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Hot Orange News & Analysis - January 2008

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How Green is My Grove?


As the Chapelboro city school system gets ready to open a new elementary school in Carrboro at old NC 86 and Eubanks Road, questions arise from outside observers. How environmentally friendly, how “green” is the school?

In Fall 2008, the new Morris Grove Elementary School (also referred to as ES10) will open in the Chapelboro city school system, no doubt to some self-congratulatory fanfare in view of the pre-building advertisement of Morris Grove as a “green” school. However, a professional engineer and facilities manager at a local university (John Kramer) has looked beyond the hype to the substance. Mr. Kramer recently helped spearhead a water-savings initiative at the local university that saved 40,000,000 gallons (about 1000 home swimming pools) a year, earning the thanks of the local city water system.

Mr. Kramer passed on (as his personal opinion) the following observations to the Chapelboro school system about the Morris Grove plans (all suggestion subject to review and approval by the school design team):

1) – Morris Grove uses 32 watt fluorescent lamps in lieu of more efficient 25/28 watt lamps. Add them up and run them for the operating life of the school. That may be as much carbon loading as Carrboro mayor Mark Chilton spends driving his kids to private school, not to forget a payback period of less than Mr. Chilton’s term.
2) - Condensate from air conditioning units is dumped to drain instead of recycled. That’s more wasted water.
3) - The emergency generator is diesel fueled instead of cleaner burning natural gas. That’s more carbon loading. Also, biodiesel isn’t an option as a generator fuel.
4) - “Standard” 1 gallon per flush urinals are used in lieu of 1/8 gallon “high performance” ones.
5) - The potable hot water recirculating system is designed such that it will waste water.
6) - The “green” solar water pre-heating system, which would be required to contain glycol or other antifreeze means to avoid freezing under no load conditions, appears to have no monitoring system for cross contamination with the potable (drinking) water system. Glycol (antifreeze) is a poison.
7) - The air conditioning system appears to leave the building negatively pressurized, which will cause mold and other indoor air quality issues. That’s “engineerese” for sucking in unconditioned air from the outside.
8) - The air conditioning system is designed such that, if the principal comes in on the weekend to work in their office, a cooling unit large enough to run the whole building will have to run. It’s like driving to work in a dump truck.
9) - The “green” heat recovery feature of the air conditioning system is designed so that semi-conditioned air is fed to the entire building, regardless of occupancy status. So the commuting dump truck is loaded and hauling a trailer.

No feedback has been received from the Chapelboro school system.

Grass Grows Greener on the Renewable Energy Side, Confounding Carrboro Boa

For years members of the Carrboro governance board have made negative comments about town residents who choose to have grass on their property. Choo-choo line cutter, local pedestrian hazard, and Carrboro alderman Dan Coleman wrote a column in the Chapel Hill Herald displaying his impressive scientific foundation for being against grass growing. Self-described “widest margin” Carrboro alderman Jacquie Gist responded publicly by declaring that “grass makes you stupid”.

A new study from the prairie lands suggests that grass will have the last laugh on the aldermen, showing the price Carrboro residents pay for politicians determining and maintaining public policy based on a “facts optional” world view.

Perennial herbaceous plants such as switchgrass (Panicum virgatum L.) were evaluated by University of Nebraska researchers as a cellulosic bioenergy crop in multiple acre sized field trials. Switchgrass produced 540% more renewable energy than nonrenewable energy consumed. Switchgrass monocultures managed for high yield produced 93% more biomass yield and an equivalent estimated net energy yield than previous estimates from human-made prairies that received low agricultural inputs. Estimated average greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from cellulosic ethanol derived from switchgrass were 94% lower than estimated GHG from gasoline.

Switchgrass (adapted to the prairie climate and ecosystem) leaves corn (a non-prairie plant) stalking a distant second place.

No word from Aldermen Coleman or Gist as to when apologies will be issued to Carrboro grass owners.

See University Nebraska study at PNAS

Carrboro Mayor Finds Solution to ED Mobile Eatery Problem, Just Don't Enforce Local Public Health Laws

Dense developer, blackbag campaign poster observer, and Carrboro mayor Mark Chilton advocates that Carrboro citizens help illegal mobile eateries by patronizing them over the weekend. Knowing that these eateries are operating in an illegal fashion, Mr. Chilton chooses to ignore their illegality and to ignore any enforcement of local public safety health laws, a curious position for a mayor and a North Carolina officer of the court anywhere but in “Keep It Weird” Carrboro. In the words of Mr. Chilton ”[a]t this point, if you are concerned about the taco trucks, you can probably best show your support by patronizing the trucks this weekend. May I recommend the pollo asado?

The illegal mobile eateries responded to Mr. Chilton's amnesty by showing up for business as usual without regard for the public health and safety laws.

In an anarchistic display of the unequal enforcement of local public health and safety laws, Mr. Chilton responded Friday to a Carrboro Citizen story published the day before by saying, ”The Carrboro town staff is looking into the most efficient solution to this problem at the moment. I don't know exactly what that solution will be, but it seems like there ought to be a simple and inexpensive way for a taco truck to operate in downtown Carrboro. I'm not at all confidant that a zoning appeal to the Board of Adjustment is really the best thing for the taco truck owners to do.” Mr. Chilton advocated for the unequal treatment of businesses with regards to zoning appeal laws. No word on how established businesses feel about double standards proposed by Mr. Chilton.

Below is a copy of the memo received by Mr. Chilton from Carrboro Town staff.

“MEMORANDUM TO: Mayor Mark Chilton and the Board of Aldermen FROM: Martin Roupe, Development Review Administrator DATE: January 25, 2008 SUBJECT: Additional Information on Violation Notices Pertaining to Mobile Food Vendors At the Manager’s request, I am writing to provide additional information about recently-issued violation notices pertaining to three (3) mobile food vendors as well as some historical information for reference. I am happy to answer any questions that may arise about this matter. As you may know, the Zoning Division (ZD) recently issued land use ordinance violation (LUOVIO) notices to three separate property owners in Carrboro (Johnny’s Sporting Goods, Fitch Lumber, and Cliff’s Meat Market). This action was taken in response to an anonymous complaint, which obligates the ZD to investigate the situation. As it was clear and evident that mobile food vendors were operating at the sites, little investigation was necessary, and so the ZD issued the LUOVIOs as a result of the complaint. Additional, related information is provided below:

LUO Section 15-149. The applicable LUO section states in part, “(c ) Without limiting the generality of the foregoing provisions, the following uses are specifically prohibited in all districts: (4) The use of any motor vehicle (as defined in Section 6‑1 of the Town Code), parked on a lot, as a structure in which, out of which, or from which any goods are sold or stored, any services performed, or other businesses conducted (as defined in Section 8‑1 of the Town Code) except that the following shall not be prohibited by this subdivision: (i) retail sales of goods and food products manufactured, created or produced by the seller, (ii) the sale of food products on town property by persons authorized by or acting on behalf of the town…” For the last several years, prior to my employment with the Town in fact, this section has been consistently interpreted to allow the sale of food out of vehicles in only limited circumstances primarily related to the Farmer’s Market, which is specifically covered by combination of 15-149©(4)(i)&(ii). Several people have approached the Town regarding the possibility of starting such an establishment and each inquirer was told that such use is not allowed under the LUO.

