A step toward peace

Congress could learn from this: At last night’s Town Council meeting, council members engaged in a gusty and at times contentious discussion, ultimately brokering a compromise between two opposing factions – Chris Moran, representing IFC, and Mark Peters, spokesman for ABetterSite.org.

Three meetings into crafting an effective Good Neighbor Policy for the shelter on Homestead Road, the process was going well for Moran, who had put together a group of 19 people, 18 of whom were likely to do his bidding. But ABetterSite.org still had not taken a seat at the table. And all on the council agreed that ABetterSite needed to be part of the Good Neighbor Policy process. The sticking point was whether the meetings could be recorded.

After town attorney Ralph Karpinos explained that nothing in the open meetings law prohibited a participant from making an audio recording of the meeting, Matt Czajkowski asked both Moran and Peters to come to the podium, and there they stood, close enough for the chips on their respective shoulders to touch. Czajkowski and Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt got Peters to commit to participating in the meetings, so long as he could record the meetings on his digital recording devices, and Moran to agree to ask the committee to revisit its objection to a formal recording of the meetings. Town Council candidate Carl Shuler, a GNP committee member, said he would make sure the committee reconsider the issue of recording meetings and would discuss Laurin Easthom’s suggestion of having a brief period of community input at the beginning or end of each meeting.

Council also directed Moran to balance out the committee by bringing in more representatives from the nearby neighborhoods. Moran worried that the committee could become unwieldy; perhaps he could reduce the number of IFC backers and replace them with people more directly affected by an emergency shelter in their midst.

This would be a good place to insert a commercial for tonight’s kickoff of Chapel Hill 2020. I’ll put aside my cynicism that even if the town visioning process does get the input of 10,000 residents, there’s no guarantee council will listen to them. Instead, I’ll remind readers that, just as with our “education” lottery, you have to play to win. If you want a voice in shaping the town you might very well still live in 20 years hence, come to the meeting at East Chapel Hill High School tonight and make your voice heard. Doors open at 5 p.m. for an open house, and the meeting runs from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Nancy Oates

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14 Comments

  1. DOM

     /  September 27, 2011

    Who knows? Yesterday’s discussion on this topic may have actually made a difference. Good going, CHW.

  2. George C

     /  September 27, 2011

    Nancy, thanks for the commercial for ChapelHill2020. As you said, you have to play to win. Hope to see a lot of folks there. The YMCA Teen Leaders’ Club is providing child care (age 5 or older) and the East Chapel Hill High PTA will be selling refreshments.

  3. Peter K

     /  September 27, 2011

    Does anyone else see the irony in the name of the committee, Good Neighbor Policy? Hardly any actual local neighborhood people involved; just people from other areas who think they know what’s best. Also, I don’t think the United Church should necessarily be called a true “neighbor” – the congregation won’t be there 24/7 like area residents and their children will be.

    Let’s hope the changes town council suggested last night make a real difference in getting genuine local input from those most effected.

  4. John Kramer

     /  September 27, 2011

    Matt C for mayor. Or President! A voice of common sense is so welcome.

  5. Road Warrior

     /  October 1, 2011

    We, the taxpayers, fund the IFC. If they won’t listen to us, it may be time to appeal to Raleigh to reign them and organizations like them in.

  6. Terri Buckner

     /  October 2, 2011

    And who is going to take care of the homeless if you “reign” them in? That’s like complaining the poor people are obese and don’t need food assistance. It looks at the easy answers and ignores the root of the problem.

    Personally, I think the council was totally off-base. The working group members, even those who opposed the new facility location, said the group was working with trust and openness. So why would the council want to violate the group process and introduce taping that the group said they don’t want? And what’s the purpose of requiring them to add new members when both the IFC and individual group members made it crystal clear that invitations to participate have been rejected? This was nothing but micro-managing by the council.

    The only way to avoid the disintegration of the group trust at this point is for the town to send a staff member who will handle the taping, like they do with town advisory boards. Since a couple of the council members agreed with Mark Peters that the tapes will be a “historical record”, the town really must take ownership of the recording and archiving.

  7. Mark Peters

     /  October 2, 2011

    Regarding Terri’s statements, the council created the plan to create the good neighbor plan and gave much guidance on openness and membership (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9Ft5o7UpeQ). When this direction was ignored, the council again requested that the developer honor the council’s May 9th guidance via more explicit requests given the current situation. It is as simple as that.

    Terri misrepresents the statements of the one person who opposed the site and is on the committee. This person made it clear that the representation was far from diverse and made it clear that he would like to be more balanced.

    Terri states “The only way to avoid the disintegration of the group trust at this point is for the town to send a staff member who will handle the taping, like they do with town advisory boards.”

    This is an opportunity to build trust with neighbors who actually live close to the facility rather than the original approach of inviting a token opponent of the site.

