Nancy Oates and Bell Campaign

This entry is a response to Nancy Oats commentary on her blog, entitled #WeAreNotThisEither.  

In response to the question asked by Council Member Oats regarding why I was paid 2,000 USD to be Mayor Pro Tem Bell's campaign manager:

This was the sum agreed on between Mayor Pro Tem Bell and myself for my services contingent upon campaign resources as the election cycle unfolded.  Pure and simple.  I guess you could write, "sum agreed upon based upon verbal contract" in the box, but that seems a little nit picky.  

It is a fair question to inquire about campaign finance and elections, but aren't these questions better suited for the press? 

As Council Member Oats correctly pointed out, as did the Herald, we received contributions from developers.  When I ran the Mayor's Office the philosophy of the Council was about using data-driven smart growth to mitigate the impact of future population growth to ensure maximum quality of life (in terms of traffic mitigation, walkability, affordable housing, healthy tax balance sheets, and so on).  News flash, we need developers to make these things happen.  Our interests happened to be aligned in the past election cycle over the options put forward by CHALT.  This drew the support of the development community because they wanted to help candidates they thought they could work with in good faith.  I will maintain smart growth (high density, designed to promote walkability) is the best game in town for future development. This took the form of projects like Obey Creek, Ephesus Fordham, 140 West, and University Square.  CHALT was in opposition to many of these projects, often vehemently so.  The opposition was so strong, in fact, it was often in the air that Council was somehow bought or owned by developers.  I haven't seen a kickback from East West Partners, or any other developer, and I am certain neither has former Mayor Kleinschmidt or Mayor Pro Tem Bell.  I firmly believe the constant return to the narrative of the shady Council that is in bed with developers occurs, because CHALT supporters are unable to win an honest argument on data about the impact of development.  They continually need to attack or draw insinuations about character rather than honestly discuss the impact of growth in Chapel Hill.  The arguments they put forward remind me of the conservative conspiracy theories that surround the opposition of United Nations Agenda 21. 

Nancy Oat's article is a good reflection of the problem that advocates have once they have a seat at the table.  It can be challenging for some to get rid of old  habits, as they feel the best contribution they can make is to engage in political behavior more appropriate for a campaign cycle.  The questions Council member Oats raises are fine questions, but we do have the press to report on these issues. There was an article in the Herald, if something illegal or shady happened, it will be uncovered. We also have a Board of Elections that makes these reports available to the public, and Mayor Pro Tem Bell has an email address and phone if a citizen has concerns.  The Town of Chapel Hill is a multimillion dollar entity with hundreds of employees with many challenges that need addressing to ensure the future quality of life of Chapel Hill residents.  I suggest Council Member Oats turn her attention to the problems facing Chapel Hill's future, rather than raising questions that do nothing but distract from honest arguments about policy.







There was confusion about your role in the election because Donna Bell neglected to say in the required field on her election report filing why she paid you $2,000. Had Bell explained why you were paid that sum in the little box off to the side, there would be no question. Donna screwed that up, so why blame someone else?

The article in the Herald indeed points out something illegal -- Bell filed her election report well after the deadline for reporting. In other words, she broke the law, and it is up to the Board of Elections to assess a penalty. The whole purpose of having a deadline is so that voters can be informed about where a candidate's finances are coming from. Voters like to know who is throwing their weight around during an election. When a candidate neglects to enlighten the voters or through trickery or untoward delay seeks to confuse the voters, rational folks could and should conclude that that candidate is dealing fast and loose with the laws and may have something to hide.

Bell received more than $10,000 in contributions from developers, much of it checks dated in September, but that money and those connections were not reported until well after the voting had taken place. If you don't think that fact would have affected voters' choices, you are seriously deluded. I suspect that is why the reporting was delayed -- you and Donna realized that those details wouldn't look good during the heat of the campaign.

So, Mrak, you can downplay Nancy Oates' credentials for holding office all you want, you can imply that she is naive or uninformed (and I can assure you that she is neither) but one thing remains -- she had the integrity to file her report before the deadline, she dealt honestly with the voters and she didn't get a penny from developers who had or would have business before the council. Bell cannot claim any of those points.

Council member Oats pointed out I was a campaign manager in election cycle.  I assume she understands what those responsibilities are.  My point is this kind of engagement from a Council member (I think) is below the dignity of the office. Their was a violation of a filing deadline, this is not entirely uncommon, and the penalty will be paid.  My point is continuing to engage in this type of dialog exists solely as a means to and end to weaken Donna Bell as a Council Member and challenge her credibility rather than talk about issues.  That is the only reason Nancy Oats, as a Council Member, in engaging in this dialog.  This isn't discussing issues, this is a conversation focused on damaging the credibility of an elected official.  I explained why the development community supported Donna, I explained what my role was in the campaign, missing a filing deadline is not uncommon during elections, the public understands we took contributions from developers, none of which were illegal, and their support should come as no surprise based upon CHALTs rhetoric and platform.  Developers are the only people that can make smart growth happen with the guidance of Council.  