Additional History Regarding ZD’s Explanation to Inquirers and Practice. The ZD was generally aware that such establishments were or had been operating at certain locations around town, and when individuals interested in opening a similar establishment were told no, they often asked about the other similar businesses. The ZD consistently responded by informing the person that we operate under a complaint-driven system. We then asked whether the person wished to lodge a formal complaint and almost always were told no, they did not wish to lodge a formal complaint. On some occasions, though, formal complaints were lodged and the ZD did follow up and require that other similar businesses leave (within the past five or six years). Two specific examples include: a mobile food vendor operating alongside Estes Drive Extension (adjacent to the Adams Tract property) and a mobile food vendor operating alongside West Main Street on the Short Stop Mini-Market / Citgo Gas Station property (at 300 West Main Street). Since then, no other complaints have been lodged until the recent incident.

Possibility, In Some Cases, To Operate Outside a Vehicle. When individuals inquired about the possibility of operating as a mobile food vendor, the ZD consistently has mentioned that it is possible on some properties around town to conduct outdoor food sales as long as it is done outside of a vehicle (so long as the zoning district for the subject property allows outdoor food service and consumption, it is properly permitted for such a use, and the property owner grants permission). As a recent example, several months ago, the ZD reviewed and approved a ‘vegetable stand’ on the 300 East Main property. The vendor set up tables, outside of a vehicle, on which he placed his products for sale. Of note, the only property currently under discussion where such a use is allowed is Cliff’s Meat Market.

Anonymous Complaint. Note that it is the Town’s longstanding practice to accept and act upon anonymous complaints. While some cities require signed, written complaints before taking action on alleged violations, Carrboro has thus far not chosen to do so. It certainly is possible that this policy may be changed with respect to future actions, but staff needs to receive direction if that is the Board’s desire.

Possible Resolutions to Situation. Three (3) possible ways appear evident to resolve the matters currently under discussion, as further described below:

Mobile food vendors may leave the sites and possibly attempt to find an acceptable place to operate (i.e.: outside of a vehicle on an appropriate property or within a building);
Someone may file an appeal (for $250 filing fee) with the Board of Adjustment. Either one or a combination of the three letter recipients may choose to file an appeal within 30 days of receiving notice of the LUOVIO. This action will put the matter before the Board of Adjustment for further consideration and interpretation of the applicable LUO language. Note that filing an appeal also will ‘stay’ any further action on the part of the Town. In effect, in absence of clear threat to public health, safety, or welfare, the mobile food vendors would be able to continue operating until the Board of Adjustment renders a decision on the matter.

A LUO Text Amendment request may be filed by a citizen or the Board of Aldermen may direct staff to prepare a text amendment. Presumably such a text amendment would clarify where and when such land uses are acceptable and establish clear parameters for when permission for such a use should be granted. Obviously such an action involves an amount of time for item preparation and a public hearing.

Further Action On the Part of the Zoning Division. For your information, all the Zoning Division has done thus far is issue a letter to the respective property owners citing a LUOVIO and asking for voluntary action to bring the property into compliance with the LUO. While the letter does contain a stated ‘deadline’ by which time the vendors are expected to stop operating, it may be worth noting (so that everyone is clear with regard to where we are) that the ZD must issue a ‘final notice of violation,’ which specifically cites an exact civil penalty for inaction and timeline for imposing such penalty before any property owner or vendor will be directly subject to civil penalties, fines, etc.

Boa Dedicates Town-funded UNC & Developer Sewer Line to OWASA

In keeping with Carrboro’s policy of financially supporting land developers and UNC, the BOA dedicated a new sewer line to OWASA. Built with Carrboro taxpayer money, the line runs up Bolin Creek, north of Homestead Road, servicing UNC’s “Carolina Commons” project and the private “Colleton Crossing” project. The BOA provided no final cost figures for the line. Local media didn't ask.

The ostensible reason for having to build the line was the annexation of the Northeast Area, although none of the residents in that area want to pay for the OWASA estimated hookup charges to that line of about $40,000 per home.

No official statements were issued tying the act of the BOA providing the sewer line free to the act of UNC submitting to a voluntary municipal annexation of its land to the BOA four years ago. That out-of-the blue voluntary annexation petition allowed the BOA not only to absorb the Winmore so-called “mixed use village” project (thereby avoiding the joint planning scrutiny by Orange County), it also allowed the BOA (under former Mayor Mike Nelson) to plan secretly the involuntary annexation of the Northeast Area.

Carrboro Suffers Economic Development Setback as Carbon Loading Food Eateries Chocked

An anonymous complaint asks Carrboro to enforce its rules against carbon loading trucks dispensing food in the parking lots of local establishments. BOA members react by injecting immigration issue and bemoaning “anonymous complaints”. No explanation is given or asked as to how the entire Carrboro town staff was blind to these trucks operating in the Carrboro downtown, one being located opposite the Weaver Street lawn party.

“Widest margin” Alderman Gist wants to know who ratted out the trucks. She’s writes to the Carrboro Citizen saying “I am very worried by the real possibility that hard working entrepreneurs who are adding to our community could be put out of business and have their livelihood threatened. It is un-American and certainly un-Carrboro. If Carrboro cannot offer a welcoming home to immigrants trying to achieve the American Dream then maybe I don’t know Carrboro as well as I think I do.” She doesn’t mention any concern for the health of residents eating food from these units, nor does she express concern for these entrepreneurs paying the same taxes that local restaurants pay.

The BOA provides no word on how Carrboro intends to prevent portable ptomaine palaces. An Orange County health inspector says they are permitted to sell food only if they work with an approved and inspected commissary. No BOA member asks if they do so.

See Carrboro Citizen Taco Truck story.

Students Flee Carrboro High As Forced Fantasy Flounders

Rock Haven isn’t rocking to the latest rock beat, but to the racial tensions arising as “whiggas” clashes intensify.

The BOA held the Chapelboro city school system hostage on its building permits in the recent past in order to force Chapelboro’s third high school to be named “Carrboro High”, paying little attention to the structure and composition of the high school program itself. In keeping with the “Keep Carrboro Weird” mantra, the BOA foresaw no problems with having a substantially less than full service high school as its flagship, “high school lite”. Observers note that no BOA member has supervised a child attending a city high school, many following mayor Mark Chilton’s lead, preferring distant private school education for their children.

Unfortunately, high school students aren’t interested in political dogma. They want real bands, real orchestras, real sports programs, real art classes, and fake surveillance cameras. Unable to vote in local elections, they vote with their feet. An increasing number of students are leaving Carrboro High. They recognize the nature of a town that imbues itself with the shroud of anarchistic, usufructing freedoms, while attending a police state surveillance campus. They have seen their parents’ peers support Alderman-elect Dan Coleman’s attack on a volunteer Carrboro High School track coach with his vehicle by rewarding him with their support, the support of every other BOA member, and the support of all major local political organizations.

See N&O Carrboro High story

Political Surrogate Wants More Housing in Carolina North Without Revealing Financial Burden to Existing Residents

Carolina North representatives held a meeting at Chapel Hill town hall to show off the Carolina North plans for the coming “Innovation Center”. They revealed that the first five year (2010 to 2015) CN plan could involve building the Innovation Center, moving the School of Law, building housing for faculty, staff, graduate students, and, of course Umstead Act free retail.

Former Chapel Hill town councilman, political municipal campaign surrogate, and Weaver Street denizen Joe Capowski echoed the concerns of dense developer, Capowski comrade, and Carrboro Mayor, Mark Chilton. Mr. Capowski presented a powerpoint presentation on how CN is ”woefully” short on housing. ”The university considers only its employees, and many will move to Carolina North from rented space in Chapel Hill and Carrboro – a narrow but valid view.” Mr. Capowski didn't explain his vision how non-taxable CN housing would compensate Chapelboro for the strain on their municipal services.

