Harrison deserves vote
I was very disappointed not only in your failure to endorse Ed Harrison for a second term as a Chapel Hill Council member but in your rationale for this decision (Indy Endorsements, Oct. 26). Specifically, you stated, "Harrison's voting record has demonstrated an aversion to political risk" and "He also did not stand up in support for the MLK Boulevard proposal at the outset..." and "He says now this shows his willingness to compromise. We think it's no way to make decisions. We recognize that in losing him, the town would lose an extremely hard worker, an advocate for bicycle and pedestrian safety, and an expert on transit and environmental issues."
Your explanation for not endorsing Mr. Harrison states that willingness to compromise is "no way to make decisions." Yet in your endorsement of Bill Thorpe you imply just the opposite: "A small controversy recently erupted over this claim when a neighborhood advocate pointed out that Thorpe voted with the 8-1 majority for the Dean Dome; but that vote was taken after two rounds of revision to the initial plan addressed noise and traffic issues. That makes the vote proof that Thorpe is willing to negotiate with the university." Is "willing to negotiate" not a form of compromise? The fact of the matter is that compromise is essential to the success of any large venture, be it the operations of a town or city, the growth of a major university, or the running of a major corporation. Successful negotiations require that each party understand both the wants and needs of the other party and, having identified those issues, that the parties work toward a middle ground which will allow each to move forward.
Ed Harrison, as you have accurately pointed out, is an extremely hard worker who diligently studies the issues in order to identify the wants and needs of each of the parties involved, with the goal of reaching a solution that each party can live with. There is sometimes a time and place for confrontation, but with the future growth of both a town and university on the line, this is not the time for confrontation, but rather a time for serious study of the issues and a reasoned approach to mutual understanding. I believe that Ed Harrison will bring those qualities to his second term and he has my endorsement to do so.
No, he doesn't
Thank you for airing the problems with the record of Chapel Hill Town Council candidate Ed Harrison. The other papers have shied away from examining Harrison's record and thus, without the Indy, his weaknesses might have gone unexposed. The Chapel Hill Herald went so far as to excise from my weekly political column a discussion of an incident in which Harrison harassed citizens planning a Nagasaki anniversary event in town hall, including a quote from one prominent activist who said she was "affronted by his manner and hoped he would have apologized."
Harrison, who styles himself an environmental leader, has repeatedly voted with developers and against the environmentally stronger position. He has worked to weaken provisions designed to protect steep slopes, intermittent streams, trees and neighborhood buffers.
The Independent has served Chapel Hill's progressive voters well, not only in your exposure of Harrison, but in your endorsement of a fine group of candidates in Laurin Easthom, Mark Kleinschmidt, Will Raymond and Bill Thorpe.
Yes, he does
I am disappointed that the Independent finds Ed Harrison's ability to compromise "no way to make decisions." Many U.S. citizens believe that politics is the art of the possible, requiring the art of compromise. I support the re-election of Ed Harrison to Chapel Hill's Town Council precisely because he has shown he is able to hear all points of view and vote for the good and welfare of the whole community.
I value the Independent for its lists and reviews of Triangle events and its investigative reporting. However, politics must include the interests of all ages and interests. The UNC Playmakers Theater membership chairperson, plus others from the community, argued for the intense need to add parking next to this repertory theater group's performance center, for the financial support of the theater as well as accessibility to the general public. Ed Harrison's vote for the UNC chiller plant and parking deck there was exactly right. I continue to support vigorously the re-election of Ed Harrison and Mark Kleinschmidt to the Chapel Hill Town Council.
In our endorsements last week we incorrectly summarized the view of Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board candidate Jeff Danner on the achievement gap. His full view is stated in the following letter.
In our endorsement in the Carrboro mayor's race, we should have said that candidate Mark Chilton is the former director of EmPOWERment.
