, O.K.?

The vehicle question is curious because of Margaret Brown's response. Why say you drive a pickup when your Lincoln is in the parking lot? Why not be totally honest and admit to both vehicles? Reminds me of NOT admitting you found your speech on the internet and lying saying that you wrote it. But in Orange County LYING is an honest mistake. It is a issue of ethics not fuel efficiency.

I wouldn't critize anyone for what car they drive. Actually driving a older car such as Commissioner Brown does is good for the environment. Older cars put off more carbon dixoide which helps the trees grow at a much faster pace.

I thought this site wa s about politics in Orange county. What orange county has done to protect the water isn't much different than any other surrounding counties. Some here are boasting about Comm. Brown work about protecting the water. Could anyone enlighten exactly what she has done? Really would like to know.

Affordable housing is Orange County!! Everything the commissioners have done regarding development does not allow for the private enterprise to develop affordable housing. CH and the county do some affordable housing using public money. CH also makes a developer put some cheaper units and then its passed.

Any future houses in Orange County will not be affordable by the average worker. Bingo! that could be the goal.


Dear Watching,

Off the top of my head, I know that Commissioner Brown was extremely active in establishing Unversity Lake as an officially protected watershed. 20+ years ago, when that area was threatened by irresponsible development, the idea of watershed protection hadn't caught on yet in NC. After Margaret and others pushed for extensive research on the drinking water supply, they succeeded in having University Lake designated as a protected watershed--I believe it was the first of its kind in NC. Her efforts to protect water started long before her tenure as commissioner.

What has the County and OWASA NOT done to supposely protect the water supply in southern Orange?

A protected watershed seems like a solid accomplishment to me.

Informed Voter and F.L> (maybe the same person)

Actually I didn't think the University lake wtaershed was done until sometime in the 90's. I think it's a good idea to have a protected watershed.

Isn't it at least 5 acres or more? You say Comm. Brown is very active in this. I thought Comm. Brown lived in the watershed area.

If you check ,I think several years ago Comm. Brown had the owner of her property divide their land and create a little over a 2 acre lot off their property and sold to The Browns. Please let me know if this is inncorrect info. I'm just wondering why a 2 acre lot while evrything else is a 5 acre lot size.


Not the same person, but thanks for the compliment.

The choice of car opens up an interesting angle on the candidates - how their personal choices reflect an understanding of environmentalism - but it hardly gives anyone enough information to pass judgment.

Somebody could own a hybrid car, drive it to their beach house twice a month while their lawn sprinkler sytem is spraying while it rains and their water heater at both houses keeps heating water whether anyone uses it or not and their enrgy-hogging freezer is stocked with steaks that came from a ranch out west that uses incredible amounts of water from the next watershed over, their groceries come from California and Mexico, and their clothes are made in Indonesia by somebody making 30 cents a day.

And somebody could own an old gas hog that they drive less than a hundred miles per week, while they work at home and eat a lot of food out of their own garden and buy the rest from local growers while their solar water heater sits on their modest little house that only has compact flourescent bulbs in it and doesn't use a mechanical air conditioning system, and the only computer they have is a laptop.

Well, IV, apparently a lot of people can afford to buy $20,000+ automobiles, based on the most casual of observations of Chapel Hill/Carrboro parking lots. I don't say that as criticism of any of the commissioner candidates. And it is definitely simplistic to decide how to vote based upon the candidate's car.

However, I do think we should all be more conscious of the impact of our decisions. I am definitely looking at this issue myself because I drive 20 MPG cars. But get real, IV, you don't have to buy a hybrid car (or even a new car) in order to improve your fuel efficiency. My friend Matt just bought an early 1990's Nissan in order to double his miles per gallon from 16 to 32. Total cost: $1,500.

Also, we can make choices about where we live and where we work - although of course, some of us have more choice than others either because of the housing we can afford, or because of the type of work we do.

So by driving up manufacturing of cars and creating more demand we help the environment? Interesting. Interesting in the way that people think cutting taxes stimulates the economy.

How many cars from 1983 are on the road today? How many cars have each candidate been through since 1983? How many of these are still on the road? What do you drive? How many cars have you been through since 1983? I am waiting for hybrids to get better - and they are improving, but they are not there yet. I test drove them; and they are not there yet. Sorry if you think only people who can afford new cars should be commissioners. Better her in that Lincoln than her in a new minivan, or a new SUV, or a new Lexus.

So Ms. Brown should make visible environmental "statements" instead of doing the work she's been doing for this county? That's emphasizing style over substance; it seems the Sierra Club can see that she is a friend to the environment. Making her commitment to the enviroment hinge on her car is absurd, and is designed to distract from her solid record on the environment.