See N&O CN story

Boa Admits Affordable Housing Policy Is On Unsustainable Financial Foundation, Adopts Virtual Affordable Housing By Accepting PILO Moneys

Virtual affordable housing is coming to Carrboro.

In its Tuesday meeting, the BOA changed its affordable housing policy, allowing developers to build higher density housing developments under the guise of providing affordable housing units without actually providing those units. The town wins in receiving more higher-value housing units to tax. The developers win in selling more higher-margin housing units per acre. Southern Orange affordable housing tax exempt organizations win in receiving more money supporting their program and administrative costs. The only losers appear to be those actually needing more physical affordable housing units.

The town staff presented that “the cost structure for affordable housing units has not fully captured ongoing maintenance and other costs associated with such units. In addition to the subsidies needed to bring the move-in costs down to a level that meets the needs of affordable housing, the anticipated future maintenance costs will be quite large. Coupled with the approval of a significant number of small, downtown affordable housing units in Chapel Hill, staff of Orange Community Housing and Land Trust has suggested that the Board of Aldermen consider accepting payments in lieu of constructed units at times, to provide funds for subsidies or other uses in support of affordable housing.

Under the change, developers can give Carrboro money instead of building affordable housing units. The town rewards the developer by allowing them to build more houses on their site, houses that are priced at full market rates.

UNC Chapel Hill Well Endowed as Tax-deductible, Income Tax-free Wealth Soars for Higher Education Institutions

UNC-CH during the past eight years has lessened federal revenues considerably by producing $2,380,000,000 in charitable deductions which are now sequestered in income tax-free investments. The Carolina First campaign is the fifth largest in the country. In keeping with overhead rates commonly charged on federal grants, for every $1.00 UNC has received, about 14 cents (14%) will fund student fellowships and about 18 cents (18%) will fund endowed professorships, leaving about 68 cents for unspecified uses.

This news is coupled with a report released 24 January 2008 by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, a tax-exempt higher education funding lobbying group. Over 14 institutions now have endowments worth over $1,000,000,000, bringing the national total to 76. These about $400,000,000,000 in tax-free endowments earned over a 17.2% average return last year. Those schools in the billion dollar endowment club averaged significantly higher returns.

Curiously, higher education institutions are free from rules requiring the annual, ongoing expenditure of a percentage of funds. One US Senate Finance Committee member (Chuck Grassley R-Iowa) has apparently written UNC-CH (as an institution having more than $500,000,000 in endowments) asking for the details of its expenditures from its tax-exempt endowment, in particular those endowment expenditures that provide tuition relief for low and middle income families.

Will Boa Squeeze Out Cocks?

Back to nature Pacifica resident, Rogers Road “Keep ‘Em Quiet” task force member, and photographer of “struggling laborers”, Susan Simone (Simone bio) asked the BOA to remove noisy cocks from Carrboro. She did not present any evidence of how loud or large the offending cock was. Nor was she asked to produce any facts by the BOA.

Although Ms. Simone moved into a communal “Appalachian Village” property that was clear cut from a mature woods and built next to an historic farm property, she objects to being disturbed by the sounds of farm animals. In keeping with “Keep it Weird” Carrboro attitudes, she is okay with feminine chickens residing in Carrboro, just not masculine chickens.

No word was provided as to whether or not Ms. Simone will “screech” about the nocturnal hooting of owls on the neighboring Adams Tract next. Ms. Simone was silent also as to how her requested animal noise control ordinances should apply to dogs barking. Will curs be excluded along with cocks, leaving Carrboro with only bitches and clucking hens?

See N&O Fowl story.

Local media coverage has been spotty on this issue. Ms. Simone does not live “off North Greensboro Street”. She lives off Hanna Street in Pacifica, the dead end street into which the town of Carrboro has poured over $250,000 in sidewalk improvements to benefit a favored private developer. Moreover, the cock didn’t live on Pine Street, but resided off Watters Road.

Vocal “Latino” Advocate Alderman John Herrera “Silencio” on Buckhorn Flea Market Demise?

As the Buckhorn Flea Market became “terra cero” (ground zero) for official government action, one local politician, Alderman John Herrera of Carrboro, spoke up for “mi pueblos” (my people), the Hispanic vendors at the flea market. As the Orange County Board of Adjustment met in May 2006 to decide on zoning violations by the Buckhorn Flea Market (which they did find, with one lone dissenter) Alderman Herrera told that board how important the flea market was to the Hispanic community. As quoted in the N&O, ”It is the only affordable market for a lot of Hispanic people, which means more food on the table.” He alleged that he has known several “immigrants” who established their own businesses by starting at the Buckhorn Flea Market.

Alderman Herrera also spoke in front of the Orange County Economic Development Council on 26 May 2006. According to the minutes, he suggested that the county address the following needs for the Hispanic business community: 1) find an alternative location for the flea market; 2) create a main central market for Hispanics; 3) assess permit fees and taxes – revenue for Orange County; 4) create a “business incubator”; 5) assist Hispanics with business permits; and 6) create on-site vendor storage preventing inventory loss due to transport damage.

Following that public hurrah, Alderman Herrera has been silent on the Buckhorn Flea Market. He didn’t make a statement about the December 2006 raid on “his people”. He didn’t make a statement about the June 2007 Orange County inspection shutdown and the effect on “his people”. He didn’t make a statement about the announcement of the Buckhorn Village deal and the effect on “his people”. He didn’t make a statement about how the Buckhorn Village development collaborative of time-honored heavy hitters in local Orange County real estate development (and generous political campaign contributors) would help create an alternative business venue for “his people”.

Alderman Herrera has made other public statements during this time. He announced a state senate run in September 2007, just two weeks after the Alderman Coleman assault with a deadly weapon - vehicle against a student track coach incident in Carrboro. About one month later he announced a withdrawal from that race, one day after incumbent Kinnaird announced her entry.

Rogers Road Resident Responds to County Commissioner Apologists Who Fought Orange County Democratic Party Resolution to Support CEER Goals

On 19 December 2007, the Chapel Hill News presented a guest editorial by Barry Katz, former head of the Orange County Democratic Party (OCDP) and resident of the area outside the southern Orange urban services boundary, sometimes referred to as the “Rural Buffer”. Mr. Katz equated the Coalition to End Environmental Racism (CEER) and its supporters with being “defamers” of the County Commissioners, wrapping the commissioners in an unsubstantiated halo of all having been “targets of discrimination – racial, religious, gender or sexual orientation – and it must be especially painful to be defamed by these charges.” He goes on to say that CEER and its supporters hurled “scurrilous charges of racism [that] can never become well-intentioned advocacy unless the racism accusations are disavowed and the proponents of those charges repudiated.

An apparent expert in recognizing destructive name-calling and innuendo, after having called CEER members and advocates “defamers” and “scurrilous”, Mr. Katz opines that “[s]upporters of social justice ought to be able to debate thoughtfully on the basis of facts and accept the outcome of decisions made in good faith…. Too often, destructive name calling and innuendo are used to substitute for weak positions. Terms like “racist” or euphemisms like “social justice” used to characterize the decisions of the current board make me skeptical about the arguments of those who use them.

Showing his intimate and encyclopedic knowledge of the events leading up to the March 2007 BOCC decision to place a trash transfer station on Eubanks Road (a decision since withdrawn by the commissioners), Mr. Katz says that the “[t]he 2007 decisions of the board about the location of the transfer station are examples of the thoughtfulness of our board when faced with a complex and difficult issue. In my opinion their decisions have nothing to do with racism or social justice.