Danner corrects Indy
Last week, the Independent made their endorsements for Chapel Hill-Carrboro elections. In your six sentences about my campaign, you got two of them factually wrong. First, a minor but irritating point. I have lived in Chapel Hill for five and a half years. That's at least a year longer than some other candidates. Second, in the Independent's reporting you stated that, with regard to closing the achievement gap, I advocated "starting over with a new plan ... that focuses on teacher accountability." That's news to me. That certainly was not the answer I gave to the question about the achievement gap in the survey submitted by the Independent. That's not something I've ever publicly or privately said, because it's not what I believe. That might have left some with the impression that I hold only the teachers accountable for closing the achievement gap. In my answer to your survey question, I reiterated the point I've been making over and over on the campaign trail: Closing the achievement gap in the CHCSS requires that we hold ALL parties accountable: the teachers, the administration, the school board, the parents and the students themselves. Agreeing on an implementation plan in which all parties understand their role and hold each other mutually accountable is the key to success of any strategic plan. How the Independent got my position so totally wrong I'll never know, though my campaign has been assured by the editors that it will make a correction.
Candidate for Chapel Hill-Carrboro Board of Education
Don't support schools tax
I would like to comment on your recent endorsements, specifically about the special district tax for the Orange County Schools.
Let me begin by saying that I am an Orange County school board member and am not in favor of the tax. I am, however, in favor of more money for our schools and would vote "yes" to raising ad valorem taxes to achieve this goal. And I am not alone; in fact, there are two other board members who have strongly advocated for increased funding for our schools, but would not support a regressive mechanism such as the one proposed by the Orange County Commissioners. I believe, as do many others in our district who favor increased funding for our schools, that if the commissioners had the political fortitude to raise the ad valorem tax and lower the Chapel Hill district tax commensurately, then both systems would benefit and the disparity in funding could begin to be addressed.
In your endorsement you pointed out that: "The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district, the larger of the two districts, has enjoyed a special district tax--set each year by the county commissioners--to help pay for more help in the classroom, fund new initiatives and renovations and cover the cost of opening new schools."
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school district tax now comprises over 30 percent of its local budget. It is much like the lottery in that it actually serves not just to supplement but also to supplant county funding. Does the Chapel Hill system have the right to have a special tax? Absolutely, but not one that is so high that it impacts funding allocations made to the Orange County Schools.
And that is what happens. Chapel Hill can keep their county requests artificially lower, knowing that they have their district tax. Is it any wonder that every year OCS only receives the per pupil increase that the Chapel Hill system requests? And what are advocates for greater funding supposed to think when commissioners state in public and private that "giving OCS what they need in county dollars would overfund the Chapel Hill system"?
You also pointed out that: "With a flexible district tax in both systems, commissioners and school boards will have a much better and complete set of tools for keeping up with growth and managing funding...[and] a tax in both districts is a significant step in balancing the two systems."
The proposal placed on the ballot has a 10-cent cap. It is likely that Orange County Schools could reach that cap within the next two years. Then what? Currently Chapel Hill's tax, which is around 19 cents, has a cap of 35 cents. Why would we have a much lower cap than our sister system? That doesn't seem right. And, because our commercial bases differ, even if we were to have the same tax rate, the Orange County Schools ends up pulling in about 10 percent less for every dollar taxed. Flexible? Hardly. Equitable? Not at all!
Further, the proposal that ended up being placed on the ballot was five years old. At that time, a task force of which I was a member saw a district tax as a "quick fix" to help us open Cedar Ridge High and Pathways Elementary. No one on that task force understood how the city's tax impacted our funding, or how the property-tax bases differed. Indeed, if the same individuals were pulled together today, I assert that advocates for higher funding would recommend finding a better way to fully fund the OCS budget requests.
So that is just some of the information that perhaps wasn't shared with you, which leads me to the real reason I decided to write to you. I was disappointed that you came out in favor of the tax, yes, but that's your right. However, I don't understand why you didn't talk to those of us who want more money for our schools, but don't see a special district tax as wise or equitable policy. Instead, you lumped together all district tax opponents and ended up with an endorsement that sounded more like an excuse, rather than one that grasps a true understanding of the complexities of and inherent inequities associated with funding education in Orange County.
Orange County School Board Member
EDITOR'S NOTE: The length limit was waived for this letter.