Cars that have value get reused and recycled... so NO

I completely disagree...

A stronger environmental statement is to trade in a gas guzzler for a Hybrid.

Cars that work don't go to land fill or scrap yards -- if they drive they will be resold.. don't kid yourself...

creating new demand for hybrids DOES help create a market and ensure manufacturing numbers for the next year are increased eventually becoming mass produced by everyone AND better for the environment. Your analogy is OFF. Only goods that will not be used by someone else after your done with them would apply..Not Cars...

Informed CarDealer-

As I have mentioned, very few people are financially able to drive a hybrid car. It is patently elitist to suggest that anyone who considers himself an environmentalist "trade in" his car for a hybrid. A Prius costs over $20,000. Hybrid Civics start at $19,650. Only people with impressively valuable "gas guzzlers" could simply exchange their vehicles for one of these more fuel efficient options.

I agree with "FL" - how many cars have YOU run through since 1983? You know, they don't magically biodegrade when you replace them. I would say hanging onto ONE car since 1983 beats the heck out of getting a new one every three years, like some "environmentalists" do...

Also - please check your endorsements. Odd that this election has become similar to the national one - "merger" as the faux-issue panic word being tossed in to scare and distract from real issues, like "terrorism" on the national front - with so many otherwise unelectable Republicans dotting the endorsement lists for these new candidates...oh look, terrorism has reared its head just above this remark, so maybe we will be treated to that nonissue here as well.

And as to Watching's comments - attacking Margaret Brown on the environment is insane. There are many elected officials who do not care about water...look to Washington if you don't think I am right. Bush and his cronies have gutted protections for water. In this era, it's important to say you will protect these things - and Ms. Brown has said so and has done so - unlike many.

For the record, the Sierra Club endorsed Pam Hemminger and Margaret Brown for County Commissioner.

FYI Pam Hemminger has been endorsed by the Sierra Club!!!!!!!!!!

Just interested in how Margaret brown has done anything more than any average person would do in protecting the water supply.I don't know of anyone except terrorist that would not want to protect our water supply.Also I noticed margaret Brown was one of the first to brag about the county selecting the Waterstone site for the Durham Community College. I believe if you check back on Margaret Brown's comments about the waterstone site she had lamblasted The Town of Hillsborough for even considering that site for any kind of development. Oh I forget that its real near election time. Why can't candidates be consistent?


Today is my first visit to this site, and I am admittedly disappointed to see that the level of discourse involves snide comments on how long one of our elected officials has been driving her "boat." The number of people who are financially able to run out and pick up a hybrid car (or any new car for that matter) is small, but not nearly as small as the number of people who are willing to invest years of time and energy working to preserve green space and protect the water supply for this county. Margaret Brown may not be a member of the former group, but she is unquestionably a member of the latter. I can imagine that the challengers in this race would prefer that we focus on what kind of cars the candidates drive because it is a simplistic way to divert attention from the extensive knowledge and committment demonstrated by the experienced candidates.

Moses Drove and Drives a HUGE Chevy Tahoe.

As far as I know he doesn't live on a Farm or have small kids to transport.

The purchase of choice for 7'1' 300 lb basketball player Shaq.

I am sure JOHN MUIR will come back from the dead if they ever endorsed him. Although, maybe the fact that John Muir hiked around Lake Tahoe is the inspiration for the purchase of a Chevy Tahoe - ya think?

Margaret Brown still driving that 1983 Lincoln tank. She was driving that back in 1996 when she was first elected.

Gloria, indeed the question of what car did you drive here tonight was very interesting. I hope and believe the automotive industry is in transition and is listening to consumer demand for hybrid vehicles. Perhaps the incumbent in the 2002 Chevy Tahoe may trade-in someday for a hybrid Ford Escape, if size is the issue. Costs of hybrids are perhaps an issue as brought up by one candidate, although one can hop into a hybrid Honda Civic or Toyota Prius for 22K or less. Currently lengthy waiting lists exist at area dealers for Toyota Prius, and a waiting list for the new hybrid Honda Accord has begun at the local Honda dealer--the dealer said the list is growing and the car is not expected to come out till the fall, and no one even knows what it looks like yet! People are putting $1000 down to be on the waiting list for a hybrid Honda Accord, and they don't even know exactly how much the car will cost! I'm not sure why the auto industry doesn't take advantage of this demand and figure out how to churn out more hybrid vehicles.

Margaret "Enviro" Brown drives a 1983 Lincoln, regardless of what she may have driven to the Sierra Club forum . . .

