What Will It All Mean?

Today is the day. Orange County Democrat and Unaffiliated voters will decide who our next two County Commissioners are. While there is a general election in November, it is perfunctory in Orange County.

While no one can know just how this race will end, I think I can see that there are realistically only three main possibilities. Here's what they are and what they will mean:

Alternative 1: Valerie Foushee and Pam Hemminger win
I think it is pretty clear what this scenario will mean. Orange County voters are a lot better at understanding elections than we necessarily give them credit for. It may well be that NoMerger.org correctly understands that there is a deep visceral reaction against school merger out there. If Val and Pam win then there is just about no way to look at it other than that the County's voters don't want merger. While Moses and Margaret have their detractors for other reasons, merger will be the only reason that anyone will remember for their undoing.

Alternative 2: Margaret Brown and Valerie Foushee win
Margaret and Val could win simply because Pam does not have the type of experience in office that Valerie Foushee does. Val has been considered (by most of the pundits) the front runner as between the challengers. If only one of the challengers gets elected, it seems like it will be Val. If Val and Margaret win, then it will speak powerfully about anti-merger sentiments in the County, but it will not really close the door to merger. Moses has been an outspoken advocate for merger and Margaret has not. Her re-election will probably signal that voters are willing to hear her out on the need to look at the issue. Still, don't look for a merged school system anytime soon in this scenario.

Alternative 3: Margaret Brown and Moses Carey win
There will definitely be no joy in Mudville if the migthy Val strikes out. Notwithstanding all of the sniping (and all of the more legitimate criticism) we have seen on OrangePolitics.org, it could easily be that the incumbents will get re-elected. If that is the case, it will be for 3 reasons:

a) Mostly Democratic Party activists turned out and a lot of Democratic party activists do not care for NoMerger.org and its tactics. Going after two Democratic party stalwarts is not the way to win over those who are active in the Party. Furthermore, encouraging Republicans to re-register as Democrats was a bad strategy to advocate publicly. Even though Pam and Val have run clean campaigns and are both loyal Democrats, their supporters at NoMerger.org have been a bit insensitive to the fact that the Democratic Primary is a Democratic Party event. Beyond that, while NoMerger.org clearly had to go after Moses Carey, they did not have to go after Margaret Brown. No matter what Mark Peters says, Margaret is really just saying that it is okay to discuss and study the issue. In an education-oriented community, academic liberty is important. NoMerger.org comes across as spiteful and almost totalitarian for its attacks on Margaret. All she said was that we should look at it. Please do not bother pointing out that Margaret once said "Moses I don't really disagree with you about this." That one statement proves nothing.

b) NoMerger.org has struggled valliantly to mobilize its supporters (and they have many), but simply hasn't been active in elections in the past. Mark Peters' lack of experience with such matters is no sort of flaw in him, but it does mean that NoMerger.org spent time on activities that were unlikely to affect the outcome of the race. For example, someone came through suburban Carrboro and put a scrolled up crinkled, black and white, text-only flyer on every mailbox. Without elaborating in excessive detail, you need only drive through suburban Carrboro this morning to see how ineffective that strategy really is. Very few people indeed are going to look at that flyer and still fewer will act because of it.

c) Moses and Margaret have done a lot for Orange County. If they get re-elected, then it will be in significant part because merger is not the only issue. A lot of people appreciate what Margaret has done for open space and development regulation in Orange County. Moses has been a real advocate for low-income families through his support of low-income healthcare, vocational training and his advocacy for affordable housing and DSS. The voters are not stupid and though most of them do not read the papers everyday, they do know Margaret and Moses by their past actions. Val and even more so Pam are simply unknown to them and while merger is an important issue, Val and Pam have not really communicated their positions on any other issue. Please do not email me to point out that Pam and Val have many other issues. I know they do, but the question is whether Pam and Val have communicated the point in a way that the voters can clearly understand. We'll see.

In the end, turning the race into a referendum on merger may turn out to be a real mistake. Having known Pam and Val both for several years, I am certain that they would have had many great ideas to put out there in the electoral marketplace, but merger has stifled discussion of any issue. That is, Val and Pam do have other issues and they are really good issues, but no one is discussing them.

And that means that the voters haven't gotten the real message that these two candidates have to offer.