Neither Mr. Katz nor the Chapel Hill News bothered to inform their readers that Mr. Katz fought vehemently against the OCDP agreeing to a resolution in support of the CEER goals.

Support for Mr. Katz’s position was published in a follow-up letter by Ms. Nancy Parks, OCDP committee member and fellow anti-CEER OCDP resolution advocate.

Ms. Neloa Jones, CEER co-chair and Rogers Road resident who lives immediately adjacent to the Eubanks landfill responds (in a 20 January 2008 Chapel Hill News guest editorial) by noting that ”[o]ver the years, our Board of County Commissioners and other elected officials for whatever reasons - lack of foresight, possibly; lack of adequately trained support staff; lack of knowledge or sheer will, perhaps - have taken what appears to be the most expedient way out, that is, dumping garbage near a predominately low-income community of color, thus establishing over the past 35 years a trend now described as environmental racism.

For those unfamiliar with the phrase, environmental racism refers to the intentional or unintentional targeting of communities of color as places to locate solid waste management facilities. It also refers to the exclusion of people of color from environmental policy making and land-use decisions as well as having a broader context that relates to health and recreation and to fire, police and emergency services (see the Coalition to End Environmental Racism, Mission and Goals at www.rogersroad.wordpress.com)

We believe that to burden only one community with solid-waste management facilities and then locate yet another solid-waste facility in this same community while continuing other garbage-disposal and waste-collection activities is simply and clearly unjust. We believe that to deny basic government services to the residents of this community is simply and clearly unjust.

Many Rogers-Eubanks residents remain forced to drink well water, which is vulnerable to toxic contamination. They remain without fire hydrants that would serve to protect life and property while praying they might somehow be spared should a fire occur. They live without bus service, but watch with incredulousness as out-of-service buses pass through their neighborhoods on a daily basis. They still await the park they were promised 25 years ago when the first municipal landfill was scheduled to close.

See Barry Katz Letter. See Nancy Parks letter. SeeNeloa Jones letter.

If you have sent in a letter in support of CEER that hasn't been published, then please let Hot Orange know. The history of the Chapel Hill News is to publish letters selectively.

Carrboro Planning Board Chair Has Dense Vision of Anarchistic, Faith-Based Municipal Economics

Former Carrboro Collaborative Development member, NSAPIRC member, and Carrboro Planning Board chair with an ill-defined livelihood, James Carnahan lays out his dream for a denser Carrboro. Single family Northern Carrboro “breeders” apparently invited to head for town exits.

Without providing any evidence of how many Carrboro citizens called for what in Northern Carrboro , Mr. Carnahan proclaims in a published letter to the Carrboro Citizen that existing residents in Northern Carrboro want “commercial activities in the area that would enable them to reach shopping, services, jobs and recreation on foot, bicycle and public transportation, residents were also interested in addressing climate change and the rapid decline in global petroleum supplies. They were concerned about the lack of affordable housing in Carrboro and wanted greenways and sidewalks throughout the NSA that would interconnect neighborhoods and link everyone to commercial sites.” No specifics are given as to what employers and jobs (other than traditional “tax-exempt” employers with lower income jobs) would be attracted to his dense vision.

Mr. Carnahan demands three more mixed use villages sited in the undeveloped about 3000 acres remaining in Northern Carrboro. No mention is made as to how or why the Northern Carrboro mixed use village “Winmore” has failed to meet the promises of the BOA, the Carrboro town staff, the Carrboro planning board, or Mr. Carnahan himself who championed Winmore in public hearings in 2003. He makes a dramatic call for anarchistic “faith-based” municipal economics.

Mr. Carnahan’s wants “form-based” zoning for Northern Carrboro so as to “accommodate a more diverse population and maintain affordability, a difficult goal to achieve when most of the land left within our growth boundary is being developed into large-lot single-family subdivisions where home prices typically start around $300,000.” No explanation is given as to what population diversity he seeks, particularly in view of the town having one of the most diverse ethnic population mixes in North Carolina. No explanation is given as to why the existing old housing stock in Carrboro (about 70% of all housing stock) which is close to the historic business district can’t be transformed into affordable housing.

Curiously, although the Carrboro BOA and Planning Board are routinely hailed by the myopic local Sierra Club chapter as staunch environmentalists, Mr. Carnahan wants to “revisit and improve the town’s protections for streams, wetlands and other environmentally sensitive areas”. No explanation is given as to what streams and wetlands are left after the BOA has encouraged developers to build in these areas by counting unbuildable stream beds as open space.

Finally, Mr. Carnahan provides no overall financial impact statement of his dense vision on town finances.

See Carnahan letter

Pattern of Official Actions Leads Up To Buckhorn Village Deal?

With this week’s announcement of the coming mega-retail Buckhorn Village development, featuring a development collaborative of time-honored heavy hitters in local Orange County real estate development, perhaps a trip down Buckhorn Road memory lane may be in order.

The future Buckhorn Village site has been a piece of red meat to any true developer, 130 acres of mostly green fields at a major interstate intersection. The only problem for a developer “Dream Team” has been getting the current owners to sell at a “reasonable” price, owners that have held the property since at least 1993. Even assuming that the owners don’t face mortgage payments, they still must pay the tax man, Orange County, a tax man that would much rather see the $1,000,000 plus in property taxes from a Buckhorn Village, as opposed to the fraction of that assessed Buckhorn Flea Market.

For unexplained reasons, after puttering along for almost two decades, the Buckhorn Flea Market became ground zero for official government actions.

Starting in September 2005, flea market vendors were visited by law enforcement officials, checking their wares et cetera.

Then the county manager (John Link at the time) is reported to have called a meeting with several county departments to discuss undisclosed complaints about traffic “snarling” the exit ramps to Buckhorn Road off Interstate 40-85.

Interest intensified in 2006. An inspection “SWAT team” of county officials drove out to the flea market in April. A triumvirate of a zoning officer, a building official, and a fire marshal found zoning violations. Due to a “zoning conflict”, the property owners couldn’t obtain a building permit from the county to fix the zoning violations. The county let the owners hire the Mebane Fire Department for fire protection services during business hours until the zoning issue was resolved. However, that “solution” required Mebane fire vehicles and personnel to be on site during the weekend activities.

One month later in May 2006, the Orange County Board of Adjustment ruled that the Buckhorn Flea Market violated county zoning ordinances. As noted by the sole dissenting board member, Joyce Moore-Hall, the county was just now trying to do something about violations that appear to have been in place since 1985. ”I have a problem that this county has been sitting on this for 20 years.” The N&O also reported that Ms. Moore-Hall was concerned that acknowledging the zoning violation would lead to the county shutting down the Buckhorn Flea Market. No reason for wanting the Buckhorn Flea Market to be shut down was given by local officials.

Some six months later in December 2006, the Buckhorn Flea Market entertained another weekend raid from officials searching for counterfeit goods.

Five months later (April 2007) the county commissioners voted 3-2 to put a soccer complex in nearby Efland. That decision apparently had the Buckhorn Village development in mind. As Commissioner Barry Jacobs is quoted saying this week, ”[A]nd since this [Buckhorn Village project] has been in the works for a good while, as we have made other decisions, this has factored into our thinking, such as locating the West End soccer complex.