Truthfully I think the most concerning thing about the CHALT supporters and the rhetoric coming from their camp, is they seem dead set on getting rid of all minority voices on the Council.  They got rid of Mayor Mark and Lee, two LGBT politicians whose rarity I cannot over-emphasize, now Council member Oats is unnecessarily highlighting information openly available in the press, which Mayor Pro Tem Bell  was already managing with reporters and citizens.  Donna Bell's reputation and service is stellar, she is a wonderful person who represents her community  with dignity and honesty.  Why is it so hard for Council Member Oats, as her colleague, to start a conversation with Mayor Pro Tem Bell on a footing anywhere close to that rhetoric?  

Truthfully, Mrak, remember that you and Donna chose to inform the voters of Bell's close connections to developers AFTER the election -- that's the point. You didn't dare report those connections before the votes were cast -- remember all those developers' checks that arrived in September? -- because that would have cost Bell votes in what turned out to be a very close race -- Bell only placed second ahead of Oates by 40 votes. So you decided to hide the fact of those connections and pulled a fast one on the voters. That lack of transparency is what has put Bell in the spotlight over this issue -- that and her little issue with the law.

Nancy and others have reached out to Donna on a number of occasions but have been rebuffed by Bell, who only seems to want to discuss things with you and her coterie of special friends. Bell ranks as one of the most hard-to-contact council members I can remember ever serving. If she's returning any folks' calls and emails, she's being extremely selective about who she contacts. And dignity and honesty? Bell has gone out of her way to treat the new mayor dismissively and obstructively -- just try watching a few council meetings and you'll catch on to that dynamic.

As for Kleinschmidt and Storrow, they got unelected because they made very bad decisions for the town's future, not because of their sexual orientation. You'll recall that two-thirds of all the votes cast in the most recent town election went against the incumbents. That's a pretty harsh indictment of their job performance. So get off your high horse -- the voters decided that Mark was not leading the town in a direction that was healthy for everyone, not because he was in some special club. And Lee just made a mistake while out driving late one night.


No, I won't get off my high horse, because that is how insidious discrimination and assumptions operate to get rid of empowered minority voices. It's almost never overt. You are interjecting assumption. You are telling me about a choice I made. I don't recall intentionally filing a campaign report late. Maybe you think it's just something you can say and know it will somehow ring true, rather than listening to me and giving me the benefit of the doubt.  Homosexual men historically have been labeled as tricksters or dishonest, morally corrupt in some way. Maybe that's why you feel comfortable speaking so freely without thinking.  Same goes for the assumptions about Kleinschmidt and Storrow, yes driving drunk was a bad decision, I'll give you that, but Kleinschmidt's decisions on development were grounded in smart growth data driven development. An argument CHALT can't have on the merits because they are wrong, so instead you have to go after character interjecting assumptions and intentions to a fact pattern that you want to sell as the story. Same goes for Council member Oats as well, she is not press, she is a Council member. I know for a fact she and Donna spoke just a day or two ago, because I saw Donna, so as far as I know she is relatively easy for Council member Oats to get ahold of, or are we just interjecting assumptions again about intention, character, and work ethic?  The press has a job to do, Council member Oats is doing it unnecessarily for them. I suggest she optimize her value to tax paying citizens and spend it on educating herself on issues and serving Chapel Hill citizens, and leaving the spin and gossip to the press. 

Everyone stop please and take a breath.

And it's OATES not OATS. As annoying as the Rs talking about the nonexistent Democrat Party 

Sorry, that was my mistake.  

My bad, you are correct. Council member Oates. And I am not calling you out on this gerchoen, but I would like to see Chapel Hill politics become something other than, "what can we make the queer and the African American apologize for, or justify."