  8. Terri Buckner

     /  October 2, 2011

    Notice how Mark is once again manipulating language by calling the IFC the “developer.” The IFC is a non-profit that provides a service to the towns in southern Orange County. They are asking for permission to build a facility. That does not make them a developer since there will be no profit expectation or a plan to parcel out portions of the facility to others.

    Also, Mark has no idea of how many individuals I have talked to. What he really meant to say was 2-3 residents spoke at the public hearing, all of whom said the process was positive but that they would prefer to have more representation by surrounding neighbors. I’ve heard personally from others on the committee who have said the same thing. But it boils down to invitations to participation have been rejected, including those initiated by neighbors. Once again language matters here. Council directions were not “ignored.” Good faith efforts were made and those efforts were rebuffed, including by Mark himself.

    The one thing Mark and I will agree on is that this is an opportunity to build trust. For one group to continue undermining the process is a detriment to the opportunity to build a program and a facility that will help those in need and hopefully build bridges with neighbors who are skeptical. Nothing council can do will make this process work, but they certainly have the power to cause it to fail. Success is the hands of the neighbors–future and current. If they can’t come together, each making concessions, this effort is going to undermine future relations.

  9. Mark Peters

     /  October 3, 2011

    Terri said “The working group members, even those who opposed the new facility location, said the group was working with trust and openness. ”

    There is only one person on the public record as having opposed the site. This person made it clear that the representation was far from diverse and made it clear that he would like to be more balanced.


    We were clear of the reasons why we did not join. We were told that the first meeting was closed and that our one attendee could attend alone with no witnesses and no recording. You can continue to attempt to paint that another way to your heart’s content, but the emails from Chris don’t lie.

    Also, the notion that Chris handed the invitation off to someone else without dealing with the issues that were raised, without having that person understand those issues before approaching us, and that person’s expectation that the mere notion that another messenger bringing forth the same deal terms would somehow change our minds was also a trust-eroder. Perhaps if the developer had engaged the dispute settlement center to oversee the broader process to meet the council member’s clear verbal direction in addition to the bare written requirements, as we asked when we requested that the DSC be hired, then this would have been worked out.

    It is also disingenuous for folks to act as if they don’t know why we didn’t join, when we have made the transparency issues clear since day 1.

    de·vel·op·erNoun/diˈveləpər/
    1. A person or organization that develops something. [google]

  10. Terri Buckner

     /  October 3, 2011

    What I’ve read and been told by the IFC is that one meeting, the first, was closed and from there, it opened up for anyone who wanted to observe.

    BTW, Mark. Would you care to respond to the OP thread that says you and Lisa Ostrom had a meeting with Matt C and Jon deHart and asked a UNC student to leave? Why is it OK for you to make a mountain out of a molehill on one meeting of the Good Neighbor Committee and then turn around an expel an observer at your own meeting?
    http://orangepolitics.org/2011/10/homestead-park-citizens-organi

    “One who “makes a mountain out of a molehill” is said to be greatly exaggerating the severity of the situation.[2] In cognitive psychology, this form of distortion is called magnification.[3] The term is also used to refer to one who has dwelled on a situation that has long passed and is therefore no longer significant.[4]” [Wikipedia]

  11. Mark Peters

     /  October 3, 2011

    Terri said, “What I’ve read and been told by the IFC is that one meeting, the first, was closed and from there, it opened up for anyone who wanted to observe. ”

    And yet, IFC did not admit during the meeting with town council on 9/26 or in emails that the first meeting was closed and the town council members did not ask IFC to clarify because they knew that IFC would have to come clean. Please show me where IFC admitted to town council that the first meeting was closed. They repeatedly said “all meetings are open.” Does all mean all? Was the present tense chosen to hide the first closed meeting?

    Some questions for you. Did the student receive an invitation directly from us for the meeting in question? Was said meeting mandated by town resolution? Was said meeting to make decisions for a development to be built on land to be leased by the town for $1/yr? Was said meeting to discuss a development which received millions of dollars in public funding? How many factors listed in http://sogweb.sog.unc.edu/blogs/localgovt/?p=4676 apply to said meeting? How many apply to the neighbor plan meeting?

    M

  12. Mark Peters

     /  October 3, 2011

    Just to be clear, “Was said meeting to discuss a development which received millions of dollars in public funding?” means “Was said meeting to make decisions related to a development which received millions of dollars in public funding?”

  13. Terri Buckner

     /  October 4, 2011

    At the public meeting in council chambers last week, I heard Chris acknowledge that after the first meetings all others have been open to observers.

    If you believe in transparency, you believe in transparency. Some believe in it for others (IFC is not a governmental agency and is not accountable to the open meetings rules, as Mayor K explained to Mark at the meeting) but not for themselves. ’nuff said.

  14. On September 26, members of the Chapel Hill Town Council suggested that the Community House Good Neighbor Plan Advisory Committee expand its membership. Hence, the IFC is seeking applications for committee membership. See http://ifc-gnp.blogspot.com/ for more detail. The application form can be found at http://ifcweb.org/GNP-app.htm. Applications should be submitted to the IFC before October 14.

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