Less than two months after the West End complex decision factoring in higher uses for the Buckhorn Flea Market (June 2007), the Orange County Inspections Division shut down part of the Buckhorn Flea Market. The Mebane Fire Department withdrew its services. This action closed interior portions of the Buckhorn Flea Market “indefinitely”. Craig Benedict, Orange County planning inspections director is quoted as saying ”It's in our attorney's hands. Our courts do not move at super speed, but we would expect it to be examined sometime this year … we're hoping some solutions come to term before then.” Sorry words of solace if you’re a property owner facing county taxes, and a major source of income from that land is shut down. “Squeeze play” type words that might make a reasonable person more malleable for a buyout deal.

As reported contemporaneously by the Independent, one of the Buckhorn Flea Market owners believed that Orange County officials “just want the market gone, and the specifics of zoning issues and fire codes are simply bureaucratic hoops that must be jumped through in order to achieve this ultimate goal”.

Six months later (January 2008), a deal is announced by Buckhorn Retail Associates… to the open delight of county officials.

See N&O flea market report See Indy flea market report

Local Media Moved to Ask about Buckhorn Village Developers

Following the Hot Orange post on the “anonymous” Buckhorn Village developers, the N&O today asked questions openly and named names, at least to the extent that the developers wanted information to be revealed. Please note that there are no legal obligations for true, complete financial transparency in North Carolina.

As Hot Orange noted, Roger Perry’s East-West Partners is now confirmed to be among the select few. Also included are Tryon Investment Group (including George Horton of Gateway Center Complex fame (new home to Weaver Street Market in Hillsborough) and Montgomery Carolina (including John Fugo, of Southern Village fame, and Rosemary Waldorf, former Chapel Hill mayor and project manager for Bryan Properties, also part of Southern Village). The absence of any “outsiders” on this list confirms Commissioner Barry Jacobs comment as to only quality developers being involved.

The development fruit doesn’t fall far from the government tree in Orange County. Now the big question is, who in government knew about the invovlement of these players, how long did they know, and what conversations have taken part outside of the available public record?

Curiously, there will be no conflict of interest presented by this pantheon of preferred Orange County land developers despite one of the partners (Horton) being an Orange County landlord by means of county offices to be placed in his Gateway Center Complex.

See N&O related story

County Commissioners Receive Notice From EPA on the Department of Justice Environmental Injustice Complaint

The 16 January BOCC work session (Commissioner Mike Nelson absent) started with a surprise. The commissioners received official notice from the EPA on the US Department of Justice complaint of environmental injustice (a complaint based on the board’s actions in selecting a new trash transfer station site) resulting in a closed session to start the meeting.

Back into an open session, it became clear confirmed to observers the Eubanks site wasn't off the table. However, Commissioner Valerie Foushee confirmed with the consulting engineers that the exclusionary criteria were not complete yet.

Criteria selection appears to be the determining factor in the site selection decision. Once the criteria are selected, the consulting engineers want to rank site priority “by the numbers”. Thus, if removal of the Eubanks Road site is not part of the exclusionary criteria, the Commissioners can select Eubanks Road under the rubris of “just following the advice of our consultants”.

The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for 29 January at the Southern Human Services Center, starting at 6 pm. The stated goal is to finalize and approve the site process.

See N&O related story

NC WARN Charges Duke Energy with Running a “Global Warming Machine”

Tax-exempt, Durham based NC WARN placed a full page advertisement in the N&O today spelling out a certain coming “climate catastrophe”. NC WARN calls for Duke Energy to stop building coal-fired electrical power generation facilities in North Carolina, as well as no more nuclear facilities.

NC WARN has no stated public position on overpopulation and carbon loading effects from increasing popoulations, in general, and no stated position, specifically, on the accelerating population growth of North Carolina.


County Commissioners Sit Mute to Calls for Environmental Justice - Eubanks/Rogers Road Community Remains in Second Trash Transfer Station Search

Orange County Commissioners had a work session tonight on siting a solid waste trash transfer station (7:30PM, Link center in Hillsborough). Comfortably ensconced in their homes miles away from the carrion sights and gagging smells of the current county landfill (adjacent to the Eubanks/Rogers Road community), the commissioners haven't removed that community from the search despite repeated calls for doing so, as was done by the city of Greensboro.

See BOCC Solid Waste Work Session Abstract

Coming Generational Housing Bubble in North Carolina?

Housing demand over the past thirty years in the US was driven, in part, by the 78,000,000 people born in the US between 1946 and 1964. That demand has been seen as housing price increases have exceeded normal inflationary pressures.

As the so-called “baby boomers” retire, a significant slackening on housing demand is predicted across the country, including North Carolina. In a recent JAPA article, land use planners Dowell Myer and SungHo Ryu (University of Southern California) propose a methodology for estimating average annual age-specific buying and selling rates. Coupling those rates to projected demographics, they looked for surplus supply and diminishing demand, finding that about 85% of annual home sales come from existing homes, with seniors being net home sellers.

After decades of relative housing stability in which families (“breeders” in Orange Progressive vernacular) stayed in the housing market, communities face a tipping point in the demographic ratio of seniors to working age residents. That ratio will grow in favor of seniors by about 30% for the next two decades.

Funded by the Fannie Mae Foundation, these authors foresee trouble ahead for the real estate industry, the most dominant private enterprise in Orange County. More homes may become available for sale than there are buyers for them.

During the 1960s, the largest adult growth in the US occurred in the population slice aged 55 to 64. That ended with the 1970s with the baby boomers entering the adult population. Baby boomers introduced adult population growth reaching four times that of the 1960s. Baby boomers crossed over into the housing market in 1970 (age 25 being accepted as the starting age for entering the land of homeownership) and continued entry until 1988. With each decade passing they have defined new housing demands - starters, families, empty nesters. All 78,000,000 baby boomers become “seniors” (age 65) starting in 2011 and ending in 2029.

The authors found that below age 50 buying is more common than selling, with each age group having net homeownership rate increases. Balance is achieved in the late 50s to early 60s. Sellers outweigh buyers by the mid 60s.

In looking at the effect of baby boomer aging bulge, the authors factored in the state levels of existing homeownership rates. Those states with large amounts of owners are said to have a greater potential for supply pressures. According to the authors, North Carolina is not on the leading edge of the downward sales pressure where the sellers exceed the buyers. That honor belongs to Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia which are already there. North Carolina enters that scenario by 2030. (Please note that southern Orange is not typical of the state as a whole). Moreover, the ratio of median home values statewide in North Carolina to median income of households age 30 to 34 is about 3, less than that of the more volatile Florida and California markets. However, in southern Orange, that ratio is more in the 4 to 1 range, equivalent to the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions.

Warning – Keep in mind that a famous 1989 forecast by Harvard land use planners (the “Mankiw-Weil prophecy” predicted a 47% decline in housing prices during the 1990s based on models of declining baby boomer demand. They missed the effects of open door immigration policy, generational wealth transfer, and the second home market.

See JAPA Boomer article

Local NAACP and Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance Fail Chapelboro City Schools

In a brief and conclusory report, the NAACP and IMA place the blame for the failure of African American students to perform squarely on Chapelboro educators, with no mention of any causative or abetting factors coming from outside the school system. Using the Chapelboro state report card, they cite that only 44% of African American students passed both reading and math end-of-grade tests at the elementary level. While this performance is identical to the state average, it’s “far below” the district’s 93% average for “white” students. They also cite that at the high school level, 51% of the African American students on the end-of-course test achieved a passing score compared to 95% passage by white students.