I am not necessarily going to agree that Mayor Pro Tem Bell has gone out of her way to treat the new Mayor in a dismissive manner or in a way that was obstructionist.  However, let's say, for the sake of argument, that she did. I imagine it is hard for someone like you to understand how frustrating it is to watch progress in minority representation go out the window in one election cycle.  I imagine you don't know what it is like to watch someone die of AIDS, or understand that politically the only way to gain traction in LGBT rights was through civil disobedience and fierce campaigning with bitter losses. That the LGBT community fought for representation and rights because the community was literally dying. I imagine it doesn't seem disgusting to you an honest politician was run out of office because the citizens of Chapel Hill bought a half-baked narrative of corruption (a historical stereotype) while ignoring sound data on Smart Growth.  I imagine you don't know what it is like to constantly have your character called into question, and you don't really see the press or the citizens giving other politicians the same scrutiny. That you don't see citizens standing up more and calling out the kind of whisper campaigns and fear mongering tatics engaged in by CHALT.  I imagine these things are rather foreign to you.  So I bet you don't really understand why someone might have trouble figuring out how to engage in politics or process, when literally the main purpose of politics, historically, was to make sure you didn't have a voice.  

All right, Mark, enough pontificating. When exactly will you and Donna take your medicine and make this right with the Board of Elections?

My responsibilities as campaign manager have ended, so if it hasn't already been done, I imagine Mayor Pro Tem Bell will get to it in time. Anything else you need me to explain? 

Yeah, how come you didn't back Matt Hughes in the county commissioner race? If there is such a need for a gay voice in government, why did you work to elect the straight Mark Marcopolus?

I wasn't involved in the Orange County commissioner's race. I don't know where you got the notion I voiced support or actively helped Mark Marcopolis. I don't have an opinion on him one way or another, don't really know the guy. That is another assumption you are interjecting into the conversation. What makes so interested in LGBT identity politics all the sudden?  I can only assume you are just trying to screw with me if you are willing to say something so off base. You like engaging in dishonest conversations? You certainly know better than to ascribe an act to me you know to objectively be incorrect. 

And I wasn't in a position to help Matt due to my current schedule. 


I am both bewildered and angry at your diatribe "I am not necessarily going to..."

The anger has 3 parts:

1) that you would try to change the focus of the discussion by injecting the spectre of watching loved one die of AIDS, when you know full well that a tragedy like that has no relationship to the question of Ms. Bell's campaign reports.

2) Your  use of the phrase "data-driven."  That phrase was not in the council lexicon prior to CHALT's insistence that data be part of the decision making process.  CHALT could not even get the town to acknowlege that over 5,000 residential units have been approved until now, when Ms. Nirdlinger created an Excel spreadwheet for the Development Activity Page, verifying the very claims we made about pending development.

3) The biggest source of my outrage, however, is the the broad brush you use when you refer to CHALT in a perjorative and insulting manner - especially, as it relates to LGBT and minority representation.  Who is CHALT?  We have a core group of a dozen plus people and a working network of another 100 or so.  How dare you ignore the pain some of have gone through fighting our fights against these same issues on behalf of ourselves, our children, our families?  How dare you look down at us as though we are the enemy when we have been fighting for LGBT rights and minority rights since you were a child?  How dare you be snide when you know, full well, that most CHALT members ACTIVELY supported Mark K, Lee, and Donna in previous elections - both with contributions and hosting "coffees"?  

Part of being considered equal means that a person can be wrong even if they are gay or lesbian or transgender or straight or black, or white, or purple.  






My comments in relation to LGBT rights and minority representation related to Don Evans calling into question Mayor Pro Tem Bell's behavior at Council meetings and her alleged disrespect of Mayor Hemminger. I was pointing out that minority groups like African Americans and LGBT people are historically underrepresented. Gains in these areas were incredibly hard fought, and often required drastic action, especially during the AIDS crisis because gay men were considered politically expendable and they died largely in silence until people like Larry Kramer started disruptive protests to get political focus on the crisis. The AIDS epidemic taught the LGBT community that we needed a seat at the table to ensure we had a voice that would defend our rights and lives. This is especially salient today considering Ted Cruz (a contender for the Presidency) attended a rally advocating for the genocide of LGBT people, and policies such as HB2, and the kind of right wing leadership we have at UNC with Spelling. 

If you care about LGBT rights it should be a deeply unsettling loss that we lost a large percentage of our leaders (in NC) in the last election cycle. I was pointing out that it might make sense for someone like Donna Bell  to manifest frustration in her public persona with new leadership, considering her values.  As her behavior seems to be under constant scrutiny by the opposition I wasn't conceding the point, but I was explaining if someone read that and was offended by it, they probably don't see the same worrying trends or value LGBT rights as someone like Mayor Pro Tem Bell. 

My point about Mayor Mark, is that the language put forward by the opposition (which is safe to call CHALT) revolved around a narrative (captured in a microcosm  with the American Legion issue) that basically used an old well worn stereotype of gay men as morally corrupt.  The specter of litigation had to be called on to quiet the rumor mill of the alleged past dirty dealings of the Kleinschmidt administration.  No evidence of corruption has been uncovered, nor will anything ultimately untoward come to light. The whole spectacle is just as offensive to me as if the town had run a narrative against former Mayor Lee that he was lazy or had a poor work ethic.  All it was malicious gossip predicated on a stereotype, if you didn't know that was a stereotype you should probably reconsider your grasp of LGBT cultural issues and history. 