So Val and Pam have got to hope that this race really does become a referendum on merger AND that the voters want to vote merger down.

And that is a pity, because I am sure that Pam and Val each had more interesting ideas than that to offer.




Thanks for the repy. That's great work. Thanks for your efforts on this community investment.

By the way, OWASA is now working with the school system to come up with an overall water savings plan for the schools, including an educational component.


I am very sorry, Mark. I didn't get back to you until so late.

Several members of the board worked over two years to come to understand the meaning of a "green building" and its need. This required a good deal of discussion and education (including several individual meetings with outside groups) to understand and come to agreement on the meaning of a simpler, less expensive, and energy efficient designs. Remember we are seven people who tried to work towards understanding. At times, discussions of new ideas and policies are a struggle (requiring patience and conversation). During Val's tenure as vice-chair and chair, the high performance standards (that included the use of daylighting, material recycling, use of recycled materials in construction, ground water protection measures, use of man-made wetlands, and many other items) for schools that would come into being.

I believe that you can see a direct improvement in Raskis and Smith from some of the other schools previously built. I am not on the board any longer, so I can not tell you the full details of the southern high school. But in my last year (during Val's tenure as chair) there was significant movement to continue to move further with the southern high school (with the additional of more ground water protection) as well as the incorporation of a educational perception with the operation of daylighting design/waste water management into a school's curriculum. Those same discussions extended into the board's discussion about Twin Creeks school site (during Val's tenure as chair).

During her tenure as chair and my tenure as vice-chair, there were several very direct conversations with both high school SGCs to commit to greater use of public transportation. As you may or may not know, Chapel Hill High School only recently has been included into the public transporation route (at the request of the high school SGCs... hopefully that route will expand and become a more direct route). During Val's tenure on the board, there is now a school board member on the public transporation board. This will allow greater coordination in planning. I might point you to the educational packet and parent/student education sessions that have definitive components of "use of public transporation" (occuring also during Val's tenure as chair.

During Val's tenure as chair, there was a request from both the chair and vice-chair to the commissioners to finalize school standards that could have a greater definition on issues such as what is a "urban" school, "smart growth" standards, "green building" standards, land use standards, and waste water management.

During Val's tenure as chair and my tenure as Vice-Chair, I might point that during the meetings with state "Smart Growth" advocates and the commissioners, they were impressed with our selection of the southern high school (because of its location on the highest used bus route and it's location near and around public walk ways).

As we improve and build an infrastructure that will support "green friendly" building, it is important that have collaborative conversation, education, and the inclusion of all parties in the process.


Do you know the history of Foushee's support for environmentally sound building? The first I heard was in Scroggs' letter to the editor and it wasn't clear when she became a proponent and what sort of leadership role she played in advocating for these measures.

Like you, Ruby, I chose not to vote for either of the candidates for governor--I agreed totally with Mark's promotion. I was even considering the possibility of voting for a Republican candidate--until I read about Ballantine. My question still stands though--what would it mean for Orange Co if he was elected? Tax cuts will stimulate new development (in my interpretation) since our business base in Orange Co is real estate. The university administration is more Republican leaning so I assume they would get new perks. In general, it seems to me that the growth pressures facing Orange Co would increase with Ballantine as governor and I'm wondering if we have the elected officials who would have the strength to fight against those [potential] pressures and keep us aimed at 'smart' growth.

A factor which may have come into play with some voters was to put a 'new face' on the board since every member has served multiple terms. The result was a split vote between an incumbent and challenger.

In another thread (Obscure Offices) Mark Chilton wrote "let's all vote for the guy running against Easley for Governor. I don't know a thing about him, but what has Easley done for you lately?" Have you read anything about Patrick Ballantine's platform? ""We must have lower taxes and less regulation, a skilled workforce, better roads for commerce, and a quality education for our young people. Stifling regulations that cause businesses to pay higher and higher costs to comply with government mandates are costing families jobs." (also protection against same sex marriage) Wouldn't you say that Orange Co makes it costly and difficult for businesses (aka developers) to come here? What would be the implications for current Orange Co policies for a governor with this kind of conservative platform?

Terri, I'm pretty sure Mark was referring to Easley's opponent in the *primary.* And many of us were disavowed from that seemingly harmless notion after reading Rickie's explanation that the other guy (Kipfer) was a bit of a loony. http://OrangePolitics.org/elections/the_obscure_offices.html#004616

I was moved to not vote for either one, personally.