The following areas of educational concerns were presented in a “Public Report Card”: “
1) Eliminating the achievement gap between African American Students and White students;
2) Decreasing suspension and drop-out rate of African American students;
3) Eliminating the use of the courts as venues for disciplining African American students;
4) Diminishing the segregation of Advanced Placement classes;
5) Providing adequate and appropriate professional development for teachers to address the needs of African American children;
6) Recruiting, hiring, supporting, retaining, and promoting teachers and administrators of color, particularly African Americans;
7) Diminishing the early ability grouping of students and tracking them throughout their school careers, especially for African American students;
8) Giving close scrutiny and examination of the curriculum to ensure that the curriculum is aligned with the advancement of the mission of public education-“to serve the public good.”;
9) Publicizing and institutionalizing program that work and make them available for all children;
10) Establishing a strong partnership between the school system and community, especially the African American community; and
11) Diminishing practices and attitudes of staff that use parents’ unavailability or other challenges to avoid equally educating children of color, especially African American children.

The NAACP and IMA gave failing grades to the city schools in all areas.

City school superintendent Neil Pedersen responded in his “Educator Newsletter” saying, in part, “Our first reaction is to take exception with the report card. While I agree that improvement is not only possible, but necessary, in many of the identified areas, I find the failing grades to be unsupported and insulting to the many dedicated and talented staff members in our district. We have made significant progress in many critical areas, including raising student achievement, reducing suspensions, and increasing our professional understanding of racial issues.

See Educator Newsletter

Icebergs Off Carolinas?

Barely ten millennia ago, icebergs were probably cruising off the Carolina coast, as evidenced by sonar studies conducted by Jenna C. Hill, an oceanographer at Coastal Carolina University.

Dozens of broad furrows on the seafloor, roughly parallel to the coast, are between 10 and 100 meters wide and typically less than 10 m deep, running in a southwest to northeast direction. Ms. Hill and colleagues discovered semicircular pits at their southwestern termini, a sign she interprets as icebergs grounding and melting.

Today, those furrows stand in water from about 500 to 700 feet deep. But in the last ice age, sea levels were over 300 feet lower.

"Anonymous” Retail Developer Brings Dollar Signs to Commissioner’s Eyes

An undisclosed (by the media) real estate development firm, aka a purpose-specific Buckhorn Road Associates business entity (BRA) has filed a development application for the southeastern corner of I-85/I-40 and Buckhorn Road in Efland, between Hillsborough and Mebane. Using a straw man (James Parker of Hillsborough-based Summit Consulting Engineers), BRA continues the local tradition of keeping the public uninformed as to unimportant questions. Who exactly is going to make the profit off this exercise? What is their connection or relationship to the decision makers? Neither state nor local law requires complete financial transparency. (Curiously, the only publicly known address for BRA is located in the same facilities as the firm owned in part by UNC trustee Roger Perry - EastWest Partners, developer of Meadowmont (home to Commissioner Moses Carey). The non-binding development plan is said to include a 185,000-square-foot anchor store, hotels, offices, restaurants, residences, and a movie theater.

Freelance sportswriter, tax-exempt historical estate sitter, and county commissioner Barry Jacobs is reported to say “I think if it works out it will be a great thing for Orange County. It's one of the kinds of economic development we've talked about bringing to Orange County in that it's clean, properly located, and it's being done by quality developers. This is our most viable economic development district, so giving it a jump start would be great.” Mr. Jacobs even admits that ”[A]nd since this has been in the works for a good while, as we have made other decisions, this has factored into our thinking, such as locating the West End soccer complex.” Apparently, the public didn’t need to know this “factor”.

BRA claims that the proposed “Buckhorn Village” would bring in more than $7 million in assorted tax revenue per year (about $6,000,000 in sales taxes or about one quarter of the entire Orange County figure) and allegedly create 5,000 new private sector jobs, according to documents submitted to the County. In gaining its approvals from the County, BRA will not be held by the County to deliver contractually on any of these figures.

While lauding the development on the extreme western end of the county (a site further way from the southern Orange population centers than either the Southpoint Mall area or the retail complexes in southern Durham off 15/501), neither Mr. Jacobs nor any other commissioner raises the issue of exacerbating the carbon footprint for Orange County retail users. Conveniently, Buckhorn Village will not be located near any commissioner home.

With cautious reserve, the county economic development officer (Mr. Best) is quoted as saying ”[I]t would bring a lot of sales tax revenue and keep people who are now spending outside the county to purchase inside the county – that's what we're hoping for and that's what we're anticipating.”

(Portions originally reported in the Herald Sun on 13 January 2008.)

Carrboro Municipal Candidate Responds to Being Unfairly and Wrongfully Tarred by "Independent"

In a wonderfully misinformed 24 October 2007 editorial entitled “Keep Carrboro Weird”, the Pulitzer Prize winning party guide staff of the bar-reviewing, concert-peddling, personal dating services periodical known as the “Independent” endorsed candidates for the Fall 2007 Carrboro municipal election.

Two alderman candidates were accused of doubtful sincerity in advocating against the Eubanks Road trash transfer station approved by the Orange County commissioners, a charge allgedly circulated amongst local media stenographers by then Mayor-elect Chilton. One of those candidates has responded to the Independent. Ms. Sharon Cook sets the record straight.

“In the Indy's recent local election coverage the editorial staff published the following statement, ‘Cook, who has served on the planning board, and Ryan oppose the county's proposed, controversial waste-transfer station on Rogers Road, ostensibly on behalf of a nearby African-American neighborhood. However, it is hard to tell if their advocacy is genuine, as the neighborhood and the landfill have co-existed for many years and Cook and Ryan have only recently complained.’ With a little research, the Indy editorial staff would have found ample evidence that Katrina and I were committed to the Rogers Road-Eubanks community long before election season. For example, I advocated for uniting both sides of Rogers Road into one community during Carrboro's annexation public hearing in November 2004 and in local media guest columns. In October 2006, Ms. Ryan and I petitioned the BOA to add the neighborhood to the town's sidewalk construction plans. And in January 2007, immediately after the community was informed about plans to build a new waste facility, we began working with our neighbors to reverse the decision to site a waste transfer station along Eubanks Road. Documentation of our advocacy is easily accessible from Board of Aldermen and Orange County Commissioners minutes, and local newspaper coverage. And for the record, I continue to serve on the Town's planning board. The Independent's editorial staff has the right to publish their opinion. However, with that right comes the responsibility for researching and basing those opinions upon documented facts. Your false characterization of Mike Kelley, Katrina Ryan and me should give all of the Indy's readers concern for the accuracy of the facts used to support this paper's endorsements. With the May primary campaigns already beginning, I hope your readers will hold you to a higher standard of coverage.”

Curiously, none of the Carrboro municipal candidates endorsed by the Independent bothered to attend any public meetings or hearings regarding the approval of the trash transfer station by their political friends, much less speak out against the move. None have done so since the election.

Carrboro Mayor Claims Rural Buffer Doesn’t Drive Up Housing Prices, Revealing Deep Understanding of Local Real Estate Market

During the Fall 2007 elections, Mayor–elect, Carrboro developer, Carrrboro rentier, and realtor Mark Chilton got upset over how the Chapel Hill Carrboro Chamber of Commerce asked him a question, ”the foundation [of which] was clearly a simplistic connection (trumped up by the Chamber staff) between housing prices and the Rural Buffer.

Mr. Chilton claimed “The Chamber has been showing increasing hostility toward the Rural Buffer, claiming among other things that the Rural Buffer severely limits the supply housings in the two towns and drives land costs up to their dramatic levels.