A smart growth philosophy was embraced. Chapel Hill has three choices build up, build out, build nothing. Smart Growth is data driven, it uses density to create walkability, which mitigates traffic when it is done right, it lowers the tax burden on citizens, all of these things are well researched and projects like Obey Creek, Ephesus Fordham, 140 West and University Square will improve the lives of Chapel Hill residents and make things better for your children. We have to build something, and the only responsible path is up, not out.  

Most straight people value LGBT people. I know this to be true. And I know lots of people in Chapel Hill (including CHALTers) have LGBT people in their lives they love. However, what I am seeing nation wide is people are stressed and nervous. The rhetoric and xenophobia of Trump is unsettling to say the least, and what I am noticing is when people get stressed, or change is happening, group think starts to take over and minorities get pushed away from seats of power. There are only a few hundred, maybe a little over a thousand, LGBT officials in the world. Chapel Hill had something special, with Mark and Lee, it was a beacon for others. But what I see in Chapel Hill is an increasing tend toward an admittedly progressive, but all white straight Council. Which is exactly what people do when they feel threatened or uncertain about change, and it is exactly at those moments when we need more diversity from the community at the table so we can make sure everyone's rights and lives are truly being protected. 



I see. So you are arguing that Mark Kleinschmidt was not reelected because of identity politics. You are arguing that Donna Bell is somehow being persecuted because of the same identity politics.

On the other hand, you are also arguing that Mark Kleinschmidt belongs on the council despite what the voters want and that he and Donna Bell should not be questioned or held accountable for violating the rules of the election AND taking contributions that are counter to their rhetoric because it runs counter to your own identity politics. 

I can see why you are so emotional and conflicted, it must be very difficult for you. 

TBlake, I'm sorry. I can't respond to you. I find our exchanges are not value added.  i have yet to see you engage in conversation that was anything close to respectable. Have fun trolling. 

Trolling? Me? What would your original post be called? Even though you can't respond, you do. 

You are indeed an enigma .



Let me see if I have this straight -- being on Town Council and pointing out the fact that a council member has violated the law is "beneath the dignity of the office," but violating the law is not? Strange ethics there, Mrak.

And you insist that Mark Kleinschmidt should be on the council because he is gay? And you are the one condemning sexual politics? Stop and really think about what you're saying there.

I believe TBlake has you pretty much nailed, there, dude.





I am saying Nancy acting as press and engaging in gossip is beneath the dignity of the office because we have press that reports on these issues. Council Member Oates is being paid by the citizens of a Chapel Hill to be a Council member, not a blogger.  I will repeat it again because apparently you cannot hear me when I say this, missing a campaign report is not uncommon. Why constantly focus and go after this one instance as if it is an irredeemable mortal sin. You successfully raised questions about the timing of the filing, what else do you want, champagne and a little dance? 

And no, I am not saying anyone should be anything on the basis of sexual orientation. I am pointing history as to why minority representation is important. I am also pointing out that an empowered gay minority was baselessly attacked using a stereotype.  This is true. I have answered your questions to the point of needless repetition. You have begun not only to ignore the information I am providing, but in past posts on this thread have also attributed actions to me which are objectively false. Between ignoring the information I have provided, and interjecting unnecessary new information baselessly, I will consider future remarks by you on this thread as an attempt at provocation and trolling without the spirit of engaging in meaningful civil discourse. 

......are elected and consequently their opinions matter very much in the scheme of representation. Voters expect a council member to communicate and blogging is one way to do that. In fact it’s a lot more effective that the Facebook sniping I see thrown around by some other candidates. $14,083 per year does not matters much in this context and most prefer a candidate be on record with their opinions, because  it provides a basis for informed voting.

The campaign filling issue is not gossip, it is two instances involving closely linked candidates that have the same doner base. Please, enlighten us with similar instances of late and sloppy filings with a base of so many out of town developers.

Being a minority is not a factor in my mind for any candidate. Quite the contrary, concern that Chapel Hill is reducing opportunity for the most economically vulnerable, including minorities took place under the former mayor. Personally I was only peripherally aware Mark Klienschmidt was gay, exactly what stereotype was used to baselessly attack him? I did observe over his tenure that he was increasingly dismissive to the point of arrogance and quick to anger when he was being disagreed with. That behavior caused concern about his personality in a lot of quarters. 


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