I will point out that Valerie Foushee was chair of the board when the board (duing my tenure) passed the high performance standards in building schools. I will point out that Smith Middle school won an award from the Department of Engery for being both a energy efficient building as well as a "green friendly" building. I would call that envirnoment experience.

Gloria, I didn't mean to take anything away from Val's environmnental experience. Thanks in part to Steve Scroggs letter to the editor I am more aware of her great record. I just meant that as far as the campaign and publicity goes, Margaret and Pam came accross as more the "environmental" candidates. Maybe alot of voters recognized Val's accomplishments, too.

The fliers appear to have swayed at least one voter:


"She said her knowledge of those two candidates' position on merger came primarily from mailings she had received promoting Foushee and Hemminger on the merger issue. She said the fliers didn't come from the candidates, but she wasn't sure if they'd been sent by NoMerger.org, a political action committee created by merger opponents."

We never mailed anything, so this was likely a flier on her mailbox.

I am a little surprised and concerned that neither candidate with strong environmental experience were (was?) elected. Interpretations?

Quick update on turnout. At 10:40am, the library had 130 ballots in the box. My recollection of last years council race is that by that time about 250 ballots were cast.

In the 2003 CH Town Council election, a group called Citizens of Neighborhoods Near Campus (CNNC) emerged and was basically single issue to stand up to the University regarding development. They were influential in the election.

I don't recall this group receiving the amount of criticism that nomerger.org is getting in the BOCC race.

Well neither of the options that were suggested by Mark Chilton happen. In fact, the option that I thought would happen was what happened.

What did that mean? It meant that for all of the blowing and grumbling. This was NOT a one issue election. This was multi level issue - poor process, telling the truth, and woring in collaboration.

I am not surprised at the result of Val (being the top vote getter) and followed by Moses.

I am proud of NoMerger.org. They were new comers to a process that they learn along the way. They are just as legimate a political action group as many of the other political action groups in the town. They believed in an issue, they acted on what they believed, and they organized. It is called the democratic process.

I think everyone, everyone needs clearly about what happened last night.

This is new and different day in Orange County politics. I think that day can mature, I think that the process will improve. I think we have an opportunity to make this county better. I look forward to the new work that will now begin.

Last post on this thread..

Yes the flyering was crude... Part of that was because it was real grassroots. There was a downloadable PDF people could print out at their home and give out to neighbors. (I think that concept of active participation is kind of neat.)

Also, we did not have paid consultants for anything we did unlike at least one incumbent. So some of our stuff was not as polished. We just could not afford to do any mailings, etc...

I respect nomerger and its membership for taking a stand about something that is very important to them. That's our political process in action and at its best. To characterize them as "spiteful" and "totalitarian" doesn't add much to the discussion. Debate them on the facts, disagree respectfully and go out and vote as you deem best for your interests. The fact that a special interest group has advocated for its interests does not strike me as "spiteful" or totalitarian."

I am not a member of nomerger, had no contact with nomerger beyond what I read in the newspaper, and in fact my voting diverged from their recommendations. I can diagree wtih them without needing to make it personal.

I said it "comes across as spiteful." I did not say that it IS spiteful. Perception is important. And there's definitely nothing personal about it, Anita. I admire Mark, Jay, et al. for their spunk. If I thought they were bad people, I would simply sit back and watch them flail. I hope they take my comments above as critique rather than condemnation.

Thanks for your the thoughtful reactions from the NoMerger.org members who posted on this thread.

Just for clarity, there are at least four loyal democrats in this race (don't know Jack Lamb). I didn't say anything about 'real' Democrats. I just said that encouraging Republicans to cross over rubs some people in the Dem. Party the wrong way.

And thanks for the clarification about NoMerger's steering committee, Mark. Alex is certainly right that NM.org has worked the free media very well.

Honestly, I don't think we can go all that wrong in any of my three scenarios.

Mark Is correct. The vacancy will be filled by appointment of the Board of commissioners as constituted by the results of the general election in November.

And thanks, Mark for your confirmation (in many respects) of my analysis on the 'who's on your list' string. I would only part company with your postulation that the rather crude flyering technique that has been employed is indicative of 'NoMerger.org"'s political naivete. While that particular tactic was probably of limited utility,(and it's not, if done properly) their working of the free press has, in my view, been remarkably effective, and has placed, in a very short time span, both the name and message of the organization on the front page, both literally and figuratively.