Demonstrating commanding knowledge, Mr. Chilton told the Chamber that “the main cause of high housing prices around here is that it is such a nice place to live. Unless you increased the housing supply around here to the point that the market was dramatically overbuilt, housing prices would remain high no matter what kinds of development restrictions were eliminated.” According to Mr. Chilton, “the Chamber staff was loathe to admit that private enterprise was at all the source of the problem. I pointed out the prices are pretty much just as high in northeast Chatham County where (until last year) development was allowed to pretty well run hog wild. No, said the Chamber: There are plenty of inexpensive dwellings for sale in Chatham.

To prove his point, Mr. Chilton conducted an MLS search of houses for sale in the Chapel Hill Carrboro City School District at the moment. There were 99 dwellings for sale in the district offered at less than $185,000. By contrast, in northeast Chatham County, Mr. Chilton only found 37 dwellings for sale for under $185,000.

Mr. Chilton didn’t differentiate between the southern Orange market (loaded with inherently less expensive condominiums and townhouses) from a northern Chatham County market (with few such properties in existence).

Arbitrary Growth Boundary Enables Call for Intense Development in Northern Carrboro

NSAPIRC (the handpicked northern Carrboro development study committee composed of dense growth advocates) makes predictable call for intense development, disagreeing only on the “whens” and “wheres”.

The Carrboro “Boa” authorized a hurry-up moratorium in the spring of 2007 in order to halt vested rights in developments that wished to use the northern Carrboro transition zoning in place for the last twenty years. The Boa created NSAPIRC to get a desired outcome - the oxymoronic vision of dense “millhouse vernacular” dotting the Carrboro countryside. (The predictability of NSAPIRC behavior has mirrored that of the now defunct New Horizon Task Force, pre-election showcase for now Alderman Lydia Lavelle.)

The NSAPIRC chair, former Carrboro Alderman, West Old NC 86 ranchette owner, current Orange County planning board member, and former treasurer of the Dan Coleman for Alderman campaign, Jay Bryan has championed delaying development in his backyard until the east side of Old NC 86 is peppered with “millhouse vernacular”.

Meanwhile, Carrboro’s planning board chairman, former member of the Carrboro Collaborative Development Corporation, associate of Pacifica and Arcadia developer Giles Blunden, and “rural village” zealot, James Carnahan is apparently in a Kabuki battle with Mr. Bryan over how much mixed use development will be built in northern Carrboro. Carnahan wants it wherever feasible along transit corridors, despite the abysmal failure of mixed use in the recent Winmore development. Bryan doesn’t want such mixed use in his backyard west of Old NC 86.

The Boa position may have been expressed best by Mayor Chilton during the fall elections, west of Old NC 86 will be developed, just not until dense development on the east side is finished (which will help pay for the “scheduled” northern OWASA water tower). Showing a proclivity for flexible argument, Mayor Chilton says that the absence of OWASA lines west of Old NC 86 should halt development there, but not halt development east of Old NC 86 where OWASA lines also don’t exist in some areas.

Meanwhile, the local media continues its failure to report on the development interests of Carrboro politicians with regards to properties around Old NC 86.

(Portions originally reported in the Carrboro Citizen. See Calvander story

Carrboro Couple Used to Promote “Eat Local” Lifestyle

Local media has begun openly promoting the “Eat Local” lifestyle, but on a facts limited basis.

The eating habits of a Carrboro family are being reported in a new N&O series. The series (to date) provides no factual background or comparison for the complete environmental impact of “local” food eaten by the family versus non-local food. The arbitrary cut-off point for “local” seems to be food grown or raised in North Carolina, even though food from the Danville area is closer than food from Columbus County.

The couple has a autocommuter lifestyle. The husband is estimated to commute about 85 miles per week to RTP. The wife may telecommute to Apex, it isn't clear.

The argument is made (without explanation) that a potato grown in Idaho necessarily uses more fuel to arrive on one's plate in Orange County than one grown in North Carolina.

(Portions originally reported in the N&O. See N&O Eat local story.)

Chapel Hill Hires New Finance Director

Ken Pennoyer has been hired as the new business management director for the Town of Chapel Hill, at an annual salary of $112,000.

Roger Stancil, town manager, says ”Ken's considerable experience in managing the finances of a larger neighbor that is also a Triple A bond rated community will benefit Chapel Hill. His experience with managing technology as well as financial operations makes him a perfect candidate for this newly defined position. I am delighted with our Town's ability to attract and retain individuals of such high caliber to our senior management team.

According to the town press release: “Pennoyer has worked as finance director for the City of Durham since 2003 and as assistant director since 1999. A certified internal auditor, Pennoyer holds a Master of Business Administration from Villanova University in Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Science degree from Central Connecticut State University. Stancil said the new director will be tasked with transitioning the finance department into one that manages the business of the Town including budget, accounting, business analysis and information technology. He will be a strategic partner with both core administrative departments and key operating departments in thinking about the future of the Town and addressing future challenges.

Mr. Pennoyer’s experience includes advising Durham in 2006 on a non-competitively bid proposal by the New York-based firm of Rice Financial Products (Rice), a proposal to swap $106 million in municipal debt for lowered interest rates. Rice would have tried to exploit differences between the bond rates used in the US for tax-exempt debt and the bond rates that European banks charge each other for deposits to make money for both itself and the city. In this proposed financial deal, Rice was reported to be due to receive $700,000 in fees for its services, along with $40,000 to lawyers and $100,000 to a city consultant.

The Rice deal wasn’t without downside risk to the city. While Rice projected that Durham could’ve saved as much as about $8,000,000 over 15 years, it also could’ve lost as much as about $14,000,000 if market conditions changed adversely, what Mr. Pennoyer described as “negative savings”. The Rice proposal was put in front of the city council for a vote despite a substantial lawsuit ($231,000,000 in damages) facing the Rice firm from a disaffected California water district client (West Basin). In addressing the observation that Rice might be bankrupted (having fewer than 30 employees), leaving Durham to collect from the proposed insurer of the deal (the Bank of New York), Mr. Pennoyer is reported to have said that ”The concern is that this lawsuit could impact Rice's ability to execute the contract. Obviously, that the case exists is not good.

At the time of the deal being presented, one former West Basin board member (Tyrone Smith) had pled guilty and was imprisoned for receiving cash bribes from Rice’s consultant (who had been paid $250,000 by Rice to win approval for the company's rate swaps). Furthermore, Rice’s political consultant on the West Basin deal also had pled guilty to bribery charges. (Rice denied any complicity or liability.)

Also at the time the News & Observer asked Duke University law professor James Cox, a legal adviser to the New York Stock Exchange, to analyze the West Basin legal filings. Professor Cox said that the case against Rice was strong. He also said that Durham's approval of a deal with the firm at that time would have been irresponsible. “This is an investment banking firm in a free-fall situation. If they [the Durham council] are sold on the rate swap, they should consider using another firm. To do business with a company under the cloud of criminal acts in a noncompetitive contract? It defies reason.

In 2006, Durham voted 4-3 for the Rice debt swap deal. It was never consummated. As quoted in the 11 August 2007 Herald Sun, Mr. Pennoyer said ”The market was pricing [the Rice deal] in a way that didn’t meet our [savings] threshold. That is at this point off the table.

(Portions originally reported in the N&O. See N&O Rice deal story.)

(For further commentary, see INDY Rice deal story.)

Carolina North in New Haven?

