Democracy & Open Government

Desperately seeking democracy

I sent a slightly longer version of the following letter to the Chapel Hill Mayor and Council last week regarding the manager search, but I think that the points are pressing and critical no matter who is in charge.
. . .

In the past 15 years, technology has blossomed and sprouted many new forms of communication that we could never have imagined in the 1980's. And yet the current town practices regarding public engagement don't seem to have changed in decades.

The field of e-democracy ( was forged 12 years ago as a way to enable more participation and engagement in local government. This is but one of many ways the Town could enhance communication and information flow with and between residents. For a community that prides ourselves on being forward-thinking, we are way behind the times when it comes to open and accessible government.


Did you blink? If so, you might have missed the Chapel Hill Town Council's entire discussion and approval of rezoning a neighborhood near campus. This is intended to effectively immobilize any development of any kind there.

This is ostensibly temporary while a Neighborhood Conservation District is developed for the Mason Farm neighborhood. I voted against this down-zoning on the Planning Board because I believe zoning is a long-range tool that is being applied here in a short-term way.

Bad apples

I thought Apple Chill and the motorcycle festival and the associated traffic management was handled very well today.

Unfortunately, a few idiots have chosen mess it up for the rest of us. "Two people have been taken to UNC Hospitals Sunday night after four shots were fired on Franklin Street." - News

UPDATE: "Forty-five minutes after the initial shooting Jarvies said police received another report of gunshots fired several blocks east of 110 W. Franklin Street. In a third incident, a gun was brandished, but no shots were fired." - N&O: Three people shot in Chapel Hill

Three cheers for Laurin Easthom!

I have been so incredibly upset since I heard about the Chapel Hill Town Council's swift decision to retire the Technology Advisory Board and the Horace Williams Citizens Committee last week, that I couldn't even write about it. I have been waiting to cool down, but the more I think and the more people I talk to about it, the madder I get.

So I will let Jason Baker do the talking for me (from his blog):

Last week, the Chapel Hill Town Council opted to end the service of both the Horace Williams citizens' committee and the technology committee.

Doing so was a mistake. With her sole dissenting vote, apparently only former citizens' committee member Laurin Easthom saw the value of the hard work and diversity of perspectives those folks would bring to the town in the years to come.

As a town, we're far behind where we ought to be in the technology realm, and disbanding our technology committee without a thoughtful replacement is only going to put us farther back.

Electoral Reform Begins at Home

There are four major electoral changes that Orange County voters should consider. Take note everyone, I said ‘consider.' I am not entirely sure what the best approach would be, but I do think the current system doesn't adequately reflect the diversity of viewpoints in Orange County.

For what they are worth, here are four ideas for County electoral reform that have been bandied about:

1. Increasing Membership



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