Dear watchedit

I did not find the incumbents to have any particular advantage on how educated or senstive they were on the envirnoment issues than at least two of the Democratic challengers. In fact, I thought that Sierra club member - Pat Heminger to be far and away more educated on environment issues than either of the incumbents.

I think the incumbent's continued defensive position on the Socceer complex to be very interesting. How does one talk about the need to reduce single car traffic and smart growth while at the same time build a socceer park 18 miles away from the closest dense development.

I thought the question about "what did you drive to be very interesting". One incumbent stated that he drove 2002 Chevy Tahoe. The other incumbent stated that she drove a pickup. Yet, when I saw the other incumbent drive into the parking lot last night, the pickup appeared to me to look a lot like a Lincoln Continental. But, I drive a used Nissan, so I guess I don't know cars. But, to me neither of the incumbent's cars are particularly environmentally friendly.

Terri's question is a very interesting one with a relatively simple answer and a more complex one. It gets to the issue of carrying capacity - a concept and phrase that needs to be in the forefront of local discussion & decision-making.

In general, most elected officials don't know as much as they should about the water supply situation for our community. The information is available due to very comprehensive research and demand projection work done by OWASA.

I can understand your dismay at Terri's question not being asked. Water issues had been addressed in prior questions, but yes, did not center on a new reservoir. It's just too bad. Can you let the conspiracy theory rest in your mind??? Get over it. There is none. End of story. There will be other forums. Can you not look to the ISSUES of the forum and how good the environmental dialogue was? I would hate to see this thread about the forum be tied up with complaining about one question not being asked. I'm sure there were other questions that didn't make it to the podium.

How do people feel about the strength and weaknesses of the candidates as they presented last night. Should a candidate come to a sierra club forum and not be fully educated in all of the issues confronting the voters? Or is this just a case of incumbent advantage?

Terri's question was not a duplication of any other question.

Are you saying it is "off base or not factual in content"?

What do you mean by "discrediting anyone's attempt at a question"?

There was plenty of time for more questions, the forum ended early. In the town council forum last year the Sierra Club let audience members ask their own unfiltered questions.

And what are the repeated references to conspiracy theories?

Other forums will be held addressing all issues at hand. I agree, no conspiracy theory and seemingly no intent to discredit anyone's attempt at a question. I would think that questions would be submitted and reviewed by someone to ensure there were no duplications of issues to discuss, or to make sure that no questions were off-base or not factual in content. I would guess those holding the forum had to make quick decisions on a few questions to ask the candidates. I wouldn't expect everyone's questions to be asked.

Joe did a FANTASTIC job at this forum. What a great discussion of the environmental future of Orange County. Hopefully we'll see more of these topics expanded upon by the candidates in the next month.

Give Joe a break.

there was no conspiracy theory or anything like that.

the questions ranged a lot of good and topical issues - even ones that painted the incumbents in not so great a light. With at least 4 that I can recall about water issues.

The soccer field exchange was grrrreeaattt!

Give me a break. What reference is there to a conspiracy?

I stated the facts, what exactly are you disputing?

Will it be on WCHL? Will it be rebroadcast for those of us who have to miss it?

We informed WCHL about the forum 3 weeks ago. Last night

I spoke with Jeff Hamlin -- he said that they were planning to

"cover" the forum. I don't know what that means exactly.

In the past they have broadcast other forums live.

Ron or Eleanor, are you there?

My wife Terri Tyson attended the Sierra Club forum this evening. She submitted a question for the county commissioner candidates to Bernadette Pelissier. The question was NOT asked. After the moderator Joe Capowski asked all the questions

he had been given by Bernadette, he asked Bernadette whether there were any more questions

from the audience, she said "no". Terri raised her hand and said that her question had not been asked.

After the forum Terri asked Joe why he had not received her question, he said that the questions had been "filtered" by Bernadette. Terri then confronted Bernadette who said that other questions on water had been asked. Terri said that HER question had NOT been asked. Terri said she had come out to ask a question, and this was not fair.

Why is the public invited to a forum and invited to submit questions which are then not asked?

The Sierra Club should be forthright about this and say that only questions they approve will be asked.

See above, Joe says that audience members "would have the opportunity to submit

questions", doesn't this imply that the questions would be asked?

Here is the question Terri Tyson submitted:

"I am very concerned about the water resources that are available for the citizens of Orange County.

Since the drought of '02 we have had substantial growth, more sprinkler systems & Carolina North will soon become a major water consumer. What are your plans & what year will we need another

reservoir? Can we really wait until the 2030's?

Do you think our elected officials are giving this issue the attention that it deserves?"


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