Like Chapel Hill, New Haven Connecticut is a small town that shelters and supports a major national university. Unlike Chapel Hill, New Haven is home to a privately owned university (Yale). [Curiously, Yale has secured a UNC-CH benefit. It doesn’t have to pay property taxes either.]

The relationship between the two has become so symbiotic (at least on the New Haven side of the relationship) that New Haven’s mayor (John DeStefano, Jr.) says that “For us, infrastructure spending has come to mean growing the university. Yale has the money, and what they get from us is the approval to grow.” On the Yale side, its president (Richard C. Levin) has made it clear that Yale’s infrastructure wish list isn’t the same as that of the mayor. Airport expansions and high speed trains won’t be paid for by Yale.

Yale’s growth is being pushed forward by a $3,000,000,000 spending spree, a business bonanza driven by higher education’s holy tax triumvirate (increasing wealth concentration, charitable spending deductability, and income tax exemption status). Yale capital spending is comparable to an undergraduate’s Friday night binge. It’s buying whole city blocks. Its new acquisitions are filled with apartments, offices, restaurants, and retail stores. Yale has hired two specialists just to keep its rental storefronts occupied.

Who spends more on capital improvements within New Haven? Yale spends annually about $400,000,000, over twice what the city spends ($137,000,000). In defense, Yale’s president points out that “There are no corporate citizens left in New Haven, except Yale.” [Translation, there are no taxable corporate citizens left in New Haven.]

New Haven gives Yale more than permission to grow. When Yale eyed land for two more residential colleges, New Haven donated some adjacent streets, removing them from the public domain, thereby relieving the city from maintaining them. Yale responded by spending $10,000,000 on one-time, city-owned neighborhood street related repairs.

[There is no report of any ongoing debate over the number of parking spaces at Yale to support this expansion.]

(Originally reported in the New York Times - 6 January 2008.)

How North Carolina Public Works Work

With the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recommending that American governments spend over $320,000,000,000 annually for the next five years, let’s look at how North Carolina is doing in providing and maintaining its public works. (All figures documented by the ASCE.)

• 42% of North Carolina's major urban roads are congested (2005), up from 40% in 2003.
• 34% of North Carolina's major roads are in poor or mediocre condition (2005), up from 33% in 2003.
• Vehicle travel on North Carolina's highways increased 50% from 1990 to 2003. North Carolina's population grew 27% between 1990 and 2003.
• The state has a $28 billion shortfall over the next 25 years in needed highway and bridge funding (2005).
• Driving on roads in need of repair costs North Carolina motorists $1,700,000,000 billion a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating costs — $282 per motorist (2005), up from $1,400,000,000 and $259 per year in 2003.
• Congestion in the Charlotte metropolitan area costs commuters $791 per person per year in excess fuel and lost time (2005).
• Congestion in the Raleigh metropolitan area costs commuters $460 per person per year in excess fuel and lost time (2005 pricing).


31% of North Carolina's bridges are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete (2005), up from 30% in 2003.

• There are about 81 state-determined deficient dams in North Carolina (2005), up from 53 in 2003.
• North Carolina has 1,046 high hazard dams, i.e., a dam whose failure would cause a loss of life and significant property damage (2005).
• The rehabilitation cost for North Carolina's most critical dams is estimated at $394.8 million (2003).

Water systems
• North Carolina's drinking water infrastructure needs $2,700,000,000 over the next 20 years (2005).

Wastewater systems
• North Carolina has $5,920,000,000 in wastewater infrastructure needs (2005), up from $4,000,000,000 in 2003.

Solid waste systems
• North Carolina generates 1.08 tons of solid waste per capita (2005).
• North Carolina recycles 11% of the state's solid waste (2005).

• 55% of North Carolina's schools have at least one inadequate building feature (2005).
• 68% of North Carolina's schools have at least one unsatisfactory environmental condition (2005).

Immigration Policies Lead to Hispanic Births Reaching 50% at UNC

Due to a federal “open border” policy and “sanctuary city” municipal policies, the Hispanic population in North Carolina increased from 76,726 to 597,382, a 770% increase since 1990 (U.S. Census Bureau). Moreover, Hispanic births increased 1100% times during the same period. Last year, one of every six babies born in North Carolina was Hispanic.

Womens’ Hospital (UNC-CH) reports that half (50%) of babies born there are now registered as Hispanic, up from 37.4% in 2005.

Uninsured mothers are eligible for emergency Medicaid regardless of immigration status. The average cost of a Caesarean birth with complications in North Carolina is $16,651 (Blue Cross and Blue Shield). For hospital births, all families earning up to 185 percent of the federal poverty limit are fully covered (roughly an annual income of $38,000 for a family of four).

(Originally reported in the 2 January 2008 Chapel Hill Herald)

Immigration Policies Lead to Hispanic Public School Enrollment Jumping More Than 1,000% in Past 15 Years

Due to a federal “open border” policy and “sanctuary city” municipal policy, the Hispanic population in North Carolina increased from 76,726 to 597,382, a 770% increase since 1990 (U.S. Census Bureau). Moreover, the Hispanic Pupil enrollment rose more than 1000% during the same period.

(Originally reported in the 2 January 2008 Chapel Hill Herald)

Mayor Foy Favors Chapel Hill’s Densest Development in Flood Plain

University Mall over off Estes Drive down by Fordham and the Rams Gate Plaza were sold last month for a stated $53,500,000. Speaking for the town of Chapel Hill, Mayor Kevin Foy said the town seeks a mix of residential, office and retail space at the University Mall site, the densest development allowed.

The University Mall site is located in a flood plain and resource conservation district.

(Originally reported in the Chapel Hill News - 2 Jan 2008)

New Squeeze the Pulp format arrives!

Happy New Year everyone!!!

Where’s the old Squeeze the Pulp? The free form forum is gone: Squeeze the Pulp is returning to its roots.

Since being founded in August 2005, the original purpose of the Pulp had gradually been lost. The signs were everywhere: repetitive and overlapping threads, the ad nauseum regurgitation of the same old tired misinformation from the local power structure supporters, the difficulty of finding coherent information.

STP was created to provide a public space for residents of Orange County to broadcast and discover the full flavor of the Orange zest that we live in. Those engaging the political and media structure have come to know how much misinformation is spun daily to grease the cogs. Hypocrisy abounds. Just look at how a supposedly “progressive” political community not only elected a town official who committed violence against a woman, but had every major political figure backing that candidacy?

So the Pulpmeisters went back to ye olde software lab and formulated a newer and tastier Pulp. The Hot Orange section will concentrate on “current issues”. In order to provide the contextual background and memory so lacking from southern Orange, the Peeled and Sliced section will catalog the political history of Orange (e.g., what has been going on with Carolina North.) There is also a people-watching section for those public personas we have come to know over in the Sour and Seedy section.

Can you contribute to the mélange? You bet. We have brought on some of the more controversial posters from the old Pulp as contributors. Each controls their very own slice of the Pulp. If you want to submit postings to them, good for you – just do it! It’s up to each contributor to publish your post and maybe to respond in kind. So rest assured that the voyeuristic pleasure of a good verbal food fight remains as juicy as ever.

Bon appétit.

To Add Your Thoughts, Log In and Type In the White Box Below


David Richter, %2008/%01/%30 %22:%Jan:

I loved the caution sign in the 'How Green is my Grove” article.

Editor, %2008/%02/%02 %19:%Feb:

Dear Mr. Richter:

Ever observant, it's good to know that some public officials are interested in the safety of schoolchildren.

ho/january_2008.txt · Last modified: 2008/04/26 15:00 by editor
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