The extent to which this is translated into demonstrable political power, we'll find out tonight.



Mark C.,

Thanks for your views on how this might play out.

I would like to point out that NoMerger.org is run by a steering committee of peers. All non-trivial decisions are made by consensus after much discussion. Many of the steering committee members do not participate in OrangePolitics.org and prefer not to work with the media. As a result, I may appear more prominent in OP. There were a number of decisions where I was in the minority, so characterizing every NoMerger decision as mine is incorrect.

Pease keep in mind that I am merely one of the nine steering committee members.


Mark P.

While I'll be hoping for a different outcome I think 3b is closest but doesn't really hit the nail on the head.

Our main objective was to get people involved who are not normally involved in the process -- and that did happen to some very limited extent. The herald noted that many nomerger contributors contributed for the first time to a political campaign and I know some of my neighbors voted for the first time too. I don't think trying to get people involved and realize what is at stake is a bad thing in a "democracy".

As far as real democrats versus fake democrats as has been insinuated this is a ridiculous statement - and will not help the democratic party. (I begrudingly am canvassing my block for the Orange County Democratic party to update their voter lists, get people registered and change affiliations. All this info will be used by Moses when he runs for 28 years in a row. As well as other candidates I don't agree with. Also, a precinct chair who is organizing a large voter area for the OC dems has donated to nomerger.org -- and is very active in door to door and recruiting helpers. On our 1 block we are getting 2 republicans to reregister as Unaffiliated's and thus can be targeted by Kerry in November. (don't worry they didn't change their affiliation in time to vote in July).

You are right - Val and Pam do have a lot to offer -- and anyone who has spent some time with them in person will realize that they are good people without a lot of the drawbacks (and uneasy to hold coatings) the incumbents have. (And I believe style and personality do affect outcome for public policy and is not as unimportant as some people suggest.)

I know I am not the only one who was offended by Commissioner Carey's "50 years after brown vs. board of ed" advertisement run at the last minute so there would not be a blow up over it.

Also, if nomerger didn't exist neither of the incumbents would have talked about merger - and Commissioner Carey's first round paper ads & radio ads (5 times a day for 2 weeks) failed to mention either equal funding or merger. Op ed. letters for him took great pains to avoid mentioning it.

If nomerger didn't exist -- a few more people would have stayed at home -- a few less people would be able to name their county commissioners and Val and Pam still would have been tagged by the same people as "interesting" but not experienced "enough"..Take that to the bank.. I am amused when people ask me if there are term limits for county commissioner. Don't you guys ever get tired of the same old same old...

To claim that anyone who voted for commissioner brown would have voted for someone else if nomerger did not exist if full of....

Finally, does the Indy have too much power? Probably -- only because voter turnout is pathetic.... If 40% of the people or more voted it wouldn't matter -- but because only 20% of the people vote and half of them read the indy it probably does disproportionately affect outcome.

Personally, I don't feel obligated to vote for every office in a democratic primary --- I feel in a primary you are doing a big injustice by voting for an office which you personally no absolutely nothing about. (one frequent poster to OP still likely has not read all the information on possible school merger on the county web page but still is an authority.) The indy quoted Commissioner Carey saying he is for merger because of the minority kids.... We will disregard that the vast number of minority kids are in the CHCCS district and that a hispanic activist was quoted in the CH news that no one came to him to ask about merger. (he seemed to suggest the hispanic kids in Carrboro could suffer the most). (Would a merged district truly balance socioeconomics as the current town district does?).

But the Indy quoting unstudied and unsubstaniated claims certainly skews voters towards a certain direction.

By the way the OCS schools passed every No child left behind criteria while the CHCCS did not. Also, OCS schools have a higher retention rate than the CHCCS for those who care about facts...

What happens if Barry Jacobs wins this primary and then the November election? Do we have a special election in the spring or does the 3rd highest vote getter in this primary automatically take his seat?

Neither, I believe. Barry's seat would be filled by an appointment made by the remaining four Commissioners (the four Commissioners being, by then, Steve Halkiotis, Alice Gordon, and the two Democratic nominees that win today).


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